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Discussion in 'Pneumatology' started by Jerusalem Blade, May 25, 2015.
Did Pharoah's sorcerers have supernatural powers?
Not enough of it evidently.
According to your theory of warrant, if the followers of the beast are properly using their cognitive functions they are warranted in their belief that these signs and wonders are genuine. Your philosophy not only strips divine revelation of its obligatory force, it also provides justification for false revelation. What a sad state of affairs!
As per my point that they, Pharoah's sorcerers, do not have such abilities and In my most humble opinion Our God would not grant them such because these abilities are used by God to testify to His Son and His Word.
Although I prefer to use only Scripture when arguing against the false prophesyings and other gifts of the Charismatics (as they mostly do not recognize the WCF—and Scripture is the first standard), it is still profitable to hear its witness:
Westminster Confession 1.1
Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased. [emphasis added]
I’d like to briefly clarify a point that occurred to me while talking with a friend about the charismatic gifts—prophecy in this case—in the early church of say, the second and possibly early third century. The apostle John closed the NT canon when he finished writing his corpus, the last of which I believe was Revelation. Seeing as the full Scripture was not available to the entire church right away—nor the acceptance of the canon among the churches settled quickly—it may be possible that the gifts continued on a while before the Spirit of God ceased giving them. Their use was to guide the young church, certify the Gospel as authentic, and sustain the fledgling Messianic communities until the Scripture of God was complete, and the revelation of His will, and His glory, finalized. Functionally, this may not have been when the ink of John’s pen dried, but a short while after.
As you may well do, I like to ask this question when thinking of these kinds of things: How can we know this for sure? Secondly, are we to know this for sure?
As you also know, there are works of God that we may not be able to discern. He has not provided the spiritual discernment. We know angels exist, but what they are doing in our lives or how they are in detail or even in some grand generalities serving God we do not know. These are all wonderful services toward God, or in the case of God, wonderful works by Him; yet He wisely does not share with us what happened or is happening.
Without God's sure Word, we are left in the land of possibilities.
Right, Nicholas—I agree with how you’ve put it. While it is clear from Scripture that extra-Biblical immediate revelation from God—and I have been focusing on prophecy here—has been ceased upon the completion of the canon, we cannot be certain exactly when the last instance of it was.
It is interesting that even during the time of the Apostle's that other prophets are mentioned, e.g. Acts 21.
Philip had four daughters which did prophesy, but prophesy of what? It is enough for us to know, "four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy" v. 9, and that is sufficient.
There is mention of Agabus (starting in v. 10), and a prophesy to Paul in front of others is known for certain. Yet did he prophesy at other times? He was a 'certain prophet that had come down from Judaea'. So is he only a prophet due to this one instance, or is he known as a prophet for a wider prophetic practice that God granted Agabus? We do not know, nor need to know. God is wise and knows what is profitable to our salvation.
There were these instances of other known prophets and yet not knowing all they were granted by God to do and say, and we also may permissively by God come to know that the certainty of their being mentioned in Acts where they are mentioned is of a certain salvific value in the greater context of redemptive history. We know there is a hermeneutic significance not just that they were "prophets" or as to what Agabus said, but also, there is a significance in that upon hearing of Agabus' prophecy they did not want him to go to Jerusalem, yet Paul was ready to do in the name of the Lord Jesus, and they ceased saying, "The will of the Lord be done." v. 14
I think what you well know, and in general is interesting, is to not focus on the "gift" of prophecy to avoid not minimizing the rest of the context of redemptive history is truly meaningful. How wonderful indeed for us all to be satisfied that "The will of the Lord be done."
The glory to Him.
Agabus seems to have been prominent as a prophet, mentioned also in Acts 11- his prediction of a famine was taken to heart immediately and acted on, with no recorded "weighing" of what he said. Yet we see by 1 Corinthians that prophecy is for the gathered church and what they say is to be regulated and to be weighed, not immediately acted upon; and they are under the authority of the apostles. "If anyone thinks he is a prophet..."; this is so different from the office of OT prophet, or even apparently from Agabus.
I believe that when carefully studied, 1 Corinthians 14 shows that the gifts of tongues and prophecy, as described in Acts, manifest differently by the time Paul wrote this epistle. More regulation is required; Paul intimates that although tongues are not to be forbidden, the church can do very well without them. Steve's explanation above, from 6/22, makes great sense.
Thanks for pointing out Agabus from Acts 11.
Also, the rest of what you say is very interesting. Thank you.
Hello Jeri, when you say of the office of NT prophets “this is so different from the office of OT prophet, or even apparently from Agabus”, you echo the very sentiments of those “learnèd proponents” who seek to validate the ongoing immediate revelation of God apart from Scripture by claiming its NT incarnation differs in nature from the Biblical, i.e., the OT, prophecy. They say this to exempt themselves from the strict OT standards for prophecy, theirs being of another category, wherein prophets may err, and their prophecies be fallible. I discussed this phenomena in the OP. The Biblical standard for NT prophecy was made clear by Joel, as I noted above:
According to the prophet Joel (2:28, 29), and quoted by Peter, in the last days – which began at the time of Christ and His apostles – God will pour out His Spirit on His people and they shall prophesy (Acts 2:16-18), and in the mouth of Joel this prophesying referred to that infallible speaking the words that came “out of the mouth of the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:16), nor could it mean anything less coming from an Old Testament prophet under the law of Moses, by whom God said, “But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die” (Deut 18:20).
We don’t execute false prophets in the NT church age, but some churches do seem to coddle them, as such erring is normal for the “new prophecy”. I addressed this also:
But this they call normative for these days is a “category” which would have been punishable by death under Moses – by the LORD’s decree. In other words, when they say of the new “prophecy” – which unfortunately is normative in many churches – that it is godly, and at the same time certainly would have been subject to capital punishment in ancient Israel, the disparity between these two types of prophecy reveals what is obvious: the fallible “prophecy” can only be false. For how can falsely reporting God’s word be a capital crime in ancient Israel yet in our day be deemed righteous?
You say you hold to the London Baptist Confession (I assume it is the 1689), but this reads just as the WCF reads in 1.1. Commenting on it, Sam Waldron says,
Both [the OT canon and the NT canon, in which God spoke,] are completed. This observation is confirmed by the fact that inspired apostles, the only inspired representatives of the Son of God, no longer walk the earth (Acts1:21-22; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:7-8). This is not the place to enter into an exhaustive treatment of the claims of the charismatic movement. It must be observed, however, that claims to continuing revelation conflict with clear and fundamental statements of the Confession and the reformed and Puritan Christianity which it epitomizes. (A modern exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Samuel E. Waldron, Evangelical Press, 1989, p. 31)
What Jeri mentioned above is how I read the rest of his post. Meaning, for me, that since the apostles are no longer on earth, then the authority, given by God, to perform any prophecy's (or tongues) has ended. In other words, while the apostles were on earth, then the authority given by them, amongst other things, to spiritually discern and fulfill the apostolic office in explaining these kinds of things, i.e. gifts, as to their happening and truth. With the apostolic office no longer, then there is no longer these kinds of gifts because there is no longer an apostolic office. God would not vainly give these gifts because His created office of apostle is no longer either. Not that God needed the apostles to validate these gifts, for there were no apostles in the OT for prophecy, the prophets themselves were confirmed by God. Rather, since this was part of the office while they were present in the NT, then as they went so did these gifts. Yet I can see some weaknesses in what I say so my knowledge about this is lacking.
After reading your recent post, Steve, it makes me wonder if Jeri meant something else, such as a continuing of these types of gifts.
Maybe Jeri will explain what he meant and clear this up for us.
Thanks Steve, I appreciate the robustness of your understanding on these topics. Praise God!
Steve, I hold firmly to the teaching of the 1689 LBCF (and the WCF 1.1). I agree with your paper posted here. I don't believe there is ongoing immediate revelation from God- I believe and have argued with many friends that God speaks to us and guides us through his word alone. I absolutely do not believe that he speaks to or guides us through a still, small voice, hunches, premonitions or the like. I think many are misled about that. I believe his will for all men and all Christians is revealed to us through his word, and we make decisions through wisdom we gain from reading it and coming to know God's mind more and more through it. So I'm not in that camp. I would not go to a continuationist or charismatic church (used to!)
But there are questions a thinking continuationist will have that are not addressed by your paper. Anyone reading 1 Corinthians 14 carefully will wonder why prophets in 1 Corinthians 14 were regulated by the apostles, and their prophecies to be weighed and judged. And Paul firmly puts them in their place at the end of the chapter ("if anyone thinks he is a prophet, he'll listen to what I say.") I really would like to hear an alternative explanation for those issues to Grudem's. Although I think some of his reasoning on it make sense, I don't agree with his conclusions ("therefore, the gift of (fallible) prophecy is still for the church today.") Rather, I would think it would show that those gifts were on the wane. But I do want to be enlightened and understand further about 1 Corinthians 14. I think it's crucial for cessationists to handle this passage well. Do you mind speaking to it?
On Joel 2---is it possible that Joel's prophecy, quoted by Peter at Pentecost, was fulfilled by the apostles and others during the period when the foundations of the church were being laid?
Absolutely! Continuationists fail to recognise that the prophecy of Joel was addressed to the physical nation of Israel. The prophets of the New Testament were the last days prophets who called the covenanted nation to repentance and to receive their Messiah. They also revealed that the Gentile believers were fellow-heirs with Israel, and that the church of Jesus Christ is now the covenanted Israel of God. With this "perfection" the physically circumcised nation ceased to be the "holy nation," and with it passed away the phenomenon of prophecy.
Well, Grudem would certainly qualify as a “thinking continuationist”, and as well has a good reputation as a clear thinker and good communicator. Though sometimes, alas, excellent minds go quite astray, as we have seen even in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches in our time. The Scripture, illumined by the Holy Spirit, is the only touchstone we have, though good confessions are a great aid in systematically summarizing Scripture’s teaching.
1 Corinthians 14 is indeed a battleground over the issue of cessation or continuation. Given the number of prophets existing in the congregation at Corinth it is surely in accord with Paul’s admonition in 14:40 that “all things be done decently and in order” that they be regulated in the scheduling of their speaking. The NIV and ESV’s translations of “weigh” what is said by the prophets in 14:29 may give the impression that they are to see if the prophet’s message errs in anything (or so Grudem avers), though the translations of “discern” or “judge” are more literal renderings of the Greek diakrino, and are fully in accord with the OT charges in Deut 13:1-5, 18:20-22, and Jeremiah 23, etc. to judge what a purported prophet says, whether he be a true or false prophet. And it is clear from the NT also there were—and were to be—many false prophets arising from among them.
Thus it is not clear at all that what Paul is saying pertains to “weighing” a message to sift error from it, but rather to discern true from false prophets.
Two writers go in-depth into these things, the Reformed Baptist Sam Waldron in his, To Be Continued? Are the Miraculous Gifts for Today?, and O. Palmer Robertson in, The Final Word. I ought to say, though, that Robertson’s argument for using the word “discriminate” instead of “weigh”—as Grudem has pointed out in a response—is rather weak. Still, his critique is otherwise excellent.
Seeing that Joel, and Peter quoting Joel’s prophecy, clearly established OT and NT prophecy to be equivalent as regards the standard for genuine prophecy, the fact that nowhere does either the OT or NT alert the reader of God’s word to any supposed change of prophetic standards, i.e., NT prophecy is no longer to be considered infallible revelation from God, but a different thing altogether—seeing as this is nowhere openly declared, ought to give the lie to the assertion of a new, inferior type of prophecy.
In every other way the New Covenant is shown to be superior to the Old. Can it be that the better Covenant’s prophecy is inferior to the Old? An enemy hath sown this thought!
How lame are the self-proclaimed NT modern prophets and their “prophecies” compared to the power and majesty of the word of God proclaimed and rightly applied! And we have not seen yet, I believe, as the end of the last days draw near, the power of new light and understanding in applying the prophecies already given us in Scripture to the times we are in and which are coming. Our Saviour God has told us things before they happen, for our comfort, and the ability to endure “the whelming flood, when all around our souls gives way”—even as He so graciously did for the OT saints, as in the times of Antiochus Epiphanes and his ravaging of Israel.
The feeble false prophets shall be of no help when real darkness falls, but we all have His precious word, and that shall never fail us, for we know that our God is alive and speaks in His word, His real word.
I'd like to add to some of the good response you've received from Matthew and Steve.
First, there is an inherent problem in the "ambiguity" of what, exactly, prophecy is supposed to be according to a model that reads between the lines of 1 Corinthians 14. I think Steve draws that out in the first article. In clearer parts of Scripture it is very easy to see that prophecy (along with apostleship) is the foundation upon which the Church is built. Continuationists will then go to an Agabus or a 1 Cor 14 and "read between the lines" to infer whatever they want about the nature of a continuing gift.
In other words, what *exactly* regulates continued prophecy under such a model. We might know, in part, what it is not by reading 1 Corinthians 14 but we don't exactly know what it is if we conclude it is of some nature different than prophecy that came before it. The gifts are given to the Church for a particular purpose - the unity of the faith and the upbuilding of the Church. Yet, if prophecy is a continuing gift it is shockingly unclear how it ought to operated properly toward that end in a Church (especially if it is fallible).
I think the problem of the lack of clarity on the nature of a new category of prophecy is solved when we see that the Church was operating in a transitory state when the apostles and prophets were laying the foundation for the NT Church. This is further buttressed by the nature of the admonition that Paul gives to both Timothy and Titus as he nears the end of his ministry. The focus is upon that which Timothy has been taught and on the things that are certain and established and have been past down.
Secondly, let me point out the inherent instability of the charismatic movement in general. I actually think that the movement will be seen, in retrospect, as the reason why so many deviant theological ideas gained such widespread traction within conservative evangelicalism. I know the "thinking" charismatics won't like to hear it but I've met far too many "thinking" charismatics who trust their emotions (aka "the leading of the Spirit") to make decisions that ought to have been informed by Scripture and the light of nature.
I regularly listen to the Unbelievable Radio program and a typical conversation for some "Christian" goes like this: "I don't believe the Scriptures condemn X because I used to struggle with X and that struggle was destroying my life. I then embraced X after I realized that God created me that way. I am now at peace with God and I know he's blessing my ministry because so many people are being helped by what I'm doing. I also have an inner sense of peace from God about it."
I've seen two elders and a deacon in a PCA Church forsake their vows because they believed God was calling them to something different. In one case, the Holy Spirit's "leading" allowed an Elder and his wife to be part of no Church for two years. They prayed every morning and had peace with such decisions. Another deacon and his wife have done the same thing in essence. No Biblical grounds for leaving the Church. In fact, the demand to produce a grounds is met with shock that "we prayed about it and the Lord gave us peace about it" is sufficient grounds and any suggestion to the contrary is seen as "legalism".
A good Pastor friend of mine (Sean) made a wise observation recently. My friend's father-in-law shared with him that many years ago the Lord led him to quit a successful dental practice and go into insurance. He failed miserably at that insurance business and it took him many years to recover from it.
Sean commented that most of us would look back on the decision to go into insurance and realize we made a foolish mistake. We would repent of it and would be thankful to the Lord that he was faithful to us in spite of our foolish decision.
Not the dentist. You see, it wasn't he who made a foolish decision but it was the Lord that led him into that decision. What is there to repent of?
This, I believe, is one of the fundamental dangers of the entire movement. It "baptizes" our indwelling sin.