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New Apostolic Reformation Examination of the Five-Fold Ministries

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  • New Apostolic Reformation Examination of the Five-Fold Ministries

    Very informative and well articulated article that hits a number of major points. A must read in my opinion. (posted with mod permission).

    New Apostolic Reformation Examination of the Five-Fold Ministries - Part 1
    by Gary Gilley

    The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is one of the largest, broadest and most powerful movements within Christianity today, yet it flies largely under the radar. Even those involved often do not understand the movement to the extent that they may even deny they are part of it. This confusion is due to the fact that NAR does not have official membership or even leadership. Rather, NAR is a loose coalition of mostly Pentecostal and charismatic Christians, organizations and churches that are united over a particular understanding and interpretation of certain portions of Scripture. The interpretation of these New Testament texts are widely held by those connected with NAR and focus mainly on the miraculous sign gifts. Some have equated NAR with the so-called Third Wave of Pentecostalism (the first wave started with the birth of the Pentecostal movement in 1901, the second wave is identified with the charismatic movement in 1960 and the Third Wave which emphasizes power evangelism, healings and spiritual warfare led by John Wimber and the Vineyard Movement in the 1980s). Yet, while there is certainly overlap between NAR and the Third Wave, they are not identical. The universal mark of NAR is the acceptance of the “Five Fold Ministries.” Most Christians believe that Ephesians 4:11 speaks of five essential ministries and offices needed for the church, those of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, but that two of those offices – apostles and prophets, have ceased to function for centuries. According to the NAR the Lord has restored these two ministries in order to begin the process of setting up His kingdom on earth. In conjunction with the return of apostles and prophets all the sign gifts have been reinstated as well, and are expected to be evident in the lives of most if not all Christians. There are a number of commonly held doctrines and practices within NAR, as will be demonstrated below, but the unique feature of NAR is the office of apostleship being reestablished. Pentecostals and many charismatics have long held that prophets live among us, but only recently has anyone of significance claimed the same for apostles. Before we get ahead of ourselves, however, we need to back up and take a look at the origin of NAR as well as its leadership.

    NAR’s Foundation
    Since NAR is an alliance united over a distinctive understanding of the five-fold ministries, there is no organization or established leadership as such. Nevertheless, C. Peter Wagner (1930-2016) is the recognized founder and father of the movement. Wagner held much influence in a wide range of Christian thought and practice throughout his long life. He was a missionary, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of World Missions, author of over 70 books, president of Global Harvests Ministries, and chancellor of Wagner Leadership Institute which is a training ground for those interested in NAR. In the 1980s Wagner came under the sway of John Wimber and his Third Wave theology. Michael Moriarity explains that

    Wimber has been influenced by the view that Jesus’ ministry is to be an inbreaking of the kingdom by combining the proclamation of the kingdom with its demonstration (the casting out of demons, healing the sick, raising the dead, and so on). Christ’s followers have received Christ’s authority and must proclaim the kingdom and exercise the authority in his name. The key for effective evangelism is combining the proclamation (preaching the Gospel) with the demonstrations (signs and wonders).[i]

    Wimber and Wagner would famously teach a course at Fuller Seminary during the 1980s entitled “MC510 – Signs, Wonders and Church Growth.” Later Wagner adopted spiritual warfare ideas and techniques that even Wimber could not accept. These will be explained further below. As Wagner began to draw other unusual doctrines from a number of sources he eventually attempted to bundle them under an umbrella he called “The Postdenominational Church.” Apparently receiving criticism over this title from some of his friends, including Jack Hayford, he changed the name to “The New Apostolic Reformation.” Wagner, at this point, believed the church had entered the “Second Apostolic Age” which he says began in 2001.[ii] Many of the ideas that Wagner would come to champion were not new and have been circulating in Pentecostal, Word of Faith, Vineyard and other charismatic movements for years. What NAR has done to a large degree is incorporate and represent many, if not most, of these groups and ideas without actually forming an official organization.

    Nevertheless, some of the leaders and establishments often associated with NAR, and accepting of most of their distinctions, include: Mike Bickle and his International House of Prayer (IHOP), the Kansas City Prophets including Bob Jones and Paul Cain, Bill Johnson and his Bethel Church, Rick Joyner, founder of Morning Star Ministries, Todd Bentley, Brian and Bobbie Huston of Hillsong Church, Cindy Jacobs of Generals International, Michael Brown and Rod Parsley,[iii] and Youth With A Mission (YWAM).[iv]

    Theological Distinctives
    What differentiates NAR from evangelicals and even other Pentecostals cannot be nailed down with precision. That is because NAR, as stated above, is neither an official organization nor monolithic in its beliefs. NAR adherents can be found in the Word of Faith, prosperity gospel, Pentecostal, charismatic and Third Wave movements. Those familiar with Bethel Church in Redding, California, know that it clearly fits the NAR description as does Hillsong, YWAM and IHOP. But, increasingly NAR doctrines and philosophies are creeping into mainline, non-charismatic churches and organizations. Therefore, while there remain significant differences between those aligning with NAR, there are, nevertheless, some common denominators that all would accept. All individuals, churches and organizations that could be identified as part of NAR would agree with the following distinctives:
    • The restoration of the five-fold ministry. This is the essential foundational doctrine of NAR upon which all of its other philosophies rests. Based on Ephesians 4:11-13, in conjunction with Ephesians 2:20 and 1 Corinthians 12:28, NAR leaders believe that all five ministries listed in these texts, which were given to establish and equip the church, are fully operational today. Conservative evangelicals have unanimously agreed that the offices of evangelist, pastor and teacher have been functioning since New Testament times, although grammatically pastors and teachers describe one office, not two, i. e. pastor/teacher. Historically, however, Protestants have taught that both offices of apostle and prophet ceased at the close of the New Testament canon as their purpose, which was to lay the foundation of the church, was completed (Eph 2:20). Once the foundation of the church was erected, the roles of apostle and prophet were no longer needed and thus they faded from the scene. Today the work of equipping the saints is carried on by the evangelists and pastor/teachers. Pentecostalism, however, has taught from its inception that the office of prophet has been restored, or never ceased to exist at all. If prophets still roam the earth new revelations from God should be expected, and Pentecostals have long embraced and expected this to be the case. In more recent times, not only have charismatics accepted the existence of prophets but so has much of mainstream evangelicalism. Wagner and the leaders of NAR, however, believe that the office of apostle has now been restored as well. It is thought that God is doing a new thing in our day in preparation for the coming of His kingdom on earth and the modern day apostles will lead the way. According to one source there are approximately 400 recognized apostles as of 2010 who are members of the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders.[v]
    • Supernatural signs and wonders. It should first be admitted that signs, wonders and miracles have a base in Scripture, but their frequency and purpose is often overlooked. First, as to their frequency, we find that there have only been three periods of time in which miracles were common in biblical history. The first was during the ministry of Moses, in particular in Egypt at the time of the Exodus, and periodically during the wilderness wanderings. Following the death of Moses, and under the leadership of Joshua, God certainly did some wonderful things, but miracles of the type Moses performed are not evident. Centuries later, during the prophetic ministries of Elijah and Elisha, a second season of miracles were evident with a combined total of 21 miracles performed. With Elisha passing it would not be until the time of Jesus’ ministry, and subsequently that of the apostles, that miracles would reemerge. Signs and wonders, contrary to the assumption of some, simply did not occur throughout biblical history but were confined to these three segments of time.

    Why this is true speaks to the issue of the purpose of signs and wonders. God is always able to perform miracles, and often does so as He wills. But when He has chosen to do so at the hands of individuals there is a particular reason. Miracles serve to authenticate the lives, ministries and message of these individuals who were sent by God. Moses came to Egypt able to call down judgments on the Egyptians and their gods in order to demonstrate that God was superior to all the mythological deities worshipped by the greatest nation on earth. At the same time the Jews became convinced that Moses was God’s man calling them to return to the Promised Land. Elijah/Elisha show up at a dark hour in the land of Israel to remind the Jews that God still reigned despite the corruption permeating God’s people. The time had come for them to choose between Baal and Jehovah, and the prophets’ miracles gave forceful and clear evidence as to who was truly sovereign.

    When Jesus began His public ministry no one had performed a miracle in centuries, nor had prophecy been given by God since Malachi, some 400 years prior. The ministry of Jesus was filled with miracles including everything from healing the sick (John 4:46-53), to feeding thousands (John 6:1-14), to raising the dead (John 11:1-44), to commanding the weather and nature (Matt 15:28-33), to casting out demons (Matt 8:28-34). The question is why did Jesus do these things? We are not left to speculate. Jesus was not putting on a magic act, nor was He merely relieving suffering. He was giving irrefutable evidence that He was God, and salvation is found only in Him. “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you many believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). The signs were not just random acts of mercy and power, they pointed to the person and message of Jesus.

    The apostles followed this same pattern after the ascension. The book of Acts, beginning with 2:43 records dozens of “wonders and signs” which took place through the apostles during the early days of the church. Their purpose was not simply to heal people, cast out demons, or even to cause death (5:1-11), but to demonstrate that God had given them the authority to lead the newly formed church and proclaim the message of the gospel. Power attracts certain kinds of people and so we are not surprised that a number claimed to be apostles who were not sent by God (2 Cor 11:13-15). But how were the people to distinguish between false apostles with their deceitful message, and God’s apostles with the message of truth and life? Paul shows the criteria in 2 Corinthians 12:12, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” The supernatural abilities that the Lord gave His early spokesmen verify that they had His authorization and, most importantly, His divinely inspired message. Later the author of Hebrews concurs, “After it was at first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” It was for this reason that Jude could confidently write, “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 17). And Peter affirmed the same, “You should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles” (2 Peter 3:2). The apostles were the divinely appointed foundation of the church (Eph 2:20) who spoke an authoritative message, inspired by God Himself (Eph 3:5). Since the early church did not yet have the New Testament Scriptures, which would be the written record of the apostles’ teachings (Acts 2:42), it was necessary that those who had God’s infallible communication be vindicated by signs. With the completion of the New Testament canon such vindication is no longer necessary. The Word speaks today from the authority of an inspired, God-breathed, text. It is for this reason Peter could write, “We have the prophetic word made more sure [literally: “we have the even more sure prophetic word”], to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place” (2 Pet 1:19). God’s complete revelation as found in Scripture is more than able to make us “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 2:17b). Nothing needs to be added, nothing should ever be taken away (Rev 22:18-19).

    With this biblical backdrop, it should be noted that miracles and healings are a key component for NAR and all who are involved. NAR followers believe that modern Christians are called to be part of an army of miracle workers. And it is believed that doing miracles is a skill that can be taught. Witness Bill Johnson’s and Bethel Church’s School of Supernatural Ministry which boast 2000 students who are taught how to do miracles.[vi] Some of the miracles border on the ridiculous such as claims of gold dust falling, heavenly clouds (the Shakina Glory) appearing, angel feathers flying about, and teeth being filled with gold are not uncommon. Christianity Today reported that Johnson’s wife and some other Bethel leaders “have been said to practice ‘grave sucking’ or ‘grave soaking,’ purportedly a means of absorbing the spiritual anointing of deceased Christians by lying atop their graves.”[vii] Called by various names, such as Manifest Sons of God and Joel’s Army, some believe that greater wonders are taking place than even happened at the hands of Jesus.[viii] But when we examine the many reports of miracles and healings a serious disconnect between Scripture and contemporary practices is evident. At the hands of Jesus, or the biblical apostles, healings were immediate, complete and undeniable but these features do not attend the claims of healing ministries today. Jack Deere, a charismatic theologian and former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, defends this disconnect: “It is wrong to insist that the apostolic ministry of signs and wonders is the standard for the gifts of healing given to the average New Testament Christian.”[ix] Deere clearly recognizes that modern healings are not of the same nature as healings found in Scripture. Whatever is going on today in the charismatic movement is not on par with what was taking place in the New Testament.
    • Demonic warfare: Hand-in glove with miraculous gifts goes demonic or spiritual warfare. NAR did not originate today’s obsession with the demonic which has roots that go back to the early days of Pentecostalism, but NAR has added some new twists and wrinkles. Many bizarre claims and teachings fall under this grouping. For example, believing a demon called the Queen of Heaven, who rules over the 10/40 Window, was camped out on Mount Everest, some NAR’s leaders claimed to have climbed to her encampment to engage her in spiritual warfare (although no independent source has verified this expedition).[x] Wagner himself taught three levels of spiritual warfare in his book Confronting the Powers. The highest level is known as “strategic-level intercession” in which attempts are made to confront and dispose of territorial demons. Popular methods often used include “spiritual mapping” in which research of a city, region or nation is engaged to discover which territorial spirit reigns in that area. Once discovered, the spirit is confronted by name in order to “tear down its strongholds.” Another popular method is prayer walking in which teams of believers walk neighborhoods, cities and the like to engage in spiritual warfare prayer. Demons apparently, according to NAR proponents, control geographical regions and must be dethroned by these methods. Demons also seek to bring harm to individuals through generational curses, which are curses placed upon one’s ancestors that can be removed only through some form of spiritual warfare techniques developed by means of extrabiblical experimentation. And when one encounters economic struggles and health problems these are often traced to demonic activities. Demons with names such as “cancer” or “poverty” must be cast out in order to bring relief.[xi]
    • Dominionism: Closely connected with spiritual (or demonic) warfare is the idea that, since Adam lost dominion of the earth to Satan, it is now our task to take it back. Specifically, there are seven areas that Christians must endeavor to dominate: government, arts, finances, education, religion, family and media. This is known within NARs as the Seven Mountain Mandate. As Christians take control of these seven mountains the kingdom of heaven will be brought to earth, at which time Jesus will return (known theologically as postmillennialism).[xii]
    • Revivalism: Some see “revival on a massive scale as key to this movement.”[xiii] By that it is meant that NAR sees itself ushering in the kingdom of God via an end time harvest of souls. In addition to the methods already mentioned in this paper, NAR leaders use music (Hillsong and Bethel set the standard), large rallies in stadiums which are live streamed globally, and a plethora of other big means and events in an attempt to bring about worldwide revival. NAR’s postmillennialism allows little place for an end time falling away from the truth, rather the NAR’s message is promoted heavily in order to bring about the revival that will allow for the return of Christ. As reported in Christianity Today (CT), “Revival is the unifying theme at Bethel.”[xiv] Interestingly, although Bethel Church can check off every one of the characteristics of a NAR connected organization, Bill Johnson in the CT article referenced above denies any official ties with NAR. This shows the difficulty of nailing down those involved.
    • Extrabiblical revelation: At every level, and in every related group, personal revelation supposedly from the Lord is central. This should be expected since what distinguishes NAR from most other evangelical teachings is that they are drawing from a different source from that of other Christians. While proclaiming to be committed to Scripture the truth is that prophecies given to their apostles and prophets undermine and add to the inspired Word of God. Even at the grass-roots level the average adherent to NAR expects to hear a personal word from the Lord regularly, and these messages determine what they believe and how they live far more than the Bible. However the Bible itself is being invalidated by such supposed messages from the Lord. Recently the “apostle” Brian Simmons claims that he was directed by the Lord to produce a new translation called the Passion Translation which twists Scripture to support NAR’s theology.[xv] At best the Passion Translation is a one-man paraphrase designed to give some validity to the methods and teachings of NAR. It is being used widely by those in the movement.

    In the second part of this article we will examine how NAR is now infiltrating non-charismatic evangelical churches without awareness of the danger by most.

    by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher, Southern View Chapel, Springfield, IL

    [i] As quoted by Richard Fisher in The Quarterly Journal, October-December 2011 p. 7).
    [ii] Ibid., p. 8.
    [iv] R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec, God’s Super-Apostles, Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement (Wooster, Ohio: Weaver Book Company, 2014), pp. 84-85, 89.
    [v] Ibid., pp. 16-17.
    [vi] Martyn Wendell Jones, “Kingdom Come in California, Christianity Today May 2016; p. 33.
    [vii] Ibid., see also:
    [viii] R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec, pp. 102-114.
    [ix] Nathan Busenitz, Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray, Finding Our Way Back to Biblical Truth (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2017), p. 240.
    [x] R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec, pp 79-80.
    [xi] Ibid., pp. 1, 49, 51, 79-90, 102-114.
    [xii] Ibid., pp. 51, 81, 87-88.
    [xiv] Martyn Wendell Jones, p. 33.
    [xv] R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec, pp 67-69.
    John 14:6
    Jesus answered, "I am the WAY and the TRUTH and the LIFE, no one comes to the Father except through Me."

  • #2
    New Apostolic Reformation Examination of the Five-Fold Ministries - Part 2

    New Apostolic Reformation Examination of the Five-Fold Ministries - Part 2
    by Gary Gilley

    Having surveyed the foundation of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and some of its theological distinctives in the first part of this article, we will now press on to investigate its infiltration into wider evangelical circles. We will then put the teachings of NAR to the test of Scripture.

    The influence of NAR has become broader, and therefore more dangerous, as many of its ideas are being accepted by traditionally non-charismatic churches and organizations. This acceptance is due to a number of factors.
    • Bethel, Hillsong and IHOP music has found enthusiastic reception in churches, youth ministries and among young adults throughout the evangelical spectrum.
    • Many have no understanding of the teachings of NAR and no concept of what it is.
    • Influential NAR teachers and books are making in-roads into evangelical circles.
    • Due to rampant biblical illiteracy and general apathy toward Scripture and theology, fewer Christians are alarmed or even aware that false teaching and deception is taking place. Not surprisingly those who attempt to warn about NAR or other false teachings are often vilified and labeled as negative, legalistic and haters.

    The mainstream evangelical church is ripe for the infiltration of NAR and so it should come as no surprise that many are embracing this errant teaching. As an example of how this is taking place I will be referencing a book, published in 2016 by Nathan Brewer entitled, The Pulse of Christ. Brewer is founder and director of Kyrios Ministries which is devoted to international discipleship and missions. He has fully embraced, and in this book is promoting, the five-fold ministry as propagated by NAR. Both in Europe, where he presently lives, and in the United States, his book and ministry are being endorsed by non-charismatic evangelical churches and Christians. Two interesting observations should be made at this point. First, Brewer never actually mentions NAR although he references some of its resources and adopts its theology. Secondly, Brewer never attempts to explain or defend his interpretation of Ephesians 4:11, an understanding which is held by very few Christians and virtually no conservative Bible scholars. However, Brewer is concerned not with exegesis but with application, toward which end he offers numerous practical exercises to develop the five-fold gifts. He believes that all five gifts are not only operational today but to some extent all Christians possess all five and should develop them[1] (pp. 25, 32), although some have a distinct calling (p. 32). These gifts need to be pursued and developed (p. 172), therefore Brewer devotes a chapter for each of the five gifts, complete with several exercises to be used in small groups. Some of the exercises, especially on evangelism, teaching and shepherding, are useful. The problem comes in the areas of apostleship and prophecy. Let’s take a look.

    If apostles exist today it would be expected that the rest of the church would submit to their authority. With this is mind we learn that “the NAR practice of submitting to an apostle is referred to as seeking spiritual covering (or spiritual protection) under the authority of an apostle.”[2] In the New Testament apostles were chosen specifically by Christ (Matt 10:1-4), had to be eyewitnesses of the resurrected Lord (1 Cor 9:1; 15:7-8), were assigned the task of laying the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20), and were limited to 12 men (Rev 21:14). The NAR apostles, by contrast, are chosen by other “apostles”, have not seen the resurrected Lord (although some have claimed to have done so), have no need to add to the church’s foundation, and number 400 and counting. The need for apostles in the NAR system becomes evident when one notes from the New Testament that the apostles received prophecies and gave God’s people inspired revelation (1 Cor 2:13; 1 Thess 2:13; 1 John 1:1-3; 1, 2 Tim 1:13; 2:2; 3:14-17), performed signs and wonders and miracles (Acts 2:43; 3:3-11; 5:12), and had authority over the churches (1 Cor 5:5; 1 Tim 1:20; Phile 9). It is based on the idea that the office of apostleship has been restored. NAR teachers believe additional revelation, prophecies, miracles, healings, and exorcism, are all fully functional today. They contend we have returned to the apostolic age, the Kingdom has begun, and the new super-apostles of NAR are leading the way.

    Brewer believes that both the gift and office of apostle exists today,[3] and that every Christian possesses and should develop this gift, although some have been distinctively called to be apostles.[4] Coupled with apostleship are the miraculous sign gifts, in particular healings and demonic warfare. Concerning healings Brewer patterns his thinking after the “Power Healing” ministry of John Wimber and the Third Wave Movement.[5] Those implementing these methods are encouraged to go out into the streets, find someone they think needs to be healed and “command the pain to go, or the certain body part to be restored in Jesus name.”[6] Brewer offers no guarantee that the healing will be successful, but promises “the outcome of increased intimacy with the Father for praying outweighs healing.”[7] Concerning spiritual warfare, including tearing down demonic strongholds, Brewer says these can take place through the “apostolic strategy” of going to “a high place overlooking the city and transform your city through prayer.”[8] These apostolic gifts and strategies are not an end in themselves; they are a means by which the kingdom of heaven is brought to earth. Brewer writes, “As ambassadors of the King and his culture in heaven, we bring heaven to new areas of earth, which moves toward the Kingdom in its fullness of healing and wholeness.”[9] As was mentioned earlier in this paper, NAR leaders believe they have been called to take back dominion of the earth from Satan and his demons. This is done largely through the use of miraculous powers spearheaded by apostles who have authority over all that opposes Christ.

    Prophets are second only to apostles in the New Testament and NAR, along with many in the Pentecostal/charismatic movement who are in lockstep with NAR, and also believe that the office of prophet has also been reinstated. However, virtually no one believes that today’s prophets have the same status that the biblical prophets had. Biblical prophets, when prophesying for the Lord were incapable of error (Deut 18:20-22) and faced death if they were wrong. But many in the contemporary church have accepted Wayne Gruden’s thesis that New Testament prophecies were and are fallible, being a mixture of a word from God and one’s own ideas or imagination. In his Systematic Theology Grudem writes, “Prophecies in the church today should be considered merely human words, not God’s words, and not equal to God’s words in authority.”[10] Jack Deere, who claims to be a prophet himself, admits that modern prophets are prone to errors and mistakes and says, “Prophets are really messy. Prophets make mistakes.”[11] As is obvious, prophecies of today are not in the same league with the inspired prophecies of the Scriptures, and one has to question the value of fallible and mistaken prophecies. Nevertheless, supposed prophecies today are often published in places such as the Elijah List and Charisma magazine, apparently with little concern for their accuracies.

    Brewer believes the gift of prophecy has been restored and defines it as “receiving from God his love and perspective about a person, church, city or nation, and communicating it for the purpose of encouragement, strengthening and comfort.”[12] All Christians have the ability to prophesy,[13] and when God gives them a message they should write it down and refer to it later, much as one would the Bible.[14] So convinced is Brewer that all can prophesy on demand that he provides an exercise in his manual in which participants draw random numbers and prophesy on the spot concerning those who correspond to those numbers.[15] Brewer admits that not all prophecies are fulfilled and that the source of these supposed revelations might very well be our own spirit, or even an evil spirit.[16] But none of this keeps him from encouraging all believers to exercise the gift of prophecy.

    Extrabiblical Words from God
    In a related category, but perhaps not quite up to the level of prophecy, are the constant references throughout NAR of God speaking to virtually all believers, audibly and inaudibly. Such assertions are hardly shocking today since they are prevalent throughout all spectrums of evangelicalism. Indeed, those who are far removed from any official form of Pentecostalism regularly declare revelations from the Lord. These revelations are seldom elevated to the level of inspiration, but we would have to ask in what sense does God ever speak in a non-revelatory manner? Can God speak in a non-authoritative way? Can God whisper fallible, errant ideas and words into the minds or ears of His people. If so, no such revelatory example can be found in the Scriptures. As with all other modern day charismatic practices, whether they be tongues, miracles, healings, or prophecies, hearing from the Lord apart from Scripture does not match what took place in the New Testament. Nathan Busenitz addresses this subject in the book Right Thinking in a Church Gone Astray, “When we approach the continuationist/cessationist debate by first defining the gifts biblically, it becomes apparent that modern charismatic practice does not match the New Testament precedent.”[17] For example, tongues in the New Testament were the supernatural ability to speak authentic foreign languages unknown to the speaker. But virtually no one in the charismatic movement today would make such a boast. D. A. Carson, himself a continuationist (that is believes in that the Lord speaks to us today apart from Scripture), confirms, “The few instances of reported modern xenoglossia are so poorly attested that no weight can be laid to them.”[18] Modern tongues simply are not languages as was true in Bible times. Turning to prophecy, we find biblical prophecy authoritative, inspired and inerrant, but such is not the case concerning modern prophecies which can be in error, partially given by God and partially from one’s imagination. This is admitted by even the strongest supporters of contemporary prophets, as earlier quotes demonstrated. When we turn to miracles and healings, the same disconnect between Scripture and present day practices is evident. At the hands of Jesus or the apostles, healings were immediate, complete and undeniable but these features do not attend the claims of healing ministries today. As stated earlier, whatever is going on today in the charismatic movement is not equivalent to what was taking place in the New Testament.

    Somehow this seems to go unnoticed by many, and that is true of those connected with NAR. Turning back to Nathan Brewer he writes, “Many Christians struggle to hear from God or say they can’t, but that’s a lie from the enemy. Come to him with an expectation, he loves to communicate with His children.”[19] Brewer even teaches techniques on how to hear from God:

    Prepare your heart and mind to receive from the Lord. Relax by taking a few deep breaths. Tune out things around you… Invite the Holy Spirit to come into your mind, fill your heart, and speak to you in a personal way. This process to relax and tune out may take a few minutes, so just be patient and wait for his presence… After you sense something, write it down. Even if you are unsure if it was from God, just write it down.[20]

    It is instructive to read the biblical base given for these prescribed techniques. While stating in other places in his book that God speaking to believers today is not equal to the inspired revelation of Scripture, Brewer nevertheless uses God’s words given to the biblical writers as his rationale for God speaking to us now and for us writing down His supposed words. God told Isaiah, Brewer confirms to “take a large scroll, and write on it with a man’s pen” what the Lord had shown him (Isa 8:1). Habakkuk was exhorted, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets” (Hab 2:1); the apostle John is commanded to “write what you see in a book regarding the churches” (Rev 1:10-11), and again “write this down” regarding the vision of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:5).[21] Somehow Brewer, and most others who accept the view that God is speaking to us today outside of Scripture, misses the clear implication of what they are saying. Certainly the human authors of Scripture were inspired of God and directed to write down their revelations. But that does not give other Christians the right to give the words that come to their minds inspirational authority, nor are they commanded to write them down because the biblical authors did. There is a link missing between how God spoke to those who would record His Word and the supposed words from God that many are claiming today. That link is Holy Spirit inspiration. The biblical authors confidently spoke and recorded the very words of God (1 Thess 2:13). They did not need to learn a technique on how to discern the voice of God, nor did they have to wonder if God was speaking to and through them, or if their imaginations had deceived them. But Brewer, representative of so many others, is not concerned, “Do not be discouraged if you feel like you can’t sense the Lord’s voice. It is a gradual learning process, like a skill that can be continually improved.”[22] In contrast, those who heard from God, as recorded in the Bible, did not need to learn a skill, never doubted if the voice they heard was God’s or their own, never mixed revelation from God with their imaginary thoughts, never spoke of inner voices that were inaudible, and never doubted the authority of the words they heard. They were hearing from God, and their witness of God speaking was very different from the claims we here in the 21st century.

    Biblical Examination
    Challenges to NAR’s theology have already been addressed throughout this article but it would be good to briefly summarize the biblical teachings on some of the key components of the movement:

    The Cessation of Apostles and Prophets
    At the heart of NAR’s theology is the interpretation of Ephesians 4:11-13 which NAR leaders unfortunately believe teaches the present existence of the “five-fold” ministry. Two exegetical mistakes are made with the text. First, and of lesser consequence, is the separation of “pastor” and “teacher” into two offices. While English translations give the appearance that pastors and teachers are distinct the Greek implies otherwise. John MacArthur summarizes the consensus view in his commentary, “‘Pastors’ and ‘teachers’ are best understood as one office of leadership in the church. Often the word “and” (kai) means ‘that is’ or ‘in particular,’ making teachers in this context explanatory of pastors. This meaning cannot be conclusively proven in this text, but the text of 1 Timothy 5:17 clearly puts the two functions together…” If this is the case, then the five-fold ministry is quickly reduced to the four-fold ministry.

    But more important are the positions of apostles and prophets. Both roles were clearly foundational in the New Testament as the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20). If there were additional apostles and prophets today their function would still be that of laying the foundation of the church. That is, additional doctrines and instructions to God’s people would be laid on what is already found in the New Testament – which would be a recipe for confusion and disaster. The apostles and prophets received divine revelation to pass on to God’s people (Eph 3:5). It was to them that “the faith” (the New Testament body of truth) was “once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3, cf. v. 17). Peter called on his readers not to seek additional revelation but to “remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandments of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles” (2 Pet 3:2). The book of Hebrews concurs, “After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (2:3-4). The NAR leadership knows these passages but reject their meaning by teaching that God is doing a new thing in our age. In order to do a new thing there needs to be new authority. And new authority, authority to add to or supersede the teachings of Scripture, requires apostles. And thus the rise of the office of apostleship, an office even historic Pentecostals recognize as no longer operative. Not only does Revelation 21:14 clearly teach that there were only twelve apostles of the Lamb, we also recognize that nowhere in the New Testament is found a plan or instructions to replace the original Twelve. As they died they were not replaced by others and, with the death of John, the last of the apostles left this earthly scene and none has taken their place.

    Another exegetical fallacy NAR makes with the text is that the grammar of the passage does not support the assertion that all of these ministries were expected to continue throughout the church age. Nathan Buzenitz writes, “Rather, it is the ‘building up’ process of verse 12 (and not the ‘giving’ of apostles and prophets in verse 11) that is said to continue until the church reaches a state of maturity (v. 13). Though the apostles and prophets were limited to the foundation stage of church history… the ‘building up’ of the church has continued throughout the centuries.”[23]

    The Working of Miracles
    A key teaching of NAR is that people can be trained to work miracles today. Yet not only is there no evidence in the New Testament that anyone was ever taught how to do miracles, instead miracles were performed only by a very select group of people and for a very particular reason. Jesus, of course, performed miracles of all kinds, but as a sign pointing to the fact that He was “the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). Almost all miracles recorded in the Bible subsequent to Jesus were at the hands of the twelve apostles, “Many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles” (Acts 2:43). Numerous miracles in the book of Acts come through the ministries of the apostles, but there are only two instances where non-apostles did so: Stephen (Acts 6:8) and Philip (Acts 8:6), and these men would easily fit the category of biblical prophets who laid the foundation of the church (Eph 2:20). To our knowledge no one else ever worked a miracle, nor do the New Testament epistles, from which we derive our church-age teachings, do anything more than mention miracles in passing (e.g 1 Cor 12:28-30). It is obvious that miracles were not a key ingredient in the early church. We do find, however, that they had an important function – to authenticate the true apostles. In the face of some who claimed to be apostles, whom Paul called false apostles (2 Cor 11:13), he verified his apostolic credentials by saying, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles” (2 Cor 12:12).

    Add to this biblical evidence the fact that the supposed miracles and healings today bear little resemblance to the New Testament counterparts. Whatever is going on today in the charismatic movement, and within NAR, it is not the same thing that happened in the first century.

    Demonic Warfare Strategies
    Lastly, because of the prominence of spiritual warfare within NAR a quick look at what the Bible says about this is warranted. Almost nothing that NAR advocates concerning battling demons has a biblical base. Spiritual mapping is never found in Scripture, there is no evidence for territorial demons, nor prayerwalks, nor rebuking demons, nor ancestral curses. Jesus and a handful of apostles addressed demons, but believers are never instructed to do so in the New Testament. There are only three texts in the epistles that inform us of how to war with demons, and all three say the same thing. In James 4:7 and 1 Peter 5:8 we are told to resist the devil, and when we do he will flee from us. Ephesians 6:10-18 expands on the instruction of James and Peter by commanding the believer to be strong in the Lord’s strength, stand firm against the schemes of the devil, resist in the evil day, and put on the full armor of God. Paul concludes by calling us to prayer. But at no point are we told to take an aggressive stance, to rebuke the devil, break down his strongholds by marching around his territory, or any other such techniques. Resist and stand firm are defensive stances, and to that we are called. Our mission is to draw near to God (James 4:8), be firm in our faith, (1 Peter 5:9), apply God’s spiritual armor (Eph 6:14-17), pray at all times in the Spirit (Eph 6:18). In other words, focus on Christ (Col 3:1-4) and the means that He has supplied to grow in grace. Fixation on the devil is a distraction and a trap and never called for in the Scriptures.

    Hopefully this paper has given the reader enough information to recognize and guard against the influences of NAR. Identification is often difficult, not only because there is no official organization or membership but because those who are involved, as is evident by their common views on the five-fold ministry and all that is associated with it, often claim to be evangelical and hold many orthodox theological views.

    For example, the website for a newly planted NAR church in my city offers this in its section on what they believe:

    We are “Good News” Christians; in church lingo that means “Evangelical Christians.” We believe that God is in a good mood and brings Good News though Jesus Christ. Our beliefs have foundations in the Apostles’ Creed (c. A.D. 215) and the core principles of the Protestant Reformation (A.D. 1517), namely the ultimate and essential authority of the Scriptures for Christian faith and practice, salvation by faith alone, the priesthood of all believers and the power of the Holy Spirit. We believe in the Trinity; that God is the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, died on the cross, that He was physically raised from the dead, ascended to heaven and will someday return. We also believe that an individual’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior determines an individual’s eternal destination of heaven or hell.

    When Jesus said, “Come, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest… (Matt 11:28-30) the plea was for everyone to come, no exceptions. Our heart’s desire is not to change you but instead to do our best to be REAL. To be RELEVANT and to walk with each other in RELATIONSHIP so that together we might find ourselves being more like Jesus every day.

    This can be quite confusing. When one digs deeper they will find that this church has all the theological errors of NAR–related churches, yet they affirm the Apostle’s Creed, claim to be evangelical, and hold to the core principles of the Reformation. It is not until one gets to the last paragraph that they begin to wonder if something is askew. After all, the call of the church is not to be real and relevant but to produce disciples of Christ (i.e. to change us).

    When a description of the pastors of this church is read things really begin to come into focus. The biography of one couple who are both pastors of the church reads:

    Both [husband and wife are] graduates of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry in Redding, CA. They both have a heart to see the Kingdom of God advance. Although [R’s] main focus is in being the Chief Financial Officer for D. Church, his most prominent passion is in pastoring and connecting. [H] is the Director of Administration at DC and has a finger print on everything that needs organized. She is the head of missions as well as the Director of Five Fold International, which is the covering of DC.

    While some of these terms will float over the heads of many, Bethel and its School of Supernatural Ministry, advancing the Kingdom of God, Five Fold International, and covering should send up warning flags for any who have read this paper.

    How can we safeguard ourselves and those we love from the destructive influence of NAR? First, it is imperative that we have a good, and growing, grasp of Scripture and theology. Deception is most powerful when people are lacking knowledge. A mechanic can take advantage of me, if he wants to, because I do not know much about cars. Similarly, false teachers prey on those who are ignorant of the fundamentals of the faith.

    Secondly, even those with a good grasp of biblical truth can be deceived by movements such as NAR if they believe that new revelations, which move beyond and are not tied directly to Scripture, are possible. It is essential to understand that all we believe concerning life and godliness must emerge from the Word of God (1 Pet 1:3; 2 Tim 3:16-17). It is not enough that a particular teaching does not seem to contradict Scripture. The real issue is whether it is drawn from Scripture.

    Third, our discernment skills should be sharp. Hebrews 5:14 calls for maturity and chides believers who have become lax and apathetic in their Christian walk, “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” When virtually every New Testament book warns of false teachers and deception, and 1 Timothy 4:1 says that “in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,” it is time for believers to take these warnings seriously. The contemporary church is woefully unprepared to combat fraudulent theology on the level of NAR, and it is for that reason it, and related groups, are growing rapidly.

    Finally, believers should be involved in a church which takes the Word of God seriously. Far too many Christians are content to attend mediocre churches which have entertaining music, fun programs and excellent coffee bars. Churches are to be the “pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15) and, if the one you attend is not living up to its divine job description, a new one which does should be sought out if at all possible. Believers need likeminded brothers and sisters who are serious about the Word and serving Christ based on that Word (Heb 10:23-25). If you can’t find a good church that teaches the Bible faithfully, find a believer or two who shares your commitment to sound theology and truth who will sharpen you in the faith. None of us can afford to be ignorant of Satan’s schemes (2 Cor 2:11) and our only safeguard is the inspired, infallible revelation of God in the Bible itself, not the imaginations of people.

    by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher, Southern View Chapel, Springfield, IL

    [1] Nathan Brewer, The Pulse of Christ, a Fivefold Training Manuel (Xulon, 2016), pp. 25, 32.
    [2] R. Douglas Geivett and Holly Pivec, God’s Super-Apostles, Encountering the Worldwide Prophets and Apostles Movement (Wooster, Ohio: Weaver Book Company, 2014), pp. 10, 11.
    [3] Nathan Brewer, pp. 45-75.
    [4] Ibid., pp. 25, 32.
    [5] Ibid., p. 64.
    [6] Ibid., p. 68.
    [7] Ibid., p. 69.
    [8] Ibid., p. 49.
    [9] Ibid., p. 64.
    [10] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), p. 239.
    [11]Quoted by Nathan Busentiz in Right Thinking in A Church Gone Astray, Finding Our Way Back to Biblical Truth
    (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2017) p. 239.
    [12] Nathan Brewer, p. 79.
    [13] Ibid., pp. 80-81.
    [14] Ibid., pp. 85-86.
    [15] Ibid., pp. 87-93.
    [16] Ibid., p.90.
    [17] Nathan Busenitz, p. 119.
    [18] Ibid., p. 240.
    [19] Nathan Brewer, p. 83.
    [20] Brewer, pp. 84-85.
    [21] Brewer, p. 85.
    [22] Brewer, p. 86.
    [23] Nathan Busenitz, p. 122.
    John 14:6
    Jesus answered, "I am the WAY and the TRUTH and the LIFE, no one comes to the Father except through Me."