Rev. Angus Stewart
In the previous five
articles on renewalism (Pentecostalism, Charismaticism and
neo-Charismaticism), we covered its history (including each
of these “three waves” and their precursors) and its
peculiar views on the baptism with the Holy Spirit, speaking
in tongues and prophecy. We now conclude with one last
feature of the renewalist movement: its claim to perform
miracles in the post-apostolic age.
Nature of Miracles
in the Bible
The nature of
miracles in the Bible, especially the healing miracles, is
very different from that of the Charismatics. You could say
that the miracles in Scripture specialize in hard cases:
demon-possessed people, paralytics, the blind, the lame and
even the dead. This makes biblical miracles easy to verify.
This is not the case with the so-called healings of the
renewalists. C. Peter Wagner of Fuller Theological Seminary
in Pasadena, California, states that his healings major in
headaches and backaches. How do you verify these “cures”?
Look, for example, at
the stark contrast between the unverifiable healings of
headaches and backaches, etc., and the miracle recorded in
Acts 3-4. In Acts 4:16, after Peter (and John) healed the
man who was born lame, the false leaders of the church
declare, “What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a
notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all
them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.”
Notice how all
who came to the apostles to be healed were always healed, as
in Acts 5:16: “There came also a multitude out of the cities
round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them
which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed
every one of them.” This is very different from
Pentecostal or renewalist healing services, where unhealed
folks make their sorry way home after yet another meeting.
There were no
relapses for those healed in God's Word. Compare this with
the many poor souls filled with enough adrenalin to get out
of their wheelchairs on the stage but a day or two
afterwards are no better. Two thousand years after the
apostles, there is a world of difference!
If anyone claims to
do miracles, the question must be asked, What do they mean
by miracles? Do they mean what the Bible means, namely, that
all who come for healings are always, verifiably, completely
and immediately healed of various and serious afflictions,
without any relapses or remuneration for the healer or
anything designed to whip up the crowd or play on their
Scriptural miracles are the standard, the benchmark. All
that falls short is fraudulent and spurious, and must be
rejected by God's people.
Miracles in the Bible
Whom does God use to
work miracles after Pentecost? In II Corinthians 12:12,
miracles, “signs, and wonders,” are called, not the signs of
believers, nor the signs of specially anointed or baptized
saints, but “the signs of an apostle.” This is also what you
discover when you go through the book of Acts. Acts 2:43 and
5:12 clearly state that it was the apostles who performed
miracles. The apostle Peter heals the lame man in Acts 3. In
Acts 5, God slays Ananias and Sapphira at Peter's word —you
do not hear much from renewalists claiming that sort of
miracle! Peter heals paralyzed Aeneas and raises Tabitha
from the dead in Acts 9. Paul performs various miracles in
There are three other
individuals who were not apostles who did miracles. First,
Philip wrought miracles in Acts 8 but he was an evangelist
(Acts 21:8)—another extraordinary, temporary office—and he
was ordained as a
deacon by apostles (Acts 6:5-6). Second, Stephen performed
miracles (Acts 6:8). He was also deacon who was ordained by
an apostle (Acts 6:5-6) and the first Christian martyr (Acts
7). In that he wrought miracles, God especially stamped him
as the first one after Pentecost to give up his life for
Jesus Christ. Third, Ananias in Acts 9 wrought a miracle but
he was a prophet, for he received a vision in which Christ
spoke to him. This miracle was unusual, too, in that Christ
had earlier struck Paul blind on the Damascus Road and then
He sent the prophet Ananias to Paul to restore to the
apostle his sight. There are no prophets today, as my
previous article proved.
I Corinthians 12 may
seem to indicate that some outside of the extraordinary
offices in Corinth wrought miracles, yet we note that this
is in the apostolic age and that the apostle Paul himself
was the founder of this church (Acts 18; I Cor. 3).
Moreover, in Paul's next epistle to the Corinthians, he
refers to miracles as “signs of an apostle” (II Cor. 12:12)
because they were performed in the apostolic age: 1) by
apostles or 2) on apostles (e.g., Acts 9) or 3) by prophets,
who functioned alongside apostles (Eph. 2:20; 3:5; 4:11), or
4) by evangelists, who were apostolic helpers (Eph. 4:11; II
Tim. 4:5), or 5) by those ordained by apostles.
Miracles in the
Another point must be
made with respect to miracles. Nowhere in the Bible do we
have predictions or promises of the saints working miracles
in post-apostolic days. Nor does God's Word present a future
in which the true church will work some miracles and
the false church will too. Although there are passages to
which some people will appeal, Scripture clearly predicts
miracles in the line of the development of the false church
alone. In Matthew 24:24, false Christs and false prophets
will work great signs and wonders (cf. Mark 13:22).
According to II Thessalonians 2:9, mighty miracles will be
performed by the man of sin. In Revelation 13, 16 and 19,
the miracles are wrought by the false prophet in the service
of the beast.
The Bible also
teaches that the mystery of iniquity, which is the spirit of
Antichrist, was working already in the first century and
keeps working through the millennia to bring forth the
Antichrist (II Thess. 2:7; I John 2:18). The line of false
miracles runs in the development of apostate Christianity.
You can see this,
too, if you read church history, as we saw in my second
article in this series entitled “The Precursors of Modern
Charismatic Christianity.” The Montanists, the abundance of
false miracles in the Dark Ages, the Anabaptists, the French
Prophets, Edward Irving and the Catholic Apostolic Church,
and the church of Rome today (especially with her Marian
miracles) and modern renewalism—all prepare the way for the
greatest anti-Christian miracle worker of all time,
Antichrist. That great man of sin will perform real, mighty
miracles, unlike much of the weak, deceptive miracles in
Charismatic and Romanist circles.
I could highlight,
and expand upon, other problems connected with renewalism
but I will only briefly mention some of them.
also known as the health and wealth gospel, came out of
renewalism and retains its distinctive false teachings.
Scripture tells us that the love of money is the root of all
sorts of evil (I Tim. 6:10), yet in the health and wealth
movement that is preached as the gospel!
Renewalism boasts in
horrendous, unbiblical worship practices (especially people
falling backwards and doing “carpet time,” and adults
uttering gibberish in religious services), which are far
from, and diametrically opposed to, the regulative principle
of worship (cf. Lev. 10:1-2; Deut. 12:32; Isa. 1:12; Matt.
15:5-9; John 4:24).
The false ecumenism
of renewalism is well-known. The Pope even invited a
charismatic contingent to Vatican II (1962-1965). Idolatrous
bodies have a way of seeking each other out and working
Then there are the
Modalist renewalists: those Pentecostals and Charismatics
who reject the orthodox doctrine of the Holy Trinity and
especially deny the distinct personality of the Holy Spirit.
Even with their heretical views of the Holy Spirit, they can
still receive the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” they can
still “speak in tongues,” they can still utter “prophecies”
and they can still perform “miracles,” just like the other
renewalists! It makes no difference. Apparently believing
the truth concerning the Holy Spirit does not matter when it
comes to His “gifts.”
In his very helpful
book, The Theology of the Holy Spirit,
Frederick Bruner observes that, in his analysis of the
doctrine of the renewalists, the theologian he found most
helpful was Martin Luther.
Why? Because Luther deeply grasped salvation in Christ alone
through grace alone by faith alone to the glory of God alone
according to Scripture alone.
It was Luther who
issued the famous rebuke to the Anabaptists, the
charismatics of his day: “I slap your spirit on the snout.”
Think about it. What well-known animal has a snout? A pig,
an unclean beast in the Old Testament. Luther was declaring,
“Your spirit is an unclean spirit and I slap it—hard.”
Remember also Luther’s prayer. He besought his heavenly
Father that He would fill him with His Word alone and that
God would never, ever, give him visions or direct revelation
but would make him blessedly content with, and rich in,
sacred Scripture alone! Luther's scriptural and spiritual
desires, prayers, contentment and warfare should be ours
Frederick Dale Bruner, A Theology of the Holy
Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), p. 344.