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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Reformed Eschatology (Amillennial) Since the Reformation

Rev. Charles J. Terpstra
This article appeared in The Standard Bearer, Vol. 76; No. 2; October 15, 1999. Rev. Terpstra is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Holland, Michigan

It is probably well known that the Reformation did not develop Christian doctrine in the area of eschatology very strongly. In part this was due to the fact that, in general, the Reformers accepted the long-standing, amillennial eschatology of Augustine set forth c. AD 400. And partly this was due to the fact that the various doctrines that belong to eschatology were not all that controversial at the time of the Reformation. An exception to this was the chiliast error (literal millennialism, i.e., thousand-year reign of Christ on earth) that arose again in the church, this time in the Anabaptist camp. The Reformers rejected this, as had Augustine twelve centuries earlier and the church consistently thereafter. Perhaps another controversial area was the Reformers' view of the Antichrist, whom most believed to be the Roman Catholic papacy.

This is not to say, however, that the Reformers did not have a firm, orthodox belief of the last things. They certainly did, as other articles in this special issue demonstrate. In simple, straightforward fashion they followed the teaching of Scripture concerning the hope of the church. They understood this present age to be the so-called millennium of Revelation 20:1-6 and the last before the return of Christ. They believed the end of this age would be marked by increasing wickedness in the world and apostasy in the church, culminating in the rise of the antichrist. They held to the personal, visible, glorious coming (only one!) of Christ when all things were full according to God's counsel. They embraced the truth of the bodily resurrection of all the dead, the final, public judgment, and the re-creation of the heavens and the earth by Christ upon His return. And they believed the everlasting states of the righteous and wicked - unending bliss with God in the new creation for the former, and unending torment in hell for the latter. The Reformation doctrine of the last things may be seen (and read), for example, in the brief but beautiful thirty-seventh article of the Belgic Confession.

Yet what we are saying here is that the Reformers did not develop the doctrines of eschatology, at least not very far. Witness the fact that neither Luther nor Calvin produced a commentary on the book of Revelation. They basically repeated what the church had held for over a thousand years. We may also say concerning this that it was not God's purpose that they should develop doctrine in this area. His purpose with them was otherwise, namely, to return the church to the heart of the gospel - the doctrines of sovereign grace - and to reform her organizationally and liturgically according to the Scriptures. In God's wisdom it would fall to the church in future generations to develop the truths of eschatology. This is indeed what has happened. And, we believe, this development is still continuing.

Our intention in this article is to point out this subsequent development of Reformed eschatology. Our focus is on development of the amillennial view, because this is the position which this writer and the PRC hold, believing it to be the truth of God's Word.

Having said this, one can hear some of our readers snickering at the writer's apparent ignorance of developments in the area of eschatology. "Developments in amillennialism?! Hardly," many would say. "Amillennialism is dead and buried! The progress in the doctrine of the last things has been in the premillennial and postmillennial camps," they would argue. And there is no question that these teachings have dominated the modern church-doctrinal scene. Yet it is our contention that these views are departures from the classic Reformed-biblical position, and that in spite of all the attention paid to these views amillennialism has not only quietly survived but also powerfully thrived. Amillennialism is alive and well! It simply has not received the attention which it deserves. Amillennial teaching has made progress precisely because it has had to contend with premillennialism and postmillennialism. And though it has for that reason had to be negative in much of its presentation, yet amillennialism has developed positively too.

Perhaps a brief listing of prominent amillennialists in the last century will help us to appreciate this fact. After all, the "pre's" and "post's" are not the only ones with whom we amillennialists should be familiar. For every "Darby" and "Scofield" in premillennialism, for every "Warfield" and "Kik" in postmillennialism, there is an amillennialist to answer. We mention a select few here, along with their writings where pertinent. Among the Dutch Reformed there are Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920); Herman Bavinck (1854-1921; The Last Things: Hope for This World and the Next, 1996. This is part of an English translation of hisGereformeerde Dogmatiek, 1895-1901); Albertus Pieters (The Lamb, The Woman, and the Dragon, 1937); Louis Berkhof (Systematic Theology, 1941); William Hendriksen (More Than Conquerors,1939; The Bible on the Life Hereafter, 1959); Herman Hoeksema (Reformed Dogmatics, 1966; Behold He Cometh, 1969); Anthony Hoekema (The Bible and the Future, 1979). Among Presbyterians we may note Robert L. Dabney (Lectures in Systematic Theology, 1878), Geerhardus Vos (Pauline Eschatology, 1930), William C. Robinson (Christ the Hope of Glory, 1945), George Murray(Millennial Studies, A Search for Truth, 1948), Jay Adams (The Time Is At Hand, 1966), and William E. Cox (Amillennialism Today, 1966). While there are variations in the details of the amillennial position set forth by these men, all held to and advanced the basics of the historic amillennial position of the church.

But to move on, we ought to note in what areas amillennial teaching has developed since the Reformation. What are some of the distinctive elements of Reformed eschatology? In the first place, we may mention its emphasis on the sovereignty of God. Being one of the cardinal tenets of Reformed theology, God's absolute sovereignty has also been an inseparable part of her doctrine of the last things. The doctrine is applied to eschatology in several ways. For one thing, the sovereignty of God is applied to the very idea of the end of all things. Reformed amillennialism teaches that if all things have their beginning in God (and they do, for He is the sovereign Creator of all things!), then they also have their end in Him. God is the Source of all things and He is the Goal of all things. This means that all things, including the end of the world, have their meaning and purpose in God. From this comes the idea of the consummation of all things, that God is leading all things to a "wrapping up," a "bringing together," indeed to a climax of His sovereign purpose, which is His own glory through the full redemption (glorification) of His elect church and the renewal of His entire creation in Jesus Christ. Thus, Reformed eschatology ties the end of all things to the sovereign, eternal counsel of God (predestination) and to His almighty providence in time and history. H. Hoeksema writes, for example, in his Reformed Dogmatics:
...The consummation of all things presupposes a willing and decreeing God, Who is before all things, and Who made all things according to His own counsel unto a definite end and purpose, and Who by that counsel controls and guides all things unto the end He has in mind. Without the presupposition of this counsel of a personal God the world can have no purpose and no destination unto which it was called into being. And without an all-ruling providence, according to which God controls all things according to His good pleasure, there cannot possibly be any definite line or stability in the development of all things, and there is no guarantee that they will attain to the purpose unto which they were called into being (Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1966, p. 737).

Reformed eschatology also stresses the sovereignty of God in connection with the powers of darkness that rise up against the Lord and seek to frustrate His purpose with all things, especially in the end. Rejecting the dualism taught by paganism and by much of the church-world, the Reformed faith holds that God is absolutely sovereign also over all the evil in the world. He is Lord of Satan and his hosts, Lord of the ungodly nations and peoples, Lord of all sin and darkness, Lord of Antichrist and all his forces. Being Lord over them, He uses them for the accomplishing of His own purpose. All the rantings and ragings of the beast against God and His people only serve to fulfill His will. It is right here that Reformed eschatology provides the believer with great comfort and peace as he lives in these last days. Nothing and no one can possibly overthrow his God and thwart His purposes! His cause is and will be triumphant! And, therefore, every elect child of God will reach the goal of his salvation.

In the second place, we may mention that Reformed eschatology is covenantal in focus. Covenant theology has always been an important part of the Reformed faith. So too the doctrine of the covenant has been brought to bear upon the doctrine of the last things in Reformed amillennialism. The eternal purpose of God concerning all things is viewed in connection with God's eternal covenant of grace with His people in Christ, a covenant that embraces all of creation too. Christ, the Head of the church and creation and the Mediator of the covenant, is at the center of God's eternal purpose with all things. All that God has done in the past, is doing in the world now, and will do yet in the future is for the realizing of His covenant plan in Christ. The end (goal) to which all things are leading is the realization of God's gracious covenant of redemption in Christ. When the end comes in the return of Christ, God's covenant will be complete.

It was especially H. Hoeksema who developed this covenantal eschatology. While other Reformed theologians before him certainly applied the doctrine of the covenant to eschatology (H. Bavinck is a case in point), Hoeksema wove it throughout the whole of theology and thus made it the warp and woof of eschatology as well. He did so in connection with his biblical development of the idea of the covenant itself, that it is in its essence the bond of living friendship and fellowship with His people in Christ. This truth he applied to the doctrine of the last things, so that, for example, when he wrote on Revelation 21:1-4, he said, 
Heaven and earth, therefore, shall be united in Christ. The New Jerusalem shall have its abode on earth, yet it shall inhabit all creation. And the whole creation shall be heavenly, made like unto the risen Lord. In that new creation all things shall be perfectly adapted to serve the resurrected and glorified church in Christ, in order that we may serve our God and enjoy the fellowship of His covenant forever and ever (Behold He Cometh, p. 677).

Such a covenantal emphasis reveals the unity of God's purposes throughout the ages and casts a warm, relational light on the doctrine of the last things. What bliss beyond compare the church looks forward to according to the purposes of her faithful, covenant Father!

A third distinctive element of Reformed eschatology is its sober, balanced interpretation of prophecy. A proper hermeneutic of both Old Testament and New Testament prophecy is essential to and characteristic of Reformed amillennialism. It takes a careful, comprehensive approach to understanding the prophetic words of Scripture, avoiding the crass literalism and false dispensationalism of premillennialism on the one hand, and the inconsistent interpretation of postmillennialism on the other hand. Over against these, amillennialism has recognized the unique features of biblical prophecy, that it has elements which are to be taken literally, historically, symbolically, and spiritually. It has also maintained, developed, and applied two important Reformation principles: 1) that the Scriptures present a unified revelation of God; and 2) that Scripture interprets Scripture. In harmony with these principles, Reformed amillennialism stresses that Old Testament prophecy must be understood in the light of the New Testament, and New Testament prophecy in the light of the whole of Scripture. This applies, for example, to those Old Testament prophecies which were spoken to Old Testament Israel as a nation and seem to promise her yet future, earthly blessings, but which, when interpreted in harmony with the New Testament Scriptures, are seen to be fulfilled in the church and in her future glorification in the new heavens and earth at the second coming of Christ.

H. Bavinck does a masterful job of laying out this proper Reformed hermeneutic in chapters four and five of his book The Last Things, especially in opposition to the chiliast interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. We give here a brief example of the Reformed interpretive approach in Bavinck's words: 
The New Testament views itself...as the spiritual and therefore complete and authentic fulfillment of the Old Testament. The spiritualization of the Old Testament, rightly understood, is not an invention of Christian theology but has its beginning in the New Testament itself. The Old Testament in spiritualized form, that is, the Old Testament stripped of its temporal and sensuous form, is the New Testament.
… All Old Testament concepts shed their external, national-Israelitish meanings and become manifest in their spiritual and eternal sense (in the New Testament, CJT).
… Therefore the New Testament is not an intermezzo or interlude, neither a detour nor a departure from the line of the Old Covenant, but the long-aimed-for goal, the direct continuation and the genuine fulfillment, of the Old Testament (Baker, 1996, pp. 96-98).
These, then, are a few of the distinctive features of Reformed amillennialism as it has developed since the Reformation. May the Lord be pleased to spread the knowledge of the true hope of the saints far and wide!

Source: http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/

Recommended Book to read:  A Case for Amillennialism

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Infiltration By The Church Of Rome

Lecture at the Opening Session of the European Institute of Protestant Studies
By Dr Brian Green, London
President of the British Council of Protestant Christian Churches

We are living in a day when there are many assaults on the true Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. There are: -

(1) Continual attacks on the truths of the Gospel.

Many of our religious leaders deny the deity of our Lord; the substitutionary atonement of the death of our Lord and His bodily resurrection, the plenary inspiration of the scriptures and the doctrines of the Gospel.

(2) Constant emphasis of the social Gospel.

The world sees the church as a place to do good in such areas as Refugee help and working amongst the deprived. Whilst we acknowledge the necessity for concern for those who have need, we would question whether this is the prime consideration of the Christian church.

The socialist society has brought about the present Drug Culture and tbe Pornographic explosion with its violent attitude.

(3) The many "goals" propagated by the false sects.

The Jehovah' s Witnesses, Mormons and the Christian Scientists still seek a hearing upon our streets, together with the proliferation of the many New Age brainwashing movements.

(4) The increase of heathen religions.

We are faced with the alaming fact that Islamic Mosques, Hindu and Sikh Temples and other religious buildings are now being erected at a faster rate than Christian churches in our land.

(5) The superficial attitude of Evangelicals.

We as Evangelicals have shut our eyes to what is happening around us and become insular in our work for God.

The greatest attack on the true Church of Jesus Christ is the insidious infiltration of the Roman church into Protestantism. We learn from history of the various ways Rome has used in the past attempting to undermine and destroy Protestantism.

The Church of Rome has used in its strategy open persecution when countless numbers were tortured on the rack and many more put in prison for their faith. The flames of the fire and the use of the bullet have been the means of killing so many who dared to stand against popery.

Rome has used slander and contempt in order to gag the outspoken and fearless, is order to stop the truth. Rome has not been above undermining a whole nation to execute its purpose and aim. It was Lenin who taught his followers the strategy of 'undermining the economy' of a country in order to take over, and we have witnessed the success of this strategy all over Europe during the last century. Rome is a big player in the world of high finance, and although she loves her wealth, her main aim is the manipulation of the economies of the countries it invests in. Rome has been known to be active in the damaging of a Nations moral health, as it subtly promotes pornography and drugs, so that it can take over weak and corrupt nations with its religious and political systems.

Although in Britain we have been subjected to a great deal of the Roman strategy as I have indicated, today her ways are more of stealth, secrecy and surreptitiousness. That is why it is important to highlight infiltration as one of our great dangers today. The dictionaries' definition of infiltration is very interesting: 'to cause to enter gradually and imperceptibly'. It gives the example of occupying troops or the work of spies.

It is my conviction that this has been Rome's strategy for a long time within our nation. The media its largely controlled or greatly influenced by the Roman Church, and every word or movement of the Pope is reported as if it were the most startling, amazing or urgent thing to report. Our schools, colleges, legal system, political structures, Government and even the Royal family have all been infiltrated by the Jesuit strategy.

It is even more alarming to see the same this happening in the Protestant Church. In England we have a state church which still claims the vast majority of the population as its members, even though many will never darken its doors. The Church of England was the continuing church after the Reformation, but it was never thoroughly reformed. Since the Reformation it has canied on with many of the 'popish' ways of the former church. As someone has apply put it 'it came out of Rome, but Rome never came out of it' .

Recently it was reported in the press that over 1000 so-called 'priests' had left the Church of England to convert to Rome, mainly over the issue of the decision to appoint women 'priests'. All these were 'High' churchmen who already accepted the doctrines of the Church of Rome, and the only difference they had before their move to Rome was that they looked to Canterbury rather than the Vatican! Those that are left fall into a number of categories, but mainly into two - Liberals and Evangelicals. The Liberal wing of the church seems to disregard the 39 Articles as irrelevant and practise a sort of 'spiritist' religion. The Evangelical side of the church pays lip service to sound doctrine but still practises popery with its insistence on vestments, the swinging of incense, the sign of the Cross, the read prayers, the display of an , 'altar' for the sacraments, thus necessitating a relegated pulpit on the side, prayers for the dead, the division of 'priest' and laity and the constant remembrance of saints' days. It seems to me that the Church of England has always been ready for a bloodless coup!

I want to look at three main areas - the World Council of Churches, the Charismatic Movement and the recent Evangelicals and Catholic dialogue, where it seems to me that great infiltration is taking place.

(1) The World Council of Churches

I begin with the WCC because it seems to me that historians will call this the Age of Ecumenism, the Era of Unity or the Time of Reconciliation. This has been brought about mainly because of the work of the World Council of Churches.

The WCC was inaugurated fifty years ago at Amsterdam, Holland, in 1948, but the Ecumenical movement dates back to the Edinburgh missionary conference of 1910. The avowed purpose was to unite all Christians under one banner, and in order to do this its basis of fellowship is very wide to include all shades of opinion and interpretation. The enlarged basis of Article 1 of the Constitution was agreed at their New Delhi assembly:

"The World Council of Churches is a felowship of Churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour, according to the Scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfil together their common calling, to the glory of One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

These seem to be fine words at first glance that all of us could accept and applaud. However, the WCC issues a clarification document (page 182):

(a) That the foundation is not a touchstone, where the faith of Churches or persons can be judged.

(b) That the World Council of Churches does not concern itself with the manner in which the Churches will interpret the foundation.

(c) That it is left to the responsibility of every Church to decide whether it will co-operate on this basis.

The clarification document undermines the solid basis which the WCC begins with and allows any interpretation, any opinion and any Church of a so-called 'Christian' persuasion to participate in its membership.

It is interesting to note, therefore, that the Roman Catholic Church is not a official member of the WCC. It considers it is too liberal and wide in it s views for its full participation. However at local levels it is actively involved and is fully committed to the doctrine committee of the WCC which is called 'The Faith and Order Commission', where it is represented by twelve theologians who have worked together with the WCC considering three essential areas for unity:

(a) Baptism: The commission have already concluded that all who have a 'valid' baptism word be regarded as children of God and be able to participate in a future one-World Church.

(b) Eucharist: The Roman Catholic view of the Eucharist, as being the actual body and blood of our Lord, has been accepted by most and will form part of the proposed dominating World Church.

(c) Ministry: The debate concerning the ministry goes on, but it is agreed that a form of Episcopalian hierarchy is necessary with one Super-Head, thus paving the way for a future Pope to be that person.

Rome does not regard the so-called Christians in the WCC as heretics any more, but as separated brethren. The week of prayer for Christian Unity is always infiltrated by Roman Catholic priests, and the Friday of the week is devoted to special prayers that they might "unite separated brethren with the Chair of St. Peter's". Hence we see something of the subtle infiltration by the Church of Rome.

(2) The Charismatic Movement

We are all aware of the influence of the Charismatic Movement as it has swept through Churches in every part of the world. Emphasising the outward manifestations of tongues, prophesying and the supernatural, it has been described as 'a wind, fire or downpour from Heaven'. Healings of all kinds have been reported, some very bizarre, such as puppies raised from the dead, washing machines healed, petrol tanks supernaturally filled and people slain in the Spirit! The so-called 'Toronto blessing' has followed on swiftly behind the Charismatic Movement with even greater claims of supernatural experience. Whilst some have claimed to bark like dogs 'in the Spirit', others profess to have actually to have been to Heaven and back in the body!

There are many serious objections we have to this false movement as it deceives so many professing Christians, but are enquiry is concerning the participation of Rome within the ranks of this latest manifestation.

Some years ago a group of men burst on the Charismatic scene referred to as the Kansas City Prophets. This group became part of the World Vineyard Fellowship with its emphasis on visions, revelations and prophecy. Many of these men have now become leaders of the Promise Keepers movement. Where did they originate? Many came from the Catholic Charismatic Word of God community in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

In 1975 Pope Paul VI endorsed this renewal movement during a massive rally in the city of Rome. Pope John II greeted the 4th International conference of Charismatic leaders, held in Rome in May, 1981, with these words: "Your choice of Rome as the site of this conference is a special sign of your understanding of the importance of being rooted in that Catholic unity of faith and charity which finds its visible centre in the see of Peter." David DuPlessis was acknowledged to be the leader of the Movement at that time throughout the world, he was hailed as Mr. Pentecost and was said to have done more that any other one person to influence the Protestant Church to be Charismatic and ecumenical. When asked a question with regard to unity with the Roman Church he replied that he looked for "nothing less than full ecumenicity"- meaning total unity with Rome under the Pope.

The Charismatic movement has done more to promote false unity with Rome than the Roman Counter-Reformation movement and the WCC combined. The subtle influence and infiltration by Rome has been seen here more vividly than at any time since Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the Church door at Wittenberg.

In 1971 the first known service was held at Guildford Cathedral where Roman Catholics, traditional Protestants and Pentecostals shared the same platform. Writing afterward, Michael Harper, a Curate of All Souls', Langham Place, London, and a leader of the infant Charismatic movement, said that it was "a moment when the walls of prejudice collapsed and prisons of entrenched doctrines were opened". Somebody else said: "Guildford revealed the world-wide, ecumenical scope of the new movement."

Before this, in 1967, Roman Catholic prayer groups had formed at the university of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana, USA, seeking the Charismatic experience. They saw this as a means of bringing the 'separated brethren' back to the Mother Church of Rome under the Pontiff. Since those early days, barriers have been broken down, doctrine disregarded and Protestants and Catholics have joined together for worship, service and conference, but always with Rome being the dominant force.

This, surely, is another important way in which Rome, in keeping with her overall strategy, has infiltrated the Protestant Church.

(3) The Evangelicals and Catholics Together Movement

ECT is a new movement to promote an understanding between Evangelicals and Catholics so that they can work together towards a common mission. Encouraged to forget the past, to recognise what they have in common and to concentrate on evangelising a secular society together. These seem to be fine words and have been welcomed universally by many. The Vatican is said to have welcomed the movement with enthusiasm, as well it might.

Dr Jim Packer, a leading evangelical theologian and one of the endorsers of the CCT document, states: "Things are not as they were", and concludes: "ECT is a good beginning. I stand with it, I cannot do otherwise, and I thank God. Now I wait to see what God will do with it." The beginning of the movement is described as "peeping behind each other's doors". Gerald Coates, evangelical house church leader, declares: "We must stop fighting the battles of the past; it is time for Evangelicals and Catholics to get together to explore what God might have in mind for us." Charles Colson, one of the instigators of the new movement and one of the writers in the book defending the position of ECT, speaking for Evangelicals, says: "The divisions between us are not the battle of the hour."

It seems to me that it is essential for us to ask ourselves urgently:

(1) Is this God working, or is it a repackaging of Roman ecumenism?

(2) Have we, as Protestants and inheritors of the Reformation tradition, been deceived all along in our position, or is Rome adopting a new guise to seduce?

(3) Is this movement of watershed significance to us or should we recognise it as a subtle attempt to entangle us again with the yoke of bondage?

In 1985 Charles Colson, who founded the Prison Fellowship Ministries, as Chairman invited Rev Richard Neuhaus, a former Lutheran, but now a foremost Jesuit priest, and Carl Henry, the long-time editor and founder of Christianity Today, to address a gathering of Christian leaders. At that meeting they sensed "the Holy Spirit was moving them to do more".

There was a common acceptance the Christian culture was no longer an influence on modern society, that envy, greed and hatred rules people's lives and that crime without conscience has caused violence to increase to alarming proportions. To add to this, religion had become an irrelevancy to the majority of people. Charles Colson points out that Christians are losing the battle against the contemptuous media, an unrestrained consumerism, sexual libertinism, a hostile academia and the omnipresent hedonistic entertainment industry. He concludes: "Christians are both surrounded and outnumbered." In 1986 Neuhaus published his book The Naked Public Square which describes a sick society without an answer to its dilemma. George Wiegel, Roman Catholic President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington DC, suggests that there are "substantive reasons why the attempt to reclothe the naked public square is a joint task for Evangelicals and Catholics".

A historic meeting was held in New York in September of 1992. At this meeting were the seven Roman Catholics and eight Evangelicals who would eventually produce the ECT text. The main concern of the meeting was that "animosities between Evangelicals and Catholics threatened to mar the image of Christ by turning Latin America into a Belfast of religious warfare".

The Drafting Committee of the ECT document was made up of George Weigel, the Lay Catholic Theologian; Kent Hill, President of Eastern Nazarene College; Charles Colson; and Richard Neuhaus. The final document was approved in March 1994 and endorsed by a wider number of people a little later on. Besides the leading Catholic participants and endorsers we find the names of many so-called Evangelicals: Charles Colson, Prison Fellowship; Dr Hill, Nazarene College; Dr Land and Dr Lewis from the Southern Baptist Convention; Dr Miranda, Assemblies of God; Mr Brian O'Connell, World Evangelical Fellowship; Dr John White, National Association of Evangelicals; Dr Bill Bright, Campus Crusade for Christ; Bishop Frey, Trinity Episcopal School; Ralph Martin, Renewal Ministries; Dr Mouw Fuller, Theological Seminary; Dr Noll, Wheaton College; Dr Packer, Regent College; and Rev Pat Robertson, Regent University. There are many more that these who enthusiastically wished to add their names as endorsers.

The main thought of the ECT statement is:

(i) The Past must be forgotten.

Colson writes:

"The divisions between us are not the battle of the hour. [...] The controversies that divide us are far less significant than the common threat that confronts us." The divisions and controversies which Colson mentions are those that began at the Reformation and are still the same today.

(ii) There is more that unites Evangelicals and Catholics than divides them.

They say that both believe in the Trinity and therefore the deity of Christ, His virgin birth and bodily resurrection, that He is the only Saviour of men and that the scriptures are divinely inspired. Both affirm together the Apostles' Creed as an accurate statement of Scripture and truth. The vehicle of the World Council of Churches is rejected in Colson's words: "This new ecumenism bears no relationship to new ecumenism which seeks unity by disregarding doctrinal differences"; and again: "The ecumenical movement among liberal Protestants sought to unite various denominations by eliminating doctrinal distinctions."

(iii) All Catholics and Evangelicals must be regarded as brothers and sisters in Christ. This is clear from their statement: "All who accept Christ as Lord and Saviour are brothers and sisters in Christ. [...] He has chosen us to be His together.

(iv) Together the two groupings have strength. It is estimated that the Catholic Church has 1 billion adherents, whilst the Evangelicals have 300,000, although some would put this figure higher.

(v) A commitment to a common task of evangelising the non-believing world. The ECT statement contains the words: "We hope together that all people will come to faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour." Believing they preach the same gospel, they propose to work together for the salvation of souls.

You may ask how two seemingly irreconcilable groups have come this far. There have been many previous ventures of co-operation and unity, and these have been the evolution of this present movement. There have been:

The World Council of Churches

In 1960 the Pope sent Catholic observers to the New Delhi Assembly of the WCC, and since that time the Catholic Church has taken an active role as observer in many of the agencies of the WCC.

The Vatican Council II (1962-1965)

Some have concluded that the main purpose of this modern-day council was ecumenism. It was from this council that Rome began speaking about "separated brethren", and in section 3 of the Decree on Ecumenism "men who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are brought into a certain, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church".

The Picket Lines

Evangelicals have already acted together over many religious and social concerns. The persecuted church in the communist countries, children's rights, anti-abortion, a pro-life ecumenism, euthanasia, embryo experimentation and human rights are some of the issues on which, protesting vigorously, Evangelicals and Catholics have worked together.

The Billy Graham Contribution

In the 1960's, Graham started his co-operative evangelicalism, with Catholics making up a considerable portion of those who attend his meetings and who if they make a response are sent back to the Catholic Church for counselling. A crusade was held in American Catholics' most hallowed location - the football stadium of Notre Dame University, in 1977, where Graham received a doctorate. He was entertained by the Abbot of the Shrine of the Black Madonna in Poland in 1978, and in 1981 Pope John Paul II granted him an audience at the Vatican.

The Charismatic Renewal

Mark Noll of Wheaton College writes in his contribution: "The spread of the Charismatic Movement has done a great deal to reduce the barriers between Catholics and Evangelicals." Dr Packer writes: "Charismatic gatherings, where the distinction between Protestant and Catholic vanishes in a Christ-centred unity of worship, fellowship and joy, are a further example working side by side."

All these have brought into being the position where Catholics and Evangelicals meet with a common belief, attitude and action.

Great names of the past are quoted as if they were in favour of a united front with Rome. These include John Calvin, John Wesley and Gresham Machen. Even Martin Luther is called in a Catholic book, a reformer of the Church. They speak in a derisory manner of Fundamentalism in 1890 as a mainstream, but in the 1990's as marginal.

Their Hopes

In the ECT statement, the participants reveal their hopes under various headings.

Witnessing together

The full statement title reads: "Evangelicals and Catholics Together - The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium". In the statement they say: "As the second millennium draws to a close, the Christian mission in world history faces a moment of daunting opportunity and responsibility. If in the merciful and mysterious ways of God the Second Coming is delayed, we enter upon a third millennium that could be, in the words of John Paul II, 'a springtime of world missions'."

The question of proselytising is discussed, and although again Evangelicals make noises about evangelising all, including Catholics, Mark Noll speaks for the main body of opinion when he accepts that it is "at best dubious and at works simply wrong for Catholics and Evangelicals to proselytise across the Catholic-Protestant border". In the official ECT statement it is put clearly that there is "a necessary distinction between evangelising and what is today commonly called proselytising or sheet-stealing. We condemn the practice of recruiting people from another community […]."

The assumption is that all Evangelicals are Christians and all Catholics are Christians.

Praying together

Although the Evangelical side states that ECT is not about a total union with Rome, it is obvious that this is the ultimate aim of those participating from the Catholic side. The ECT statement says: "As Evangelicals and Catholics we pray that our unity in the love of Christ will become ever more evident as a sign to the world of God's reconciling power."

Avery Dulles, SJ, acclaimed as a leading Catholic theologian, takes his subject, in the supporting chapters, to the ECT statement: "the unity for which we hope". He envisages a visible unity in one faith and Eucharist fellowship, in order that the world may believe.

Searching together

The ECT statement declares "for a fuller and clearer understanding of God's revelation in Christ and His will for his disciples".

They list some of the differences between the two sides:

The nature of the church - visible or invisible?
The authority of scripture or the teaching of the church?
Individual freedom or magisterium?
The priesthood - apostolic or all believers?
The sacraments - symbols or means of grace?
Supper - sacrifice or memorial?
Baptism - means of regeneration of testimony to regeneration?
This acknowledgement of serious disagreements shows how wide the chasm is between Evangelicals and Roman Catholics in their doctrine and practice.
Their Haste

Working towards a common mission in the third millennium is the objective given by the ECT. There has been much expectancy in many quarters, as we near the new millennium, emanating especially from the Vatican, with the Pope speaking of the coming "springtime of world missions". The year 2000 AD has long been a target date in Rome's mind for evangelism.

The aim is to convert as many people as possible to Roman Catholicism by December 25, 2000 AD, when it is planned that the incumbent Pope will make a worldwide satellite telecast to a potential audience of five billion people.

It is more than significant, then, to find Evangelicals and Catholics together with an identical purpose.

Again our question must be: Which Gospel is to be preached in order to attract people to genuine faith in Jesus Christ in order that they may experience forgiveness of sins?

Their Heresy

It is not popular to speak or write against heresy, but the Scriptures are strong in their language against all who distort, pervert, take away from or add to the Gospel of Christ. Paul, writing to the Philippians, warns: "Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers" (Phil. 3:2); and to the Galatians: "[...] if any man preach any other gospel [...] let him be accursed." We indict those who seek to forward the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement as deceivers and brand the document as encouraging a false gospel.

The acclaim that it has received only goes to show the bankruptcy of the so-called Evangelical Church with its lack of knowledge and understanding of the past and its lack of appreciation of what the Word of God teaches concerning the one and only true gospel. The Roman Catholic Church has not changed since the Reformation. Its language has, but its substance remains as before. The central act of worship for the Catholic Church is the Mass, where the sacrifice of Christ upon the Cross is re-enacted. The Roman Church states that "in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist there is truly, really and substantially the Body and Blood, together with the Soul and Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ" and that there is made "a conversion of the whole substance of the wine into the Blood". Our forefathers called this "a mockery and blasphemous fable".

In one of the supporting chapters in the published book of the ECT document, Avery Dulles, the leading Jesuit theologian, says: "Of equal unitive significance with baptism is the one eucharistic bread, the means whereby the baptized partake of the body of Christ, by partaking of which the faithful enter into his saving death." Rome has not changed in its doctrine.

The Roman Catholic Church still proclaims its dogma of an infallible Pope. Dulles comments on this: "It is hard to see how Catholics could consider themselves to be fully reconciled with the churches that did not acknowledge the papacy as the bearer of divinely instituted Petrine ministry."

With all these unbiblical dogmas and unscriptural practices, how can Evangelicals have a common mission with Catholics? There are two questions which need to be asked and answered.

What is a Christian?

We may feel we could answer this simple question. However, in the context of our examination of the ECT document it is essential that we ask this urgently. In the ECT statement they suggest that "there are different ways of becoming a Christian", no doubt referring to the different expressions of the churches. Surely there is only one way of becoming a Christian. The Roman Catholic contributors in the document made no secret of the fact that they think differently from the Evangelical contributors on how an individual becomes a Christian. They continue in line with the official Roman Catholic teaching that all who belong to the Church of Rome and are partakers of her sacraments are in the process of becoming Christians. Avery Dulles tells us: "Any valid baptism causes the baptized to be truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ, and reborn to a sharing of the divine life." Despite the new language used by Rome, such as "born again Catholics", "Evangelical Catholics" - Catholics who love the Lord and challenging adult Catholics to accept Jesus Christ as personal Saviour - the official teaching in the Catholic Catechism remains the same: "Baptism is the sacrament of spiritual rebirth. Through the symbolic washing with water and the use of appropriate ritual words, the baptized person is cleansed from all his sins and incorporated into Christ." This is baptismal regeneration which leads to a corporate salvation. We believe the Bible speaks of a personal salvation which is the free, unmerited gift of the God of grace. It is not through the church, baptism or any works or ritual that the individual is born again: it is simply that the operation of the Holy Spirit causes the individual to be born again. Of course we believe there are true believers in the unbiblical dark Church of Rome and they need to be delivered from this bondage.

What is the Gospel?

The mission must have a gospel to proclaim - but which gospel? Is it to be the Catholic gospel of works, merit and gained righteousness? The Bible tells us that our salvation is not of works, "lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:9). Elsewhere Paul reminds us that in the flesh "dwelleth no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). Writing to the Philippians, he tells them to have "no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3); yet Rome teaches baptism and faith and works and obedience to the church as the way of being saved.

In the ECT statement they affirm together that salvation is by being justified by grace, through faith, because of Christ. This is the crux of the issue: there are missing words!

The Reformers stated that we are justified by grace through faith alone, by Christ alone. Martin Luther called "justification by faith alone" the article upon which the church stands or falls". Sola fide was the reason why the Reformers left the Church of Rome. Without this there is no Gospel. Of course Rome could adopt Sola fide, but it never will because this would mean the fall of its whole religious system. Evangelicals could abandon the historic position of Sola fide, but this they are reluctant to do. The only other course of action is to regard this important doctrine as not essential to the Gospel. This is the option that been chosen by the evangelical compromisers of ECT. This is an alarming and sad betrayal of the Gospel. To omit the all-important and qualifying word "alone" is at least insufficient and inadequate and obscures the Gospel. At its most serious it is the presentation of another gospel and according to Galatians 1 should be accursed.

How is sinful man saved? Spiritually his mind is alienated, his eyes are blind, he is deaf to hear, dumb to sing praise and dead in trespass and sins. He needs to be made clean before a holy God. He requires righteousness to be able to stand before God and obtain eternal life.

Is there anything this dead, sinful man can do to save himself? Rome says yes: by its system of works or merit. The Bible says no: salvation is all of grace. God quickens us from our spiritual death, cleanses us through the blood of the Saviour and clothes us with the righteousness of His dear Son. He imputes righteousness to us for our salvation and imparts righteousness to us for our Christian lives. We are justified by grace alone through faith and by Christ alone.

We conclude by giving a strong warning that the "Evangelicals and Catholics Together" movement is another guise of the Devil, the angel of light, to distort, deceive and damage the work of the true Church of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 5:1 exhorts us: "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."

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Try the Spirits: A Reformed Look at Pentecostalism

David J. Engelsma

 

Introduction

An examination, from the viewpoint of the Reformed faith, of the religious movement known as Pentecostalism is in order. For Pentecostalism makes inroads into Reformed churches. Some hold that the Reformed faith and Pentecostalism are harmonious; others claim that Pentecostalism is the completion of the Reformation in our time; others openly proclaim that the Pentecostal religion replaces the historic Reformed faith.

To conduct this examination is legitimate. It is common that Pentecostals scare off would-be critics by insinuating that criticism of Pentecostalism is the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. A Reformed man is not intimidated by this scare-tactic. More than once in the history of the Church, false teachers tried to gain entrance into the church by appealing to the Spirit. An outstanding example is the appearance of fanatics at the time of the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, who harassed the Lutherans in Wittenberg. These were the "heavenly prophets" and "enthusiasts" who claimed to receive special revelations from the Spirit and to perform miracles. They cowed Melanchthon; but they did not cow Luther. When they screamed, "The Spirit, the Spirit," Luther replied, "I slap your spirit on the snout."

The Reformed man and woman know the instruction of the Spirit of Christ in Holy Scripture: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (I John 4:1).

The standard of the examination of the spirits, including the spirit of Pentecostalism, is Holy Scripture, the inspired Word of God. In the light of Scripture the question must be this: does this spirit, this religious movement, confess Jesus Christ (I John 4:2,3); does it abide "in the doctrine of Christ" (II John 9)? For the Holy Spirit confesses Jesus Christ and brings the doctrine of Christ.

Our examination of Pentecostalism must include a consideration of its criticism of the Christian life of Reformed believers. For Pentecostalism belittles the life of "mere believers."

The effect of Pentecostalism is that believers wonder whether their life is what it should be—a normal Christian life. Believers are even made to doubt whether they are saved Christians at all. In the final analysis, Pentecostalism's appeal to religious people is its boast of a higher, fuller, deeper, richer Christian life. Pentecostalism exults in a Christian life that is all power, all excitement, all joy, all victory.

Let no one suppose that, because we speak of a Reformed examination of Pentecostalism, the concern of the examination is limited to those who are members of a Reformed church. The Reformed faith represents Protestantism—biblical Christianity. As will be evident, the standard by which the Reformed faith conducts the examination is Holy Scripture—the rule of faith and life for every professing Christian. Under the clear light of Holy Scripture, Pentecostalism displays features that mark it unmistakably as a form of an age-old, and quite familiar, threat to Christianity.

 

Chapter 1

The Reformed Answer to Pentecostalism's Basic Biblical Appeals

By Pentecostalism, we understand the religious movement that teaches a second, distinct work of grace in the child of God which is referred to as the "baptism with the Holy Spirit." At some moment after regeneration (or, conversion), the believer receives the Holy Spirit, usually as a marvellous, emotional experience, in such a way that now, for the first time, he has a wonderful feeling of joy; possesses power for dynamic Christian life and service; and exercises an extraordinary gift of the Spirit, namely, speaking in tongues. Even though the believer received Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and sanctification before this, it is not until the baptism with the Spirit lifts him to a much higher spiritual level that he is enabled to live the full, joyful, powerful, real Christian life.

It is this doctrine that constitutes the very heart of Pentecostalism. Other features of Pentecostalism may attract the attention of the onlooker, e.g., tongues, miracles, and the exuberance of the meetings; but the movement stands or falls with its novel doctrine of salvation—its second baptism. The fundamental criticism that the Reformed faith makes of this religion is that it is heretical in its doctrine of salvation. The Pentecostals identify this "Holy Spirit baptism" with the coming of the Spirit on the 120 believers on the day of Pentecost. From this comes the name of the movement: Pentecostalism.

Since the Spirit is supposed to give extraordinary gifts to those who are thus baptized, the movement is also called the "charismatic movement." In the Greek of the New Testament, the word meaning "gifts" is 'charismata" (cf. I Cor. 12:4). The gifts which Pentecostalism makes much of are tongues; interpretation of tongues; prophecy; miracles; and the power to cast out devils. The main gift is tongues-speaking. Therefore, the movement is sometimes called the "tongues movement."

Neo-Pentecostalism is the name given to this movement as it is practiced within the established Protestant churches and within the Roman Catholic church. There have been Pentecost churches since the early 1900s, e.g., the Assemblies of God. In the early 1960s, men in the established Protestant churches began advocating Pentecostal beliefs and practices within their churches. The leader is generally recognized to be the Episcopalian, Dennis Bennett. By this time, there is hardly a denomination that does not tolerate, or approve, practicing Pentecostals among its membership.

Pentecostalism claims that its doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace and its teaching of the presence in the church of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are biblical. It finds in Acts 2, as well as in Acts 8, 10, and 19, that there was a distinct reception of the Holy Spirit by believers subsequent to their conversion, a reception of the Spirit that gave the believers great power and that bestowed upon them special gifts. It points us to I Corinthians 12 as proof that the gifts of the Spirit to the New Testament church include healing, the working of miracles, prophecy, tongues, and the like.

What is the Reformed answer to these appeals to the Bible in support of the Pentecostal teachings of the baptism with the Spirit and the extraordinary gifts?

Baptism with the Spirit

There is a baptism with the Holy Spirit. It is an essential part of salvation. This is plain from John the Baptist's description of the saving work of Jesus: "he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matt. 3:11; cf. also Mark 1:18; Luke 3:16; and John 1:33). But it is not a second work of the Spirit subsequent to regeneration and the gift of faith. Nor is it limited to some Christians only, those who have fulfilled certain conditions and made themselves worthy of this higher stage of salvation. Christ's baptism with the Spirit is His one, saving work by His Spirit in every elect child of God. It is his regeneration, the new birth from heaven (John 3:1-8). It is his cleansing from sin and consecration to God by the pouring out of the Spirit into his heart. Of this spiritual reality, John's baptism with water was a sign. The sacrament of baptism in the Church is a sign of the baptism with the Spirit, as Titus 3:5-6 teaches: "according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour."

There is only one baptism in the Church of Jesus Christ: the baptism with the Holy Spirit signified by the sprinkling with water in the Name of the Triune God. This is the apostle's teaching in Ephesians 4:5: "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." Pentecostalism has two baptisms: a first, lower baptism—salvation from sin (of which the sign is water); and a second, higher baptism—the baptism with the Holy Spirit. In this way, Pentecostalism divides Christ, salvation, and the church.

Christ's baptism of every one of His people with the Holy Spirit depends solely upon His work of meriting this gift for them by His death. It does not depend upon works that the people must perform. Therefore, every elect child of God not only may receive it, but also does receive it. "He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost," John promised.

To be sure, baptism with the Spirit is the reception of great power by every one so baptized, as Christ instructed His disciples in Acts 1:8: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you ..." But Scripture must teach us what this power consists of and how it is exercised. As concerns the Church, it is the power of witnessing to Christ: "... and ye shall be witnesses unto me ..." (Acts 1:8). The mark of a Spirit-baptized church, therefore, is the faithful proclamation of Christ.

As concerns the individual child of God, the nature of the power of the baptism with the Spirit is indicated by John the Baptist when he says that we are baptized "with the Holy Ghost and fire." We receive the Spirit as a fire; He dwells and works in us as a fire. Fire purifies by utterly burning away the dross that defiles the precious metal. The Holy Spirit, similarly, burns away our sin, so that we may be consecrated to God in the obedience of love. The power of the baptism with the Spirit is the awesome power of sanctification. Exactly this was the prophecy of the baptism with the Spirit in the Old Testament. In the day when the "branch of the LORD" is beautiful and glorious, the remnant of grace "shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning" (Isaiah 4:2-4).

The mark of a Spirit-baptized Christian, therefore, is sorrow over sin (repentance) and obedience to God's law (holiness).

Have you been born again (and you certainly have, if you believe on Jesus Christ)? Are you sorry for your sinfulness and your sins? Is there a beginning in your life, small as it may be, of obedience to all of the commandments of God 's law? Then you have been baptized with the Holy Spirit; and the sacrament is a sign and seal to you of your baptism with the Spirit, as long as you live. Let no one deceive you, that you must still look for another, better baptism.

How is it then to be explained that in the book of Acts there obviously were two, distinct works of the Holy Spirit upon some of God's people? The disciples of Jesus—Peter, John, and others—were reborn, saved men prior to the day of Pentecost. This, of course, was due to the gracious operation of the Spirit upon their hearts. Yet, on the day of Pentecost these men "were all filled with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:4). The Spirit was poured out upon them (Acts 2:16-18). They were then "baptized with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 1:5).

Pentecostalism appeals to this history in Acts as proof for its contention that there must be two, distinct works of grace in the life of every Christian: regeneration (or, conversion) and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. The experience of the disciples, and others, in the book of Acts is regarded as normative for every child of God. Pentecostalism insists that Pentecost be repeated, over and over, for every member of the church. One of the leading Pentecostal writers, Donald Gee, speaks of "a personal Pentecost" for every Christian (A New Discovery).

This betrays a complete misunderstanding of the great event of Pentecost. It is as foolish to demand a personal Pentecost as it would be to demand a personal incarnation of Jesus, or a personal death of Jesus, or a personal resurrection of Jesus.

Pentecost was the exalted Christ's gift of the Holy Spirit to His church. The Spirit was given in rich, full measure—He was "poured out." He was given as the One who brings to the church the first fruits of the finished work of Jesus Christ, the benefits of Christ's death and resurrection, i.e., Christ's salvation. In the gift of the Spirit, the gospel-promise of the Old Testament was fulfilled to the church (Acts 2:38,39; Gal. 3:14), because the Son of God gave to God's people full salvation—forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He baptized the church with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). Being mightier than John the Baptist, He flooded the church with the reality, whereas John could only give the sign (Matt. 3:11).

That grand Sunday marked the passing of the old age and the coming of the new; it is the boundary between the old dispensation and the new. The distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament is a matter of the fullness of the Holy Spirit; and the fullness of the Holy Spirit is a matter of the full riches of Christ's accomplished salvation. This is the teaching of John 7:37-39: "... for the Holy Ghost was not yet; because that Jesus was not yet glorified." In the time of the Old Testament, prior to Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was not yet. He and His saving work were not absolutely lacking, for He saved God's people under the old covenant, even as He now saves us. But He was not present with the fullness and richness of salvation with which He now dwells in the church. He could not, for Christ had not yet died and risen, actually to acquire that rich and full salvation. As Christmas was the birthday of the Son of God in the flesh, Pentecost was the "birthday" of the Spirit as the Spirit of Christ in the church.

Pentecost, like the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, was a once-for-all-time event. Fifty days after He arose, Jesus sent His Spirit to His church. This is never again repeated, anymore than Jesus' death is repeated. It is nonsense, if not heresy, to preach each Christian's personal Pentecost. This is why it is mistaken, to expect the reappearance of the signs of Pentecost down through the history of the church. The sound as of a mighty rushing wind, the cloven tongues as of fire, and the disciples' speaking with other tongues were the signs, once for all, of the historical event of the outpouring of the Spirit, just as the great earthquake was the sign of the resurrection of Jesus. To be sure, these signs are intended to be my signs in the 20th century, as much as they were intended to be signs for Peter in A.D. 33; but they are mine, not by being repeated in my experience, but by being written down on the pages of Holy Scripture and by being received through faith.

When Pentecostals try to gainsay the once-for-all character of Pentecost, they point to the incidents in the book of Acts which seemingly are repetitions of Pentecost: the Spirit's falling upon the Samaritan converts (Acts 8:5-24); the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:44-48, Acts 11:15-18); and the coming of the Spirit on the disciples of John (Acts 19:1-7). In reality, these incidents are special events, intended by God to demonstrate that the unrepeatable wonder of Pentecost extends to all the church, specifically the half-heathens (Samaritans), the outright heathens (household of Cornelius), and the disciples of John the Baptist. They are extensions of Pentecost to the full church, the furthest outworking of Pentecost.

In light of the significance of Pentecost, we can readily understand that, on the day of Pentecost, men and women who had already been saved received the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that they then enjoyed new riches of salvation and hitherto unknown power. This is not indicative of two works of grace in every Christian; this is not normative for all believers, as if we too must expect, and long, to pass from "mere salvation through faith" to the higher level of feeling and power of a "Spirit baptism." The explanation is found in the unique historical position of the saints who lived through Pentecost. They lived through the transition from the old dispensation to the new dispensation, from the Spirit's not being yet to His being, from Christ's not yet being glorified to His being glorified. Before that moment, those saints were saved; now, as the new dispensation dawns, they receive the gift of the Spirit in His fullness, i.e., the completed salvation of the glorified Christ. At Pentecost, they advance, not from a first level of grace to a second, higher level of grace, but from the infancy of the church of the Old Covenant to the maturity of the church of the New Covenant (Gal. 4:1-7).

We recoil from the suggestion that each of us must repeat the experience of Pentecost. In this case, we must go back for awhile into the old dispensation, to live under the law in the types and shadows, so that, at some point, we can pass into the new dispensation. Even if this were possible, we would refuse, having heard the warnings of Galatians and Hebrews.

We New Testament saints receive the Spirit of the glorified Christ, with the full Christ and all His benefits, at once, as soon as He regenerates us, takes up His abode in us, baptizes us into Christ's body, the church, and unites us to Christ by a true and living faith. Certainly, the blessing of Pentecost is ours, every bit as much as it was the blessing of the 120 in the upper room in Jerusalem; certainly, we share in Pentecost, as really and fully as if we had been among those 120 believers. This is as necessary as our sharing in the death and resurrection of Christ. If one does not share in Christ's death and resurrection, or in Pentecost, he simply is not saved. But I do not share in Christ's death by that death's being repeated somehow in my personal history and experience. I share in Christ's death and resurrection by faith: by faith, I am crucified with Christ and rise with Him. Just so, by this same faith I share in Pentecost. The blessing of that great day, now almost 2000 years past, becomes mine personally through the faith, worked in me by the Spirit, that unites me to Christ and to His body, the church, to whom the Spirit was then given and in whom the Spirit dwells forever. This is the teaching of Galatians 3: "that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (v. 14).

The Gift of Tongues

The other of the two outstanding features of Pentecostalism is its doctrine, and alleged practice, concerning extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, especially tongues. For this too, it claims to find support in Scripture, particularly I Corinthians 12-14. What is the Reformed answer to this teaching and its appeal to the Bible?

There was, in the time of the apostles, a gift of tongues, whether this gift be explained as the ability to speak foreign languages without having learned them, or as the ability to speak totally new, unknown languages. I Corinthians 14 indicates that at least one aspect of the gift of tongues in those days was the ability to speak in an altogether new, unknown language. No one, including the speaker, understood what was said (vv. 2, 14). Interpretation of the tongue was, like the tongue itself a gift of the Spirit (v.13. cf. I Cor. 12:10). The speaker in tongues did not speak to men, but to God (v.2). The benefit of it was not the edification of others, but his own edification (v. 4). "In the spirit," the tongues-speaker "speaketh mysteries" (v. 2).

There were also other extraordinary gifts of the Spirit in those days: the gift of receiving special revelations from God; the gift of casting out devils; the gift of taking up serpents; the gift of drinking deadly things without hurt; the gift of healing the sick by laying on of hands; and the gift of raising the dead (cf. Mark 16:17-18; I Cor. 12:1-11).

Among these gifts, the ability to speak in tongues was a gift of lesser importance. In the list of gifts in I Corinthians 12:28-31, tongues and interpretation of tongues come at the end and are not among the "best gifts" which the Corinthians should covet. I Corinthians 14:39 merely instructs the Corinthians not to forbid tongues, whereas it exhorts them to covet prophecy. Throughout I Corinthians 14, the apostle minimizes the importance of tongues in comparison with prophecy, while exposing the many abuses of the gift of tongues among the Corinthians. Also, tongues was a gift that was not possessed by all the Corinthians, or expected to be possessed by all (I Cor. 12:20). It is passing strange, to say the very least, that Pentecostalism, with all its bluster of restoring New Testament Christianity, makes tongues the gift of the Spirit, par excellence, ascribing to it, both in theory and in practice, a pre-eminence that it did not have even in the days of the apostles, and that Pentecostalism holds that every Christian should possess this gift, as if Paul had never written, "Do all speak with tongues?".

Pentecostalism's argument for miracles today is simple: Scripture teaches that the miraculous was part of the life and ministry of the church during the time of the apostles; therefore, the gift of performing miracles should be found in the church today.

Ignored by Pentecostalism is Scripture's teaching that miracles were "signs of an apostle." The power of doing miracles was attached to the apostolic office and had as its purpose the authenticating of the apostles as special servants of Christ and the confirming of their doctrine as the gospel of God. This does not imply that only the apostles could perform miracles; in fact, other saints also possessed the gift of the working of miracles. But it does mean that the miraculous was apostolic: it derived from the apostolic office present in the church at that time, and it served to attest the apostles and their doctrine. Miracles were the credentials of the apostles.

The necessity of miracles during the apostolic age is to be found in the unique labor of the apostles. They laid the foundation of the New Testament Church of Christ. Paul writes, in Ephesians 2:20, that the Gentile believers, with the saints of Israel, "are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets." The apostles are the foundation of the Church, even as Christ is "the chief corner stone." They are the foundation by virtue of the Word which they proclaim and write. Similarly, in I Corinthians 3:10, Paul claims to have laid the foundation of the Church at Corinth, whereas others then build upon this foundation: "According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon ...

That miracles, including the miracle of tongues, were part of the apostolic office is taught in II Corinthians 12:12: "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds." Paul is defending his apostleship in view of the attack on that apostleship at Corinth. He laments, in verse II, that he was not commended of the Corinthians, even though "in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles." The Corinthians should have recognized and honoured Paul's apostleship, for Christ gave clear proof of it in the miracles that He worked through Paul. Miracles are described as signs, wonders, and mighty deeds. They are called "... signs of an apostle." Literally, we read: "the signs of the apostle." Miracles indicate the presence and power of apostleship. They belong to the apostolic office.

Hebrews 2:3-4 also connects the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit with the apostolic office. The first three verses of the chapter area warning against neglecting the "so great salvation." One makes himself guilty of this by refusing to give earnest heed to the Word of God. For we have this salvation through the Word: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him?" The great salvation is spoken; we have it by hearing. The passage establishes the primacy of the preaching of the Word as the means of salvation. Even in the apostolic age, not miracles, not extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, but the proclamation of the Word was the main thing. Miracles were secondary; they were strictly subservient to the apostolic doctrine.

But the passage also clearly teaches that miracles belonged to the apostolic office and ministry. The author has said that the New Testament saints, the Hebrew Christians in particular, have the Word of God that brings them salvation. They must give heed to this Word; and they must not let it slip: "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip." How do we come to have the Word of God? It was first spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself. Then it was confirmed unto us by "them that heard Him." These are the apostles. Concerning these apostles, verse 4 states: "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will." The reference is to miracles, described, as in II Corinthians 12:12, as "signs and wonders and miracles" (this last, "miracles," being the same word as that translated "mighty deeds" in II Corinthians 12:12). Strikingly, this passage also speaks of "gifts of the Holy Ghost." The word, "gifts," could better be translated as "distributions." The distributions of the Holy Ghost are the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit found in the Church at the time of the apostles. Among them were the gift of "kinds of tongues" and the gift of "the interpretation of tongues," as I Corinthians 12:10 shows. Miracles and extraordinary gifts of the Spirit were God's witness to those who heard Christ, i.e., the apostles. The purpose of this witness was the apostles' confirming of Christ's Word to us, i.e., to attest the apostolic doctrine as the very Word of God. Miracles and the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit are not for all time, but were for the apostolic age; they were attached by the Divine will to the office of the apostle in order that they might confirm the Word which the apostles brought.

The same thing is taught in Mark 16:20: "And they (the apostles, to whom the risen Christ had given the commission to go into all the world and preach the gospel—D.J.E.) went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following." The signs, or miracles, were the Lord's powerful confirmation to the Word preached by the apostles. In like manner, the Lord authenticated the Word brought by His apostle, Paul, and his colleague, Barnabas: "Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands" (Acts 14:3).

Now the apostolic office was not a permanent office in the Church, but a temporary office. The qualifications of an apostle show this. An apostle was required to have seen the risen Jesus, so that he could preach a resurrection of which he had himself been an eyewitness (I Cor. 9:1). He had to be called and commissioned by the risen Lord directly (John 20:21, Acts 26:15-18), which included that he received the gospel from Jesus Himself (Gal. 1:11-12).

The specific task of the apostle also indicates the temporary nature of the office. This task was the laying of the foundation of the church. One does not forever lay the foundation of a building. There comes a time when the foundation is laid. Then those whose work is foundation-laying are removed; and others, pastors and teachers, whose calling it is to build on the foundation, are given the church.

But if the office of apostle has disappeared, so also must the miraculous have disappeared ("the signs of an apostle"!), for the miraculous was part of that office and served that ministry.

By the same token, those who insist on miracles today must produce apostles also. Let the Pentecostals put forward their apostles! It is noteworthy that the Irvingite movement, a precursor of Pentecostalism in England in the 1800s, named after its leader, Edward Irving, did appoint twelve apostles. In doing so, the movement was consistent. It is also worthy of note that, although it hesitates to call them apostles, Pentecostalism today is ascribing to its leaders powers that only apostles possess: a personal, absolute authority over the church, or fellowship; new revelations of His will for the church from God; extra-Biblical teachings which are binding upon the saints.

Church history witnesses to the truth of Scripture's teaching that miracles and extraordinary gifts were temporary. Miracles ceased in the Church about A.D. 100, roughly at the time of the death of the last apostle. For a time after this, only the heretical and schismatic sects claimed the power of doing miracles, e.g., the Montanists (a second century sect named after its leader, Montanus). As time passed, the power of doing miracles began again to be claimed and stressed within the catholic church; but, significantly, this went hand in hand with the church's departure from the truth of the gospel. The Roman Catholic Church, of course, has always claimed the power of performing miracles and has always bewitched her people with these wonders.

The purified church of the Reformation expressly disavowed all miracles. The Reformation was confronted with miracles on two fronts: Rome and the Anabaptist groups with their mystical "religion of the Spirit." Both Rome and the mystics appealed to their miracles as proof that they were the true religion and taunted the Reformation with its lack of miracles. Intuitively striking to the very heart of the issue—and this is the heart of the issue also today as regards Pentecostalism, Luther called the people of God to believe, live by, and stick to the bare Word of God, even though heretics were producing a veritable snowstorm of miracles in order to seduce them from the truth. John Calvin gave a more detailed explanation of the Reformed position:

In demanding miracles from us, they act dishonestly; for we have not coined some new gospel, but retained the very one the truth of which is confirmed by all the miracles which Christ and the apostles ever wrought. But they have a peculiarity which we have not—they can confirm their faith by constant miracles down to the present day! Nay rather, they allege miracles which might produce wavering in minds otherwise well disposed; they are so frivolous and ridiculous, so vain and false. But were they even exceedingly wonderful, they could have no effect against the truth of God, whose name ought to be hallowed always, and everywhere, whether by miracles, or by the natural course of events. The deception would perhaps be more specious if Scripture did not admonish us of the legitimate end and use of miracles. Mark tells us (Mark 16:20) that the signs which followed the preaching of the apostles were wrought in confirmation of it; so Luke also relates that the Lord "gave testimony to the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done" by the hands of the apostles (Acts 14:3) ... And it becomes us to remember that Satan has his miracles, which, although they are tricks rather than true wonders, are still such as to delude the ignorant and unwary. (Institutes, Prefatory Address to the King of France)

The wonders of Pentecostalism, like the miracles of Rome, are fraudulent. They are part and parcel of the only miracles that Scripture prophesies for the last days: the signs and wonders of the false christs and false prophets who would deceive the very elect, if it were possible (Matt. 24:24); the power and signs and lying wonders of the man of sin who will deceive those who do not receive the love of the truth (II Thess. 2:9-12).

Beware! Do not be hoodwinked by the modern-day miraclemongers!

The Reformed Church has no need of miracles. Her faith is the doctrine of the apostles, who received it from Jesus. This doctrine has already been confirmed by many miracles. It needs no further attestation. The only gospel that requires new miracles is a new gospel. But this does not imply that the Reformed religion is a religion without miracles. Pentecostalism would like to leave this impression: it is a gospel with miracles—the full gospel, whereas the Reformed faith is a gospel lacking miracles and, therefore, less than a full gospel.

First, the Reformed believer sees the almighty power of God in all of creation and in every aspect of earthly life. The daily rising of the sun, the annual quickening of nature in springtime, the blooming of a single rose, the conception of a baby, the upheaval of an earthquake, the rise and fall of nations, health and life, and a piece of bread on my table—all are the almighty, everywhere present, incomprehensible working of the power of God. The Christ of our faith is the sovereign Lord who is presently upholding and governing all things by the Word of His power in a most marvellous manner (Heb. 1:3).

Second, we Reformed people claim as our own every miracle that is recorded on the pages of Scripture. The notion that one does not have miracles unless miracles are done by him, or before his eyes, is foolish. The miracle of the creation of the world, the miracle of the flood, the miracle of the fire of Jehovah devouring Elijah's sacrifice, the miracle of the incarnation, the miracle of Peter's raising of Dorcas, and all the others are my miracles, as truly as if I experienced them, not only because they were deliverances of the church of which I am a member, but also because they astound me, make me adore God, and strengthen my faith in His Word, as much as if I saw them done with my very own eyes. Reformed believers have an abundance of wonders in the Bible; any additional miracle, prior to the coming of the Lord Jesus, would be superfluous.

Third, the Word proclaimed by the Reformed church constantly accomplishes many, great miracles. It raises the spiritually dead; it opens the eyes of the spiritually blind; it makes the spiritually lame to leap as a hart; it pulls down the fortresses of Satan in human hearts and lives (Isaiah 35; II Cor. 10:3-6). By the power of the Holy Spirit, the truth effects the miracle of salvation: faith, repentance, forgiveness, and holiness. These are astounding wonders, far greater, should we be inclined to make the comparison, than miracles of physical healing, to say nothing of the trivial, nonsensical "miracles" so often boasted of by Pentecostalism. The spiritual wonders of the gospel, in fact, are the reality of which the physical healing by Jesus and His apostles was a sign.

No, the Reformed Church is not a church devoid of miracles.

But our main purpose has been to answer Pentecostalism's arguments from Scripture for its doctrine of Holy Spirit baptism and for its practice of miracles, especially tongues. This has been done. In answering its appeals to Scripture, we have shown from Scripture that Pentecostalism is heretical in its doctrine of salvation (Holy Spirit baptism) and fraudulent in its miracles.

The Reformed faith judges Pentecostalism to be a different religion from that of Luther, Calvin, and the Reformed creeds—a fundamental departure from the faith once delivered to the saints.

 

Chapter 2

The Reformed Testing of Pentecostalism's Spirit

Pentecostalism replaces the Word of God in the church and in the life of the member of the church with experience, i.e., human feeling. This is one of its basic errors. Essentially, it is an attack on the Word, whether it replaces the Word completely, or whether it shoves the Word into the background, or whether it places experience alongside the Word. The movement runs down doctrine and speaks disparagingly of orthodoxy. Albert B. Simpson, the well-known Pentecostal preacher, expressed the Pentecostal attitude toward sound doctrine, when he called his Holy Spirit baptism, "the funeral of my dogmatics." Wherever it appears, Pentecostalism does away with the creeds. One of the "gifts" which it has restored is that of special revelations given directly from God to certain "prophets." This is the denial of the sole authority and full sufficiency of Scripture—a deathblow to sola scriptura (Scripture alone). Hearing and believing the Word is no longer the central thing, but the experience of the Spirit baptism.

This replacement of the Word with experience identifies Pentecostalism as a revival of the ancient heresy of mysticism: salvation as immediate contact with God. Pentecostalism's favourite words are "experience," "power," "ecstasy," and the like. This is its Spirit baptism; this is the nature of the Pentecostal meeting; this is its appeal to religious people; this is why women have a leading place in the movement.

That Pentecostalism is mysticism, indeed mysticism run amok, is readily illustrated from Pentecostal sources. The Full Gospel Business Men's Voice (a Pentecostal magazine) of June, 1960 gives a description of his baptism with the Holy Spirit by a minister who, disturbed by his "lack of power," had sought the baptism in fire:

Directly, there came into my hands a strange feeling, and it came on down to the middle of my arms and began to surge! It was like a thousand—like ten thousand—then a million volts of electricity. It began to shake my hands and to pull my hands. I could hear, as it were, a zooming sound of the power. It pulled my hands higher and held them there as though God took them in His. There came a voice in my soul that said, "Lay these hands on the sick and I will heal them!" ... but I didn't have the baptism ... In an air-conditioned room, with my hands lifted...and my heart reaching up for my God, there came the hot, molten lava of His love. It poured in like a stream from Heaven and I was lifted up out of myself. I spoke in a language I could not understand for about two hours. My body perspired as though I was in a steambath: the Baptism of Fire! (quoted in Frederick Dale Bruner, A Theology of the Holy Spirit, p. 127)

Surely, this would have embarrassed Jacob Boehme, mystic that he was.

John Sherrill, a prominent Pentecostal, writes of seeing Jesus as a bright white light in his hospital room (cf. his They Speak with Other Tongues). Donald Gee, another leading Pentecostal, describes the Pentecostal baptism this way: "We are taken into God, and the soul will receive a consuming desire to ever more be utterly and entirely lost in Him"—the typical language of mysticism (cf. A New Discovery, p. 23).

A second fundamental error of Pentecostalism is its giving the Holy Spirit center-stage, while relegating Jesus to the wings, if not pushing Him offstage, entirely. It is forced to deny this, just as Rome is forced to deny that the cult of Mary actually replaces Jesus, but the fact remains. The truth of this charge is obvious on the very face of the movement. The Spirit gets the attention in Pentecostalism. The work of the Spirit, not that of the Son, is celebrated and exalted. The very name by which this movement calls itself gives it away: Pentecostalism—a name that has to do with the Spirit. Scripture, however, gives the people of God the name, Christian—a name that has to do with the Son, Jesus.

This disparagement of Jesus in favour of the Spirit is rooted deeply in basic Pentecostal doctrine. Pentecostalism teaches that the child of God must go beyond Christ to the higher level of the Spirit, must advance beyond "merely" receiving Christ by faith to receiving the Spirit by the Holy Spirit baptism.

Pentecostalism insults Christ.

Whatever spirit replaces Christ, disparages Christ, or goes beyond Christ is not the Spirit of Christ, but one of the spirits of antichrist, for the Spirit of Christ reveals Christ, bestows Christ, calls attention to the work of Christ, and glorifies Christ. "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me" (John 15:26). "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:14).

A third, related error is Pentecostalism's minimizing of faith. Flying straight in the face of the testimony of the Bible that in Jesus Christ nothing else avails anything at all, "but faith which worketh by love" (Gal. 5:6), Pentecostalism insists that faith in Christ is not enough—not nearly enough. Something additional is required, which avails very much indeed, namely, Holy Spirit baptism. Ignoring completely Scripture's gracious praise of the believer as the one who shall not be confounded and who belongs to the chosen generation, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, and the people of God's possession (I Pet. 2:9), Pentecostalism slights those who "merely" believe, extolling instead those baptized in the Spirit. With the belittling of faith goes a stress on all kinds of human works. Pentecostalism puts a premium on certain works that are alleged to be conditions for receiving the baptism with the Spirit: praying intensely, cleansing one's heart from all sin, yielding oneself completely, and the like. Most highly prized, of course, is the human work of speaking in tongues. Believing on the Son of God must take a back seat to this!

It is not surprising, then, that Pentecostalism practically ignores the one fundamental blessing of salvation for the child of God, the blessing received through faith: the forgiveness of sins. In the place of the gospel's "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven" (Rom. 4:7ff; Psalm 32:1), Pentecostalism pronounces its "Blessed are they who enjoy the ecstasy and power of the Holy Spirit baptism."

Whatever belittles faith, whatever adds to faith, whatever goes beyond faith is of the devil, is another gospel; and whoever falls away to this heresy is fallen from grace. The first verses of Galatians 5 sound the clear, sharp warning that there may be nothing in addition to, much less beyond, faith. To add something to faith, for the reception of salvation, is utterly to forfeit Christ: In this case, "Christ shall profit you nothing" (v. 2); "ye are fallen from grace" (v. 4).

Sola fide! Faith alone! All of salvation is by faith only! "For by grace are ye saved through faith... not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). Our salvation begins, continues, and is perfected by faith alone.

Pentecostalism is proud. It is arrogant in its attitude toward the church of the past. Until about A.D. 1900, there was no such thing as the Pentecostal baptism with the Spirit within the church. Athanasius and Augustine did not have it. Luther and Calvin did not have it. The Reformed saints of the Netherlands who died by the scores of thousands under the Roman Catholic persecution in the 16th century did not have it. On the contrary, they explicitly repudiated it. Augustine expresses the mind of the church of the past:

In the earliest time the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spake with tongues, which they had not learned, "as the Spirit gave them utterance." These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, and to shew that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening and it passed away. ("Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John," The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII).

What does Pentecostalism say about this? "Up till now the church has been a very poor and lifeless church. The full gospel, the full salvation, and the full Christian life start with us."

Put all of Pentecostalism and neo-Pentecostalism on a pile, and the whole heap is not worthy to untie the shoelace of one Luther, or of one Calvin, or of one Reformed saint who believes the gospel of Scripture, trusts in Christ for his righteousness, fears the Lord, keeps the commandments, brings up his family in the truth, and worships God in spirit and in truth.

Pentecostalism is also arrogant in its attitude toward the "mere" believer. The Pentecostal is the elite in the church, the super-saint; all others are "merely" converted Christians. This arrogance is not so much a matter of the personal sin of the Pentecostal as it is of Pentecostal doctrine. Pentecostalism teaches two baptisms in the church: the inferior baptism of the washing away of sins (of which the sign is the application of water) and the superior baptism with the Holy Spirit (of which the initial sign is tongues). All Christians receive the former; but only some receive the latter—the super saints. In its fundamental doctrine, therefore, Pentecostalism is schismatic. It does not endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, as Christ's apostle beseeches in Ephesians 4:3, but rends it. Unity in the congregation is rooted in "one baptism", according to verse 5 of Ephesians 4. To posit two baptisms is as destructive of unity as would be the positing of two faiths, or two Lords, or two Gods. Spiritual pride in every form is divisive; humility nourishes oneness. Elders only deceive themselves when they tolerate Pentecostalism within the congregation, but warn it to "keep the peace."

The explanation of this pride is that Pentecostalism is a religion of man. It centers on man's feelings and on man's possession of power. It assigns to man the decisive duty of performing the works that are conditions for the perfecting of salvation in the Holy Spirit baptism. It allows man to receive extra-biblical revelations and to bind the congregation by them. It empowers a man to exercise a sovereign headship over a congregation, or over a fellowship of congregations, and to regulate the life of the people according to his will. The spirit honoured by Pentecostalism is not the Spirit who glorifies Christ (John 16:14), applies Christ's redemption (Heidelberg Catechism, A. 53: "He [i.e., the Holy Spirit] is also given me, to make me ... partaker of Christ and all His benefits"), guides into the truth that Christ has spoken in the inspired Scriptures (John 16:13), and gives Himself to all of Christ's people through faith (Gal. 3:14). This One is the Spirit who magnifies God. But the spirit of Pentecostalism calls attention to itself, bestows its own benefits of salvation, speaks of itself, and operates apart from the hearing of faith. This one is a spirit that caters to man.

Pentecostalism is not God-centred. For this reason, it can attack God's Word (Scripture), disparage God's Saviour (Christ), minimize God's way of salvation (faith), and ignore God's fundamental blessing of salvation (justification). Basic to its being a gospel according to man (Gal. 1:11) is an error which, although often overlooked, even in criticisms of Pentecostalism, characterizes Pentecostalism wherever it is found. This is the error of free will, i.e., the doctrine that salvation depends upon the will of the sinner, rather than upon the sovereign, gracious will of God (Rom. 9:16). The roots of Pentecostalism are not in Calvin, Dordt, and Westminster, but in Arminius, Wesley, Finney, and revivalism.

This helps to explain both the popularity of Pentecostalism and its ecumenicity. Pentecostalism is ecumenical. It is obviously, admittedly, and aggressively ecumenical. It operates in all churches, with total disregard for confessional and doctrinal differences. It unites Protestants and Roman Catholics. All are made one by Pentecostalism—those who practice idolatry in the mass, as well as those whose confession is that this practice is accursed; those who depend for righteousness upon their own merits, as well as those whose confession is that we are to trust only in the alien righteousness of Christ; those who boast of salvation by their own free will, as well as those whose confession is that the "free will gospel" is the error of Pelagius out of hell. So far from being abashed by their doctrinally indifferent "Spirit", and then being roused to suspicion concerning a "Spirit" thus disdainful of the truth, Pentecostal leaders herald their religion as the means of church union. The ecumenical nature of Pentecostalism was evident at the "1977 Conference on Charismatic Renewal in the Christian Churches" held in Kansas City. The conference was co-sponsored by Baptists, Pentecostals, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Mennonites, Messianic Jews, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, and United Methodists. Members from many other denominations participated.

One of the main speakers, the Episcopalian, Dennis Bennett, said that "he sees three streams of Christianity that are beginning to flow together: the Catholic stream with its emphasis on history and the continuity of the faith, the evangelical stream with its emphasis on loyalty to Scripture and the importance of personal commitment to Christ, and the Pentecostal stream with its emphasis on the immediate experience of God by the power of the Holy Spirit."

The keynote speaker, the Roman Catholic, Kevin Ranaghan, "asserted that divisions among the various Christian churches have been a 'serious scandal' in the world. 'For the world to believe depends on our becoming one,' he said. It is the will of God, he emphasized, 'that we be one."' He expressed his belief that there is a "real possibility of moving together toward some lasting form of Christian unity." (Cf. Christianity Today, August 12, 1977, pp. 36-37).

Because of its fundamental errors regarding the Word, Christ, and faith; because of its pride; because of its false ecumenicity—an ecumenicity apart from the truth; because of its heretical doctrine of salvation—the teaching of Holy Spirit baptism; and because of its fraudulent miracles, Pentecostalism must be rejected. It must be rejected by Christian discipline. Here, some are weak. They know the errors of Pentecostalism. They see it as radically different from the faith of the Reformation. They even speak out in criticism of the movement. But at the same time they speak of their "Pentecostal brothers and sisters" and tolerate Pentecostalism in their churches.

The Pentecostal must be disciplined. He must be disciplined for his own good, that God may give him repentance unto the acknowledging of the truth. He must be disciplined for the church's good, that the other members may learn to fear and that the leaven of Pentecostalism may not spread through the church. For the Pentecostal remains within the church, in order to gain adherents to his religion. "I would they were even cut off which trouble you" (Gal. 5:12). "A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself" (Titus 3:10-11).

 

Chapter 3

The Reformed View of the Christian Life

Does not Pentecostalism, despite its serious errors, have something to contribute to the churches of the Reformation, something, in fact, that these churches very much need? Should not Reformed believers learn something from Pentecostalism, something that they are otherwise quite ignorant of? Do not Reformed churches and their members lack something which God Himself is now supplying through the Pentecostal, or charismatic, movement? Having given His church the former rain moderately, is not God now fulfilling Joel's prophecy of a "latter rain" (Joel 2:23)?

This notion is widely accepted in Reformed circles. That which Pentecostalism is supposed to contribute to the church and the member is a vibrant Christian life. A Reformed church and a Reformed saint have sound doctrine, it is said; but they are deficient in the area of Christian life. To the congregation, Pentecostalism will contribute a real unity of the members; a love that cares for, and shares with, the other members; the energetic use of his gifts by every member; and a spontaneous, lively, exuberant worship. To the individual member, it will supply spiritual experience, joy, zeal, and power. Reformed Christianity has the Word (doctrine); Pentecostalism will add the Spirit. Thus, Pentecostalism is introduced, and welcomed, into Reformed churches.

The notion is false. The Reformed church has always sought the unity of the people of God; urged the mutual love of her members; and done justice to the use of his gifts by every member. It was not Pentecostalism that moved the Reformed church to confess the communion of saints, in Q. 55 of her Heidelberg Catechism, in these words:

First, that all and everyone, who believes, being members of Christ, are in common, partakers of him, and of all his riches and gifts; secondly, that every one must know it to be his duty, readily and cheerfully to employ his gifts, for the advantage and salvation of other members.

Nor was it Pentecostalism that was responsible for the Reformed church's charging her members to live the Christian life by loving their neighbours as she does in Lord's Days 39-44 of this same Catechism. Let Pentecostalism improve, if it can, on the Reformed Faith's application of the Fifth Commandment to the believer as the requirement that "I show all honour, love and fidelity, to my father and mother, and all in authority over me ... and also patiently bear with their weaknesses and infirmities ... "(Q. 104); of the Sixth Commandment, as the requirement that we "love our neighbour as ourselves ... show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies..."(Q. 107); of the Seventh Commandment, as the teaching that "we must... live chastely and temperately, whether in holy wedlock, or in single life" (Q. 108); of the Eighth Commandment, as the requirement that "I promote the advantage of my neighbour in every instance I can or may, and deal with him as I desire to be dealt with by others" (Q. 111); and of the Ninth Commandment, as the requirement that "I defend and promote, as much as I am able, the honour and good character of my neighbour" (Q. 112).

To the Pentecostal's suggestion that we should go to school at the feet of Pentecostalism, to learn about Christian experience, Reformed Christians are inclined to respond as the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind: "Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?" (Job 38:2, 4). Bypassing the glorious tradition of the Reformed, Presbyterian, and Puritan preachers and writers, we invite those who make this presumptuous suggestion to read the Heidelberg Catechism. For over 400 years, Reformed Christians have been schooled in a catechism that sets forth the entire message of Scripture from the viewpoint of personal comfort; that defines this comfort as belonging to Christ; and that grounds this comfort in an experiential knowledge of sin, an experiential knowledge of redemption, and an experiential knowledge of thankfulness. When they have finished with the Catechism, they may pick up the Canons of Dordt, to observe the warm, pastoral treatment of the great doctrines that are at once the distinctive truths of the Reformed faith and the heart of the gospel of God's grace. Here, they will find an exposition of predestination, e.g., that is deeply concerned with the assurance of election (I:12); with the effects of the sense of election in the daily humility, adoration, self-purification, and thankful love of the children of God (I:13); and with the spiritual struggles and doubts of those who are the "smoking flax" and "bruised reeds" (I:16).

As genuine, biblical Christianity, the Reformed faith has always also honoured the Holy Spirit and His work. It has confessed His Godhead; it has observed His outpouring as the Spirit of Christ on Pentecost; it has ascribed to Him the complete work of the gathering of the church and the saving of every elect sinner, insomuch that it has denied that even the smallest part of the gathering of the church or the saving of the sinner is the work of man and has asserted that even the Word is powerless without the Spirit. It has extolled the Spirit's works, e.g., regeneration and sanctification; praised His gifts, e.g., faithful witness to the truth; and cultivated His fruit—the love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance of Galatians 5:22. For all this, the Reformed church owes Pentecostalism exactly nothing.

The Reformed Christian does refuse to honour any spirit alongside of Jesus Christ; does refuse to dabble in any salvation additional to the redemption of Christ; does refuse to fly with any spirit above the solid atmosphere of the Word of Christ—Holy Scripture; and does refuse to confess some spirit instead of Jesus. But the Holy Spirit of God does not take it ill of us, that we make this refusal. He Himself demands it of us and works it in us. For He has come to glorify Jesus (John 16:14); to bestow Jesus' redemption (John 7:37-39); to work in and through Jesus' Word (John 6:63); and to confess Jesus Christ (I John 4:1-3).

Pentecostalism has nothing to contribute to the churches of the Reformation. Reformed believers can learn nothing from it. The Reformed faith needs nothing that Pentecostalism can supply. Pentecostalism must be rejected, in its entirety, as a religion alien to Reformed Christianity. In the bloodstream of a Reformed church, it is a foreign element. If it remains, unpurged, it will be the death of that body, as a Reformed body.

It is disturbing to find Pentecostal literature in the homes of Reformed people, for use as edifying reading—Watchman Nee; David Wilkerson; John Osteen; Arthur Wallis; The Full Gospel Businessman's Voice; and others. Even though the material may not be Pentecostal, the devotional reading—and listening!—of some Reformed believers is to be faulted. The fare from which they regularly feed to satisfy the soul's craving for exposition of the Christian life, experience, and practice is the best selling literature of present-day fundamentalism. At best, it is devoid of anything Reformed; at worst, it undermines everything that Reformed believers hold dear, inculcating a superficial, false view of the Christian life and experience. Where, e.g., in the frothy works on the higher, richer, fuller, deeper Christian life, with their flashy covers, that abound in the average Christian book store, do you find anything of the "out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD" of Psalm 130? Much less is this sorrow over the guilt of sin central to their vaunted higher, richer, fuller, deeper Christian life. Theirs is a higher, richer, fuller, deeper Christian life, therefore, whose heartbeat is not the forgiveness of sins in the redemption of the cross of Christ. The Christian life to which those books call the readers cannot be a life of fearing the Lord, the holy, gracious Judge, by the pardoned sinner (Psalm 130:4). Instead, they tell us how to be happy. Nor do they set forth the Christian life as obedience—costly obedience—to the Ten Commandments of God's Law. A plague on these books; and a plague on their higher, richer, fuller, deeper Christian life!

It may well be, however, that some of the blame for this bad reading lies at the feet of us preachers, elders, parents, and Christian schoolteachers. Perhaps, we are not recommending to the saints the good, solid devotional works—the sermons, commentaries, and other writings of Luther; of Calvin; and of the older Reformed, Presbyterian, and Puritan authors.

Perhaps, we are not producing books and articles that do justice to the practical and experiential aspects of the Reformed faith—its unique and vital piety. Perhaps, our preaching slights these aspects of the gospel. Then, we defend orthodoxy, without applying it. Or, in reaction to experientialism, we ignore experience; in reaction to subjectivism, we dare not be subjective; in reaction to a clamour for the practical that despises doctrine, we fail to speak the practical things which become sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). In this case, there is indeed a lack, not in the Reformed Faith, but in our teaching of it; and it should not surprise us, wrong though it is, that the saints seek to satisfy their hunger elsewhere.

The fact that Pentecostalism has nothing to contribute to the Reformed believer does not imply that God does not make use of this movement on behalf of His people. God has always used heresies to drive His church to the Word, so that her knowledge of the truth may be increased and her faithfulness of life may be renewed. God uses Pentecostalism to send us back to Holy Scripture, to search it as regards its teaching concerning the Christian life.

The basic appeal of Pentecostalism is its criticism of the Christian's life and its promise of a higher, richer Christian life. Pentecostalism finds much laxity, unfaithfulness, worldliness, and disobedience. We do well to confess this. God sends the scourge of Pentecostalism for a reason. Many have lost the first love. The love of others waxes cold. Iniquity abounds. For many, worship is lifeless formalism; confession of the truth is a dead tradition; Christian life is an external ritual; and the experience of salvation's peace and joy is non-existent. Always, mysticism arises against the background of a decline in the spiritual life of the church, especially a decline into dead orthodoxy and lively worldliness. In these circumstances, Pentecostalism seduces the people with the allure of real life, dynamic power, and wonderful feeling.

In view of Pentecostalism's criticism of the life, both of the faithful Reformed believer, who has not received Pentecostalism's baptism with the Spirit, and of the lax, unfaithful church member, and in view of its promise to transport the Christian into a higher level of spiritual life and experience, we are compelled to ask, "What is the Christian life and experience? What is the normal, Christian life?"

In answering this question, we pay no attention to the claims of religious men and woman. The norm of Christian life and experience is not the neighbour's testimony of her latest ecstatic feeling, but Holy Scripture. In this way, we let God be true, and every man, a liar. The failure to let Scripture, the reliable Word of God, be the standard of the Christian life, and the dependency upon the thoroughly unreliable words of men, is the cause of no end of doubt, whether one is what he ought to be spiritually, and even whether one is a regenerated child of God at all. This gives Pentecostalism the opening that it wants. For knowledge of the Christian life, the rule is: "To the law and to the testimony," shunning the wizards that peep and mutter (Isaiah 8:19-20).

According to Scripture, the Christian life is a life that finds its fullness in Jesus Christ, as this Christ is revealed in the Word. It will not go beyond Christ; it will have nothing apart from Christ, or in addition to Christ—not circumcision, not new revelations, not a higher knowledge, not some spirit. The reason is that the Christian knows, and has found by experience, that Christ is a complete Saviour. In Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and the Christian is complete in Him, i.e., is filled up in Him (Col. 2:9-10). To be sure, the Christian life is a life of growth, but that growth is a growing up into Christ, not a going beyond Christ: "That we...may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ" (Eph. 4:14-15). Just as is the case with the physical growth to maturity, this spiritual growth is a gradual, often imperceptible, development, not an instantaneous, overnight transformation. It is life-long. It takes place by the Word and prayer.

This sufficient Christ, with all His adequate benefits, is the life of the believer by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in his heart. "I live," exults the believer, "yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). The fervent prayer of the apostle for all of the members of God's church is "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (Eph. 3:17). This takes place in every one of us by our being "strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" (v. 16).

The Christian life is a life of walking in the Spirit of Christ Whom we all received when we were born again. The believer does not look for, or seek, or tarry for a second baptism; rather, he strives to walk in the Spirit daily, in all of life. This is the instruction concerning the Christian life in Galatians 5. There were problems in Galatia regarding the Christian life, serious problems. There was the threat of the saints' biting and devouring each other—a pathetic lack of love (vv. 13-15). There were other temptations of the flesh and its lusts: adultery; idolatry; drunkenness; and the like (vv. 19-21). There were evidences of vain glory, of the provoking of one another, and of envying one another (v. 26). These were problems for men and women who had been baptized (Gal. 3:27) and who had received the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:2). But the solution was not that they seek a new baptism, or a different administration of the Spirit. On the contrary, they must walk in that Holy Spirit in Whom they lived: "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh" (v. 16); "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit" (v. 25).

The Christian life, it is thus pointed out, is active. The activity of the Christian life is, first, a battle—a fierce, unrelenting, life-long battle. The battleground is oneself. The foe is sin. Pentecostalism knows nothing of this battle; the Pentecostal has already won the victory in his baptism with the Spirit. Not only do you hear little or nothing of the forgiveness of sins in Pentecostalism, but you also hear little or nothing of the daily struggle of the saint against indwelling sin. In fact, it is not unheard of that the charismatic preacher ridicules those who are always groaning over their sins, those, that is to say, whose testimony all their lives is, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. 7:24). Nothing more clearly than this exposes Pentecostalism as a religion totally alien to the Reformed Faith. A Reformed Pentecostal is an impossibility, a contradiction in terms. A Pentecostal cannot confess the first part of the Heidelberg Catechism. At best, he can only say that he used to know the misery of sin, both guilt and depravity. Ignorant of his misery, neither can he know redemption or the living gratitude that wells up daily in a forgiven heart.

Scripture, however, presents the Christian life as a striving against indwelling sin. This is the teaching of Galatians 5:17: "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."

This is the powerful doctrine of Romans 7. The Christian man, or woman, is carnal, sold under sin. Paul himself, man of God and apostle of Christ, was carnal, sold under sin. He found himself so, at the very end of his life, after he had been sanctified by the Spirit and after his sanctification had progressed far (v. 14). Paul was carnal, not because he was unregenerated, not because Christ had not baptized him with the Holy Spirit and fire, not because sin reigned in his life, not because Paul was a careless Christian; but because even though he was born again, evil was present with him—he retained his sinful, totally depraved flesh (v. 21). As a new man in Christ and, we may safely suppose, as one of the holiest of saints, he delighted in the law of God after the inward man (v. 22); had a hatred of sin (v. 15); and possessed a will to do the good (v. 18). But such was the power of sin in him as long as he lived, that "the good that I would I do not; but the evil which I would not, that I do" (v. 19). Therefore, the apostle—and every Christian—knows his misery. He expresses it in the anguished cry, "O wretched man that I am" (v. 24)—the echo in the New Testament of the "Out of the depths" of Psalm 130. Yet, he neither gives up in the spiritual battle, nor is he ever without the solace of the Savior, Jesus Christ his Lord. Verse 23 insists on the warfare ("I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind ..."); verses 24-25, on the comfort of Christ ("who shall deliver me ...? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord").

Not only is this warfare with sin the activity of the Christian life as regards one's personal life, but it is also the activity of Christian life in the family and in the congregation.

This is a painful, bitter struggle.

For this reason, the Christian can be enticed by the sweet promise that suddenly the battle is over in this life. A pastor can be tempted similarly by such a promise for the congregation. But with the shield of Scripture, he can, and must, resist the temptation.

Do you find this bitter struggle against sin in yourself?

Do not despair!

Do not think that you are not saved or that you are insufficiently saved!

This is it: the normal Christian life!

The result is that we long ardently and wait, not for a second work of grace, but for the second coming of Jesus Christ: "Come, Lord Jesus; come quickly. " We hope eagerly, not for a baptism with the Spirit, but for the resurrection of our bodies: ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23).

Second, the activity of the Christian life is the doing of good works. But it is not the production of spectacular deeds and glamorous accomplishments, as the charismatics would have us believe. Rather, it is the doing of unnoticed, insignificant works—works that are of no account in the estimation of men. It is the activity of sanctification of life, walking after the Spirit, not after the flesh: not practicing adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like (Gal. 5:19-21); but living in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Gal. 5:22-23).

It is the activity of the unnoticed works of keeping the law of God: right worship of God; confessing the truth; remembering the Sabbath; obeying parents; faithfulness in marriage; chastity in single life; Godly rearing of children; diligent labour at one's earthly vocation; payment to Caesar of his taxes; speaking well of one's neighbour, especially the brother and sister in the congregation; and contentment with one's lot, without coveting.

In short, the activity of the Christian life is love—love of the Lord our God and love of the neighbour.

As you do this, do not blow a trumpet before your piety; do it secretly, so that God will reward you.

This is possible by the indwelling Power of Almighty God; but, even then, sin will defile our best works, so that there is only a small beginning of the new obedience and constant need of pardon.

But does not the Christian life have its experience?

As an alternative or addition to faith, experience must be renounced, root and branch. Jesus Christ does not call us to experience, or to feel, but to believe. The way of salvation is faith, not feeling; we are saved by faith, not by experience; we are saved by faith alone, not by faith and experience.

Nevertheless, faith has its experience. It is three-fold: God's child knows the greatness of his sin and misery, his gracious redemption in Christ, and thankfulness for this redemption.

Do you have this experience? Then, you have the normal Christian experience. This is all there is. Whoever lusts for more is an ingrate and aggravates God. He says to God Who gives the knowledge of Himself in His own Son (John 17:3), "But is there not something more, something better?"

To put it differently, through faith the Holy Spirit gives the peace and joy that come from justification. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ ... and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:1-2).

Since this is the Christian life, the Reformed believer makes a confession that is radically different from that of the Pentecostal. The Pentecostal is always boasting of his great powers and is always rejoicing in his marvellous accomplishments. The Reformed saint humbly confesses his weaknesses and takes pleasure in his infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. For he has learned to trust in Divine grace; desires the power of Christ to rest upon him; and has heard God say, in the gospel, "my strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Cor. 12:9-10).

He will not glory in himself. To do so, is, to him, abhorrent—a blasphemy. From the bottom of his sin-broken, but justified heart comes the confession, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal. 6:14).

This is the sound of the Dove.

Source: http://www.cprf.co.uk
 
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