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In the Light of God's Word
by Shaun Willcock
In there can be no doubt whatsoever that, within worldwide `Christendom', the
religious phenomenon of the twentieth century is the Pentecostal/Charismatic
Movement. No other religious movement this century has enjoyed such universal
and rapid growth, so that tens of millions of people around the world identify
with it; and it continues to grow. Its supporters praise it as a worldwide
"outpouring" of the Holy Spirit, a latter-day revival such as the world has
never seen before, the most exciting and glorious period the Church has ever
experienced since the first century.
They claim that the Lord has restored the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit to
the Church, that millions are speaking with new tongues as the Spirit gives them
utterance, that the sick are being healed, the dead are being raised to life,
and apostles and prophets are once again walking the earth. Their services are
characterised by exuberant, prolonged singing, usually to the accompaniment of
pianos, organs, guitars, drums, and various other instruments played by slick
professionals; "speaking in tongues"; "slayings in the Spirit"; "prophecies";
"healings"; even dancing. From a few, frowned-upon churches and denominations in
its early days, the movement has spread like wildfire, and today it is an
important and ever-growing part of most of the Protestant denominations, and of
the Roman Catholic institution. From massive auditoriums filled to capacity in
the major cities of the world, to small and simple buildings in dirt-poor
villages deep in Third World countries, the Pentecostal/Charismatic message is
But is this movement of God?
That is the great question, the question that demands an answer. For this
movement to be a movement of the Spirit of God, it must be in accordance with
the Word of God. "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try [test] the spirits
whether they are of God" (1 Jn.4:1). Is the spirit of the
Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement the Spirit of Christ? Every spirit must be
tested; and how? by the Word of God. "To the law and to the testimony: if they
speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them"
(Isa.8:20). The Scriptures must be searched to see whether these things are so
(Acts 17:11). Men err when the Scriptures are neither known (Matt.22:29), nor
There is an appeal made to the Scriptures, of course, by those within the
movement. In truth, however, the Scriptures witness against the entire
Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement; and the purpose of this article is to show
that it is not in accordance with Scripture. Many other aspects of the movement
could have been dealt with; but this article will concentrate on its doctrines
of the so-called "baptism in the Spirit" and the spiritual gifts, in the light
of God's Word. Some might argue that there is a difference between the
Pentecostal Movement, and the Charismatic Movement. Historically, the early
disciples of the movement were known as Pentecostals, and the various
denominations that developed from those early days are still known as
When the movement spilled over into the older Protestant denominations, its
followers were generally known as Neo-Pentecostals, or Charismatics. While there
are a few minor variations, doctrinally, between classic Pentecostals and some
branches of the Charismatic Movement, these are for the most part insignificant:
the two are almost identical, so that today the two terms are often used
interchangeably; and that is how they are used here. Obviously, for reasons of
space, the teachings analysed here are those on which there is broad agreement
(but not necessarily universal unanimity) throughout the Pentecostal/Charismatic
The "Baptism in the Holy Spirit"
Broadly, the distinctive emphasis of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement has to
do with the Holy Spirit. It is taught that there is a "second experience" after
conversion available to Christians: a "second blessing," a "second work of
grace." Not every Christian has partaken of it, but every Christian should; and
until he or she does, no Christian can walk in "the power" of the Spirit. This
"second blessing" is known as "the baptism in the Holy Spirit." The reception of
this "baptism" is accompanied by the "initial evidence" of speaking with other
tongues (although not all Charismatics are agreed on this point). When the
Christian receives the "baptism", he receives one or more of the miraculous
spiritual gifts, such as the gift of tongues, or of prophecy, or of healing, or
of miracles. These gifts are to be exercised, by the believer, in order to edify
the Church and to confirm the preaching of the Gospel with signs and wonders.
The notion that those who have not received the Charismatic "baptism in the Holy
Spirit" lack power to serve the Lord, or to live for him, is refuted both by
history and (more importantly) by the Bible. It is refuted by history, in that
the Pentecostal Movement in its present form is a very modern phenomenon, the
Pentecostals themselves claiming that between the first century and the second
half of the nineteenth century there was no great "outpouring of the Spirit" as
there supposedly is now, only very limited and occasional phenomena; and yet men
who certainly did not believe in any "second blessing", any "spiritual baptism",
after conversion, and who certainly never spoke with unknown tongues or
performed miracles of healing, were mightily used of God in centuries past. And
it is refuted by the Bible, in such places as 2 Pet.1:3, which says, "According
as his [the Lord's] divine power hath given unto us [and "us" here means all
believers, without exception--vs.1] all things that pertain unto life and
godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and
virtue". Every Christian has all that is necessary for life and godliness!
Every New Testament believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him (1
Cor.6:19; Ezek.36:26,27). In fact, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he
is none of his" (Rom.8:9)! Every spiritual "son" has the Spirit of Christ
dwelling within his heart (Gal.4:6). And as this is so, there is no need, nor
indeed any scriptural justification, for seeking any "second experience"; every
Christian is complete in Christ (Col.2:10)!
There are, of course, certain texts of Scripture which are appealed to, by
Charismatics, in support of the notion that there is a spiritual baptism
subsequent to salvation, which Christians must seek; and it is to these that we
must now turn.
Matt.3:11 is one such text. In this verse, John the Baptist said, "he [Christ]
shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire". According to Charismatics,
this verse entitles Christians to seek a "second blessing."
But does it?
In Acts 1:5, Jesus used the same words of John, saying, "John truly baptized
with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence."
He was referring to the day of Pentecost, as his own words reveal, in Lk.24:49
and Acts 1:4,8. The disciples, prior to Pentecost, were most certainly
regenerated by the Holy Spirit, as Scripture makes plain (Lk.10:20); they had
the Holy Spirit, just as all God's saints prior to Pentecost did: Abraham,
David, etc.(e.g. 1 Pet.1:10,11). But the Old Testament saints did not have the
Holy Spirit in such fulness, richness, and power, as New Testament saints do, as
is evident from Jn.7:37-39, Jn.14-16, Acts 1:4,5,8, Acts 2:4,16,17, and other
places. Prior to Pentecost, the disciples were Old Testament saints; they were
regenerated, the Holy Spirit was within them; but on the day of Pentecost, they
became New Testament saints! The risen, glorified Christ "poured out" his Holy
Spirit (Acts 2:17): they were, in the words of John the Baptist and of Jesus
himself, "baptized with the Holy Ghost."
What must be understood is that those disciples lived through the transition
from the Old Covenant to the New. They had been converted before, as Old
Covenant people; but at Pentecost, they entered into the fulness of New Covenant
salvation. No-one, however, is in that transitional phase today! Now, when a
soul is regenerated, and believes on Jesus Christ, that soul immediately
receives the gift of the Holy Ghost: he is immediately "baptized with the Holy
Ghost." And this is taught so plainly in Acts 2:38,39: as many as the Lord
calls, enabling them to repent and believe in Christ, receive the Holy Spirit.
It is clear, from this text, that "receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost" (vs.38)
is the same as being "baptized with the Holy Ghost" (Acts 1:5): it is the
"promise" of Acts 1:4 and 2:33. And as Peter said, all those who are called by
grace "shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Acts 2:38)! The gift of the
Holy Spirit is not a "second blessing" subsequent to salvation, given to those
who "seek" it but not to others; rather, the Holy Spirit is given to every
single one whom the Lord calls and saves! Once again, the reader is referred to
Rom.8:9, Gal.4:6, and others, in the light of Acts 2:38,39, which show that
every Christian has received the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In the case of the first disciples, the "baptism with the Holy Ghost" occurred
on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:4,5); but John the Baptist was speaking about
all believers, in Mat.3:11--and the experience of the first disciples was not
normative for all time, as shall be seen. The 3000 were "baptized with the Holy
Ghost" when they repented and believed in Christ, and not later; and this is the
pattern for today. In addition, the disciples who were "baptized with the Holy
Ghost" at Pentecost spoke with tongues; but there was a specific purpose for
this, as will be explained below. It is very important to note that the 3000 who
repented at the preaching of Peter did not speak with tongues--and bear in mind
that they were "baptized with the Holy Ghost" at that very moment, just as all
believers are today! The miraculous gifts are no longer given, as shall be seen.
Acts 2: The Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1-4 is the central text of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement. They
argue that, just as the disciples were baptized with the Holy Spirit on the day
of Pentecost, Christians can and should receive the very same experience today.
While they can make this sound so plausible to multitudes, they fail to take
note of the fact that this was an historical event; and that unless it can be
shown from Scripture that it was to be repeated, and repeated often, in churches
and other gatherings around the world, it must be understood simply for what it
was: a very special event that was never repeated in precisely the same way
That this was in many ways a unique event is quite clear from the inspired
record. What occurred at Pentecost was the fulfilment of "the promise of the
Father" (Lk.24:49; Acts 1:4). It occurred at a specific time--the day of
Pentecost (Acts 2:1); at a specific place--Jerusalem (Lk.24:49); in fulfilment
of a specific Old Testament type--the feast of weeks, or Pentecost
(Lev.23:15-21); in fulfilment of an Old Testament prophecy (Joel 2:28-32); and
it was experienced by a specific group--the 120 disciples (Acts 1:13-15). It was
accompanied by not one, but three miraculous signs: a sound from heaven as of a
rushing mighty wind, cloven tongues like as of fire, and speaking with other
tongues. No-one can expect "another Pentecost" today, if Pentecost was in many
ways unique even in the early Church!
What occurred on the day of Pentecost was the fulfilment of Acts 1:4,5, and the
first fulfilment of Matt.3:11 (which is fulfilled in every single believer).
Being "baptized with the Holy Ghost" is the same as "receiving the Holy Ghost,"
or "receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost" (Matt.3:11; Acts 2:38,39; 8:15,16;
10:45,47; 19:2). But the 120 were baptized with the Holy Spirit quite some time
after their calling by grace, whereas believers today are baptized with the Holy
Spirit at that very moment. The reason for this has already been given above,
when Matt.3:11 was examined. Now let us consider the tongues-speaking. If there
is one thing Charismatics spend more time discussing and promoting than anything
else, it is speaking with tongues. At Pentecost, the tongues-speaking, too, was
a sign, just as the sound as of a wind and the tongues like as of fire were
signs. It was a twofold sign to the Jews. Firstly, it was a sign to them that
the Lord was now going to save people from all nations under heaven, and not
only from Israel. "And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of
every nation under heaven.
Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were
confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And
they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all
these which speak Galileans?" (vss.5-7). The Galileans were generally unlearned
people. The Jews were astounded: how could such simple, uneducated folk proclaim
"the wonderful works of God" (vs.11) in languages which they had never learned?
"And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What
meaneth this?" (vs.12). Indeed, what did it mean? What was the Lord's purpose in
this? The Lord was fulfilling a prophecy, as Peter went on to tell them--the
prophecy of Joel (Acts 2:16-21; Joel 2:28-32); and he was thereby revealing to
the Jews that the Gospel was to go to all nations under heaven, not only to
Israel; and that it would be confirmed, in its early days, by miraculous signs,
as Jesus had foretold (Mk.16:16-20). That these signs were not going to be
performed beyond the earliest period of the Church, we shall see presently.
Secondly, the tongues were a sign, to the unbelieving Jews, of approaching
judgement. This is clear from 1 Cor.14:21,22. The divine judgement came in 70
AD, the Roman army being the instrument God used, in fulfilment of various
prophecies (such as Lk.21:20-24).
Acts 8: The Samaritans
The next text is Acts 8:12-17. Philip had preached the Gospel in Samaria, many
had believed in the Lord Jesus, and these new converts had been baptized (Acts
8:12). Then, when Peter and John came down to them, they "prayed for them, that
they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them:
only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their
hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost." These believers, too, were
saints in the same way as the Old Testament saints, just as the 120 had been
before Pentecost: they were regenerated, they had believed savingly on Christ,
and thus the Spirit had worked in them; but they had not "received the gift of
the Holy Ghost" in the fulness of the New Covenant sense as yet (just as the 120
had not, prior to Pentecost). It was only when the apostles laid hands on them,
that they "received the Holy Ghost" in this sense.
Why? Why did the Lord do it this way?
The Jews were very prejudiced against the Samaritans. They had no dealings with
them (Jn.4:9). But the Lord had said that the Gospel was to be preached to
Samaria (Acts 1:8). This Philip did, and many were converted, and baptized. But
as a sign to the Jews that the Lord had, indeed, granted repentance unto life to
the Samaritans, the gift of the Holy Spirit (in the New Covenant sense) was only
received when the apostles laid hands on them, and there was a visible
demonstration that the Spirit had been given (Acts 8:14-18)! This is why there
was the delay between their calling by grace, and their reception of the Holy
Spirit in the New Covenant sense. But from then on, any Samaritan converted to
Christ received the Holy Spirit at that very moment; just as, from the time of
Pentecost onwards, any Jew converted to Christ received the Holy Spirit at that
very moment. The events which transpired in Acts 8 were for a specific purpose,
which has now been fulfilled. In no way, then, do these events support any
Charismatic notion of a "second blessing" for believers today.
Acts 10: the Household of Cornelius
Now we must move on to Acts 10:44-48. In this passage, as Peter was preaching to
the Gentile Cornelius and his family, the Holy Spirit fell on them, and they
spoke with tongues; whereupon Peter commanded them to be baptized in water.
Cornelius was "a devout man, and one that feared God with all his house" (Acts
10:1,2). He had forsaken the idols of the Romans, and worshipped the true God,
the God of Israel. He looked by faith to the Messiah he knew would come, just as
all God's people did in the ages before Christ came; but he did not know that
Jesus of Nazareth (of whom he had heard--vss.36,37) was the Christ, until Peter
told him (Acts 10:36-43).
It was while Peter was preaching to him and his household, that the Holy Ghost
was "poured out", and they were "saved" in the fulness of the New Testament
sense of the word (Acts 11:14; Eph.2:8,9). That this was the case, is made plain
by Peter's command for them to be baptized (vss.47,48); for baptism is to follow
faith in Jesus Christ. Cornelius and all his household were saints in the Old
Testament sense, having believed in the Christ to come; but they now believed
that Jesus was the Christ, and thus became New Testament saints, "baptized with
the Holy Ghost" (for, as explained above, "receiving the Holy Ghost", as these
people did [vs.47], is the same as being "baptized with the Holy Ghost"); and so
submitted to baptism in accordance with God's Word.
But something else also occurred at this time--and for a very specific reason:
in addition to the "baptism with the Holy Spirit," (which, as explained above,
is now the experience of every believer the moment the Lord saves him, but which
the Jewish disciples at Pentecost, and these Gentile disciples here, received at
a later stage because they were caught in that transitional period between the
Old and the New Covenants), they also spoke with tongues at the same time
(vs.46)! Why were they enabled to speak with tongues? The tongues-speaking
confirmed to Peter that the Lord had truly led him to preach to this Gentile
household; this is clear from his words in Acts 11:15-17. And also, it confirmed
that God was granting repentance unto life to Gentiles as well as Jews--a lesson
the Jewish believers needed to learn; for if the Jews were prejudiced against
the Samaritans, they were even more prejudiced against the Gentiles (Acts
10:45-47; 11:1-3,18)! Acts 11:18 is especially relevant here. They could not
deny that the Lord was granting salvation to Gentiles, when the selfsame gift of
tongues which they had been given at Pentecost was given to the Gentiles (Acts
But again let it be noted very clearly: in no way does Acts 10:44-48 give
justification to those who would seek a similar experience today! Firstly, it
was a sovereign act of God, neither sought by the Gentiles, nor by the Jewish
believers who were present (Acts 10:44-46; 11:17). Secondly, the tongues were
for the benefit of the Jewish believers, as has been explained; and thus this
was a unique event, designed to remove the prejudice of the Jewish believers at
a time when much prejudice still existed. And thirdly, Peter himself had to cast
all the way back in his mind to Pentecost, years before, to find an experience
with which this event could be compared (Acts 11:16,17); which would be most
strange (to say the least!) if such events had been occurring regularly in the
churches between Pentecost and this visit to Cornelius' house!
It is the general Pentecostal belief that, having been "baptized in the Spirit,"
one should experience further "baptisms" as the need arises; but Peter had not
seen anything like it since the day of Pentecost! Even the Samaritan event was
not the same; for Peter and John had deliberately gone there to lay hands on the
disciples, that they might receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:5-17); but in
Cornelius' house, the Holy Spirit "fell" in sovereign power, unexpectedly,
suddenly, just as at Pentecost, upon people who, although regenerated just as
all saints were who lived prior to Pentecost, were nevertheless not yet New
Testament saints. This is why Peter was reminded of Pentecost, and not Samaria.
It is true that the 120 at Pentecost had believed in Jesus as the Christ, and
already been baptized, whereas those of Cornelius' household had believed in the
Christ to come, not being aware that Jesus was the Christ, and had therefore not
been baptized--but both were believers in the Old Testament sense: regenerated,
converted, their faith being in the Messiah, but not "baptized with the Holy
Ghost". Today, the elect who hear the Gospel preached, and who are enlightened
by the Holy Spirit to exercise faith in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation, are
"baptized with the Holy Ghost" at that very moment, and are then to be baptized
in water; but the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer given, as
shown not only by the texts examined thus far, but by those we shall yet
Acts 19: the Ephesian Disciples
The fourth, and final, text from the book of Acts which is very dear to the
Charismatics, is Acts 19:1-7. His question in vs.2, "Have ye received the Holy
Ghost since ye believed?" was addressed to twelve men (vs.7) who were true
disciples (vs.1), believers (vs.2); men who had repented of their sins, and
believed in Christ, when they had heard John the Baptist preach years before,
and whom John had baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (vss.2-5); but they had
not "received the Holy Ghost" (or, in the terminology found elsewhere, they had
not been "baptized with the Holy Ghost"): in other words, they were saints in
the Old Covenant sense, not the New.
These twelve men had been converted before Pentecost (as had the 120, and as had
the household of Cornelius); they had been converted to Christ through the
ministry of John the Baptist. But--again like the 120 before Pentecost, and the
household of Cornelius before Peter preached to them, as well as the Samaritan
believers before the apostles prayed for them--this little band of converts were
saints in the Old Covenant sense, even though it was now years after the events
of Acts 2, 8, and 19.
Any Jew converted after Pentecost received the Holy Spirit (was "baptized with
the Spirit") immediately; any Samaritan converted after the events of Acts 8
received the Holy Spirit immediately; and any Gentile converted after Acts 10
received the Holy Spirit immediately. But anyone converted before these events
was still a saint in the Old Covenant sense. This was the case with these twelve
men; and it explains why Paul asked the question he did: "Have ye received the
Holy Ghost since ye believed?"
When Paul laid his hands on them, "the Holy Ghost came upon them; and they spake
with tongues, and prophesied" (vs.6). In other words, they "received the gift of
the Holy Ghost", or were "baptized with the Holy Ghost." And why did they speak
with tongues, and prophesy? This was solid and immediate proof that they had
been given "the like gift", just as in the case of Cornelius, and of the
Samaritans (see, for example, Acts 11:17).
Today, the proof that one has received the Holy Spirit (i.e. been converted) is
not a visible sign. But the evidence of conversion is to be seen in a changed
life, a transformed life, a "new" life in Christ (see Acts 2:41,42). These men
also would have given such evidence; but they, in addition, gave evidence by
speaking with tongues, and prophesying, as indeed did those described in Acts 2,
8, and 10.
The experience described here in Acts 19 was never intended by the Lord to be
repeated throughout the Gospel age, or even in the twentieth century, as
Charismatics assert. To the apostles was given the power to lay hands upon
certain believers, that the Holy Ghost would come upon them in the manner
described here; but nowhere do we read that this power was ever given to any
others, to lay hands on believers for such a purpose. Not even Philip, who had
miraculous gifts himself (Acts 8:6,7), could lay hands on others that they might
receive the Holy Spirit--Peter and John, who were apostles, had to do it (Acts
8:14-17). It was "through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was
given" (Acts 8:18), and no-one else's! And naturally this meant that when the
apostles passed from the scene, such miraculous gifts were no longer given to
The fact that only apostles could do this, effectively refutes the notion of
those within the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement who believe that any
Christian, "baptized in the Spirit", can lay hands on another Christian,
enabling that Christian to receive "the baptism" as well. But now we must turn
our attention to an examination of the more controversial gifts themselves, and
show from Scripture that these ceased with the passing of the apostolic age and
the completion of the New Testament writings.
Some gifts of the Holy Spirit are most definitely given permanently to the
Church of Christ. Pastors, for example, are permanent "gifts" given to the
Church, as Scripture makes abundantly clear (Eph.4:8,11; 1 Tim.3:1-7; etc.). But
those gifts which can be termed sign gifts, and revelatory gifts, were
temporary, and are no longer with us. These are listed in 1 Cor.12:8-10; and we
shall occupy ourselves with the most controversial: apostles, prophets and
prophecy, healing, miracles, and speaking with tongues.
In both Eph.4:11 and 1 Cor.12:28, apostles are named first in the list of
spiritual gifts. In the early Church, there was no greater gift. Who were the
apostles? They were originally the eleven (Acts 1:13); then Matthias was
numbered with them (Acts 1:26), and these twelve are called "the twelve apostles
of the Lamb" (Rev.21:14). And in addition, there were a number of others who
were called to be apostles; such as Paul (Rom.1:1), and Barnabas (Acts 14:14),
and the brethren of the Lord (1 Cor.9:5; Gal.1:19); as well as a number of
others. But the number was limited from the very start, as is evident from the
following: An apostle was one who had been a witness of the resurrected Christ.
This is clear from Acts 1:22, 2:32, 10:40,41, and 1 Cor.15:4-9. In this last
text, we are told that, after his resurrection, Christ was seen by over 500
brethren. The apostles who came after the twelve would have come from among
these 500. Paul, who was not one of the twelve, nor among the 500 who saw the
Lord after his resurrection, was nevertheless an eyewitness of the resurrected
Christ because the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:17); so
that he could say, "Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus
Christ our Lord?" (1 Cor.9:1).
By its very nature, then, the apostolic office was not a permanent one in the
Church. The apostles had all seen the risen Christ, and so the apostolic office
could only continue until those men had died. Paul, in fact, says very pointedly
that he was the last to have seen the risen Christ: "And last of all he was seen
of me also, as of one born out of due time" (1 Cor.15:8). Paul, then, was the
last man called to be an apostle. And with the passing of that limited number of
men, the apostolic gift passed from the Church. And this was the Lord's will.
For Eph.2:20 says that the Church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles
and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone". The apostles
laid the foundation of the Church, as is seen from 1 Cor.3:10,11, as well as
Eph.3:1-12, and Rev.21:14. A foundation is only laid once. Their ministry was
unique, they laid the foundation by their preaching, and then the apostolic gift
What about the gift of prophecy? The prophet was one who spoke the very words of
the Lord, by divine inspiration. There were prophets in the early Church, just
as there had been prophets in the Old Testament (Acts 13:1; 15:32; etc.) The
prophetic office was second only to the apostolic office in the New Testament (1
Cor.12:28; Eph.4:11). As with the apostolic gift, Charismatics claim that the
prophetic gift is given today. But the Scriptures do not support this claim.
Again, Eph.2:20 is very relevant here: apostles and prophets laid the foundation
of the Church. That the prophets mentioned in this verse are New Testament
prophets, not Old Testament ones, is clear from the order: apostles first, then
prophets (as in 1 Cor.12:28 and Eph.4:11). If Old Testament prophets were meant,
they would have come first, as they were, chronologically, before the apostles.
Besides, Eph.3:5 makes it clear that New Testament prophets are meant. The
prophets, with the apostles, laid the foundation of the Church. Again, a
foundation is only laid once. Before the New Testament was complete, they
revealed to the churches, by divine inspiration, the same truths which are now
contained in the writings of the New Testament. It must be remembered that the
New Testament books were written over a period of many years. What were the
churches to do until the New Testament was complete? The Lord gave them
prophets, who spoke forth the truths which, in time, came to be written down.
Thus were the churches fed, and instructed (Acts 14:32).
But the prophetic gift was only to continue until the New Testament was
complete. This is clear from what has already been said; but there is further
proof still, in 1 Cor.13:8-13. Vs.8 says, "Whether there be prophecies, they
shall fail"; meaning, they shall be rendered unnecessary, and superseded by
something else. When, and by what? The answer is given in vss.9 and 10: "For we
know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come,
then that which is in part shall be done away." By the words, "we prophesy in
part," is meant partially, piecemeal, little by little in each church. Prophecy
(like the other temporary revelatory gifts mentioned) was done away "when that
which is perfect" came. "That which is perfect" is that which is complete, and
final. Charismatics usually say that this refers to the return of Christ; if
this was true, then of course these gifts would not cease in the Church until
the second coming. But "that which is perfect" is not Christ, or the return of
Christ--it is the completion of the New Testament Scriptures! How may we know?
Firstly, the gender is neuter: it does not say, "he who is perfect," but "that
which is perfect." It is a thing, not a person. Secondly, it is contrasted with
"that which is in part", which is plainly the partial revelation supplied by
these revelatory gifts. Tongues, prophecy, and the gift of knowledge provided
the early Church with partial revelation; but in the New Testament, the complete
revelation is given. And this is confirmed by Rev.22:18, where we are forbidden
to add to the revelation of God. With the writing of the book of Revelation, the
Scriptures were complete. Nothing more was to be given. If the gift of prophecy
was still with us today, there would be new revelations; for prophecy was
nothing less than inspired utterance; it was, "Thus saith the Lord." We have, in
the Bible, all the words of the Lord which he has been pleased to give to men.
And yet Charismatic "prophets" are often heard to speak as if the Lord was
speaking through them, giving new revelations! This is adding to the completed,
written revelation, and is condemned by Rev.22:18 and elsewhere!
The gift of prophecy was given to certain people in the early Church, before
"that which is perfect," the written revelation, was complete. In the pages of
the Bible we have all the Word of God. There was no further need for the
prophetic gift once the Scriptures were complete, and it was no longer given.
Healing and Working of Miracles
Now to look at the gifts of healing, and of working of miracles. These gifts
were given to authenticate the apostles and their message. Paul wrote, "Truly
the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and
wonders, and mighty deeds" (2 Cor.12:12). Signs and wonders (i.e. miracles of
all types) were the signs of an apostle! This is again revealed in Heb.2:3,4,
where it is said of those who heard the Lord Jesus (the apostles): "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". And in Mk.16, where Jesus
spoke of the miraculous signs that would be done in his name (vss.17,18), it
says, in fulfilment of this, "And they [the apostles, according to vs.14] went
forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the
word with signs following" (vs.20). In the book of Acts, too, we see this borne
out (e.g. Acts 2:43; 4:33; 5:12). Gifts of healing and miracles authenticated
the apostles. If these gifts were given generally to many other Christians, they
would not have been signs of the apostles!
Now, it is certainly true that Stephen and Philip (who were not apostles) also
healed and performed miracles at times (Acts 6:8; 8:6,7). But the apostles,
through laying on of hands, could impart miraculous gifts (2 Tim.1:6; Acts
8:14-18); and they had laid hands on both these men (Acts 6:5,6). This also
explains how others, at times, had these gifts (1 Cor.12:28). But, as we saw
from Acts 8:13-18, those who, through laying on of the apostles' hands, were
given certain miraculous gifts, could not, in turn, impart them to others; and
so, with the passing of the apostles and those upon whom they had laid hands,
these gifts ceased. They are not given today.
In addition to the evidence given above, there is yet more: one simply has to
compare the gift of healing, in the New Testament, with the so-called "gift of
healing" many Charismatics claim to have today, and one will see that what
passes for this gift today is a farce. The apostles healed with a word or a
touch--Acts 9:32-35 (no screaming, shouting, pushing, etc., as seen today in
Charismatic circles!); the healings were instantaneous and complete--Acts 3:2-6
and 9:34 (no-one was sent home having been told that the healing would follow
later, or that it would be gradual); when the Lord granted this gift to them,
all were healed--Acts 5:16; 28:8-10 (none were "passed by" in the "healing
lines," or told to return another day); etc. Modern-day Charismatic "healing
services" bear no resemblance to what we read in the Scriptures.
Does all this mean that the Lord does not heal today? By no means! The Lord,
according to his sovereign will, can and does heal people today; but no men
today have the miraculous sign gifts mentioned in the New Testament. What must a
believer do today, when he is sick? The answer is given in Jas.5:14,15!
Finally, we must examine the claim that the gift of tongues is for today.
What was the purpose of tongues-speaking in the early Church? It has already
been pointed out, when Acts 2 was examined, that speaking with tongues was a
sign to the Jews: firstly, a sign to them that the Gospel of Christ would be
proclaimed to all nations under heaven, and not only to Israel (Acts 2:4-11);
and secondly, a sign of impending judgement upon Israel (1 Cor.14:21,22). This
is evident from the words, "In the law it is written," and "this people"
(vs.21), and is a reference to Isa.28:11,12; the word "law" sometimes being used
to refer to all the writings of the Old Testament, and not to the five books of
Moses alone. Tongues were for a sign, to the unbelieving Jews, of impending
wrath, which came upon them in 70 Ad when the Romans besieged Jerusalem, in
fulfilment of various prophecies (such as Lk.21:20-24).
But, as we learn from 1 Cor.12:10,28,30, and various verses in 1 Cor.14, the
gift of tongues could also be useful, to a limited extent, as a revelatory gift,
for the edification (when interpreted) of believers. As Acts 2:11 tells us,
those who spoke with tongues declared the wonderful works of God; but only those
who knew the language could profit from it. For others to profit, the gift of
interpretation of tongues was needed. For this reason, in 1 Cor.14 Paul stated
that, in the church of Corinth, none were to speak with tongues in the service
unless the tongues were interpreted (vss.2,4,5,6,9,12,13-19,21-28). Only in this
way could this gift edify the church. If the tongues were not interpreted, they
were of no use whatsoever to other believers.
Throughout the chapter, Paul makes it clear that the gift of prophecy was a
greater gift than that of tongues (e.g. vss.1-6,22-33). Why? The answer is
simple: the one who prophesied spoke in the common language of the people he was
addressing, and in this way the church was edified; whereas the tongues-speaker
spoke in an unknown language (vss.2-6,9,12,18,19,22-25,31). For this reason,
Paul commanded that the tongues had to be interpreted, and that if there was no
interpreter, the tongues-speaker had to keep silent (vss.5,13-16,27,28). When
interpreted, tongues were similar to prophecy; but without interpretation, they
were useless in the church.
In vs.39, Paul wrote, "covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues."
The Charismatics are very fond of this verse, hurling it at those who say that
the Scriptures do not support prophesying and tongues-speaking today. But they
have taken the verse out of the entire context of chapters 12-14. Both these
gifts were given to some within the early Church, before the completion of the
New Testament; they were not to be forbidden at that time; but they were only
temporary, and were to cease before the end of the first century and the
completion of the New Testament. We have seen this to be the case with regards
to prophecy already; but what about tongues? How do we know this gift has
Firstly, as a sign to the Jews of impending judgement, tongues would not be
necessary once that judgement had come--which it did in 70 AD.
Secondly, as a sign that the Lord was going to draw people from all nations unto
himself, tongues would not be necessary once this fact became obvious--which it
did before the end of the first century, when there were churches of Christ
scattered throughout the Roman Empire, and more were being established all the
Thirdly, as a revelatory gift, tongues were no longer necessary once the
Scriptures were complete. 1 Cor.13:8 was a prophecy: "whether there be tongues,
they shall cease". As with the other revelatory gifts, they were to be replaced
with something better. When? The answer is given in vs.10: "when that which is
perfect is come." As was shown when the gift of prophecy was examined, "that
which is perfect [or complete]" is the completed written revelation--the New
Testament. With the completion of the Holy Scriptures before the close of the
first century, the gift of tongues ceased. There was no further need for it.
There was no need for divine revelation to be given by this means to the
churches, for the complete Word of God was now in written form.
We have now worked through the Pentecostal/Charismatic doctrine on the "baptism
in the Spirit," and the miraculous gifts; and it has been shown to be a false
doctrine. Gifts which were given by the Lord either to authenticate the ministry
of the apostles until they passed from the scene, or to edify the Church until
the New Testament Scriptures were complete, are, it is claimed, still being
given today to those who truly desire them, even though such a teaching has
absolutely no support in the Word of God. Multitudes eagerly seek a supposed
"second blessing," having hands laid on them, sometimes crying, screaming,
falling down, shaking (or being shaken), until they either go home disappointed
or succeed in uttering some strange syllables which, they are told excitedly,
are "tongues." Multitudes more eagerly line up to be prayed for by some
Charismatic "faith healer," and wonder why they do not "receive their healing".
All this is bad enough. But the most dangerous part of the
Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement is this: it is a denial of 2 Tim.3:15-17. It is
a denial of one of the fundamental doctrines of the faith: that Scripture is
all-sufficient; that it contains all that the Lord has been pleased to reveal;
that no further revelation is to be given. However much many within the movement
seek to deny this, it is nevertheless true. For in the early Church, tongues,
and prophecy, and words of wisdom and knowledge, were revelations of the Holy
Spirit! They came with a "Thus saith the Lord!" And if they are still given to
men today, then new revelations are still being given. The Bible is not
And what are the evil results of such a false and heretical doctrine?
When the only divinely-given rule of faith is removed, then any excess of
doctrine and conduct is possible! Remove the only standard whereby teachings can
be judged, and it is possible to believe anything; any "fables" (2 Tim.4:3,4);
any "wind of doctrine" (Eph.4:14); any "damnable heresies" (2 Pet.2:1); any
"commandments of men" (Matt.15:9). And this is precisely what has happened in
the Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement. It is the proud boast of many within the
movement that they are not concerned with doctrine: "Doctrine divides; we don't
want to know about doctrine! Love is what matters: love, and unity, and the
power of the Holy Spirit!" This attitude has led Charismatics to embrace one
heresy after another (and this attitude is itself a heresy). As long as a man
speaks with tongues, or supposedly has some other "gift," that man is received
as a "brother in Christ"--even if he denies the Trinity, or the true doctrine of
Christ's atoning death, or the true doctrine of the new birth, or anything else!
Increasingly, the only "doctrine" that really matters is the Charismatic
doctrine of the Holy Spirit, as analysed above.
As long as there is agreement on that, any
heretic, regardless of how damnable his heresy, is welcomed as a brother in
Christ. There have always been exceptions, but increasingly this has become the
rule. For when the spirits are not tried by the Word of God (this having been
set aside as an all-sufficient standard), but by those who claim to possess a
miraculous gift of "discerning of spirits," then increasingly the ones who are
"discerned" as being led by false spirits, or as denying the Holy Spirit, or
even as committing the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, are those who reject
Charismatic subjectivism, believe the Bible to be the only infallible rule of
faith and practice, and allow Scripture to interpret itself. Those who are
orthodox in doctrine are, increasingly, being viewed as the heretics by those
within the Charismatic Movement.
The Pentecostal/Charismatic rejection of the true doctrine of Scripture leads to
other extremely serious doctrinal errors: the Holy Spirit is glorified, not
Christ--contrary to the Word of God (Jn.15:26; 16:14); and regeneration, saving
faith, the gift of repentance, the forgiveness of sins, justification--all these
great and glorious spiritual blessings are played down as being only "step one":
much more is supposedly needed--the "baptism". These are matters that have to do
with salvation itself. The "gospel" of Charismatism is a false "gospel".
And this rejection of sound doctrine--indeed, this rejection of the
all-sufficiency of the Scriptures--has also, step by step, led the Charismatics
along the path of Ecumenism: a path that ultimately leads to the doors of Rome.
Having jettisoned sound doctrine, they were able to embrace Roman Catholics as
"brethren in Christ" when the "Charismatic Catholic Movement" began. Having made
"the baptism" the test of orthodoxy, they opened their arms wide in welcome when
they beheld Popish priests, nuns, and others "speaking with tongues",
"prophesying", performing "miracles of healing", etc. They are blissfully
ignorant of the fact that Romanism has always produced its "new revelations" and
They are blissfully ignorant of the fact that the Charismatic Movement and Roman
Catholicism are one in their rejection of the written Word of God as the sole
and all-sufficient authority. They are blissfully ignorant of the fact that,
just as it is not the Holy Spirit of God who is at work in Romanism, but the
spirit of Antichrist, a false spirit, a lying spirit, a seducing spirit, so it
is in the Charismatic Movement! For the Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of truth"
(Jn.14:17). The Scriptures, which he moved men to write (2 Pet.1:21), are the
Scriptures of truth (Jn.17:17). He does not work contrary to the Word. If, then,
the Holy Spirit is not the author of the doctrinal errors of this movement,
which have such serious consequences, we are left with only one conclusion.
Lying spirits are behind the false doctrines of the Pentecostal/Charismatic
The Pentecostal/Charismatic Movement is not of God.
May the Lord be pleased to open the eyes of many within this movement, to the
truth of God's holy Word.