To Deny God’s Power is to Deny God

Let me begin this message by identifying myself so you may more adequately judge what I write. I am not a Pentecostal. I am not a charismatic. I am not an Evangelical. I am not a Calvinist. I am not an Arminian. I am not a Catholic, or a Baptist, or Presbyterian or any other recognized denomination of Christianity. I do not follow the line of any of these movements or teachers and reject any box that others want to put me in. I am a follower of Christ and a believer in Him and defender of His word. The Bible, interpreted with the help of the Holy Spirit, is my source of truth not a man, movement or denomination.

I respect all followers of Christ and leaders even if they label themselves by one of these divisions I mentioned. What I say in this message, and all messages I share, comes from my understanding of God’s word as led by the Holy Spirit in fellowship with others seeking truth. Yet I am open to any correction that comes from those who respect God’s word and commit to sincerely testing what is written or spoken so they can hold fast to what is good (1 Thess. 5:21).

In Paul’s description of the difficult times that will come at the close of this age, he told his young coworker that the human race would become increasingly self-centered, arrogant, lovers of pleasure and much more. He ends the diatribe about the end times saying that people would be “. . . holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power” (2 Tim. 3:5). He warns Timothy to “Avoid such men as these.”

A form of godliness. The word “form” here carries the idea in Greek of fashioning something into an outward form. Such people have fashioned a form of religion (godliness) but since it is their own creation they reject the power of true godliness in favor of their own human power. The idea resembles Paul’s words about the “deceitful schemers” of Ephesians 4.14. In that passage he said that because of them people would be “. . . tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming.” These people also avoided the power of God that brings real godliness because they had a scheme to build something in their own power using “trickery” and “craftiness.” Sound familiar?

I’m sorry to say that much of Christianity is driven by an attitude that rejects the power that produces true godliness. In Paul’s statement he makes it clear that genuine godliness has a power connected to it. This is the power of the Holy Spirit made available to all believers. Before He ascended He promised His disciples: “. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This power of the Holy Spirit would provide them with the ability from God to become His witnesses and live the godly life that He called them to.

Tragically, there is an entire segment of modern Christian teachers who reject much of the power provided by the Holy Spirit. I will give one example. Back in 2013 John MacArthur, a well know pastor led the affairs of a conference known as the Strange Fire Conference. He subsequently has written a book by the same title. He is an excellent teacher and I appreciate much of what he shares. On the other hand, MacArthur, along with many others, rejects the gifts of the Spirit which are the major means by which the power of God is released in the lives of His people.

These spiritual gifts are gifts of the Holy Spirit that Paul declares are for “the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12: 7). They are word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, kinds of languages and the interpretation of languages. I’m not going to explain all of these gifts here but I will simply say that each is a manifestation of the power of God through the Holy Spirit in the lives of God’s receptive people (1 Cor. 12:8–10).

These gifts are necessary in the lives of believers. I will use prophecy as an example. I seldom use notes when I speak because when I am in the presence of God’s people for ministry the words rise up from my spirit and pour forth from my mouth and they are words of encouragement that build up the body of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 14:24, 25 Paul says that the proper use of prophecy resulting in someone being “. . . convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.” This is the power of God at work using the words of a believer to convict a person and bring Him to a place of repentance. It’s called prophecy.

Yes, these gifts are often counterfeited and abused. That is caused by the nature of man and the work of Satan trying to diminish the power of God through His church. I would say to people like MacArthur that the most abused gift in the church today is probably the gift of pastor. Men who use their eloquence and natural abilities to pontificate every Sunday to a packed church are abusing the gift. Instead of speaking under God’s anointing they use their natural speaking ability and their extensive notes to give the appearance of a person under God’s anointing.

Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 14 that every person should be free to bring something to share with the church gathering (14:26). MacArthur and other teachers claim that the order of ministry in this chapter is fleshly disorder and should be corrected. This claim is refuted by much of the rest of the chapter. Paul says that if someone speaks in a tongue let it be two or three at the most (v. 27, 28). He goes on saying “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment” (v. 29). If one person has a revelation the one sharing should have a seat and let him share (v. 30). He tells them “. . . you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted” (v. 31). He reminds them of the principle that “. . . the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets” (v. 32). This is an orderly gathering where all could share and be built up spiritually.

This is just a group of people sitting in a living room having a sharing time about their Lord. No one, unlike today’s church services, was permitted to dominate the gathering. All who wanted to were permitted to share because the early church knew about the priesthood of all believers (Rev. 5:10; 1 Peter 2:9). There was no priestly or pastoral class who were to do all of the ministry. The fully equipped saints are the ones who do the work of ministry (Eph. 4:12).

Sadly, I must report that many teachers in the body of Christ have developed the concept we refer to as cessationism by which the claim is made that these gifts of spiritual power have been rescinded by God. The basic claim is that these instruments of God’s power were “sign gifts” to bear witness to the truth being espoused by the apostles until the canon of scripture was complete. Once the Bible was complete these gifts were no longer needed and so passed away. Good luck trying to find that concept clearly presented in the Bible.

Christianity is a movement of God’s power in the lives of receptive people. Paul prayed for the church is Ephesus asking that “. . . the eyes of your heart may be enlightened” (1:18). Paul was praying that they would receive revelation about what was available to them in God. One of those things was “. . . the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe” (1:19). He continues saying that this is the same power that raised Christ from the dead (1:20 f).

When Paul visited the church in Corinth, which we alluded to earlier, he declared “. . . my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4, 5). Did you get that? Paul did not want them to base their faith on the persuasive words he could preach but on the demonstration of the Spirit’s power in their midst! No wonder American Christianity is known for its many eloquent preachers but an abysmal lack of spiritual power. We have rejected the power of God and reverted to many words devoid of the power of God.

Some arrogant saints in Corinth would soon receive God’s reprimand saying “But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I shall find out, not the words of those who are arrogant but their power” (1 Cor. 4:19). In discerning the character of these men of many words his judgment would not be based on their words but on the presence of God’s power in their lives. How unlike the way we choose our leaders in these days of ear tickling verbosity!

Paul tells us that “. . . the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power” (1 Cor. 4:20). Consider that for a minute! It is easy to talk about the kingdom of God but another thing to demonstrate it by allowing God’s power to be manifest. When Paul and his helpers were opposed by the unbelieving Jews in Iconium we are told that “. . . they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands” ( Acts 14:3). They spoke boldly of the grace of God and were accompanied by works of power by the Holy Spirit.

I am aware that in the last days, which may be closer than we imagine, there will be those who come with false, satanic power. We are even told that the Antichrist would come “. . . in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders” (2 Thess. 2:9). Are we to throw out the amazing works of the Holy Spirit because Satan will try to counterfeit them?

On the other hand, I realize that miracles do not mature us. I have written extensively on how testing and persecution produce endurance leading to maturity in Christ (James 1:2–4). I also know that spiritual growth comes from the healthy functioning of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11–16). Jesus warned against seeking signs and telling us that the real sign was Jonah in the belly of a whale for three days. In other worlds, His resurrection serves as the greatest sign. That’s why the Gospel is the power or God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). But we do not throw out the baby with the bathwater. We do not reject the power of God because the Bible is complete or Jesus warned us against seeking for a sign.

There are many charlatans out there who claim to be prophets, or great men of God, but one of the gifts of the Spirit is referred to as the “distinguishing of spirits” (1 Cor. 12:10). If the spiritual gifts have been rescinded, how will we be able to discern the enemy’s spiritual counterfeits? Are many saints being deceived because they have no spiritual ability to discern the counterfeit from the real? Do we just trust the naysaying cessationists who simple deny God’s power while expecting us to listen to them without discernment, or do we venture forth in God’s power to receive the balance in our lives that will come through the Holy Spirit unveiling His word?

Paul commanded the Thessalonian saints not to quench the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). Most of us would be seriously afraid to do something that would stop the Spirit of God from moving in our midst. Paul went on to tell them how not to quench the Spirit: “. . . do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” he declared (1 Thess. 5:20, 21). We extinguish the moving of the Spirit in our lives when we despise prophecies given forth by sincere believers. We also do great harm when we just mindlessly believe everything someone says without examining it in the light of God’s word.

Do we also quench the Holy Spirit when we rescind the other gifts of the Spirit? Ponder that for a moment. Is a form of godliness real if it rescinds the power of God in our fellowship and ministry? Are we moving in fear and unbelief when we fail to take Paul’s advice to the Thessalonian saints?

A time of balance is coming. The gifts of the Spirit have not been rescinded. I have seen God heal cystic fibrosis in the twinkling of an eye. I have watched a young lady who had been in a horrendous accident literally being healed from the top of her head to the soles of her feet. I have received the pleasure of speaking God’s prophetic words through His anointing and casting out demons with the power of His word. I could go on but you get the idea. I write with some actual background in the power of God. These are not mere words but are being backed up with God’s power.

The way balance will come is through a return to God’s word, the Bible, as our source of truth rather than the persuasive words of our talking heads. The gifts have been abused and confused, and falsely used but God is about to set His record straight. His power is still available if we will simply step aside from our “forms of godliness” and let the real godliness of the Holy Spirit inspire our lives and release His power.

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Lloyd Gardner

Lloyd Gardner

38 Followers

I write to answer the worldwide move to diminish the influence of God. I write from outside the camp of organized religion to call people to come follow Christ.