A Powerless Bare Bones Gospel
by Patricia Backora
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Long ago God told His servant Solomon that the Lord of Hosts does not dwell in habitations made by the hands of fallen men. Instead, God is looking for a habitation of the spirit, that He might dwell within the hearts of His people through faith. Today some fancy man in a fancier building is busy at work destroying the precious faith which pleases the heart of God.
Unbelieving pastors and carnal church leaders have stripped the Gospel down to the barest bones. Those who “attend church” under the roof of powerless, unbelieving preachers know they better toe the line and parrot the same lukewarm pabulum preached by their leadership. The First Century church didn’t have pulpits, believe it or not. EVERYONE shared what the Lord put on their heart (I Cor.14:26). The end product of the successful Early Church was this: People got saved, healed and delivered from satan’s power. Not by dragging sinners into a fancy high-mortgage sheep shed, but by ministering outside, where REAL life happens. Peter’s shadow didn’t get sold in tiny little packets you slept over and inserted your fattest hundred-dollar bill in. Peter, empowered by the Holy Ghost, went out to the market place where he healed far more people with his passing shadow than thousands of cemetery…I mean, SEMINARY!...educated men can do today who’ve studied all the thousands of reasons God’s power is no longer available today. Peter was just an uneducated fisherman (Acts 4:13). There is no record Peter ever made it to Stonewall Seminary to get his Doctor of Doubt degree. Simon Peter didn’t know any better than to take literally Christ’s promise that THEM THAT BELIEVE would do the wonderful works of God (Mark 16:17). Look up that verse and read it. Do you notice any expiration date? I used to collect coupons, but they always had expiration dates on them. I might pick out a coupon for chocolate chips and say, “Goodie!” But my heart would sink when I saw that I’d passed the expiration date. Because of the passage of time, that coupon had lost its power to save me money at the grocery store.
Beloved, Jesus made a promise in Mark 16:17 to THEM THAT BELIEVE. Are you one of THEM THAT BELIEVE, or has some fancy dancy “doctor of divinity” turned you into one of THEM THAT DOUBT? Far from being a good thing, religion is DEADLY to a vital living faith in God. Religion killed the Lord Jesus. He made too many enemies among His own countrymen who pressured Pilate to put Him on the Cross (Acts 3:13). Ingrained religious tradition is a hindrance to anyone wanting to see the mighty works of God in the earth today.
A right understanding and application of the written Word of God is the only education you need to understand how to live the Christian life. You don’t need some fancy “doctor of divinity” regurgitating his doubt and unbelief into your spirit. The Holy Ghost reveals the hidden mysteries of God to you as He will (I Cor.2:7), and even this wisdom is to be found in God’s written Word.
It’s far safer for image-conscious pulpit preachers to stick with a warm and fuzzy “pie in the sky after you die” popular gospel than to warn men of judgment and hell. It’s far less risky to perpetuate false traditions such as “God doesn’t do miracles anymore” than to admit there isn’t a single solitary verse which predicts a specific expiration date for miracles, signs, and wonders. Satan still causes problems only God can get people out of. And usually our own wisdom, strength and resources aren’t enough to solve problems caused by his attacks.
John MacArthur is a prime example of a cessationist, someone who thinks miracles are “done away” and we have to wait till we get to heaven to see God’s supernatural side. He, like other cessationists, rejects the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a valid experience for today. He seizes on the excesses and abuses rampant in the Charismatic World as being clear evidence that you should throw the baby out with the bathwater and reject the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues, and the Gifts of the Spirit.
I’m reminded of a fancy car stripped down to its naked steel framework and wheels, after it’s had its powerful engine and accessories (empowering gifts) removed. Only Fred Flintstone could drive to work in a car like that! Today’s soul-winners face an uphill challenge, trying to convince New Agers and other supernatural thrill seekers that they should accept a Jesus Who can save them from the penalty of sin, but can’t save them from satan’s power until after they die and go to heaven.
Imagine you sit down to enjoy a divinely delicious meal. Just look at all the wonderful dishes listed on the menu! Then the waiter comes by with a big pair of scissors, picks up your menu and cuts out whole sections, leaving you with a tiny strip of paper with next to nothing left on it.
“Hey, why’d you do that?” you ask the waiter.
“We forgot, sir. Those items are no longer on our menu. They’ve been discontinued.”
“Well, what’s left? I’m hungry!”
“Watered-down oatmeal, sir, that’s all.”
“WHAT? I was led to believe by reading your menu that there were all kinds of delightful dishes cooking in your kitchen. Why did you mislead me?”
“Sir, the reason we put those items on our menu was to get our restaurant off to a good start, and to persuade people to come in. Our other goal was to finish adding items to our menu. Now that we’ve accomplished all these goals and have built up a faithful clientele, fine foods are no longer necessary. You don’t need T-Bone steak or grilled salmon to stay alive. You can live perfectly well on watered-down oatmeal and nothing else. At least you won’t starve to death, sir.”
Wasn’t long before that restaurant went belly up. The menu was too misleading.
Sound ridiculous? That’s the same reasoning many preachers use to prove that the Baptism of the Spirit and the wonderful works of God have been “done away”. Their sorry excuse for doubting the supernatural power of God is that God performed mighty signs and wonders to “get the church started” and now that the Bible (God’s menu) is complete, the items in that menu are obsolete and are no longer available for today! Preachers who doubt the power of the Holy Ghost have yet to offer any alternative to God’s spiritual gifts for fighting satan, whose own arsenal of weapons has gotten more and more sophisticated over the centuries.
Preachers who promote a stripped-down gospel denying the power of God (2 Tim.3:5) insist that your puny human brain can compose a better prayer than the Holy Ghost, who pleads with the Father with deep groanings and a supernatural prayer language our brain can’t understand (Rom.8:26; I Cor.14:14). Paul plainly stated that his own ministry wasn’t performed through enticing words of men’s wisdom, but through demonstration of the power of God (I Cor.2:4-5). Moreover, our faith was to stand not on men’s wisdom, but on the power of God.
Like the hypothetical restaurant menu, preachers cut out whole sections of the New Testament when they insist the Baptism of the Spirit, speaking in tongues, and the supernatural Gifts of the Spirit are obsolete. Only the most basic salvation experience (being forgiven of your sins to escape hell) is left. And because you’re promised no supernatural power to overcome satan, you’ll limp into heaven, scratched up and bruised by the skin of your teeth after the devil has eaten you for lunch for many years and used carnal preachers to make you doubt God’s promises to His Church, till you could accomplish nothing of lasting value for the Kingdom of God! If satan can’t eliminate the church or Christians, at least he’ll hamstring them with doubt and unbelief to weaken their effectiveness.
Cessationist preachers insist that “that which is perfect” has already come, so we no longer need God’s supernatural gifts today. But taking away the spiritual gifts while there’s still a big job to be done is just as ridiculous as saying Christ would have thrown away His own tools in the carpenter shop just because He was so perfect He didn’t need them anymore. Can you imagine Jesus building a church pew with His bare hands, without a saw?
Consider Ephesians 4:8-12:
Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
When Christ ascended on high after His resurrection, he obtained spiritual gifts to give His people. And in verse 11 it lists five different office ministries that Christ gave to His Body. What are their ultimate purpose? Verse 12 states these ministry gifts were given to the Church “for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry for the edifying of the Body of Christ”. Interestingly, the commas in verse 12 (KJV) were not included in the original Greek manuscripts. Punctuation as we know it today was supplied by translators. If you read the verse with the commas, you get the impression that there were three separate reasons Christ gave the office ministries to the church, not necessarily interconnected. This interpretation would lend support to the false clergy-laity doctrine started in the early Middle Ages. But if you read verse 12 without the commas, it clarifies the meaning: The office ministries help perfect (mature) other saints so they themselves are able to function in their own ministries to edify (build up spiritually) the Body of Christ, in keeping with I Corinthians chapter 12, which teaches that every saint of God has a ministry to fulfill.
Traditional non-charismatic churches deny there are apostles and prophets today. But they’ll readily accept the office of pastor (he gets most of the work dumped on him), evangelist, and teacher (Sunday School, mostly). This seems odd to me. Nowhere does the NT teach that the latter-day Church is supposed to discontinue two of the five offices, weaken one of them, and keep two of them, dumping most church ministry on those two offices, while denying that “pew Christians” only minister through praying, singing and giving money.
Even if you leave the Book of Acts out of the picture because “you shouldn’t build doctrine on the Book of Acts”, here’s just some of the scriptures you have to cut out of God’s Word in order to support cessationism:
Matt.21:21 Faith which doesn’t doubt can even move mountains.
Mark 13:11 The Holy Ghost would speak through persecuted believers. Are cessationist doubters smarter than the Holy Ghost?
Mark 16:17 THEM THAT BELIEVE (no mention of an expiration date) shall cast out devils and speak with new tongues.
Luke 10:19 Jesus gives His followers power (authority) to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing by any means shall hurt them. When did this one expire?
Verse 20: Jesus agrees that wicked spirits are subject to his followers (no mention of an expiration date).
John 14:12 GREATER works than Jesus did would be done by HE THAT BELIEVETH IN ME. Do YOU believe? (no expiration date mentioned).
John 16:13: The Holy Spirit leads us into ALL truth (not doubting preachers).
Romans 8:26-27 The Holy Spirit’s deep groans of intercession for us.
ALL of I Corinthians chapter 12 Detailed teaching on spiritual gifts and their use to build up the Body of Christ. Now, if they’re not for today, what alternative is there for building up the Body of Christ? Paul gives no other plan for accomplishing this in the latter part of the Church Age!
Most of I Corinthians chapter 14 Instructions on use of tongues and prophecy.
Verse 39: Covet to prophesy and FORBID NOT to speak in tongues (many modern pastors do). Is this commandment of Paul still for today?
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 Our weapons are to be spiritual, not carnal (free movies and popcorn, karate demonstrations, cookie sales, etc.).
Eph.4:7-16 Christ ascended and gave gifts unto men. Is this offer expired? Christ gave gifts for the perfecting of the saints for the ministry (verse 12) until we ALL come into the unity of the faith, and reach the stature of the fullness of Christ, in spiritual perfection. Has this happened yet, or do we see countless denominations and church splits, adultery, greed, spiritual abuse, etc. happening all over the Christian world? Then, by sheer inference, we haven’t reached perfection yet and we still need those gifts!
Eph.6:10-18 The spiritual armor of god, prayer in the Spirit (tongues). This is implied in I Cor.14:14. Paul’s understanding is UNFRUITFUL (useless) when praying in the Spirit.
I Thes.1:5 God’s Gospel not in word only, but in power.
James 5:14-15 Have church elders anoint the sick with oil and they’ll recover.
I John 2:27 We’re to be taught by the anointing of the Spirit God has given us and need not that any man teach us.
After you snip out all the teaching scriptures on the power of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts, you’re left with instructions on how to rightly relate to God and to people inside and outside the church. There is much instruction on how to love your neighbor, assuming you really could love others properly without God’s supernatural enablement! If a sick person came to you and asked you to pray for them, and you didn’t seriously think God would heal them, the only way you could show your love would be to express your heartfelt sympathy, regretting that healing is no longer for today. Or you could possibly pray that God would give the sick person the strength to bear up under their infirmity, and (I’ve heard this many times) to guide the hand of the doctor as he operates.
If all these “power” scriptures have been discontinued and are of no use today, then it automatically opens a big can of worms: What OTHER Scriptures are also obsolete and no longer for modern believers?
I read the following argument against continuance of the spiritual gifts. A skeptic follower of John MacArthur challenged Charismatic Christians to go to their nearest hospital and heal everyone in it because Jesus had a 100% success rate. But did Jesus always do everything He would have wanted to do? Just turn to Matt.13:59. Jesus couldn’t heal everyone in His own hometown because some of His old neighbors who watched Him grow up in Nazareth didn’t believe He was anything particularly special. Jesus wanted to do much more for them, but was able only to heal a FEW (not all) of Nazareth’s sick folks.
Even the apostle Paul couldn’t always heal everyone.
2 Tim.4:20: Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. If you apply the skeptic’s argument consistently, is Paul’s apparent failure to heal Trophimus solid proof miracles were “done away” even in the days of Paul? He was the same guy who sent out prayer cloths to heal the sick and cast out devils and got great results (Acts 19:11-12).
Phil.2:26: (Paul writing) For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he (Epaphroditus) had been sick.
27 For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
You can see from this verse that ultimately it’s in God’s hands who gets healed and exactly when. I’m sure Paul would have preferred to see Epaphroditus completely healed before he got so close to death. Cessationists would have preachers go into hospitals and heal people as a feat to convert skeptics. God is sovereign. Only He can heal. Even if the whole wide world of injured, sick people got healed by Christians, unbelievers would still find excuses to reject Christ and His Word (see Luke 16:31).
Sometimes healing is gradual in this world. Sometimes it is partial. In this world our knowledge and our prophecy are still partial and imperfect (I Cor.13:9).
Over a lifetime I’ve prayed for several people who were in danger of dying. God kept them alive. My husband came close to death from an old injury and almost lost a foot to infection. But God pulled him back from the brink of death and he still has his own foot. But Tom’s missing ankle bone hasn’t grown back and he still lives with a great deal of pain. Only God knows why so many get healed only partially in this earth, if they get healed at all.
Cessationist preachers piously say that since we have the Written Word of God in all its completion, we don’t need the supernatural things of the Holy Spirit. But that’s just as dumb as saying that just because you’ve got a complete Cadillac in your garage you don’t need fuel to fire the engine up to get it moving. The Word of God needs the fire of the Holy Ghost anointing on it to empower that Word to fulfill all God wants it to do in His Church. John the Baptist preached that Christ would baptize His people with the Holy Ghost and fire (Matt.3:11).
I suspect God is tired of being stuffed into theological boxes of doubt and unbelief, and He refuses to operate within the narrow guidelines set for Him by professional preachers who consider their 90-minute Sunday slot THEIR soap box to promote their own agenda. We’ve all been programmed to run to some “professional minister” for help and advice instead of directly depending on God. We’ve reached the point where we think we need the preacher’s permission to take at face value what’s plainly stated in the Word of God. In many churches God would be told to shut up if He wanted to get a word in edgewise and invite people to come to Him for healing. It’s more or less a one-man show, with pew Christians serving as paying spectators. I hate to say this, but I really think doubt and unbelief have been so deeply drilled into modern Christians for so many years that they have a very difficult time expecting God to manifest his power in their midst.
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