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The False Doctrine Behind John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, by Eddie Hyatt

These testimonies clearly demonstrate that Spiritual gifts continued to be common in the church from the Day of Pentecost and up to the beginning of the fourth century. The Episcopal scholar, Morton Kelsey, was correct when he said, “These men were well aware of Paul’s list of the gifts of the Spirit and what it included. In no place do they suggest that any of them had dropped away.”

In an Appendix entitled “Voices from Church History” MacArthur seeks to substantiate his doctrine of cessation from church history. Interestingly, the earliest quote he presents is from John Chrysostom (344-407) who refers to his ignorance of the Spiritual gifts and their cessation. The reason MacArthur begins with Chrysostom is that there is no evidence of a cessation theory prior to this time.

MacArthur next quotes Augustine’s statement that the tongues at Pentecost were a sign “adapted to the times” and had passed away. But what he fails to mention is that Augustine’s views on this matter changed with time and he later fully embraced the continued work of the Holy Spirit and His gifts in the church (see the above quote). Nonetheless, Augustine’s earlier comments were taken up by those not experiencing spiritual gifts and used to justify their experience, or lack thereof.

While some articulated a theory of cessation to explain the lack of miracles and Spiritual gifts, others throughout history have acknowledged that the problem has been a lack of faith and holiness within the church. This was the view of A. J. Gordon, 18th century Baptist pastor and founder of Gordon College in Boston, who wrote,

It is not altogether strange that when the Church forgot her citizenship in heaven and began to establish herself in luxury and splendor on earth, she should cease to exhibit the supernatural gifts of heaven (Hyatt, 36).

John Wesley, the unflappable Oxford scholar, revivalist and founder of Methodism, showed his disdain for the doctrine of cessation when he wrote, “I do not recollect any Scripture wherein we are taught that miracles were to be confined within the limits of the apostolic age or the Cyprian age, or of any period of time, longer or shorter, even till the restitution of all things.” After reading a book that defended the continuance of Spiritual gifts in the Church, Wesley wrote the following statement in his Journal.

I was fully convinced of what I had once suspected . . . that the grand reason why the miraculous gifts were so soon withdrawn was not only that faith and holiness were well night lost, but that dry, formal orthodox men began even then to ridicule whatever gifts they had not themselves, and to decry them all as either madness or imposture (Hyatt, 29).

Beginning with the dawn of the 20th century, the church has seen an explosion of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit around the world. Churches old and new are embracing this dynamic work of the Spirit in their midst and this very diverse movement now numbers over 600 million world-wide and is growing at the rate of 9 million per year. This Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, that MacArthur so detests, is a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy; for Peter, in explaining the tongues on the Day of Pentecost, declared,

And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy (Acts 2:17).

I pray that that God will enable John MacArthur to see what is obvious to so many; that the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement, though having many human imperfections, is a genuine work of the Holy Spirit, empowering the people of God everywhere to be witnesses of Jesus Christ and His salvation in these last days.

PR

This essay originally appeared on Dr. Hyatt’s blog at http://biblicalawakening.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-false-doctrine-behind-strange-fire.html and is used here with his permission.

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2014

About the Author: Eddie L. Hyatt, D.Min. (Regent University), M.Div. and M.A. (Oral Roberts University), serves the body of Christ around the world by teaching with academic excellence and the anointing of the Holy Spirit. He has authored several books, including 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity. His passion is to see authentic spiritual awakening transform the Church and impact the world in the Twenty-first century. www.eddiehyatt.com

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