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THE VINEYARD AND THE KANSAS CITY PROPHETS (A REPORT FROM 1991 WORTH READING IN 2011)



Posted: 07/21/11

Vol. IV, No. 2                    Mar-Apr 1991

The Vineyard and

the Kansas City Prophets

by Robert Dean, Jr.

 

January, 1989-Anaheim, California.  I was attending my first conference held at the Vineyard Church.  Before attending I had done my homework.  I had read the books authored by John Wimber, listened to various tapes, and had read numerous articles, both in favor of and critical of the Signs and Wonders movement.  I was looking forward to hearing Wimber live for the first time and was curious to see if the meetings would be as weird as I had been led to believe.  Nothing I had read prepared me for what transpired.

Unfortunately I was to be disappointed in that Wimber relinquished most of his teaching time to a newcomer to the Vineyard, Paul Cain.  However, in Cain, I, as well as the large crowd, was introduced to a phenomenon more weird than I could ever imagine.  A modern day prophet who claims to be personally commissioned by Jesus Christ.  One who claims to see blue lights singling out people God would heal.  One who claims to be able to call out people and give not only their names and addresses, but to also know intimate details about their lives, including their secret sins.  At those meetings I also heard Mike Bickle, pastor of the then Kansas City Fellowship.  Little did I realize how significant those people were to become in the coming years.

This last year Cain, Bickle, and Wimber were thrown into the national spotlight as a result of numerous charges of aberrant practices leveled by a highly respected pastor of one of the largest charismatic churches in the Kansas City area.  He charged them with propagating "charismatic heresy."  Major articles on the controversy and the new role of prophecy in charismatic churches were written in major national Christian magazines Charisma, Ministries Today, and Christianity Today.  Cain and/or Bickle were featured on the covers of Ministries Today and Christianity Today.  While much ink has been spilt over the details of the controversy it should be of great concern to many that few of the articles attempted to analyze the various claims and practices from a Biblical perspective.

In that controversy a number of charges were leveled at the KCF prophetic ministry.  This controversy focuses our attention on many of the doctrines and practices that are becoming prevalent today.  These doctrines and practices are not only influencing many traditionally charismatic churches, but also many traditionally non-charismatic churches.  We want to focus our attention on the controversy and determine what lessons we can learn.

These issues should not be taken lightly.  At the very heart of the controversy lies the fundamental question of whether God still speaks to his people today apart from Scripture.  In other words, did revelation cease with the end of the apostolic age and the closing of the canon of Scripture?  If revelation has continued, if God is still speaking, then no Christian worthy of the name would desire to cut himself off from a message from God.  However, if revelation has ceased, if prophecy has not continued, then a great danger of deception is present in the church. 

We will begin by reviewing the key people involved, the development of the controversy itself, the basis for the truce that was called, and the repentance of the KCF leaders for some of their practices.  The second part of the article will focus on the underlying Biblical issues, the nature of prophecy, the continuation of revelation, and the basic tenets and doctrines espoused by the KCF and Vineyard Churches.  These will be evaluated in light of the Scriptures. 

I do not write this review lightly.  Over the last year I have read most of the major documents produced in the controversy.  In October 1990, Tommy Ice and I spent four hours with pastors from the KCF (Bickle, Cain, and Wimber were in England at the time).  Since then I have listened to hours of tapes, poured over transcripts, and talked with some of the key leaders at Ernie Gruen's Full Faith Church of Love West who were intimately involved in the controversy.

 

The People

 

Ernie Gruen.  Gruen is the highly respected pastor of the Full Faith Church of Love West (FFCLW), an independent charismatic church in Shawnee, Kansas.  Over the years he has ministered to many charismatics within the area and several of the men on staff at KCF have at one time or another been under his ministry.  He was one of the first pastors in the area to encourage Bickle when he arrived in 1982 to begin the KCF.  Over the years he gave his support to Bickle when others were skeptical.  Beginning in 1984 he became concerned about reports of some of the teachings and practices he was hearing about.  This led to a series of meetings with the KCF leaders that culminated in the controversy of this last year and publishing the "Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship (Grace Ministries)." (Hereafter "Doc."

 

Mike Bickle, pastor of the Kansas City Fellowship.  Bickle claims to have founded the KCF as a direct result of divine revelation.  This is traced to the prophecy of a man named Augustine who told Bickle that God was going to raise up a mighty work in Kansas City that would be characterized by a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  During this time thousands of young people would be attracted, the rise of false prophets who would seek to destroy it, and the development of resistance would come from many.  Bickle claims that he heard God speak to him in an audible voice while he was in Cairo, Egypt, in September 1982.  God called him to "raise up a work that will touch the ends of the earth."  Bickle had been pastoring a church in St. Louis that was tied in with the house church movement in England, a product of the restorationist movement.  By November, Bickle began meeting with men around the clock to pray for the new church.  On December 5 the Kansas City Fellowship began meeting and has grown to a congregation of over 3,000.  In the last few years they have closely networked with not only the Vineyard churches, but also Rick Joyner of MorningStar Ministries, Francis Frangipane and Reuben Doron of River of Life Ministries, as well as Larry Tomzcak and C. J. Mahaney of the People of Destiny.  In May 1989 Bickle approached Wimber to join the Association of Vineyard Churches.  This came to completion in May 1990.  In October 1990 the KCF changed their name to Metro Vineyard. 

 

In 1986 the leadership of the KCF organized the Grace Ministries Church Planting Team to plant churches and committed "to seeing the church fully restored to the glory described in God's Word."  There are seven aspects to the overall vision of Grace Ministries: 1) Apostolic Teams, 2) City Churches, 3) The House of Prayer, 4) The Joseph Company, 5) The Israel Mandate, 6) A Ministry Training Center, and 7) Shiloh Ministries. 

 

Bob Jones, is clearly one of the most controversial figures in the KCF.  In the document produced by the FFCLW there is documentation that he "has been a spiritual tutor and confirming "guide" to Mike Bickle and Kansas City Fellowship's leadership."  Our sources in Kansas City say that Jones was a paid staff member at KCF until at least this last year.  However, this was denied by the staff members we interviewed at KCF. 

Jones' history, by normal Christian standards, is bizarre to say the least.  When he was nine years old an angel announced to him God's calling.  When he was 13 the Lord spoke his name while he was walking past a cane field and reaffirmed the calling.  Again when he was 15 the Lord visited him.  After years of spiritual rebellion, brawling, and alcoholism, he was admitted to the VA hospital in Topeka where he was told he would remain the rest of his life.  Nine days later a demon allegedly appeared to him with a list of 12 people responsible for his mistreatment and told him to kill them.  According to Jones, he turned to God who audibly spoke to him and told him to forgive them.  The next day he was miraculously healed and released from the hospital. 

"He went from seeing demons regularly (" . . .I didn't have trouble seeing the devils at all . . . I knew the devils real good when I drank -used to party with 'em out in the beer joints . . .") to suddenly seeing angels regularly and having strange nightly visions and out-of-body experiences.  Both Jones and Bickle estimate that "Bob normally gets 5 to 10 visions a night, maybe sees angels 10 to 15 times a week," and has done so since 1974.  If accurate, this translates to 27,375-54,750 visions in addition to 7,800-11,700 angelic visitations thrown in for good measure." (Doc.: 10) 

When we questioned the KCF pastors about this they sought to downplay these figures.  They stated that no such statement was made by Jones and was at best a gross exaggeration.  However, the figures for the dreams were published in an article on Jones in the Grace City Report Special Edition.   Jones' life is marked by out-of-body experiences, near death experiences, dreams, visions, angelic visitations, and healings.  More such supernatural events occur within his life in a year than are mentioned in the entire Bible!

Information on the background of John Wimber and Paul Cain can be found in Biblical Perspectives  Vol. III. Nos. 3 & 4.

 

The Course of the Controversy

 

1.    During the late 1980's a series of meetings took place between the leaders of the KCF and FFCLW to discuss the many reports of false prophecies and strange practices at the KCF.

2.    February 1989:  The last meeting occurred at which time the KCF leaders believed the differences had been cleared up.

3.    October 17, 1989:  Gruen sent a letter to KCF member Ray Thompson.  Gruen stated that the differences were cleared up and the two congregations had come together in brokenness and humility.  This seemed to end it for the KCF and they expressed surprise over the message Gruen preached in January.  However, after the October incident, sources at Gruen's church state that several more incidents involving false prophecies and strange teachings surfaced.  Gruen no longer believed it was in the best interests of the church to keep silent. 

4.    January 21, 1990:  Gruen preached a message entitled "Do We Keep On Smiling And Say Nothing?" in which he leveled several serious charges and accusations against the KCF.

5.    Bickle responded with an open letter dated Jan. 29, 1990 claiming the accusations were based on a confusion of facts and wrong information.

6.    April 1990:  Paul Cain and John Wimber met with Gruen and his staff in an attempt to resolve the differences.

7.    May 1990:  Gruen publishes a 233 page document entitled "Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship (Grace Ministries)".  This document contained additional charges to those in the sermon with accompanying documentation including statements from transcripts of KCF teaching, letters, and personal testimonies.  The resultant distribution of this brought the controversy into national prominence. 

8.    June 12-14, 1990:  Jack Deere met with Gruen and his staff to evaluate their charges and seek reconciliation.

9.    June 28, 1990:  Paul Cain, Jack Deere, and John Wimber presented their response to Gruen.  Gruen agreed to stop the attacks on KCF and to cease distribution of the document after July 31, 1990.  He also agreed to distribute a letter outlining the points that he felt they had either overstated or reported inaccurately.  The majority of these concessions had to do with the ministry of Paul Cain.

10.  June 28, 1990:  John Wimber and Mike Bickle make a public statement of repentance at the Kansas City Fellowship. 

11.  Fall 1990:  Vineyard Ministries published an issue of Equipping the Saints that contained a response to the charges by John Wimber, an interview with Paul Cain, and a brief article on some of the changes that have taken place at the KCF (Metro Vineyard).

 

The Charges

 

The charges are delineated in a 233 page document entitled, "Documentation of the Aberrant Practices and Teachings of Kansas City Fellowship (Grace Ministries)," prepared by Pastor Ernest Gruen and members of his staff.  Here we found documentation of exaggerated and false prophecies by KCF staff.  Many of these were used to promote their own ministry and used to influence other churches to come under the KCF umbrella.  Strange teachings, i.e., Bob Jones use of the Shepherd's Rod ceremony and the idea that New Testament prophets are fallible.  Documentation of occult type activities such as the promotion of out of body experiences.  Documentation of institutional and psychological harm to people as a result of words allegedly coming from God.   Various false doctrines that are documented include an "elected seed generation" theology to promote their uniqueness.  A "new order" doctrine which teaches that the new order following the pattern of Samuel will replace the old order after the pattern of Eli.  Dominion theology is a strong element.  They deny this, but it is clear from our conversations with them that they do not understand Dominion Theology.  They know it is controversial so they want to deny any association.  Doctrine about seeking new revelation from God including seeking dreams, visions, communication with angels, the dead, and out-of body experiences.  Doctrine about the restoration of the gift of Apostles and Prophets, and that hundreds of these will be trained at KCF.  Further a number of ethical compromises are documented including Bickle's teaching against his charismatic brethren and then actively seeking their support.  Inconsistency in his support of Bob Jones, depending on how the groups he is addressing views Bob Jones, as well as not keeping financial promises.

This is only a short summary of the various charges brought against KCF.  Numerous pages of quotations, testimonies, and letters from first hand witnesses support the allegations.  A large majority of the charges, but by no means all, relate to the ministry of Bob Jones.

In light of both the seriousness of the charges and the large amount of evidence supporting them, it would be reasonable to expect that when the KCF leaders issued a statement of correction and repentance that this would include point by point refutation of the charges.  As we will see, they only admitted wrong doing in a few minor instances or in very general terms.  However, by finding a few errors and some minor discrepancies in the documentation, and emphasizing those in detail, KCF has tried to convey the impression that most of the charges were either unfounded, misunderstandings, differences in opinion, or based on speculation.

 

The Resolution and Repentance

 

On June 28, 1990, in a meeting between Bickle, Cain, Wimber, Gruen, and members of his staff a truce was called.  It is important to recognize that it was not a reconciliation.  Paraphrasing Wimber, most of the key issues were not resolved, Gruen and his staff remained unshaken in their conviction that Mike Bickle is a deceiver of the brethren, that Bob Jones operates out of occult power, and that many teachings and ministries that come out of KCF are indeed suspect.  However, Gruen and his staff were willing to remove themselves from the controversy and turn the problems over to the leadership of the Vineyard churches.  In my opinion, to ask the Vineyard to police the problem was asking the fox to protect the hen house. 

After the truce was called, the Vineyard publicly rebuked Bickle and the KCF leadership for various practices which they found not to be in order.  In Wimber's introduction he stated his firm conviction that elders found in sin were to be publicly rebuked (1 Tim. 5:19,20).  Wimber emphasized that the Vineyard had begun to investigate several things about the KCF even before Gruen's document in view of Bickle's request to join the Association of Vineyard Churches.  He says that they discovered only a few of the problems pointed out by Gruen, but they found others.  Wimber stated that with the exception of the "city church" doctrine (that God only intended one church per city and KCF was it for Kansas City) he found nothing reprehensible in what was taught at the KCF.  He found only sins of omission and no sins of commission.  Bickle then read a prepared statement repenting from a few of the things pointed out by Gruen as well as admitting to and repenting of the errors brought to light by the Vineyard.  The outline of his repentance follows (Tape: Public Discipline of Mike Bickle).

 

            I.          Charges the Vineyard found to be true or                                   partially true.

A.     An exaggeration in reporting the fulfillment of prophecies to enhance their ministry. 

1.      This involved the reporting in 1986 of a drought during the summer of 1983.  Bickle reported this prophecy made by Bob Jones.  For various reasons Bickle misrepresented some times and dates.  On closer examination the three month drought did occur.

2.     Admission to errors concerning the reporting of a prophecy made by Bob Jones concerning the death of some people at a former church.  Bickle admitted that some of the facts he related were exaggeration, but for the most part the prophecy was accurate.

B.      KCF has released unguarded and unnuanced statements regarding their role in last days ministry that has provoked other churches in the Kansas City area.  Bickle admitted that making  these statements was an act of pride and inadvertently developed an attitude of elitism among some of the people.

C.    KCF was guilty of exalting the prophetic                         ministry.

D.     The prophetic ministry has been guilty of releasing a number of inaccurate prophecies.

 

            II.         Areas discovered by the KCF and Vineyard                               before Gruen's Document

A.     A lack of accountability for prophecies that don't come true or bear witness of the person receiving it.  Bickle stated that some of their prophets had given a word and the person did not receive it.

B.      The releasing of men to minister publicly in a teaching format who are not qualified as teachers.

C.     The attempt by some prophetic ministries to establish doctrine or to establish practice by revelation alone apart from clear Biblical support.

D.      Dogmatic assertions in the deliverance of the                prophetic word.

E.      On several occasions they gave negative statements about people in public instead of private settings.

F.      Predictions in the area of babies or marriages except in the case of barrenness.

G.     The prophetic ministry has given direction to staff members without going to the person in authority over them.

J.       The use of prophetic gifting for controlling purposes.

K.     Using types and shadows to establish doctrines.

L.      Teaching or implying that KCF and the Vineyard are an elite group or that we are leaders of a new elite group that are about to be revealed by God.  This has had the impact of creating an elite spirit.

M.    Using jargon that reflects the teaching of groups we don't want to be aligned with, i.e., Manifest Sons of God or Latter Rain.

N.     Calling John Wimber or others apostles or prophets instead of apostolic leadership or prophetic ministry.  John Wimber is adamant about not being called an apostle.

 

In the Fall 1990 issue of Equipping the Saints Wimber wrote a response to the charges.  In that article he freely admits to some problems at KCF and gives a more detailed response to some of the other charges.  He admits to problems of exaggeration.  However, he cites only the drought prophecy as an example of alleged fabrication and shows that Bickle mistakenly reported the facts.  The true facts he said still verify the prophecy. 

He then refutes one example of ethical compromise in the charge that Bickle failed to uphold a financial commitment.  His evidence appears to exonerate Bickle of this charge.  Regarding charges that KCF tried to take over two congregations, he gives evidence that they willingly joined KCF.  However Gruen documented other cases, i.e., the prophecy over the Word of Life Christian Fellowship, which was ignored in the Vineyard response.  Regarding the testimonies of disgruntled people and the testimony from a psychologist, Wimber correctly argues that this sort of evidence is weak.  They could produce an equal number of testimonies and psychologists reports that support them.  Wimber also rejects Gruen's charges that the children at KCF's Dominion Christian School are manipulated.  Unfortunately he focuses on statements by Gruen that the education level is below par.  This was not the thrust of Gruen's statements.  By shifting the focus, Wimber neatly sidesteps the charge.

 

Evaluation of the Repentance

 

At first glance this response by the Vineyard/KCF to the charges may indicate to some that they are honestly attempting to grapple with the problems and to correct the abuses and aberrations in their ministry.  It seems to me that to respond is such a favorable manner is exactly what they desire.  A closer examination of what has taken place however, reveals that little changed except that the Vineyard was able to manipulate Gruen's church out of the battle.

Before focusing on some of the questionable statements here, let me first recognize that Gruen and his staff did admit to some mistakes, but these were minor.  They continue to affirm 90% of the charges and believe the documentation to be accurate.  In their response to the charges the Vineyard and KCF overlook the vast majority of the charges.  Those they do attempt to answer are answered in what appears to me to be a vague and misleading fashion.

For example, in the repentance statement read by Bickle he stated the KCF was guilty of releasing unguarded and unnuanced statements regarding the role of KCF in the last days ministry.  Notice, there is no retraction of the teaching, but only a recognition that stating it the way they did fostered a spirit of elitism.  One glaring omission in the entire statement is the repentance of any of the doctrines which they hold.  In effect they say that they were stated in inappropriate ways.  Nevertheless they still hold to and propagate those false teachings. 

The fourth statement, that KCF was guilty of releasing false prophecies sounds great, but means nothing.  Since KCF and the Vineyard believe that New Testament prophets not only do not need to be 100% accurate, but will be wrong much of the time, they will always be guilty of releasing false prophecies. 

When all is examined the statements made by Wimber and Bickle are woefully inadequate.  Because of the way they understand the gift of prophecy and the operation of the Spirit of God, it was a foregone conclusion that they could not come to terms with Gruen's charges.  Their attempt to put out the fire was masterful.  It has been my experience in dealing with their leaders that they will do anything to articulate their beliefs in ways that appeal to whoever their audience is.  If a person comes from a charismatic background they will talk about the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a post salvation experience.  When talking to a non-charismatic they will agree that it can occur at salvation (Todd Hunter, Workshop on Spiritual Gifts, Spiritual Warfare Conference, Jan. 1989, Anaheim CA).  In fact, they believe both!  In reality it seems to me they believe anything as long as they can avoid controversy.  This is what makes them so dangerous and so deceptive.  Even they admit they are always in a process of flux.  Anytime they hold to a doctrine or practice that becomes divisive it seems to me they retreat, repackage, and reteach.

Has the KCF really repented and denounced their error?  A number of Charismatic and Pentecostal leaders remain skeptical.  Jewel van der Merwe, wife of an Assembly of God pastor, has followed the conflict from the beginning and does not see any change.  "I do know that the tapes are continuing to be churned out and the same scary stuff I was hearing eighteen months ago, I am still hearing with even more boldness." (Discernment, April 8, 1991)  Charismatic leader, Derek Prince, in a statement issued after the "repentance" said, "a mere change of label or of leadership, by itself, is not sufficient" to correct the "occult element."  Prince added that "the material circulated by KCF contains many statements which have no basis in Scripture and are frequently contrary to Scripture."  He calls some of the revelations "absurd and even blasphemous," and warns that "much of the material is permeated by what I consider to be occult influence." (Quoted in Discernment)  While the KCF may have changed some terminology and become more discreet in their packing, the heart of the KCF message remains the same.

 

The New Testament Gift of Prophecy

 

At the very root of this controversy lies the issue of continuing revelation.  Interestingly enough both opponents believe in the continuation of revelation and the continuation of the gifts and/or office of apostle.  Clear Biblical answers to these questions are imperative.  It should be obvious to all but the most superficial thinker that differing or opposing answers to these questions must ultimately lead to two radically different types of Christianity.  In the past years there has been much effort to gloss over the differences between those who accept the continuation of these gifts and those who do not.  While I am not at all suggesting that the answer to this question will determine a person's eternal destiny, I am suggesting that the answer to this question will inevitably lead to two completely different and irreconcilable approaches to the Christian life.  How a Christian is to respond to tests or problems, how they are to seek guidance and make decisions, how they view the sufficiency of the Scripture, and how they interpret their experiences or empirical data are just some of the areas affected.  If we understand this, then we should not be surprised when we discover that the more emphasis a group place on these gifts and their restoration, the more their doctrinal error and strange unbiblical practices. 

As I write this I realize that many of our readers hold to a moderate charismatic position.  While you may not agree with my conclusions, I hope to raise some questions that may help you think more clearly about these issues. 

 

What is New Testament Prophecy?

 

I remember studying the spiritual gifts as a young pastor and discovering the wide array of definitions given for the New Testament gift of prophecy.  There seems to be little consensus about the nature of NT prophecy.  Some teach that it was an ecstatic gift of revelation, some that it was non-ecstatic, some emphasize the two aspects of foretelling and forthtelling.  Those in this latter group will often say that in the OT and apostolic period the foretelling aspect was dominant, but now the forthtelling aspect is dominant.  They thus equate prophecy with proclamation, i.e., strong preaching.

In the midst of this confusion a new view has come in to prominence, espoused by Wayne Grudem, professor of NT Greek at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  He argues that the NT apostles were the functional equivalent of the OT prophets.  They were in authority over the NT prophets.  This, he suggests, indicates that NT prophecy is something less than OT prophecy.  It consists of impressions which God gives the individual.  Since the individual may misunderstand or misinterpret these impressions NT prophecy is open to error and is not required to meet the 100% accuracy demand of the OT.  This view underlies much of the thinking about prophecy in the Vineyard Movement.

In view of the proliferation of definitions we must turn to the Scripture, our only source of Light.  There we are not left with confusion about the definition of prophecy.  Since prophecy is a form of revelation (a point that will become clear) we must first understand some things about revelation. 

The basic question we are dealing with here is:  does God continue to speak to His people today in the same ways that He did during the period of the Old and New Testaments?  First, the Bible speaks of two types of revelation.  The first is usually referred to as general revelation.  General revelation refers to God's non-verbal communication through the means of natural phenomena (cf. Ps. 19:1; Rom. 1:19, 20).  All that can be derived from general revelation is general information, but the Bible states that it is enough to convict the unbeliever for his rejection of God (Rom. 1:18-31).  The second type of revelation is usually referred to as special revelation.  Special revelation refers to the direct intervention by God in the normal course of creation to communicate specific information to man.  Both the source and the mode of special revelation are supernatural.  It is also verbal.  And, most significantly, it is always inerrant because its source is God "who cannot lie" (Titus 1:2).  An examination of Scripture shows that God used a variety of means to communicate to men:  dreams and visions (Gen. 28:10-17; 37:5-11; Ezek. 1, 2; Matt. 1:20; 2:13, 19; Acts 10:10-16); personal appearance (Gen. 15:17, 18); angels (Dan. 8:15-26; 9:20-27); audible voice (Jn 12:28); the inspiration of the writers of Scripture (2 Pet. 1:20, 21; 2 Sam. 23:2). 

From this we see that the Scripture teaches that special revelation is the inerrant, verbal, and supernatural communication by God to men by means of the inspired Scripture, audible voices, angelic appearance, personal appearance, dreams and visions. 

We must also note that not all special revelation was inscripturated.  One of the points often raised in the contemporary debate over prophecy is its relationship to Scripture.  As in the KCF controversy, advocates of the contemporary use of prophetic announcement are often quick to point out that it is not to be accepted on par with Scripture.  They miss or ignore the point that all special revelation, whether or not it is inscripturated has equal authority because its source is the Almighty God of the universe. 

And since the source of all revelation and all prophecy is the Almighty, Veracious God all prophecy must be 100% accurate.  In Deuteronomy 18:9-22 three tests for prophecy were given:  first, a true prophet did not use omens, divination, or any of the means of foretelling used by the pagan fortunetellers; second, they never spoke in the name of other gods or taught that which contradicted the Word of God; third, what they predicted always comes to pass.  This third criteria is very important, from it we learn that whatever else prophecy may do in terms of edification, encouraging, or exhorting (1 Cor. 14:3), the critical element of prophecy that distinguishes it from all other gifts is the predictive element.  Prophecy then may be defined as the reception of special revelation and its communication to man.  In its doctrine it does not contradict the Scripture and in its predictions it is always accurate, both generally and in specifics.

 

Is the New Testament Gift of Prophecy a Permanent Gift?

 

The answer to this again must be grounded in the Bible.  Ephesians 2:20 states that the church is built upon the "foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone."  Three elements are present in the construction of the church.  First, the cornerstone Jesus Christ, came once in history.  He does not need to come in every generation like some Hindu avatar.  He came once!  Just as a building has only one cornerstone, there is only one Christ.  The second element is the foundation.  There is only one foundation for a building, once laid it is not repeated.  Prophets and apostles clearly served their function in the early church in the giving of revelation which laid the foundation for the church.  Once the giving of the Scripture was complete and God's instruction to man was complete then prophets and apostles, in terms of their role as mediators of revelation were no longer needed.

That Scripture is complete must be the conclusion drawn from passages like 2 Tim. 3:16, 17 which states that by the Scriptures every Christian may be completely outfitted and prepared for every good work.  This means that it is not necessary from God's viewpoint to say anything more in addition to what He has said because what He has said is enough.  This is backed up by 2 Peter 1:3, 4 which states:  "that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness . . . For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises in order that by them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust."  It is clear from these passages that the sufficiency of Scripture is inseparably linked with the cessation of revelation.  God has ceased giving new revelation because what He has said is enough.

Historically, the Christian church has always linked these two doctrines.  Vineyard people clearly see the linkage.  In an interview published in an Anglican church magazine, Wimber and Deere admitted to rejecting the sufficiency of Scripture because they realize that you cannot hold to a continuation of revelation in prophecy, words of knowledge, or revelation and other direct forms of Divine communication and the sufficiency of Scripture at the same time.

This clearly indicates that the NT envisioned a time when the gifts associated with special revelation would cease.  Some question this teaching saying that all the gifts were to continue.  It is at the very least clear that the gift and office of apostle was temporary and died with the last apostle.  This is supported for three reasons.  First, apostles had unique qualifications (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor. 9:11; 2 Cor. 12:12).  They were not only to have been commissioned by Christ, but had to have been witnesses of the resurrected Christ.  Paul apparently believed he was the last to see the resurrected Jesus which implies that he was the last to meet the requirements for apostleship (1 Cor. 15:8, 9).  Second, apostles possessed unique authority.  It was the apostles who communicated the body of doctrine to the church.  It was this deposit which saints are to contend for (Jude 8), and to remember the apostolic words (Jude 17), to remain faithful to the apostolic message (Hebrews 2:3, 4), and to guard the apostolic message (2 Tim. 1:14).  Third, although Paul used the term "apostle" to refer to men other then the Twelve (Paul included), close study of the term indicates both a general usage for someone sent on a mission and a more technical use referring to the Twelve.  Using words in both general and technical senses is not uncommon in either the Scriptures or everyday language.  An examination of Paul's use of the term "apostle" in 1 Corinthians and Ephesians shows that he associated the gift with the office.  In both books the term is regularly used for the formal office and it is clear that apostles are a limited group.  Another line of evidence which confirms this is that Judas was replaced by Matthias at his death (Acts 1), but James was not replaced at his death (Acts 12) and neither were any of the other apostles replaced at their deaths. 

Since at least one of the gifts was clearly temporary, it is not unlikely that both would also be temporary, since the other one in view is the other foundational gift-the gift of prophecy.

 

Conclusion

 

The development of conflict at the KCF is merely one of many examples of this sort of problem in the church today.  This is exactly what we can expect when the sufficiency of Scripture is denied and the doctrines of man are introduced into the church.  When the authority of the Word of God is replaced by the authority of inner impressions, thoughts, and feelings God's people will be left in bondage rather than in freedom.  Jesus promised that we could have freedom only through obedience to His Word.  When that word is merged with the words of man the result is the chains of religion, not the freedom of Christianity.

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READER FEEDBACK


Research Material needed
Posted On: 08/08/11 11:44:18 PM Age 0, VA
Thank you for publishing this. As a historcal researcher I'd be very interested in obtaining a copy of the Tape "Public Discipline of Mike Bickle" or a copy of the statemnt of correction from Vienyard mentioned in the Spet/Oct 1990 issue of Charisma. Also on my wish list is the mytical recantation of Ernie Gruen which nobody is able to produce and which Grien denied he had ever made shortly before his death. More needes listed here: http://beyondgrace.blogspot.com/2011/08/desperately-seeking-source-material.html

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