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   June 2000 Pneuma Informer
In this Issue:

From the Editor [top]

I would like to introduce you to Mastering Life Ministries and an effort they have begun recently to address some key issues about morality in the United States. Mastering Life Ministries is headed by David Kyle Foster, a Charismatic Episcopalian minister who is a former actor that God delivered from a homosexual lifestyle. MLM is dedicated to leading people to sexual wholeness through the life-giving power of Jesus Christ.

Please read the following article from MLM about the Religious Declaration on Human Sexual Morality. If you are a church leader, or are able to forward or bring this declaration to your church's leaders, take the time to sign the declaration endorsement and send it to Mastering Life Ministries.

Raul Mock, Executive Editor

About The Religious Declaration on Human Sexual Morality [top]

Touchstone Journal reports that on January 18, 2000, the nation's primary sex-education organization - SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States) - released the Religious Declaration on Sexual Morality, Justice and Healing, signed by 850 religious leaders, calling for same-sex unions, ordination of homosexuals, and abortion rights.

Their document is being used to give the appearance to legislators and denominational leaders that these positions are held by large numbers in the religious community. Since it will continue to be used to persuade school boards, judges, legislators and religious leaders to compromise the traditional position on these issues, it must be countered. Our nation's leaders need to know where the vast majority of religious leaders truly stand.

Mastering Life Ministries is setting out to obtain the signatures of at least ten to one hundred times the number obtained by SIECUS. Please photocopy our statement on morality and ask your ordained clergy, Christian counselor or ministry leader to sign it and send it to our office. Time is of the essence in this matter. The Vermont legislature has already legalized same-sex civil unions, efforts have been in the works for some time to officially deem reparative therapy for homosexuals to be malpractice and it will only be a matter of time before you and I go to jail for standing up for biblical morality. Now is to the time to make your voice heard.

Please join with Dr. Bill Bright, Dr. John R.W. Stott and other hundreds of other Christian pastors, counselors and leaders from around the world in both signing and helping us gain signatures from Christian leaders and ordained clergy for this statement on human sexual morality.

Feel free to print out and distribute the full text of the declaration, or you may refer people to our website address MasteringLife.org.

Religious Declaration on Human Sexual Morality

Human sexual (genital) behavior is intended by God to be expressed solely within the confines of heterosexual, monogamous marriage. Since God is love, sexual activity can only be considered a true act of love when carried out within these parameters, clearly established by God in His Holy Word (the Bible). Sexual intercourse is to be the same giving act that it represents -- which is Jesus Christ's union with His Bride, the Church. It is two becoming one flesh - physically, spiritually and emotionally - the ultimate end of the separating of Eve from Adam's side. It is a procreative and pleasure-giving act that may bear the fruit of children. It is a cause for the continuation of the human race and a bonding agent for the love shared between husband and wife. When done out of love by two spiritually healthy human beings, it will enhance the well-being and solidify the growing oneness of man and wife. God purposed in creation that human sexual interaction be a reflection of that ultimate marriage to which He has called us - that between God and man / between Christ and the Church. Just as God remains faithful, undivided and undeflected from His commitment to man, so this central act in marriage must remain equally faithful, undivided and undeflected - exemplifying the love, the trust and the commitment of a spouse to his/her marital partner. Fidelity to God's blueprint for human sexual behavior is integral to healthy human spirituality. The proscriptions on human sexual behavior established by God in His Holy Word (the Bible) are positive and life-giving. They are designed to bring both maximum glory to God and to be protective measures for those who might otherwise try to find life and fulfillment in alternative sexual behavior, which can only bring death and destruction. As such, they are an expression of God's perfect love and desire to protect those He has created.

Any deflection from these intended purposes of the Creator God is rebellion against the wisdom and goodness of God and sets one at enmity with Him until that person has repented of their actions and come into agreement once again with God's design. The idea that man has the right to chose his own methods of sexual expression flies in the face of everything taught in sacred Scripture.

For those who find themselves caught in an aberrant sexual lifestyle, God offers the atoning death of His Son, Jesus Christ, which brings forgiveness, cleansing, healing and transforming power. Jesus did not come to condemn mankind, but to save any and all who would come to Him for cleansing.

We are Speaking Out

  • We are speaking out against the attempts by those in secular and religious communities who seek to overturn and redefine the clear teachings of the Bible, to make it appear as though sexual behavior outside of the bounds described above is somehow normal and blessed by God. There has been a clear and unbroken Judeo-Christian, scriptural witness on these matters for over thirty-five hundred years.
  • We are speaking out against the impression being given by a minority of religious and media figures that their version of sexual morality is consistent with the biblical witness and/or accepted by the Church.
  • We are speaking out against the unchecked confusion and division sown in the Church by such apostles of immorality.
  • We are speaking out against the death and destruction that such teachings have brought to our culture and the confusion that it has sown in our children.
  • We are speaking out against any sex education program that would teach such ideas to our young people.
  • We are speaking out against the impression given by some that those who support biblical definitions of morality hate those who refuse to accept or live by them.

We Stand in Opposition
  • We oppose any and all efforts to normalize or sanctify homosexual behavior, to advocate or bless homosexual marriages or to ordain those who engage in homosexual behavior.
  • We oppose any attempt to stigmatize or reject persons who are turning to Christ for forgiveness, healing and transformation who have been struggling with their sexual orientation.
  • We oppose any suggestion that they are lesser or more sinful human beings than anyone else. They are welcome in the Church.
  • We oppose any and all attempts to normalize or sanctify heterosexual immorality, including the use of pornography or prostitutes, adulterous or other non-marital sexual relationships or any other behavior outside of healthy, heterosexual, marital monogamy.
  • We oppose the taking of a human life in its mother's womb or any other form of abortion.

We Call Out
  • We call for people to return to the God of the Bible, through His Son Jesus Christ.
  • We call for people to return to God's design for human behavior (sexual and otherwise) as found in the Holy Bible.
  • We call for people to seek and receive from God Almighty the forgiveness, the cleansing, the deliverance and the healing that they need as a result of their unnatural sexual behavior.
  • We call for people to seek and receive from God the desire and the power to walk in His ways.
  • We call for those in government to honor the institution of marriage as it has been held for thousands of years by keeping it restricted to heterosexual, monogamous unions.
  • We call for government to resist the legitimization of alternative sexual lifestyles in creating civil unions for couples who do not qualify for marriage.
  • We call for our educational system to remove sex education materials that promote promiscuity, homosexual behavior or any other sexual behavior outside of traditional marriage.
  • We call for the producers and distributors of every form of media communication to resist the temptation to fatten their coffers by continuing to spread the toxic message of sexual immorality.
  • We call for religious leaders to stand firm against the tide of moral relativism and to remain faithful to God's Holy Word.
  • We call for religious leaders to refuse to ordain those who engage in homosexual or non-marital heterosexual activity.
  • We call for those leaders and laity in the Church who have not yet done so, to extend the same hand of love and grace to the repentant sinner that Christ has extended, and to repent from any condescending or hateful attitudes that they have held toward those who struggle with unholy sexual temptations.
  • We call for religious leaders to refuse to bless what God calls sin, including homosexual unions, but to instead invite those who struggle with unholy sexual desire to the same fount of forgiveness and healing as everyone else - even Jesus Christ, the Lord.

This statement may be copied or reproduced in its entirety for news stories, bulletins, newsletters, flyers, etc., or copied and distributed at public or private meetings for the purpose of obtaining supporting signatures, without our further permission. Please credit Mastering Life Ministries of Jacksonville, Fl. as the source and our web site as a contact point MasteringLife.org.

© Copyright 2000, Mastering Life Ministries Endorsement Page - If you are an ordained member of the clergy, a Christian counselor, or a leader in a Christian organization, please endorse our statement on morality here.

_____ Yes, I endorse this Religious Declaration on Human Sexual Morality.
Church or Organization__________________________

By endorsing this statement, I am agreeing to having my name used with this statement in publicly released documents, including but not limited to brochures, advertisements, press conferences and other media venues and publications.
© Copyright 2000, Mastering Life Ministries

Copy and email to MLifeM [at] aol.com
Or mail to:
      Mastering Life Ministries
      P.O. Box 351149
      Jacksonville, FL

Excerpts from the Summer 2000 issue (Vol 3. No 3) of the Pneuma Review

* * * Please see the Prayer Requests department for status of the publication of this issue.

From the article "Touched by the Wind: The Charismatic Movement in the Episcopal Church" by D. William Faupel

My mother met me at the door, her face bursting with excitement. "You will never guess what has happened," she exclaimed. Before I could respond, she continued, "Pentecost has come to the Episcopalians!" The year was 1961. I was a senior in high school. Mother had just returned from a "prayer luncheon" at the local Episcopal Church where David duPlessis had brought word of Dennis Bennett's "Pentecostal" experience at St. Mark's in Van Nuys, California, the previous year. Later as I looked through the several issues of Trinity magazine, edited by Jean Stone a member of St. Mark's, which mother had brought home with her, I, too, experienced the sense of excitement that God was about to do something new in His Church.

. . .

Bennett was not the first Anglican to receive the Pentecostal experience. In his much-publicized letter to his parishioners, dated April 5, 1960, he wrote: "St. Mark's is not alone in this Pentecostal phenomenon. I am not alone in this. I know of dozens of Episcopal parishes throughout the country where the work of the Holy Spirit is known in just this same way. I know of dozens of Episcopal clergy who know about it all, and rejoice in their knowledge."

He claimed the movement was also in evidence in other established denominations but that "up to now it has been kept a secret." His announcement brought the phenomenon into the open and gained national attention. Soon he was responding to numerous invitations to speak and teach in distant cities in the United States and beyond.2 Jean Stone, a parishioner at St. Mark's also fostered the early growth of the movement. Articulate, charming and capable, she spread the charismatic word on television, radio, in the press, and at ecumenical gatherings and in Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship meetings. She launched Christian Advance, a nationwide preaching mission and established Trinity House, a temporary home for displaced clergy who had been relieved of their parishes because of their Pentecostal witness. Most significantly to the fledgling movement, she founded and edited Trinity magazine to promote the Pentecostal message among Episcopalians. By the end of 1961 she estimated that over 1,000 Episcopalians in Southern California alone were numbered within the movement.3

Two books, published in 1963, further enhanced the initial spread of the movement among Anglicans. Episcopalian John L. Sherrill, editor of Guideposts set out to discredit the movement. In the course of his investigation he be became convinced of its divine authenticity. His book, They Speak with other Tongues,4 quickly became a best seller. The same year, David Wilkerson, Assemblies of God minister, published The Cross and the Switchblade,5 which told of his work with drug addicts in New York. He maintained that former addicts empowered through Spirit-baptism had a far greater success rate of staying drug free than persons going through other detox programs. Wilkerson's book, like Sherrill's, exercised an influence that penetrated deep within the Anglican Communion.

Wilkerson's ministry to one cleric proved particularly significant. Graham Pulkingham had accepted a call to the Church of the Redeemer in Houston, Texas in 1963. Faced with a dying congregation in a decadent neighborhood, he attempted all kinds of new programs to make the church relevant to its setting. Disillusionment from failure soon pressed upon him. In desperation, he sought and received the experience of "Spirit-Baptism" under the ministry of Wilkerson in 1964. Transformation was immediate. Within months the Church of the Redeemer became revitalized, become a witnessing, catalytic agency in the greater Houston area. Soon the church was sponsoring a medical clinic, a youth coffeehouse, a prison ministry and a neighborhood literacy program. Like Bennett, Pulkingham traveled the length and breath of the United States and overseas in a ministry of teaching, preaching and prayer. He sent forth teams of layman from his parish as "enablers" to assist other churches to experience spiritual renewal. Scores of young people went from his church sharing the Gospel through music and personal testimony.6

Soon other churches, like St. Luke's in Seattle, Washington, St. Paul's in Derrian, Connecticut, Trinity in Bridgewater, Massachusetts became centers of charismatic activity both receiving people from across the nation to come for teaching regarding the experience of "Spirit-Baptism" and sending forth workers to proclaim the new message.8
. . .

* * * * *

From the article "That Glorious Day When Tongues are Not Needed: Until Then . . ." Part 2 of 2. From the Praying in the Spirit series by Robert Graves.

Completed Scriptures For those dating the cessation of the charismata at AD 90-98 and into the second century, the inscribed revelation of the New Testament plays a momentous role-it is indeed the cessation factor. But even among these there is no agreement upon why and when. We go from the New Testament being written, to its being "circulated," to its being made "available," to its being "accepted by the Church."

For some choosing the completed New Testament as the cessation factor, it is only a matter of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 being fulfilled: "Whether there be tongues, they shall cease . . . when that which is perfect is come . . " (KJV). For these the "perfect" to come is the New Testament, which

culminated when the last letter of Holy Writ was penned. But the great majority of commentaries and many cessationists (see Figure 1on page 28) reject this interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When J was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13

No passage of Scripture has proved as rich to the debate between Pentecostals and cessationists as these six verses of Paul's. If the cessationists are right about this passage, the Pentecostal-charismatic doctrine of spiritual gifts dissolves. On the other hand, if the Pentecostal-charismatic interpretation is correct, the continuity of the spiritual gifts between the Apostolic Age and today is clearly and forcefully affirmed. Within these six verses there are eight issues to resolve. In verse 8 there are the issues of the variation and voice of the verbs; in verse 9 there are the issues of the omission of tongues and the nature of the partial; in verse 10 the nature of the perfect is the issue; in verse 11 the illustration of childhood to manhood is the issue; in verse 12 the issue is the interpretation of the mirror illustration; finally, in verse 13 the issue is the meaning of the word translated now.

Issue #1: "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away" (verse 8). There are three notable verbs in this verse: (I) prophecy will cease; (2) tongues will be stilled; (3) knowledge will pass away. In the original Greek the two verbs used with prophecy and knowledge are the same word, katargethesontai, though translated into English differently. The verb used with tongues is a different, related word, pausontai. Based partially upon this variation in word choices, it is argued that tongues will cease before the other two gifts (Baxter, p.64; C. R. Smith, pp. 82-83; Thomas, JETS, p. 81; Toussaint, p.314).

The few cessationists I have heard use this argument offer no proof from other biblical or non-biblical sources that justifies it: The variation of the words does not make a distinction in time. The research of Paul Elbert confirms this. Arguing for charismatic continuity, he has shown from other New Testament passages and from classical Greek that a variation of related verbs does not signal distinctive changes in the meanings of the verb (see Elbert, pp. 30-32). Even cessationist Judisch agrees: "It would be speculative to see any reason for this change [of verbs] beyond literary elegance" (p. 82).

. . .

Issue #4: "but when perfection [the whole] comes, the imperfect [partial] disappears, verse 10. According to cessationists, the noun translated imperfect (or partial) is to be understood quantitatively, as in a piece of pie, and not qualitatively, as in an imperfect pie--an interpretation necessary to make a contrast to the future and perfect Kingdom that Christ ushers in (Dillow, p. 120; Gromacki, p. 123; Judisch, p.47; C. R. Smith, p.77; Thomas, p.203).

Actually, the Pentecostal-charismatic understanding of the passage in question is satisfied by either a quantitative or qualitative interpretation of "imperfect." The advent of Christ and His eternal Kingdom will bring with it not only full and complete knowledge (quantitative) but direct knowledge (qualitative). When we are in His

presence, things will be perfect in every way! Then we will know "the whole truth about God" (Barrett, p.306), as opposed to the "partial and fragmentary" knowledge we now have of Him through the spiritual gifts (Elbert, pp. 1, 17).

Furthermore, the cessationist's quantitative construction of a whole (completion) does not seem to fit their argument. For if tongues, prophecy, and knowledge are pieces of the revelational pie, there can be no whole pie that excludes them. The Scriptures, then, are not whole, complete, or quantitatively perfect without the gifts. Some cessationists have sensed this flaw and have tried to correct it by saying that "the perfect thing" is not the Scriptures but the completion of all divine revelation (Reymond, p.32). But this does not work either. How can the remainder of the revelational pie be called the whole? The perfect must in some sense be qualitative, and only the coming of the eternal state satisfies this criterion.

In addition, the cessationist interpretation of "imperfect" or "in part" leads to a rather awkward conclusion. For if the gifts are partial and the canon or an already matured Church is complete, then we must now know as God knows us (verse 12). Most Christians would say that our knowledge is far from perfect! More on this later.

Issue #5: Verse 10 continued. The "perfect thing," ultimately, is what the debate is all about. There are two cessationist schools of thought on this issue. One school claims that "the perfect thing" is the Scriptures, the canon, or finished revelation (Baxter, p.67; Chantry, pp. 50-5l; Coppes, p.60; Pyle, p. 101; Schutz, p.12; Unger, New, pp. 95-96). The other school teaches that "the perfect thing" is the matured Body of Christ, the Church, and could not be the Scriptures (Dillow, pp. 127-129; Gardiner, p.35; Reymond, p.34; Thomas, pp. l06-l07, 203-204). Of course, both schools deny that "the perfect thing" is the presence of Christ after this life, whether by our going (in death) or His Second Coming (known in the Greek as the parousia). The cessationists argue from this verse that the perfect cannot be the parousia because (1) "the perfect thing" never refers to the Second Coming anywhere else in the New Testament; instead, it refers to completion or maturity (Dillow, p.120; C. R. Smith, p.76; Thomas, p.203), and (2) the Greek word translated "perfect" or "perfection" is of the neuter gender, not the expected masculine if reference is to Christ (Unger, New, p. 95).

The cessationist has very good reason for wanting to disprove that "the perfect thing" is the parousia. For if it is the presence of Christ and His Kingdom, this means that tongues, prophecy, and knowledge are to continue until He comes, until we know Him directly-"face to face."

Three well-respected Greek lexicons confirm that "the perfect thing" may indeed refer to persons or to the absolute quality of perfection: Cremer cites the use of perfect in classical Greek as referring "to the gods and their exaltation" (p.543). Under perfect Thayer writes, "The perfect state of all things, to be ushered in by the return of Christ from heaven" (p.618). Kittel's respected word study cites perfect as being used to refer to the sacrificial lamb without blemish (VIII, pp. 67, 72).

Even non-Pentecostal Greek scholars, Gaebelein and Mare for example, write that the idea of "the perfect thing" being the New Testament is "alien to the context" (p. 269); Robertson and Plummer say that Paul "is full of thought of the Second Advent" here (p. 297). Figure 1 on page 28 lists more than sixty non-Pentecostals who accept "the perfect thing" as a reference to the coming of Christ with the eternal Kingdom. No major non-Pentecostal commentary accepts the cessationists' argument on "the perfect thing."

Not only does the word perfect work against the cessationist theory, but its verb, come, also does. Non-Pentecostal Conzelmann says that it "points to the parousia" (p. 226); Edwards and also Cook claim that it is an allusion to the parousia (pp. 349, 352, 341). Elbert cites references in 1 Corinthians 4:5 and 11:26, as well as in the Thessalonian epistles which Paul wrote from Corinth, that support Conzelmann's and Edwards' claims (pp. 9-10). When at Corinth and when writing to the Corinthians, the parousia was clearly a concern of Paul's (Elbert, pp. 2-3).

Two other passages in 1 Corinthians argue against the cessationist theory of "the perfect thing" being the completion of Scripture or the matured Church. First, in chapter seven Paul advises virgins not to marry because Christ will come very shortly. In light of this, it is unlikely that Paul, as he wrote chapter thirteen, was thinking of a time when the worship practices of the Church would be radically changed by a "New Testament" or "matured" Church (Cottle, p. 47).

Second, Paul tells us that there is a current practice in the Church that will also cease when Christ comes. Not only that, but Christians are exhorted to continue this practice until Christ comes. In verse 26 of chapter eleven, Paul tells the Corinthians, "For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." (The verb comes is identical to that used in 13:10.) Without a doubt, just as we partake of the blood and body of Christ until He comes, so we should edify the Body of Christ on earth until He comes to perfect it (Ephesians 4:13; 1 Corinthians 1:7; l3:8-l3).

Very little needs to be said about Unger's argument that the gender of the noun for "the perfect thing" is neuter not masculine and, therefore, does not refer to the Person of Christ. First, it need not refer to Christ alone but to His eternal Kingdom. Second, Christ is referred to with the neuter gender on other occasions. He calls Himself "the Beginning and the End," using the neuter gender (Revelation 21:6). Also, John refers to Him with a neuter gender pronoun in 1 John 1:1 (Elbert, pp. 32-33).

. . .

* * * * *

From "Should Christians Expect Miracles Today? Objections and Answers from the Bible" Part 3 of 4, by Wayne Grudem. 15. Why do people speak directly to demons today and command them to leave, rather than just praying and asking God to drive the demon away? Isn't it safer just to pray to God about this?

In a way, this is similar to asking why Christians should share the gospel with another person rather than simply praying and asking God to reveal the gospel to that person directly. Or why should we speak words of encouragement to a Christian who is discouraged rather than just praying and asking God Himself to encourage that person directly? Why should we speak a word of rebuke or gentle admonition to a Christian, whom we see involved in some kind of sin, rather than just praying and asking God to take care of the sin in that person's life?

The answer to all these questions is that in the kind of world God has created, He has given us an active role in carrying out His plans, especially His plans for advancing the Kingdom and building up the Church. In all of these cases, our direct involvement and activity is important in addition to our prayers. And so it seems to be in our dealing with demonic forces as well.

As a wise father who does not settle all of his children's disputes for them, but sometimes sends them back out to the playground to settle a dispute themselves, so our heavenly Father encourages us to enter directly into conflict with demonic forces, in the name of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Thereby He enables us to gain the joy of participating in eternally significant ministry and the joy of triumphing over the destructive power of Satan and his demons in people's lives. God could certainly deal with demonic attacks every time we prayed and asked Him to do so, and He no doubt sometimes does. But the New Testament pattern seems to be that God ordinarily expects Christians themselves to speak directly to the unclean spirits.

We see this pattern of speaking directly to demons first in the ministry of Jesus. He spoke to the demon troubling a man in the synagogue, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!" (Mark 1:25). He commanded the demons in the Gadarene demoniac, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" (Mark 5:8). When Jesus encountered a young boy severely afflicted by a demon, "He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, 'You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again'" (Mark 9:25). This was Jesus' general pattern, for people said about Him, "What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out" (Luke 4:36).

This pattern was then imitated by Jesus' 70 disciples, for they said, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!" (Luke 10:17). Paul also followed this pattern when he spoke directly to the demon in the soothsaying girl at Philippi, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!"-as a result, we read that "at that moment the spirit left her" (Acts 16:18, NIV). So the question should not be, What seems safe to us? but rather, What example and pattern does the New Testament give to us? True safety would seem to be in following the pattern given us in God's Word.

. . .

17. But won't any new revelation today have to come in words from God that are perfect and inerrant and equal to the Bible in authority?

This objection is made, for example, by John MacArthur, who assumes that all revelation from God must be accompanied by inerrant reports of that revelation, as it was in the writing of Scripture. He says, God's revelation is complete for now. The canon of Scripture is closed...the close of the New Testament has been followed by the utter absence of new revelation in any form.40

He says there cannot be prophecy today because "every authentic prophetic revelation will be as true, reliable, and inerrant as Scripture itself."

MacArthur does not realize the Bible itself talks about "revelation" from God that has other results. For example, whenever someone comes to know God personally in salvation, it is because that person has received a revelation from Christ. "No one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matt. 11:27). And whenever God gives people up to self-destruction because of their sin, God's wrath is revealed. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth" (Rom. 1:18).

Even today, whenever God convicts someone of sin, it is a form of revelation as well, because Paul says, "If in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you" (Phil. 3:15). When God gives Christians deeper understanding of the Christian faith, that is a kind of revelation, because Paul prays that God "may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him" (Eph. 1:17).

But new Scripture does not result from any of this. When a new Christian tells how he or she came to know God, that testimony is not new Scripture. When someone tells of conviction of sin, or of deeper knowledge of God, that testimony is not new Scripture. Similarly, when God gives a spontaneous revelation that results in prophecy, this does not result in new Scripture. MacArthur's assumption is simply incorrect.

18. Doesn't the use of prophecy today deny the sufficiency of Scripture?

No, it does not, because prophecy should never function with the absolute authority of Scripture (see above). It should never challenge the unique role the Bible plays in our lives. Rather, it functions on a level something like the kind of authority we give to advice from a friend, or to a subjective "intuition" or "gut feeling" about what to do in a situation. We do not follow these in every case (for they may be wrong), but we do not ignore them either. Often they help us make the right decision. So it is with the gift of prophecy: God can use it to make us aware of things we would otherwise overlook, but He will never use it to add new doctrinal teachings or new moral commands to what is in the Bible.

People who make this objection about prophecy challenging "the sufficiency of Scripture" should be asked to define carefully what they mean by the phrase "the sufficiency of Scripture." This is often not done, and confusion enters into the discussion. To some people the phrase means, (1) Scripture tells us God's will so we should allow no subjective factors in guidance on decisions today. To others it means, (2) Scripture reveals God's words to us, so there can be no more revelation from God to us today. To still others it means, (3) the canon42 is closed so no more words are to be added to Scripture.

But in theological studies generally, "the sufficiency of Scripture" has a somewhat different sense, one that follows from the fact that the canon is closed. It means, (4) Scripture now contains all the words of God He intends His people to have in the Church age, and, therefore, it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for right doctrine, and for knowing His will for us. It means, therefore, we are not to add to the moral commands of Scripture and demand that people obey new moral principles we have made up, going beyond Scripture. And it means we are not to add to the doctrinal teachings of Scripture, demanding that people believe new teachings we have made up. What God has told us is sufficient for knowing what He wants us to believe and do.

Sometimes in discussions about spiritual gifts today, people have in mind senses (1) or (2) above, and, therefore, by their definition the gift of prophecy today is not possible. But when people who allow for prophecy today say they believe in the sufficiency of Scripture, they usually mean sense (3) or (4), both of which are consistent with the continuation of prophecy today. Careful definition is needed before the discussion can proceed, or people will simply talk past one another.

Once we understand that we are talking about the sufficiency of Scripture in sense (4) above, we can then realize that the Bible does not tell us everything-a fact everyone will agree to! Why should we think it impossible that God would bring to our mind some information that is not in Scripture but that would be helpful in a situation? Prophecy today can often do this, bringing to mind more facts about a situation, facts we had forgotten or of which we were not aware. For example, Scripture tells me I should pray; it does not tell me that my missionary friend in Japan is in need of prayer right now.

A real-life example may help make this clear. When I was praying with friends recently a woman in the group said, "While we were praying I saw a picture in my mind of two angry faces talking, and it looked like fire was coming out of their mouths." Then another woman said, "I think one of the faces was me. I've been gossiping and spreading dissension by some things I've said to other people in this room." There was silence, then the woman who first saw the mental picture said, "I think the other face was me. I've been gossiping too!" A church elder who was present then read James 3:5, "So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!" After that, a beautiful time of repentance and forgiveness took place, including tears.

Now that type of event does not challenge a true understanding of "the sufficiency of Scripture" at all. Scripture tells me gossip is wrong; it does not tell me two people in the room have been gossiping (cf. 1 Cor. 14:24,25). Scripture tells me to go to my brother if he has something against me; it does not tell me that Robert has been angry with me about something I said. In addition, out of all the verses in the Bible, God will sometimes use prophecy to bring to mind exactly the right Scripture passage for the situation at hand. This happened to me recently at a meeting for our church. I had awakened that morning with a passage from 2 Samuel on my mind, and when I read it without comment at the meeting, the Holy Spirit used it to bring conviction to our hearts and tears to our eyes.

What a rich blessing this is for the New Covenant Age (from Pentecost until Christ returns)! Here is a great privilege we have over believers in the time of the Old Testament, when only a few people had the gift of prophecy. On the day of Pentecost, Peter said that the New Covenant Age had begun, because Joel's prophecy was fulfilled:

And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yes, and on my menservants and my maid servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy (Acts 2:17,18).

Peter does not say only the apostles would prophesy. He does not say only church leaders would see visions and dreams. He says the Holy Spirit is going to give these things to old and young, to men and women, to parents and children. That means all sorts of people in the Church.

And Peter does not say this will be limited to the first few years of the Church (as some would tell us). Joel was predicting the time of the New Covenant, the time of the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit on God's people. That is the age we still live in today--and these are the blessings we should yet expect from God today.

Taken from "The Kingdom and the Power: Are Healing and Spiritual Gifts Used by Jesus and the Early Church Meant for the Church Today?", edited by Gary S. Greig and Kevin Springer. © Copyright 1993 Regal Books, Ventura, CA 93003. Used with permission.

Prayer Requests [top]

  • Please pray for the efforts of Raul Mock and the Executive Committee to finish printing the Summer 2000 issue of the Pneuma Review. This issue is very late because of unforeseen machine and logistical problems. Raul has already put in some 60 hours trying to offset print this issue.
  • Please pray for the Pneuma Foundation to receive the funds it needs to begin regular mailings to its members and those who would be interested in receiving information about Pneuma Foundation ministry efforts.

Praise Reports

  • Join with us in praising the Lord our Provider. Sometimes when it does not seem like there is any possible way to solve a problem or fill a need, God demonstrates His care and provision is such a beautiful way.
  • Special thanks goes to Larry Hard of Grand Valley Printing for allowing the Pneuma Foundation to come in and use his equipment and know-how to print the Summer 2000 issue of the Pneuma Review when it looked like there was no way to get it done.