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Pouring Holy Water on Strange Fire: A Critique of John MacArthur’s Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos

Paul goes on to explain how the gifts of the Spirit are in part. This means that they do not reveal the complete mind or will of God, but only a fragment of it.

However, when “the perfect” comes, all things which are “in part” will cease to function.

Paul uses an illustration to describe what he means by “the perfect” saying that we now see through a glass darkly, but when the perfect comes, we will have a face-to-face knowledge of all things.

Paul says that when the perfect comes, he will know “fully just as I also have been fully known.”

In other words, when the perfect comes, Paul will know all things to the same degree that God knows him.

(page 18).


2. Paul says that knowledge will cease along with tongues and prophecy.

But if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.
What cessationist would say that knowledge has passed away with the completed writings of the Bible? One has to do a lot of exegetical gymnastics to make that formula work.

(page 19).


4. The cessationist theory of 1 Corinthians 13 fails the practical application test.

Cessationists assert that there is no need for the revelatory gifts of the Spirit today because the Bible is all-sufficient for supplying us with an exhaustive knowledge of God’s will.

But consider the following biblical examples of how the revelatory gifts of the Spirit were used in the first century, and ask yourself this question when reading them:

Could the Bible reveal these same things to us today and thus substitute for these spiritual gifts?

1) Peter received a supernatural word that Ananias and Sapphira were lying to the church and to God (Acts 5:1-10).

2) Through the gift of prophecy, a sinner’s heart is exposed and falls to his knees claiming that God is alive through His people (1 Cor. 14:24-25).

3) Philip was specifically instructed to preach the gospel to a certain man whose heart God had prepared (Acts 8:29).

4) Agabus prophesied about a future famine that would grip the whole world, enabling the church to prepare for it (Acts 11:28-30).

5) God’s Spirit made known the calling of Paul and Barnabas and set them apart to begin a specific work of ministry (Acts 13:2).

6) The Spirit of God prohibited the apostles from ministering in certain areas for a season (Acts 16:6-7).

7) Paul received a night vision which instructed him to go into Macedonia to preach the gospel (Acts 16:9).

8) Agabus foretold Paul’s fate in going to Jerusalem, hence, preparing him for what was to come (Acts 21:11).

9) Peter received instructions from the Spirit to go with certain men sent from Cornelius (Acts 10:20). Peter was reluctant since they were Gentiles.

10) Peter discerned the spiritual state of Simon (Acts 8:23), and Paul discerned the spiritual state of Elymas (Acts 13:8-11), speaking words of correction and judgment to them. (pages 20-21). MacArthur argues that the majority of charismatics do not accept biblical criticism of their doctrines, but view such criticism as divisive and unloving.

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Category: Spirit, Summer 2014

About the Author: Frank Viola has helped thousands of people around the world to deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and enter into a more vibrant and authentic experience of church. He has written many books on these themes, including God’s Favorite Place on Earth, From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God, Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity, and The Day I Met Jesus: The Revealing Diaries of Five Women from the Gospels. He blogs regularly at Twitter

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