In His Wings

It saddens me how often these musings are inspired by misinformation and ignorance in the pulpit or the tele-evangelists studio. Godly men in the role of teacher and preacher are held to a higher standard in both knowledge and practice of the word. Evangelism is properly the work of reaching the lost on a wholesale scale. When an evangelist uses his venue to teach or a pastor or teacher moves his sermons and lessons to the mass media, it is a frightening thing. He assumes great responsibility for the lives and spiritual welfare of mass humanity whom he has never met nor been inspired to teach.

Such a mass market approach is the proper purview of the prophet whom we are more comfortable calling preacher. Preaching is the activity of conveying God’s inspired word to believers who are strayed from the faith or entertaining heterodoxy, or who are backslidden and in rebellion. We are so much more comfortable with the term preacher because we in the west associate prophet with canonicity, and rightly recognize that false prophecy is a matter of life and death. By calling prophets, preachers, we seem to think we not only reduce the import and urgency of their appeal, we insulate the speaker from the liability toward God that he incurs when he compromises with the powers that be or presents a sermon based on bad scholarship or deceit.

Sadly this semantic manipulation does not dissuade God or eliminate the very serious responsibility the failed or false prophet has to the hearer and to God.

Recently I heard a recording of a man who has spent at least the last 30 years teaching and preaching to the people of North America. This man has a sweet disposition and has helped a large body of believers to fall in love with the scripture and to discover the Biblical patriarchs and matriarchs as real people instead of shallow characters from obscure parables. I’m not sure how old the recording is but I believe it to be at least 15 years old (dating from his tenure as a pastor). In this lesson, he attempted to interpret the passage in James where the sibling of our Lord Jesus told us to “call upon on the elders of the church … and [their] prayer … shall heal the sick.”

It should be noted that this man is a fairly good student of the scripture, but he has embraced the heterodoxy neo-Irvingite theology that we in America call Evangelical. However he could properly be call a charismatic because, like his Irvingite fathers, he grudgingly accepts the gifts of the spirit including supernatural tongues and prophecy as occasionally present in today’s church. He would argue against their proper role as a normative component of spirit filled living.

That is an important observation, in that it skews his cosmology and his doctrine to the point that it is a primary cause of the eisegesiswhich he exercised in this lesson. His dogma informs his study and overrides doctrine therefore reinforcing his chosen dogma. This is the worst pitfall of the student theologian and should have been eliminated from this man’s habits long ago. He took a single word from the passage, the one translated anoint, and attempted to redefine it as medical treatment.

Basing his argument on extra-biblical sources he established the word’s common usage to refer to a specific medical treatment common in Hellenistic Greece, and extrapolated it to mean medical treatment in general. He then ignored the proper syntax of the passage and argued that it should have read approximately like, “and they shall administer medical treatment”. This is a surprising abuse of scripture given the source, a man who has a history of scrupulous adherence to context and canonical criticism. He compounded his error by smugly announcing, “now you’ve never heard a pastor say that before!” To be fair, this was after he had explained that he felt unfairly exploited if a person came for prayer when they haven’t first gone for medical treatment.

One is tempted to coin the term reverse reactionism, to refer to the activity of liberal theologians who, upon discovering that a preacher of prophet is making headway in bringing about revival and repentance, attack in order to defend the entrenched liberal theology. This preacher would be just such a reverse-reactionary, attempting to prevent God’s people from turning away from reliance on modern medicine and philosophies.

Before he was done he had recklessly announced that 1) he had no power, and 2) that he had members of his congregation who needed psychiatric drugs and he would not pray for healing of their minds, and 3) that you should have faith in your doctor. Every successive statement was more heterodox and rebellious than the last. I must admit I was offended and appalled. I can only hope he’ll repent and destroy the copies of this sermon.

His faithlessness was tantamount to an argument that the God who made the mind was not capable of healing it. He was also arguing that there is no power in the godly obedience, that the prayer of faith will not save the sick, and that God does not bring the spirit of a sound mind. Essentially he was replacing God with men in the most vomitous piece of carnality and humanism I have seen in a pulpit.

Let’s look at the passage. It is patently clear that the passage says, “and they [the elders of the church] shall anoint” the petitioner. Now it may be true that the term translated anoint is the Hellenistic equivalent of “slap some oil on ya,” but that doesn’t obviate the translation as anoint. What it does is highlight the crude, folksy patois used by the author of James. It’s common usage outside of the present context does not obviate the context, and the speaker is just wrong due to bad scholarship.

The present context is calling upon the Elders of the Church. If that Elder has no special power he isn’t a legitimate Elder. The office of Elder conveys the power to speak with authority on matters of faith and practice and this passage clearly indicates it conveys a deepened responsibility for the welfare of younger members. This is the result of longer service and the deepened relationship and trust in God’s character that comes from long, authentic service (as opposed to inauthentic service which is a waste of time and does produce a powerless and ineffectual leader).

Regardless of any other consideration, the abuse of scripture evidenced in this passage is not only troubling it discredits the entirety of the resulting sermon and indicates a need for repentance on the part of this teacher. As a personal aside I want to make the following appeal to the teacher mentioned above:

You are a man of God, and I have followed your ministry with appreciation for many years. But, you know more than most that the appeal of compromise is an unrelenting temptation for the compassionate teacher. A desire to see our student flourish and succeed can cause the best of us to falter in holding the line of Biblical theology and holiness. But if we do not hold our students accountable, just as they hold us accountable, God will hold us accountable for their blood. If you feel powerless, then I’d invite you to seek the gift of healing and the deeper infilling and communion of the Holy Spirit that accompanies Glossalalia (as opposed to the supernatural gift Xenoglossa).

God is gracious, please hear my appeal. And for the sake of those whom you lead, don’t dismiss this appeal with a smirk and a chuckle as you are wont to do. Please brother, show the godly remorse and repentance that you so appreciate in David. I know you have a heart that seeks to know God’s heart.

Your brother,


A Tussle for Orthodoxy

I have been anonymously contributing citations to support some passages in the Wikipedia article on Pentecost or as they insist on calling it Pentecostalism. Wiki has a standard that requires citations for many things that are simple fact. Ironically one of the critical comments that is often used by editors is {{fact}} which goes to show that wiki insists on opinion not fact. And I’ve often observed that if they could get away with it they’d try to force you to prove blue is blue.

All facetiousness aside, the problem is a serious one. More authority is given to an uninitiated even unsaved “scholar” than those who are eye witness to events and movements. I understand the interest in objectivity, but if primary sources are rejected out of hand, valuable data are never presented for analysis and a horribly skewed perspective is presented. This has been illustrated most clearly by a dialog that I’ve been having with another editor who self identifies as “a pentecostal believer”.

Several years ago when we came to this article it was a morass of cheap attacks and misinformation supported by the worst sort of yellow journalism coming from the BBC, CBC and NatGeo among others. The picture it painted with unsubstantiated claims was that all Pentecostals and Charismatics were essentially identical and practiced snake charming and drinking rat poison as sacraments. I spent a bit of time anonymously patching this, but I didn’t get to finish before other issues drew me away.

In the interim this editor came to the article and began a total rewrite and he has done a good job on the whole.

Our points of contention arose over his classification of movements. Now I grew up in the Assemblies of God and my family for generations have been clerics in first the Wesleyan Holiness movement and later the Assemblies of God. I not only have primary sources close at hand, I have the memories of what I was taught in Sunday School and the pulpit, as well as an Assemblies of God university.

Much to my surprise I found that the other editor, who I’ll call Bill just to make things simpler, had claimed that the Church of God in Christ (CGOC) and the Assemblies of God (AG) were part of disparate movements. The claim was that the CGOC was Wesleyan Holiness but that the AG were part of a movement called “Higher Life” (HL). Now I had never heard of this Higher Life movement. Odd that I was a member of a movement that I’d never heard of. Knowing, as I did that the AG was founded by white CGOC members who separated over the issue of racial segregation laws, I was surprised that those men had somehow magically become something else between receiving their ordination in the CGOC and the first General Council of the AG.

Looking into it further I found that the official Assemblies of God history agreed with me (of course facts don’t change because a new theory is put forward by a historian or sociologist) and I fixed the text. This lead to a revision war with Bill that ended with a compromise. We agreed that we’d say that the AG started as Wesleyan Holiness but drifted till it became Higher Life.

Since I’d agreed to this I realized I better go check on the movement. What I found was that the HL was a movement in Britain that differed from Holiness in the understanding of Sanctification. HL taught the same Wesleyan doctrine of a Second moment called Sanctification. The only difference I could find was that it arose from the Wesleyan Holiness movement, as a book and a movement begun by William Boardman in Britain and arising from the American expression of the Wesleyan Holiness movement.

Ironically the only source I could find about HL was on wikipedia and we must remember that the AG was founded in the US, in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Many delegates were from as far away as Egypt, but it was an American birth. To claim that it was founded in the US from a movement founded in Britain, based on a movement in the US, but based on the Wesleyan Holiness Movement which originated in Britain. . . You can see how silly it gets. So my initial assertion stands, the AG was birthed in the heart of the Wesleyan Holiness movement.

Now why worry. The issue came up because Bill was struggling with the issues regarding Sanctification. Now I remember the old timers testifying how blessed they were because God’s grace made them, “Saved, Sanctified, and Filled with the Holy Ghost.” It was formulaic and we all knew this was the same as Wesley’s First, Second and Third “moments” of grace. And we knew that the first moment was sufficient to save. The second blessing or second moment was requisite to the third and the third was requisite to the infinite growth available to the believer.

Our view of sanctification like Wesley, follows the Pauline model of initial legislative act followed by pruning and improvement. Most agree Paul was pretty thoroughly removed from the opportunity of sin and was sound enough by his own standards to rebuke not only the bishops and elders under his direct tutelage (Turkey and Anatolia) but others of the twelve (e.g. Peter) on issues of both faith and baptism. Paul never the less felt compelled to confess fault and sin, where most of us would have seen perfection. This wasn’t depression, it was the fact that God takes us beyond simple sanctification into greater perfection as we allow him. “Be perfect as I am perfect,” is the command of our God.

On the other hand

However, like Wesley, Arminius and Paul before that, we Pentecostals have always taught and believed that it was possible to backslide and that the unregenerate, or those who backslide after receiving the Baptism, must surely be cut off. We see in Jesus own words that many who had the supernatural gifts of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit will be cut off and Jesus will say, “I never knew you.” How is this possible, except by eventuality of disfellowship.

There are a couple of fallacies in this argument. First is the idea that it is Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Wesley’s Fire Baptism, that is the gift of the Holy Spirit mentioned in Heb 6:4-6 (kjv). The second is the ease with which damning disfellowship can occur. A close examination of the passage in Hebrews shows that it contains a Hebraic parallelism. In Hebrew poetry there is the concept of repeating yourself one or more ways in order to add nuance or imagery to the subject. What we have in this passage is:

who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come”. This is not a laundry list of criteria, but repeating the same concept four ways because of the abject horror the author feels that anyone could be so foolish. Enlightenment, the heavenly gift, the presence of the spirit, the power of the world to come – these are all references to the coming of the Paraclete and the salvation he brings. Rather than the gift of Pentecost received by the 120, this is the pentecostal gift of salvation received by the crowd who heard Peter’s sermon and believed.

In other words, falling from grace is not reserved for those fortunate enough to receive the fire baptism as a requisite to ministry. Instead, it is an opportunity available to any believer who is rebellious or careless enough to choose that path.

However, in verse 6 we see it is “If they shall fall away,” that this horror will befall them. If is a contingency, not a certainty. Salvation comes only once, “for it is impossible. . .to crucify Christ afresh”. But it is not easily lost even through disfellowship. In 1 Corinthians 5:5 (kjv) we are instructed to “deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved” in Jesus’ own good time.

Why disfellowship? God is omniscient and holy. This holiness is so profound that in biblical times, the officiant would wear bells as he entered the holy of hollies to bring the blood of sacrifice. If the bells stopped they knew the presence of God had killed the priest and he would be dragged from the holiest place by a rope tied to his ankle. To claim that those who face the judgment seat of God could manage to lie, even to save themselves, is a logical absurdity. Holy God cannot abide lying or any form of wickedness and more importantly it can’t abide in his presence. Thus the claims of these erstwhile miracle workers must be true, yet they are damned along with Satan and his angels.

How can such a one have been saved, yet lose salvation. We know that “nothing can snatch [us]” from God’s hand. We cannot be taken, but as beings of free moral agency and the image of our creator, we can choose to rebel. The loss of salvation due to unrepentant, habitual sin leads eventually to a state where God must remove his grace. We see this in the passage where the rebel is compared to a Dog returning to eat it’s own vomit, but we also see it in the parable of the sower.

Much time has been given to the seed that falls on good ground, as well as that which falls among the thorns or on the path. The commentaries bulge with explanations but any honest analysis shows us that Jesus meant the seed to be the word of God, and the soil to be the lives of men. That naturally makes the stalks that sprout, the new life of salvation. But notice tends to pass over the seed that falls on shallow soil. Like the good soil and the path, the shallow soil is unencumbered by poisonous weeds or thorns. Like the good soil the seed finds fertile ground to sprout and begin to grow. But the hard stoney heart of such soil causes the tender shout of salvation to die and dry up. In the end, even the seed is gone and what soil there was has been corrupted by the dead roots of the faded wheat.

This fall from grace, illustrated in the dead straw that can only be cleared by burning, is permanent and irremediable, as it would require that we “crucify Christ afresh.” This is an impossibility and as a result those souls that reach this unlikely state are never able to be renewed. One might believe this is harsh, but it is not. God grants those who are saved a supernatural power as a free gift associated with grace, “the power to become the sons of God.”

Associated with the sanctification is the power to resist temptation, to avoid occasion to sin and to repent of those sins. Repentance requires that one entirely stop engaging in the given sin, and that one make restitution to one’s victim(s), and finally that one dedicate one’s life to preventing such sins from being repeated by others. Again, God grants the power, he only demands willingness to obey.

But some sins are just too precious to us. For instance, a Christian believer might have been tempted so badly that he or she marries another believer who committed the sin of divorcing his or her spouse. So we have a case where a Believer has married a believer who has a believing former spouse. This is an abomination before God. Jesus said that the couple are living in open and unrepentant adultery. The only option for them is to divorce. Though God doesn’t view the legal agreement as a marriage in the first place and as such there’s nothing to divorce. The only option for this couple is to dissolve the fraudulent marriage and reconcile with the previously married partner, if the former spouse is willing and able, and on the former spouses’ terms.  If the former spouse is not amenable then enforced celibacy by the (now twice) divorced spouse is the only path. God in the person of Jesus Christ in Matthew 19 is the Judge.

This follows the pattern I mentioned because the couple have victimized the former spouse by committing adultery, which the Bible views as a form of robbery. Your body, regardless of your gender, is the chattel property of your spouse and you do NOT have the choice. You can come to an agreement to remain celibate for a time, or make accounting for the incapacity of one spouse, but you cannot refuse your spouse otherwise. It is rebellion and theft.

Now I know there are practicalities of mood and arousal etcetera, and I’m not suggesting you ignore those, only that you have to make a good faith effort to accommodate your spouse, every time. That’s love. Love does not promote it’s own mood, by refusing or forcing. But legalistically it is sin to refuse. And the fact of guilt will damage your soul just as the fact of adulterous guilt or murderous guilt will. So mature Christians will voluntarily accommodate their spouses’ need for sex out of Love. Period.

Some have suggested that you can never reach a point of losing your salvation. That it’s a “finished work” and therefore you can never escape God.

This is a doctrine of Demons. It is intended to allow the unrepentant to as Paul put it, “leaven the whole lump” meaning the whole church. It sounds loving, and kind. But the Devil used to be an Angel, he knows how to fake grace and love in a religious context. The Devil has been in the business of religion for an awfully long time. By encouraging the sinful to feel like they are okay just as long as they pray a little rote prayer of repentance, or confess to a priest, eventually, he encourages the unrepentant to get closer and closer to the edge every time they slip

The eventual outcome is a damned soul who looks good, and speaks well, and may have supernatural gifts of the Spirit, but who is a fraud.  As a fraud, he’ll have replaced the fruit of the spirit with the sorcerous tripe found in psychology text books and magazines.  He’ll label self sacrifice as codependency, Chrstian love as enabling, patience as ambivalence, etc.  But worst of all, he’ll replace faith with belief in a kind of magical emmination, instead of simple trust in the character and compassion of the divine spirit we serve.

Or, conversely, he may claim there is no answer to prayer and God does move miraculously.  HIs brand of Christianity denies the power of Godliness.

Why do they have gifts? Because, “the gifts and callings of the Lord are without repentance.” God never takes the gifts away, and even uses the gifted but lost to reach others who are lost and redeem the presence of the gift. It is possible to find a gifted Evangelist who heals the sick, preaches the gospel and leads many to Christ – who is himself lost because he blasphemed the spirit by calling another man of God a demoniac. Such a man becomes delusional. As the Bible puts it, “that they believe a lie.” And his conscience becomes seared to the point he never struggles to improve his walk or cares about his pet sin. Even Satan stops tempting him very hard because he’s “in the bag” like a game bird.

And he’ll start teaching sin and false grace. Grace that is not a precious commodity to be cherished and protected through obedience, but Grace that is a faded tattoo that can never truly be lost.

This counterfeit grace is a stain and it marks the fraud, the servant of antiChrist, like a beacon. Bear in mind this is not a burden placed on the lost and unregenerate. This is a responsibility given to those whom God has supernaturally gifted to be able.

How does this relate to Bill? Well Bill’s sources were a pair of authors I am personally acquainted with, although I haven’t had contact with one in 14 years and the other in 11 years. These men, like myself, grew up in the Assemblies of God and were educated in the same institutions I was. But, unlike myself never achieved that third moment of grace, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, prior to becoming influential authors. As such, they were on the outside looking in so to speak. Lacking the perspective to understand the experience they accepted a Charismatic Doctrine that substituted emotional response in place of supernatural experience and gifts.

I have debated this issue with the both of them, though they are likely to have forgotten me among the hundreds of authentic Pentecostals who tried to teach them. So, like the expert skydiver who has never jumped, they teach what they do not know. They are part of a movement that has attempted to eradicate the Pentecostal message from Pentecostal churches and replace it with a Charismatic (second wave) theology which is reformation Evangelical rather than orthodox Arminian (not to be confused with the Armenian Orthodox Church).

This insurgency is designed, like those we’ve faced in every generation going back to Paul, to divert the church from the simple gospel of Christ into pagan philosophies, psychological sorceries and compromised witness without the power of the Holy Spirit working visibly in the gifts of the prophets.

Remember “the gift of the prophet is subject to the PROPHET”! Gifts are given to individuals, as a reward for their obedience and faith, for the benefit of the church. Prophets, which we seem more comfortable calling preachers, have been the target of every great move to destroy or distort the church. Eliminate the prophets and you eliminate the gifts, as he has done every time in the past. When you eliminate the office of prophet, established in the scriptures, cited in the Didache, and made manifest in the Pentecostal movements through the ages. God removes his spirit and his blessing from the church and the land. God is not obliged to gift where we decide, because people have established protocol demanding God gift their elected leaders. God will move and gift where HE sees fit. As he always has done.

God bless you as you seek his face,