Doctrine Of The Charismatic Movement
Up to now the Charismatic Movement has remained diverse both in exposition and in teaching. Since it is difficult to follow all the variations and pinpoint the ‘true’ Charismatics, our discussion will be based on publications representing the main bulk of Charismatic beliefs, most of which are generally similar to the evangelical faith.
Some people may feel that as long as Charismatics believe in the basics, the movement is acceptable. We must be very careful here, especially when there are additions to the faith. Rev 22:18-19 is a stern warning from the Lord:
We must believe in no more and in no less of what is in the Bible. When material is added on, it distorts the Christian faith and doctrine.
Let us examine the few doctrines claimed by mainstream Charismatics as being peculiar to them:
Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Charismatics believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Acts 2:1-4 is to be experienced by every believer. Each believer is to seek this “second blessing” and the evidence of it is the speaking of tongues.
The Charismatics have come to this conclusion by confusing the terms “baptism of the Holy Spirit” with being “filled with the Holy Spirit”. These are two distinct and different experiences altogether. The New Testament teaches that when anyone believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, he receives the Holy Spirit at the same time, as the guarantee and assurance of his faith (Eph 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit baptises (joins) him into the body of Jesus Christ so that all believers become one.This is made clear in I Cor 12:13:
What takes place in every believer when he puts his trust in Jesus Christ is a spiritual mystery.
Acts 2 records what happened at Pentecost. At that moment all believers were given the Holy Spirit for the first time, unlike in the Old Testament, where only some were given the Holy Spirit. It meant that the church had come into existence. Historically, the experience can never be repeated again since it has already taken place.
……. Whoever accepts Jesus Christ has the Holy Spirit. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs at the point of conversion and is not a second experience. You need not have to ask for, seek after or wait for it.
Speaking in Tongues
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is a personal experience of every believer which is repeated over and over again, at various stages of his life. The Holy Spirit comes at the point of conversion, but His power and strength does not fill us immediately at the same time.
The experience of the early Christians were unique. They followed the Lord for three and a half years. At the coming of the Holy Spirit, they received the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit at the same time. For us, this may not be the case. We must allow the Holy Spirit to take control of our lives, to fill our whole being. The spiritual state described as being filled with the Holy Spirit can be repeated again. The Bible does not mention any specific mark or evidence of this, like speaking in tongues. There have been people filled with the Holy Spirit, without a common experience e.g. Elizabeth (Luke 1:41), Jesus (Luke 4:1), Peter (Acts 4:8) and Stephen (Acts 7:55). There is no evidence that the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” must be manifested by speaking in tongues.
In Acts 2:4, those who were filled with the Holy Spirit did speak in tongues. The passage, however, makes it clear that tongues are foreign languages. The tongues the Charismatics speak are not languages. Thus, the claim that every believer must have the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a second experience, made evident by speaking in tongues, is unbiblical. It is a doctrine based on misinterpretation and misunderstanding of the Word of God.
Charismatics believe that this is part of the atonement work of the Lord, and can be asked for by faith. When Christ was crucified, He bore our sins as well as our physical infirmities. Because we are saved and our sins forgiven, therefore the same principle can be applied to diseases.
Mt 8:16-17 is often used to support this belief. However, firstly, the passage only tells us that what the Lord did in His lifetime on earth was to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah regarding His earthly ministry of healing diseases. It is not a doctrine of what Christ is doing for us in His atonement. Secondly, it deals with spiritual needs and infirmities, rather than physical.
Charismatics believe that:
If these were true, then physical illnesses should be healed completely when we confess our sins and accept the Lord as our personal Saviour, for His salvation is complete. Charismatics cannot produce this result. There are more people who remain sick than those healed. The Charismatics believe that this is due to the lack of faith, as well as some sins that have not been dealt with. If we accept this, then the atonement work of Christ is necessarily incomplete.
If someone is sick and is not healed, we can only draw 4 conclusions from the Charismatics’ teachings:
The first three conclusions make God untrue, The name of God is not glorified, being despised.
Nevertheless, it does not mean that we do not believe in divine healing. We believe God can heal according to His grace and Sovereign will.
We believe that the salvation of Jesus Christ is for our body and our soul. Roman 8:18 tells us our present bodies are still subjected to corruption. However, we can clearly state that at the Second Coming of Christ, our bodies will be changed into a glorious ones as the final fulfillment of Christ’s atoning work.
If someone is sick, what should we do? Two things are mentioned in James 5:14-15. We can anoint him with oil ( I.e. to apply medicine, since oil was used as a medication in those days) and pray for him. We believe and practise these teachings.
Charismatics believe that all the spiritual gifts of the Bible are still functional today, including the gifts of apostles and prophets. They still expect to receive a direct revelation from God from time to time. Is this true?
1. The apostles were appointed by Jesus Christ. The qualifications were strict – they had to see and witness the resurrection and to be called to office. (see Acts 2, I Cor 9). There have been no more apostles since the first generation.
2. Apostles held special offices, responsibilities and privileges. Eph 2:19-20 refers to the teachings of the apostles as the foundation of the church. Christ’s teaching is recorded in apostolic writing. We base our faith on these writings and the Old Testament prophets. The earlier quoted passage from Rev 22 warns us not to add things because the revelation of Christ is complete. There is no need now for apostles and prophets to exist.
Charismatics believe that they receive the revelation from God directly as the prophets did, and so, in a way, are prophets too, since both speak from the direct revelation of God. We can never accept this doctrine of direct revelation, for if we do, we would only need more revelations if the current ones are incomplete. Many cults like the Mormons and Christian Scientists also claim direct revelations from God.
Let us, therefore, be diligent in reading the bible and safeguard ourselves. If we accept the claims of the Charismatics, we are admitting that our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is insufficient, the atonement of Jesus Christ is unreliable, and the Bible (the written revelations of God) incomplete. Let us not be deceived by the false teachings of the day.
Huang Ee Yuen