Why Charismatics are not New Testament Christians

I had intended to do a round-up of recent debate in blogosphere, but I need to get something off my chest. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that only non-Charismatics have really taken the New Covenant Age of the Spirit seriously. Charismatics are still stuck in the Old Testament age. They’re not New Testament believers – they’re Old Testament believers.

Let me explain what I mean.

The Gift of Prophecy

Take the gift of prophecy for example. Many cessationists are happy to acknowledge that the gift of prophecy is a New Covenant gift for all believers. The cessationist Richard Gaffin, writes this:

…according to the New Testament all believers are prophets; the whole church is a congregation of prophets. Analogous to the Reformation insistence on the universal priesthood of believers, we may speak of the ‘prophethood’ of all within the new covenant community…1

The charismatic on the other hand believes that there are only some New Testament believes who are gifted as prophets. The majority of us don’t have that office. And so, just like the Old Testament priests and prophets, there is a spiritual hierarchy, and those who are not prophets must go to those who are to find out what God’s will is for them.

This principle is entirely opposite to Scripture’s own description of the New Covenant age. Listen to what the Bible says about the New Covenant and the age of the Spirit:

I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezekiel 36:27)

My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and for ever,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 59:21).

“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 31:33)

The Bible is clear. One of the key distinctions between the Old Covenant and the New is that when the Spirit is in/on us, God’s words will not depart from us. Indeed, no longer will anyone need to tell us “Know the Lord”, because we will all know him.

The non-charismatic knows this. The non-charismatic knows that there are not some people who have God’s word (prophets) and some people who don’t. The reformation fought for the principles of the priesthood of all believers, and that the Word of God was for all, and now Charismatics are giving all that up.

The charismatics are right to argue that under the New Covenant every believer has a greater understanding of God’s will. The Old Testament alone makes that clear. But our greater understanding of God’s will is precisely because God reveals himself personally to each one, in contrast to revealing himself through the prophets as He did in the Old Covenant. The charismatic notion that the New Testament gift of prophecy reveals God’s will mediated through a gifted individual stands in direct opposition to the democratisation of the Spirit which characterises New Testament Christianity. It is a notion that is thoroughly Old Testament in character. It deserves no place in a New Testament church.

So, the gift of prophecy, as understood by Charismatics, both reverses the reformation, and reverses Pentecost.

It is not just the gift of prophecy that can be viewed in this way. My next post will focus on the gift of tongues. In the meantime, I’d be delighted to have your feedback.

  1. Richard B. Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), pg 59.
  2. Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology (Leicester: Intervarsity, 1994), pg 1070.


  1. Arleigh Crisman says:

    I wondered why Adam did not repent and tried to lay it all back on God, for the woman given him. But isn’t it typical of people to blame God, rather than take responsibility for themselves?
    I have heard it many times from believers and unbelievers alike. They don’t realize the damage they do themselves living a lie unto themselves like that. People dig themself a hole, but instead of seeking help out of the hole, they become proud of it that is the nature of demonic influence. This is why “Few there be that find it”.
    Men love darkness rather than light. I have actually heard people say they would be afraid to hear God speak to them. Men fill themselves with volumes of other men’s arguments they can take or leave, and formulate a lot of their own, but to actually know the truth from God Himself would mean the bliss of ignorance and endless speculation would end, and accountability would be forthcoming. It’s this simple: A teen ager says to his friends, “I don’t want to go home right now, ’cause dad will tell me to mow the lawn.”
    It is interesting because I have heard people telling me the things God will be expecting of them should they yield to Him and they were right, and surprisingly they are unchurched. The law is truly written in their heart.
    Concerning Adam’s issue, I would be careful not to speculate something the scriptures do not reveal plainly, and there are many things one can muse over. There are issues the Lord has taught me that are mine alone, things that the Spirit of God must do the teaching, I am not given to share these things freely. Getting caught up in intellectual candy, is addictive and habit forming, and has much the same effect as candy as well. Beware my brother.
    The carnal mind in us enjoys the accolade of our peers, but whom do we serve in doing so? James was right, the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy. It is His right to teach the things of God, not ours. Our responsibility is to deliver the messsage Jesus gave us, His Gospel. A prophet is not to embellish or adjust the message given. I fear that I may have even overstepped my delivery at times. Obey Jesus first, other men’s embellishments last, if at all.

  2. Dr Bob,

    Is there going to be another section as you promised, or have you given up?

    As you said, there are potentially thousands of readers out there, and you did tell us that the previous instalment was ‘long-awaited’. I’m not sure what evidence you have for this, but of course, you may be right.

    Don’t disappoint us, I want to know more about this infestation of Demons (or was that Arleigh?), the miraculous dentist, and whether or not you think Kate Winslet might be the antichrist!

    Do check out the Millerites. They, like you and countless others (Southcottians for example) throughout history, have been convinced the Second Coming was imminent.

    It is worth noting that when such cults are proved wrong, their numbers increase rather than decline! Why do you think this is?

    You may also be interested to know that there is an organisation in the USA which, for a fee, promises to e-mail your friends when the Second Coming occurs. The idea being that your friends might find last-minute salvation. The organisation will in the meantime get rich!

    As for your Republican sympathies and how they are informed by your fundamentalism, are you aware of the Pew poll? It recently found that by far the largest group most likely to support torture of terror suspects, were those who attended evangelical churches most frequently.

    Check at http://www.andrewsullivan.com and Sunday Times review of ‘The Evolution of God’- Robert Wright. Due out this month and perhaps one for Mark’s collection.

    In the light of many of the comments on this site, the possibility of an engagement between faith and reason, between doctrine and biblical scholarship, between a mature theology and a wonderful age of scientific research seems very distant.

    Instead we talk of limbs growing longer and a celestial dentist.

    As long as this polarisation is so, Hitchens and Dawkins will continue to massacre a few fish in a very small barrell.

  3. Sorry, ‘barrel’

  4. Arleigh Crisman says:

    If I attempt to talk rocket science, to a carpenter, we will never see eye to eye. I am not a highly educated intellectual, nor am I inclined to lectures or fancy preaching. Instead I have focused my life on being taught of God and guided by Him in all my ways. Though I am not perfect at it He blesses me every day with new revelations and guidance in my driving and every day life, even at work. I have seen miracles all my life and answers to prayer for people I don’t even know and have never met. My God is bigger than all the teachers and educators you could stack from the beginning of time till this world ends. Since I had learned to give Jesus Lordship in my life, and hunger for the tutelage of His Holy Spirit, there is no better authority for what God thinks and wants of me. One thing I have noted in my life so far (58 years) those whom have invested a great deal in education outside God’s influence are very unlikely to ever get God’s influence.
    the ego of investment
    yielding authority to God
    accalade of others
    The only way I or any one else I have ever known has ever begun learning from the Holy Spirit is when they trash can their education acquired of men and mean business with God.
    Hebrews 11:6, But without faith, it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

  5. If you are saying that Christianity is primarily and essentially a way of life, rather than a battle for the mind, I agree with you Arleigh.

    In fact you are in good company. The ancient Greek philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, believed morality was action, practise, a living out, followed by reflection. The idea was not that that we thought first, then made a decision to act. Morality was not seen as a function of the will. This is a brief and rather crude description but is essentially accurate.

    For what it is worth it seems to me it is also the heart of Jesus’s message! A matter of ‘being’ and having the courage to ‘be’.

    It is why I cringe at the thousands and thousands of books telling us how we are to read scripture. These are paralleled by an unhealthy obsession with preaching. (In your words ‘lectures and fancy preaching’.) What this combination results in is the sort of tedious, nit-picking nonsense with which we have recently become all too familiar. It has become a multi-billion Pound industry with volumes ranging from the trite to the incomprehensible.

    As a footnote, your choice of a carpenter is doubly ironic! Maybe you intended this and maybe you didn’t, but there might be some mileage in it! Maybe even a book!

    If you didn’t mean it, why should we assume carpenters are any less capable of deeper thinking than say preachers, authors or swimming instructors? I think they could more than hold their own.

    As for rocket scientists, I am reminded of Tom Lehrer:

    ‘Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
    That’s not my department’ says Werner von Braun.

  6. Arleigh Crisman says:

    What I was hoping to portray, is not just a lifestyle, but a compliance with God on a personal real time level.
    It is not something easily nailed down in the sense that there are these set of instructions that MAKE THIS HAPPEN. God looks at the heart of the individual, as Jesus said John 3: the Spirit moves where it wants to. One does not operate God, one cooperates with God. Half of prayer is finding out His will and agreeing with Him over it. It is not the way we usually hear many pray into space, with their list of demands, or preaching to Him like He must be reminded like he forgot. They don’t know how to talk to Him like a friend because they aren’t listening.
    How many friends do you know, that will endure a one sided conversation for very long? Yet this is how people are taught to pray in church, because that is the depth of the ministry, men teaching men who God is, rather than emphasizing the need for the Holy Spirit to do that.
    Getting back to the point of this site,
    The heart of the relationship with God we seek, by what He has taught me, is that believers should seek carefully and desperately after His tutelage, because in doing so prepares one to be directed in life and be conditioned to obedience in heaven .
    Obedience is required in heaven, believe me.
    Being taught by the Spirit, can and usually starts with tongues.
    Listening and acting on something so elementary is very simply like learning another language. Unfortunately some have stopped at the first phrase they are given, seeking no other leading past that. Human nature still wants to control things. Taking back control, puts the Spirit off. Just as it would put you off if you were trying to teach someone how to operate something and they take it out of your hands, before they are ready to solo.
    Prophecy, words of knowledge, words from the Lord, guidance for healing, who, what, when, where, and how, these are all within our grasp as believers if we learn to listen and obey Him first in the simplist things. Except for the things Jesus taught, there are things the Spirit teaches me that can’t be found in books, and that is the whole idea. God is not bound into the theories of man’s thinking. The Israelites had no scriptures to guide them through the wilderness or the promise land, they had to LISTEN to God each step of the way. I would have it no other way in my life.
    If there are any written words one should know, it is those things Jesus said and did, and for this reason:
    John 1; Jesus IS the word of God.
    We are directly accountable to Jesus, not Paul, David, James Peter, or any one else.
    If Jesus’ Lordship is not established in a persons life, living, personal, and real time, they have nothing to stand on before God. John 14.
    Please recieve this in Love.

  7. I do keep an eye on Mark’s library.

    Today, I noticed a book by Benny Hinn ‘I Need a Miracle’.

    Although I can only agree that Benny really does need a miracle, I’m sure he and I might argue about which particular miracle might be best!

    Is this the same Benny Hinn who a couple of years ago asked for donations to buy a Gulfstream Jet at some $40,000,000? Still, it makes quite a change from a donkey!

    According to Anthony Thomas in the New York Times, he doesn’t need donations anyway, he has more than enough to buy such toys. And there was I thinking it was the poor who were supposed to benefit from charity.

    One or two Gospel texts and parables seem to be at the back of my mind! Can’t quite recall them.

    Can anyone help?

  8. Arleigh Crisman says:

    While I agree , that Benny Hinn,could do with lesser transportation,but if his organization is any thing similiar to Billy Grahm’s,he is not alone in this decision making and the team that travels with him might be substantial. When I was in ninteen ,I was on an evangelistic team . we traveled the whole continant. the stationwagon was over loaded with every one stuffed in side and all the luggage tied down to the top of the car . we stayed in homes, not hotels. Eventually some one donated a 1957 crown bus. it was modified for us and we would over pack that instead.but at least there was room for the luggage on the inside and underneith.As the years went by, better busses were acquired to accomodate all the new team members. Now if one just looks at the bus one might say to tham selves we are traveling in luxury but if one rode in the bus with us ,you might find that some folks are sitting on the floor, or in the door way because every other space is taken.Many of the places we went were not big enough to have an airport . ligistical costs for one vehicle are less than for several .
    So if one can get inside a ministry,and actually see the way things are run, it might help one make a decision about support.But better than that , find the obedience that comes from knowing Jesus Lordship, and the tutelage of the Holy Spirit as Jesus had intended, and then He can guide one in to whom and where and how to apply your support . I’m pretty sure God knows what the need is, but more importantly , it is His lordship in me that needs excersized ,not my limited knowledge or opinions.
    The question is, will you let God give you instruction,even if you don’t understand ?
    If for one man God tells me give him this money
    and for another I am told aid this man with this action
    and for another ,take no action at all.
    though I have dealt with each man differently , my service is not to those men but to God who gave instruction. but if I were leaving God out of the equasion ,the politically correct would be handing all three money , to which the dicipline with the money may have been their problem . God always knows what is best .

  9. You certainly have a unique take on all this Arleigh. I am not altogether sure where you do stand.

    Perhaps Dr Bob can help out.

    Perhaps Benny can explain himself.

    Perhaps that’s a miracle too far.

    I don’t for a moment expect to see many books by that peculiarly American species ‘Televangelists’ in Mark’s collection (give me ‘Biggles’ any day). The Hinn volume did however make me think.

    How is it possible that charlatans like Hinn, Swaggart, Baaker, Hagee, Robert Tilton, Ted Haggard and dozens more, with big hair big limos and spledidly white teeth, manage both to fool people and make obscene fortunes at the same time?

    Silly me, they are simply good at their jobs!

    That’s what con men do!

    Perhaps I’m missing something here.

  10. Arleigh Crisman says:

    While I don’t subscribe to the fancy life style of those evangelists you mentioned , like I said there is a group that support them ,that is coaching them to appeal to the part of the puplic they observe.
    But It circles back to the thing that I have been sharing all along ,being taught of God listening to Him instead of men in every way . Jesus taught obedience and that Is what He expects .
    There is no place in scripture or history that has proven man’s knowledge to be supirrior to the leading of the Holy Spirit in a man’s life.
    Though men are lead from time to time ,they do not own the spirit.John 3;3,4,5,6,The Spirit of God acts on God’s will not ours . turning to God for direction is a regular choice ,not a blanket saturation. Listening and agreeing with God in one’s life finds more of His approval, acting on one’s own intellect however proves one’s independence. Which are you ?
    Thouigh I do not ask God ,over every single thing I do ,we are at a place that He is free to inturrupt me and alter my emediate panns. It is not uncommon however for me to ask which way to drive ,where to have lunch, how to pray for some one ,how much to say ,and so on .
    Is Jesus Lordship excersized in your personal life?
    This is where John 14;and 15; really comes to life.
    Also pay close attentin to Matthew 7;21,22,23,
    And so far as what other men are doing ,Jesus said don’t judge another man’s servant.
    When the disciples ran across other men teaching the gospel but they would not join up with the disciples they questioned Jesus over it . Jesus said they that are not against us are for us .
    If one is going to make excuses to avoid God there are plenty of falty men to prove the point,namely me. However ,I choose to love God and be tought by Him and have His direction.
    The only written athourity I care to base on, Is the things Jesus taught. Though I have included other writers of scripture from time to time, for me, Jesus is the final word, not men .