Saturday, December 22, 2018

A Biblical Critique Of The New Apostolic Reformation

           There is a global movement taking place within Christendom known as the New Apostolic Reformation, which maintains that God restored the offices of prophet and apostle so as to fix the problems of humanity. The ideological founder of this group is the charismatic theologian C. Peter Wagner. It is maintained that a consequence of the fall was that man lost his dominion over creation, and that Christ came not only to pay for our sins but also enable Christians to regain possession of the world. The hundreds of unaffiliated, self-governing churches and organizations which comprise this movement have been for a few decades striving to acquire or secure control over every sphere of business, culture, and politics. Members of the New Apostolic Reformation claim that God is giving new revelations to so-called prophets and apostles to aid in the process of establishing the universal sovereignty of the church. 

           The New Apostolic Reformation is purportedly working to bring the kingdom of God to earth. It is also responsible for a large proportion of the church growth in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. It has even infiltrated denominations, with the Assemblies of God in Australia being a prime example. In summary, the mission of various "apostolic networks" extends far beyond the preaching of the gospel and making disciples. Succinctly stated, the purpose of this essay is to address the claim that our Lord Jesus Christ instituted a five-fold ministry (i.e. neo-charismatic belief that all five offices mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-15 remain operative in contemporary Christianity).

           When considering the verses from Ephesians, it is important to note that the Apostle Paul wrote in the past tense. This is a reference to the apostles and prophets who were alive during the first century. The passage of Scripture being discussed is not suggesting a continuation of the two offices. In other words, it is not saying that God is giving or will assign apostles and prophets. They were a part of the church's foundation, with Christ being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20; 3:5). Christ completed His propitiatory work. The apostles and prophets delivered to us divine revelation. Moreover, Scripture speaks of the performance of miracles in the past tense (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4). The apostles and prophets are still edifying believers through their writings, which are self-sufficient (2 Timothy 3:15-17). God has now spoken to believers through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). The faith has "once for all" been given to the saints (Jude 3). Cults throughout history have made identical claims of receiving revelation from God.

           Nobody today can rightly claim to be an apostle, as is evidenced by looking at the qualifications necessary for one to obtain such an authoritative office. In order to qualify as an apostle, a person would have to be a direct eyewitness to the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:21-23; 1 Corinthians 9:1). In order to qualify as an apostle, a person would have been personally instructed by Christ (Luke 24:45; John 14:26; 16:13-14; Acts 1:2). Paul said he was the last appointed apostle (1 Corinthians 15:8). Therefore, this criterion is impossible to fulfill in modern times. Nobody wields the same authority today. Unlike the ministry of Christ and the twelve apostles, there are no verifiable miraculous accounts giving credence to the self-proclaimed apostles and prophets of this movement. Also, the prophetic utterances given are vague, subject to reinterpretation. Those who believe in the restoration of the five-fold ministry tend to teach that the so-called prophets and apostles deserve unquestioning acceptance, which is inconsistent with scriptural principles (Acts 17:11-12; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Galatians 1:8-9). Deuteronomy 13:1-5 and 18:21-22 lays out four guidelines as to what we should watch for when testing so-called prophets:

            * The utterance does not come to pass.
            * The utterance contradicts divine revelation.
            * The moral character of the person giving an utterance is inconsistent with office of profession.
            * The utterance exalts self, rather than God.

          Surely, this doctrinal test is quite problematical for all the self-proclaimed prophets in the New Apostolic Reformation, or any group that has a charismatic leader. There are literally no well-documented prophecies and miracles that these people can show us to demonstrate the validity of their ministries. If the Bible is already complete revelation from God, then why would we need prophets in the first place?

           Furthermore, the notion of the church bringing the kingdom of God into this world expressly contradicts biblical teaching. Jesus emphatically stated that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). The Kingdom of God is not a worldly kingdom, but a spiritual kingdom (Luke 17:20-21). His kingdom is not based on diplomatic relations. His kingdom does not require the approval of sinners. Scripture tells us that in the later days wicked men shall wax themselves worse (1 Timothy 4:1-4; 2 Timothy 3:13-14), not that matters will improve. It is the Holy Spirit that stimulates conversion of the human heart. Our mission as Christians is to present the unblemished gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). What the church needs to be preaching is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. That is the good news of salvation, which is not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9). We must entrust ourselves entirely to the power of God, who is working all things out to His eternal glory. Our undivided attention belongs to Him. We need not heed to subjective New Age occultism, but the objective Word of God. The New Apostolic Reformation is a significant source of aberrant doctrine. To make matters even worse, this movement has its own horrendously corrupt Passion Translation.

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