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Third Wave / Signs & Wonders / Cessationism Archives ~ Aletheia Baptist Ministries Skip to main content

Booklets Worth Reading

Booklets Worth Reading

by Rick Shrader

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Vital Issues of the Year

By RBP, Various Authors

Regular Baptist Press published this booklet in 1973. It was for the purpose of keeping the GARBC churches informed of various issues at the time. They include: evangelism and missions, the ecumenical movement, the charismatic movement, alcohol, drugs, the sexual revolution, race relations, divorce, the occult, church and state and social responsibility. It is interesting to see the way some issues change over the years and others don’t. This issue was very cautious about questionable social issues but very direct on things such as ecumenicity or separation of church and state. The best section was on the charismatic movement by Robert Lightner. His reasons for sign gifts ceasing makes this booklet worth having.

The Blood of Jesus

By Rev. William Reid

This is an excerpt from a larger writing of Rev. Reid in 1866. His preface is signed, 3 George Square, Edinburgh, January 1863. I happen to know where that is. I thought this booklet might be about a defense of the blood of Christ, whether He literally took it to heaven or not, or something like that. But no, this is an excellent treatise on the all-sufficiency of the blood of Christ for salvation, that it alone can save without human work or merit, written in that old Scottish style. A real blessing to read. The copy I have was printed by Liberty Bell Press, Florissant, MO, in 1966.

The Greatest Thing In The World

By Henry Drummond

This little booklet is a short treatise on 1 Cor. 13, “The greatest of these is love.” Scripture Truth printed this edition and it has a forward in it from D.L. Moody in which he said, “It seemed to me that I had never heard anything so beautiful, and I determined not to rest until I brought Henry Drummond to Northfield to deliver that address.” It is very good on the aspects of love. I thought the gospel explanation at the end was not as good.

The Church and the Great Tribulation

By Wm. R. Newell

This is a great defense of the pretribulational rapture of the church by this great theologian and commentator. It was written in 1933 and printed by the Union Bible Study Association. He says, “The folks who talk about the Church going through The Tribulation don’t realize Church truth.” “The 70th week of Daniel that last seven years, has two halves, in neither of which the Church can be on earth.” “Scripture shows there will be at least seven years between His coming for His Church and His coming with them.”

Predestination

By James Moffat

Moffat (1870-1944) was a British professor of Greek and Church History, spending his last years at the liberal Union Theological Seminary in New York. This is a rather interesting (and fair-minded) treatment of the doctrine. His thesis is, “Predestination is the determination of God to make men like Christ because they believe in Him, and not to make men believe in Him because they are meant to be like Him.”

Does God Want Christians to Perform Miracles Today?

By John C. Whitcomb, Jr.

Dr. Whitcomb wrote this in 1973 while still teaching at Grace Seminary. Here he gives the common but good reasons for a cessationist point of view. He has a great section of the “greater works” of the gospel of resurrection superseding apostolic miracles and an appendix from B.B. Warfield from his book on Miracles about history’s testimony to miracles ending with the apostles.

Daniel’s Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks

By Alva J. McClain

This is a 1940 study on Daniel’s prophecy from Dr. McClain. Here he defends the traditional “gap interpretation” (as he calls it) between the 69th and 70th weeks. He follows Sir Robert Anderson’s chronology for the timing of the weeks (The Coming Prince). Among many great points, I liked his defense of the Antichrist being revealed immediately when the covenant is signed and his reasons for placing the middle of the tribulation period in Revelation chapter 11 with 42 months past and 1260 days to go.

Let’s Talk Turkey

By Charles C. Ryrie

This 44 page booklet by Ryrie was written while he was president of Philadelphia School of the Bible between 1958 and 1962. It contains seven chapel messages that Dr. Ryrie would bring to the students each year encouraging them to remain faithful and diligent to their calling while at Bible College. Ryrie began his long and distinguished teaching career in 1948 at Westmont College and is best known for his many years until retirement at Dallas Theological Seminary. The reader gets a little different picture of Ryrie when he is speaking to students about usual college problems such as class attendance, homework, personal standards and rules of the college. The messages include topics such as sowing and reaping while in school, the wages of sin, Satan’s counterfeits, and advantages and disadvantages of marriage while in school. About sin he writes, “Every sin becomes a part of your personal history. You can confess it, God will forgive you, it will be remembered in condemnation against you no more but it is still part of your personal history. If you fail a course, you can and should confess it, but it is still on your record. If you do not study to your capacity you may pass the course, but it will always be a fact of history that you did not learn certain things that you should have.”

The Reason Why

By Robert A. Laidlaw

Robert Laidlaw was a Plymouth Brethren Christian businessman in New Zealand. He was well-known in America and Great Britain as a Bible expositor. Interestingly, he married the sister of well-known expositor H.A. Ironside. There have been over 16 million copies of this booklet printed in 30 different languages. It is actually a large gospel tract that progresses from the existence of God to the reliability of the Bible to sin and redemption in Christ. It is filled with practical applications and illustrations with which the author makes his points. He says, “There are some people who still pose the question: How could the Lord Jesus Christ’s one life be considered the substitute for the lives of so many, so that God offers salvation to whosoever places their faith in Christ?” He answers by this illustration: “Get a sheet of paper and write down all the big figures you can think of—millions or more—add them up. . . Then multiply it by 10—100—by a million if you like—cover sheets of paper, and after all you still have a finite number—a number that has bounds set about it—it has a beginning and an end, however far it may be extended. No, by adding finite things together no man has ever been able to make that which is infinite. The infinite life of Christ given for sinners is more than sufficient to save all who accept Him as the One Who died for them.”

Fins and Scales

By Louis T. Talbot

This is a 1942 booklet by the founder and first president of Talbot Theological Seminary, who at the time was the pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, and the president of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. As is the case with many of these older booklets, Talbot is seen in his very conservative days. We remember too that he was a solid dispensationalist and pretribulational premillennialist. In these 35 pages, Talbot takes his text from the eleventh chapter of Leviticus on the clean and unclean animals. He writes in the introduction, “The cloven hoof represents a walk of separation from sin in a godless world. The chewing of the cud speaks to us of meditation upon the living Word of God, which alone can enable the Christian to walk with the Lord. The fins suggest power to rise above the degrading things that tend to drag us down in defeat. And the scales remind us of the Christian’s ‘whole armour of God,’ given to enable him to resist the devil ‘in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.’”

Bible Translations

By Robert L. Sumner

This booklet was printed in 1979 by Sumner, the then editor of The Biblical Evangelist. Sumner was addressing the growing problem of the KJV Only position within Fundamentalism. The booklet is a good summary of the fundamental position and shows that major schools and people within fundamentalism were not and have not been KJV Only. He includes Tennessee Temple Schools, Bob Jones University, Central Baptist Seminary, John R. Rice and the Sword of the Lord, H.S. Miller, A.T. Robertson, B.B. Warfield, James M. Gray, W.B. Riley, George Dollar, R.A. Torrey, Moody and Spurgeon, G. C. Morgan, B.H. Carroll, John Broadus, and many others.

He Is Coming Again!

By J. Vernon McGee

I am often asked about J. Vernon McGee by folks in the church. McGee was a solid Bible Teacher, even teaching for a while at Dallas Seminary. He is best known for his Through The Bible ministry on radio. I have a number of booklets by McGee on the first and second comings of Christ. On the second coming he writes, “The second coming of Christ is in two phases, it is a drama of two acts. The first is what we please to call the “Rapture.” Christ Himself was the first to speak of it. You will find no reference to it until you come to the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, where He tells of taking people off this earth up to a place which He is going to prepare. [quotes John 14:2-3] This is the first phase of His second coming. But Christ spoke also of His coming to establish His Kingdom upon this earth in power and glory.”

Creation According to God’s Word

By John C. Whitcomb, Jr.

John Whitcomb is always worth reading. He is best known for co-authoring The Genesis Flood with Henry Morris, and his years as professor of Old Testament at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, IN. This booklet was printed in 1966 and contains three messages that Dr. Whitcomb delivered at Alger Park Christian Reformed Church. The first message is “The Nature of Biblical Creation” showing that creation was supernatural, sudden, and with the appearance of age. The second message is “The Creation of Plants and Animals” which deals with the geologic time table, the abundance of life at creation, and the limits God placed on variation within the species. The third message is “The Creation of Mankind” which includes the dignity of man, problems with theistic evolution (speaking directly to J. Oliver Buswell and B.B. Warfield), the creation of Adam’s body, and the antiquity of man. Whitcomb writes (in 1966!), “Our basic problem today in the question of origins is not so much that we are ignorant of the theories and speculations of men. Our problem too often is that we neither know the Scriptures nor the power of God, and therefore deeply err in communicating God’s message to modern man.”

When Loved Ones Are Taken in Death

By Lehman Strauss

Lehman Strauss (1911-1997) taught at Philadelphia School of the Bible and pastored in Baptist churches, writing several books and commentaries. This booklet is a common-sense look at death and dying. It encouraged me as a pastor to continue to point believers to their faith in Christ as their only comfort when loved ones die or when they face the Jordan as well. I have traced over 20 different analogies to the believer at death which the Bible portrays. Strauss included these: that death is like sleep from which we will be awakened, like a departure in a ship to a distant land, and like an exodus, a “going out” from this world to the next.

The Bible or Evolution?

By William Jennings Bryan

William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) was best known for his part in the Scopes trial of 1925 in which he argued for a conviction of John Scopes, who was defended by Clarence Darrow, for teaching evolution in the public school. Bryan actually won the decision although it was reversed later by the judge. Interestingly, Bryan was asked by William Bell Riley to represent The World Christian Fundamentals Association in the case. It is generally forgotten that Bryan served as secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson, and was the Democratic candidate for president three times. It is somewhat amazing to read this booklet, which could be written by any conservative creationist today, and think what is must have been like to actually have Federal Government officials defending God and the Bible. The booklet is concluded with these words:

“Evolution, theistic and atheistic, carried to its logical conclusion, robs Christ of the glory of a virgin birth, of the majesty of His deity, and of the triumph of His resurrection. That kind of Christ cannot save the world. We need the full statured Christ of whom the Bible tells; the Christ whose blood has colored the stream of time, the Christ whose philosophy fits into every human need, the Christ whose teachings alone can solve the problems that vex our hearts and perplex the world.”

The booklet was first published by Moody Press. The edition I have was reprinted by the Sword of the Lord when John R. Rice was still editor, but does not contain a date.

The Fundamentalist and Missions

By Peter Ng

The World Congress of Fundamentalists was begun in 1976 with Ian Paisley and Bob Jones III as co-chairs. The first meeting was held in Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Scotland. I have three booklets of messages from the congress. Messages were delivered by Ian Paisley, Bob Jones and Bob Jones, III, Rod Bell, Wendell Zimmerman, Ed Nelson, Truman Dollar, Wayne Van Gelderen, Tom Malone, and others. In 1980 a second congress included Ray Comfort, Arno Weniger, Jr. and others.

This booklet was printed by Bob Jones University in 1976. I do not know who Peter Ng was or is (such an odd name would be remembered) but his presentation at the congress was fundamental and separatistic. Even at that, Ng spoke against the social and political gospel but also encouraged churches to not shun helps and ministries that reached out to people in various ways. For example, he wrote, “In short, the Fundamentalist is mandated by the Triune God, and not by man or institution, to evangelize the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The believer’s mandate is to preach and live the Gospel to the change, transformation, and fruition of lives for God’s glory. It is not to try to reform society, as the Modernists are doing with their social gospel. The social implications of the Gospel must not be overlooked, of course; but let the state do its business, and the church hers! And that does not stop the church from voicing her conscience against unfair, unjust, immoral, unethical, unchristian state laws and practices.”

Philadelphia Baptist Confession of Faith

Tri-Centennial Edition

This is a booklet printed by Revival Literature of Asheville, NC. It is a reprint of the 1742 confession which was printed by Benjamin Franklin in 1743. It was the first Baptist confession which was printed for distribution in America and was the doctrinal confession of the Philadelphia Baptist Association which was formed in 1707. It only contains a short history and explanation of how the confession came about. Lumpkin gives a longer and more complete history. The Philadelphia confession represented the Calvinistic Baptists who were affected by the Great Awakening. Interestingly, this confession was greatly influenced by Benjamin Keach of London and his son Elias who was in America. By their influence it contained a new article on hymn singing.

 

 

The God Who Speaks

The God Who Speaks

by Rick Shrader

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             “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” Hebrews 1:1-2

America is quickly leaving a word-based society and becoming an image-based society and so is the church of Jesus Christ. Christians have always been readers and listeners. The invention of radio was a simple diversion where simply sitting and listening began to overtake the struggle of reading. The advent of printed images in magazines increased the ease of perusing through a magazine where one could look at the pictures rather than read the articles. With moving pictures came the theater and the modern wonder of bringing images to life, which was eventually brought into the living room with the television. Few living Americans today have ever experienced a time when these things were not commonplace.

But movies and television are ancient history to today’s young people. They have not known a time without computers and the internet. Many young Christians have never experienced a church service with simple singing, praying, and preaching. Their world is a world wallpapered with images and sounds at home, in the car, at school, in the mall or restaurant, and also at church.

The epitome of image is the commercial—a professional moment created by people who want to make money that invades the world of people who live by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. If one wants to get a true picture of the moral level of a society, he only needs to go as far as the radio, television, or online commercial. Consider the commercial where a product is being sold that supposedly will help you lose weight or increase bodily function of some sort. The pictures shown portray a happy, loving, successful person who is experiencing a perfectly happy moment. But while the pictures are being shown, by law the commercial must audibly say that taking the product may harm you in a number of different ways, actually causing a reaction opposite of what was intended, and in some cases may even cause death. But these ubiquitous commercials obviously work evidently because people watch but do not listen. Of course, the next commercial break will feature a law firm telling you that if you’ve taken the same drug, call because you will be able to sue them for damages and false advertising.

Some feel that our image-based world began in the 1930s in Nuremburg when Adolf Hitler held the first multi-media rallies. Thousands of people crowded shoulder to shoulder watching huge pictures with lights and music. Hitler was spewing the worst audio message imaginable but people were persuaded to follow because of the visual effects. Hitler knew this better than anyone and specifically describes his goal of brainwashing by this image-based methodology, calling it “the magic of influence of what we designate as mass suggestion.”1

Some feel that this all started in 1960 with the first televised presidential debate between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy. Nixon had been in the hospital and came to the debate physically weakened and looking emaciated. Kennedy, on the other hand, was young, tanned, and good looking. Those who watched the debate on television thought that Kennedy won, but those who listened on radio thought that Nixon won. Image wins in a debate every time. That is why today’s presidential debates are everything to do with image and almost nothing to do with substance.

While attending a pastor’s conference in Denver some years ago I listened to a young pastor explain why we must now fill our preaching and teaching times with multiple visual aids, because today’s youth are now learning from multiple sources that feed all the senses of sight, sound, feel, and even smell. This is how they learn today in school and the church cannot afford to be behind in its pedagogy. Another pastor then asked why the American student ranks almost last in most of the important educational categories world-wide. The leader had no answer.

Ironically we call the historic period of image-based worship the dark ages. Carl Trueman has written, “As regards the cultural trend away from words to images, one could make a case for seeing this as, theologically, an undoing or a reversal of the Reformation and a reversion to aesthetic and sacrament-centered church life of a kind that defined much of medieval Catholicism.”2 He refers to a time when the images filled the beautiful cathedrals and sight and sound became the essence of worship, not the preaching of the Word. God brought Christianity out of this first with a Renaissance of learning, then the invention of the printing press, and finally (and most importantly) a return to the Book in the Reformation. The Reformers believed that God speaks through His Word and therefore the Word must be central in any worship service—sola scriptura!

Much has been written and spoken about the effects of postmodernism on our image-based culture. Authur W. Hunt, III, wrote, “Much of what is going on in our church sanctuaries falls under my definition of postmodernism—that is, a turning from rationality and an embracing of spectacle.”3 Trueman points out that postmodernism has left us with two dangerous results: the death of the author and the medium as the message.4 Postmodernism posits that language changes so quickly that we cannot know the original intent of the author. The author, for all practical purposes, is dead.   Therefore, we have to read all writing, especially old writing, without trying to discover the author’s meaning but rather ask what it means to us right now. In postmodernism this is the only possible knowledge we can gain from writing. No wonder Americans today do not believe we can even discover what the writers of our constitution meant. This is why so many argue for a fluid meaning rather than a historical meaning. Applied to the Bible, however, this means that for all practical purposes God is dead and the only question we can ask is what the Bible means to me, not what the original writers meant. This also means that exposition of a text is largely a waste of time. Emotion and inward searching of the soul become a better hermeneutic.

On the heels of this, the medium virtually becomes the message. How the message is conveyed basically determines what the message is going to be. In this way the hearers (or experiencers) become the final authority. If the author of the text is dead, the hearer becomes his own god by determining what message can fit the medium. Is this a return to medieval Christianity? Have screens and speakers taken the place of icons, altars, incense, and stained glass? Albert Mohler wrote, “Though most evangelicals mention the preaching of the Word as a necessary or customary part of worship, the prevailing model of worship in evangelical churches is increasingly defined by music, along with innovations such as drama and video presentations. Preaching has in large part retreated, and a host of entertaining innovations have taken its place.”5

If God has spoken and speaks today through His Word, the Christian has an imperative that cannot be compromised. The preaching of the Word is God’s ordained means of communication and the exposition of that Word is the most important job of the teacher or preacher. And, we might add, filling of the Spirit Who inspired the sacred text, becomes the most essential methodology in worship. Hebrews 1:1-3 and 2:1-5 make important statements about the God Who speaks.

God spoke in time past

God spoke at sundry (various, NKJV) times and in divers manners. Beginning in Genesis chapter one, we find, “And God said, let there be light” (1:3); “And God called the light Day” (1:5). This pattern continues throughout the six days of creation. In addition, and wonderfully, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit speak among themselves (one in essence, manifested in three persons) “Let us make man in our image” (1:26); “Behold, the man is become as one of us” (3:22); and later, “Let us go down and confound their language” (11:7). From the beginning God has been a God who speaks. God spoke unto the fathers by the prophets. From Abraham and the patriarchs to Moses and the prophets, God spoke in various languages, visions, dreams, handwriting, inspiration, and other miraculous means.

When liberalism tried to “demythologize” the Bible, it wasn’t to take myths out, it was to remove any mention of God speaking through these miraculous means. This has been Satan’s method from the beginning, “Yea, hath God said?” But when Eve “saw” the fruit she was more impressed by the visual than by the word. Why will the unbelieving world today not accept creation? Because it was a miracle, and they have long ago decided that the miraculous never happened and that God has not spoken.

God spoke through His Son

Hebrews also makes plain that God spoke in the most unique way, through the incarnation of the Son both personally and prophetically. God spoke through Christ personally because Jesus Christ was God in the flesh and in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 1:19, 2:9). He is called the Word, or Logos (John 1:1) because He conveyed the true message from God’s mind to us.

But God also spoke through His Son prophetically i.e., through the very words that Jesus said. “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him” (John 3:34. See also John 6:63; 6:68; 8:26; 12:48-50). This was an historic occurrence that cannot be erased. Our very calendar forever will testify to the fact that God spoke historically through the Son. The gospel is the historical fact of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This can never be undone. The preaching of it can fail, the belief of it can wane, but the fact of God speaking through His Son will judge men in the end.

God speaks to us today

Such a statement as this is much used and abused. I hold to cessationism, i.e., that the miraculous sign and revelatory gifts ceased with the apostles and are not operative for today. However, God also did something in the first century through the apostles which was for us today—He gave us His inspired Word, “once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Through the Bible God is still speaking with the same authority with which Jesus spoke. Hebrews 2:1-5 tells us that Jesus spoke to those that heard Him (the apostles) and the apostles’ words were confirmed by their own miracles. Mohler said, “If you do not believe that God now speaks from His Word—the Bible—then what are you doing every Sunday morning? If you are not confident that God speaks as you rightly read and explain the Word of God, then you should quit.”6

There have been two errors made historically about God giving us His Word. The first is that God never started. These are those who, through their liberal presuppositions, could never accept that God inspired a Bible. To them the Bible is as any other book, a product of good and enlightened men, but not a divine product of the Holy Spirit. The second error is that God never stopped. These are the cults who believe that God is still giving the gift of inspiration to add to the Word of God—Mohammad, Joseph Smith, etc.   But God spoke once through inspiration (of course, 66 times over 1500 years, but “once for all delivered unto the saints”). But every time we read the Word of God, God is speaking through it directly to us. That is why exposition of the Word is vital to worship.

And so . . . .

By leaving a word-based culture and turning to an image-based culture we are forfeiting the very power of God in our worship. It is not that we cannot use pictures, screens, power point and so forth, but these must always be secondary and illustrious to the main thing, the written and spoken Word of God. After all, God gave us two illustrations to use in our preaching: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But the difference in these illustrations and all others is that the very Word which they illustrate commands their use and explanation. An image-based worship is a return to a more ignorant time, not a progression forward. Arthur Hunt wrote, “Paganism never really died in modern western culture; it was only restrained. American Protestantism effectively suppressed many pagan forms up until the twentieth century; but the advent of the image-based media has brought forth a revitalization of the pagan gods in popular culture.”7 One would be hard-pressed to deny that the common scene at a rock concert is a return to paganism. In fact, it is the world’s idolatry. The church should be very careful in copying it.

Carl Trueman also wrote, “What we need to be concerned about is the replacement of preaching and doctrine in many generic evangelical churches with drama, with so-called liturgical dance, with feelings, emotions and mystical experiences, and, sometimes, with elaborate sacramental ceremonies which make the Catholic Church look positively Puritan by comparison. These all speak of the transformation of Protestantism from a word-based movement into something more concerned with aesthetics of one form or another.”8

If these warnings are not sufficient to make us pause, consider the warning in Revelation 13, a scenario which could realistically happen a short three and a half years from now if the Lord were to come today. Here the “beast” or antichrist is “worshiped” by the whole world, empowered directly by Satan. The whole worship scene is enhanced by “another beast” or the false prophet. This beast constructs the final multi-media, image- based worship service before Armageddon happens. He does it with “great wonders” and “miracles” (both from semeia, image, sign). The whole world will be tattooed with a “mark” upon the skin that shows solidarity with the movement. Is the world not conditioning itself for this type of worship?

Perhaps this article ought to be closed with Paul’s admonition to Timothy,

I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;   Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.   For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;   And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.        (2 Timothy 4:1-5)

 

Notes:

1. Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (New York: Houghton & Mifflin, 1971) 479. Interestingly, this comes from a section titled “The Significance of the Spoken Word.”

2. Carl Trueman, The Wages of Spin (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2004) Kindle, 793.

3. Authur W. Hunt, III, The Vanishing Word (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2003) 202.

4. Trueman, part 2, “”Short, Sharp Shocks.”

5. Albert Mohler, Jr., He Is Not Silent (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008) Kindle, 260.

6. Mohler, 764.

7. Hunt, 25

8. Trueman, 359

 

 

The Power of a Whisper

The Power of a Whisper

by Rick Shrader

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This book is a prime example of today’s anemic Christianity trying to walk in every way except by the Word of God. Hybels gives a detailed history of his own ministry and how (he believes) God talked to him through “whispers” all along the way. This is not just the usual “I believe God was saying” statement that many have used, but that he heard “syllable by syllable” (p. 158). Hybels led his church to have women ministers because God whispered to him that he should do it (p. 151). He also speaks highly of God whispering through mother Teresa and Oprah and claims that even Jesus needed whispers from God. He says God whispered to him that all children on earth were His “kids” (p. 225). Rated GG (“Good Grief”).

 

Things that Peep and Mutter

Things that Peep and Mutter

by Rick Shrader

“And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?  To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:19-20).

 

The problem of believers seeking information from extra-biblical sources is certainly not new.  About a hundred years ago, chief of Criminal Investigation of Scotland Yard, Sir Robert Anderson, wrote, “Tidings reach us from all lands that earnest and spiritual Christians are being deluded, and thrown into a frenzy of exultation, by the meaningless mutterings of what is called the ‘gift of tongues,’ or by other proofs of a spiritual presence from the unseen world.”1 Nor do such conclusions about the canon of Scripture come from one particular denomination or theology, and certainly not just from fundamentalism or dispensationalism.  In the early 1800s Andrew Fuller wrote, “I concluded that we ought not to look for any new revelation of the mind of God, but to rest satisfied with what has been revealed already in his Word.”2 Around the same time John Newton wrote, “Now as God only thus reveals himself by the medium of Scripture truth, the light received this way leads the soul to the Scripture from whence it springs, and all the leading truths of the word of God soon begin to be perceived and assented to.”3 Jonathan Edwards wrote, “But now, when the true religion is long since introduced and the canon of the Scripture completed, the use of miracles in the church ceases.”4 Charles Spurgeon wrote, “The canon of revelation is closed: there is no more to be added.  God does not give a fresh revelation, but He rivets the old one.”5 And many more such quotes could be added.

Today we have the same problem with a more “Christian” dress.  The longing for more revelation from God is not limited to the cultic writings of self-proclaimed prophets such as Mohammad or Joseph Smith, nor to the flippant emotionalism of Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Third Wave experientialists. Now this hankering for a fresh word from God is quickly becoming the norm in main stream Evangelicalism.  Fundamentalists play with the same language but usually lag a few years behind until it is accepted well enough not to be criticized.

The new peeping and muttering comes from phrases like casting a vision, hearing God’s whispers, having the gift of prophecy, or experiencing God’s miracles.  The use of these has gone beyond the innocent everyday language of years gone by.  Most Christians have probably used such words to describe a spiritual moment or leading of God.  But it is becoming obvious that many authors mean something different when they use these terms.  A writer may use  terms such as “I have a vision” or “God told me” and the reader thinks he merely means spiritual understanding or human insight, but these days the writer may mean much more than that.  While using a common expression he is probably referring to a more supernatural communication with God.

A recent Barna poll6 confirms these concerns.  American believers believe God communicates with them in the following ways.  52% by connecting with their emotions; 41% through a Bible passage; 36% by providing a sign; 34% through a sermon; 31% through miraculous or inexplicable circumstances; 31% through someone speaking for God; 18% through secular material; and 16% through an audible voice or whisper.

In a recent series of articles on the differences between cessationists (those who believe miraculous gifts have ceased) and continuationists (those who believe they continue today), Central Seminary President Kevin Bauder rightfully comments,

Once an allowance is made for the continuation of phophecy, how can anyone say whether any particular prophecy is actually from God, short of its explicitly contradicting Scripture?  This is not merely a hypothetical question.  In 2009, David Wilkerson prophesied that an earth-shattering calamity was about to engulf New York City, spilling over into New Jersey and Connecticut.  In response, John Piper opined that Wilkerson’s prophecy ‘does not resonate with my spirit,’ that it doesn’t ‘smell authentic,’ and that elements of it seemed ‘too prudential.’  These words exhibit the kind of dilemma in which some continuationists find themselves.  On the one hand, they cringe from crediting this kind of prophecy.  On the other hand, they cannot simply dismiss it.  The result is that their criteria for judging prophecies give every appearance of being made up for the occasion.7

This same dilemma is forced upon all believers when they have to decipher common language used in equivocating ways.

 

The Whisperings of Bill Hybels

In a 2010 book titled, The Power Of A Whisper:  Hearing God.  Having The Guts To Respond,  mega-church pastor and author Bill Hybels claims that God has always whispered answers, directions, and words of encouragement to him.  At times Hybels seems only to mean what anyone may mean when they think God is directing them.  For example he says, “Although I hadn’t heard an audible voice, the refrain of that impression washed over me again and again that day.”8 Yet on the next page referring to the same incident he says, “What we did have was the confidence that stems from receiving a clear whisper from God” (94).

At one point in the book where Hybels is explaining whispers, he says plainly, “God Speaks.”  This is followed by these words, “Not only does God draw near to his children and seek them out when they’re having a rough go, but also he speaks words to them—words of comfort, insight and peace” (156).  Two pages later he says, “I received my begged-for direction in ten profound but simple words.  Syllable by syllable, here is precisely what the Holy Spirit laid on my heart that day:  ‘You are a treasured child of the most high God’” (158).  The book is filled with such ambiguous statements.  At one moment it is just a “prompting” or something that he “sensed.”  At another moment it is something God “revealed” or specifically “said” to him.

Chapter 4 of the book is titled, “How To Know When You’re Hearing From God.”  Here he gives five “filters” for discerning whether your whispers are really from God.  #1, “Is the Prompting Truly from God?”  seems like a bit of begging the question!  #2, “Is It Scriptural?”  would appear to be the most important.  However, later in the book Hybels tells of the process his church went through when the leadership decided to allow women ministers.  Two hundred families were leaving the church over it.  But the example is used in the book because in the midst of this controversial time he records, “God whispered a much-needed message my way,  ‘You might take a hit for what you’ve advocated, Bill, but every little girl growing up in Willow’s family for generations to come will be the beneficiary of your strong stand.’” He then adds, “It was precisely the assurance I needed, from the only One whose approval I sought” (151).  Of course, my own thoughts went directly back to filter #2, Is it Scriptural?  But what we learn is that to the person receiving these kinds of “revelations,” their experience takes immediate precedence over any other revelation God has given (a Christian version of the Islamic rule of abrogation—the last thing that was said is the most authoritative).

The concern here is the mixture of traditional Christian ways of saying that they felt “led of God” or similar things, and the crossing over the line of the supernatural reception of revelation from God.  If God has actually spoken in whispers or by other means, we may have to apologize to Joseph Smith, Muhammad, and the rest.

 

The Visions of Andy Stanley

In the same vein as whisperings, I have had a long time concern with the newer uses of the word vision.  I was first alarmed in reading George Barna’s many books where he would urge leaders to seek their own personal vision from God for their ministry.  In Andy Stanley’s 1999 book Visioneering:  God’s blueprint for developing and maintaining personal vision9, the case is made for leaders to seek a “personal vision” from God which will be that person’s special direction from God for his ministry.  The handy thing about this new doctrine is that the leader can’t be judged by any other authority including chapters and verses.  If God has given him his own personal information, who can disagree or oppose him in his ministry?

As with Hybels’ whispers, the word vision has been used in many ways by God’s people.  Generally it has been used to mean an idea or a plan for a certain project.  At first Stanley talks in terms of “your destination in life,” and where you go “on purpose.”  But quickly, by page 24, he is speaking of “a divinely ordered vision” and “your personal vision” and “God’s vision for your life.”  He says, “All divinely inspired visions are in some ways tied into God’s master plan.  Whether it is loving your wife, investing in your kids, witnessing to your neighbor, launching a ministry, or starting a company, every divinely placed burden has a link to a bigger picture” (26).  Notice the combining of divine revelation and mere burdens.

As a footnote, I’ve also been amazed at how evangelicals use mother Teresa as an example of God working through us.  Stanley (p. 186) and Hybels (pp. 109, 157) both do this.  Are we to evaluate God’s revelation by a Roman Catholic nun?  In explaining “vision casting” Stanley says, “She cast her vision to the Vatican and two years later the Missionaries of Charity was officially sanctioned by the Church” (186).  This is another example of an immediate revelation from God taking precedence over Scripture itself—unless evangelicals are ready to accept Catholic doctrine of ongoing revelation as biblical.

Because space prohibits, allow me to only briefly give two more.

 

The Prophesies of Wayne Grudem

Theologian Wayne Grudem, in his book, The Gift of Prophecy10, presents the idea that God is still giving prophecy to people today.  To guard against being aligned with outright charismatics however, Grudem proposes that God divinely gives revelation to people, but He doesn’t protect the dissemination of that revelation.  Therefore the modern prophet is not protected from error and the modern recipient is not sure whether he has received it from the prophet as God gave it to the prophet.

The Miracles of C. Peter Wagner

Peter Wagner was the partner of John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement.  Wagner believed that God gave miraculous power to believers today in order to combat the power of Satan (“signs and wonders”)11.  Wagner (and others) proposed that “Western” Christians don’t see the “excluded middle” tier of supernatural phenomena that takes place all around them.  Only those from an oriental “mystical” culture understand such things.  That’s why most of us do not take advantage of the power over demons and other Satanic authority.

And So . . . .

Cessationist Ernest Pickering wrote, “While theoretically God could bestow any spiritual gift He wished, He does not and will not do so in contradiction to His revealed purposes.”12 The struggle for a clear, once-for-all revealed Word of God continues today.  The issues will become cloudier rather than clearer.  The Bible believing Christian must be discerning!

 

The Final Word

The Final Word

by Rick Shrader

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O. Palmer Robertson is Director and Principal of African Bible College, Uganda, and Professor of Theology at African Bible College, Malawi. Formerly, he had been on the faculties of Knox, Covenant, Westminster, and Reformed Seminaries. He is the author of several books, including The Christ of the Covenants,  Understanding the Land of the Bible, and The Israel of God.  I mention these things to inform the reader that Robertson is a staunch covenant theologian and his books reflect that very much.  However, the subject of the cessation of inspiration, tongues, and prophecy is a needed subject today and Robertson adds important information to that view.  Though he does not take his case from 1 Cor. 13, he does believe the canon was closed in the first century and that God’s revelation ceased then.  As to tongues, he believes they were revelational in nature and therefore were concluded in the first century also.  Robertson has an interesting study on the parallel of tongues speaking with the spread of the Gospel as outlined in Acts 1:8.  As the gospel was spread to those four regions, tongues also appeared there as a witness.  When the gospel had covered those areas, tongues ceased in the New Testament.  Also interesting is his view that women both prophesied and spoke in tongues because God allowed them to participate in “forthtelling” revelation, but when revelation ceased (in the first century), so did women’s role of speaking authoritatively in the church.

 

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit

by Rick Shrader

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Ryrie wrote the first edition of this book in 1965 and it has gone through several editions since then.  The bulk of it is also reproduced in his Basic Theology.  In rereading the book (an easy read of 120 pages) I was encouraged by the orthodox presentation of what can be a very controversial doctrine.  I had also forgotten what a vital tool a good dispensational approach to Pneumatology is to the church.  Many of the ancient errors in this field have faded away, but we have as many and more of our own errors today.  The (so-called) three waves of the Holy Spirit in the twentieth century brought great charismatic confusion, and now other errors are being added to these including massive revivals centered around erroneous manifestations of the Spirit and the spirit world.  Without a solid understanding of the working of the Spirit in the age of grace, we will fall prey to some of these errors.  Ryrie’s book needs to be resurrected in the church.

 

Systematic Theology, Vol 1

Systematic Theology, Vol 1

by Rick Shrader

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Those of us who sat under Dr. McCune, whether at Central Seminary in Minneapolis or at Detroit Seminary, are glad that he is writing (my syllabus notes are getting old and tattered).  Reviewing this volume, Dr. Larry Pettegrew writes, “Highlights include a presuppositional apologetic, a single source (Scripture) as the only rule for theology, cessationism of the miraculous gifts, pretribulational premillennialism in eschatology, a dispensational structure of God’s progressive revelation, a recent creationism, and a Calvinistic soteriology.”  My years in seminary were greatly enhanced from sitting in Dr. McCune’s Dispensationalism, Kingdom, and New Evangelicalism classes, among various others.  We may never find a theology book that describes us 100%, but Dr. McCune’s will rank as high as any.

 

Spirit Filled: an individual responsibi...

Spirit Filled: an individual responsibility

by Rick Shrader

The local church is made up of individual believers.  Each believer comes into the church by testimony of his faith in Christ exhibited by believer’s baptism.  The local church is the earthly expression of the body of Christ and must keep itself pure, by all human means, of unbelief within its members.  Only in this way can the church fully represent and display the holy character of Christ to the world.  So we find in Scripture a common pattern:  “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).  First conversion to Christ, then water baptism, and only then membership in the local body of believers.

The church, then, is a unique organization which operates as a free congregation under the Headship of Christ and His Word.  The members are equally children of God and all possess the Holy Spirit.  The church acts as a democracy in that final decisions are voted on by the whole congregation, even the calling of a pastor and the election of the deacons.  We often say that we are all “believer-priests” under the one high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, since the Scripture plainly says that we are “a holy priesthood” and a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5, 9).  This is why Baptists have held to a congregational form of church government.  The two church offices of pastor and deacons are given due respect but even each of them has only one vote in congregational matters.

Since we believe this arrangement is truly biblical, it presents a great responsibility as well as a great danger.  The danger is that the church would become filled with members who are truly saved and baptized but not filled with the Spirit.  Though we believe that all true believers possess the Holy Spirit from conversion, the filling of the Spirit for daily walk becomes a continual command for the believer in this life (Eph. 5:18).  It is entirely possible for a church to have more members who are not Spirit filled than who are!  In this case, the possibility of such a church making biblical and wise decisions is thrown to the wind.  The decisions are made from human wisdom and understanding, but not from the leadership of the Spirit.

The great responsibility, therefore, is for the whole church to strive to be filled with the Spirit and for the leadership of the church to guard this great occupation at all costs.  Ephesians 5:18-21 and Colossians 3:16 tell us that when we are filled with the Spirit, we will be (as a result) teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace, making melody in our hearts to the Lord.  In Hebrews 13:15-16 we find that we may offer spiritual sacrifices to God which are the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

When Spirit filling is missing, the church will rely on human emotion for its comfort, various methodologies for its fruit, and symbolism for its substance.  This has often been the case in every age of the church because there is no guarantee that people will seek to be filled.  In times like ours, imitations abound because they are easier and are more comfortable to carnal Christians and to the world.  When people want success rather than spirituality, growth in numbers rather than in knowledge, friendships rather than fellowship, human effort alone will accomplish those much easier and will not bring with it that uncomfortable conviction of the Holy Spirit.  But filling is not an automatic phenomenon that comes by turning on a switch.  It comes by yielding ourselves to the Spirit as we live out the New Testament Biblical faith.  Rather than seeking hidden formulas, we will find the way to the filling of the Spirit clear and open to every believer.  It sounds like an old list but that is because it has been true for two thousand years.

Scripture

Paul’s command for us to be filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5 is paralleled by the command to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly in Colossians 3.  The Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs come as a result of this filling, not as means to that end.  All of Scripture is the command of Christ to us and we should not expect to remain in fellowship with Him if we are disobeying His Word.  It is by the Word that the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin (Heb. 4:12) and then cleanses us from our ways (Psa. 119:9).  Disobedience to the Word causes the Spirit to be quenched (1 Thes. 5:19) and grieved (Eph. 4:30).  How could we expect that the same Spirit would be filling us if He is offended?  Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit makes us holy.  A believer who dislikes that process dislikes the Holy Spirit Himself.  Paul wrote, “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.  He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit” (1 Thes. 4:7-8).

Paul admonished the Corinthians that their carnality was keeping them from the meat of the Word (1 Cor. 3:1-3).  We cannot feed on the Word when sin is dominating our lives and we are remaining babes not adults.  The writer of Hebrews desired to write of deeper things concerning the priesthood of Christ, but the readers could not handle the meat of the Word because their senses were not exercised in the deep things of God (Heb. 5:12-14).  We cannot expect to be filled with the Spirit and only open our Bibles for Sunday school and church or for a coffee shop Bible study.  We need extended time in the Word.  With all of our technological advances, our modern day has robbed us of time in the Word.  Though we have the Word available in more forms than ever before and though we can access it from more avenues than ever before, we still do not take the time.  That same technological age keeps our schedules full and robs us of every hour of the day.  George Gallup said, “Americans revere the Bible — but, by and large, they don’t read it.  And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”1 Jeff Brown wrote, “The average unbeliever in America 200 years ago knew more of the Bible than the average member of an evangelical church does today.  Daniel Wallace contends, ‘We are a generation away from biblical illiteracy on a scale that mirrors the middle ages.’”2 We must again find the time to read the Bible if we are to be filled with the Spirit.

Prayer

Jonathan Edwards said, “Prayer is as natural an expression of faith as breathing is of life; and to say a man lives a life of faith, and yet lives a prayerless life, is every whit as inconsistent and incredible, as to say that a man lives without breathing.”3 J. Oswald Sanders said of prayer, “It is indeed the Christian’s vital breath and native air.”4 Prayer is the life blood of the Christian life.  “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas. 5:16).  An unrighteous man doesn’t pray and that is largely why he is unrighteous.  Paul tells us  that the Holy Spirit waits beside us when we pray to interpret our prayers before the Father (Rom. 8:27).  We don’t even know what would be best to ask, so the Spirit helps “our infirmities” because He has the same mind as the Father.  A Spirit filled believer is a believer who prays.

A Spirit filled man is not necessarily the one who prays long prayers in public, though he might.  Many times the one who prays long in private prays short in public.  But the only factor that really counts is whether a person prays with the help of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus Christ has opened the door into God’s presence so that we may come boldly before the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16).  The Holy Spirit, then, helps our prayers as they come up before the Father as sweet smelling incense (Rev. 8:3), whose eyes are over the righteous and whose ears are open to our prayers (1 Pet. 3:12).  We must find time to pray if we are to be filled with the Spirit.

Church

R. Kent Hughes recently wrote, “It is my considered belief that those who do not have the local church at the very center of their lives are likely not to make it as Christians through the opening decades of the third millennium.”5 There is an antipathy toward the local church in our day.  People want to malign it, change it, profane it, abuse it, and refuse it; anything, it seems, except use it.  But the local church is God’s program for this age of grace which exists between the first and second comings of Christ.  The church belongs to Christ and He is its Head.  We are commanded not to forsake our assembling together with other believers in our local church, and even more so as we see the day of Christ approaching (Heb. 10:25).

Since the Holy Spirit indwells every believer (1 Cor. 12:13), and the local church is the place where believers gather together, it is obvious that a believer needs to be in that meeting for the benefit of the Spirit’s work in his life.  “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).  When the Lord spoke to the pastors of each of the seven churches of Revelation, those letters were always ended with, “He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear, what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Rev. 2:7).  The Holy Spirit builds us up spiritually through the life of the body.  A Spirit filled believer, then, is not one who neglects the church.

Family

A believer may be in one of a number of different family situations.  The New Testament has many admonitions to various family members.  Husbands are to love their wives; wives are to obey their husbands; parents are to raise their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; children are to obey their parents (Eph 5:25-6:4).  A believer who does not provide for dependent ones in his family is worse than an infidel (1 Tim. 5:8).  When a husband is not the husband he ought to be to his wife, his prayers are hindered before God (1 Pet. 3:7).

Above all, members of a Christian marriage or family are brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is a shame when some treat strangers with more brotherly love than their own family.  Many marital problems are solved when a husband and wife remember that they are first brother and sister in Christ.  A home ought to be the place, above all others, where believers show true Christian character.  Churches cannot expect to see the blessing of God when their members are carnal six days of the week at home and pretend to be Spirit filled at church on Sunday.    Our family relationships are vital to the filling of the Spirit.

Witness

Can a believer effectively share the gospel while not being filled with the Spirit?  Will a truly Spirit filled believer not make attempts to share his or her faith?  One of the important pieces of the Christian armor is the feet which are shod with the preparation of the gospel (Eph. 6:15).  When Peter stood to speak during the days of Pentecost, it says, “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them” (Acts 4:8).  Similarly, when Paul preached on Cyprus, it says, “Then Saul, (who also is called Paul), filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him” (Acts 13:9).  Paul quoted David when he said, “We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak” (2 Cor. 4:13).

It stands to reason that if the Holy Spirit has filled the believer, he will have a God-given desire to share the gospel, the good news, with souls which are lost.  Since the Holy Spirit’s job in this age is to convict the world of sin and judgment (John 16:8-11), a believer who is filled with that same Spirit will be speaking the gospel.  Also, the believer who desires to be filled ought to endeavor to be involved in evangelism.

And So . . . .

As individuals, as families, and as churches, we are commanded by God to be filled with the Spirit.  If we are to salt our world and shine light upon its darkness, it must be through Spirit filled believers through whom God can powerfully work, even with the power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead and now lives and works in us.

 

Are You a Full Gospel Christian?

Are You a Full Gospel Christian?

by Rick Shrader

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Dr. Lavender is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Kansas City and is also Vice President of Carver Baptist Bible College and Theological Seminary.  His thoughts on the danger of the Charismatic movement, especially the health and wealth gospel, are pointed and also timely.  I appreciate him sending me a copy!

 

Charismatic Confusion

Charismatic Confusion

by Rick Shrader

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Dr. Pickering wrote this book in 1976.  Regular Baptist Press printed a 1980 edition and recently in 2006.  All non-Charismatic believers need to have a good grasp on why the miraculous gifts ceased with the passing of the Apostles and the completion of the New Testament.  This is best done by a fundamental and dispensational writer like Ernest Pickering.  Dr. Myron Houghton has updated the material to delineate the first, second and third “waves” of the Charismatic movement.  Since Dr. Pickering died before he could include the latest wave of things such as the Vineyard movement phenomenon, Dr. Houghton has greatly enhanced the effectiveness and usability of the book by bringing it up to date.  The sound doctrinal teaching is made even better.