gracEmail
Edward Fudge

SUPERNATURAL MANIFESTATIONS (1)

An e-mail from an acquaintance in the Church of Christ describes a series of prayer meetings at which the author says that God's presence was visibly manifested by "weeping, violent shaking, loud groanings and travail in the Spirit, ardent prayers and cries for the lost, trembling, tongues, prophecies, visions and the glory of God swooping around the room like a iridescent blueish light." Do I have any comment?

* * *

Many who make up the Churches of Christ, Independent Christian Churches and Disciples of Christ would be surprised to learn that their own "restoration movement" had roots in the great Cane Ridge (Kentucky) Revival of 1801 which was marked by many of the same phenomena described above. The negative reaction to such manifestations by Presbyterian officials led revivalist Barton W. Stone to leave that denomination, eventually merging his movement with that of Alexander Campbell.

Within a few years, Campbell's rationalism and anti-supernaturalism largely drowned out Stone's "other-worldliness" and strong belief that God still works outside the Bible itself. By the beginning of the 20th century, spiritual descendants of the Stone-Campbell movement almost all rejected any possibility of the same supernatural manifestations which had been part of one founder's personal observation and experience. Concerning the arrival of "the perfect" and the cessation of spiritual gifts, Stone himself once wrote: "That time has never yet come; nor can we expect it in this state of mortality" (Christian Messenger, August 1835, page 179).

l happen to believe that Brother Stone was onto something important, and that Brother Campbell's "common-sense" approach and "pattern" theology generally ignored the first two-thirds of the Bible and quenched one-third of the Godhead. I personally rejoice at every report of God's working. Our world and nation and towns and churches certainly need a powerful move of God to set us right again and to move us into God's future. I would rejoice exceedingly if God should choose to "visit" my own comfortable, big-city church some Sunday morning with remarkable demonstrations and a powerful, visible outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We could all probably profit from a heavenly jump-start from time to time.


gracEmail
Edward Fudge

SUPERNATURAL MANIFESTATIONS (2)

An e-mail from an acquaintance in the USA describes a series of prayer meetings at which the author says that God's presence was visibly manifested by "weeping, violent shaking, loud groanings and travail in the Spirit, ardent prayers and cries for the lost, trembling, tongues, prophecies, visions and the glory of God swooping around the room like a iridescent blueish light." Do I have any comment?

* * *

How greatly all of God's people need his divine visitation! However, a word of caution is also in order. Physical manifestations, even marvelous phenomena, are neither reliable nor indispensable signs of the Presence of the Holy One, and they can even be deceitful counterfeits (Matt. 24:24; 2 Thes. 2:8-9; Rev. 13:1-4). We must always be sure that Jesus is preached and exalted (1 Cor. 12:1-3), and we must both expect and search for the fruit of moral reformation, of deep repentance of sin and of changed lives which persevere in holiness and righteous living (Acts 19:18-20; 1 Thes. 1:5-10).

Spurgeon said, "I looked at Jesus, and the dove of peace flew into my heart. I looked at the dove of peace, and it flew away." If we but keep our eyes on Jesus, he will pour out his Spirit as it pleases him. We may properly rejoice in any divine outpouring, but we must never seek the manifestations for themselves, or the Spirit without Jesus -- which always leaves the door open to dark and deceitful spirits. We must also strenuously avoid the temptation to judge other believers in Jesus Christ who do not witness or experience phenomenal experiences such as the ones reported by my correspondent quoted at the top of this gracEmail. Such experiences are neither a requirement for a close walk with God nor a guarantee of the same.

Our message is and must remain the Evangel -- the "good news." That gospel is the report of God's grace in the perfect and finished doing, dying and rising of Jesus Christ. It is our part to hear the gospel with faith; it is God's part to provide his people with the Spirit and to work miracles among them as it pleases him (Gal. 3:5). It is our part to eagerly await the final manifestation of Jesus Christ himself; it is God's part to see that we are not lacking in any charismatic gift he wishes for us to have (1 Cor. 1:7). It is right to earnestly desire spiritual gifts but it is the gospel, not gifts, which is of first and final importance (1 Cor. 14:1; 15:3-6).

For more on miracles, click here.
For more on the dark side, click here.