"For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you." - 1 Cor 11:19
The Strange Fire conference at the church of John MacArthur that has been going on over the past few days seems to have shed more heat than light. It was held in conjunction with the release of MacArthur’s new book of the same title. The roster of speakers featured were all experts in Reformed theology; only one speaker had expertise in the topic of charismatic extremes, Justin Peters, who was relegated to doing workshops – the ones best attended.
MacArthur set the atmosphere with the first words out of his mouth welcoming the crowd by addressing them as the elect and predestined. In his opening speech he lifted up Reformed theology as the one true faith and lamented that he had to share the label ‘Evangelical’ with charismatics of any stripe.
“My great fear is that people are lost;” said MacArthur, “chasing carnal desires and false promises with little or no understanding or interest in the true Christ and true salvation …Evangelicalism has thrown its arms open and welcomed the ‘Trojan Horse’ of the charismatic movement into the ‘city of God’ and its troops have taken over and placed an idol in the ‘city of God’ – not the truth. Is there anything more serious than this? There can’t be. By contrast, Reformed theology, sound doctrine, is not a haven for false teachers. It’s not where false teachers reside. Reformed theology, sound doctrine, faithful, biblical exposition among a long line of godly men is not a place for false teachers. It’s not where frauds go…You’re not going to go to an association of Reformed churches, those who believe the doctrines of the Reformation that goes back to the doctrines of the New Testament and find false miracles, false visions, false prophecies…that’s not going to happen in that environment because they’re anchored to the truth.”
His repeated references to “the city of God” refers to its author, Augustine, who just so happens to be the Roman Catholic Church’s theologian and canonized saint. This is a very appropriate acknowledgment by a Calvinist that Augustine is the true source of Reformed theology via John Calvin who did not break from Catholicism at the Reformation, but just wanted to reform the Roman system back as far as Augustine. What truly needed to happen, that the Anabaptists tried to accomplish after the Reformation, was to recognize that Catholicism was false from the very start and the true New Testament faith needed to go back in history to the book of Acts and the apostles.
One of the speakers, Steve Lawson, indeed did acknowledge that it is Calvin and the so-called early church fathers that established Reformed theology upon which they build their creedal apologetics. The creeds and confessions of church history is the basis upon which these men judge the charismatics or anyone who believes that God gave the gifts of the Holy Spirit for the building up of His saints until Jesus comes back for us at the rapture.
So the outcome of the Strange Fire conference was to further divide the visible ‘Evangelical’ church into their various camps. The battle lines are being drawn and at this time before the soon return of the LORD, the goats and sheep are separating.
This must certainly be a work of the Holy Spirit in our time to make us choose sides – to separate from what is known as the Evangelical church and let them keep that title for themselves. The cessationists (like the Reformed believers who say the gifts of the Holy Spirit ended in the first century) and the Charismaniacs (those who use mysticism and unclean spirits to imitate the gifts and come under a kundilini deception) are opposite extremes of the visible church that both misrepresent God by their traditions.
It is time for the scattered sheep to come out from among her and reclaim the term ‘born-again Christian’ to define those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who are filled with the Holy Spirit, and who are excited about our Master’s soon return.
The closer we come to the time of the great tribulation, the more we need to be tuned into His still-small voice so that we will be given understanding and wisdom in applying Scripture to our circumstances. Remember what the angel told the Prophet Daniel:
“But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.”… And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end. Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.” – Dan 12:4,9-10
John MacArthur and his Reformed associates have boxed themselves into a corner by believing that God no longer speaks, guides, or directs our path. As far as they’re concerned, the “perfect has come” – the Bible -- and they can understand it with their historical/grammatical exegesis alongside Augustine’s “City of God” and Calvin’s “Institutes.” When the LORD unseals what was told to Daniel to seal up until the end, they will reject that information as extra-biblical. Should archaeology unearth one of the missing letters that the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians or the Laodiceans, those too will be denounced as unauthoritative.
For us born-again, washed in the Blood believers, we still have a little power – better a little than none. Our hope is set on Jesus’ words to us that come alive as the Spirit gives illumination:
“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name…Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” Rev 3:8,10-11