Lausanne Free Church "believing all things written"

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What is the church’s stance on the charismatic gifts?


LFC is non-charismatic. It might seem quite negative to call our church “non-charismatic” but we think that helps friends who are looking for a church to know what to expect. In this article we explain the church’s position on several important subjects, all linked to the charismatic issue. They are: miracles, speaking in tongues and gifts of prophecy.

Miracles

In the Bible miracles always had a specific purpose. They were usually referred to as 'signs' to emphasise this. The first mention of a man being given a gift to perform miracles is in Exodus 4. Moses was given signs to perform to authenticate that he had been sent by God to lead the children of Israel out of captivity (Exodus 4:1-8).

Jesus' miracles also authenticated his ministry, as we read in the gospel of John: "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30-31).

The same also applies to the apostles, as Jesus said in the gospel of Mark: "And these signs will follow those who believe: In My Name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover" (Mark 16:17-18).

In all cases the gift was only for a period of time, not the whole of a person's life. It appears that even Paul was no longer able to heal later on in his ministry, as he states the following near the end of 2 Timothy: "Erastus stayed in Corinth, but Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick" (2 Timothy 4:20).

The miracles in the Bible were instant, complete and verifiable. Sight was restored, withered limbs made whole, leprosy healed. This is in contrast to what happens today. Why are the miracle workers not visiting the hospices and hospitals, thereby emptying the wards?

The only instruction in the New Testament on the subject of healing today is James 5:13-18. This gives very clear instruction about what to do if someone is sick. The sick person should call for the elders (implying that the person is too ill to leave their home). When the elders meet with the person, all those present should first confess any sin, then the elders of the church should pray, anointing the person with oil. We read that God will 'raise him up'. This expression implies a variety of outcomes, one of which is healing of the body. We know of people who have experienced complete healing, or who have been healed through the skill of the medical profession while others who have been given the strength to cope with their infirmities. Paul writes of Christians being ill (2 Timothy 4:20, 1 Timothy 5:23) and he himself had a 'thorn in the flesh' from which he was not granted healing, but was given strength to cope.

We strongly believe that God can and does heal today, but no one has a gift of healing and no one today can guarantee 100% success.

Speaking in Tongues

The Bible clearly tells us that speaking in tongues involved the miraculous ability to speak another human language instantaneously (see Acts 2). The gift of tongue speaking is only mentioned twice more in Acts and then only in 1 Corinthians! Luke in writing Acts uses the same Greek word for tongues as Paul when he wrote 1 Corinthians, showing us that they meant the same thing.

Paul tells us that the gift of tongues will come to an end in 1 Corinthians 13:8: "Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail, whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away". We know that this must happen before faith and hope come to an end (which will be when Jesus returns), since verse 13 says these will abide: "And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Love, of course, is the greatest because it will never end. There is some debate among Christians as to what 'the perfect' means in verse 10: "But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away" (1 Corinthians 13:10). Some say heaven, others say the completed Bible, but the key point is that tongues will cease.

When will the gift of tongues come to an end? When they have achieved the purpose for which they were given. Why was the gift of tongues given? Paul tells us: "Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. In the law it is written: 'With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,' says the Lord. Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe" (1 Corinthians 14:20-22).

They were a sign to the Jews that God's blessing, which they had rejected, was now being given to the Gentiles. We know from verse 21 that by 'unbelievers' he means Jews, because he quotes from Isaiah, who was preaching to the children of Israel. Isaiah's warning was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. In Acts 2:18-21; Peter quotes from the prophet Joel, who had warned that this was going to happen.

The gift of tongues was like a fire of warning to the unbelieving Jews. It was lit that day and burnt brightly for a time in Jerusalem and then moved out into the surrounding lands as the gospel spread. Like a fire, the gift died out in the place where it had started and spread far and wide, until it had achieved its purpose. Then it gradually fizzled out. That is why we do not read about tongues in the later letters in our Bibles. The gospel had gone to the Gentiles; God's judgement fell on Jerusalem in 70 AD. The sign was and is no longer needed. Those who seek to exercise this gift today must square their view with 1 Corinthians 14:20-22.

Gifts of Prophecy and Words of Knowledge

Gifts of prophecy and words of knowledge were used by God in the early days of the church to teach and lead the new believers. However, once they had the complete Bible they no longer needed these gifts. In Ephesians 2:19-20, Paul talks about the household of God being built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. Once a building is established, the foundations are no longer visible. "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:19-20).

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17 we are told about the sufficiency of the Scriptures:

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”.

In other words, the Bible contains all that we need for faith and life. The Bible's contents are sufficient and detailed enough to make us a “complete” person, “thoroughly” equipped to do anything in life. It lacks nothing. There are no gaps, missing teachings or prophesy. As this is so why would we need prophets today?

Revelation 22:18-19 has the most severe warning for those who try to add to the Bible. If the words of someone claiming to prophesy are written down are they not adding to the Bible? "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Revelation 22:18-19).

All those who prophesied in the Bible were 100% true and accurate. Today even the most ardent supporters of prophecy today admit a high error rate. Deuteronomy 13:1-5 outlines the view God takes of false prophets: "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying 'Let us go after other gods' - which you have not known - 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul … But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God" (Deuteronomy 13:1-5b).

All of the beliefs outlines above are based on what the Bible has to say. We understand that other Christians hold different views, and we respect their positions, as long as they have arrived at their conclusions after carefully studying what God has to say in his Word the Bible. For us, however there are much more important matters to concern the Christian than revelatory gifts and miracles. Gifts are no evidence of grace in a person's heart. Judas performed miracles; the wicked Caiaphas, high priest in Jesus' time correctly prophesied on one occasion. The need of the hour is not great gifts but great likeness to Christ. Please read 1 Corinthians 13 and see Paul's emphasis. Without the grace of love we are nothing.

If you would like to listen to some excellent sermons on 1 Corinthians 12-14 preached by Stuart Olyott please email us. Many have been helped by them. There will be a small charge. We would also recommend a paperback book called 'The Charismatic Phenomenon' by Peter Masters & John C. Whitcomb, published by the Wakeman Trust.

Finally do email us if you have any questions or wish to discuss further.

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