Ichthys Acronym Image

Home             Site Links

Healing, Miracles, and Dreams:

Sorting the Wheat from the Chaff by biblical Means

Word RTF

Question #1:  

Dear Bob L.

I just stumbled on the Ichthys website for the first time, as I was seeking teaching on the end times. I was very impressed with your teaching until... you gave your ideas on faith healing. I summarize (in my words) that you believed healing miracles happened in the early church and that you think they might happen in the last days, but not now. Although I am saddened by the "dog and pony show" of faith healings on TV, I must still say that you are quite wrong in this matter. In 1973 while on a mission to southern Mexico, my friend and I were praying for people in a small village south of Oaxaca City. A man blind from birth came forward, we placed our hands on him and prayed and he began to shout (in Spanish) "I see light, I see light". His wife was crying and saying "He has never seen, He has never seen, he was blind from birth!" He came back and we prayed for him again and his vision improved...he could see better than me! I have only seen miracles of this magnitude a few times in my life, but, rest assured they DO STILL HAPPEN!

Dr. John R. Bisagno, former senior pastor of Houston's First Baptist church had a similar experience in India. He believed, as you, that healing was for a different era, until one day he was preaching to native Indians and some asked for him to pray for them for physical healing. He complied, wanting to be gracious, and was amazed when some were miraculously healed! He was never the same. Please do a little more research and I believe you will find other examples. I don't know why there are not more healings today - but, please know they do happen!

Sincerely,

Response #1: 

Good to make your acquaintance. First, I thank you for your positive comments, and dearly hope that disagreement over one point will not cause you to disassociate on all points. This ministry, Ichthys, attempts to teach about and engage in the entire realm of Christian doctrine, so that the odds of it not rubbing everyone the wrong way in at least some respect are astronomically long (and I can assure you that over the years I have found out many things to be true which I was very reluctant to accept myself).

I do hear what you are saying, and it is something which I hear quite a bit. As I always try to say at such times, it is not my place to tell you what you have experienced. As I also am always quick to say, nothing is impossible for God. I would certainly not hesitate to pray for miraculous healing for someone who required it (and indeed do so as a matter of course); nor would I be surprised when God answered the prayer (He is God; nothing is impossible for Him, and we are commanded to pray persistently for all of our needs). Where I have a problem is with the idea of a gift of healing which, as you correctly surmise, seems to me from the biblical descriptions and from the doctrine of the New Testament to have been an apostolic gift which was discontinued along with the gift of apostleship.

After all, if someone has the gift of healing, then they ought to be able to heal whenever and wherever. A person with the gift of teaching doesn't teach just once; the same would be true of any genuine spiritual gift: it would be the focus of that person's personal spiritual ministry. Since the incident you relate happened quite some time ago, I take it that you are not claiming to have the gift of healing. In that case, it seems to me that there is no technical disparity between your doctrinal understanding of these matters and mine.

It is true that I am more skeptical in my expression of these things than many believers are. But that is my job. You acknowledge in your email that there is a big problem today with " 'dog and pony shows' of faith healings on TV". Indeed, it is fair to say that deception in this matter has damaged and even ruined many Christians, their finances, their growth, even their faith. And there is certainly no lack of those who tout the reality of these things even in cases where the supposed healings are entirely false. With so few genuinely Christian voices questioning these practices even when they are clearly in the wrong, judge for yourself whether it would be appropriate for me to mute my own fairly mild suggestions of caution. For the sake of the spiritual welfare of our Christian brothers and sisters I think we should all be, in Lord's words, "wise as serpents" even as we are "innocent as doves". This is especially true given that in the rapidly approaching end times the beast is predicted to deceive many Christians precisely through these same means of false miracles.

What shall we say then? That God can do all things. That God does heal. That we do trust Him and believe in Him. And that we do not doubt His ability to do anything we ask. However, people, even presumably good people, are not God nor do their words carry the authority of scripture. So when it comes to the claims of other people, in my view we should praise God but refuse to be persuaded by any report of something we have not seen, nor should we even trust our own eyes and ears if anything we see or hear gives even a hint of being inconsistent with the Bible (please see the links: "Third party reports", "Scripture versus Personal Experience", and "more on third party reports").

As the sign above a small Texas grocery read: "In God we trust; all others pay cash". We trust in God in all things; we reserve judgment about what people we do not know well say they have seen and heard – and we do so with all spiritual sobriety and justification.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #2:  

Mr Luginbill,

Thank you for your response. Like the blind man Jesus healed, all I know is...he was born blind and then he could see. Is it possible that the same simple faith that leads us to repentance and salvation, could lead to miracles in this day? Those who don't believe that miracles happen today rarely see them, those who peddle faith for money, see imitation miracles and...those who simply have compassion for others, sometimes see the real thing.

The Lord does not always fit well in our theological boxes.

Response #2: 

Very well put indeed. Everything that happens in life is a miracle since without the wonder of God, His plan and His decree nothing could exist, let alone happen. For men and women of faith, the fact that God sometimes chooses to act in contravention to visible 'laws' of physical behavior which only exist because of Him should come as no surprise (cf. Heb.11:3). When the subject is God, no object is impossible: the only limit is what He wills.

Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
Mark 10:27 NIV

If the issue is faith, we should throw aside all doubt. If the issue is truth, we should cleave to the truth no matter what, even if it offends our own eyes and ears.

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #3:   

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I went to church today but left early because of a fire alarm going off in the morning and I couldn't figure out why and was concerned. One of the elders looked at me as if I was lying when I told him I had to leave early, but I wasn't. Also, after listening to the sermon for 30 minutes, I heard nothing but jokes that the Pastor used to try to entertain folks and he tried to use it in a biblical way. This sort of bothered me because I can discern that he thinks that I'm not a Christian because I don't go to that church often (maybe once in two months). They never preach on sin or holiness by the way. Today one guy spoke highly of C.S Lewis and how he inspired him. I believe C.S. Lewis said that we need to be in a purgatory state after death to suffer for our sins before we see God, that there are some pagans who are saved but don't know it, that the bible is partly myth, and other heresies. I mention this to some of the elders and Pastors and they think I'm just some fruitcake and went off the deep end with Christianity, and that I'm way too critical.

I have severe medical problems and it's painful every day to walk. The elder of the church said that they have "healing centers" and that I should go to one of them to receive physical healing. I said that sometimes God doesn't heal, and he kind of gave a proud smirk like I'm one of those guys who doesn't believe in healings. My problem is that I don't see anywhere in the bible where we have to go to a specific locale to get healed. I know godly men and women who have prayed for me many times for healing outside of the church or any such "healing centers" and haven't received it. This doesn't bother me because I'm not going to question God's will for my life. Does the bible say anything on healing centers? And thank you, I am doing well in spite of the trials in my life which I accept for my growth.

God Bless,

Response #3: 

Good to hear from you, although I am sorry to hear of your physical troubles. It is certainly a witness to me that you can manage to pursue serious spiritual growth in a way that puts many if not most of those around you to shame in spite of all you have to endure. I know that this is one of the main purposes for the trials and tribulations which befall Christians who are trying to serve Jesus in the right way. After all, God is all powerful and could solve all our problems with a snap of His fingers. It is the circumstances we face which test and refine our faith and which also prove our true mettle. I can think of nothing more pointless than living a pain and trouble free life while never taking the time to do what Jesus wants us to do. But in fighting the good fight of faith in spite of trouble there is great reward. All these things will be revealed at the Judgment Seat of Christ – hang in there: you are on the right track for honoring Him and gaining eternal reward.

Your experience in church is one I hear and have had more times than I can count. This is the age of Laodicea and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find any "brick and mortar" churches where the Word of God is being taught in any substantive way. As you say, it's become entertainment focused. I also "feel your pain" in regard to C.S. Lewis and all Christian works of art. They have never done it for me either, and inevitably bend the truth in some way or another (the smallest degree of which is enough to turn me off).

Finally, as to your question on healing centers, I completely agree there as well. There is nothing in the Bible about this, obviously, while there is much about praying for each other and God's promises to answer prayer. We often pray for things we want but which are not in the will of God, and we do not have to feel bad about that as there are scriptural examples of greater believers than we will ever be who faced similar challenges:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2nd Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV

And we are also encouraged to keep praying and not give up (Lk.18:1-8). I promise to keep praying for you so the two of us will "agree" on this, that you may find relief and healing from our gracious Lord Jesus.

Thank you too for your prayers.

In the One who died that we might have life eternal, Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:   

Dear Bob,

I'll pray for these people. I recommend that they come to T.B. Joshua or at least to try to get anointing water:

http://www.scoan.org/media/anointing-water/

All the best,

Response #4: 

Dear Friend,

I had a brief look at the link you included and I dearly hope that you are not being taken in by this scam. There is nothing in the Bible that gives any healing power to "anointing water". Further, only someone who had the gift of healing could actually accomplish this without fail in a direct and personal way. However, all scriptural indications are that no one has been given that gift since the days of the apostles. I note that to get this water a person has to go to one of the "store fronts" of this church – and I'll bet the ranch that it is not free. Any time a group solicits money for something like this it is a dead certain fact that they are not of God. God answers prayers. God heals. But there are more than enough people out there who are ready to prey upon the misfortunes of others for financial gain. In regard to all the "testimonials", please see the links:

"Third party reports"

"Scripture versus Personal Experience"

"more on third party reports"

I have dealt with this specific subject of healing and some related ones many times so that there are a number links at the site which will be helpful in sorting through this problem. Here are a few to get you started:

Are Miraculous Spiritual Gifts still in Operation Today?

The Gift of Healing.

Faith Healing

Christians Beware: Internet Frauds and the Need for Spiritual Discernment.

Christians Beware: Internet Frauds and the Need for Spiritual Discernment (part 2).

Cults and Christianity I

Cults and Christianity II

Cults and Christianity III

Cults and Christianity IV

Read Your Bible: Protection Against Cults.

Please do feel free to write me back about any of this.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

Thank you, Bob.

I think that Joshua is true God's servant and that God's gifts are given in all centuries, not only in age of apostles. Each Christian must be careful of false prophets, but also to know that there are always God's prophets and that God is stronger than devil. I think that these discussions were useful. Thank you for your time devoted to me! I wish you all the best from The Lord Jesus!

Response #5: 

Dear Friend,

I'm happy to hear this discourse has been helpful – please feel free to write any time.

As to God's gifts, yes indeed they are given at all times and each Christian is given a gift or gifts when they are born again (1Cor.12:1ff.). However, it is also true that some gifts are not being given today, and the failure to understand this important principle of scripture is behind very many cults and false doctrines. Even in groups which may have some correct teaching, fastening upon the function of gifts which are not in fact present is a leaven which usually leavens the whole lump. For example, there are only 12 true Apostles (cf. Rev.21:14), but I have bumped into a number of groups over the years where the leader claims to be an "apostle". This is not an office or gift a person can arrogate to him/herself (and only twelve ever received it), and only God can give it. And of course this is true of all spiritual gifts and that is my point. A Christian either does or does not have any particular gift. As we grow spiritually we are led to find out just what those gifts are, and as we become mature we then ought to put them to use for the edification of the Body of Christ – the purpose of all of the Spirit's gifts. But there is little worse than a person claiming to have a gift he/she does not in fact have – except for another person to believe the other person's false representations. The hyper-miraculous "sign gifts" (i.e., miracles, tongues, healing, prophecy) were designed to take the place of the "perfect" canon of scripture in the early days of the Church, establishing the authority of the apostles until a critical mass of believers coupled with the completion of the Bible made these unnecessary (1Cor.13:8-10). Indeed, since genuine Christian spiritual growth is entirely focused on the truth of the Word of God, such gifts if continued could and would have been a distraction from what is truly important – and by the way it is always the case that in any "church" or "ministry" where such gifts are falsely promoted or claimed this experiential and hyper-emotional sort of activity always does take priority over the teaching of the Word of God (assuming there is any genuine teaching of the Word of God going on whatsoever).

Love never falls [into inactivity]. But whether [we are talking about gifts of] prophecy, they will cease, or about [gifts of] tongues, they will come to a stop, or [about the gift of] knowledge, it will be done away with. For when we exercise the gift of knowledge, its results are only partial. And when we exercise the gift of prophecy, its results are only partial. But when what is complete (i.e., "the perfect") shall have come on the scene (i.e., the fully functioning Church with a complete Bible), all partial measures shall be done away with.
1st Corinthians 13:8-10

I have no wish to pass judgment on this individual or his ministry. I only note that all of the warning signs are there (please see the link: "Read you Bible: Protection against Cults"), and it is my responsibility as a Christian teacher with whom you are corresponding to apprise you of the dangers based upon what in my view scripture clearly teaches. Here are some other links where this subject is treated:

Are There Prophets in the Church Today?

Are there apostles in the Church today?

Are Miraculous Spiritual Gifts still in Operation Today?

The Gift of Healing.

Faith Healing

Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Growth

Is Speaking in Tongues biblical?

I certainly wish the best for you and for your spiritual growth, progress and production for our Lord in the years to come.

In Jesus Christ who is the only Way, the Life and the Truth.

Bob L.

Question #6: 

People say that God talked to them or he told them to do or not do something. I wonder why I do not hear Gods voice. The way I see is God talks to us through his word. But they say God told them something that is not possible to be found in God's word. Do people really hear Gods voice in their ears? Is it their emotions when they say sometimes its your heart but God is telling you? I have felt a lot of things in my heart but how do I distinguish between my heart and Gods voice if so? And I was also wondering do you believe pre-tribulation?

Response #6: 

Good to hear from you again. I think you have correctly discerned the situation here. While nothing is impossible with God, and while no one can say for certain that God has not verbally spoken with someone else, scripture suggests that such events are extremely rare. Generally speaking, according to the biblical record only exceptionally great believers have ever been directly contacted by the Lord. Solomon, for instance, is said to be unique in that the Lord "had appeared to him twice" (1Kng.11:9). If such a famous and great believer who was responsible for writing several books of the Bible only heard the Lord's audible voice twice, and since that is represented by the Bible as being an unusual and great honor, it seems to me that by far the vast majority of such claims by others must be rubbish. I try not judge others when I hear them say these sorts of things, but, just on this basis of comparison, I would be loath to believe it without evidence. Along with myself, most Christians of whom I have experience are no where near as great as Solomon or other great believers of the Bible who only rarely were given this privilege of direct contact with the Lord – and some apparently never heard from Him directly at all. Just for example, there is no evidence that Timothy or Titus or Barnabas or Luke were ever given any such direct contact even though they were exceptional believers and even though their ministries took place in the apostolic period when many overtly miraculous things did take place, things which for the most part have now ceased to occur (the giving of overtly miraculous apostolic gifts, for example). One of the reasons for this of course is that now we have the completed Word of God which comprises absolutely everything we need to know in this world. People who are inclined to believe excessive claims about someone hearing directly from the Lord should consider that He was not remiss in already telling us everything we need to know in scripture, and that scripture is a surer guide to the truth than even what our eyes might be given to see or our ears given to hear (and more so especially than what others claim to have seen and heard):

For I did not follow concocted tales in making known to you the power and the coming return of our Lord, Jesus Christ, but was an eyewitness to His majesty. For when He had received honor and glory from God the Father, these words sounded forth to Him from God's majestic glory: "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased." And these words I myself heard as they were delivered from heaven, for I was with Him on the holy mountain (cf. Matt.17:1-8). Yet I consider the prophetically inspired Word (i.e. the Bible) even more reliable (i.e. than what I saw with my own eyes). You too would do well to pay the closest attention to this [prophetically inspired Word], just as to a lamp shining in a dark place (cf. Ps.119:105), until the day dawns, and the Morning Star rises (i.e. the Living Word, Jesus Christ, returns), pondering in your hearts this principle of prime importance: no single verse of prophetically inspired scripture has ever come into being as a result of personal reflection. For true prophecy has never occurred by human will, but only when holy men of God have spoken under the direction and agency of the Holy Spirit.
2nd Peter 1:16-21

Since the apostle Peter, a man who had extensive personal contact with our Lord, the Spirit, and angels, is of the opinion that the "prophetically inspired Word (i.e. the Bible)" is "even more reliable" than the vision He saw of Jesus' second advent on the mount of transfiguration, we should take it to heart that gift of the truth of the Bible God has given us is actually better than if we did have some such miraculous visitation. For we can always revisit the Bible, and if we believe what we read by faith, that is better for our growth and spirituality than if we saw and heard with our own eyes and ears:

Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
John 20:29 ESV

The Holy Spirit does indeed speak to our hearts, to our consciences, and with proper spiritual growth and instruction a Christian can get to the point of comparing the internal prodding of the Spirit with truth learned and believed so as to be able to distinguish such guidance from mere personal desire on the one hand or guilt on the other (in many respects, that is the essence of spiritual growth: Phil.1:10; cf. Col.1:9-10; Rom.2:18). But the Spirit does this silently and without words, focusing our attention instead upon the Word of truth we have come to know and accept from our study of scripture (please see the link: Peter #7: The Ministry of the Holy Spirit).

I do believe fervently that the scripture teaches that the resurrection of the Church occurs just prior to the 2nd Advent of our Lord (and not prior to the Tribulation). Please see the links: "The Origin and the Danger of the Pre-Tribulational Rapture Theory" and "No Rapture".

Yours in Jesus Christ, our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #7:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I've asked you questions in the past related to this matter, but just not regarding cults in particular. I often wondered on how we draw the line between true Christianity and "Christian" cults? Walter Martin had a debate where he taught that Seventh Day Adventists are cultic. I've known several SDA's who were almost spot on biblically, and the only difference was that these people believed that keeping the Sabbath on Saturday was taught in scripture. At the same time, they also believed that we are saved by Grace through Faith in Jesus Christ. I know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump and the Satan's best deceptions are 99% truth with a 1% lie that can condemn one to an eternity to hell. I don't like to make accusatory comments condemning those who are truly children of God at heart because only God knows their hearts; however, I don't want to be deceived into accepting a cult as true Christianity. What does the bible say on this matter, and how we are to differentiate between true Christianity and "Christian" cults?

God Bless you and your ministry,

Response #7: 

I suppose it all boils down to what a person means by the words "cult" and "true Christianity". If we focus on the positive we really don't need to be much concerned about the negative. That is to say, if we personally are walking in a good, solid Christian way, learning the truth of scripture from a good source, believing it, applying it to our lives, and helping others to do the same through the gifts and ministries we have been assigned, then we need not worry ourselves with what others are doing. Praise God for all they are doing which is right; leave it to God for all they are doing that is wrong. So unless a person has the gift of apologetics and a ministry concerned with "intervening" in the case of individuals who are "getting wrong" in whole or in part, the best course is to stick to one's own knitting. This is particularly true in the case of the specific question you ask. When it comes to denominations, there are none out there that I would endorse – because in my view they are not legitimate according to scripture. And there are many out there which are clearly woefully wrong in all manner of doctrinal issues. I suppose it might be possible to dissect each and every one of them according to their written statements of faith (or whatever they have in terms of official teaching) and label them after a careful analysis. The twofold problem with this is 1) there are few denominations which actually believe or really even teach their own official doctrine fully and completely, and 2) there are even fewer individuals who belong to such groups who know all this stuff, and fewer who believe it all – if they are even any who fall into that category. I do think you make a good point that there are some groups which clearly make a point of teaching or emphasizing one particular thing or another that is not biblical (as in Sabbath worship or water-baptism), but this may not render them completely useless to the Lord; however there are other groups which make a point of teaching one thing or another which is fundamentally inconsistent with salvation by grace through faith, so that it is hard to see how they might be of any use to the Lord. In each such case, however, it is hard to know how the person in the pew is reacting to these things. Take the case of water-baptism. Many groups practice it and claim they do not teach it as being essential for salvation; however, if the person in the pew gets the impression from being there and listening to what is actually said and implied that he/she is indeed saved because of the water-baptism received, that is problematic. On the other hand, if a group directly teaches that membership/communion with their church is the only way to be saved, but the person in the pew doesn't get that impression even though it is an official teaching, then perhaps the person might not be relying on this legalistic parameter for his/her salvation. So while these are all fair questions to ask, the real problem/issue has to do with each individual; and for anyone anywhere who has ever been genuinely interested in the real truth of the Word of God, God has always provided for that person. That's where we need to be. Applying ourselves to the truth of the Word of God, believing it and always standing ready to share it in case anyone wishes to escape such fatal or merely debilitating associations so as to be saved and grow up spiritually as our Lord desires. There is a place, I suppose, for pointing out to people how and why what they are into is "wrong", but I would always rather lean towards demonstrating by word and deed what is "right" – in the hope that others likewise take up the challenge for which we have been called by the Lord Jesus.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #8: 

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

Thank you for your response. Something odd happened to be the other (the same day I wrote back to you) day which made me think a lot. I'm not sure if God can communicate through dreams today and I'm always reluctant to pass of dreams as some special message or vision from God because of the false prophets and their false prophecies in the churches today, mainly Pentecostal. I also don't want to put God in a box. Like you, I use the bible to see if what is taught is lined up with the scripture. If it doesn't agree with scripture I won't accept it as biblical regardless of my experience. I know the bible in the OT says that even if a prophet makes a prophecy that actually comes to pass, do not accept him as a true prophet if it doesn't agree with God's Word. It seems like these days people go by their experiences rather than what the Word of God says.

I had a dream that day that was very vivid. I was in a building that looked like an old church with stained glass windows. And in the church was a small group of people (almost all women) where the one who was the leader (the one teaching others some doctrine) was teaching them her doctrine. The group (rather small) was gathered in a circle formation and I was on the outside of it looking at them. The teacher or leader (which was a female) looked directly at me and the closer she got to me, her face changed. When she came almost nose to nose, her face became the face of what looked demonic. Her eyes had vertical slits, pointed chin, etc. For some reason I called upon the name of Jesus, and as soon as I did that the church like building began falling apart. I didn't pay attention to her followers but the leader began to burn with fire as the building was crumbling. At that moment I woke up. Immediately after I awoke, strong thought came to my mind. It was as if someone was trying to warn me that what may appear "Christian" could be demonic masquerading as Christian, and what's behind these teachings are demons. And immediately after a bible verse popped into my head about "testing the spirits" to see whether they are of God. What do you make of this?

God Bless,

Response #8: 

Thanks for the email. I agree with your overall analysis of what to think of dreams entirely. Scripture doesn't really have much to say about dreams, that is, about dreams which are not directly given by God to prophets with the means to interpret them or which are directly interpreted by God for the prophet in question. What it does say I have discussed at the following links:

What does the Bible say about Dreams and Visions?

Dreams, Visions, and the Interpretation of Prophecy

You certainly had an interesting dream! Personally, I have trouble remembering mine. I am inclined to think that your take on what this one may mean is entirely correct – with the caveat that this is largely because it agrees with what we might be able to say about the present state of the church-visible in any case. I have no doubt that the Lord makes use of everything that happens in our lives to guide us and encourage us, but also to test us and refine us, and, in the case of things like dreams, to see whether or not we will trust Him and His truth over and above what we may be given to experience. The Lord certainly knows in advance all that will happen – indeed, all events in history are predestined, and that certainly includes our dreams, so that it would be overly anti-supernatural to say that they are automatically of no account (e.g., we are told that He does make use of dreams: Job 4:13; 33:15) . In the absence of definitive prophecy or other unmistakable signs, therefore, we have to be ready to use the truth of scripture to "interpret" dreams just as we would interpret any other experience in this life to see whether or not the "truth" or the "event" is from God . . . or from the evil one. Any sort of experience that is interpreted according to biblical truth and correctly so will then be an encouragement to us who believe, knowing that God is with us at all times, ever helping us with His Spirit to separate the wheat from the chaff.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #9:  

Hello Dr. Luginbill,

I wanted to ask this in my other email but it came to my mind after I sent it. I see a lot of tel-evangelists and preachers claiming to have this gift called "word of knowledge" or spiritual discernment. I see preachers like Pat Robertson say things like, "the Lord is telling me that someone's bones are being healed, a deaf ear, stubbed toe, etc. Is this a biblical gift? and is this the same as spiritual discernment? I know from experience that seers, psychics and other mediums can know information about other people through demons. A demon possessed woman said that she's going to tell on the Pastor (he had been beating his wife) and nobody knew but the Pastor. How do these "word of knowledge" preachers know that their information is coming from God and not from the other side? Thanks!

God Bless,

Response #9: 

Here is what I read in the KJV version of 1st Corinthians 12:8:

For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;
1st Corinthians 12:8 KJV

These are two different gifts but the difference between them hinges on the difference between gnosis or "knowledge" and sophia or "wisdom". Knowledge is usually specific information about the truth whereas wisdom is usually knowledge applied correctly to a given situation. Nowadays, all divine knowledge comes from the Bible, so that this gift is no longer being given, at least in this demonstrative form. There was a need in the apostolic days before the completion of the canon of scripture for teaching to be supplemented in this miraculous way as in the revelation of some specific principle to someone so gifted within a service – such is not the case today. Wisdom is another matter, and I would not wish to say that there are not Christians who are not gifted with a special measure of the ability to apply the truth to complicated circumstances. That would seem to be different from the "word of wisdom", however, where apparently within the communal service a person was given to voice a practical truth about some particular situation. So for example when in Acts 11:28 Agabus is given to prophesy about the coming famine, whoever then counseled the disciples to take the steps they did in verse 29 (not recorded) would seem to have been acting according to this gift. In my judgment, both of these gifts have now lapsed at least in this special form which focuses on the presentation of the information collectively.

The "discerning of spirits" found a little later at 1st Corinthians 12:10 means in my view the ability to tell whether or not a person or group ("spirits") is or are genuine in their intentions: this would have been of critical importance in the incipient Church. Likewise on this gift, just as there are individuals today who are gifted to be better at applying the truth and seeing how it should relate to complicated circumstances (wisdom), so there are Christians who are better at "seeing through" false friends than others are (i.e., some people are adept at sizing up character even in cases where others are easily deceived). So it is not that these gifts are not operational; it is just they do not exist in the more overt and pronounced way that was the case during the early days of the apostles. Therefore when a "pastor" says something like "I know that someone out there has just committed to placing $50.00 in the collection plate!", that is only theatrics and not the function of some gift.

One last point on all this. While it is true that Romans 12, 1st Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and other individual NT passages mention specific gifts – some (like helps, administration, giving and teaching) which still exist, some (like tongues, healing, prophecy and miracles) which do not – we absolutely should not think that this exhausts the list of gifts, or that all the gifts of a certain category are precisely alike in cookie-cutter fashion, or that they are not occasionally combined and mixed in some special way: the body has "many parts" (1Cor.12:12; 12:20). After all, the Spirit gives us these gifts in order for us to carry out the specific ministries to which our Lord Jesus has called us – and these too are much more diverse if truly understood than is generally acknowledged in traditional Christianity. In the ideal functioning of the Plan of God (that is, when we follow the course we are meant to pursue), our gifts will enable us to carry out the ministry or ministries which, besides our personal growth and progress, are the main objectives we are still here on earth to accomplish after salvation. If we do as we should, our gifts will fit our ministries hand-in-glove. But this will only happen when and if we have pursued spiritual growth sufficiently, and have been willing to submit to the tempering of our faith in the trials of life, and have done whatever else may be necessary to become genuinely prepared to carry them out.

Yours in the whom we are here to serve and in whom there is great reward, Jesus Christ our Lord and King.

Bob L.

Question #10:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I know that you think that major spiritual signs aren't for all believers, but instead are for specific ministries, but how do you reconcile that with the presence of this verse: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." (John 14:12). So wouldn't that mean that anyone who believes will be able to do the works Jesus did (or greater)?

Also 1 Corinthians 13:8 is mainly a rhetorical point. Paul is mostly saying that when we are with God after we die, we will not have prophecies, signs, tongues, or earthly knowledge, so therefore there must be something greater than these things. Q.E.D.

We cannot say that just because we can't see manifestations of sign gifts that they must have ceased. Have you ever seen a dead man become miraculously resurrected and ascend into heaven?

Sincerely,

Response #10: 

Jesus restored sight to the blind on several occasions, but as far as I know, not even the apostles were given to do that particular miracle. Furthermore, it is pretty hard to argue that even the apostolic ministries were composed of "greater things" if we take those things to be the working of miracles. But while the world sees miracles as "great", we who have chosen for Jesus Christ ought to realize that the truth to which miracles point and the One who is working the miracles are far "greater". That is the sense in which I take John 14:12. After all, Jesus specifically says in the immediately preceding verse: "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves" (v.11 NIV). That is, better first to believe the truth without a miracle, but at least believe the miracle if you don't have the faith to believe without it (cf. Jn.20:29: "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed" NIV). Just as Peter says that the "prophetic Word" is "more sure" even than the vision of the second advent he was given to experience (2Pet.1:19), so our Lord is saying that the ministering of the truth of the entire Word of God and the participation in its expansion to a greater number of people willing to receive it will be "greater works" – in respect to the truth and its acceptance – than the miracles which have this very reception as their purpose. That is also why immediately after this verse in the context of John 14 our Lord emphasizes the coming gift of the Holy Spirit, not His empowerment of miracles (though there would be plenty of that) but rather His ministry of the truth: "the Holy Spirit . . . will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you" (v.26 NIV).

Miracles are wonderful. But they are not as wonderful as the One who empowers them, the One who authorizes them, and the One to whom they testify. And they are not as wonderful as that for which they are meant to win a hearing, namely, the Word of God. In fact, as is clear even today from all the hoopla about miracles, although there are no true "sign gifts" now being given in my view, these supposed "miracles" tend to distract from the truth they should be meant to validate – especially if those who are the beneficiaries of these attention-getting devices are unworthy to take advantage of that attention as they should do by following them up with the solid, deep, orthodox teaching of the Word. And that is no wonder, since those who are "performing miracles" are really only engaging in quackery, so that no one should expect that they have either the means or the inclination to minister the truth of the Word after the crowd gathers. Ask yourself, do you know of a single "ministry" wherein such "miracles" are ballyhooed where soliciting money is not at the forefront of their approach? And, inevitably, whenever objective third parties look into their claims, they find it's all been a scam.

Nothing is impossible for God. That fact that we even exist and have free will is a mind-boggling miracle. There is nothing in the natural realm that He could not alter or change at will for any reason. And we are the beneficiaries of all manner of miracles every day and in every way. And we are right and justified to pray for His miraculous deliverance whenever we are in need. But when it comes to "sign gifts" or the demonstrable "performance of miracles" there is a good reason why these are not in truth being given or being divinely empowered in our day (indeed, not even since before the end of the apostolic era): that is, so that our faith might be in God and in His Word, so that we might trust in what He has told us – not in what our eyes see or what our ears hear. The truth is for the strong and the mature of faith; miracles are for the weak and childish in faith.

As to 1st Corinthians 13:8, from your interpretation it is not "rhetorical", since in your view these things will indeed literally cease. I agree. The only question at issue is the "when?" There is certainly a sense in which eternity will be the time of all things perfect and also the time when everything partial related to our time here in the world will cease. However, it is just a little strange that Paul would limit himself to mentioning "sign gifts" and not to all of the very many other things of this life and this world if that were the case. 1st Corinthians 13 comes directly after Paul's extensive discussion of spiritual gifts in chapter 12, and it is not for nothing therefore that he enumerates a number of the gifts he has just discussed in that prior chapter as "ceasing" or "being done away with" at the time when "the perfect comes". Children need certain "help" until they become mature. But when they are grown up, they are able to "put away childish things" (v.11). Once the Church had grown up enough, being sufficiently established in terms of numbers, organized congregations, established elders able to teach, and, most importantly, been given the complete canon of the Word of God, with the "imperfect" and "childish" status now become a "perfect" and "mature" one, the cribs and bottles and training wheels could be taken away. Paul's prophecy here about these gifts, given in the context of their present employment, did come true, and not all that long after he gave it. Just as he personally "put away childish things" when he became "mature/perfect", so it happened with the Church. The sad thing is that so many Christians today who have been Christians for a long time still require – as Paul says earlier in the same book "milk, not solid food"; and why? "Because you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready!" (1Cor.3:2).

Finally, the fact that we don't see the sign gifts today may not be proof that they are not being given, but it certainly is cause for looking into scripture to see if it provides any answer as to why this is so. And indeed it does. And, after all, the real question here is "Is God or is He not giving these gifts out today?" This is a question which has a definite yes or no answer, and it would be good for us not to be wrong in how we answer – especially for any and all who are being led astray by those who are giving them the wrong answer (from whatever motives). My position on this is that, as you suggest, God is certainly able to give these gifts even today (or not). But for those who claim categorically that He is in fact giving them out, well, since we have a very clear scriptural rationale for their having ceased many centuries ago and a complete (in my view) lack of evidence for them being given today (which matches perfectly that scriptural rationale), for them to find fault with those of us who are biblically skeptical (i.e., Matt.10:16; cf. Rom.16:19; 1Cor.14:20), saying we "lack faith" when we have put our faith in God's Word over the third hand reports of questionable persons, is a real canard.

Yours in Him who is the very Word of God, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #11:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

Your email was wonderful. I really appreciated the response!

However, I do know of one person. He has done healings (some of which have a miraculous character, including restoring sight to the blind), and from his own testimony suggests that anyone who has faith can do these miracles too. However, he also comes from an uneducated part of India, where demonic influence and "signs" are a regular occurrence. I do not how much of it is just thinking from the very superstitious inhabitants. However, whenever he does a healing, he presents the gospel to the person for about an hour, and emphasizes the importance of faith.

As for objective third parties, I will say that I noticed the apostles performed miracles at the sight of secular authorities and in many cases during situations of much skepticism and testing. So that is a valid question. 

Also, when you write, "saying we "lack faith" when we have put our faith in God's Word over the third hand reports of questionable persons, is a real canard", I wanted to mention that by far the biggest misinterpretation of the Bible is the changing of the statement "anything that does not come from faith is sin" to "anything that /does/ come from faith is /not/ sin". The same Bible also tells the reader to "test all things, /keep/ that which is /good/."

Sincerely,

Response #11: 

You are most welcome. On the miracle question and the example you give, I would only ask if you have seen these things personally. Christians tend to be very kind and good-hearted sorts, and to believe third party reports about this sort of thing (even if they would never believe it about secular matters: Person X: "They're giving away free turkeys at Kroger!", Me: "No way!"). See the links: "Third party reports", "Scripture versus Personal Experience", and "more on third party reports".

On changing Romans 14:23 "anything that does not come from faith is sin", that would be an invidious change. But I'm not sure what version you are referring to (all the ones I know of have this correctly translated). Indeed, let us always, as 1st Thessalonians 5:21 tells us, "test everything" and "hold onto what is [truly] good" once it has passed the test. That is the standard this ministry adopts and suggests to all who make trial of it, and a good verse to keep in mind in these and many other important matters.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #12:  

Hello there,

False teachers and false doctrine are definitely items to be aware of. The Lord Jesus told us they would be there, like they always have, but in these end times we know the Devil is working overtime for his time is shorter than ever. Obviously, to see error we need truth, that is Divine Truth. The Word that became flesh for us is THE TRUTH! I listen to many good preachers of God's Word. Dr. Gary Hedrick of CJF ministries is top notch in my books for prophecy and ancient Hebrew background, culture, what have you. The late Dr. Adrian Rogers is also very knowledgeable and filled with The Holy Spirit. I liked a particular sermon of his that I copied a lot of it (typed) while he preached. I kept stop-type-playing, stop-type-playing the podcast. Here is what he spoke about regarding new age:

Adrian Rogers; In essence there are two basic beliefs: one is evolutionary godhood that is God is everything and we're all becoming God and the other is global unity, bringing everything together. In a new age way of thinking you may have heard certain words used in advertising, read in a book, seen in a movie or heard in conversation. Code words of the like, you may have heard words like Age of Aquarius, Aquarian Conspiracy, New Conscienceness, New Orientalism, Cosmic Humanism, Cosmic Consciousness, Mystical Humanism, Human Potential Movement, Holistic Health Movement. There are other buzz words such as, awakening, enlightenment, centering, channeling, Consciousness, cosmic energy, force of life, global village, holistic, human potential, self actualization, networking, planetary vision, space ship earth, synergistic, transcendental, transformational and transpersonal. Symbols such as the rainbow, pyramid, triangle, eye in a triangle, pegasus, concentric circles, rays of light, the swastika, goathead on a pentagram, number 666, and the unicorn. Many of these don't necessarily mean someone is a new ager any more than someone who wears a cross is a christian but these words and symbols are in the air and adults as well as children are exposed to it either overtly or subliminally and these things do raise a few red flags. All of this ancient Eastern mysticism and Hinduism, which this actually is, are neatly repackaged by Satan and sold to the west much like what was presented to Eve thousands of years ago back in Genesis.

Genesis 3:1-6 ; Now the snake was the most cunning animal that the LORD God had made. The snake asked the woman, "Did God really tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden?" The woman answered, "We may eat the fruit of any tree in the garden except the tree in the middle of it. God told us not to eat the fruit of that tree or even touch it; if we do, we will surely die." The snake replied, "That's not true; you will not surely die. God said that because he knows that when you eat it, you will be like God and know what is good and what is bad." The woman saw how beautiful the tree was and how good its fruit would be to eat, and she thought how wonderful it would be to become wise. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, and he also ate it.

Adrian Rogers; In verse 4 the snake said, "you will not surely die." This is a potential for man's self-development, a satanic deception. Man's fear of death is attempted by Satan to be taken out of the way. In new age, the doctrine of reincarnation is used this way. Reincarnation is the foundational stone of Buddhism and New Ageism. These people believe the law of karma, an impersonal force of building up one's debits and credits and circling around from one life to another, either progressing or regressing, all the while searching for that perfectionate being by never dying and of course never having to meet an all knowing omnipresent God to give an account about their one and only life here on earth as a sinful human being.

The opening of one's eyes, or self-discernment is another tactic of the Evil One as seen above in verse 5. "Your eyes will be opened" (in some texts). Satan is saying you will be able to discern things because through meditation and discovering the light that is in you, you will come to a transformation of cosmic Consciousness. Feelings or religious experiences is the idea to a new ager as opposed to thinking and sound doctrine. Satan wants people to encounter him by, as he says, opening their eyes through meditation or mystical emotion and to believe that you are in touch with the living God when in fact it is Satan himself or other demonic forces. This leads to self-deification. Again In verse 5, the snake says to the woman, "you will be like God." A new ager would say of himself, "I am God. So is nature." These people are pantheists. (Pan meaning everything or all and thiest meaning God or divinity). They say that God is everything and everything is God. Polytheism is the belief of many Gods but Pantheism is the thought from ancient Hinduism that all is God and God is all. New Ageism believes this in these current days. The truth is no religion can ever rise higher than its concept of God. New age's concept of God is that the universe is spiritual (not materialistic but cosmic energy). God is an impersonal force to them. We in our church say God is love or God is wisdom but the Hindus would say love or wisdom is God. Everything being God completely impersonalizes God. In the new age man is his own saviour because he is a part of God and therefore has everything within himself that is needed for salvation. Pantheism gives no basis for a moral code and thus no distinction between good and evil. These distinctions are only illusions because "God is everything." In their view this makes evil a part of God just like good is. What appears evil can't truly be evil because evil is God and God is everything. This is as if a movie is running where good and evil men are at conflict with one another on stage but backstage God and Satan are best friends. Charles Manson, serial killer gone panthiest asks, "If God is everything than what's evil?" Transcendental meditation's goal is to cause man to think his problem is not sin but ignorance and all he needs is to be enlightened. They sit with a blank mind and meditate until a perfectionate state of awareness is upon them. This is when they believe they are God. They think bugs, worms and bacteria are God and suddenly man loses his uniqueness. We true believers know and read in Genesis 1:26 that man is created in the image of God. What's worse is this brings God down even lower in retrospect to how low a new ager already has dropped man. God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth by the command of His Holy Word. Self-development, self-discernment, self-deification and the fourth and final lie Satan told Eve is self-determination. Also verse 5, "knowing both good and evil." Now you can determine for yourself what is good for you. You'll hear people today say, "Well that may be right for you but it is not right for me." "What is right for you is not necessarily good for everybody." This is called relativism. Relativism and New Ageism go hand in hand. If God is all and all is God than evil and good are God too. So no distinction can be made between right and wrong. These are illusions just like the movie mentioned above. Moral relativism means no fixed standard between right and wrong. Ten Commandment becomes ten voluntary initiatives. These ten are out of date they say, we are God, our eyes are opened and we can discern between good and evil by choosing for ourselves. The west has become so pragmatic. They don't ask if it's true, they ask does it work? In New Ageism, because there is no sin, nothing is wrong. In truth there is only one right answer. 2+2=4 is the only right answer and there are an infinite number of wrong answers to 2+2. Truth is not relative. Jesus said Himself to be the only truth in John's Gospel and yet Satan can use as many lies as there are stars in the sky to get people to turn from our blessed Lord and Redeemer. New Ageists claim that what the human mind believes it can achieve. Satan uses satanic deception, selfish desire and suttle disguise as he did with Eve in Genesis 3. Transcendental meditation can be sold as political, economic, scientific, educational and religious packages depending how or where it's needed or used. New age overtones are in movies, TV, magazines, books, etc. Advertisments find you rather than you find them. Relax, relieve stress, owners manual for your mind, scientology built on natural laws, massage your mind, plug in to the healing calm with this CD or that DVD, mental medicine, how to use your mind, how to heal your body, eating with a conscience, global issues, personal health, food for thought, how would you feel if a cow ate you? The Bible is God's Word and Jesus Christ is the Judge of all and He will. "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment." (Hebrews 9:27)

E-mail anytime Ichthy

Sincerely, - Shalom!

Response #12: 

Good to make your acquaintance,

I certainly agree (and have written quite a bit about false teaching as you probably know).

One of the reasons such things are so prevalent in our time has as much to do with the market for them in our lukewarm era of Laodicea (see the link) as it does with devil who is happy to supply them. Speaking of which, I often describe these things in terms of the three Satanic lies:

* lie #1: "I don't need God" (falsely assuming independence from God): dimming the truth.

* lie #2: "I am like God" (falsely assuming equality with God): separating from the truth.

* lie #3: "God needs me" (falsely assuming superiority to God): perverting the truth.

Eventually, all these systems come down to the above with the three levels of divorcement from the truth corresponding to the three levels of hardness of heart (on which see the link: "Phases of the Hardening of the Heart" in BB 4B Soteriology).

Thanks for your comments and for this pithy and penetrating out-take.

In Jesus Christ who is the Truth.

Bob Luginbill 

Question #13:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

First of all, thank you very much for making available such wonderful study material. I am still processing the vast amount so I hope my question will not overlap already published answers.

Situation is as follows:

My partner has been part of ______ in [Asian country] for 10 over years. With 30,000 attending members every weekend, ______ is the largest Mega-Church in [Asian country]. It is difficult to pinpoint their exact teachings. It is a bit of a mix of pentecostal, Word of Faith, Occultism, Name-it-claim-it. Associated churches are not surprisingly: Hillsong Australia, Benny Hinn, John Avanzini, Phil Pringle (Sp?), Bill Johnson, and last but not least The Yiodo Full Gospel Church from David Yong-gi Cho. I read all your material on health and wealth and fully agree with you. Although published and recognized in [Asian country] as a "Christian" Church, all the elements to call "______" a cult are present. I am trying to discuss Faith with my partner, but the superficial level of Biblical understanding prevents any decent in-depth discussion. The pastor is very charismatic and a master in mixing truth with half truths to meet his targets (grow the church).

As an example, he no longer draws a salary from the church since 2005, yet fills his pockets with books, CDs and speaking engagements with "friendly" churches. He is idolized but his flock does not perceive this as such. The church does do a lot of charity work per their own videos, yet in the last published Annual Report, this was an astonishing 7% of the total income. Most money goes to salaries, video screen, music installation, televisions rights. So far, this has not stand in the way of our relationship. We respect each others views, and have learned to agree to disagree.

However, the above mentioned David Yong-gi Cho, is revisiting [Asian country] next month (he comes every year) to preach his "fourth dimension" theory. In short, There is a fourth dimension that controls our 3D world. God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost dwell in this fourth dimension. Visualizing things in the 4th dimension, bound God to make these happen in our 3D world, provided the picture in our head is accurate. In one go, God's omniscience and omnipotence are swept of the table. The scary fact: This David Yong-gi Cho has allegedly 1,000,000 million followers in Korea. My partner, usually a rationally sound person actually beliefs this nonsense, as it has worked for her on several occasions. And she is not the only one. God regularly speaks to the pastor, hence-it-must-be-true logic. My questions: What is your view on this Yoido Full Gospel Church? How to convey, in simple terms, that this is not Christian at all? How to argue when Christian logic is out of the window? I am mainly looking for simple arguments, as a door opener, so people start to see their belief might not be correct. Hoping for an answer, Kind Regards, PS: Please do not publish my name as ______ has a lot of political influence here as well.

Response #13: 

Good to make your acquaintance. First, let me assure you that when I publish emails I always do so anonymously and also make a point of removing as many features as are necessary to prevent identification (I also usually run a year or two behind from when I first receive them).

Secondly, it is obvious from your email that you understand the truth perfectly well, and I commend you for your truth-based Christianity in sea of muddled thinking. Things are not much different here in the States. We too are awash with mega-churches which, whatever their doctrine, promote superficiality over spirituality. Even bigger problems come when the church is or becomes a cult. It is sometimes difficult to draw that line, but in general terms when personality, entertainment, numbers and money take center stage, the church/group moves to the tipping point. From there, the allure of false doctrine is very strong, because false doctrines are always much more capable of catapulting personalities to greater fame, exciting the sheep, drawing in more victims, and fleecing them more effectively. Before going on, here are some links at the site you might want to consult first:

Read Your Bible: Protection against Cults (includes "cult characteristics").

Mega-Churches, Emergent Christianity, Spirituality and Materialism.

The persuasiveness of the tribulational false religion.

Dysfunctional Churches.

The Situation of the Church and "church-visible" on the Eve of the Tribulation.

On the issue of convincing people that the tripe they have bought into is just that, as I often say I am not gifted in the area of apologetics. Your description of "name-it-claim -it" as a short-hand for the prosperity gospel strikes me as being right on the mark, and, quite frankly, this "4th dimension" seems to me to be just a clever re-working of that heresy. The whole idea behind both false doctrines is that we can control God and make Him do what we want; and inevitably what we want is material blessing rather than anything spiritual. It's difficult to know where to start when dealing with this mind-set which, I may add, is the normal non-Christian, pseudo-Christian, and marginal-Christian status quo. Everyone would like to believe that we are here on earth after salvation to be blessed materially and "have a good life" – and, well, who wouldn't want to have a rosy life with no troubles? And can't God do that for us, being all-powerful? Of course He could. The problem is that all this is not only not in the Bible but is actually antithetical to the entire plan of God. If I were trying to convince someone, I would start with the fact that the prosperity gospel is not in the Bible and that Bible represents the Christian life a difficult and challenging thing with persecution not boundless prosperity being the rule -- for those who are following Jesus Christ in truth.

In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.
1st Thessalonians 3:4

And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting [them] to continue in the faith, and [saying], "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God."
Acts 14:21-22 NIV

Paul and company didn't tell these new believers about some "fourth dimension" or just to "name it" and they could have a cornucopia of blessing fall into their lives. Why not? Because that is not the way it is – at all. We are here to demonstrate by the growth and perseverance of our faith through tribulations that our faith is genuine (cf. 1Pet.1:6-7), and by the testing and refining of it to gain glory for the Lord and reward in eternity, rather than in this life (e.g., Matt.6:19-20; 2Cor.4:17). That is why Jesus told us to "count the cost" before committing to being His disciples, because the road ahead – although incomparably more blessed – is harder for our giving our lives to Him, not easier:

"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. "And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. "For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has [enough] to finish [it]-- "lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see [it] begin to mock him, "saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.' "Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? "Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace. "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple."
Luke 14:26-33 NKJV

Being a true disciple requires sacrifice, and as we go grow up in Jesus Christ things get more challenging, not less so. God prunes those who are bearing fruit so that we may bear even more (Jn.15:2), but those who go their own way and do not remain in Him – which fate all who follow false doctrines and cults are at least flirting with – are thrown into the fire and burned (Jn.15:6). Jesus was poor. Paul was poor. Virtually all of the great believers were not only deprived in material terms but suffered all manner of trials and tribulations (at least from time to time):

Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned [fn]; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated – the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
Hebrews 11:36-39 NIV

These great believers did not "receive what was promised" because the promise we are looking forward to in Jesus Christ is the resurrection, reunion with Him, an eternal reward and eternal life in the New Jerusalem. But if we are looking to the things of the earth instead, how is it that we do not have our perspective exactly backward from what the Lord wants from us?

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4 NIV

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
1st John 2:15-17 NIV

Yes I know they will mention Abraham. But Abraham had to wait until he was 100 years old until he received what he wanted most, a son – and then he was called upon to slit his son's throat in obedience to the Lord. So I suppose if we are as patient as Abraham so as to wait 50 years "to claim it" and if we are then actually and genuinely willing to give it right back to God not theoretically but viscerally and irrevocably, then we too may "get something". Of course the heir for whom Abraham waited had been specifically promised to him as in integral part of God's plan for forming Israel, and surely that makes his situation unique for that reason too (along with a whole host of others).

These are the last days of the Church, and it was prophesied by John in the book of Revelation that they would be days of appalling lukewarmness (see the link: Laodicea). Hence my dilemma in attempting to answer your question. For it seems to me that for a Christian who is genuinely committed to hearing what Jesus is saying and really wanting to follow Him, any one of the verses quoted or cited above would be sufficient to cause him/her to part company with a fellowship which has it completely backward, one that is telling him/her what he/she wants to hear and clearly not what the Bible is saying from cover to cover. For if a person has stopped up the ears to the point of no longer being willing to listen to such a clear and consistent message from scripture – especially as there is absolutely no biblical support for the other side – then the odds of said person turning around based upon what I would have to say are minimal. I admire people who enter onto that battlefield, come what may, and I stand willing to "lift up my banner in the Name of the Lord" when they (you) are successful.

I hope you will find the above of some use in your noble quest, and I am happy to continue our conversation and/or answer any other question you may have.

Yours in the One who sacrificed more than we can presently know that we might reign as kings with Him – in eternity – Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob Luginbill

Question #14:   

Dear Bob,

Thank you very much for your reply, and the offer for further support. Last night I had a longer discussion with my partner and her cell group leader. Long story short - I have questions which they could not answer. I consider the fact that they listened great progress. Amongst each other, ______ members are always positive. This could be the explanation that the conversation did not break down. ______ members, including the cell group leader, are good at parroting verses and shouting "hallelujah" or "praise the Lord" to support the quotes from their Pastor, yet testing the truth is something that is not practiced. As a consequence, they are not equipped to have a serious discussion.

Instead, the cell group leader offered me to write to the pastor directly. She is convinced that he will answer. I gave this some thought and decided to take her up on her offer. I will therefore use the material you provided, I hope you don't mind, to write him a letter directly, addressing my concerns and asking for explanations about his teachings. I will be very careful to stick to the facts and avoid any confrontational language. What can happen?

1. He defends his doctrine and addresses my concern: At least I will have something concrete to test the truth against. No danger whatsoever for me buying the prosperity heresy.

2. He defends his doctrine the usual way by quoting willy nilly verses and ignoring my concerns:

3. He does not answer:

Both 2 and 3 will not reflect good on the pastor as both my partner and cell group leader would like to hear the answers they could not provide. As a matter of fact, the whole cell group has already been informed about my questions, and all are eager for the pastor to teach me a lesson in theology. Not answering me, or deviating the questions could be a little seed telling my partner that maybe, just maybe, their leader is not as infallible as initially thought. I do not want to sound too confident, but after being a Christian for 36 years, supported by the Word of God, I should be able to discern Truth from fantasy. I will definitely give it my very best. I will keep you updated and hope for your support if needed.

Kind Regards,

Response #14: 

Thanks for the update,

I will say a prayer for you and your partner on this. I grew up in a Presbyterian church where the pastor, my father, was always accessible to everyone. Later on, I "cut my theological teeth" in a number of large evangelic churches where such was not the case. I have always been of the opinion that any pastor ought to be willing and able to defend what he teaches, showing where it is in the Bible, how he is translating and interpreting the verses he is using to support any teaching, and explaining the arguments he uses. This is my own policy and I have always found it very valuable for my own personal spiritual growth – not to mention rendering the process entirely open and above board (keeping money out of the mix is very helpful for that as well). Naturally, I can't expect that even so there will always be agreement, but if a pastor is always "ready to give an account" for what he believes (1Pet.3:13), at least all parties will know where they stand and, if there is humility on both sides, correction will come naturally, whoever needs to do the correcting:

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
1st Timothy 4:2 NKJV

In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.
Titus 2:7-8 NIV

By all means, use anything you may find valuable whether in these emails or at Ichthys – and feel free to write me back any time.

Best wishes in your efforts on behalf of the truth of the Word of God.

Bob L.

Question #15: 

Greetings from South Africa

Hi there Bob,

Please help me with this question: Why would God create a material "first world" for a spiritual assembly? I need a paradigm shift to get beyond the heavens being created for the spirit world and the earth being created for mankind.

http://www.biblestudysite.com/1stage.htm

"The first earth age was inhabited by us, by our souls in a different form, there were no flesh bodies then. In that first earth age we all had spiritual bodies, in this earth age we have flesh bodies because we were created and formed from the dust of the earth. This is not reincarnation! Each soul can pass through each earth age only one time."

- Whaaat? (Me)

Help Bob! I will keep searching until I have a clear answer and some of the stuff out there is WEIRD!

Regards,

Response #15: 

Good to hear from you. You are certainly correct in your assumption that all of this material is "weird" (that would be the nicest name I could give it). Human beings were created by God for a definite purpose and did not exist until Adam and Eve were created. Human beings consist of a material body and an immaterial spirit which is created by God for each human being at the moment of birth. And from the moment of birth onward, there will never be a time when a human being is "disembodied". At death, believers go into the presence of the Lord while unbelievers go to Hades – and each is given an interim body as "clothing" for the spirit until such time as the resurrection occurs and we all receive our eternal bodies (see the link: "Our Heavenly, Pre-Resurrection, Interim State."). For even unbelievers are resurrected, albeit in a resurrection of judgment for the purpose of condemnation (Jn.5:29). This website you linked has all manner of odd teachings, the only common factors of which seem to be 1) the fact that they are sensationalist, and 2) the fact that they are completely non-biblical, untrue, and very spiritually dangerous. This is theosophy, not theology, and I would advise staying away. Most of what the Bible has to say about these matters is discussed and explained in the Satanic Rebellion series (see the link; part 3 is all about the creation of mankind).

As always, I am happy to answer any specific questions you may have about these issues.

Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the one way of salvation.

Bob L.

Question #16: 

Hi Dr. Luginbill

Thought you might find this interesting.

This article I just sent you is written by a Jewish Hindu? I think.

But the part about the Hebrew language was pretty cool.

The Hidden Structures of Water.htm

by

Reb Yakov Leib HaKohain, Founder & Spiritual Director DONMEH WEST

Comments?

Response #16: 

Good to hear from you. Thanks for the material. This sort of thing can often be "interesting", but I am always leery of anything more "theosophical" than theological. Numbers sometimes do have significance in the Bible but the idea that they may contain some special secret power or code is a false and a dangerous trail. The medieval Jewish scholars and mystics quoted here are not believers and their pronouncements merely speculative. Just for example, the tehom or "great deep" which covers the earth in Genesis 1:2 is the result of God's judgment on the universe following Satan's revolt – and it fills the entire universe (pace Rashi). The Genesis gap (see the link) is key to understanding most things about the purpose of mankind in the Plan of God, but, in company with far too many Christians, these Jewish "scholars" missed it.

Keep growing in grace, my friend, through the knowledge of Jesus Christ our Lord!

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #17:  

MAN vs. PASTOR.... Have you seen this crazy video?

BEST: Article Link w/ Video ---

http://godinanutshell.com/nutshell-pages/

voices-of-honor/mike-murdock-safe-robbery.html

Cool bro!

Response #17: 

Thank you for the link.

Yes, there are many wolves out there in sheep's clothing (and this ministry is devoted to helping Christians grow spiritually in order in part to be able to defend against all such deceptions). However, I am troubled by someone who counters this sort of thing by committing robbery (et al.), then writing a book and bragging about it (in hopes of monetary gain). It seems this person is doing the same sorts of things, just in a different way.

In Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd who gave up His life for all of us sheep.

Bob Luginbill

Question #18: 

Hello again from New Zealand. I would like to have your comments on this subject:

The upper room experience it seems, was a new manifestation of the Lords dealing with his followers. I have these thoughts on the matter regarding "tongue’s".

1) These men to whom the Holy Spirit visited upon that day in the upper room would not generally speak in a way that would have glorified anything. They were fishermen and "bar" talk would probably have been their usual way of talking.(1a) To speak and glorify the Lord was certainly a "new tongue" in their experience. (Mark:16:v17)

2) The upper room experience was a further outpouring of the Holy Spirit that enabled these disciples to speak with "other tongues". (2a) The Holy Spirit given ability, to boldly preach this new gospel to the world. (Acts2:v1-4)

Your thoughts please:

Response #18: 

Good to hear from you again.

As to your questions, Acts chapter two describes the pouring out of the Holy Spirit (aka the "baptism of the Spirit") which, on the day of Pentecost, took place in a miraculous fashion never again repeated in quite the same way (although there were of course other visibly miraculous outpourings in the early days of the apostles such as upon Cornelius and his company in Acts chapter 10). Ever since the early days of the Church, when someone believes in Jesus Christ, they are "baptized with the Spirit", and this "Spirit baptism" has a two-fold effect: 1) we are baptized "into Jesus Christ", becoming one with Him, part of His Body and part of His Bride forevermore (this is a "positional" effect); 2) we are baptized "with the Spirit", sometimes described as being "given the Spirit to drink", being thereafter indwelt by the Spirit for our empowerment in the Christian life to grow in truth, walk with Jesus, and serve His Church. This Spirit baptism is entirely "dry" and has nothing to do with water as the first Pentecost shows where, after a loud noise, "tongues of fire . . . separated and came to rest on each of them", following which all "were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them" (Acts 2:3-4 NIV).

From what happens next, it is very clear that these "tongues" are different human languages through which the Spirit evangelized and led to Christ many of the visitors who had come to Jerusalem for Pentecost: they all heard the gospel in their own language (or at least a persuasive message of praising God which led them to come and hear Peter). I do think it is true that when this gift was given it was the Spirit who was providing the utterances and that would have included the content (i.e., it was not that those with the gift of tongues decided what to say but could say it in a different language; rather the entire operation was of the Spirit).

One small quibble here: The book of Mark ends at verse 8 of chapter 16. The verse you cite is part of a later false intrusion into scripture and so should not be thought to have any value (please see the link: "Erroneous Interpolations into the Bible").

Finally, in terms of experience, since we all have the Spirit, we all have the most important aspects of what these men received at Pentecost: the Spirit's guidance, power, encouragement, and enlightenment (to name a few of the blessings He bestows). We may not have visibly miraculous spiritual "sign" gifts like the gift of tongues (which is now in abeyance), but we all do have at least one gift in order to make us useful to the Body of Christ (1Cor.12:7ff.). In order for the Spirit to benefit any of us, however, what is first required is spiritual growth, the process of stockpiling truth through faith in our hearts, for this is the capital the Spirit uses. Secondly, we are only useful to the Lord and made use of by the Spirit to the extent that we offer ourselves to Him. Learning how to be and becoming consistent in being responsive to the Lord Jesus and to the Holy Spirit are life-long challenges for any believer, but are only met by consistency and determination to learn about, walk with, and serve our Lord better day by day.

I do plan to have a part 5 of Bible Basics (Pneumatology: the Study of the Holy Spirit) which will deal with all of these issues in detail, until then please see the stub (linked) which does have many cross-links, and the Subject Index for specific topics (such as Tongues; see the link).

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #19:  

Hello again Dr. Lugingill, once again while i was studying, a few questions popped into my mind. I was wondering:

In Judges 6 why was the meat and bread consumed as a sign? And is it evil to ask God for a sign?

Response #19: 

In Judges 6, it doesn't actually say that this was done "as a sign", although we can certainly call it that. Offerings to the Lord were often burned in the fire of the altar. That is a representation of the judgment for our sins in the body of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross (and that was the symbolism in this instance as well).

On asking for signs in general, well, it all depends. Bad king Ahaz was told by Isaiah under divine inspiration to "ask the Lord for a sign", and when he refused to do so he was told that he was trying God's patience with his refusal (Is.7:11-14). On the other hand, Jesus upbraids the men of His generation telling them that "an evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign" (Matt.12:39; 16:4). John tells us that if we ask for anything whatsoever "in accordance with His Will", He hears us (1Jn.5:14). Many believers are given signs in scripture. When the Lord appears to Gideon, not only does the Lord not take noticeable offense at his request for a sign but does not even do so when Gideon asks that it be repeated. The miraculous gifts and wonders given to the apostles and the first generation of the Church were meant to demonstrate that the gospel was truly God's Word (for that reason they are often called "sign gifts"; cf. 1Cor.14:22: "tongues are for a sign"). On the other hand, Paul is certainly not giving a compliment when he says "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom" (1Cor.1:22 NIV). What is in the heart of the person in question seems to me to be the key thing.

As those who claim to believe in Jesus Christ and have faith in Him and His Word of truth, I think it fair to say that most of the time (and for some us all of the time) it little behooves us to ask for visible demonstrations of the power of God. We should already have faith in Him. If the point is that we require guidance about some important matter (or think we do), then asking for that guidance in prayer is certainly legitimate. Rather than requiring a particular sign, however, it seems best to me for us to make it our standard practice to leave the specifics of that guidance and how He will communicate it to us to the Lord (i.e., He may well give us a sign or set of circumstances to guide our path). Thomas was given His request to see the Lord, but as Jesus tells him after he so emotionally expresses his faith and delight at personally seeing Jesus in resurrection, "Blessed [are] those who have not seen and [yet] have believed" (Jn.20:29 NIV). Abraham's servant did ask in prayer for a very detailed and specific set of circumstances to guide his choice (Gen.22:12-14), but he was clearly on a very important mission which had been undertaken in behalf of an exceptional prophet of God (and the example of Gideon is similar in this respect of being closely related to God's business: the Lord had appeared to him first, after all).

In sum, is it wrong to ask God for a sign? No, but the times and circumstances when this is advisable would seem to be very few and far between indeed. It is certainly not something that the average believer in our present era of the Church should be making a habit of doing, and it would never be a good idea to do if it might in any way be construed as lacking faith or testing the Lord.

Question #20:  

Joseph seemed to have had an extreme amount of understanding about dreams. Any insight on how he was able to understand and interpret dreams?

Response #20: 

As Joseph himself says, "Do not interpretations belong to God?" (Gen.40:8, NIV). During the Old Testament, God's "dispensation" of truth came primarily through heads of households and other individuals whom the Lord gifted to be prophets or priests (e.g., Isaac and Melchizedek respectively as examples). This was a special gift given to Joseph, but it came from God. As Pharaoh says of him, "Can we find such a one as this, a man in whom is the Spirit of God?" (Gen.41:38 NKJV). We are not told by scripture here whether God made the interpretation known to Joseph directly (through an intermediary as in the case of Daniel) or, as seems probable in this context, indirectly (i.e., through the Spirit speaking to Him directly as in the case of Peter in Acts 10), but the fact is that this aptitude was God-given and not something that any of us could ever do if only we had the proper training. This is a miracle based on the functioning of a miraculous gift.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #21:  

You wrote: 'We are all given particular spiritual gifts at salvation' - I thought that we are given the gifts at the time of our birth?

Response #21: 

Paul says at 1st Corinthians 12:11, "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines" and then he explains in the next verse "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ" (NIV). Since the Spirit gives gifts to the members of the Body, we have to be talking about the Church, that is, believers. Every human being has natural talents (some more than others), but spiritual gifts are particular spiritual empowerments of the Spirit given to supply the Church, the Body, with all it needs. No one can be a "part" of that Body until they are "part" of Christ's Church. All believers have the Spirit (Rom.8:9), but the unbeliever is not "spiritual" and all such things are only "foolishness" to him (1Cor.2:14). This is why Paul makes a point where he speaks of these matters of calling attention to the difference between the Corinthians' previous unbelieving state and the blessings they had thereafter received through faith:

Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.
1st Corinthians 12:1-3

Question #22:  

Would you say the gift of healing is not one given to the people in our time (after the apostles)?

Response #22: 

Yes, that is precisely what I would say. All of the overtly miraculous gifts were given 1) to gain a hearing for the gospel in the midst of a pagan world, and 2) to bridge the gap between the initiation of the expansion of the Church and the time when there would be a completed Bible and network of churches and prepared men to teach it. For example, prophecy is more necessary when certain doctrines cannot be understood and explained on account of the fact that the passages in scripture which teach them are not yet available. Once we do have the entire Bible and men and churches to teach it, these "sign gifts" are more of a potential distraction than a help. That is why in my opinion they were made "to cease" (1Cor.13:8ff.): not only were they no longer necessary but they would also have the potential of disrupting proper authority within the Church – authority which should be based upon scripture and its authoritative teaching.

Question #23:  

Could you just briefly describe the difference between 'foretelling and forth-telling' in prophecy?

Response #23: 

Certainly. Foretelling is that aspect of prophecy which predicts future events. Forth-telling is the giving out of the truth but without necessarily predicting future events. The two are very closely related and often difficult to disentangle (as anyone who has read the book of Isaiah, for example, should realize), but the distinction is important so that when we read about the gift of prophesy, for example, we should realize that it did not always or even predominantly give predictions of things that had not yet happened, but, like much of the book of Isaiah, consisted of praise for God and the expression of doctrinal truths.

Question #24:   

You wrote: whereas Zechariah was (since in his case, the miracle was not only precedented but also fell within normal human parameters: compare Lk.1:18-20 with Gen.18:10-14) . . . It seems that in the latter passage the Lord does express the concern over Sarah's attitude, but does not rebuke her per se. Is it to do with the fact that the events of Genesis 18 were unprecedented as opposed to those from Luke 1?

Response #24: 

The distinction is that Sarah was no longer able to bear children – absent a miracle that overturned the natural order of things. Here the miracle is not something as seeming impossible as virgin conception, but still a turning of "death into life" (Rom.4:19). So Sarah's case seems to me to be half way in between that of Zechariah (where while old conception for that couple was still theoretically possible) and that of Mary (where what was predicted was entirely impossible in terms of human experience), and that explains our Lord's mild correction of Sarah (as opposed to the more stringent treatment of Zechariah and the mere explanation given to Mary).

Question #25: 

Could you please explain Mark 8:23-25: 23 Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, "Do you see anything?" 24 And he looked up and said, "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around." 25 Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly."

Could you explain why is this miracle performed in two steps? After having his eyes spat upon the man says "I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around", and after the second he is restored to full sight: 'Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly'.

Response #25: 

I heard this explained by a speaker at seminary long ago and the explanation sounded reasonable. Apparently, sight is not just a matter of physiology but also of perceptive acuity. On those rare occasions when sight is restored by modern medicine, I am told, the individuals in question sometimes have to be taught "how to see". That seems to be the case with this person. The result is that our Lord performed a double miracle: 1) restoring the man's eyes; 2) giving him the ability to process the information so as to see accurately. My own interpretation of this on the spiritual side of things is that without the Spirit – or without believing the truth we receive – the gospel / Bible truth may be "clear" to us and yet make no practical sense whatsoever. That important distinction – between gnosis, mere knowledge (akin to the man after only the first half of the miracle), and epignosis, truth understood through faith (akin to the man after only the second half of the miracle), is in many ways the key to the Christian life. We have to believe the truth in order for it to be of any real use to us; otherwise, there is not much different between that kind of fatally flawed "sight" and being truly blind.

Question #26: 

Why do the disciples in Matthew 15:33 ask: "Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?"

Having already witnessed one miracle of similar nature? Is it them being, as you called it, 'slow on the intake'?

Response #26: 

Yes, it is because they are "hardened of heart" as our Lord says (Mk.8:17; cf. Mk.6:52). Seeing a miracle does not produce faith. Otherwise Jesus' entire generation would have been saved. People may be amazed at a miracle but it only results in proper faith response for those who are willing to believe and give their obedience to God. The disciples were flesh and blood, and did not have the indwelling Spirit as we now do. They saw very many things that should have put them of a mind to trust and believe that our Lord could do anything. But before we are too hard on them, it is a universal failing of human beings, even believers, to make the same mistake over and over again. We may have a victory in trusting the Lord today, but we may fail miserably tomorrow – and the test may be similar or even essentially the same. Only by repeated testing and stretching are most of us able to build the sort of faith necessary to endure the really "heavy lifts" of the kind that are soon to come upon the world. This passage, moreover, certainly demonstrates that the Word of truth, understood and believed, is of far more spiritual use to us than personally witnessing thousands of miracles performed by the Lord Himself: the disciples, better believers than we are no doubt, had done so, but it had done them little positive good. Only after they had believed the truth behind the miracles did they begin to grow and produce a good crop for our Lord.

Question #27:  

You wrote: Walking on the Water (Matt.14:24-33; Mk.6:53-56; Jn.6:16-21): The King's power over time and space demonstrated.

Is Peter testing our Lord in Matthew 14:28: 28 Peter said to Him, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."

Wasn't Thomas told that 'Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed' after a similar 'test'? And regarding Thomas' test - our Lord came among his disciples and let Thomas check his wounds, which means that Jesus kept the bodily signs of His sacrifice - is His body going to carry this marks through eternity? Similarly, will our eternal bodies carry anything from this earthly life? Also, according to John the disciples 'saw Jesus walking on the sea', but according to Matthew, even though it says 'disciples saw Him', they thought it was a ghost.

Response #27: 

As to the second part of your question, it seems clear that in addition to lacking faith and not having yet believed the truth of many things our Lord was continually teaching them and demonstrating to them, the disciples were also not entirely cured of their superstition yet. As to the first part, I don't think so. I think Peter wanted to be a part of this marvelous and miraculous overcoming of time and space through the power of God. Who wouldn't? Peter deserves kudos for being willing to ask and willing to try; he failed in his lack of the depth of faith necessary to carry through when his good intentions and good decisions were tested. That is also a real lesson for us all. Consistency and follow-through are always more needful and more rare than initial enthusiasm. As to our Lord's resurrection body, it seems so in His case but probably not in our cases. His death was unique and these "battle scars" are in His case memorials to the victory of victories whereby we are all saved. Jesus' appearance at Revelation 1:12-20, moreover, is entirely glorious, and I think that is really the operative part of the comparison in, for example, 1st John 3:2 NIV: "But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."

Question #28: 

You wrote: Thus His only desire in accomplishing these miraculous works of healing and the like was the furtherance of the Father's plan, giving authority to the message of the Kingdom with which He had been entrusted (Matt.13:58; Mk.1:39). Since Matt.13:58 says why our Lord refrained from performing miracles, did you include this passage to show that miracles would show the genuineness of the message to those who wanted to receive it?

Response #28: 

Yes. My thinking was that the implication is that since "He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith", had they but had more of an inclination to being saved, He would have done more miracles as authoritative support for the truth of His words. That is the point of miracles, after all, to direct our attention to the truth, not to substitute for it (cf. Ps.106:7).

Question #29:  

Could you please explain the difference in the commendations given by our Lord regarding the material aspect of ministry between Matt. 10:9-10 and later in Lk.22:35-36?

Response #29: 

This is an important distinction. The ministries of the twelve and the seventy-two (along with the ministry of the 144,000 which they foreshadow) are meant to be miraculous and miraculously supported as special signs of their authenticity, drawing attention to their message and its veracity. For the bulk of human history, however, and certainly for the Church Age as a whole (Lk.22), we must make use of normal human means in the prosecution of the miraculous truth we aspire to disseminate. God "dispenses" His grace and His truth in different ways at different times (cf. Heb.1:1), and failing to appreciate the precise "times and seasons" can lead to doctrinal confusion and gross misapplication. Just as it would have been a violation of God's policy for the 12/72/144K to rely on personal provisioning (sending entirely the wrong message), so Christians embarking on ministry today should not arrogantly assume that they can forgo our Lord's words of instruction: now is not the time of heralding the Messiah's imminent coming; now is the time of doing the hard work of building up His Church. His servants "feasted" for a while; but now is the time of fasting. For more on the general principle see the link: "Dispensations".

Question #30:  

Regarding the question on water-baptism, I just wanted to know why did you decide to include the passage Jn.1:35-51 to illustrate the point you were making - 'and enjoys fellowship with the Lord'? I'm still unsure about what Jn.1:35-51 is aimed to illustrate. I apologize for coming back to it, I would just like to know I understand you correctly. Also, I've been reading your instalments on water baptism and as always - they've been helpful. A question occurred to me about the 'mechanics' of the baptism of Spirit. How does it 'happen' or how is it 'performed'? Is it a natural consequence of one's spiritual growth?

Response #30: 

This subsection is entitled "Repentance" and is using John's water-baptism as the analogy to show what repentance truly means – an important thing to do in my view because so many people get repentance wrong and also get it mixed up with the concept of water-baptism. Since John's baptism is the point of comparison in this section, I included this passage as a loose comparison (= "cf.") to show how Jesus' first disciples were indeed ready for fellowship with the Lord as a result – and personally with our Lord Himself for that matter. It's not the spiritual fellowship we enjoy upon the confession of our sins but in my view it is very closely parallel to it: they responded to God's will in coming to John in repentance and were now given to meet the Lord and have fellowship with Him. First, we have to adjust our attitude to God's will; then, God is willing to forgive us, restore us, teach us, fellowship with us. That is principle at the heart of all spiritual progress, from salvation forward (whether we call it repentance, confession, returning to Him, accepting His will, et al.).

As to the baptism of the Spirit, this is now and has been since the early days of the Church an automatic thing that occurs for all people when they place their faith in Jesus Christ. The Spirit comes upon the person in question, albeit not with the hyper-miraculous manifestations which accompanied the coming of the Spirit at the day of Pentecost and on a few occasions thereafter. Rather the effects are internal, the renewal of the heart of the new believer being one of the most profound. This revival of the Spirit is also often experienced by believers who repent and are renewed to fellowship with the Lord (as in the parable of the prodigal son). I hope to have this all written up in one place in detail at some point in BB 5 Pneumatology, but that is a long way off at present. For the moment, please see the links:

Baptism:  Water and Spirit.

Baptism: Water and Spirit II.

 

Ichthys Home

Bible Options
Bible Study Software