Scripture: Teachers, Bereans and the Holy Spirit.

For some time now I’ve regularly written and spoken about the need to trust the Holy Spirit to give us understanding of scripture instead of turning to commentaries, study bibles and similar sources to find out what scripture “really means”.

My suggestion hasn’t often been received willingly, and some people have seen me as being opposed to the idea of teachers within the church – and since scripture clearly legitimizes the ministry of teachers, I’m obviously in the wrong.

But I am not opposed to the role of teachers when they are given their rightful place. There is an important need for genuine teachers of the word, especially to help new believers to mature in their faith, but also to inspire the mature believer to seek more understanding

So what is the problem? How SHOULD we respond to teachers, and how does this compare to the way that we DO respond to teachers?

The Bereans are often held up as the example we should follow, but how close do we follow what they did? And why were they so “noble” or “fair-minded”?

Firstly they listened to what was said, not rejecting it out of hand
Secondly they searched the scriptures daily to test the teaching.
How does this compare to today’s common practice?
What is the usual place currently given to teaching?

I’d suggest there has been a kind of reversal of authority. Where the Bereans heard the teaching and then turned to scripture for clarification and legitimisation of a teaching, it is more common today to turn to teachers to tell us what scripture (really) means – even to the extent of searching the teachers until we find one that gives an answer we want to hear.

1That can take the following forms:
1) People never address scripture themselves, their main contact with scripture is via the teaching. In the past I fit this category. I was quite proficient at quoting texts to “prove” my doctrinal point, however, I later came to realise that I’d learned the texts from sermons from my favoured teachers and not from personal study of scripture. At “best” a hearer will use a bible to read the proof texts a preacher quotes , but will rarely look deeply enough into those texts to consider their biblical context. In my case, my knowledge of scripture came with the context given by the teaching and NOT its legitimate biblical context.

2) People DO address scripture, but have a bible in one hand and a commentary in the other. Or even worse, they read from a “study bible”, paying more attention to the “explanatory” notes than to the actual biblical text. Instead of trusting the Holy Spirit to give understanding, He is ignored and replaced by man’s writings.

Brief summary:
1) The Bereans turned to scripture to test the teaching.

2) Today many turn to teachers to “interpret” scripture.

Love of Debate or Love of the Truth?

Far too much discussion I’ve seen on blogs recently is little more than pitting one set of traditions against another

I’m beginning to wonder whether people are more interested in theological debate around religion and scripture than in the God revealed through scripture.

What do we love and desire most? Truth or Debate? Truth or Tradition?

If we genuinely desire Truth do we believe that God is able and willing to reveal it?

Church Teaching: Bible or Tradition?

Large sections of the institutional “church” long ago pushed the bible aside as the standard of truth and now rarely teach scripture. They teach their church’s doctrines (traditions) as passed from one generation of teachers to the next. They don’t even interpret the bible through their traditions; they just use select parts of the bible to justify those traditions.

Sadly the majority of Christians don’t even notice because they don’t really engage with scripture for themselves with the Holy Spirit’s help, but prefer to turn to Commentaries, study Bibles, and other “Christian” books.

As an example, when I first became a believer in the 1970s, my (then) views on end times were formed through Hal Lindsay’s Late Great Planet Earth. A book recommended to me by other Christians who’d had their views shaped by the same book. It took several years later to see a problem with that view. When I eventually turned to scripture alone – my WHOLE understanding of the matter was changed.

582572Only a few days ago I had the opportunity to look at a MacArthur study bible and found there was roughly 2/3 of a page of John MacArthur’s notes to 1/3 page of scriptural text. Two or three days after that I read a blogger writing about his encounter with a church that claimed to experience the Spiritual gifts described in 1 Cor 12-14. He was unsure whether what he was observing was biblical or not – so he went home and took out his MacArthur Study Bible and after much study decided that church was in error. Now did he come to that conclusion from the 1/3 bible text or the 2/3 MacArthur notes – considering in the notes MacArthur make it clear that (despite what Paul wrote) the gifts are no longer available and we shouldn’t desire them?

What needs to be considered is whether it is possible to gain understanding from scripture that isn’t tainted to a serious degree by human tradition. But in considering that question we should first ask ourselves whether we believe that God wants us to understand His truth (the only truth) and whether He is capable of imparting that understanding to those who desire it?

To what extent do we limit God? And to what extent does that limitation make us more dependent on men’s traditional teachings and ideas than on God and His Spirit?

I’d be one of the last to say I have never been influenced by man’s traditions. I spent decades either following teachings I hadn’t adequately tested or trying to recover from the damage those teachings had caused to me.

But over the last 8 or 9 years (maybe more) I’ve recognised the importance of trusting the Holy Spirit to give understanding of the scriptures He inspired.

For too long we believers have been conditioned to accept that we need someone to explain scripture to us, that it either takes special academic training or someone with a special “anointing” to understand it. That has made the majority of church-goers passive, dependant and vulnerable.

Men’s traditions will only influence our understanding to the degree that we rely on men FOR our understanding of scripture. The more we involve ourselves with scripture, and the more we trust the Holy Spirit to give understanding, the less influenced by tradition we’ll be.

Moving the Theological Goalposts

goalpostsThe goal posts of the cessationist argument have been moved.

After choosing not to post my link to articles detailing post apostolic examples of the gifts still in use, the “Hip and Thigh” blog owner says:

Everyone is aware of post apostolic miracles. I am completely aware of what Sam Storm believes about supernatural happenings after 100 AD. But none of those examples he supplies demonstrates the continuance of gifted people, just that God acts supernaturally at certain times in response to prayer or in the working out of his providence. That is something no “cessationist” as they are called, disagrees with.

So now it seems every historical case of gifts in action is not evidence of the gifts in action, and therefore their continuing availability. Those cases are merely examples of God’s response to prayer or the working out of His providence.

Now the argument is being shifted from the continuance of Spiritual gifts, to the “continuance of gifted people”. And since those gifts allegedly ended with the last of the apostles the term “gifted people” seems to refer to the original apostles.

But the gifts in question have nothing to do with “gifted people” (apostles), and everything to do with a GIFTING God.

The issue isn’t about “gifted people”. The issue is the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit and miracles provided by the God that the apostles worshipped and promoted.
The one and only God who is just as real and no less active in the world today. Any absence of gifts and miracles is not due to a Divine recall or Divine inactivity, but due to human factors (such as lack of belief in the availability of gifts due to false teaching).

Are the Spiritual gifts HE made available to the body (not just the apostles) for the building up of the body, still needed and still available today?

Did he restrict those gifts to an elite apostleship?

Was their practice limited to an elite apostleship?

Did God withdraw any of those gifts after the last of the apostles?

Are those gifts still valid, available and practiced today and throughout history, even from 100AD to 1900AD and to the present day?

Yes! As attested by the absence of biblical evidence that they would be withdrawn soon after Paul wrote about them, and by the presence of historical evidence that they HAVE continued (some of which can be found at the links provided in my earlier post here: )

Jesus said “I AM…”


And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

…the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Jesus said, “I AM. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

I AM the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst

I AM the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.

When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things.

Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM

Most assuredly, I say to you, I AM the door of the sheep.

I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.

I AM the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”

They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Jesus said to them, “I AM.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Then the Lord said, “I AM Jesus”

Cessationist Evasion!

In previous posts I’ve given my reasons for believing in the validity of on-going Spiritual gifts*.

To date I’ve still not seen or been given any argument (supportable by scripture) that could even half convince me that God has withdrawn any of the Spiritual gifts described in the New Testament.
I’ve already addressed the most common “scriptural” claim given by cessationsists – found in 1 Corinthians 13*.

The only recent “evidence” I’ve been given came in the form of a question on a cessationist blog: “how do you explain the fact that the gifts were absent from the church between, say, 100AD and 1900AD?”

My first attempt to answer that question didn’t make it past moderation. The moderator/blog owner wouldn’t approve it.

The question is based on an assumption that ignores available evidence. There are many post-apostolic references to the continuation of miracles in the church, recorded in the writings of the early church fathers. I easily found many sources giving details of their writings – which are too numerous and too lengthy for me to quote at length. Instead I’ll point to these articles here:–1-–2-–3-–4-

A link to the above articles was posted on the offending blog in response to his request for an explanation for the alleged almost 2000 year absence of gifts. The comment and the link to the articles didn’t get past moderation.


*(see here for my reasons and my comments regarding 1 Cor 13): )
Here is a link to the relevant part of the cessationist blog mentioned above:

The Rage of Nations

My Psalm 2 painting is now complete. It took longer than usual because we’ve had some extremely hot weather and conditions in my studio have been unbearable for more than a few minutes of painting at a time. But here it is, I finished it last night.

psalm 2

My series of flag paintings was started in response to some disturbing expressions of patriotism I saw on a few blogs and forums; in which I perceived an unholy hybrid of national pride and religion. While most of this seemed centred on the USA, I was especially concerned that some groups were trying to introduce a similar sentiment to Australia.
One of those groups is being led by a notorious Australian false prophet and false apostle who decided to establish his own political party.

I named that first flag painting “Unholy Hybrid” after creating a rough merging of the Stars and Stripes and the Australian flag, stencilled with a few phrases of text. The painting is in my 2013 gallery here:

With the new painting I took a more ordered approach, avoiding the rapid spontaneity of that first one. Instead of the roughly applied lines and stars, I used a lot of masking tape for straight lines and created stencils for the stars, using downloaded images for templates.

I’ve always had problems with the text I’ve added to paintings and very early on abandoned trying to write it freehand. Most of the time I’ve used commercially available stencils, but for this painting I felt I needed something with a much smoother, neater appearance than the almost industrial look of stencilled lettering.

So for this painting I printed my desired words in a suitable size and font. I then painted over the words with two or three layers of paint, cut them out and stuck them onto the canvas with a bonding agent.

I also have text printed on several of the small white stars in the bottom left of the painting. Originally I cut the stars out of newsprint, highlighting one word in each star. At first I was happy with the result, but as the rest of the painting took shape, the news print looked more out-of-place. So I chose to replace them with stars cut out of copy paper, on which the required words had been printed.

The message in those stars isn’t easily seen on the photo, but it reads:

“Why do the nations rage against God and His anointed”

Which Celebrity Soothes Your Itching Ears?

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves their favourite celebrity teachers” (2 Tim 4 slightly paraphrased)

Spirit and TruthIn following the arguments being presented by cessationists, I’ve seen little more than duelling with celebrities – where one celebrity preacher is quoted against another. First we had John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, then we had Frank Viola’s rebuttal, Pouring Water on Strange Fire, and Michael Brown’s Authentic Fire. These then became the focus of a cessationist response*.

I am still waiting for BIBLICAL evidence that God has withdrawn any of the Spiritual gifts. I’m still waiting because there is no such evidence.

Criticism of “charismatics” is NOT scriptural evidence, no matter how much that criticism is deserved
Yes, a sizable segment of the charimsatic “movement” promotes and practices terrible things, claiming to be motivated by the Spirit, but even if ALL claimed charismatics were the same that would still not be evidence supporting cessationism.

The problem with Charismatics arises NOT because Spiritual gifts have been withdrawn and therefore everything “charismatic” must be counterfeit – but because many “charismatics” have fallen for celebrity worship, following the word of big name men and women instead of the word of God; running from conference to conference, speaker to speaker instead of taking time to search the scriptures.
But non-charismatics are no less guilty of that, following the word of their own celebs instead of HONESTLY addressing scripture themselves.

Ironically, while charismatic excess is being cited as evidence of the cessationist viewpoint, most of that excess has NOTHING to do with biblical Spiritual gifts. Most of the aberrant behaviour and manifestations at the centre of charismania is extra-biblical. It is not even a counterfeit of biblically cited gifts. But, even their claimed expression of things that do have a biblical precedent (such as prophecy) are EASILY exposed as false by holding them accountable to biblical standards.

spirit and truthjpgAs well as the example of false charismata, the remaining cessationist evidence comes from their perceived lack of genuine charismata. That includes making judgements according to their own assumptions about what genuine gifts should be like. For example, tongues is dismissed by some because they insist tongues should always be recognisable earthly languages, used only for spreading the gospel. Both parts of this claim can easily be refuted by referring to Paul’s statements that someone speaking in a tongue speaks to God not man, and also refers to praying in a tongue as the spirit praying. This doesn’t fit the above mentioned cessationist preconception.

Here we have two issues, firstly a wrong preconception of what gifts should be, and secondly the lack of experience of the gifts as defined by those wrong preconceptions. In these I see very little difference between the extreme charismatic and the cessationist. Both have abandoned scripture as their standard of truth and have turned to experience. One assumes their strange experiences are from the Spirit (even when those experiences don’t stand up to scriptural scrutiny) the other assumes THEIR lack of experience** of anything must mean the gifts are no longer valid (despite that claim not standing up to scriptural scrutiny).

What the cessationist fails to consider is that their lack of experience may come down to their lack of expectation. Their denial of the gifts kills any possibility of them having faith to exercise or experience gifts themselves. Paul said “If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith” , and yet how can someone have faith to prophesy at all if they deny the possibility? Likewise with other gifts; how can anyone expect to experience those gifts in their own life if their faith’s foundation is built on denial, if they refuse even the possibility of genuine gifts?

James wrote:

“let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

If that is true of the double minded man, the man who doubts – what about the single minded man who does not doubt but strongly believes the wrong thing? Someone so convinced that Spiritual gifts aren’t valid that they have absolutely no expectation of experiencing them?

*examples of which can be found here: and at this site:

**in a reply to a comment from me, one cessationist blog owner admits that his belief is based on him not seeing any “practical evidence” of the gifts. has nothing to do with scriptural evidence – claiming that both (cessationist) MacArthur and (charismatic) Michael Brown both provide scriptural support for their (opposing) views, however he qualifies that by saying MacArthur makes a “strong case”. And yet… WHERE IS THAT “strong” CASE?

God’s Truth Does Not Need to be Unleashed.

Today I followed a link to an article on John MacArthur’s website and found this statement at the top of the home page:

“Unleashing God’s Truth One Verse at a Time”.

Excuse me Mr MacArthur, the bible wasn’t written in “verses”. It wasn’t written to be addressed “one verse at a time”. That approach is guaranteed to lead to error, resulting in false doctrines that are supported by out of context proof texts.

It’s therefore not surprising that MacArthur has fallen for (and promotes) some very harmful theology (including, but not limited to, an unholy trinity of Calvinism, Cessationism and Supersessionism), a very scary thing when he has such a devoted following, and no less dangerous than the extreme charismanics he has been targeting recently.

spirit and truthjpgGod’s truth doesn’t need to be “unleashed” – He has already revealed His truth and it just needs to be received. A good starting point for us is to ask God to give us a love of the truth, and then receive that love when it is given. Another helpful step is to respect the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who has been sent to teach and equip followers of Jesus instead of denying His continuing work.

May our love of the Truth and desire for it exceed our love of any theology we may have been taught – and be greater than our love for the theologians and teachers who introduced us to it.

Raging Again: revisiting Psalm 2

This work in progress is my newest painting inspired by Psalm 2

“Why do the nations rage…”

psalm 2

It is the neatest flag painting I’ve done. Previous flags were much more spontaneous, with less concern for straight lines (in other words messier).

On several of the small stars on the lower left, I have pasted portions of news clippings, each with one word highlighted. The words together read “Why do the nations rage against the Lord and His Christ” – an abbreviation of the first lines of Psalm 2.

My earlier flags:


Why do the nations rage

Each flag references the Australian flag, the union flag and the stars and stripes.