From the outset, while I am not a Charismatic, neither am I a cessationist. I believe God still heals and uses various spiritual gifts according to His purposes. However, I must stress that I do not believe so much of what is promoted as moves of the Holy Spirit are necessarily such. Many Charismatics put undue emphases on what the Holy Spirit had done in Acts to fuel the early church that they disregard the very teachings about Him spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ. While many Charismatics put unwarranted emphasis on the Holy Spirit, spiritual gifts, and emotional experiences, Jesus explains the true purposes of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual experiences can be extremely deceptive, especially if one is not willing to let the Scriptures be the blueprint to understand the appropriate perimeters. While some will say, “You can’t put God in a box!” God, who is infinite, does have perimeters. He who is holy cannot go beyond into practices which violate His holiness. He who is Truth will not involve Himself in what is deceptive. And the God of order is not the author of confusion and chaos. Isaiah writes, “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (8:20). The apostle John commands, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). And the apostle Paul warns, “For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15).
While many churches are crediting the Holy Spirit for tongues, strange behaviors, wonders, and persons prostituting the Gospel, in these spiritually perilous times may we truly keep in mind the following teachings about the Holy Spirit from the lips of Jesus Christ the Lord.
- The Holy Spirit will be our Helper. Jesus teaches us that the Holy Spirit is our Helper. The New Testament reveals that the Holy Spirit comforts and encourages is in our trials and advocates for us. How shameful that in some circles persons give credit to the Holy Spirit for convulsions, seizures, behaving, literally, like animals, and chaos. How disgraceful to give credit to the Holy Spirit for inducing behaviors of which Jesus delivered persons from, ad is recorded in the Gospels. We do not even read of such madness in Acts. So where does such thinking come from?
- The Holy Spirit comes to convict the world of sin. Jesus says the Holy Spirit will come to convict the world concerning sin and righteousness (John 16:8). Does it not stand to reason if He convicts the world of sin, then He would certainly bring conviction to those within the church? Yet, many churches and movements claiming moves of the Holy Spirit are not being convicted of sin. Instead, there is a condoning of pride, sensationalism, homosexuality, greed, love for the praises of people, and various expressions of idolatry. Regardless of any signs or wonders happening, is it truly the Holy Spirit at work if people are not being convicted of sin and repenting of them?
- The Holy Spirit brings to our remembrance Christ’s teachings. An irony of so much said to be “moves of the Spirit” is much of it goes against the very teachings of Christ, and there seems to be a spiritual amnesia when it comes to such. Jesus says the Holy Spirit “will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). One chilling truth of Jesus that is cast aside is the truth that signs and wonders are not proof of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says plainly in the Sermon on the Mount, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” (Matt. 7:22-23). Elsewhere He warns, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matt. 24:24).
- Guiding Christ’s people in the truth. Similar to the previous point, Jesus says the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of truth (John 14:17)—“will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Later, while praying to the Father, Jesus says, “Sanctify them [His people] in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). The Holy Spirit guides the followers of Christ in accordance to the Scriptures. The Scriptures are our blueprint to Christian living and our map for spiritual wanderings. It is by the Scriptures we are to “test the spirits” and to discern between truth and error.
- The Holy Spirit bears witness about Christ. One of the chief works of the Holy Spirit is to direct people’s attention to Jesus Christ. Jesus states, “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit never seeks to draw attention to Himself, but to drive us to Jesus. Yet, in many Charismatic circles the focus is on the Holy Spirit and the supposed works of Him. This focus is unbiblical, for He seeks to direct us to the Cross and to the risen Savior. Even in Acts the purpose of the moving sand giftings of the Spirit were to direct people to Christ. If one’s attention is not being directed to Jesus, the works are certainly not of the Holy Spirit but some other spirit.
This post is not at all meant to criticize my Charismatic brethren. I know of some who are very godly individuals who strive to be anchored on God’s Word. Yet, I have also witnessed the abuse of spiritual gifts, persons separating believers as the “haves” and have nots.” Such prideful exhibitions are the very attitudes Paul condemns in his letters to the Corinthians. The gifts differ amongst believers and are always meant to build up one another, not to be showcased like children during show-and-tell. Furthermore, I’ve come across individuals who have outright denied the very Gospel message, saying that if a person does not manifest certain gifts then he is not filled with the Holy Spirit, and thus is not saved. But such heretical teachings go directly against the clear teachings of the New Testament—including Acts—that persons are saved by grace through faith and believing on Jesus Christ who died for our sins and was raised from the dead. The evidence of the Spirit are not in the gifts but the fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-24).
Churches must return to the teachings of Scripture or else face dire consequences. While it is true we do not ever want to attribute true workings of the Holy Spirit to the devil; however, we must also beware of attributing works of the flesh and of devils to the Holy Spirit. Both errors are fatal.