In this and subsequent article/s I hope to convey how many pastors use their charisma, charm and position to teach heresy from behind the pulpit, severely damaging the church.
According to The New Lexicon Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of a personality cult (in Marxist terminology) is “a deliberate organized process of persuading a community that its leader has a supreme excellence in his personal qualities which entitles him to unquestioning loyalty”. Saints, this is exactly what the institutionalized, organized religious church system is doing today! The professional clergy and many denominational churches control their congregations through man-made structures, policies and dogmas. They intimidate the attendees and members by their organization, by the organized agenda of their meetings, and the elections and appointments of their leaders. Sadly, the church organization’s clergy become just another “good old boys” fraternity where hierarchy is chosen and appointed--not on true merit according to the qualifications of the first century church, which was based on a person functioning in the spiritual gifts with power, authority and anointing - but instead jumping through the hoops of the institution and making friends with those in leadership positions.
Eddie L. Hyatt writes: “The church of the first century was a charismatic church. Luke, who recorded its history in the Book of Acts, faithfully included the abundance of supernatural phenomena that characterized its life and ministry. Speaking in tongues and prophecy, healings and miracles, and the other charismata were common; even anticipated as the norm. (Acts 1:8; 10:19; 13:2). It was this dynamic activity of the Holy Spirit in the personal and individual lives of the believers and in the corporate life of the Church--rather than organizational structure--that provided the basis for its life, community, and mission. As believers carried the gospel from Jerusalem into the Greco-Roman world, this charismatic character continued to be the norm for the new churches which sprang up through their ministries. This is obvious from Acts, as well as from Paul’s epistles, where he speaks freely of miracles and spiritual gifts. He declares that he ‘fully preached’ the Gospel of Christ to the Gentiles ‘in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God’ (Rom. 15:19). The Corinthian letters, in particular, indicate that the assembled churches relied on the spontaneity of the Spirit, rather than on official authority, for the life and direction of their meetings.” (“2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity”; Hyatt International Ministries, Inc.1996; Pg. 7)
Hans von Campenhausen tells us the early church was: “...one of free fellowship, developing through the living interplay of spiritual gifts and ministries, without the benefit of official authority or responsible elders.” (“Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Churches of the First Three Centuries”; Stanford: Stanford Univ., 1969; Pg. 58)
Roman Catholic Theologian, Hans Kung, states that the church at Corinth: “...knew of neither episkopoi (bishops) nor presbuteros (elders) nor any kind of ordination but only the free spontaneous charisms.” (“What is the Essence of Apostolic Succession?”; Apostolic Succession: Rethinking a Barrier to Unity; ed. Hans Kung; New York: Paulist Press, 1968; Pg 35)
Again, Hyatt states: “James D. G. Dunn, in his book ‘Jesus and the Spirit’, demonstrates that the earliest Christian churches looked to the immediate presence of the Holy Spirit for their community and life, rather than to organizational structure and formality …The Pastoral Epistles, which are from a later period of Paul’s life, seem to reveal a more formal structure of church life. The term presbuteros (elder) is used for the first time by Paul, and qualifications are given for those who would serve as epioskopoi (bishops) or diakonoi (deacons). Adolph Harnack suggests, however, that presbuteros or elder may simply denote the old as opposed to the young”. (Pg. 8)
John Knox reports: “We are not dealing with formal offices, but with functions for which persons were as certainly spiritually endowed as for prophecy and healing.” (“The Ministry in the Primitive Church”: The Ministry in Historical Perspective; eds. Richard H. Niebuhr and Daniel Williams; New York; Harper and Row, 1956; Pg.10)
Hyatt writes on page 8: “Kung agrees and says that the appointing of elders/ bishops ‘must not be seen as the beginning of a clerical ruling system.’ He points out that the emergence of elders/ bishops must be understood in the context ‘of the fundamentally charismatic structure of the church.’ (Hans Kung; “The Church”; Garden City, NY; Image Books, 1976; Pg. 249)
Ladies and gentlemen of the Christian community, the evidence is abundantly clear and is recorded by scholars, authors, theologians, historians, the early church fathers and many church leaders themselves throughout the centuries, that the pentecostal/charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit never ceased! There has been no cessation of these gifts. Neither was there ever intended to be throughout the church age. The early church fathers themselves believed and operated in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It was the gifts of the Holy Spirit that were recognized as the qualification for the role of a church leader.
The first through third century churches met in homes led by true servants of God who were recognized, followed and accepted because of the apparent anointing on their lives by the Holy Spirit. They were chosen as elders (presbuteros) because of their age, which potentially out of practicality gave them more maturity in the things of the Lord. They were truly deacons (diakonoi), which meant slaves. These early church leaders served the other believers in purity. They did not lord it over them or use their office to exploit the people or benefit themselves, as do many greedy, power-hungry professional clergy do today. The early church leaders were not chosen by their denomination. They were simple men serving Jesus Christ out of their love for Him. Elders were chosen because of their integrity, selflessness, and ability to operate under the anointing and gifts of the Holy Spirit (miracles, healings, prophecy, casting out demons, etc.). Gradually institutionalism evolved and heightened finally under Constantine
I now record statements from the early church fathers in the first three centuries who were neither Catholic nor Protestant but just simple Christians. Some of their doctrine is questionable, but their underlying agreement for the continued operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is what I want to show!
Justyn Martyr (A.D. 100-165) known as the foremost apologist of the second century writes: “For the prophetical gifts remain with us even to the present time...Now it is possible to see among us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God.” (“Dialogue With Trypho”; Vol. 1 of The Ante-Nicene Christian Library; eds. Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1874; Pgs. 240, 243)
It is very clear that Justin Martyr believed and operated in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. Martyr writes “For numberless demoniacs throughout the whole world, and in your city, many of our Christian men exorcising them in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, have healed and do heal, rendering helpless and driving the possessing devils out of the men.” (“The Second Apology of Justin”; Vol.1 of The Ante-Nicene Christian Library, eds. Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1874; Pg. 190)
Irenaeus (A.D. 125-200), bishop of Lyons believed strongly in the charismata or spiritual gifts. Irenaeus writes: “For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have been thus cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come; they see visions and utter prophetic expressions. Others still heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of gifts which the Church [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God in the name of Jesus Christ.” (“Against Heresies”, Vol. 1 of The Ante-Nicene Christian Library; eds. Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1874; Pg. 409)
Irenaeus testifies concerning speaking in tongues: “In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church who possess prophetic gifts and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God.” (Pg. 531)
Tertullian (A.D, 160-240), was considered the Father of Latin Theology. He was a very influential and respected early church father and definitely believed in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit including speaking in tongues.
Tertullian writes: “For seeing that we acknowledge the spiritual charismata, or gifts, we too have merited the attainment of the prophetic gift.” (“A Treatise on the Soul”; Vol.3 of The Ante-Nicene Christian Library; eds. Rev. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1874; Pg.189)
Hyatt states of Tertullian: “He goes on to tell of a woman in his congregation ‘whose lot it has been to be favored with sundry gifts of revelation.’ “According to Tertullian, she often experienced visitations from angels and from the Lord Himself. In addition, she often knew the secrets of people’s hearts and was able to give answers to some of their deepest needs, including physical healing…In To Scapula, Tertullian relates specific instances of healing and deliverance from demonic oppression. He concludes, ‘And heaven knows how many distinguished men, to say nothing of the common people, have been cured either of devils or of their sicknesses.’ In Against Marcion Tertullian reveals both his acquaintance with speaking in tongues and his belief that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit were a sign of orthodoxy.” (Hyatt, Pg. 14)
Origen (A.D. 185-284) was another early church father who believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were intended to function through the lives of believers until the second coming of Jesus Christ. He cites the lack of holiness and purity among the Christians of his day as the reason for some diminishing of their usage. (Origen, “Against Celsus”; Vol. 4 of The Ante-Nicene Christian Library; Pg. 614)
Hyatt writes: “In “Against Celsus” Origen speaks of the miracles being performed in his day through the power of Jesus’ name. His testimony indicates that he is personally involved in many of these miracles...Origen obviously recognized the reality of praying in tongues, and gives further evidence of this in his commentary on Romans 8:26 where he links praying in the Spirit with praying in tongues.” (Hyatt, Pgs.14, 16)
Cecil M. Robeck states: “Origen must have held that prayer in tongues existed in his day, and it was thought to be beneficial in that it was through this type of prayer that the Spirit interceded exceedingly before God.” (Cecil M. Robeck; “Origen’s Treatment of the Charismata: Charismatic Experiences in History”; Peabody, MA; Hendrickson, 1985; Pg. 120)
Novatian (A.D.210-280) was a respected theologian and a presbyter of the Church of Rome. Hyatt in 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity writes: “...adherents of Novatian called themselves Cathai, meaning pure ones, to distinguish themselves from other professing Christians whom they considered carnal and impure.” (Pg.17)
In Novatian’s treatise, “The Trinity”, he writes: “This is he [the Holy Spirit] who places prophets in the Church, instructs teachers, directs tongues, gives powers and healings, does wonderful works, offers discrimination of spirits, affords powers of government, suggests counsels, and orders and arranges whatever other gifts there are of charismata; and thus making the Lord’s Church everywhere, and in all, perfected and completed.” (DeSimone trans, “Novatian: The Trinity”; Pg. 4)
Novatian, as with all the other early church fathers, believed strongly that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were definitely a normal part of church life and their expectancy and usage intuitive.
Cyprian (A.D. 195-258), the early church father who served as bishop of Carthage, a position he held till he was martyred in 258, often experienced supernatural visions. It was clear in his writings that the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit was an active part of the church’s life in the third century. Cyprian writes: “For beside the visions of the night, even in the daytime, the innocent age of boys [innocent children] is among us filled with the Holy Spirit, seeing in an ecstasy with their eyes, and hearing and speaking those things whereby the Lord condescends to warn and instruct us.” (Cyprian, “Letters”; Vol. 5 of The Ante-Nicene Christian Library; Pg.290)
As we will see as we continue in my next article, The Personality Cult of Some Pastors-Part 2, the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit were always in operation by a remnant of believers who braved persecution from the organized legal church that arose under the emperor, Constantine. Prior to Constantine’s time, the church met in homes, and their leaders were those who were anointed and operating in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. After Constantine created the hierarchy to consolidate power within the church and the state, many times true servants of the Lord operating in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit were villianized. The institutionalized church allowed only their own priests and monks to operate in the supernatural gifts. If a layman ministered in the gifts, they charged him with demon possession. All of this was done to control the people and use them. Obviously, the majority of the priests did not operate in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, as many of them were not even born again. Instead, they were appointed to their positions by ecclesiastical, man-sponsored institutions. Corruption ran rampant in the church, and a remnant of priests called monks separated themselves from the rest of the polluted wealth-oriented, greedy church to seek the Lord in purity and truth, thus at times acquiring the gifts of the Holy Spirit if the monk himself were truly born again and holy.
Hyatt writes: “Institutionalism is an emphasis on organization at the expense of other factors. In the Church such an emphasis or overemphasis on organization always comes at the expense of the life and freedom of the Spirit…The move toward institutionalism in the early Church arose as a means of defense against persecution from the state and imposition of error from heretical sects such as Gnosticism and Marcionism. Reacting to these threats, the Church formalized worship and centralized power in the bishop. Unfortunately, this move toward organizational structure brought about a change in the very meaning of the word bishop.” (Hyatt, Pg. 23)
We will see how Martin Luther, George Fox, John Wesley, George Whitfield, Phoebe Palmer, Charles Finney, D. L. Moody, etc., all operated in different supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. We will see how there has never been a time in history when the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit were not in operation. We will see how vessels of God who flowed in these gifts were used of God to start revivals and birth new denominations, ministries and churches. We will see how those institutions which came against the gifts of the Holy Spirit classified the gifts of the Holy Spirit as having ceased or being demoniac; yet, the founders of their own denominations believed in them and/or operated in them. We will also see how the institutionalized church, out of jealousy and a desire to control, use, and persecute people who moved in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, formed doctrines and policies to stop believers from operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
As an example, Hyatt writes: “In denouncing the highly developed form and ritual of the Roman Church, the Cathari emphasized the inward and spiritual values of Christianity...The Cathari experienced the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit, including speaking in tongues...The Cathari were looked upon as an affront to the authority of the institutional church. The Cathari thus became the objects of systematic attempts of annihilation by the Roman Catholic Church. Consequently, the Cathari were often burned at the stake or, at times, branded in the forehead with a hot iron marking them as heretics. Many scholars consider the Cathari to be non-Christian, or, at very best, sub-Christian. This is based, however, on the biased, unfriendly testimony of their enemies. In contrast, John Foxe, the sixteenth century author of the famous classic, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, judged them to be true Christians and, in fact, forerunners of the Protestant Reformation.” (Pgs. 70-71)
Many churches and denominations today use the same tactics that the medieval Catholic Church used during the Middle Ages to try and persuade people to reject the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
TO BE CONTINUED
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