This is a letter to my friend referenced in the previous post. The previous post was a letter written about healing, to which my friend responded and referenced a few things I discuss below. We discuss charlatans, laying on of hands, speaking in tongues and cessationist concepts as a whole. I start by discussing the apparent charlatans:
You hit on a point that saddens me greatly. There are indeed those who appear to be charlatans presumably acting in the name of God. I imagine these types have always been with us. I dislike that, to me at least, they take truths of God as found in the scriptures and then purport them in such a way that they do attempt to bring glory to themselves or claim that they are special to have God move through them or whatever else. It hurts the true message of the gospel and it causes people to simply dismiss God's word because of how they see it being leveraged by those who are not true to the faith (or who have erred in some way along the line).
I've often wondered through the years and about various people and what may have happened. Were they always in it for the money and glory? Did they start out as sincere people who wanted to see the power of God touch others and got caught up in the fame and fortune? Have they never been Christians and like Satan on the mountain top with Jesus - are they trying to use the Words of God to test people or for their own gain? I imagine for each person the answer is complicated and different. I won't pretend to know their hearts. I would hope that some of their followers would actually hear the words of God spoken and would still believe anyway, then quickly grow up to realize that the charlatan may not be true but the Words of God are. For this last thought I use a verse: Philippians 1:18
What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice... (ESV)
What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (KJV)
God is good, and even for those who aren't preaching of a sincere heart, I do pray that the hearers would realize the truth within the mess and would be saved - and then realize that the mess doesn't go with the gospel and move on. Paul seemed to feel this way per the verse above. I try to take the same approach. Also, God taught me a long time ago that while I can point out the incongruencies with his word, I had to be very careful about making judgments on the persons involved. It will always be my hope that those who may be frauds will one day wake up to the truth of the gospel they think they preach. For all we know they are very sincere in their beliefs. Paul was very sincere when he was jailing and supporting the murder of Christians before his conversion. God can change anyone's heart...
As for laying on of hands... if, as you said, "I believe that these preachers in today’s world who claim that they as individuals can heal people by laying on the hands are charlatans, scammers", then yes, I would likely agree. But while many may not notice the difference, if a preacher says, "I believe that God teaches us to pray for the sick, which can include the laying on of hand and anointing with oil, and I believe that praying for those who are sick should also include leading them into repentance of any sins" - then I see a difference. In the second thought, the power of healing is from God and the eternal ramification includes forgiveness of sins. James 5:14-16 says:
14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:
15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.
16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (KJV)
There is a heart difference. We can not always see it, but God knows the hearts. One may be a charlatan and the other may be a sincere man of God who takes God at his word and desires all men see the truth of God.
Sadly, though, as a society we tend to throw out the word of God because of the people who claim to be Christians. I'm sure that's been the devil's plan for 2000+ years.
I'm wary of saying that the Jews aren't God's chosen people. The prodigal son was always the father's son and always loved by the father. While the son rejected the father and walked away, the father never ceased in his love for and longing for the son. I believe it's the same with the Jews. I find it interesting that when gentiles become Christians the bible says "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." The gentiles who come into the fold are not a separate breed of Christian - but, spiritually speaking at least, they become Jews. Abraham was the father of the Jews, and we become his heirs, not just as adopted children, but as his actual seed. It's a minute difference, but it's important to me. While I in NO WAY am saying that the Jehovah's witnesses do this, a lot of people, sadly, do use the idea of the Jews no longer being God's chosen people to allow the spread of hatred and bigotry towards Jews. Yes, the Jews have had a hard path for rejecting Christ, but so does everyone else who rejects Christ. However, that does not mean that God does not long for and seek to save ALL who are lost, whether Jew or Greek (Gentile) because in the new covenant, there is no difference between the two.
Galatians 3:26-29 - “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus."
Romans 10:12-13 - "For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
So, rather than saying the Jews are no longer God's chosen people I prefer to say that we are ALL God's chosen people who have accepted him, whether Jew or not, and in that acceptance, we have ALL become Abraham's seed - we have spiritually been brought into the Jewish lineage
I won't say much on the speaking in tongues thing. I've actually heard of a couple of stories of those who were witnessing to people of a different language and in doing so were lead to give an example of the spiritual language - to which they were told they had just spoken of the mysteries of God in the hearer's native tongue. These stories are rare, but I have heard a small number in my life from preachers that I know well and trust as faithful. Just because we don't see it often doesn't mean it's done away with. I also believe that Paul speaks of two kinds of tongues - the first you have mentioned and I have mentioned in the example above - and a second which is more just a personal prayer language. For examples of the second, I look at verses such as:
Romans 8:26 - Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
Ephesians 6:18 - praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
Jude 20 - But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit...
These verses clearly are talking about praying - a personal praying and praying for the saints, and about praying when we are in a situation where we just don't know what to pray in our own intelligence. These verses are not talking about spreading the gospel to those who don't understand the language you speak.
Also, Paul said something interesting in 1 Corinthians 14:18-19
I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue.
This seems to separate his personal prayer time where Paul "speak(s) with tongues more than ye all" and his time preaching where he greatly prefers speaking with his understanding that he might by his voice teach others. It clearly implies that when he speaks in tongues more than ye all it is NOT with his understanding and that it is not for the purpose of witnessing or preaching.
But this is a whole other discussion... :)
As I've thought about these past couple of letters I have thought of the sadness which which I see people throw out God's words as "for the past" or "expired" or "no longer true" or "only for the first century Christians" or "pre-New Testament only" or whatever term is used. The Bible does not speak to the cessation of its own word or its own power - man adds the cessation, and does so without any more justification than personal experience. I think of the words of Jesus to the Jewish leaders...
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me (John 5:39)
The cessationist say that all these things (the examples of the power of God) ended because we now have the New Testament scriptures (this seems to be the most common argument without any real biblical support) and because we have these scriptures now, we don't need the power, but this argument is not valid. Jesus said the OLD Testament bears witness about him. Scripture was already present which bore witness about Jesus. We didn't need anything to tide us over until the writing of the New. What we needed (and what we still need today) is the exact reason for the power of God - to bear witness to the words which have already been written (see John 5:36John 5:36 (ESV)
But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. , Mark 16:15-20Mark 16:15-20 (ESV)
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs., 1 Corinthians 2:4-51 Corinthians 2:4-5 (ESV)
and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. ).
If the first century Christians weren't expected to just point to past power that Jesus did when Jesus himself had said that scripture itself already spoke about him, then why do we think God expects us to point to past power of the first century Christians when scripture itself speaks about Jesus? There is no biblical answer for this. Sadly, the whole cessationist ideology negates most of the Bible. It makes it a history book only applicable to the people of the past. It becomes a religion that died nearly 2000 years ago. It is an instruction book for a faith that no longer exists (just think about the percentage of verses are no longer relevant to the cessationist). The power of God and the forgiveness of sins are completely intertwined in the Bible. I am often amazed at how much effort we put into disentangling the two so we can say the power is no more yet the truth of the gospel still stands.
It makes me laugh at the ridiculousness of it and it makes me cry at the lie of it, but so many have re-written scripture to say things like:
"Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes only us first century Christians were healed." (adapted from I Peter 2:24**I Peter 2:24** (ESV) He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. ).
I'm sure this has been the enemy's plan for millennia. He saw the first century Christians "turn the world upside down" with the gospel supported by power. Satan knew Jesus was fully correct when he said that the scriptures, even before the new testament had been written, already spoke about him - but geesh- this confirming the Word with power stuff was causing all sorts of problems to Satan's plans. He's been working ever since to get rid of that power. Satan much prefers a powerless gospel. Whether it be by outright attack against Christians or by the subtle lie that it's passed away - if he gets rid of the power, even though the scriptures have always spoken about Christ, he knows he will reduce the numbers of converts and reduce the casualties to his own evil domain. But let's not allow that to happen. God's word is eternal and always present. Let's be careful about negating parts of it to the past.
(personal closings followed)