By Ron Halbrook
In both private and public studies with people who claim the miraculous powers of the Holy Spirit today, we hear a message that is markedly different from message of the New Testament. In the first century, the Holy Spirit gave us the Bible as a perfect, complete and infallible revelation of God’s plan for our salvation (1 Cor. 2:1-13). But today the Spirit raises up men who contradict themselves, each other, and the Bible. At least men caught in these contradictions say the Spirit guides and illuminates them. Something is wrong when such confusion reigns supreme in the Spirit’s name. Who is responsible?
We would like to notice some arguments and claims today which Jesus never made. How can we explain those differences, since Jesus had the Spirit “without measure” (Jn. 3:34)? Why did Peter not contradict Himself when engaged in controversy, since “Spirit-filled” men do so today? Why did the Spirit not guide Paul to make arguments which Peter would deny, as occurs in discussions with various so-called “Pentecostals” and “Charismatics” today?
“Love” When They Do It, “Hate” When We Do It
When we talk with “Pentecostal” people about the Holy Spirit and miracles, we are soon charged with a lack of love. They speak plainly their positions and press their views. We do the same patiently, gently, and firmly, but then are accused of animosity. Why is it love for them to dispute and hate for us to do it? Does the Spirit lead men into such confusion?
Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). When we speak with deep conviction, with “all boldness,” and with “great plainness of speech,” it is a sign that we love men and are seeking to save them (Acts 4:28; 2 Cor. 3:12). It is amazing that men who claim miraculous guidance and illumination from the Holy Spirit do not understand that the Spirit expressly teaches us in the Bible to make the distinction between truth and error very plain. “Because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost,” we must be “ready to preach the gospel,” we are to be “not ashamed” of its power, and we should “earnestly contend for the faith” (Rom. 5:5; 1:15-16; Jude 3).
Christians and Brethren In All Denominations?
Our “Charismatic” friends are often offended because we no not consider them brethren in Christ. Their view of the Spirit working on an interdenominational basis obscures the conditions of pardon revealed by the Spirit in Scripture. Jesus said, “He that ________ and is _________ shall be ________” (Mk. 16:16). When we fill int eh blanks, we learn what it means to be “born of the water and of the Spirit.” Unless a person is baptized in water as an exercise of intelligent and obedient faith, “he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5).
Jesus shed His blood “for the remission of sins” – which means our sins could not be forgiven without His death (Matt. 26:28). The Holy Spirit said through Peter that we must “repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the __________ ____ _______” (Acts 2:38). To fill in the blanks is to learn what we receive by grace when we are baptized – what we cannot receive before or without water baptism. Without it, we cannot be forgiven under the terms revealed by God.
But “Pentecostal” folks often speak of “getting the Spirit” – which indicates in their minds pardon from sin – while praying at the mourner’s bench, lying on the bed at home, or driving in a car. Many of them were later baptized in water, but without a scriptural understanding of the purpose of baptism. They are not saved, not in the kingdom of God, and not the recipients of the remission of sins. Did the Spirit tell people how to become Christians in the undenominational body of Christ during the first century and then tell modern “Pentecostals” a different way to become Christians in denominational bodies not even mentioned in the Bible? Who is responsible for this confusion?
“Jesus Is All Positive”
When we open the Bible and show people the difference between Bible miracles and modem emotionalism, “miracles” falsely so called, we are likely to hear this, “I am very sorry that you can only see negative things. Jesus is all positive, not negative. The Pharisees were always negative like you all in the Church of Christ. You don’t look for anything positive in our miracles; you just deny the Spirit.” One such “all positive” individual recently charged me with animosity, negativism, ignorance, baffling people “with bull,” association with “every demon in bell,” passing out unchristian tracts, and lying.
Did the Spirit lead this so-called “Spirit-filled man” to say, “Jesus is all positive”? Jesus had the Spirit without measure and the Spirit inspired the records of Jesus’ life. The Jesus presented to us by the Spirit was both positive and negative. This Jesus was narrow and negative toward the idea that men can be saved without water baptism (Jn. 3:5), or that men can be saved without genuine faith in Himself (8:24), or that men can be children of God and lie like the devil (8:44).
Does the Spirit lead a man to say that we must be “all positive” to be like Jesus and never be negative lest we be like the Pharisees, and then lead the man to be negative toward negativism? If the person is for negativism, he cannot be “all positive,” and if against negativism, he still cannot be “all positive.” Poor, soul, he must be like the Pharisees in spite of himself! The false theories of modem “Pentecostalism,” not the Spirit of God, lead men into such total confusion and self-contradiction.
But, shame of all shames, this gentleman also called me “a professional debater” – a positive description, no doubt, since he is “all positive.” Though I have had so few formal, public debates as to be in the minor (very minorl) league, I got this sudden promotion by pointing out the dilemmas of his error. Who authored this snearing slur, “professional debater”? If this is some more illumination from the Holy Spirit, a few questions are in order. Perhaps the Spirit will illuminate further.
Was Jesus a “Professional debater” when He engaged in the heated controversies of Matthew 22 until His opponents were too ashamed to debate Him any further? Was Peter a “professional debater” in Acts 2 when he answered a false theory (y. 13) and accused his audience of murder? – in Acts 4 when his opponents ran out of arguments and resorted to physical beating? – in Acts I I and chapter 15 when he had no small dispute with his own brethren over their errors? Was Paul one of those slimy snakes and despicable demons – a “professional debater” – when “he disputed in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him” (Acts 17:17)? Were Jesus, Peter, and Paul “all positive” or were they pointedly negative in these debates?
Debate can be private or public, formal or informal, but it represents the militant determination of our Lord and of the early Christians to spread the gospel into all the world and to every creature by every possible means. In debating as in sermons, Bible classes, tracts, radio lessons, or any other method of preaching Christ, we must be both positive on behalf of truth and negative in regard to sin and error. Both characteristics ought to be highly visible in all of our efforts to teach God’s Word. We should strive to develop these characteristics more and more, following the footsteps of Jesus and the instruction of the Spirit. Men do not learn to eschew debate by listening to the Spirit of God but to a seducing of Satan.
What About Apostles and New Scripture Today?
Modern “Pentecostals” unite in the claim that “Holy Spirit baptism and all the gifts of the Spirit are for us today. ” They emphasize “all gifts,” but if asked the right questions, they deny some giftss are for today and then contradict each other as to which ones are and which are not for today. Did the world receive new Scripture through the first apostles? – Yes; No. If no apostles today can give new Scripture, do we have “all the gifts” today? – Yes; – No.
Almost to a man, “Charismatics” deny that we can receive new Scripture today as was done in thefirst century, although a few concede it as a possibility (but even they do not know of any new Scripture “as yet”). What about the gift of apostleship – any living apostles today? Some “Pentecostals” say this gift had the purpose of revealing and confirming new truth. Since the Bible is complete, they tell us that the gifts of apostleship and of receiving new Scripture are not for us today! But other miraculous gifts are for us, they insist.
The Bible teaches in Mark 16:15-20 that miracles (cast out demons, speak foreign languages, take up serpents, drink any deadly thing without harm, and heal the sick) would be performed in order to confirm the word. 1 Corinthians 12-13 gives the most complete list of such gifts: the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, foreign languages, interpretation of such languages, apostles, teachers, helps and governments. Such gifts were to “fail … .. cease,” and “vanish away” because they pertained to revelation “in part” -revelation part by part. “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (13:8-10). The thing “in part” is divine revelation in words. “That which is perfect” is the completion, maturity, or fulness of thesame thing – revelation in words.
The Bible is complete, and so the miraculous gifts which were a means to that end have passed away. Most “Charismatics” can see that point when it comes to receiving new Scripture today, many can see it in reference to apostles today, but none of them can see it in regard to the rest of the miraculous gifts! Is the Spirit responsible for this delusion and confusion?
Also, modern “Pentecostals” are “filled with the Spirit” to explain “that which is perfect” as a perfect age in the future, the perfection of heaven, our personal perfection in the resurrection, or the second coming of Christ. Why so many explanations – why cannot the Spirit decide on the right one, tell the “Pentecostals” what it is, and get them united on it? But the Spirit was not discussing an age, heaven, our resurrected state, or the second coming of Christ. Why so many explanations – why cannot the Spirit decide on the right one, tell the “Pentecostals” what it is, and get them united on it? But the Spirit was not discussing an age, heaven, our resurrected state, or the second coming of Christ “in part” and in perfection. It is miraculous prophecy, preaching in foreign languages, and inspired knowledge – divine revelation “in part” and in perfection. The Spirit who gave us I Corinthians 12-13 is not the same spirit which fills “Pentecostalism” today!
It is common for “Charismatics” who claim there are living apostles today to also confess that they do not know who those apostles are. It is also said that living apostles need not give new Scripture. We must know who these apostles are because it is their office to bind and loose what God reveals – we are “not of God” if we fail to hear them (Matt. 16:19; 18:18; 1 Jn. 4:6).
“All apostles did not write Scripture, and some like Mark ‘ Luke, and Jude were not apostles and yet they wrote Scripture, ” we are told. But some apostles did write new Scripture and some will do it today if we have all the same gifts. The above quotation is designed to show why we do not have to know who today’s apostles are, but it only shows that some who are not apostles today will write new Scripture – just like some who were not apostles did in the first century. Surely, somebody can – apostles or not – or else, we do not have all the same gifts! Which will it be? Did the Spirit of God fill men in order to leave them in this dilemma?
When All Else Fails, Shout!
When all else fails, “Pentecostals” shout or put in bold print, “Praise God For Ever More! Hallelujah, Brother! Praise The Lord!” If they shout long enough, will the Spirit tell them how it impossible to claim “all the gifts” and yet deny that we can receive new Scripture, have apostles, handle snakes, or drink poison without harm? How can we have and not have all, a-1-1, the gifts? Maybe shouting helps people ignore the contradiction. Or, will God ten other “Pentecostals” who ask in faith who their new apostles are? – which apostles can receive new Scripture? If modern “Pentecostals” ask in faith, believing all things are possible, will God reveal new Scripture to some who are not apostles – just like He did to Mark, Luke, and Jude?
We are ready to publish the following information, if some “Charismatic” will shout and ask God about it: (1) the names and addresses of apostles today, (2) the names and addresses of some apostles who receive new Scripture today, and (3) the names and addresses of some men who are not apostles but who receive new Scripture like Mark, Luke, and Jude. Will God supply this vital information if someone shouts, “Praise God For Ever More!”? If someone asks Him but there is “no voice, nor any that answered,” will He answer if they “cry aloud” even louder in faith, believing? “Either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” Is it the Spirit of God who causes men to shout and who then remains silent, leaving them without an “answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you”?
We call upon so-called “Charismatics” and “Pentecostals” to realize that the confusion and contradiction which characterize your denominations are positive proofs that the Spirit of God is not among you. Your churches are never mentioned in the Bible. We plead for you to become just New Testament Christians, members of undenominational bodies called “churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16). “Beloved believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 Jn. 4:1).
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 8, pp. 234-235, 242-243
April 18, 1985