One thing that needs to be established, deceivers in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) are not continuationists. They are restorationists. A basic understanding of this teaching can be found on Wikipedia:
Restorationism, also described as Christian Primitivism, is the belief that Christianity has been or should be restored along the lines of what is known about the apostolic early church, which restorationists see as the search for a more pure and more ancient form of the religion.
Fundamentally, “this vision seeks to correct faults or deficiencies (in the church) by appealing to the primitive church as a normative model.”
When debating people over the role of apostles and prophets, NAR Apostles reduce the argument to the fallacious continuationist/cessationist debate. As soon as one does this, you know you are dealing with a Restorationist. For instance, Mike Bickle did exactly this:
“While the term NAR may be used simply as a pejorative affiliation in the mainstream media, in the more academic examinations of the NAR, the theological arguments are rooted in whether the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased in the first centuries (which leads to a position known as cessationism) or whether the gifts of the Holy Spirit continued through the Church age and are available to believers today (which leads to a position often known as continuationism.)”
This is not true as Bickle’s argument evolved around the emphasis of prophecy, linking it to the ‘spiritual gifts‘ of Eph 4:11-12 regarding restored apostles, prophetss evangelists, shepherds and teacher with his language ‘maturity’.
“IHOPKC would fall within the “continuationist” camp, believing that today’s Church should also follow the apostle Paul’s encouragement to “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Cor 14:1 ESV)
Visitors to IHOPKC will quickly note that all members of the leadership team are simply known by their first name. While we believe in honoring each other, we believe that spiritual gifts are given to serve each other so that the body comes to maturity, not so that individuals can be honored by a title or office related to their gifts.”
We refute the cessationist argument here:
Mike Bickle is a classic example of this bait and switch technique – switching the prophetic gift with the prophetic office thus also smuggling in the notion it must, like the other 5 offices, mature the body. The point is this – these deceivers play semantics with the spiritual gifts and offices.
HIDING BEHIND CONTINUATIONISM TO CONDEMN CHRISTIANITY
Michael Brown uses this same tactic. The truth is this – the church has never devalued the supernatural gifts and offices in the church. She has always upheld that the role of apostles and prophets function through what they wrote in the scriptures. Thus the church is Continuationist. We do not need to where the slanderous label of cessationist by restorationists.
However, with the rise of the New Order of the Latter Rain (NOLR), false apostles and prophets have proposed the false idea that God was restoring these offices (new order) today for his end-time church. Those who oppose were labelled ‘cessationist’ if they oppose the ‘new thing’ God is doing by establishing the ‘new order’. This is why the Charismatic Movement was called the Charismatic Renewal.
WHY SIGNS AND WONDER ARE IMPORTANT TO RESTORATIONISTS
Their agenda is to accuse Christians of being ‘cessationist’ for primarily rejecting modern ‘apostles and prophets’. However the reason why healings, signs and wonders were often rejected was because false apostles and prophets would try to confirm their divine offices by operating in ‘healings, signs and wonders’.
This is true when we simply look at Wimber and Wagner at Fuller Theological Seminary doing course in Signs and Wonders – their goal was to raise up apostles, which they claimed was happening towards the end of the 1980s.
A recent example of this was on Jordan Hall’s latest podcast tackling James White’s teaching 2 John 1:9-11. Hall recalls a man in his church declaring New Breed Todd White an apostle. Why? The man identified Todd as such because of his healing, signs and wonders ‘ministry’. After realizing he did not know the gospel, the man still insisted that he was an apostle, only misguided. This is what comes with the territory when people believe that this office is restored: signs and wonders confirming this office – not their teaching.
We remind our readers that Hillsong’s founder, Frank Houston was an ‘apostle’ who supposedly moved in signs and wonders. People linked his supernatural abilities to the work of an apostle. To this day, after he was exposed for being a serial pedophile, Hillsong followers still defend him as a legitimate minister called by God. But it’s the cults that push this restoration doctrine more than anyone else; signs and wonders confirming their divine offices:
- The apostle/prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith
- The prophet of Jehovah Witnesses, Charles T Russell
- The prophet of the New Order of the Latter Rain, William Branham
- The apostle of the People’s Temple/Jonestown, Jim Jones
If you are having difficulty seeing that the restoration/cessation debate solely evolves around the offices of apostle and prophet, we turn your attention to NAR Apostle David Cartledge.
When Pentecostals opposed the heresy of restored apostles and prophets, they were labelled by the Charismatics/NARismatics as cessationist. In the article below, you will see NARpostle David Cartledge label Pentecostals who reject restored Apostles and Prophets ‘Pentecostal Cessationists’. This term amused C. Peter Wagner greatly in his book ‘ChurchQuake!’. So even Wagner is familiar with Pentecostal Cessationists.
Oddly, Pentecostal apologists like Philip Powell were comfortable with that title simply because it categorised them as Pentecostals who did not step outside the authority and sufficiency of scripture. This is damning given that Michael Brown claims to be ‘continuationist’ (restorationist), thus totally Sola Scriptura.
Even NAR Apostle David Cartledge fails to prove that he is cessationist when he emphasises “this basic principle of restoration” of apostles and prophets in the church. Cartledge even quotes B. B Warfield who uses language that categorises these Restorationists as Christian Primitivists.
This is where the battle is with NAR Apostle Michael Brown and his cohorts who have infiltrated Christ’s church. They are usurping Christ’s Word and making themselves the final authority over matters while playing semantics in order to deceive people. Dr Brown is not a continuationist and needs to stop using this false category to defend his theology.
He is a restorationist who believes in modern day apostles and prophets and therefore rejects the authority and sufficiency of scripture.
David Cartledge writes,
CESSATIONISTS AND MODERN APOSTLES
The average Pentecostal denomination may give lipservice to the idea that both apostolic and prophetic ministries I theoretically possible in the modern church. It is interesting to observe that these groups do you not identify anyone who is actually functioning in their ranks as an apostle. They will usually only recognise those who are now safely dead, and can no longer create a dilemma for the current denominational leaders.
It is interesting to note that previous generations of the assemblies of God (UK) took a conservative position in recognising any modern apostles and prophets, and yet published the life story of Smith Wigglesworth under the title, “Apostle of Faith”, after he died. However it was not so easy for them to acknowledge the obvious apostolic gifts of any living leaders. The current leadership of the British assemblies of God are not so reticent, and speak openly of apostolic church planting teams. Recently they devoted some sessions of their national conference to the issue of apostles and prophets.
Both the apostle and prophet are inconvenient ministries within a democratic organisation. The idea of electing an apostle to office, or of not electing him to continue in that ministry is foreign to the entire body of testimony in the New Testament of the recognition of these people. They just emerge under the sovereign appointment of the Lord through his blessing on their ministry. As such, they often have more influence and leadership than the organisation can cope with as their very existence tends to create another centre of gravity in the movement.
This is the reason why Pentecostal movements should be led by apostolic gifts. When they are given opportunity to lead the issue of two centres of gravity in the movement does not arise. Other apostles who are not part of the main leadership team are more likely to be accommodated since their function of ministry can be understood by the apostles who lead the movement, and room can be made for them to function without the binding rules that tend to proliferate under the managerial system.
The modern Pentecostal denominations have placed great stress on the unity and function of the Body of Christ, and do so under impulse of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. However in most respects this has tended to become more of a democratic system that bears a great degree of similarity to any secular political organisation.
Frequently the high and noble sentiments of the ‘Body of Christ,‘ and the universal priesthood of believers are manipulated by the elected leaders for their own benefit. The last thing they want is the emergence of an apostolic gift that cannot be controlled by the bureaucracy, or contained within the democratic religious system.
It has generally been considered in most denominations that apostles and prophets no longer exist, and only the pastoral, teaching and evangelistic gifts are still available. This attitude has been developed for two main reasons:
A reluctance to recognise the ministries of apostles and prophets in case there is undue elevation of these persons. Bureaucratic church officials cannot cope with the attraction that is generated by these two ministries, because they have desire to conform all ministries to a set type. Denominations prefer clones rather than charismatic leaders.
Apostolic and Prophetic ministries carry a greater level of authority than the others and this is hard to accommodate in a “democratic” system of Church government. Many church organisations have developed a bureaucratic administration rather than dynamic leadership raised up by God. The natural tendency is to suppress such gifted ministries, or to force them out of the fellowship because they cannot conform to the “norm”. The end result of this policy is to inhibit the emergence of apostles and prophets by reducing every minister to the level of the lowest common denominator.
For most of those concerned with the operation of ministry gifts this is the burning issue. Do the two ministries of the apostles and prophet still occur in the modern Church, or were they discontinued after the end of the first century? There are many opinions that impinge on these ministries, and the negative attitude of most of the modern Church is clear. Such ministries are not easily accommodated in almost all denominational environments, even if they are not specifically proscribed. This is testimony to either the Cessationist attitude of the denomination, or the low level of their expectation that these ministries will emerge.
THE CESSATIONIST SYNDROME
Those who are committed to the idea that all supernatural endowments were withdrawn from the church with the death of the last apostles appointed by Christ, must of necessity find some means of understanding ministry gifts in the modern era.
The usual approach is to deny any apostles were appointed after the original twelve. However this becomes complicated by the appointment of Matthias, through a technical selection process, and the divine appointment of Paul, as the apostle to the Gentiles. If there were only to be twelve then one of these is unnecessary, and in either case the church would be wrong in its recognition.
The result of such an attitude the scriptures poses significant problems. The Cessationist does not merely delete two problematic ministries from the list, but is also forced to reduce the function of the others to a level considerably below their New Testament status. The only example of an evangelist specifically named in scripture is that of Phillip who is supernaturally endowed in ministry. Many miracles occurred in his service as an evangelist. The Cessationist must also emasculate this ministry until it functions only at the level of words, not deeds.
The teacher is similarly deprived. Paul calls himself ‘a teacher of the Gentiles,’ but it is obvious that his teaching was consistently based on revelation rather than reason. There is little room for this type of teacher in most modern churches.
There are no specific examples of a New Testament pastor, yet this ministry is deemed to be the most common in the modern church. It is also considered that of a quite ordinary manager of people, who depends on training and human techniquues for success in ministry.
However, the cessationist ignores the fact that all New Testament ministries, including any pastors, were people who were dependent on the supernatural empowering of the Holy Spirit. Instead of allowing that only the ministry of apostles and prophets have been discontinued they must also admit that their modern minister of any type bears little resemblance to the New Testament counterpart.
Without this supernatural dimension of enablement being available to the modern minister a distortion of the ministry gifts given by Christ to His Church occurs. Then there is no certainty that those called ministers by the churches of our day are ministers at all. The cessation of ministry gifts cannot be contained to the apostle and prophet. If it is true it will affect all ministries.
The issue of apostles and prophets cannot be examined without facing the issue of cessationism. Those who believe that all miraculous signs were withdrawn from the Church with the death of the apostles appointed by Jesus, also declare that the ministry of the apostle and prophet is no longer existent or necessary. B. B. Warfield is most emphatic in claiming,
“These gifts were not the possession of the primitive Christian as such, nor for that matter the Apostolic Church or the Apostolic age for themselves, they were distinctively the authentication of the Apostles. They were part of the credentials of the Apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church.”
The virulent debate at the beginning of the Pentecostal revival brought hostile reaction to the idea that signs and wonders, miracles and healings were possible in the modern church. In order to counter this possibility it was taken for granted that the apostolic and prophetic ministries that were usually involved in the miraculous type of ministry were also withdrawn. In fact the whole idea of cessationism is predicated on the idea that Jesus appointed only twelve apostles. Once they died out so did their miraculous ministry.
Cessationists have a hard time explaining why signs and wonders are documented for hundreds of years after the death of the last original apostle. Their theory demands an abrupt end to the miraculous. To be consistent, Cessationists must be able to prove that not one miracle occurred after the ‘Twelve’ were gone. They cannot, and their theory is demonstrated to be fraudulent. It is the result of a pre-determined bias against the supernatural signs that accompany the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not supported by Church history.
However the Cessationist argument actually has another effect that is even more damaging to the Christian faith. The ministry gifts and the local churches are not anointed with supernatural power to produce miracles. Their primary objective is to manifest Jesus to their community. He is the fulfilment of every ministry gift and the only role model for leadership and church life. The idea that supernatural empowerment and manifestation is no longer available is actually a dilution and distortion of the ministry of Jesus Himself. As the Head of the Church He is continuing his ministry on earth right now. The denial of the ministry gifts of apostle and prophet or of the manifestation of miracles is actually a declaration that a different kind of Jesus exists now.
It is tragic that some of the established Pentecostal movements actually agree with B B Warfield in respect of the cessation of apostolic and prophetic gifts. They do not realise that in adopting this position they cannot hold to the continuance or restoration of miraculous signs and gifts, including the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. This type of selective cessationism is both contradictory and ridiculous. If the apostles and prophets were only for the first century then Benjamin Warfield is right, and all miraculous signs have ceased.
The reason that some of the modern Pentecostal movements adopted a cessationism attitude to apostolic and prophetic ministries is because these gifted ministries operate at a supernatural level more than others. They do not easily fit within the constraints of an hierarchical or democratic denominational system. Those who have settled for mere bureaucratic function, or the security of a democratic system cannot contain the ministries of apostles and prophets. Denominational administrators and managers will always be nervous of the authority generated by the ministry of the apostles. It is not derived from denominational headquarters, and cannot be controlled by either the hierarchy, or the systems they create.
“Those that can, do; those that can’t, teach; those that can’t teach, administrate”,
may be tragically applicable to at least some of the Pentecostal movement. Administrators frequently rule the church, and confine all spiritual activity to a level they can control. As a result, the belief system of their churches is reduced to a cerebral level instead of depending on spiritual power. In some of the Pentecostal denominations many of those with apostolic gifts that could have brought life and growth to the church have been forced out. They then conduct their ministries independently, or have raised up their own apostolic networks. It is rare to find a Pentecostal denomination that has been able to accommodate apostles. In this respect what has emerged in the Australian Assemblies of God in the past twenty years is quite unique.
There is a wide divergence of opinion about both the function and the repeatability of the offices of apostles and prophets in the end time church. The general view is that there were only a limited number of apostles who are non-repeatable. It is admitted by the proponents of this view that the notable first century leaders like Paul, and James, the Lord’s brother, may have been elevated to the original governing group of apostles. However they insist that all others who appear to have been designated apostles were on a different, and very generalised level, similar to messengers or support ministries.
Anthony Palma, a Bible College faculty member of the US Assemblies of God, and a regular author in their official magazines, observes that in the later epistles of Peter, John, Hebrews and Revelation there is no mention of either apostles or prophets. He suggests that this is some kind of proof that they did not exist at this stage of Church history. I wonder if all other subjects such as water baptism, the Baptism of the Spirit, healing, laying on of hands, giving, and other teachings omitted from these epistles would suggest that these were no longer practiced or believed by the Early Church!
These epistles do not specifically mention the ministry gifts of evangelists, teachers or pastors either. Palma is inconsistent in his suggestion that these three ministry gifts are the only ones that have survived, while apostles and prophets have passed from the church scene.
Anthony Palma also makes a clear distinction between the original Twelve Apostles that he designates ‘restricted’ and ‘nonrepeatable’, and a more broadly used list of apostles who are ‘merely’ messengers of the churches. He has to strain at this issue since these so-called first class second-class apostles were co-existent in the First Century.
The New Testament writers nowhere devalue the ministry, appointment or importance of those who were declared to be apostles after the original Twelve. In fact their very association with the original apostles, and the designation given to them, would lead everyone to believe that they were the same type of Ministry Gift.
Palma admits at the end of his article on apostles that throughout history:
‘there have been persons with ‘apostle like’ ministry that results in the establishment of churches and manifestation of signs and wonders.’
His General Superintendents, G Raymond Carison was not afraid to declare that Smith Wigglesworth was an apostle. He also includes a number of other historic figures,
“… such as Luther, Hudson Taylor, John Wesley … tp name a few.”
If these people have ‘apostle like ministries’ it would seem simpler to just acknowledge that the Lord is still appointing all of the five ministries to His Church rather than attempting to degrade them. Those that are ‘apostle like’ are most likely ‘apostles’! Unfortunately this is an example of the line of teaching emerging in the colleges and seminaries of one of the Pentecostal movements that owes its origin and development to mighty apostolic gifts.
Tragically, they have now reduced all ministries to the level of the lowest common denominator. Dr George Batson, Dean of Graduate Studies at the Assemblies of God’s Continental Theological Seminary in Belgium adopts the same line as Anthony Palma. He declares that the word ‘apostle’ has both a broad and narrow meaning. He prefers to isolate this term from the modern Church and says,
“It seems better to take ‘apostle’ as a technical term, not transferable to an office in the post apostolic age.”
This idea also prevails in the official Systematic Theology of the USA Assemblies of God subtitled ‘A Pentecostal Perspective’. Modern apostles and prophets are not referred to once in seven hundred pages. It is mystifying to know how it would be possible to present a Pentecostal perspective of the Church without a definitive declaration of the existence and ministry of apostles and prophets in the modern church. It is ironic that Rodman Williams in his Renewal Theology, which he subtitles – ‘Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective”, [sic] actually provides a detailed analysis of apostles and states:
” … however here apostles need to be understood in a broader way as Christ’s continuing gift to his Church.”
“God has appointed in the church first, apostles. Such appointment must refer to more than an act or acts of past history – especially since Paul continues with other appointments that indicate an ongoing occurrence. Hence, whether apostles are spoken of as Christ’s gift or God’s appointment, they do have vital significance for the life of the Church at all times in history.”
John Calvin, although the father of cessationism, gives more possibility of the ministries of apostles and prophets occurring in the modern church than some of the Classical Pentecostal movements do. He wrote in his Institutes:
“Those who preside over the government of the church are called apostles, then prophets, thirdly evangelists, fourthly pastors and finally, teachers. Of these only the last two have an ordinary office in the church; the Lord raised up the first three at the beginning of the kingdom, and now and again revives them as the need of the time demands.
These three functions were not established in the church as permanent ones, but only for that time during which churches were to be erected where none existed before, or where they were to be carried over from Moses to Christ. Still I do not deny that the Lord at a later period has raised up apostles, or at least evangelists in their place, as has happened in our own day. For there was a need for such persons to lead the church back from the rebellion of the Antichrist. Nonetheless, I call the office ‘extraordinary’ because in duly constituted churches it has no place.“
The current attitude of the Assemblies of God theologians in the USA is all the more regrettable for two reasons. Firstly, their movement began in the power of the Spirit with an open recognition of ministries that had the ability to breakthrough, and establish dynamic churches. Secondly, their own doctrinal statement still acknowledges the availability of apostles and prophets in the modern church.
“Christ’s gifts to the Church include apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers (Ephesians 4:11), exhorters, administrators, leaders and helpers. (Romans 12:7,8) We understand God’s call to these ministry gifts is totally within His sovereign discretion without regard to gender, race, disability or national origin.”
It is ironic that this statement should appear in the official bylaws of the Assemblies of God when most of their Bible schools seem to be sanctioned in undermining this basic principle of restoration – the full function of all ministry gifts. It is even more ironic that the US Assemblies of God actually goes further in their positive declaration by allowing for the possibility of a female apostle. Most Pentecostal movements have not been prepared to assert this. It is apparent that there is more than one way of losing a vital truth. Some churches have lost their heritage by rabid denial of the truth, while others have just forgotten who they were.
In order to fill the void caused by the loss of apostolic leadership many churches have opted for human appointments instead of the sovereign selection of the Lord. Reinhold Ulonska, former General Superintendent of the Federation of Free Pentecostal Churches in Germany appears to have a clear understanding of this issue:
“This is a danger today that there is Christian managerism instead of authority. One can hear: ‘Leaders have to multiply themselves. Let us train as many as possible and qualify them by a sound education. But the Bible says that we cannot give someone a divine call. We can educate them and equip them within the already existing call from God … … The church cannot make apostles in their own authority. Even a message from a prophet is not enough. Determining for this ministry is the charisma of the Lord. The Church has to examine apostles. She will recognise the grace of the calling of an apostle and appreciate it.”
Source: David Cartledge, The Apostolic Revolution: The restoration of Apostles and Prophets in the Assemblies of God Australia, Published June 2000/August 2000, (Publisher: Paraclete Institute, AUS). Pg. 231-42.
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