Charismatic Chaos - Part 3
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 90-54, titled "Charismatic Chaos" Part 3. 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 3, to strengthen and encourage the
true Church of Jesus Christ.
Scriptures quoted in this message are from the New American Standard Bible.
Charismatic Chaos - Part 3
John F. MacArthur, Jr.
All rights reserved.
In our study of this most fascinating and important subject of the
Charismatic movement in our contemporary time, we come tonight to message
number three in our series; and we are going to be building on the prior
message dealing with "Does God still give Revelation?" as we talk about "Are
there still Prophecies from God?", another very important component of
understanding and assessing the Charismatic movement.
Certainly, in my mind, the most disturbing aspect of the Charismatic movement
and their thirst for supernatural experience and supernatural encounter is
their claim that God is still revealing Himself verbally to them. As we saw
in our last study, they claim that God is speaking to them: that is a
constant claim. In fact, there probably is nothing more commonly expressed
among Charismatics than that, "The Lord told me!" Or, "Jesus told me!"
They believe that the Lord is still telling them specific things in specific
terms. God is still breathing out revelation.
It has been a curiosity to me and should be to us, I think, that if God is
still giving revelation, the only ones that He gives it to are Charismatics!
Nobody else seems to be getting revelation with the exception of the founders
of various cults. But apart from the cults and the Charismatics I don't see
people within the framework, the broad framework of Christianity, claiming
Now, I want to be very clear that when I talk about the fact that God is no
longer giving revelation, I don't want to be misunderstood. I do believe
that the Holy Spirit does lead Christians. Romans 8:14 says that, "As many
as are led by the Spirit, they are the children of God." I believe the Holy
Spirit guides us. I believe He empowers us to witness, to speak, to write,
to act with Spiritual Power and impact. I believe the Holy Spirit impresses
His will on our minds leading us to praise, leading us to obedience, leading
us to righteousness, leading us to spiritual service. We as believers can be
confident of his moving on our minds to lead us to truth. However, He does
not speak to us in audible words. He does not place inaudible, but specific
words in our minds. He is not breathing out any more revelation.
We noted the importance of understanding that in our last study, and if you
weren't here you'll want to get the tape. You remember that Jude said that,
"Scripture was once for all delivered to the Saints." And when it was
"delivered" it was done. He was not only speaking of past Scripture when he
wrote that, he was speaking of present Scripture which he himself was even
writing, and he was speaking of future Scripture yet to be written by Apos
tles and their associates to complete the New Testament. He identifies the
composite of God's revelation and says, "It was once for all delivered to the
Saints," in God's plan.
And after all the Scripture was complete and "once for all delivered to the
Saints" the Early Church said, "The Canon is closed." Now that word "canon"
needs definition. We mentioned last time that it comes from a word "kanon"
(Greek) which is a reed. That reed was used as a measuring stick, and so the
word "kanon" in the Greek came to mean a rod, or a bar, or a measuring rule,
or standard, or limit. We would call it a measuring rod, or a measuring
stick, a ruler, a yardstick; something by which other things are measured.
In the more spiritual sense it became a standard by which you measure truth.
The Scripture metaphorically then became the standard of all truth; the
standard of all spiritual ideas, concepts, and theology. And so the Canon of
Scripture, that is Scripture completed, and the rule was "once for all
delivered to the Saints."
Just to give you a little deeper insight into that, the Old Testament Canon
was closed about 425 B.C., 425 years before Christ. The last prophecy was
written by Malachi, [and] placed into the Canon. There was no question which
books were inspired by God. No question. It was clear to the people of God
what they were. In fact, under the leadership of the scribe Ezra, there was
some work to pull all of that together, and the consensus of the people of
God was very clear on what the 39 inspired books were. How did they know?
Two simple ways. One, the writer, well known to be a spokesman for God,
claimed to be speaking and writing the inspired Word of God. First
principle, the writer, well known as a spokesman for God claimed to be
speaking and writing the inspired Word of God. Second principle, there were
no errors of history, geography, or theology at all in the book. And if the
writer was familiar to them, claimed the inspiration of God, and wrote
without error, they knew they had inspired revelation.
Now there were many attempts made by Satan to infiltrate the Old Testament
Canon with uninspired books. At least 14 of them have been accumulated and
together they are called the Apocrypha. You find them in a Roman Catholic
Bible. They are not a part of our Bible. They are not inspired books. They
are books: 1 and 2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, the rest of Esther, the Wisdom of
Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), Baruch, the
Song of the Three Holy Children, the History of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon,
the Prayer of Manasses, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. All spurious. We call them
Pseudepigrapha--false writing. They were clearly fakes. How do we know they
were fakes? They were written long after the canon was completed and they
lacked the prophetic quality and authorship to stamp them as inspired
Scripture. None of their writers claimed divine inspiration and some openly
disclaimed it. And Apocrypha books contained errors of facts, errors of
ethics, errors of doctrine. For example, some of the Apocrypha books
advocate suicide. Some of them advocate assassination and some of them teach
praying for dead people. Therein lies one of the reasons you find them in a
Catholic Bible. The Old Testament Canon was unquestioned; it is still
unquestioned because it is so evident what was inspired.
The New Testament writers then came together to write the remaining 27 books
of Scripture. And they had similar tests to determine a book's canonicity.
One, was the book authored by an Apostle or someone closely associated with
an Apostle? They knew who the Apostles were and they knew who their close
associates were. The key question about the book's inspiration was tied to
Apostolic authorship or one closely associated. For example, the Gospel of
Mark was written by Mark, and Mark was not an Apostle but a close associate
of Peter, who was. The Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were written by
Luke who was not an Apostle but a very close associate of Paul, who was. The
Apostles were known to the people, their associates were known to the people,
and when Apostles wrote and claimed inspiration the people were secure in the
veracity of their writings.
Another test applied by the Early Church was the test of content. Did the
writings square with what the Apostles taught? In those early years of the
Church, heretics such as the Gnostics tried to slip in phony books, but none
of them ever made it. If it didn't square with Apostolic doctrine--it didn't
pass. And the doctrinal aberrations were very easy to spot.
A third test was this, "Is the book regularly read and used in the churches?"
In other words, did the people of God readily accept it? Read it during
worship and make its teachings a part of their daily living?
A final test was determined that would sort of pull it all together, and that
was the book recognized and used by succeeding generations after the Early
All of those tests applied leave us with the 27 books that we have in our New
Testament. They all were written by authors who were either Apostles or
closely associated with Apostles. Their content is in complete and total
agreement and harmony with all the teaching of the Apostles, and with all
other books of the New Testament and Old Testament. All 27 of them were read
in the churches and used by the Church and by succeeding generations even
until now. There was also a formidable group of fakes that came in the New
Testament period, books like the, "Epistle of Barnabas, the Apocalypse of
Peter, the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Shepherd of Hermas." And then there were
false books called, "the Gospel of Andrew, the Gospel of Bartholomew, the
Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip." They all failed to make it in
because they couldn't pass the test of authenticity.
The false books then of the Old Testament and New Testament, what we call, as
I said, Pseudepigrapha, were attempts to pollute the Biblical text with
spurious revelation. Now, listen to me. That attempt didn't end in those
days; it is still going on and before we are done tonight we are going to see
that in clear terms. People and groups have continued to claim their works
and their writings are inspired by God, and are true, and authoritative and
binding. And whenever they do that, it leads to aberrant doctrine.
Revelation 22:18 warns about this, it says, "I warn everyone who hears the
words of the prophecy of this book; if anyone adds anything to them, God will
add to him the plagues described in this book."
Now, someone will scoff and say, "Well, that's only a warning that applies to
the Book of Revelation and not the entire Bible." Before you congratulate
yourself, by the way, too loudly on such reasoning, realize this, Revelation
is the last book ever written, all the way as late as 96 A.D. It is the last
book penned; it is therefore the last book in the Bible. Therefore, if you
add anything to the Book of Revelation, you are adding it to the Bible and
you put yourself in danger of the curse of Revelation 22:18.
Now, someone will immediately say, "Now, wait a minute. If that's true then
why don't these people who add to the Bible go up in smoke? Go up in flames
or have some personal holocaust that takes their life." Well, one thing is
clear, God does keep His word. He doesn't keep it by your timetable or mine
but by His own; and He may be withholding the force of that curse until
"Judgment Day." Christ has put His stamp of authority on the Scripture. The
Church has clearly discovered the Canon of God's Word under the guidance of
the Holy Spirit, and has abandoned every spurious attempt to pollute it with
false writing. To add anything to Scripture or to downplay the singular,
unique, inspiration of Scripture, then is to not only go against the Word of
God and the warning of Scripture and the teaching of Christ and the Apostles,
but it is to bring yourself into the very dangerous place where you are
susceptible to the curse of God. And, of course, what happens when you
introduce something as true is [that] you open up a spiritual free-for-all,
The Charismatic movement today has initiated that free-for-all as serious as
any error in that movement is the error of claiming revelation from God. It
is reckless; it is indiscriminate. Now, within that revelation claim, there
is a specific category that I want to deal with tonight and that's the matter
Yesterday, I was watching television, and I have been watching Channel 40
frequently lately, in order to glean some illustrations of this. And a
preacher from Texas, by the name of Larry Lee came on and told about a
prophecy that he had had, that he [then] gave to a certain individual.
Verbatim, God gave it to him; verbatim he gave it to this certain individual.
This is common. This was not any big prophecy with far reaching implications
or application; this was a personal prophecy for one guy, and he repeated
that prophecy from God that was given to that man as expressing the very will
of God, in the very words of God. This is routine for them.
There has arisen recently a very interesting group that is sort of leading
the prophetic parade, if we can call it that, and they come from Kansas City.
They have gathered the name, "The Kansas City Prophets." They are the
subject of much writing today. They are self-proclaimed prophets in Kansas
City and they serve as a good example of how far prophetic abuses can go.
They are very popular. I was shocked, absolutely shocked, to find out within
the last week, that one of their leaders is speaking in Westminster Church,
the Church of G. Campbell Morgan and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in the city of
London. That is the level to which they have ascended, these Kansas City
Invited to speak as guests in a Kansas City church, these self-styled
prophets each prophesied that, "The Lord had told them that the Church was to
disband. That the Church's leaders had no right to challenge the prophecy
and that if the Church failed to heed the prophecy, 'Ichabod, the Glory Has
Departed,' would be written above the door." Now, imagine a man coming into
the pulpit of this Church, telling you he had a "Word from the Lord" that
you're to disband, and if you don't disband according to the "Word from the
Lord," Ichabod would be written over your Church.
The Prophets had allegedly received a message from God saying that all the
Christians in Kansas City were to be under the authority of the Prophets'
home church. So that all the Christians of Kansas City were to leave their
churches and go to the Church known as the Kansas City Fellowship. Similar
prophecies were delivered in and around Kansas City and other churches and
incredibly, one church at least, actually responded by dropping its ties with
the Assemblies of God and aligning with the Kansas City Fellowship. Now
that's a novel approach to "Church Growth!" But it has more in common with
the methodology of cults than it does with the work of the Holy Spirit.
Interestingly, the Kansas City Prophets admit that they have prophesied
falsely on occasion--they admit it. They specialize, they say, in predictive
prophecy. They foretold, for example, that a nationwide revival would sweep
across England in June of 1990, one year ago. Hundreds of thousands were
going to turn to Christ and the movement would then spread to the entire
European Continent. Like many of their predictions, the revival never
materialized. One of their prophets concocted a novel explanation of why so
many of their prophecies go unfulfilled, and I am quoting, here's what he
I figure, if I hit two-thirds of it, I'm doing pretty good. God
told me that, "If I release the 100% Rema (sp.) right now, the
accountability would be awesome, and you'd have so much 'Ananias
and Sapphira' going on that the people wouldn't grow, they'd be
too scared." But He said, "If it was 'on target' it would kill
instead of scaring the people to repentance."
Now, I don't even know what that means. But apparently what he meant was,
God told him I have to be wrong once and a while or people would be too
frightened of what I say. Kansas City Fellowship Pastor, Mike Bickel (sp.)
adds, "Now, the 'two-thirds,' you know when Bob first said it, I said, 'two-
thirds?'" He said, "Well, that's better than its ever been up to now, you
know. That's the highest level it's ever been." In other words, these so-
called prophets claim they have a "Word from the Lord" but the odds are one
in three at best that it will be false! No wonder their prophecies have
thrown so many churches into hopeless confusion. And what a blasphemy
against the God who is supposed to be the author of these.
Oddly enough, despite their poor track record, the Kansas City Prophets have
garnered an international following. They have aligned with John Wimbers'
(sp.) Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and they now speak worldwide about the
modern day prophetic ministry. In a forward to a book endorsing the Kansas
City Prophets, written by Dr. John White, he writes:
Battles about prophets have plagued the Church from time to
time. Early last century it was the Irvingite Controversy in
London with the leading prophet having to confess after years
that he had been deceived. Many of us have found that hearing
from God is no easy thing. In fact, the Church has had so many
bad experiences with prophets that we now react too rapidly and
fearfully. We could be in danger of discarding a live baby in
our horror over dirty bath water.
My question is, "Who says there's a baby in the dirty bath water?" White,
for example, fiercely defends the Kansas City Prophets, although he
acknowledges that they have, "made mistakes." He seems to believe that
criticism of them is inherently Satanic. Quoting White he says:
Satan fears those words that come fresh from God's lips.
Because Satan so dreads the fresh word, he will arouse
controversy wherever it comes forth miraculously through the
lips of a real prophet, or from the lips of an Evangelist,
aflame with the Spirit.
Now, do you see what a trap that is? Because if you hear a prophecy and you
reject it--Ah! Ha! That's satanic! So you're trapped. Curiously, White
believes that controversy about the Kansas City Prophets is strong evidence
of their genuineness. In a section titled (mistitled really), "Beware of
False Prophets," White quotes Jesus' warning about false prophets in Matthew
7:15, Matthew 24:11, and Mark 13:22. Then White writes this, listen to this:
We are warned that it is to happen. Most scholars feel the
words of Jesus apply particularly to the last days. They may be
approaching us now. How are we to discern the false from the
true? For one thing, true prophets will be unpopular.
Listen to me, let me say this as plainly as I possibly can, that is the worst
imaginable starting point for a discussion of how to discern false prophets!
Whether they're unpopular or not doesn't mean anything. Jim Jones was
unpopular, except with a few deceived souls. Certainly, those who speak
truth are often unpopular, but notoriety and unpopularity is not a test of
authenticity. Saddam Hussein is unpopular! And Jesus and John the Baptist
went through periods of their ministry when they were enormously popular.
That doesn't prove anything. The only test of a true prophet is the accuracy
of his prophecies.
Deuteronomy 18:21-22 says, "How shall we know the word which the Lord has not
spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not
come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken.
The prophet has spoken it presumptuously." Simple, Deuteronomy 18:21-22, "If
it isn't true it isn't from God!" And what was the penalty under the Law for
such a prophecy? Verse 20 adds, "But the prophet who shall speak a word
presumptuously in My name which I have commanded him to speak. . .that
prophet shall die." There weren't in those days a lot of false prophets
running around loose. Astonishingly, in a five page discussion, of how to
discern false prophets, White never once, in five pages, never once speaks of
accuracy or truthfulness as a test of their integrity. In fact, he
explicitly states that he believes that those are not valid tests of a
He believes that lying prophecies do not necessarily disqualify a person from
speaking for God. He concludes his section on discerning false prophets with
this statement, "Prophets are, of course, human beings. As such, they can
make mistakes and lie. They need not cease to be prophets for their mistakes
and failings." That statement not only betrays an appalling ignorance of
Scripture, but it betrays a very strong desire to legitimize prophecy at any
cost. Biblically a prophet spoke the mind of God. Every prophetic message
contained a "Thus saith the Lord," if not explicitly, implicitly. A prophecy
in the Biblical sense is not the prophets opinion, it's not the prophets
speculation, it is the Word of God and it could never be wrong--never! It is
not a mere impression on the prophet's mind. It is not a guess. It is not a
divination. It has nothing whatever to do with sooth saying; it is a Word
from the Lord. And the Lord never made a mistake. And since the prophet
speaks a Word from the Lord, he was held to the highest level of
accountability and judged with the utmost severity if he prophesied falsely.
It stands to reason that since a prophet is a mouthpiece for God's own words,
every authentic prophecy would be true, reliable, and inerrant. Otherwise,
God's a liar, for we must downgrade the meaning of prophecy and embrace some
secondary level of inspiration where you sort of give your opinion. We would
have to devise some kind of theory in which God somehow enables contemporary
prophets to deliver a message that maybe true or maybe false; it's sort of
"up for grabs." Beloved, the ecclesiastical landscape is literally filled
with Charismatics who are saying, "God talked to them and God gave them
prophecies," and they are pushing those prophecies at the Church. That is
serious, that is disastrous, and the results of it are all around us.
Last Sunday, in connection with talking about discernment, I quoted from Bill
Haman (sp.), who wrote an article in the magazine called Charisma, which is
one of the chief magazines of the movement. And in that article he shared
his belief about prophecies and I need to repeat that because you need to
hear it in this context. Haman believes:
"All personal prophecies are conditional, whether or not any
conditions are made explicit." That is, he says, "Prophecies
can be canceled, altered, revised, reversed, or diminished. For
prophecy of this kind to come to pass requires the proper
participation and cooperation of the one who receives the
So in Haman's scheme, the fact that prophecy goes unfulfilled is no proof it
was false to begin with! If circumstances change or if the prophet himself
lacks faith, God may change the prophecy in any way or even cancel it. So
everything is "up for grabs." First, he may be right, he may be wrong. If
he's right, and he doesn't follow through with the right amount of faith, or
circumstances change, even though it once was right, it now is wrong. It
should come to pass, it might not come to pass, if it does come to pass it's
ok, if it doesn't come to pass it's ok. Just, endless, useless double talk!
Obviously, Haman would deny that he puts modern prophecy on the same level as
Scripture, but in practice it is absolutely impossible to discern any
Now how do you determine if a prophecy is true? Here's what Haman says,
listen to this:
I have sometimes heard people say, "I didn't witness with that
prophecy," but after questioning them, I discovered that what
they really meant was that the prophecy didn't fit their
theology, personal desires, or goals, or their emotions reacted
negatively to it. They failed to understand that we don't bear
witness with the soul, the mind, the emotions, or will. Our
reasoning is in the mind, not the spirit. So our traditions,
beliefs and strong opinions are not true witnesses to prophetic
truth. The spirit reaction originates deep within our being.
Many Christians describe the physical location of its
corresponding sensation as the upper abdominal area.
What is he saying? He is saying, "Ignore your beliefs. Ignore your
theology. Ignore your reason. Ignore your logic. Ignore your common sense,
and wait for a feeling in your upper abdominal area, so you will know whether
a prophecy is true!" Foolish! Nonsense! That kind of thinking, however,
permeates the Charismatic movement. In the end, many prophecies are judged
on nothing more than some kind of feeling in the gut. That is precisely why
error and confusion run rampant in the Charismatic movement. You cannot have
an approach to theological data like that without having Satan move in and
confuse everybody. The fact remains throughout the history of the Church, no
genuine revival, no orthodox movement has ever been led by people whose
primary authority was based on private revelations from God. None in the
history of the Church. Many groups have claimed to receive new revelation,
but all of them have been fanatical, heretical, cultic, and fraudulent. Both
Charismatics and Non-Charismatics need to consider whether there is a
parallel between these groups and the modern Charismatic movement. It moves
more, and more, and more into heresy and aberration, because it is not
controlled by the Word of God.
Several major heresies will illustrate this for you, and I will give you a
little history flow here. Let's take an old one from the second century,
Montanism. Montanism. Montanus was a second century heretic from Phrygia,
who believed he was a prophet sent by God to reform Christianity with new
revelation. He believed he was inspired by the Holy Spirit in all his
teaching and he wrote the very Word of God, and spoke the very Word of God.
Two "so called" prophetesses, Priscilla and Maximilla, were instrumental in
the spread of Montanism. And I warn you at this point, that in most cults
there has been a dominating influence by a woman, which, of course, steps
outside the provision of Scripture, indicating clearly to us that women are
not to teach in the Church, but are to learn in submission. And so, there is
a reversal of that kind of role, usually in cultic activity. It was true in
Montanism back in the second century.
Of these women, Eusebius, one of the early fathers wrote, "Montanus also
stirred up two women and filled them with the bastard spirit, so that they
uttered demented, absurd, and irresponsible sayings." Some historians have
taken that to mean that these women spoke in tongues. Hippolytus, another
early writer, wrote about the Montanists and said this, and, of course, these
have been translated into English. He said of the Montanist:
They have been deceived by two females, Priscilla and Maximilla,
by name, whom they hold to be prophetesses, asserting that into
them the Paraclete Spirit entered. They magnify these females
above the Apostles and every gift of grace, so that some of them
go so far as to say that "In them there is something more than
Christ." They introduce novelties in the form of fasts and
feasts, abstinences, and diets of radishes, giving these females
as their authority.
Montanism spread rapidly throughout the early church and reached Rome by the
second half of the second century. Eusebius described its birth and early
growth with these words:
Montanus, they say, first exposed himself to the assaults of the
adversary through his unbounded lust for leadership. He was one
of the recent converts and he became possessed of a spirit and
suddenly began to rave in a kind of a ecstatic trance and to
babble jargon, prophesying in a manner contrary to the custom of
the Church, which had been handed down by tradition from the
earliest times. Some of them had heard his bastard utterances;
rebuked him as one possessed of a dev
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