A Reality Check

October 19, 2013
Author Article Doctrine Pentecostalism

Can you imagine someone trying to persuade me that the Prince of Wales is not real?

ImageIt would not be difficult to marshall such arguments. This would be especially true, living across the Western side of the pond. The Prince is seen only on TV news items, generally speaking. A list of perfectly cogent arguments could be made about Charles's non-existence. I might easily be convinced by the powerful nature of such arguments, except for one tiny little detail.

I have met him.

We didn't have a long conversation. I was one of a very long line of people at my school, waiting to meet him. Our conversation was not the most enlightening.

He stopped by me, shook my hand, and said “Are you a Prefect?”

“No, sir” I answered truthfully.

“I'm a Prefect, sir!” said the creep standing next to me, so Charles moved on and talked to him instead.

I have often used this line of reasoning with atheists. They may have a whole raft of arguments about why they believe God does not exist. Their arguments lack logic, but they seem to make sense in the minds of the atheists at least. But such arguments could never, ever persuade me. Why not? Apart from the sheer lack of logic of atheists' arguments, I could never go along with their line of thinking, for one simple, unassailable fact about God.

I know Him.

What applies to the entire Godhead also applies to the Three Persons. In this context, it also applies to the Third Person, the Holy Spirit, and the reality of the Baptism into the Holy Spirit, and the gifts which follow.

The cessationists can have their conferences and books and can create cogent and reasonable sounding arguments as to why the gifts have ceased. Indeed, I used to hold to such a view myself, after reading Walter Chantry's book Signs of the Apostles bback in the early 80s. But there is one overwhelming problem preventing me from accepting the arguments of the cessationists.

I have been Baptized into the Holy Spirit and I speak in tongues and occasionally exercise the gift of prophecy. God gave me the gift of prophecy, amusingly, while I was still a cessationist! But that's another story.

Of course, I do not base my theolgy on experience, but weigh many experience against the truth of Scripture. And the plain reading of the relevant Scriptures (without thelogical gymnastics) shows that my experience is genuine.

Which leaves the cessationist with no possible convincing argument at all. So the only thing my cessationist brother can possibly do is to look me in the eye and tell me that my experience, which I have weighed and checked, is of the devil, and I am self-deluded.

And none of them are brave or foolish enough to do that, as they know that I am not without a little Bible knowledge myself.

One response on “A Reality Check

  1. Nate Loper

    Good points Paul!

    I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit after being saved for 10 years, without being taught “how” to receive it from any church denomination or charismatic/pentecostal group. During an intense time of prayer at a predominantly conservative Baptist camp I received the baptism with the ability to speak in tongues. No laying on of hands, no hype, no begging for the infilling, it just came to me during a time of crying out for the Lord and asking Him to use me as He wants, and has been with me ever since. That night was a total change in my Christian walk.

    Now I agree that we can't base our belief simply on experience and feelings, but truthfully neither can we deny it. To me it's like the blind man who was healed by Christ. After being interrogated by the religious leaders of the day as to how he was healed, who healed him, and all the details of that healing, he simply said this statement: “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

    His personal testimony is a powerful thing. It's something that nobody can convince him of otherwise. It's absolutely true to him because he's experienced it firsthand. It wasn't based on his extensive understanding of scripture. His defense wasn't carefully formulated jumping from verse to verse and applying his own eisegetical spin on things. It was simply a testimony of what has happened in his life. To me it's similar to my personal baptism of the Holy Spirit. If I had been raised in a pentecostal/charismatic church, then perhaps I would have doubts about my own experience and chalk it up to simply imitating what I had seen all around me, or seeking so desperately to fit in that I conjured up some false feelings within or created some make-believe language. But to me it's true 100%. As clear as blindness to sight.

    Serving in the Assemblies of God denomination for the past 13 years I've occasionally seen what I would consider “excess” or even an “abuse” of the gifts of the Spirit in our own churches as well as others outside our fellowship sometimes, but that doesn't make the continual supernatural work of the Holy Spirit any less viable and genuine today. There are no perfect people. And still God in his infinite wisdom still chooses to use them. Flaws, mistakes, and all. Naturally there are errors on all sides of this issue. That's what the church is made up of, flawed people. People that don't always get it right, just like my own children did not automatically start walking, but needed guidance as they tried out their newly discovered ability of mobility. There are times when people while seeking God with a genuine heart just don't get it right, or lose focus on the thing they should be seeking- the Giver instead of the gift.

    I think many of those who hold to a belief of Cessationism would be surprised to find that there are numerous eye-witness reports, recorded events, and personal testimonies of the supernatural workings of God throughout history- something which never fully left the church and has seen a resurgence in strength and power these “last days”. Even many of our more “conservative” denominations today were birthed or experienced great outpourings of the Holy Spirit in their infancy- some even accompanied with various signs like shaking/quaking, tongues, healings, and other miracles.

    The same Holy Spirit that was poured out and made available to indwell all believers on the day of Pentecost is the same Spirit who is alive and active today. And while many will still point and laugh at the “drunkards” as they did in Peter's day, God is using this outpouring around the globe to draw people to Himself, set captives free, and bless His children by the millions.

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