Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Experiencing The Spirit

Dr. Couch, I've read Robert Heidler's book "Experiencing the Spirit." I knew from first hand experience that the book was full of false teaching. The reason: I was previously a flaming charismatic but one day, it just dawned on me that this teaching was absolutely dead wrong! I found out that I, and all who were in this movement, were simply egotistical fakes! We were putting on a show to impress others, and even ourselves with this false "power." However, the teaching is controlling because it feeds the flesh. Thank you for your role in teaching the truth from the Scripture.

ANSWER:  The book you mentioned was first published in 1998. I don't know how I missed it—I stay on top of what is printed that can so harm the church. It would take a masters thesis to point out all the errors in the book. However I just flagged a few of them to alert folks what is out there.

   First, I noticed that almost half of the endorsements for the book were by women. Two of the women were working with American Indian organizations. Hmmmm! A lot of false theology, and Indian mysticism, is out there in the hinterland!

   Second, I noticed that the book is full of speaking about "experience" and "empowerment." "Experience" is what the book is about.

   Then, the author changed his theology because he heard a well-known speaker who had come to town teaching on "Experiencing the Spirit." He admits that previously he had become "profoundly dissatisfied" with his Christian life as he read his New Testament. He admits he saw the light when further influenced by a charismatic couple who pushed him over the line. This is a typical testimony of most charismatics. Their dissatisfaction in the solid teaching from the Bible caused them to seek some additional experience that would give them an emotional high!

   Finally, he moved into the realm of setting aside his objective studies, with such objective intellectual arguments "gradually evaporating." Another charismatic tendency is to deny objective facts from the Scripture and begin operating in the realm of  emotion. Clearly, he put aside objective truth and replaced it with experience. This is characteristic of what charismatics do. I have actually heard them say: "I don't care what the Bible says, I know about my own experience!"

   Then there is some downright theological errors in the book that go beyond the errors about the Holy Spirit's work today. He makes the statement "so those who receive the Spirit receive Jesus." He is writing about the fact that Jesus will send the Spirit when He ascended to the Father. But the Spirit and Jesus are not the same person. They are separate persons in the Godhead. Further, "The one who relates to the Spirit is relating to Jesus, so the more you develop your relationship with the Holy Spirit, the closer your walk with Jesus will be." This statement is not necessarily true. In fact, it could be downright incorrect. In the paragraphs that follow, he tries to prove his point by bouncing around from verses in the OT.

   As the author goes on, he continually confused the idea of "knowing" God with the issue of "experiencing" Him. To a charismatic to experience God, or the Spirit, is to have an emotional high, a euphoria, a giddy experience that is outside of biblical fact. This determines their view of walking with the Spirit. Heidler then sets up a straw man and knocks it down. He writes that those who deny the dramatic charismatic work of the Spirit, as charismatics try to claim is normative, then "teach that we can talk to God in prayer and read what He said to others in the past, but that we cannot experience Him ourselves. If that is true, we are in a sad condition, for we can have no more relationship with God …"

   What a leap of false logic! 

   Then Heidler goes bonkers in trying to explain what he calls "empowerment." He says it is not a "once-and-for-all" occurrence. You need subsequent times of filling and additional anointings. While it is true that "filling" is continual, he totally does not understand the doctrine of the anointing. He then gives more false theology. He writes "The New Testament also seems to indicate there are different levels of empowering. Your initial empowering may not give you a great deal of power. … Don't be satisfied with your initial experience of empowering." What he is really saying is that charismatics have to learn to outdo each other, and copy from each other, how to act charismatically! They have to "up" the ante! They have to learn how to out-experience the other charismatic! They are great imitators who mimic each other in raising the experience and emotional bar! Remember, to them a show of emotional experience means that they have arrived spiritually. Every charismatic I know, who got out of the movement, admits that this is true!

   What poor theology Heidler has about "the anointing." God's anointing (chrio) has nothing to do with an experience. Paul uses the idea concerning believers only in 2 Corinthians 1:21. He writes that God has established us "with you in Christ and anointed us in God." He has "sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge." But this is a "positional" work of the Lord and not an experiential issue. Paul uses the aorist tense which implies a once-for-all positional work when we are brought to salvation. John then also writes about a positional anointing, using three nouns, and he is not talking about some charismatic experience (1 John 2:20, 27). All believers, not just a few or some, have this anointing in order to learn "about all things" that are spiritual. By this he means that, though we have human teachers to help us understand spiritual truth, such knowledge actually comes from God and is not originated simply by human beings. The Lord may use human teachers but all spiritual truth ultimately comes from Him!

   To prove his point about an anointing, Heidler has to go to Gospel passages and OT passages to try to substantiate what he is saying (pp. 121-123). But this won't fly! With false theological arguments he writes "When you are empowered by the Spirit, God places the anointing within you. If you are filled with the Holy Spirit, that anointing is there, right now, ready to flow out to accomplish God's purpose in the world." There is not one passage of Scripture around to prove his point on this issue!

   Thus, charismatics teach false theology when it comes to the issue of an anointing!

   Charismatics do not believe in the sovereignty of God. They give lip-service to the subject but they really limit God. Heidler says that "The Bible assures us that everything that happens is not God's will!" He adds that some believers "assume everything that happens must be God's will. When tragedy strikes, they say, 'It must be the will of God.'" All Pentecostals and charismatics deny the sovereignty of God. The reason: they are so experience bound that it comes automatic to deny His all surpassing providence and sovereignty! Heidler's theology then gets worse. Quoting Matthew 6:10 where Christ instructed His disciples to pray "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven," he argues that if God's will was always at work in the world, Christ would not have to instruct the disciples to ask that God's will take over. Heidler then says that Christ is not speaking about territory but in terms of God's will and rule. Again, false theology! The Lord is speaking about the coming of the Messianic Davidic Kingdom reign which has to do with territory! For Christ to speak of God's "will" in this passage is not saying that He is no longer sovereign. The imperative here is used as a wish, a desire, a statement of priority for the disciples. The Messianic Kingdom will come exactly when God has determined. The implication is not that the Lord is no longer sovereign. It is He who declares "the end from the beginning." His plans are never thwarted! God has said: "My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure; … I have planned it, surely I will do it" (Isa. 46:10-11). 

   If one wishes to see true miracles, they happen when charismatics suddenly and instantly see the light and drop like a bomb their charismatic thinking all at once! I have witnessed this many times, over and over. The blinders fall from their eyes and the truth comes through. They realize that they have been fooled, and that they were but imitating what other charismatics were saying and doing!

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What Did Christ Mean in Luke 22:37?

Dr. Couch, what did Christ mean in Luke 22:37 when He quoted Isaiah 53:12?

ANSWER:  Isaiah 53:12 is about the work of Christ as the One who would forgive sins. The Lord said: "I tell you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, 'And He was numbered with transgressors'; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment."

   Though Jesus was not a sinner, He was counted among the sinners in order to bear their sins under the wrath of God to bring about forgiveness of sins. This verse is part of the great passage about the Suffering Servant who would be a substitute for sinners. Christ also told John the Baptist that he must baptize Him in order "to fulfill all righteousness." That baptism showed that He was counted with sinners, but again, He was not one Himself!

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spiritual Problems in the Church

Dr. Couch, how should the leaders handle spiritual problems in our churches today? Specifically, our church lacks spiritual feeding that appears to be stemming from the pastor's inability to know and dig the deeper things of the Word of God. What should we do? Thank you and may the Lord continue to bless your ministry.

ANSWER:  It is interesting to see that there in Australia you are having the same problems as American churches. We have moved into the apostasy of the church in which we are falling away from THE truth and THE faith! The fault is two-fold. (1) our seminaries are giving fluff and are no longer teaching the men who are to be pastors strong doctrine. And (2) the entertainment is what the people want. They want the fluff, and they'll go down the block to the next entertaining church in order to be moved emotionally.

   I saw this coming more than twenty years ago and realized that I had to try to stem the flow, but to no avail! The flood is now a torrent and we can't stop it. We are being judged and there is no way back!

  However the people, and the leadership, must be convicted about the issues. This is hard to do because they no longer are looking at Scripture, nor are they teaching strong, meaty doctrine.

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Things Are Changing So Quickly

Dr. Couch, I know of no time in history when things changed so quickly morally, spiritually, socially, and economically, in our world. What's happening?

ANSWER:  It's the apostasy, and it's setting us up for persecution, but also for the rapture of the church. The rapture removes believers just before the seven years of tribulation and wrath begins—this is a judgment upon the people of earth. We are galloping in that direction!

   There are specific steps that have brought us to this point: (1) we at first reacted against the evil and sin that we saw coming against us. But we were powerless to really bring about change. No one listened to what we had to say. (2) but then, we began to endure what was happening. We accepted abortion and homosexuality and were unable to bring about conviction in our society. Then we started to (3) tolerate what was happening—even accepting and participating in a certain humor with those who are gross sinners. From (4) enduring and tolerating what was happening we began to assimilate what was going on. Not that we fell into the sins themselves but we allowed the evil to be at least a part of our thinking processes! We are no longer shocked and disturbed about what we are seeing and hearing! The final stage is (5) that we began to forget the fact that there was a day that we rejected the sin that has grown up in our midst. We accept these sins as part of normalcy.

   Statistics now show that the younger Christian sees no big problem with abortion or homosexuality. He thinks that the older believers are overreacting to these vices and evils. The younger crowd cannot remember a day when these sins were almost non-existent, or were but buried in the deep slime pits of our society. But those of us who are older certainly do remember!

   Understand, there is no turning back. I doubt that we will ever see a return to moral sanity in America or any other Western nation. We are into the apostasy—the falling away!

   Thanks for asking.

   Dr. Mal Couch

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Does the Spirit Exclusively Use Believers to Convict the World

Dr. Couch, John 14:17 says that the Holy Spirit resides in each believer. My question is from John 16:8-11. Does the Spirit exclusively use believers to convict the world, or does He also work outside of the Church to convict the lost?

ANSWER:  This is a good question. Some hold to both possibilities on what is being said in the John 16 passage. Christ said in verse 7 that He would send the Spirit "to you," the believers, when the Lord goes away. But the Lord went on:

"And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you no longer behold Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged."

The word "convict" in Greek is the word elegcho and can be translated "to rebuke, reprove, find fault, chide, call to account." It is in the future tense. When the Lord ascends back to His Father, the Spirit will be doing this work on earth among the lost in the world. Since this work of the Spirit happens after He is sent to the believers, the implication is that He does this through the believers here on earth. This probably happens, in that the children of God are used by the Spirit to bring about rebuke in regard to sin, righteousness, and judgment. But the passage may also leave open the possibility that the Spirit is doing the same work apart from the believers.

   I do not think one would be wrong in assuming that it is both through believers, and apart from believers, that the Spirit is reproving the world. We may not be able to be too dogmatic one way or another on the issue.

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Kingdom of God and Luke 19:11

Dr. Couch, how could the amil guys think that the Kingdom of God in Luke 19:11 could be the church?

ANSWER: The answer is simple. They cannot read very well! That may sound insulting but I can't think of a better reason. The Jews were all looking for the Jewish messianic Davidic Kingdom. They had no idea what the church would be all about. Since Christ was the promised King, they thought the Kingdom of God "was going to appear immediately" (v. 11). They were right in that it should if the nation had repented. That was the message of John the Baptist and of Christ also, but the Jews were too stubborn so the Kingdom would be postponed.

Jesus then gave a parable of the nobleman who went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return (v. 12). While the story is complicated down through verse 27, I give the meaning on page 184 in my Luke Commentary (AMG Publishers).

"The Jews buried the prophecy about the coming messianic kingdom, this becomes a sign of the most heinous of evils. And the citizens who said they did not want the new nobleman king 'to reign over us' (v. 14), represents the soon coming final rejection of the Jews of their promised Sovereign! The destruction of Jerusalem with its streams of Jewish blood is the preliminary reality that is back of these words."

One thing is clear. The Kingdom of God is not the church! The context has to do with the Jewish people as Christ dealt with them. The rejection of the nobleman has to do with the rejection of Christ the King! The Kingdom is then postponed and the church then takes its place. Yet, the Kingdom will someday come—the earthly millennial reign of the Messiah in Jerusalem!

Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Millennial Temple

Dr. Couch, I've been studying the plans and blueprint the Lord gave to Ezekiel for the millennial temple in chapters 40-48. In Genesis 15:18 God told Abraham in the covenant He made with him that the extent of the kingdom would be from "the river Egypt (possibly the Nile or the Wadi el Arish) to the great river Euphrates." This would include the areas of other pagan tribal peoples as mentioned in verses 19-21. Is there a conflict?

ANSWER:  Absolutely not! You cited Ezekiel 47:18 that is only describing the boundaries on the east side of the land, with the starting point probably the city of Jerusalem. Other sides of the boundaries are described in verses 13-23. But there is another point you must consider. When the land was divided up for the Jews when they originally entered Canaan, the tribal divisions of the land were more limited and confined just to the heart of the territory, though the core of the land went all the way to the Euphrates.

   In one sense, (1) the kingdom over which the Messiah will reign is the entire world though (2) the core of the land goes all the way over to the Euphrates. However (3) the tribal occupation was a much smaller territory. There is no contradiction. Remember, context, context, context!

   To fully understand the divisions of the land mentioned you need to sit down with a map of the region and study carefully 47:13-23. On these verses Unger writes: "Ezekiel envisioned not only a rejuvenated land but an enlarged Canaan for all Israel, including the whole twelve tribes, to inhabit. The distribution closely follows the boundaries given Moses (Num. 34:1-15); however, the northern boundary is given first, in contrast to Numbers. … Some of the place names marking the boundaries of the land are still uncertain or unknown. But the general boundary can be traced to a point along the Mediterranean north of Tyre."

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch

Monday, April 13, 2009

Who or What is the Destroyer of Exodus 12:23?

Dr. Couch, who or what is the Destroyer of Exodus 12:23?

 ANSWER:  Exodus 12 is the story of the Passover. The Jews were to slay a lamb and put the blood on the doorposts and then in haste leave Egypt before the Destroyer comes to take the first born son. The Destroyer was to take the first born sons of any family in the land, from both the Jews and the Egyptians. The sacrificed lamb represented the future death of the Messiah for the sins of the people. In a symbolic sense, the blood on the doorposts meant that the first born son "was dead." The lamb was a substitute, as Christ would be a substitute, for sin. This was thoroughly explained in Isaiah 53 where it is made clear that the Messiah would be the Suffering Servant for the sins of the people.

   The Destroyer is the Angel of Jehovah who is actually Christ who appeared in the OT in the form of an angel. The Angel of Jehovah is deity, and is God the Son incarnate!

   Some do not believe the Destroyer is the Angel of Jehovah. But other passages of Scripture make this clear. For example, 2 Samuel 24:16 uses the same Hebrew word in speaking about the Angel of destruction: "When the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the Lord relented from the calamity, and said to the angel who destroyed the people …" Also, we read in 2 Kings 19:35: "Then it happened that night that the angel of the Lord went out, and struck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians …"

   In Exodus 12:23 the word Destroyer is "shachat" in the Hiphil Causative Participle form, and reads: "The Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the 'One who is causing destruction' to come in to your houses to smite you." The Jewish Rabbis call this One the Destroying Angel because of the use of the Participle. In verse 13 where it reads "I will pass over you," the Jewish Targum says it could read, "I will spare you," or "I will protect you" (LXX).

   The text also says that it is the Lord who goes through the land to smite the first born. "For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike down all of the first born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast …" (Exod. 12:12). "When I see the blood, I will pass over you …" (v. 13). But it is also God who sends the Destroyer who is a separate person from the Lord Himself. The Destroyer is not simply a force but an intelligent Being who will take the first born from among those who do not have the blood on the door. The Destroyer "comes to smite …"

   The question is often asked, is the first born of the men or also of the women? It is of the men, or boys, which were most important in continuing the families. We read in Exodus 13:2: "Sanctify to Me every first born, the first offspring of every womb among the sons of Israel; both of man and beast; it belongs to Me."

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Gift of Prophecy

Dr. Couch, we have a man in our church who claims to be a prophet. This is a very conservative church. What do we do? And, what is a NT prophet?

ANSWER: First of all, he's a fool, and very ignorant of Scripture, and of church history. Ignorance is growing and not diminishing. Several decades back, or more, people started saying, "We don't need to study doctrine in church, just make us 'feel good' with light devotionals on Sunday morning!"

In both our OT and NT a prophet is one who may be a teacher or foretells into the future. CONTEXT is what determines what is going on in a given passage. And, people have such poor interpretative skills that they do not know how to study the Word of God by Context!

If we had true prophets today who could foretell into the future then someone should walk behind them, record their prophecies, and put them in a book as "The Word of God." But we do not have such people around, though with their egos, they try to convince the foolish that they are foretelling prophets. People forget that a prophet could both tell the future but also be a teacher. Once the canon of the NT was complete, such a role of being a teaching prophet or a foretelling prophet was no longer needed.

The only one in the NT who is recorded as foretelling into the future, besides the apostles, was Agabus. He gave a prophecy about the apostle Paul. Philip had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:8-14. Why did they not make a future prophecy about Paul? Agabus did but they did not! The reason would be that they were not prophetesses who were foretelling into the future. They would be "teaching" prophetesses, and, they would only be teaching women, because Paul makes it clear that women were not to be teaching men (1 Tim. 2:12).

When the canon of Scripture was completed, with the writing of the book of Revelation (cir. AD 90-95), we have no record of legitimate foretelling prophets or even of teaching prophets. Paul makes it clear that the three most important gifts that had to do with communicating the Word of God, before the canon was complete, would someday disappear: the gifts of (1) prophecy, (2) linguistics (or tongues), and (3) and of knowledge.

The gift of linguistics (glossa) helped spread the truth among those who spoke different languages. Again, one must compute that the canon of the NT was not complete. Our Bible is in Greek and is translated for different language groups! Another "communication" gift was the gift of knowledge. The one with this gift had special insights into doctrinal knowledge. This was important because as mentioned, the entire NT was not completed. Those with this gift had special doctrinal insights because the canon was not finished. When the NT was completed, it became the authority for spiritual truth.

We know for a fact from 1 Corinthians 14:29-32 that the gift of prophecy had to do mainly with teaching and not foretelling into the future. But as mentioned, only the apostles along with Agabus had the ability to foretell into the future.

Again, how are we certain that the gift was used for teaching and not prophesying into the future?

Paul writes that those who had this gift in the church of Corinth were to exercise their gift "one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted" (v. 31). "Learning" and "exhortation" had to do with the dispensing of spiritual truth in order to inform the church of doctrine and facts that helped "grow up" the fledgling congregations. This is not the giving forth of some prophetic future message!

The Greek text is very strong in the way it describes the going away of these three "communication" gifts. The apostle writes: "Love is never falling; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be in the future made inoperative; if there are [the gifts of] linguistics (tongues), they will in the future stop themselves; if there is knowledge, it will in the future stop themselves, … but when the 'completion' comes, the partial will be done away" (vv. 8-10). The "perfect" or the "completion" is the Greek word "teleion" and it is in the Neuter gender not the masculine. Some ignorant folks say this "perfect" is Christ, but it can't be; the word is a neuter word and He would be described with the masculine gender!

I personally would ask the one who says he has the gift of prophecy to leave the church because, he is not only very egotistical and foolish, but I promise you he will be a trouble maker. He enjoys the "power" of saying he is a prophet and having information about the future that others do not possess!

Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch

Saturday, April 4, 2009

What Type of Baptism is Going On In Ephesians 5:26

Dr. Couch, what is going on in Ephesians 5:26? What baptism is this? Some hyper-dispensationalists say that immersion was only during the period of John the Baptist and is not now applicable during the church age.

ANSWER: They are wrong! Paul spoke of his baptizing some of the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:1:13-17. He separates water baptism from the gospel in this passage. Paul writes, "Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, …" (v. 17). And of course Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-39. Philip was a deacon in the Jerusalem church but he baptized outside of a church setting, and did so near the seashore.

Ephesians 5:25-27 is about spiritual baptism and how Christ sanctified His church. The cleansing is not by water but by the sanctifying ministry of the Word. There is no way one can turn this into water baptism, though the passage speaks of the cleansing of the church "by the washing of water with the word." This brings about a cleansing that He "might present to Himself the church in all her glory, …" (v. 27).

Read carefully Ezekiel 36:24-28 that describes the work of the new covenant. This work will take place with the Jews after they have been brought back to the Holy Land (v. 24), during which time the larger portion of the Jews will be converted by the work of the Holy Spirit (vv 26-27). The church presently benefits by this spiritual "washing" of the Spirit though the church does not fulfill this spiritual work. It will be finalized or fulfilled when the Jews are back in the land. That's what the passage teaches.

But my main point is that the "sprinkling of the clean water, that will cleanse Israel from their filthiness" is a spiritual work done by the Spirit. One more verse down explains this. "And I will put My Spirit within you" (vv. 25-26).

Thus, Ephesians 5:25-27 is about the work of the new covenant with the church. Water baptism is the picture of this event; it is a spiritual work, and not a literal work of being immersed in water!

I hope this helps. Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Pledge of Allegiance

Dr. Couch, with all the evil that is now taking place in our government is it still appropriate to pledge allegiance to our flag?

  That is a good question, but my answer would be yes based on what the apostle Paul says in Romans 13. Can you imagine a government as evil as the Roman government of Paul's day? No government is perfect, and to pledge the allegiance is not condoning everything done by the leaders of our nation. But it is a sign of respect, and even appreciation for the blessings of good government.

   Paul's context in Romans 13 is about the "good" government carried out by the Romans. And that government is "established by God" (v. 1). Thus, "every person is to be in subjection to the government authorities" because that "good" authority comes from God (v. 1b). For "rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior but for evil" (v. 3). Government "is a minister of God to you for good" (v. 4a).

   Paul's conclusion: "Render to all what is due them; tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor" (v. 7).

   However, somewhere there is a line. We all must decide someday how far we can go if, overall, our government really turns evil. I believe that Christians will know when that day arrives!

   Thanks for asking.
   Dr. Mal Couch

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

America and Deuteronomy 9

Dr. Couch, I appreciate the passages of Scripture you give that show America is very much like Israel who turned against the Lord in the OT. Do you have some other like-passages to share?

I can't help but think of Deuteronomy 9. As Israel was ready to cross the Jordan river and go into the Promise Land, the Lord warned them of how their heart could depart from Him. He warned them that they would despise His sovereignty and think their prosperity came about through their own talents and righteousness. The Jews in time would say: "God has driven out the pagans of the land because of our righteousness" (v. 4).

Moses added, "Know, then, it is not because of your righteousness that the Lord your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stubborn people" (v. 6).

America has not been blessed because it is so great, but because of God's grace and kindness. We have not deserved His goodness. And now it is being removed from us. As with Israel, we are now provoking the Lord by our sins. His wrath is soon coming upon America, and upon the nations of the world.

Pastors, are you teaching your people these great spiritual truths? Are you simply remaining quiet about what is going on around the world? Are you teaching them biblical prophecy and explaining to them the plan of history? Are you simply leaving them in the dark?

Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch