Charismatic Chaos - Part 7
Written by: MacArthur Jr., John Posted on: 04/02/2003
The following message was delivered at Grace Community Church in Panorama
City, California, By John MacArthur Jr. It was transcribed from the tape,
GC 90-58, titled "Charismatic Chaos" Part 7. A copy of the tape can be
obtained by writing, Word of Grace, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, CA 91412.
I have made every effort to ensure that an accurate transcription of the
original tape was made. Please note that at times sentence structure may
appear to vary from accepted English conventions. This is due primarily to
the techniques involved in preaching and the obvious choices I had to make in
placing the correct punctuation in the article.
It is my intent and prayer that the Holy Spirit will use this transcription
of the sermon, "Charismatic Chaos" Part 7, to strengthen and encourage the
true Church of Jesus Christ.
Charismatic Chaos - Part 7
"How Do Spiritual Gifts Operate?"
John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
As a preface to our study tonight, I want to just mention to you that we are
going through this study on the Charismatic movement, its contemporary form.
And I am unable in this particular study to cover every relevant passage of
Scripture, and so I would just encourage you that you will find a series of
tapes on all of the relevant passages that I have already preached on in
years past, out of the Book of Acts, out of 1 Corinthians, which are the
primary ones. You will also find in the bookstore and the tape room, a study
guide of about 300 pages on the issue of spiritual gifts; in some great
detail I cover that. I also have written a book on Tongues, and speaking in
Tongues, and all that is involved in that. And then we have the commentary
on 1 Corinthians, which is a verse by verse discussion of those passages, and
particularly focusing on chapters 12 through 14 that deal with Spiritual
Gifts. So there are some supplemental materials that would be very helpful
for you in filling out your understanding of this subject. What I am
endeavoring to do in this series is not go through every single passage in
great detail, but to take a kind of overall look at the contemporary
Charismatic movement and compare it with what we know to be true out of the
Word of God. We are looking at it more from the doctrinal side then we are
from the expositional side.
Now, I want you to turn in your Bible tonight, to a passage of Scripture that
I think sets a good context for what I want to say. Matthew, chapter 7, and
I want to begin reading in verse 15, and just read down a little ways, and I
think that you will catch the flow of what we find here. Jesus, here, is
bringing the Sermon on the Mount to its conclusion, and in so doing, this is
what He says, beginning in Matthew 7, and verse 15, "Beware of the false
prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous
wolves." By the way, sheep's clothing is wool and it was the garment of the
prophet. The prophet wore wool and so they are coming, not as false sheep,
but as false shepherds,
"You will know them by their fruits" (verse 16). "Grapes are
not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are
they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad
tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor
can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn't bear
good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you
will know them by their fruits."
What Jesus is saying is, "Don't listen just to what they say; look at the
character of their life--the product." And then He says, in verse 21,
"Not everyone," and still in the context of false teachers, "who
says to Me, 'Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but
he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will
say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your
name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform
many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew
you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"
An amazing passage, warning us about false teachers. These particular false
teachers appear to say the right thing--they speak about the Lord. "Lord,
Lord," they say. They even seem to do the right things--they prophesy or
preach in "The name of the Lord." "In the name of the Lord," they cast out
demons. "In the name of the Lord," they perform many miracles. But they
don't know the Lord, and the Lord does not know them, and we are to be aware
of that reality.
So as we come to any examination of the Charismatic movement that takes us
into looking at the phenomena of the movement, we have to very aware of the
fact that Jesus warned us already that even though they speak in the Lord's
name, and even though they cast out demons in the Lord's name, and even
though they do miracles and claim to do them in the Lord's name, they may be
false. They may say all of the right things but you have to look at the
fruit of their lives; you have to compare them with the divine standard of
This examination and this test must be held up in the issues of spiritual
gifts. As we look at these people who say they are prophesying in Jesus'
name, and casting out demons and doing miracles, we want to be sure of two
things: one, that their lives back it up, and two, that what they do is
consistent with the Word of God.
So I want to help you to evaluate that, if I can, tonight. And I want to
refer to some of the more well known of these Charismatic leaders today
because they're so very public, and they represent the kind of thing that is
going on that has to be tested.
In Orlando, there is a preacher in the Orlando Christian Center, named Benny
Hinn. Benny Hinn slays people in the Spirit. When Hinn feels the anointing
come upon his hand, he touches his followers on the forehead, or simply waves
an arm at them, and they fall down in a faint. If you've ever seen him on
television, then you have witnessed that. He has a nationally aired
television broadcast in which people are slain in the Spirit nearly every
week. In fact, the other night I was watching him and he slew everybody in
the entire auditorium--one section at a time. He waved his hand over this
section and they all fell down, and then he waved his hand over this section
and they all fell down, and he waved his hand over that section and they all
fell down, and then he waved his hand over the balcony and they all fell
And the question comes to mind, of course, "Is Benny Hinn's ability a unique
spiritual gift? Is this God? Is God knocking all these people down? Or is
he simply using the techniques of mesmerism and the power of suggestion? In
fact, isn't it fair to say that he may even be using demonic power?" Surely
in the light of the warnings of Scripture (Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22, 2 Thess
2:7-9), demon inspired people are going to do "lying wonders." And so that
possibility must not be ruled out.
One thing is certain, Benny Hinn or anyone else who knocks people over, is
doing something that is never described, never discussed in the Bible.
Nothing like it is listed in any list of spiritual gifts, and no apostle, and
no early church leader ever did anything like that. The Charismatic practice
of slaying people in the Spirit, yet, has become so commonplace that many
Charismatics may be surprised to learn that Scripture is utterly silent about
such a gift. There is no record that anybody ever did that. The only time
anybody ever fell over was when Jesus spoke in the Garden when the soldiers
came to arrest Him. Yet the practice typifies the Charismatic movement's
obsession with some kind of strange and bizarre phenomena. There is no
indication that in the early church anybody had the power to knock people in
to some kind of spirit-filled catalepsy.
But there is a preoccupation today with the paranormal, the same fascination,
I think, that leads people to reading avariciously [greedily] as they do the
books of Stephen King and others like him. From the earliest days of
Pentecostalism the quest for more unusual and more spectacular manifestation
of spiritual gifts, has in effect, sabotaged rational thinking so that you
have people that are turning away from what is reasonable and rational. And,
as I have noted throughout the series, reports of inexplicable things, even
unbelievable things, mystical phenomena, are just rampant in the Charismatic
and Pentecostal tradition. And it doesn't matter what it is; no tale seems
too bizarre, too fantastic, too far out, to get a following. Peter Masters
and John Witcomb (sp.) have written a book called, "The Charismatic
Phenomena," and in it there is a quote that might be worth your listening
There is no doubt that Charismatic teaching results in a
considerable lowering of the credulity threshold of all its
adherence. The practice of tongues, the relegation of the
understanding to a minor place, the diet of miracles, and the
extreme subjectivity of Charismatic thinking, all combine to
produce this effect, quickly and inevitably. Once people have
been mentally conditioned by a Charismatic environment, they are
able to take seriously such amazing ideas as Oral Roberts claim
to have seen a vision of Jesus 900 feet tall! Charismatic
practices loosen up the mind in such an unhealthy way that
people will believe almost anything.
You see, once you disconnect people from rational thinking, they are fair
game. In fact, many appear to believe that God's power can be displayed only
in ways that are irrational, unearthly, eerie, and somewhat preposterous.
Some Charismatics disdain logic, as we have noted, disdain reason, disdain
common sense in an eagerness to embrace these kind of things. Worse, the
entire Charismatic movement has absorbed the erroneous notion that whatever
is truly spiritual, whatever is truly of the Spirit must somehow transcend or
bypass a person's rational senses. They would, for the most part want us to
believe that anything that is rational, sensible, reasonable, is not
supernatural. Spiritual gifts supposedly operate by somehow suspending the
faculties of human reason. And you would think that the strongest evidence
of the Holy Spirit's working is when everybody goes into a stupor! And then
you are really seeing the power. When everybody falls over in some kind of
stupor, you are really seeing God at work. And so the lore of the
Charismatic movement is filled with outrageous accounts of behavior that
resembles trances, seizures, subliminal messaging, hypnosis, suspended
animation, frenzy, hysteria, and even dementia. And these are often cited as
evidences of the power of God. Churches where people think reasonably and
rationally, sensibly, discern with their minds the things of God--"Do not
know," they say, "the power of God."
Kenneth Hagan, another very popular leader in the movement, for example,
claims that one night while he was preaching, a cloud of glory enveloped him,
and he lost track of where he was and what he was saying,
I didn't know one word that I had said for 15 minutes. I had
been the "Glory Cloud." When I found myself walking around the
altar, I got so embarrassed. My face got red and I ran back on
the platform, got behind the pulpit, and said, "Amen, let's
pray" and gave the invitation. Sometimes when I am preaching
(Hagan writes) the Spirit of God comes on me, arrests my
attention, and I can't say a word in English. He goes on to
tell an incident when he was ministering with Fred Price, who is
down here in the Crenshaw area, and he said he was struck with
what he believed was an anointing in the church service. Hagan
said that he was unable to communicate in English for hours.
Now, the point is that this is to evidence the real power of God, when you
completely out of touch with reality! In a similar vein, Hagan relates this
story, and I am quoting from his writing,
Sister Maria Woodworth Edder (sp.) was an evangelist during the
early days of the Pentecostal movement in this country. I read
the newspaper account of what happened in Saint Louis sometimes
before 1920. She was in her 70's preaching in a tent which was
full, when right in the middle of her sermon, with her hand up
uplifted to illustrate a point and her mouth opened, the power
of God came upon her. She froze in that position and stood like
a stature for three days and for three nights. Think about
that, all of her body had to be under the control of the Spirit
of God! She had no bodily functions for three days and nights.
She stood there! According to the newspaper account, it was
estimated that more than 150,000 people came by to see her in
the three day period. The third night the Spirit of God
released her. She thought it was the same night and the same
sermon and she went on preaching at the same place in her
It completely escapes me, why anyone would assume that such behavior
manifests God's power! Nothing remotely like it can be found in Scripture,
except Lot's wife. Still, whatever sermon she was preaching she never
completed. Still, Hagan tries to eclipse that tale with even more bizarre
ones, he says,
One night a sixteen year old girl was filled with the Spirit,
spoke with other tongues, went into a spirit of intercession,
then with her hands raised, stood in one spot for eight hours
and forty minutes. She never batted an eye, never shifted her
weight from foot to foot. It was January and she was standing
away from the stove. Her mother, concerned about her getting
cold, asked it if would be all right to move her nearer to the
stove, which was in the center of the room. "I don't know," I
said, "I have never seen anything like it." The pastor who
weighed 250 pounds said, "Brother Hagan, you get under one of
her elbows and I will get under the other and we will scoot her
closer to the heat." But she couldn't be moved--it was as if
she was nailed to the floor!
On another night, when we gave the altar call, I sensed the
power of God was upon one of the women. She began exhorting
people to be saved. I said, "Sister, go ahead and obey God."
With her eyes closed she stepped upon the wide altar and began
walking from one end to the other, exhorting sinners to be
saved. She would walk right up to the end of the altar and you
would think that she was going to step off! But, each time she
would turn. Folks started coming to the altar, her eyes were
shut, but every time one would come her spirit would know it and
she would dance a little jig for joy. Then she would go right
back to exhorting. When the twentieth person had come, (every
single sinner was saved that night, God is my witness, my wife
is my witness, and each person in that building is my witness)
she began to dance right off of the end of the altar! She stood
in midair dancing! Her feet were not touching the floor,
everyone saw it, I could have reached out and touched her, then
she turned and danced back on to the altar, down the altar to
the other end and stopped, opened her eyes and stepped off.
Frankly, that seems like a scene from a bad horror movie, more than [it does]
a true miracle. Levitation, altered states, feet nailed to the floor! That
is the apparatus of the Occult--not genuine spiritual gifts. You say, "Well,
you have chosen some isolated and atypical examples." Not so! And it is not
just provincial and old fashioned Charismatics who report such spectacles.
Virtually every major segment of the Charismatic movement feature stories
like those. Even the newest, the Third Wave movement, which we discussed
some last Sunday night, despite strong ties to the academic community,
exhibits a definite bias towards signs and wonders in which human intellect
is disengaged. Carol Wimber describes the watershed experience that launched
her husband's church into power evangelism (her husband being John Wimber),
It was Sunday evening, Mother's Day 1981, and a young man whom
John had invited to preach, gave his testimony. At the end of
his message, the guest speaker invited all those under the age
of 25 to come forward. None of us had a clue as to what was
going to happen next. When we got to the front the speaker
said, "For years now the Holy Spirit has been grieved by the
Church, but He is getting over it. Come Holy Spirit!" And He
came. Most of these young people had grown up around our home
and we knew them well. We had four children between the ages of
18 and 24. One fellow, Tim, started bouncing! His arms flung
out and he fell over, but one of his hands accidentally hit a
mike stand and he took it down with him. He was tangled up in
the cord with the mike next to his mouth. Then he began
speaking in tongues, so the sound went throughout the gymnasium.
We had never considered ourselves Charismatics and certainly
never placed any emphasis on the gift of tongues. We had seen a
few people tremble and fall over before and we had seen many
healings, but this was different. The majority of the young
people were shaking and falling over. At one point it looked
like a battlefield; bodies everywhere, people weeping, wailing,
speaking in tongues, much shouting and loud behavior. And there
was Tim in the middle of it all--babbling into the microphone!
Can you tell me that, that kind of chaos is to be accepted as proof that God
is at work? Even John Wimber at first seemed uncertain: "He spent all night
reading Scripture and historical accounts of revivals," Mrs. Wimber reports,
"He was afraid of doing anything that wasn't explicitly outlined in the
Bible." That's a healthy fear. But apparently that all night study didn't
yield him any conclusive answers, and so Mrs. Wimber goes on,
By 5:00am John was desperate. He cried out to God, "Lord, if
this is You please tell me." A moment later, the phone rang and
a pastor friend of ours from Denver, Colorado, was on the line.
"John," he said, "I am sorry I am calling so early but I have
really something strange to tell you. I don't know what it
means but God wants me to say, 'It's me John!'" That was all
John needed. He didn't have to understand the trembling, or why
everything happened as it did, all he needed to know was that
the Holy Spirit did it.
And how did he know the Holy Spirit did it? He got a phone call from Denver.
That's how he knew. If John Wimber had continued reading Scripture he might
have come to 1 Corinthians 12:13-14, and he might have seen the Apostle Paul
reprove the Corinthian Church for just such a scene. In verses 23 and 40 of
1 Corinthians chapter 14, it says, "If therefore the whole church should
assemble together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers
enter, will they not say that you are mad? But let all things be done
properly and in an orderly manner." And of course, you don't determine God's
will by a phone call from anywhere. God's Word is the only reliable test of
such things, and it seems clear that an honest reading of Scripture would
have given the plain answer. How can you take counsel from an unexpected
telephone call? But that's the mystical again. It must be God, because it
seems so extraordinary. I guess John Wimber decided that he didn't need to
make sense of what was happening in the church. He didn't need to reconcile
it with Scripture. He didn't need to understand it, he only needed a phone
call. He had a mystical sign and that was enough, so he put aside his fear
about extrabiblical phenomena, deciding and opting out, for the proof of a
Now, these are simply illustrations of what goes on in the movement. The
Charismatic tendency to suspend the intellect and let mysticism run amuck is
the essence of what Paul wrote against in 1 Corinthians 14. There Paul
condemns primarily the misuse of the gift of tongues, but he also has other
things in mind as well. And he was bringing order to the very chaos which
has come back to the Church. And yet it is so true, that in the modern
Charismatic movement, chaos and confusion are typical, very typical.
Several of our elders from Grace Church attended the Vineyard, a few weeks
ago, to see this very kind of chaos. People lying on the floor prostrate for
a prolonged period of time with all their limbs sticking out, as if they were
in a catatonic state. People babbling in tongues and being incited to do
that by the leader. People pushing chairs off the floor and dancing all over
the floor and jumping up and down on the chairs. The same kind of hysteria.
Norval Hayes (sp.) describes an incident when he supposedly healed a man of
The man fell straight forward, face down on the floor. You
would have thought all of his teeth would have been knocked out,
but they weren't. Then he bounced and fell back down again.
The impact could have broken his nose but it didn't. Again he
bounced up off the floor and fell back again. This time he laid
there real quiet for 60 seconds, then his mouth opened and a
little squeaky sound like a mouse began to come out. It got
louder, sounding like a big rat, and finally sounded like a
screaming hyena. In a little while the man shook his head and
pushed himself up off of the floor. He acted as if he had been
hit in the head with a stick, but both ears had popped opened
and the knot in his stomach was gone. People jumped out of
their seats and started running towards me and saying, "Pray for
me." As I reached out and began to pray, it was as though the
wind of God had come into my hands. People were lying all
around on the floor, including denomination pastors. God
baptized them in the Holy Ghost and the moment they hit the
floor they started to speak in tongues.
Kenneth Hagan tells us of incredible tales about unusual healings that he has
done when peculiar anointings have been manifest in his ministry,
Several times the anointing has come on me to do unusual things
while praying for the sick. Sometimes I go along 5 or 6 years
between times. The first time it happened to me was in 1950. I
was preaching in Oklahoma, a woman came forward for prayer, she
said she was 72, she looked like she was about to give birth to
a baby, of course, she had a tumor. I started to lay hands on
her to pray, when the Word of the Lord came to me saying, "Hit
her in the stomach with your fist!" On the inside of me I said,
"Lord, you're going to get me in trouble, going around hitting
women in the stomach with my fist. I don't believe I much want
to do that." "Well, if you want argue about it, the anointing
will leave you. It will lift from you just like a bird flying
away after sitting on your shoulder." It left me.
When it left me, I thought, "Well, I will go ahead and minister
with laying on of hands." I laid hands on her again and the
anointing came again, and the Word of the Lord came and said,
"Hit her in the stomach with your fist!" I decided I better
stop and explain that to the crowd before I started doing it.
So I told them what the Lord said and I punched her in the
stomach with my fist, and God and hundreds of people are my
witnesses that that stomach went down like you'd stuck a pin in
Hagan tells of another man he was told to "Hit in the head!" And a young
female college student he was to hit in the Kidney!
Now, all I am doing is reading you the testimony of these people. The words
are their words. And such tactics, apart from being dangerous, especially
with 72 year old people and other people who are under physical duress, leave
me dumbfounded, to say nothing of their foolishness. And recently, you might
be interested to know, that an 85 year old woman came forward for a healing
touch from Benny Hinn. And while she was in line, he slew someone in the
Spirit, who fell over and crushed the woman's hip and she died. And there is
now a $5,000,000 lawsuit against Benny Hinn. That kind of ridiculous chaos
that ends in the death of an elderly woman is not the power of God.
Charismatic chaos is usually not so physically fatal, but it is spiritually
fatal for many.
Some concerned parents wrote our church, and I get letters about this quite
regularly, my file is fairly large, but their daughter had become involved
with a spiritual gifts workshop in a large well known Third Wave church. The
mother wrote this,
In December of 1989 she began (speaking of the daughter)
speaking in tongues. Shortly thereafter she began to see
angels. An angel in armor always stands outside the front door
of her home and another stands inside her living room. He has
large wings. She says she asked God to send her angels for
protection while her husband was on a business trips. A few
months later she began to see demons also. A monkey like demon
sat on her husband's head one night and hissed at her. She sees
others riding on tops of cars or standing on rooftops and some
in battle with the angels. She sometimes sees darkness around
people. She believes seeing this is a God given gift. When I
told her to test the spirits, she got angry. She said the Lord
said, "Yes, it is I the Lord." I believe they are all demons.
I told her to read the Bible. She said she only reads the
Scripture numbers the Holy Spirit puts in her mind.
We visited her and attended one of her group meetings. A
prophet from Kansas City came (one of the Kansas City Prophets.
That's a group that I have mentioned); he said something about
the past, present, or future of nearly everyone in the room.
Somethings were incredibly true and other things haven't
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