Coming From An Idolatrous Background

December 3, 2017

Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God {pneuma theos} calls Jesus accursed {anathema}: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord {kurios}, but by the Holy Ghost {hagios – pneuma} – 1 Cor. 12:3.

Superficially this warning seems to be out of character with the remainder of the chapter which is positive teaching about the things of the Spirit of God. We know from 1 Corinthians chapter 7: 1 that the Corinthians had written to Paul about the marriage state. It is possible and even likely that, in that letter they raised other matters of concern including the one implied here viz. what is the overall test for the genuine exercise of the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit? How can we be sure that it is NOT false? The Corinthians were used to idolatrous activity in their pre-converted state. Paul reminds them of that in verse 2:

You know that you were Gentiles {ethnos = heathen}, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as you were led.

Idolatry is punctuated with all kinds of spirit (demonic) activity. What was the distinguishing mark between what the Corinthians knew from their past and what they had been brought into by the real work of the Holy Spirit? How could they know, for example, if they spoke in “diverse tongues {genos glossa} – see 1 Cor. 12: 10 – that they were NOT cursing God? Paul says there is an overriding test and it relates, as it always does, to Christ. It is impossible for the Holy Spirit to curse Christ and it is impossible to genuinely acknowledge Jesus Christ as “the Lord” {kurios}, without the Holy Spirit being involved in the utterance. While this clearly projects a solution, for the cessationist it raises a problem but NOT for the Pentecostal. Pentecostalism asserts that the “diverse tongues” of this passage refers to a language being spoken but not intellectually understood by the speaker, calling for another supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit viz. “the interpretation {hermeneia} of tongues {glossa”  for the edification and exhortation of the hearers – cf. 1 Cor. 14:5.

In a properly ordered New Testament Church the two “gifts” – more accurately called “manifestations” {phanerosis} of the Holy Spirit (v.7), would operate in tandem. Paul says the interpretation of tongues will provide the answer. Is Christ in anyway cursed or is He proclaimed as THE LORD? That is the crux of the matter and it is very sad that John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference created the impression that genuine Pentecostals who love the Lord Jesus Christ are in some way excluded from God’s Family and Kingdom. Calvinism can create an elitist position, but this is worse than that. It effectively damns those who are trusting in Christ. It is the work of Satan to pronounce judgement and condemnation upon those who trust in the Lord. In this area the devil is the accuser of the brethren cf. Rev. 12:10. Make of that what you will.


In my first blog on this subject I wrote (29-10-2013):

As a traditional (classic) Pentecostal I find myself in a great deal of sympathy with John MacArthur and his associates at the Strange Fire Conference recently held in California and free streamed across the globe. Many of the things spoken at that Conference have long been held and proclaimed by Christian Witness Ministries and others who are of a Pentecostal Persuasion, without jettisoning the clear biblical and historic evidence for our faith and practice, which the Conference attempted and failed to do. The major weakness of their hypothesis is their failure to see that the genuine Pentecostal Testimony and witness from the early 20th Century was high-jacked by non biblical extremists and false teachers.

I feel no animosity against MacArthur and his associates for tackling the topic. It has been done before by both cessationists and continuists. Dave Hunt was probably the first in recent history to open up the topic publicly when he published his Seduction of Christianity. Dave was not a cessationist. In his earliest book, entitled Confessions of a Heretic copyright 1972, Logos International, now out of print, Dave gave a testimony to having been baptised into the Holy Spirit:

“Two nights later I was on my knees in prayer after the Graham Crusade meeting. It was perhaps 2:00am when the presence of Christ seemed to fill the room and the warmth and tenderness of His love overwhelmed me. My heart seemed bursting with love in response, a love I wanted to express adequately, but my words sounded so drab in the atmosphere of heaven that filled the room. Suddenly I felt as though I had broken through some barrier into a new region of communication, for my heart was responding to Christ’s love in an intensely and satisfying communion.

It was then that I became aware of strange words my voice was speaking in a language I could not understand! Oddly enough, it seemed of no consequence that my mind could not understand. My spirit was in communion with the Spirit of God. I knew this was so, and that was all that mattered. As this communion flowed from my spirit to His Spirit, I listened with amazement to an indescribably beautiful language that came effortlessly from my lips.”

I think that both the Pentecostals and the Charismatics failed to embrace what Paul taught about the initiation of the “manifestations”, usually called gifts, of the Holy Spirit viz. that it is always “severally as He wills” – cf. 1 Cor. 12:11. This is completely in line with the speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost and that referred to by Dave Hunt, above. We are told,

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance – Acts 2:4.

In other words the disciples i.e. all 120 occupants of the upper room, were passive recipients of the Holy Spirit and they simply “spoke as the Holy Spirit gave them to articulate.” The baptism into the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are entirely 100% at the sovereign discretion of the Holy Spirit. It is not, as some early Pentecostals affirmed and later Charismatics emphasised 60% God and 40% man. That is where a fundamental error occurred and we are still reaping the consequences.


John MacArthur and his colleagues have a valid concern which most of the traditional Pentecostals that I know would share and have in many cases expressed themselves, but for us the problem with the John Mc. Conference is that he has gone too far when he implies that all Pentecostals are deceived to the point of no longer being saved. That is a bridge too far and it has already been addressed in other blogs on the topic.

I noted that Justin Peters was an advertised speaker at the Conference. Several years ago Justin was a guest speaker at one of our CWM Conferences in Australia and we promoted him as a recommended speaker throughout Australasia i.e. Australia and New Zealand, notwithstanding his known physical impediment. Justin told me that his visit and experiences “down-under” had totally changed his view of Pentecostals. Many of his friends had advised him not to accept our invitation, but he did. I am quite sure he would have spoken up in favour of Pentecostalism at the Strange Fire Conference as he saw it among us. We share his and the Strange Fire Conference’s view of the Word of Faith, Faith-Prosperity, Hillsong expressions of Pentecostalism, but not all Pentecostals are aberrant in their faith and teaching.

I in association with so many do lay claim to being totally Bible based – sola scriptura.


Next a detailed exegesis of 1 Corinthians chapter 12.

Respectfully submitted,

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