Apostolic Miracles?

Article: I Have Not Seen Miracles Here: Between Pentecost And The Parousia by R. Scott Clark (original source here)

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:3–5).

When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it (Acts 5:5).

Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband (Acts 5:10).

…the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more (Acts 8:39).

But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up (Acts 9:40).

When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and put them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand. When the native people saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said to one another, “No doubt this man is a murderer. Though he has escaped from the sea, Justice has not allowed him to live.” He, however, shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god (Acts 28:4–6).

…Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe (John 4:48).

…For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect (Mark 13:22).

I have not seen miracles here, but I do not disbelieve in miracles as such (Martyn Wendell Jones, April 24, 2016).

According to Holy Scripture after our Lord Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father, i.e., after he began his heavenly reign over all things with and for the Father, he poured out his Holy Spirit upon the apostles. This was in fulfillment of what he had promised: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). At Pentecost God the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the Apostles and they did mighty works. By the power of the Spirit they spoke in languages that they had not learned, they put people to death, they raised people from the dead, they were transported by the Holy Spirit, and they survived threats that ordinarily killed others. They did all these things not because they had sufficient faith—Peter denied the gospel even as an apostle (Gal 2:11–14)—nor because they sent money to some “ministry,” nor because they attended a revival. God the Spirit did these things through them in order to confirm their office, to establish Christ’s church, and to advance his kingdom through the preaching of the gospel.

Since the death of the apostles, however, there have been periodic attempts to replicate the Apostolic ministry. From the late 2nd century, the Montanists claimed to have apostolic power, revelation, and gifts. Such claims appeared periodically through the history of the church. In the 1520s, the Anabaptists regularly claimed to speak in tongues, to be filled with and slain in the Spirit, and to receive extra-canonical revelation. Indeed, Thomas Müntzer (1489–1525) taught that the continuing revelation he received was superior to Holy Scripture and he mocked the Reformed pastors as “ministers of the dead letter.” The Scriptures, he argued, are not the Word per se but become the Word in an existential encounter. In the early 20th century a certain well-known Swiss theologian would come to agree not only with his view of baptism but also with his doctrine of revelation. In the early 19th century, there was another claim of renewed, apostolic power at Cane Ridge, KY that inaugurated decades of religious enthusiasm known as the Second Great Awakening. A century later in Topeka, KS (1901) and five years later in the Azusa Street revival in 1906 there would be yet more neo-Pentecostal phenomena virtually identical to that experienced by the Anabaptists in the 1520s. In the 1980s Christians were been enthralled by revivals in Kansas City. In the 1990s it was the Brownsville revival. The latest such episode seems to be centered in Northern California at Bethel Church.

Martyn Wendell Jones is a Toronto-based writer and editor, who attends a PCA congregation in Toronto). Recently he visited Bethel Church and writes about his experience in Christianity Today. The story is carefully and thoughtfully written. The bottom line is that Jones saw no actual apostolic phenomena. He saw glitter on the ceilings and various sorts of enthusiasm but unlike the Peter, Paul, and Philip, there was no genuine apostolic phenomena. There never is. Jones hesitates to judge the episodes but the strongest endorsement he seems to be able to muster is that it has subjective value for the participants.

This is all one really has to know about all the neo-Pentecostal episodes since the Montanists. None of them have ever actually possessed or exercised apostolic power. The signs and wonders performed by the Spirit, through the Apostles, were not mere subjective experiences. They were objective, empirically verifiable saving (or damning) acts by the Spirit in real history (in contrast to mytho-poetic subjective appropriation of a story, Geschichte, that may or may not be actually true). There were as objectively historical phenomena as Jesus’ resurrection. People were actually put to death. People were actually raised from the dead. None of the miracles performed by the Spirit through the apostolic company were dependent upon the faith of the apostles or upon the faith of those involved. When the viper attached itself to Paul’s arm those around him expected him to die because that is ordinarily what happens in such cases. They doubted but Paul lived. Peter’s authority to end the lives of Ananias and Sapphira was not contingent upon Peter’s faith or theirs.

Evangelicals were once strongly critical of the liberal tendency to reduce Jesus’ resurrection to a subjective experience (e.g., treating his resurrection as a metaphor for one’s personal experience). Since the Second Great Awakening, however, American evangelicals have more willing than they should to reduce the work of the Spirit to purely subjective experiences and to redefine the apostolic phenomena and to fudge the difference between the two. In truth, neo-Pentecostal glossolalia is not the Apostolic phenomena of speaking in foreign languages by the power of the Spirit. Call it primitivism, a hoax, mass delusion, or group therapy but do not call it apostolic. What is taking place at Bethel Church, as in the earlier cases, is a classic example of American religious enthusiasm. Since the early 18th century, in the so-called First Great Awakening, American evangelicals have been on quest for an immediate encounter with the risen Christ or with the power of the Spirit. In the Second Great Awakening that quest manifested itself in a remarkable series of episodes including Cane Ridge, Mormonism, and the Millerite Apocalyptic movement. The skeptic H. L. Mencken described such moments as “magic and noise.”

I understand that it is hard to accept that we live in a time between Pentecost and the Parousia but we do. We need to accept that fact. No one at Bethel Church has apostolic power just as no one in Kansas City, or Brownsville, or Azusa, or Topeka, or Cane Ridge had it. I understand that it hurts to give up this dream. It is like losing a friend. When we realize that these episodes really just “magic and noise” we may grieve for what we have lost but that sense of loss is salutary and good. In it we should look for that which is real: Christ, his gospel, and his promises made visible in the holy sacraments. In place of the Quest for Illegitimate Religious Experience, that euphoria once felt at certain chord progressions or when the first row of people began to collapse to the floor, look to Christ who saves sinners and to the solid promise of the constant presence of the Holy Spirit, through whom Jesus said, “Behold, I will be with you always.”

Costi Hinn Interview

On Life & Theology With Costi Hinn by Adam Powers (original source here)

I recently had the privilege to sit down with Costi Hinn for a rare Publicans Blog interview. It was a pleasure to get to know the man and hear his heart for the Truth. He has been through a lot in his journey from heresy to faithfulness and we can learn much from him. He is not only a godly man, he’s a husband, father, and faithful pastor seeking to honor Christ in all he does. Our interview is below, enjoy!

Adam: Thank you for joining me for this interview. I don’t think many of our readers will know who you are, even though they may recognize your last name. Could you briefly share about yourself and how God has brought you where you are now?

Costi: Thanks for inviting me to join you Adam. From what I’ve read and seen thus far, “The Publicans” is a blessing to a lot of people.

My name is Costi, but what sticks out to most people is my last name – Hinn. I grew up in the Word of Faith and Prosperity gospel movements and was born and bred to be a tongue-speaking, name-it-and-claim-it, healthy and wealthy charismatic Christian. Some people may have heard of Benny Hinn. He’s my uncle. I grew up traveling globally with him and my father (his brother), and even worked with him when I was 18. My job was to be a “catcher” at the healing crusades. In other words, I was supposed to catch people when they were “slain in the spirit” by uncle Benny’s hand, breath, or infamous white jacket.

Though I had questions about the integrity of his ministry, and the legitimacy of the manifestations and healings occurring at the crusades, the pleasures of the prosperity lifestyle were enough to keep those questions at bay for a time. Luxurious accommodations, private air travel, and the finest things in life were, after all, the blessings of God for our faithful “ministry” work. I often justified any concerns with that belief.

Furthermore, any confusing teachings or things that my uncle said in contradiction to the Bible were never to be challenged. We are taught strictly that one is never to “touch the Lord’s anointed.” That meant no speaking out against or challenging any preacher – no matter what shady things they did behind closed doors or said in error from the pulpit. I was completely blind to the truth and didn’t dare challenge the system.

Eventually God saved me from my life of deception and suddenly the Bible that I had been reading most of my life made sense more than ever before! I experienced illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in a remarkable way. It was as though a light bulb just flipped on and it was obvious that I had been preaching, serving, and believing in a false version of Jesus Christ. Like many believers who have left false beliefs behind, it was a series of providential events in my life and exposure to faithful Bible teachers that led to my conversion.

I’ll never forget the day I wept bitterly over the life of hypocrisy that I had lived. I repented of my sin, and walked away from my false beliefs forever. It was at that time that I committed to being discipled by the pastor who had been used to show me my errors, and reading voraciously to grow in sound doctrine.

Shortly after, I enrolled in seminary. By God’s grace today I am fully committed to preaching the true gospel, and serving God’s people as a faithful under-shepherd for the rest of my life. I currently am on staff as an Associate Pastor at Mission Bible Church in Tustin, California. Our teaching pastor is my brother in the Lord and close friend, Anthony Wood. He’s the one who discipled me closely during my conversion.

Adam: Praise God! It’s encouraging to hear this. God has taken you through a complete theological renovation hasn’t He? I can only imagine the high cost you’ve experienced in turning away from what your family has taught you for so long. I’m guessing that you once rejected suffering as a lack of faith in God? If so, are you now encouraged by the numerous passages of Scripture teaching us that conflict and suffering will be a normal part of the Christian life?

Costi: Yes it’s been a total transformation of my desires, beliefs, and teachings. Only God could do such a thing. I wake up thankful every day that He graciously saved me. As far as my view on suffering in the past, it certainly was tied to Word of Faith theology. For example, if there is conflict in a person’s life the culprit could be the “spirit of strife” or they could be causing the conflict with negative confessions, negative thoughts, or lack of faith. The solution is (normally) to rebuke the devil, pray in the spirit (meaning tongues), speak positive confessions, or even sow a seed into a ministry that is seen as good soil. This couldn’t be further from the biblical view on suffering but I was honestly clueless.

Since my conversion, a passage that has greatly encouraged me during conflict and temporal suffering has been Matthew 10:26-39. Jesus really is the dividing line – and serving Him faithfully is not going to lead to a cake-walk through this life. Since taking a public stand for the true gospel, I’ve been received death threats, threats of physical violence, cursed for “touching the Lord’s anointed”, been called a heretic, and more. I count it a privilege to experience barely a fraction of what better men of women have gone through long before I was saved. Ultimately, we are all standing on the shoulders of faithful generations who have stood for Christ before we did. I never intended to be divided with my family over doctrine, but I refuse to compromise the gospel or turn a blind eye when a false Christ is being preached.

Adam: Amen and well said. There is a lot of deep and good stuff here to chew on. It all seems to come down to right theology and the importance of it before, in, and after seasons of suffering. Having been corrected by God theologically you have found deeper and truer wells of joy, even in the midst of difficulty. What would you say to someone who thinks theology is too controversial or too divisive and therefore avoids it trying to have a simple faith, perhaps saying, ‘I don’t do theology, I just want to love Jesus’?

Costi: First off, to avoid theology because it’s hard, controversial, or divisive, in favor of just “loving Jesus” and keeping faith simple, is like keeping your marriage superficial and shallow for fear of ever having conflict. It doesn’t make for true relationship and is not a true relationship. Jesus can’t be loved without conflict of some kind. We will either be offending someone, or conflicting with our own sinful nature that doesn’t want to submit to Him. He said He would divide people (Matthew 10:34-36), He said if you love Him you’ll obey Him (John 14:23), and He said He was the only way to heaven (John 14:6) – which means all other roads lead to hell. You literally can’t love Jesus without controversy of some sort.

Second, we all need to “do theology.” By definition theology simply refers to the study of knowing God and His nature. What better way to have a relationship and thrive in true worship of God than to know Him deeply! Theology also provides an amazing platform for growing in our faith. Wrestling with doctrines, being sharpened by sound teaching, and having our man-centered pride crushed by the notion that we exist for God’s glory is sanctifying for the Christian.

Lastly, some people have a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to theology because of bad experiences. One of my seminary professors told us a story of how in his day, all seminary students tended to do was debate over non-essentials and forget about the Great Commission. I think there is a lesson there. Still, theology is the furthest thing from mere head knowledge that puffs up. To quote R.C. Sproul, “The purpose of theology is not to tickle our intellects but to instruct us in the ways of God, so that we can grow up into maturity and fullness of obedience to Him. That is why we engage in theology.”

Adam: I love these three things you state here, they’re absolutely necessary to keep them in view in order to do life glorifying God. Regarding your third statement here, what are the theological essentials we must never compromise on and what are the theological non-essentials we can afford to be a bit more open handed with?

Costi: Essentials are things like the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the Trinity, the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture, salvation by grace through faith, the resurrection of Christ, the return of Christ, and you could certainly add several more to this list under those headings but you get the picture.

As far as non-essentials, that list may look like the cessation or continuation of certain gifts, eschatology, ecclesiology, and church government structures. Again, several more could be added to this list but in general, these aren’t hills we should be dying on or spending our entire ministry solely focused on.

I would clarify this list by saying that many of these non-essentials can easily become essential issues when they infringe upon the deity of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit, the sufficiency of Scripture or other excesses being witnessed in the church today. In other words, there is a huge difference between Wayne Grudem and Bill Johnson, though they both would be considered “continuationists.” One is a biblically sound theologian, the other is a false teacher.

Adam: Knowing the difference between what hills to die on and what hills to not die on is indeed extremely helpful. Thank you so much for your time with me and answering my questions. One last question: if you were stranded on an island and were allowed to have 5 books with you, what 5 would you take and why?

Costi: Thank you Adam. I’d take 1) My Bible for obvious reasons. 2) A Bible handbook because I enjoy background and context 3) J.C. Ryle: Prepared to Stand Alone by Iain Murray because Ryle is one of my heroes and I’d be stranded alone on an island 4) The Sovereignty of God by Arthur Pink for those days when I’d question why God allowed me to end up stranded on an island 5) Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley because I never get bored of reading about where we’ve come from as Christians. We are just standing on the shoulders of faithful men and women who stood boldly for Christ long before us.

Adam: Well said sir, I praise God for the testimony of His grace in your life and will continue to pray for you and your ministry. May the Lord bless, increase, and spread His fame through you in the years to come. Thank you for taking time to spend with us Publicans 🙂

Costi: It was fun Adam – I enjoyed it! Keep up the great work at The Publicans.

The Word is Alive!

Text: Hebrews 4:12,13

Contrary the claims of the charismatic movement that the Bible is just a dead book in desperate need of the Holy Spirit’s life, it is very much alive, powerful, energetic, dynamic and sharper than any human instrument ever made. It is always at work in human hearts whenever it is encountered.

Also discussed is a biblical understanding of “logos” and “rhema.”

The Slain in the Spirit Phenomenon

Sola Scriptura – the Bible alone is the word of God and therefore the sole (only) infallible rule of faith for the people of God. May I ask, do you believe that? I do.

The Bible (the 66 book canon of Old and New Testament books) is the ‘God breathed’ (inspired) record of the Holy Spirit, informing us of what is, and what is not of God – what is true worship acceptable to God, and what is in contrast, ‘strange fire’ – false worship, which God has not authorized or sanctioned in any way at all.

When God the Holy Spirit is the source of an ‘experience’ what is observed will be in full agreement and alignment with the Bible. That should not be a controversial statement at all, but in today’s ‘Christian’ world, to insist on biblical parameters for our worship is often seen as ‘legalistic’ and ‘putting God in a box.’

Having been involved in charismatic excess for decades as a pastor in the movement, I have had to own and repent of the false doctrine I have taught. That is not always an easy thing to do but it is a necessary thing. That’s why I am always grateful when someone addresses some of these excesses from the word of God.

This article “Mythbusters: Slain in the Spirit? What does the Bible say?” is written by Costi Hinn (Benny Hinn’s nephew) who is now, like me, a Reformed pastor and preacher committed to verse by verse exposition of the Bible. Though I have known him only a short time, he is a man I consider to be my friend. I very much encourage you to read through it and check out what is said – not with your experience, but with the Bible:

Here is the link. You can also follow him on Twitter @costiwhinn.

The Charismatic Deception

Text: Ephesians 5:18 – “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit…”

What does it (really) mean to be filled with the Spirit? In a day when charismatic error, excess and extremes permeate much of the professing Church, the cure, as always, is a proper understanding of the Bible.

Why I am no longer a Charismatic

john-apologia8Dan Phillips wrote this today on his facebook page: “Delighted to hear that brother John Samson no longer IDs himself as a charismatic. It’s a path we both walked, with at least some similarity: I was a charismatic Calvinist, and eventually rethought and renounced my charismatic beliefs.

So I’m wondering: if you have the time, John, what particularly moved you to rethink?

For me it was chiefly a combination of my own realization of what Sam Waldron now calls the “cascade” argument (http://tinyurl.com/z2a3vtq), plus seeing that modern putative revelatory/attesting gifts simply did not measure up to the Biblical data.”

Here’s my brief reply:

Dan, though I would not have used the term at the time, I was thoroughly Arminian (a synergist), and not only charismatic, but a pastor in the word of faith movement. I was a local host for TBN, regularly hosting a live 2 hour program and… actually asked people to call the number on the screen. Yes, it doesn’t get much lower than that. 🙂 The Lord rescued me, breaking through with His truth concerning His Sovereignty back around 2000-2001, and like a huge rock being thrown into my theological lake, the ripple effects continued to shape and change my thinking in a whole lot of areas, especially ecclesiology. It greatly bothered me that although I had been around charismatic Churches and Christians for 3 decades, I had never witnessed someone speaking in an unknown tongue (unknown to the speaker) something that was known to the listener – which is what we see in Acts 2. I heard stories of this kind of thing happening elsewhere, but it was always just that, stories. It was never something I had personally observed. This led me to question whether what I was seeing in our time was what we read about in the New Testament. Dr. Sam Waldron’s cascade argument did have an impact on me also, but I think the final nail in the coffin to my charismatic tendencies was the “Strange Fire” Conference John MacArthur had, with Phil Johnson’s sessions being especially helpful – “Is there a baby in the Charismatic bathwater?” “Providence is Remarkable” and another teaching he did, “Is That Voice in my Head Really the Holy Spirit?”

A quote I read by John Owen also was like a punch to the stomach (theologically speaking) as its truth hit home to me, “If private revelations agree with Scripture, they are needless, and if they disagree they are false.” I have experienced so much mercy from the Lord in all this, especially when I realize that, very sadly, I don’t personally know of any fellow pastors in the circles I was in, making this kind of transition. Deceived people, deceive people, and my prayer is that God will continue to root out of my thinking, anything that is not in full accord with His word. And may He do this for many of those still entrapped in deception, as I was.

Dan responded: “Praise the Lord. That’s wonderful to hear. Thanks. It is disheartening: one sees so many either deepening in error, or drifting in the wrong direction. A testimony like yours is heartening. It must mean a lot to Phil as well.”

My reply: Yes, it is indeed disheartening when so many will not even stop for a moment to examine their traditions. The fact that I did is a testimony to the Sovereign mercy of the Lord towards me. I wrote a book outlining Sovereign mercy in election, especially seeking to answer objections (called “Twelve What Abouts: Answering Common Objections Concerning God’s Sovereignty in Election”) and am now working on my second book which has a working title of “Run for Your Life” aimed at helping those in the word of faith come to sound theology. I would value your prayers very much.

P.S. Dan Phillips wrote this article about Benny Hinn yesterday that is well worth reading.

Quotes on Scripture

preaching-e1464051966448“Let the man who would hear God speak read Holy Scripture.” – Martin Luther

“If private revelations agree with Scripture, and if they disagree they are false.” – John Owen

“The Bible is the sceptre by which the heavenly King rules his church.” – John Calvin

“It has always been the great minds exercising their powers apart from the Word of God who have produced the great heresies. Some think they can discover God by listening to a so-called ‘inner voice.’ But the voice is often nothing more than an expression of their own inner desires. Quite a few think that spiritual truths can be verified by supernatural events or miracles. But the Bible everywhere teaches that even miracles will not lead men and women to understand and receive God’s truth unless they themselves are illuminated by the Bible (see Luke 16:31).” – James Montgomery Boice

“God speaks through the Scriptures. He speaks with the Word, through the Word, and never against the Word.” – R. C. Sproul

“All Scripture must be received as if God, appearing in person, visibly and full of majesty, were himself speaking.” – John Calvin

“In too many churches, Bible exposition has been replaced with entertainment, theology with theatrics, and the drama of redemption with just drama.” – Steve Lawson