Signs Following

I have been profoundly challenged by a transcript of an interview with Dr Ern Baxter posted by Dan Bowen. The interview is from New Wine Magazine 1978 and covers the post-war Healing Movement, in particular Dr Ern Baxter's time with William Branham.

The name William Branham is not popular in many circles - especially reformed ones. I once cringed at the very name myself. Even after my own baptism in the Holy Spirit and openness to gifts of the Spirit and attending charismatic conferences, the man troubled me - seemingly mighty miracles were performed through him and yet he became a heretic. It is tempting simply to write him off, but I have come to realise that there is a danger of simply closing the door on that period of history and failing to learn its lessons, and failing to be challenged by the parts of the Healing Movement that were genuine moves of God.

The purpose of my post, however, is not to look at the lessons of decline, but the challenge of William Branham's ministry today. We may have sound theology, but do we have the power of God in our midst as Branham experienced? In the article, Ern makes a startling comment - "Branham never once made a mistake with the word of knowledge in all the years I was with him. That covers, in my case, thousands of instances."

{Edit 2013:  I know that many would question the preceding statement from Ern Baxter.  I also realise that many of my reformed friends would question Ern Baxter's soundness as well!

However, Ern Baxter has no reason to lie about his experience of Branham.  It would, once Branham had fallen, have been far easier for Baxter to renounce him completely; the fact that he didn't suggests that he had seen something of God in Branham's ministry even though Branham later became a false teacher and false prophet.

I would also say that the point made in this post remains - there is something wrong with charismatics settling for 50% accuracy in prophecy.  If God speaks today (which I believe He does) we should be looking at 100% accuracy - lest we be open to the accusation of being false prophets.  So, please read on!}

That is an awesome statement! Some years ago I read one of the many "exposures" of the charismatic movement. I can't remember exactly which book or the word for word quote, but the writer referred to a prominent charismatic leader who stated that the most powerful prophets that he knew were accurate around 50% of the time. If that is a true statement and not simply an anti-charismatic rant (we have all heard the scare stories), then it is extremely troubling.

{Edit 2013:  I would suggest, sadly, that my time with my charismatic friends would suggest and even lower "accuracy."  This is not good and adds fuel to the fire of those who argue that the gift of prophecy has ceased.  Brothers and sisters - if God hasn't spoken then please shut up.  In the context of the local church, there should be mechanisms (as per 1 Cor 14) of testing prophecy.  The tragedy comes when "big names" give prophecies from platforms that are untested.  STOP!}

Why should we settle for being right 50% of the time (or even 70% or 90%)? Of course, we are fallible in hearing God's voice, but surely settling for such inaccuracy is dishonouring to the Lord. If God speaks today (which I believe He does), surely He speaks clearly to us. So if we are only right 50% of the time, then there is something wrong with us.

And that is the challenge. Where is this kind of power and intimacy with God that means we hear Him clearly?

We are told in Mark 16v17, "And these signs will follow those who believe..." Well where are they? (I am aware that some scholars dispute this passage, but that debate is beyond the scope of this post; I myself see no reason to exclude it from the canon).

So where are the signs and wonders on the scale described here by Jesus? Or Galatians 3v5, "He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you..." The manifestation of the Holy Spirit was the norm, not a rarity.

I need to state clearly that I love much of what is going on in the charismatic movement. There are great churches like Church of Christ the King, Brighton, part of that powerful movement Newfrontiers. God is working in many amazing ways in different churches around the land, some I know personally, others by reputation. But can any of them say about their prophets, healers, or those gifted with words of knowledge that they "never made one mistake"? I have not seen that level of anointing on any man or woman in the West. There are awesome things happening in China and elsewhere, but we in the West are barely touching the vast extent of God's power.

It is shameful really that with all our soundness, our books, our conferences, our great leaders, that we do not haver more power than such an "unsound" man as Branham. How come he is described as one who "never missed it" and we settle for 50% accuracy?

In no way do I wish to endorse unsound doctrine, but we need to humbly accept that sound doctrine alone is not bringing about the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit that we so desperately need. We even attempt to theologise our own lack - "God is sovereign, we have to trust His timing." Of course God is sovereign, but nowhere does the scripture use that as a reason for a lack of power among the people of God. He withdrew His presence because of sin. We know that He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble, that if we humble ourselves and pray and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways - then He will hear (2 Chronicles 7v14).

The best is yet to come. The scriptures make that very clear, as I alluded to in my first ever post! But there needs to be an increase in passionate praying, in godly living, in humility, in hunger after God.

Many have asked this - "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" Where is the power, why are we not seeing the glory of God in our churches, lives being transformed, the sick being healed, the dead raised, families knowing peace and unity, children standing for the Lord and not moulded by society and peer pressure into ungodly conformity?

Leonard Ravenhill answers like this - "To the question, 'Where is the Lord God of Elijah?' we answer, 'Where He has always been - on the throne!' But where are the Elijahs of God?" (italics mine).

"Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly..." (James 5v17)

Let us stop {edit 2013: simply highlighting error in others past or present}. Let us instead humble ourselves before the Lord. Yes, let us get our theology right and be men and women immersed in the Word of God. But let us cry out to God for a fresh visitation. Only His almighty power can transform our churches and our society. And let us hunger for the kind of gifting and anointing that shakes the gates of hell for our Lord's glory.

The Lord bless us in abundance for 2007.


Baxter's Boy said...

Excellent post and awesome material. As Terry Virgo said, "This is no age to advocate restraint. The Church needs to be awakened!". I am tired of the old excuse that excess excuses no use. Why should we have to choose?

I want the best of both worlds!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for such a good thought provoking site!

And thanks for the link - I shall also be raising the Branham question shortly...

Keep up the good work!


Peter Day said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Jon. I intend to do a post on your excellent site shortly.