Coming Out of Pentecostalism
One of the greatest challenges for any Pentecostal to overcome is to accept the fact that God no longer works miracles today as he did in times past.
Three years ago I wrote a series of three articles in Seek the Old Paths on Why I Left the Pentecostal Church (June, July, August 2013). In those articles I spoke of how I had been in Pentecostalism for over 50 years of my life. I was raised in it, worshiped in it, served in it and preached in it. Even though I was a loyal Pentecostal for all of those years, it doesn't mean I didn't see problems within it. At times we seemed to have some of the finest people in the world. At other times we seemed to have more than our fair share of spiritual fruitcakes and charlatans. At times we seemed to be very sound in doctrine and at other times we seemed to be out in left field. Yes, there was good and bad, but I was loyal.
I wrote of how my roots went down deep into Pentecostalism. As a matter of fact, I was a third generation Pentecostal. I believed if anybody had the truth, we did. But over a period of time, the inconsistencies, the foolishness, the shallowness and the errors in doctrine grew more glaring. All of these things became hard to overlook. The more honest I was with myself, the more I realized I could not go on as a Pentecostal.
Anytime someone leaves the denominational world there are always hurdles to overcome because of the many years of indoctrination one has been subjected to. We don't realize it at the time, but we are being indoctrinated into various lies, man-made theories, false doctrines, scripture twisting and verses isolated and taken out of context. We often see a carryover of this influence even after we have obeyed the Gospel. We become so indoctrinated by man-made doctrines that when we read the Bible we can't see what it clearly says. Our subconscious will even erase certain words from a passage or automatically change the meaning of the words.
When a person has been taught all their life that a certain thing is true, it's hard to believe it's not true. Someone once said, "It is easier to believe a lie that's been heard a thousand times than to believe a fact you've never heard before." We need to remember that at one time almost everybody believed the world was flat and anyone who disagreed with that popular concept was looked upon as strange and ignorant. This is what happens in the realm of religion. It's amazing what a person can believe without any scriptural support. People tend to follow what's popular or what they were raised to believe, so overcoming my religious upbringing was a challenge. That's the reason it took so long for me to come to the knowledge of the truth, even though I saw and heard things through the years that, deep down inside, I knew were not right.
One of the greatest challenges for any Pentecostal to overcome is to accept the fact that God no longer works miracles today as he did in times past. It is difficult at first to believe that God's purpose for working miracles ended with the completion of the 27 New Testament books. So much of the Pentecostal religious world revolves around a belief in a miracle-working God and that He still works miracles today. After all, isn't He the same today as He was yesterday? How could the day of miracles be over? This is their reasoning.
What a lot of God's people don't realize is that to the Pentecostal mind a rejection in the belief of present day miraculous gifts and miraculous signs is tantamount to rejecting God Himself! Pentecostals have a strong belief in God's omnipotence — that He is the all-powerful God who created all things. If God has anything, He has power. God would not be God without power. Thus, to get a Pentecostal beyond this belief in modern day miracles is difficult, if not impossible.
Though most Pentecostals would not admit it, they have a hard time differentiating between God's ability and His purpose. The church of the Lord (the church of Christ) in no way denies God's ability to work miracles. Members of the Lord's church do not deny His power, greatness or omnipotence. We are not in the modernist camp that believes biblical miracles are a myth. Every miracle in Scripture is true and happened just like the Bible says. God is just as powerful today as He has always been. He is the unchanging, never altering God (Malachi 3:6). He cannot grow old and weak. He is ever the same (Hebrews 13:8). The issue has nothing to do with who God is or His ability. The issue concerns God's purpose. For example; no modern day Pentecostal is expecting a prophet to come down off of a mountain with a stone tablet with new commands written on it. Why? Because the time and purpose for that miracle has passed. No modern day Pentecostal goes to a river expecting it to part so they can walk across on dry ground. Why? Because the time and purpose for that miracle has passed. No modern day Pentecostal wakes up in the morning and goes out in their yard looking for fresh bread from heaven for the day because the time and purpose for that miracle has passed. In the same way, I am not looking for an apostle to show up in worship this coming Lord's day to give some new revelation or to heal a cripple or raise a dead person. Why not? Because I understand that the time and purpose for those miracles have passed.
The apostolic ministry and gifts were for the establishing of the church and the revelation of God's will, the Bible (I Corinthians 13:8-10; Ephesians 2:20-22). "That which is perfect" (the New Testament canon) has already come. The Bible is complete. No more revelation is needed. The faith (God's word) has been once and for all time delivered to the saints (Jude 3). There is no more to be added to it (Revelation 22:18-19). We don't need any more miraculous confirmations (Acts 2:22; Mark 16:20). We have what we need: God's Word, which does not change. If a person does not understand the purpose for miracles, then he will always be confused and gullible. He will be carried about with every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). This is the reason we see a religious world full of instability and confusion. They claim faith in God; yet, they are not anchored in God's word. It can be said of them as Jacob said in describing one of his sons, he is "unstable as water" (Genesis 49:4). Instead of being anchored in God's word that is solid and unchangeable, they have tied themselves to emotions, feelings and religious fads.
People run around from church to church looking for a "feel good" religion. Most of the so-called Christians of today are more like the pagans Paul found at Mars' hill, who were looking "to tell or to hear some new thing" (Acts 17:21). This is the reason they, like the Athenians, don't know who the real God is. If they did know, they would realize their worship is unacceptable to Him (Matthew 15:9). Men cannot create a form of worship that is different from what the apostles established. Early Christians followed the apostles' doctrine (Acts 2:42). Anyone who stepped outside of the apostles' teachings were considered heretics and apostates (Galatians 1:8-9; I Timothy 4:16; II Timothy 4:3-4).
In all of God's miraculous acts from the very beginning, He has had a purpose for those acts. From the miraculous events of the creation week until the closing of the New Testament canon, miracles have served God's purpose. Simply because man does not always understand what God is doing does not alter the fact that He has been working His purpose. We cannot force God into our box and make Him perform what we want whenever we want it. God is not a genie in a bottle.
In listening to many Pentecostal and Charismatic preachers, they make it seem like God's miracles are always available anytime anyone needs one or wants one. They make it seem like God doles out miracles like a benevolent grandfather doles out candy to a favored grandchild. However, such an idea is foreign to the Bible. Many years ago a well-known pop singer, who became a charismatic, wrote a book titled, A Miracle a Day Keeps the Devil Away. Of course, his definition of a miracle was so watered down that practically anything positive that happened was a miracle to him. Such books are ridiculous beyond reason. They literally make a mockery of God's true omnipotence. Speaking hypothetically, if God were to work a real genuine miracle in modern times it would be powerful, unusual, undeniable as well as serving the specific purpose of glorifying Christ. It would not serve the purpose of enhancing the showmanship of a television personality or promoting the sales of someone's latest book. It would also be something more significant than an available parking place downtown in front of the donut shop. God has a specific reason for what He does and it is not trivial nonsense or to bring glory to a man.
Miracles are not doled out to anyone, anytime someone wants one. Notice what Christ said to the people in the synagogue in Luke chapter four. "But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian" (Luke 4:25-27). From these verses it is noted that miracles were not being handed out every day to anybody who wanted or needed one. Christ makes the point that there were many widows in the days of Elijah who could have used a miracle of divine provision, but they did not receive it -- only one widow did. There were many lepers in the days of Elisha who needed healing, but only one was healed. Why did these receive a miracle? We may never know all of the details, but one thing we do know is that in each case it served God's purpose.
When we look at the life of Christ, the greatest miracle worker of all, what do we learn about miracles and their purpose? John records the very first miracle performed by Jesus. But John does not simply give us the details of the miracle. He gives the purpose for all miracles Christ would perform in his earthly lifetime. "This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him" (John 2:11). What purpose did the miracle serve? It manifested the glory of Christ and confirmed the words he spoke. This miracle, like all of his miracles was like a huge neon sign saying, "This is the Messiah, the One that was to come. Believe on Him!"
In the fifth chapter of John, Jesus points out to the Jews that there are witnesses that prove who he is. "But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me" (John 5:36).
John the Baptizer gave witness that Jesus was the Christ. However, Jesus had a greater witness than John. It was the very works that he performed — his miracles. The evidence was there for anyone to see. This is the reason Nicodemus said to Christ, "Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him" (John 3:2). To those stubborn, hardhearted Jewish leaders who rejected that Jesus was the Christ, he kept pointing to the evidence — his miraculous works.
"Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me" (John 10:25).
"If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him" (John 10:37-38).
"If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father" (John 15:24).
The works (the miracles) were drawing attention to who Christ was. They served a purpose. They were a sign of his Messiah-ship. They were a sign that he was the promised One who was to come (cf. Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Acts 3:22-23).
Do you remember what the Samaritan woman said to Jesus? "The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things" (John 4:25). The Samaritans, as well as the Jews, knew that the Messiah was to be a man of omnipotence and omniscience; a man of miracles. Miracles set Christ apart from everyone else. This is the reason Jesus' statement to the Jews is so powerful: "If I do not the works (miracles) of my Father (God), believe me not" (John 10:37). The neon sign was there saying, "This is the Christ!"
When the Jews accused Jesus of casting out demons by the prince of demons, he spoke of his power to perform this miracle as the very finger of God (Luke 11:20). When John is closing his letter he reveals the purpose of his record: "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (John 20:30-31).
On the Day of Pentecost Peter reminds the Jews of the credentials of Jesus that proved he was the Christ. "Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know" (Acts 2:22).
Miracles served to confirm the ministry of Moses, that he was a man sent from God with the word of God to establish a law for the people of God. Miracles served to confirm that Jesus was the Messiah, the promised One bringing God's message to man. Miracles confirmed the teaching and preaching of the apostles, that they were sent or commissioned by Christ to establish the one true church of our Lord and set forth its doctrine and perimeters.
Jesus did not come to establish a "feel good" religion as many Charismatic's imply. Victory in Jesus is not about living in ease and comfort in life. Spiritual blessings are not about having the biggest house, car and bank account in the neighborhood. Miracles are not about making modern man happy. They served a purpose, and the time of that purpose has passed.
Another difficulty a Pentecostal has in his understanding is when he hears the truth that God does not work present day miracles, he believes we are saying that, "God doesn't answer prayer anymore." Just because the day for signs, gifts and miracles has passed, does not mean that God does not answer prayer. It is a mistaken idea to believe that in order for God to answer prayer He has to perform a miracle.
Let's look at Matthew 6:11, where Jesus encourages us to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." The question must be asked: Does God have to perform a miracle in order to answer this prayer? After praying this prayer in the morning before starting my day, I've never walked downstairs to find a miracle supply of groceries on the table. However, I do go to work and make a salary which in turn is spent at a grocery store for buying my necessary daily provisions. I would never go to the refrigerator looking for milk to be there when I haven't purchased any and say, "Okay God, where's the milk? Don't you know I need milk today? I prayed this morning for You to supply my needs, so where is the milk?" Even those who believe in present day miracles don't do that.
God does supply my (and our) daily needs, but I still have to get out of bed, go to work and labor that day to earn a salary in order to purchase what I have need.
The same basic concept applies whenever I get sick. I go to the doctor who will decide a form of treatment or a certain medication that I need. Do I pray for God's help for my health? Yes, of course I do. I pray for my health to be restored. Does a miracle take place? No. There is no miracle restoration of health to my body.
I think many Pentecostals and Charismatic's in modern times do not actually know what a genuine Bible miracle is. In the early days of Pentecostalism, true adherence refused medical treatment. They believed that divine healing was just that: divine, without the help or aid of human intervention. Nowadays, the modern Pentecostal will have two surgeries and six drug prescriptions in order to get better and then claim a miracle healing! This is either dishonesty or ignorance.
Think about the difference in real Bible miracles and what people are calling miracles today. In these modern times the word "miracle," like the word "love" has been abused and misused until most people don't know what the real thing is. Advertisers misuse the word "miracle" every time they use it to try and promote a product. It's not surprising that biblically ignorant people will call anything a miracle that is amazing or wonderful. It is surprising that people, who claim to know the Bible, do the same thing. A simple reading of the life and ministry of Jesus would clear up this confusion.
In the sixth chapter of Luke we find the account of Christ healing a man with a withered hand. "But he knew their thoughts, and said to the man which had the withered hand, Rise up, and stand forth in the midst. And he arose and stood forth. "Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one thing; Is it lawful on the sabbath days to do good, or to do evil? to save life, or to destroy it? And looking round about upon them all, he said unto the man, Stretch forth thy hand. And he did so: and his hand was restored whole as the other" (Luke 6:8-10). Thayer's Lexicon says of the word "withered," "of members of the body deprived of their natural juices, shrunk, wasted, withered." This is what we mean by a miracle. Jesus completely restored the man's withered hand.
Notice what else the New Testament says concerning the healing ministry of Jesus. Matthew records, "And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them: Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the 7 dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel" (Matthew 15:30-31).
Among all these amazing miracles, let's pay particular attention to the healing of the maimed. Thayer's tells us that the word can mean a member of the body that is crooked, injured, disabled or mutilated. Notice how Jesus uses the word maimed when he says, "And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched" (Mark 9:43). Then he goes on to say, "And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched" (Mark 9:45). Jesus uses the words "maimed" and "halt" interchangeably. In these passages he describes what he means by the use of the words. He means a missing member of the body. Thayer's says that the word "halt" means "lame or deprived of a foot, maimed."
The restoration of a limb (arm or leg) is a true Bible miracle. It is a miracle that cannot be faked. It would also be obvious for anyone to observe and would not based on one's subjected, personal feeling.
When the Lord walked the earth there were many people with leprosy and various parts of their body missing. Jesus had no problem healing any of them. Many in modern times have claimed to have this ability and even the ability to do "greater works" than Christ did. Yet, no one in the twentieth century has ever seen even one miracle like Jesus performed, much less a greater one. I can remember the late Charles W. Conn (onetime General Overseer of the Church of God, 1966-70) saying, "You can't do greater works than Christ did until you do at least the same works he did." Think about this amazing admission that came from a onetime leader of one of the world's largest Pentecostal denominations!
As a young man growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, I can remember listening to one of the Pentecostal preachers on the radio declare, in his hyped-up manner of speaking, how that his church had all nine gifts of the Spirit in operation. Friends, that's a bold statement to make. It's obvious that people who make these kinds of statements don't fully understand what they are saying. They don't fully understand the true nature and character of God's miraculous gifts.
If any Pentecostal could perform just one miracle that Jesus did, the world would beat a path to their door. The New Testament refers to the fame of Jesus eight different times. Notice Matthew 4:24, "And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them." We have to ask the question: Have you or anyone else heard of anything like this taking place in modern times?
With all of the claims of power, gifts and anointing we have not seen one genuine Bible miracle. The best the Pentecostal world can do is showmanship, hype, fast music, hand clapping, jumping up and down and for the main event, people falling backwards! This is a far cry from anything we read about in the New Testament.
After the three thousand were baptized into Christ on the day of Pentecost the Bible says, "And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles" (Acts 2:42-43).
We know the apostles did the same works Christ did because Christ said they would and the book of Acts bears this out. "And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch" (Acts 5:12). There were no unsubstantiated claims of miracles in the lives and ministry of the apostles. Unlike the modern day charlatans, the apostles had what they claimed to have. Paul would later write, "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds" (II Corinthians 12:12).
Think about it. It has been reported by a reliable source that there are a half-billion Charismatics on earth. If all these Charismatics had the same power and gifts of the Spirit the first century church did, don't you think we would have heard something outstanding, something wonderful taking place by now?
Jesus and the apostles had real gifts, real power and performed real miracles. This cannot be said of any preacher or so-called apostle today.