The Murky Waters of Living Rivers Church
Rev. Martyn McGeown
Visitors to the Ballymena Show may have noticed the
Living Rivers Church display, with its slogan, "Releasing the
Winner in You," balloons, amusement in the form of a man dressed in a
bear costume and a DVD showcasing their children’s meetings,
Jesus Christ Himself tells us that we should "judge
not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John
7:24). Obedience to Christ’s command involves "testing the spirits" (I
John 4:1); "searching the Scriptures daily, whether [these] things are
so" (Acts 17:11), and looking to "the law and the testimony" (Isa.
8:20). This is important because the Bible warns us that there will be
many false prophets (Matt. 24:24; Acts 20:29-30; II Cor. 11:4; Gal.
1:6-9; Eph. 4:14; II Pet. 2:1; Jude 4).
The leaders of Living Rivers Church are Pastors Paul
and Karen Brady. But God’s Word "suffers not a woman to teach, nor to
usurp authority over the man" (I Tim. 2:12).
The Living Rivers Church website claims that Pastor
Brady has a "powerful" and "prophetic anointing," and even claims that he
"received instruction from the Holy Spirit that the ministry should be
called Living Rivers." This claim is false because God no longer gives
new revelation, as the Bible is sufficient (II Tim. 3:16-17; Heb.
Article 8 of the Living Rivers Church statement of
We believe in water baptism by total immersion, in
the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as distinct from the New Birth, in
speaking with tongues as the Spirit of God gives utterance (Acts 2:4),
in the gifts of the Spirit, and the evidence of the fruit of the
Spirit. We believe that all of these are available to believers today.
In other words, "Living Rivers" Church is a Pentecostal or Charismatic church. The doctrinal indifference and
biblical ignorance of much of Christendom is a fertile breeding ground
for Charismaticism. Charismatics claim to make much of the Spirit of
God, but their actions and their doctrine promotes a very different
spirit from the "Spirit of truth" (John 16:13).
The role of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ
(John 16:14), for "he shall not speak of himself" (16:13). By putting
the Holy Spirit in the limelight, the Charismatics grieve the Spirit
because Christ is not glorified. The works of the Spirit include the
He inspired the prophets and apostles to write
the Scriptures (John 14:26; II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:21) and thus
He "leads us into all truth" (John 14:26).
He reproves "the world of sin, and of
righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).
He gives life to elect sinners "dead in
trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1) by regenerating them or giving them the new
birth (John 3:8).
He produces righteous fruit in the people of God
He comforts (John 14:16), helps (Rom. 8:26) and
sanctifies (I Pet. 1:2) believers.
Such "normal" works of the Spirit are despised in
Charismaticism because Charismatics seek the spectacular. The inspired
Scriptures are set aside in favour of "new revelation," even if it
contradicts the Word of God. The convicting power of the Holy Sprit is
denied as men are manipulated to accept Jesus by all kinds of tricks
designed to work on man’s so-called "free will." Regeneration is widely
believed to be the result of man "accepting Jesus into one’s heart," not
the work of the Spirit blowing sovereignly "where he listeth [or wills]" (John 3:8). The testimony of Scripture that the new birth comes "not
of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of
God" (John 1:13) is ignored or rejected, since most Charismatics do not
believe that God "of his own will
begat us with the word of truth" (James 1:18).
According to Charismatics (like the Living Rivers
Church), "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" is a post-conversion experience
which is necessary to live the "full Christian life." Not to have this
"baptism" leaves one a normal—and supposedly impoverished—Christian. The
evidence that one has had this experience is tongue-speaking. But the
Holy Scriptures do not speak of two baptisms, one "lesser" baptism
(regeneration) and a second, greater baptism. There is "one
baptism" (Eph. 4:5), a baptism by the Holy Spirit into Jesus Christ and
His body (I Cor. 12:13) signified in water baptism, which is
administered once. Pentecost with its extensions recorded in Acts
were one off events. Pentecost was the outpouring of the Spirit upon the
New Testament church (Acts 2). The Spirit was poured out several times
in the book of Acts to signify the acceptance of the Samaritans
(8:14-17), the Gentiles (10:44-48, 11:15-18) and the disciples of John
the Baptist (19:2-6), respectively, into the one, holy, catholic (i.e.,
apostolic church of Jesus Christ. There is no need for the Holy Spirit
to be poured out in this way today.
The claim of Charismatics that believers today can
and ought to speak in tongues is false. The tongues in Scripture were
real, human languages. The "tongues" in Charismatic circles are not real
languages. No Charismatic has ever been able to speak a language
(German, French, Portuguese, Chinese, etc.) without first having learned
it. On the day of Pentecost, unlearned men (Acts 4:13) were suddenly
able to speak the languages of the nations around them, much to the
astonishment of the crowds (Acts 2:6-12). In contrast, today when the
Church sends a missionary (Rom. 10:15) it is necessary for him to study
diligently so that he can learn the language of the people to whom he
shall preach. The Spirit gave tongues in the New Testament church for
To authenticate the message. In Acts, when the
various nationalities gathered in Jerusalem heard the Gospel
preached to them in "[their] own tongue, wherein [they] were born"
(2:8-11), God converted three thousand souls (2:41). Furthermore, the
message of the Apostles was authenticated by means of "many wonders
and signs" (2:43). This was the reason why God caused His prophets
and apostles to do miracles (Heb. 2:4), and why men are not given the
power to do miracles today.
To instruct the saints before the New Testament
was complete. Tongues and prophecies were given for "edification,
and exhortation, and comfort" (I Cor. 14:3). But tongues shall cease
(I Cor. 13:8). Even in the apostolic age, tongues which are last in
Paul’s list of gifts (I Cor. 12:4-11, 28-30) and were not common
to all believers, hence Paul’s rhetorical question, "Do all speak
with tongues?" (I Cor. 12:30).
As a sign of judgment against the unbelieving
Jews. I Corinthians 14:21-22 explains that tongues are a sign of
judgment against the Jews. Quoting from Isaiah 28:11, Paul shows that
God had through His prophets spoken many times to His people and
they had not heeded the warnings. Then God says, "I will speak to
you in a strange tongue," signifying that He would send them to
Babylon where foreigners would be their masters and where they
would no longer hear God speak to them in their language. However,
it ought to be noted that the "tongues" in Isaiah 28, Acts 2 and I
Corinthians are real languages. There is no evidence in Scripture
that the Spirit gives utterance so that His people speak in
Charismatics claim to be following the New Testament
pattern and they especially appeal to the book of I Corinthians. I
cannot imagine why the Charismatics would want to copy the Corinthian
model. Of all the churches which Paul addressed, the Corinthians had the
most problems and required the most rebukes. The Corinthians were characterised by divisions (1:10-13), carnality (3:1-4), spiritual
immaturity (3:1), pride (4:6-7), laxity in discipline (5:1), sexual
immorality (6:18), profanation of the Lord’s Supper (11:20),
lovelessness (13:1-13), heretical notions concerning the resurrection
(15:12) and other sins.
Paul treats the subject of spiritual gifts
(charismata) in chapters 12-14 of the epistle. Some points which most
Charismatics miss should be pointed out.
First, the Holy Spirit, not man, "divides to every
man as he will" (12:11). The Holy Spirit, even in Paul’s day, did
not will to give all in the church the same gifts. Because of this
difference, the more "gifted" members were tempted to be puffed up and
despise those who had received the "lesser gift." In the middle of the
treatment of spiritual gifts is chapter 13, where Paul teaches that
Christian love is more to be coveted than all gifts of tongues and
knowledge (13:1-3). In the exercise of Christian love, the Corinthians
were lacking, but they could boast of much tongue-speaking and
prophecies. Therefore, Paul urges them to "follow after charity" (14:1).
Second, when it came to tongues and prophecy, Paul
urged the Corinthians to prioritize edification. Unintelligible sounds,
whether in a real—but unknown—language or in modern Pentecostal
gobbledygook edify no-one. There must be an interpreter. Paul writes,
"In the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding,
that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in
an unknown tongue" (14:19). Irrational emotionalism is not Christianity
for Paul commands, "Brethren, be not children in understanding … in understanding
be men" (14:20). Paul writes that at the most three people should speak
in tongues and if there is no interpreter the tongue-speakers should be
silent (14:27-28). It is not to be a free-for-all. Similarly, only two
or three prophets should be heard and the message must be "judged"
(14:29), not merely accepted uncritically. Moreover, women are not
permitted to speak, whether in tongues or in prophecies (14:34).
Receiving this instruction—not as human tradition or Paul's opinion
(contra most feminists)—as the "commandments of the Lord" is the
sign of a spiritual man (14:37). Paul ends the chapter by emphasizing
the principle that divine worship is to be conducted "in decency and in
order," not in confusion, "for God is not the author of confusion" (14:33,
Wild, uncontrolled sweeps of emotion are not from God, in spite of what
various Charismatics claim. The Spirit does not cause people to go
mad in the meetings, fall over, roll on the floor, bark like dogs or
laugh uncontrollably, for "the spirits of the prophets are subject to
the prophets" (14:32), and one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is
"temperance" or self-control (Gal. 5:23). Thus Christ's ministers
are to preach that aged men, aged women, young women and young men,
indeed all kinds of people, are to be "sober" (Titus 2:2, 4, 6, 12). The
Holy Ghost whom Christ gives to His children is the spirit "of a sound
mind" (II Tim. 1:7). So, even if spiritual gifts had not passed away, it
ought to be evident that Pentecostals and Charismatics disobey the
inspired apostle’s instructions concerning the proper use of such gifts.
Living Rivers Church goes beyond the teaching of many
Charismatics for the Bradys promote the so-called "Prosperity Gospel,"
also known as "Health and Wealth," "Name it and Claim it" or
"Word-Faith." In their newsletter, Winners' Word (WW), the Bradys
write, "... you don't have to be sick, you can be blessed and not
cursed, you can be financially blessed by God and you do not have to be
poor anymore" (WW, 20 May, 2006).
Similar teachings abound in the Believers Voice of
Victory (BVOV) of Kenneth Copeland Ministries, which "Living Rivers"
Church promotes. For example, "Healing? It's yours. Prosperity? It's
yours. Peace? It's yours. Children? They're yours. If you can find it in
the Word of God, it's yours! Grab hold of it!" (BVOV, May, 2006, p. 13).
The heresies of the Copelands (Kenneth, Gloria and also now some of
their wider family circle) have been well documented. For example,
Kenneth Copeland believes:
God is a physical being about six foot, two
inches tall and weighs about two hundred pounds.
God lives on a planet which is a mirror copy of
Adam in the Garden of Eden was God manifested in
God made a covenant with men (initially Abraham)
because He needed access to the earth. This "covenant" is an
agreement between God and Abraham (and his seed) whereby God agrees
to look after Abraham’s spiritual, physical, financial and social
On the cross, Christ bore Satan’s nature and, after
his physical death, he went to hell for three days to be tortured by
demons. Thus, the atonement was not made on the cross, but in hell.
In the new birth, a person’s nature is changed
from the nature of Satan to the nature of God. Therefore, all
believers are gods.
Since "the basic principle of the Christian life
is to know that God put our sin, sickness, disease, sorrow, grief,
and poverty on Jesus at Calvary," believers can claim freedom from
sickness and poverty as their blood-bought inheritance.
Has God really promised all His people financial
prosperity and good physical health in this life? Can we "claim" health
and wealth as our "gospel inheritance"?
The Health and Wealth (HW) gospel tempts many but is
cold comfort to poor believers. When afflicted Christians fail to attain
to financial prosperity or healing, HW preachers burden them with guilt
and fear by suggesting that they have insufficient faith. What a cruel
deception! The fact is that Christians have known physical sufferings
from the very beginning. Church history, beginning in the book of Acts,
demonstrates this. Read Paul’s credentials. He does not boast of his
wealth and his carefree life, as do the HW preachers. His service for
Christ is shown in his suffering:
Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I
am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above
measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the
Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I
beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered
shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; in
journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in
perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in
the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils
among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness, in
watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in
cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that
which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak,
and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs
glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities
(II Cor. 11:23-30).
Paul knew, unlike the HW preachers, what it was like
to be destitute, to be deprived of freedom, clothing, to suffer pain and
persecution. Did he lack faith? Only a fool would think he did. How do the Copelands of this world explain such a testimony?
Paul is by no means unique. The writer to the Hebrews
describes the lot of many believers.
And others had trial of cruel mockings and
scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned,
they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they
wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute,
afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they
wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the
earth (Heb. 11:36-38)
These saints had strong faith and the world was not
worthy of them. Yet they did not increase in material possessions. How
do the HW preachers account for that? The history of the church has
shown that it is not the norm for Christians to own the lion’s share of
this world’s goods. The Bible does not promise a life free from trouble,
but warns of persecution, trials and suffering for Christ's sake (II
Tim. 3:12; Phil. 1:29).
HW preachers have no message for the saints in N. Korea, Iran, China or
other countries where no room is made for them in the earth.
What should our attitude be to such suffering? We
ought to pray for our persecuted and suffering brethren. When we do not
abound in health and wealth, we ought not mope like spoiled brats because
God is not giving us everything we want. Should we not rather see that
God is our wise Father who knows what we need? The gospel is not about
"faring sumptuously every day" (Luke 16:19) because "the kingdom of God
is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy
Ghost" (Rom. 14:17). That is, the spiritual blessings of forgiveness of
sins, peace with God and fellowship with our Father in heaven are
infinitely more important than whether we live in a mansion or a hovel.
None of the miseries (poverty, disease, war, famine, etc.) which the world
fears can separate us from fellowship with the Triune God and the spiritual blessings which we enjoy in
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?
shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or
nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are
killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.
Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that
loved us.. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor
angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things
to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able
to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord
Obviously, the apostle expected that Christians would
face problems, like persecution, famine, nakedness and sword. He did not
tell his readers to "rebuke famine in Jesus’ name" or teach them the
"power of positive thinking" or "visualisation." Sadly, those who follow
the HW movement are told to claim freedom from poverty and sickness, but
Paul told Christians that, although these things may be our lot, yet
they cannot separate us from the love of Christ, indeed, that we are
"more than conquerors," not by being delivered from them, but
by going through
The motivation behind the HW movement is greed. It is
not a coincidence that the leading HW preachers are fabulously wealthy.
They are wealthy at the expense of their followers. But covetousness is
the very opposite of Christ’s teaching. Exodus 18:21 stipulates that the
rulers of Israel should be "men of truth, hating covetousness." In the
New Testament, elders and deacons must not be "greedy of filthy lucre"
(I Tim. 3:3, 8). Scripture forbids covetousness (Luke 12:15) and teaches
contentment with what we have (I Tim. 6:8; Heb. 13:5; Phil. 4:12). Where
does this leave people who tell their followers—on the back of receiving
their large donations—that they can be rich if only they have enough
In the New Testament Scriptures, disease is a
reality. Christians were not, and are not, exempt from this reality this
side of heaven. New Testament believers, suffering diseases and
infirmities, were not enjoined to "claim healing" in the name of Jesus
(cf. II Cor. 12:10; I Tim. 5:23). While we can humbly petition God to
remove our burdens (II Cor. 12:8), we must pray subject to His will (I
John 5:14). We cannot "name it and claim it" or demand what we want from
God as our "right." We have no rights. All we have is of grace. We must
never forget that. God, the wise Father, knows our needs (Matt. 6:32-33)
and will supply them. He supplies our needs, not necessarily what we
think we need. God in His love denies us some good gifts because He
knows they will harm us. If God gave us everything we wanted, we would
Living Rivers Church boasts as its slogan, "Releasing
the Winner in You." However, such a slogan is contrary to the Word of
God. How can sinners release the winner in themselves? This popular
psychology is completely alien to Scripture. And remember, that this
message is preached by "Living Rivers" to the professing Christian and
to the unconverted. There is no "winner" waiting to be released
from the totally depraved sinner. All that the unconverted sinner can release from
himself is sin! Jesus speaking of the sinner says that "corrupt tree
cannot bring forth good fruit" (Matt. 7:18). Instead, Jesus teaches
"from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts,
adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness,
deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all
these evil things come from within" (Mark 7:21-23). Furthermore, the
Bible teaches that sinners are "filled with all unrighteousness" (Rom.
1:29), for "there is none that doeth good" (Rom. 3:12). Sinners must
forsake their own righteousness (for they have none) and, instead of
seeking salvation in themselves, look outside of themselves to the
righteousness of Jesus Christ.
For further information on Pentecostalism, see our
Cessationism Resources or read the
following pamphlets on-line: "Pentecostalism"
and "Try the