John MacArthur refutes a notion that I first heard from the Gothard cult:
Charismatics are caught in a terrible tension as they try to hold onto the Bible while at the same time making their experience their real authority. And the views of Charismatic leaders and theologians shoe their struggle.
For example, Charles Farah, professor at Oral Roberts University, tried to harmonize the tension between the revelation of God and the experience with the two Greek words translated “Word.” He suggested that logos is the objective, historic word and rhemais the personal subjective word. However, neither the Greek meaning nor the New Testament use make any such distinction. The logos, the Farah, becomes rhema when it speaks to you. The logos is legal while the rhema is experiential. Farah wrote, "The logos doesn't always become the rhema, God’s Word to you.
What Farah was saying is that the logos becomes rhema when it speaks to you. in other words, he was saying that the historic objective of logos really doesn’t do much for you until it “zaps” you. The it becomes rhema—your own personal word from God.
His ideas sound dangerously close to what neoorthodox theologians have been saying for over fifty years: the Bible becomes God’s Word when it speaks to you. But God’s Word is God’s Word whether it is experienced or not. The Bible does not depend on the experience of its readers to be the inspired Word of God. Paul said the Bible was already able to make Timothy wise unto salvation, not that “it would become able” if Timothy acted in a certain way (2 Tim. 3:15).
Paul went on to say, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (v. 16). Paul was saying the Scriptures are already inspired and profitable, not that they will become inspired and profitable depending on the experience of the reader.
—John MacArthur, The Charismatics (Zondervan, 1978), 69–70.
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. He caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley; and lo, they were very dry. He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, You know.” —Ezekiel 37:1–3
Hymn XV. Preaching to the dry bones. Ezekiel xxxvii. John Newton (1725–1807) Preachers may, from Ezekiel’s case, Draw hope in this declining day; A proof like this, of sovereign grace Should chase our unbelief away. When sent to preach to mould’ring bones, Who could have thought he would succeed? But well he knew, the Lord from stones Could raise up Abra’ms chosen seed. Can these be made a num’rous host, And such dry bones new life receive? The prophet answer’d, “Lord thou knowst They shall, if thou commandment give.” Like him, around I cast my eye, And O! what heaps of bones appear! Like him, by Jesus sent, I’ll try, For he can cause the dead to hear. Hear, ye dry bones, the Saviour’s word! He, who when dying, gasped, “Forgive,” That gracious, sinner–loving Lord, Says, “Look to me, dry bones, and live.” Thou heav’nly wind awake and blow, In answer to the pray’r of faith; Now thine almighty influence show, And fill dry bones with living breath. O make them hear, and feel, and shake, And, at thy call, obedient move; The bonds of death and Satan break, And bone to bone unite in love. —Olney Hymns. Book II: On Occasional Subjects.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. —Psalm 71:22–23
140 Redeemed Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child and forever I am. Refrain: Redeemed, redeemed, Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed, redeemed, His child and forever I am. Redeemed, and so happy in Jesus, No language my rapture can tell; I know that the light of His presence With me doth continually dwell. Refrain I think of my blessèd Redeemer, I think of Him all the day long: I sing, for I cannot be silent; His love is the theme of my song. Refrain I know I shall see in His beauty The King in whose law I delight; Who lovingly guardeth my footsteps, And giveth me songs in the night. Refrain —Favorite Hymns of Praise (Tabernacle Publishing Company, 1967).
What Adam could not do, Christ has done. How much better, how much fuller and more secure is the believer’s position in Christ, the second Adam.
Christ is God-man. His nature was sanctified by the Spirit; he was a more excellent person, he gives and sends the Spirit. Adam was only a mere man, and therefore his goodness could not be so derived to his posterity; for, however the Holy Ghost was in Adam, yet the Holy Ghost did not so fill him, he was not so in him as in Christ. The Holy Ghost is in Christ in a more excellent manner; for Christ being equal with God, he gave the Holy Ghost; the Holy Ghost comes from Christ as God. Now the second Adam being a more excellent person, we being in Christ the second Adam, we are in a more excellent, and in a more safe estate; we have a better keeper of our happiness than Adam. He being a mere man, he could not keep his own happiness, but lost himself and all his posterity. Though he were created after the image of God, yet being but a mere man, he shewed himself to be a man that is, a changeable creature; but Christ being God and man, having his nature sanctified by the Spirit, now our happiness is in a better keeping, for our grace hath a better spring. The grace and sanctification we have, it is not in our own keeping, it distils into us answerable to our necessities; but the spring is indeficient, it never fails, the spring is in Christ. So the favour that God bears us, it is not first in us but it is first in Christ; God loves him, and then he loves us; he gives him the Spirit, and us in him. Now, Christ is the keeper both of the love of God towards us and the grace of God; and whatsoever is good he keeps all for us, he receives all for himself and for us; he receives not only the Spirit for himself, but he receives it as Mediator, as head: for ‘we all of his fulness receive grace for grace.’ He receives it as a fountain to diffuse it, I say. This shews us our happy and blessed condition in Jesus Christ, that now the grace and love of God and our happiness, and the grace whereby we are sanctified and fitted for it, it is not in our own keeping originally, but in our head Christ Jesus. —Richard Sibbes, A Description of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 2001), 1:19.
Once upon a time, I challenged Charismatics to present post-apostolic examples of the miraculous gifts (two and a half years later, I am still waiting). John MacArthur writes of one example that does not qualify:
You are seated in a roomful of intense worshippers. The zealous singing is punctuated by cries of praise and fervent prayers. Suddenly someone standing near you begins to speak in rapid syllables that seem completely foreign to any language you have ever heard. The cryptic “message” is echoed by a number of others in a quiet, almost inaudible way. Then, as a response, another worshipper stands and gives a message or “prophecy,” spoken as if originated with God Himself: “Thus saith the Lord. If you my people will confess your sins, and seek my path, and call on my name, you will be blessed beyond measure.” The rest of the group, quiet during the short message of prophecy, now begins to praise God as others offer additional messages. Quite possibly you recognize this kind of scene. Surely, you say, it is a description of a charismatic prayer fellowship. You are familiar with it because you have witnessed similar occurrences when accompanying friends or even family members to such meetings. Groups like this have grown more and more numerous in the last few years. This kind of activity is typical today as Charismatics speak in tongues and prophesy as the dynamic witness to what they feel is a generation living in the last days. As familiar as this seems, it is not a modern meeting of Charismatics at all. Described above are a group called Montanists, who lived in the second century A.D. Following the teachings of their leader, Montanus, this group believed that every believer was a means of special revelation. As proof they exercised dramatic gifts of the Spirit including “prophecy” and “tongues,” which they claimed were prophetic signs of the end times. Montanus believed that Christians were living in the “last days” immediately before the return of Christ. Montanus even taught that the New Jerusalem would descend upon his own village of Pepuza in Asia Minor in his life time. One of Montanus’s key doctrines was the claim that he spoke with direct revelation from God through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Montanus claimed to receive revelation God of a nature supplementary to that communicated by Christ and the apostles. He taught a progression of revelation from the Old Testament prophets to the Lord’s disciples and then on into the “new age of the Spirit.” In the “new age” the Holy Spirit spoke through the mouths of Montanist prophets and prophetesses. Montanus boldly intimidated Christians by claiming the church was comprised of two groups: the “spiritual Christians” who followed his teachings and claimed direct revelation from God and the “carnal Christians” who only had the “dead letter” of the Scriptures. . . . The rest of the church branded Montanism as a serious heresy to be rejected. The Council of Constantinople (381) decided that repentant Montanists were to be brought back into the fellowship very carefully. They were examined regarding their grasp of salvation and were put into an intensified study of the Scriptures. —John MacArthur, The Charismatics (Zondervan, 1978), 27–28.
Forgive the watchbloggeresque title. I couldn’t resist.
In anticipation of John MacArthur’s newest book, Strange Fire, I decided to read his previous works on the charismatic movement. I’ve already read Charismatic Chaos (1992), so I grabbed his older book, The Charismatics (1978), which I had purchased used quite a while ago but never read. While Charimatic Chaos dealt mostly (as I remember) with the nuttiest charismatic extremes, this appears to be a more general treatment of the subject. Still, it’s not without its sensational revelations.
Someone once wrote to the well-known and respected songwriters Bill and Gloria Gaither and asked them for a theological interpretation of their song, “The King Is Coming.” Following is an excerpt from a reply sent by their secretary: Regarding the interpretation of the song, “The King Is Coming,” of all songs that song has been a gift from God. Bill and Gloria do not profess to be theologians. The song came quickly to them and they do not care to discuss the theology of it. In fact, they feel that to dissect the song would be tampering with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who inspired the song. —John MacArthur, The Charismatics (Zondervan, 1978), 15.
Well. I’ve know the Gaithers for years as singers of sappy songs (“Tender words, gentle touch, and a good cup of coffee . . .”), but I never suspected they were charismatic goofballs.
The quote above provokes a few questions: Why is there no First and Second Gaithers in the New Testament? Don’t they belong there? and if not, What am I going to do with my record collection now? No, but seriously: Why do so many people who “do not profess to be theologians” insist on writing theology? Why would any Christian writer not be delighted to discuss their own theology, especially when the topic is so ineffably joyful (“Praise God, he’s coming for me.”)? Most importantly, if explaining the meaning of the song is “tampering with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who inspired the song,” how must they feel about preaching? Would not preaching that explains the text of Scripture also tamper with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who inspired the text?
As you can see, it’s nonsense, which is the inevitable destination of anyone who goes down the road of ongoing, extrabiblical revelation.
The depth of God’s love for his chosen people can only be understood as we understand our position in Christ.
Is it possible that he should delight in the head, and refuse the members? that he should love the husband, and mislike the spouse? no; with the same love that God loves Christ, he loves all his. He delights in Christ and all his, with the same delight. There is some difference in the degree, ‘that Christ in all things may have the pre-eminence,’ Col. i. 18, but it is the same love; therefore our Saviour sets it down excellently in his own prayer, he desires ‘that the same love wherewith his Father loved him may be in them that are his,’ John xvii. 20, that they may feel the love wherewith his Father loves him, for he loved him and his members, him and his spouse, with all one love. This is our comfort and our confidence, that God accepts us, because he accepts his beloved; and when he shall cease to love Christ, he shall cease to love the members of Christ. They and Christ make one mystical Christ. ‘This is our comfort in dejection for sin. We are so and so indeed, but Christ is the chosen servant of God, ‘in whom he delighteth,’ and delights in us in him. It is no matter what we are in ourselves, but what we are in Christ when we are once in him and continue in him. God loves us with that inseparable love wherewith he loves his own Son. Therefore St Paul triumphs, Rom. viii. 35, ‘What shall separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus?’ This love, it is founded in Christ, ‘therefore neither things present, nor things to come (as he goes on there gloriously), shall be able to separate us.’ You see what a wondrous confidence and comfort we have hence, if we labour to be in Christ, that then God loves and delights in us, because he loves and delights in Christ Jesus. And here is a wondrous comfort, that God must needs love our salvation and redemption when he loves Christ, because he poured out his soul to death to save us.’ Doth not God delight that we should be saved, and our sins should be forgiven, when he loves Christ because he abased himself for that purpose? What a prop and foundation of comfort is this, when the devil shall present God to us in a terrible hideous manner, as an avenging God, ‘and consuming fire,’ &c., Heb. xii. 29; indeed out of Christ he is so. Let us present to ourselves thoughts of God as the Scripture sets forth God to us; and as God sets forth himself, not only in that sweet relation as a Father to Christ, but our father, ‘I go to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God,’ John xx. 17, having both one God, and love and care. There is none of us all but the devil will have a saying to us, either in the time of our life, in some terrible temptation, especially when any outward abasement comes, or at the hour of death; and all the cordials we have gathered out of the word will then be little enough to support the drooping soul, especially in the hour of temptation. O beloved, what a wondrous stay and satisfaction to a distressed conscience doth this yield, that Christ in all that he hath wrought for us is God’s chosen servant, ‘whom he loves and delights in,’ and delights in him for I this very work, that he abased himself and gave himself for us, that he wrought God’s work, because he wrought reconciliation for us! If we can believe in Christ, we see here what ground of comfort we have, that God loves and delights in us, as he doth in his own Son. —Richard Sibbes, A Description of Christ, Works (Banner of Truth, 2001), 1:12–13.
Related: WLC Q57: Ephesians 1:3–14.