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God's Free Grace & Favor

Observe carefully, my brother, this order (Extra Nos first, then Intra Nos), for everything depends on it. However cleverly this factious spirit makes believe that he regards highly the Word and the Spirit of God and declares passionately about love and zeal for the truth and righteousness of God, he nevertheless has as his purpose to reverse this order. His insolence leads him to set up a contrary order and, as we have said, seek to subordinate God’s outward order to an inner spiritual one…should you ask how one gains access to this same lofty spirit they do not refer you to the outward gospel but to some imaginary realm, saying: Remain in ‘self abstraction’ where I now am and you will have the same experience. A heavenly voice will come, and God himself will speak to you...[1]

As I have been working on a new book for publication, I have been thinking much about my Christian life, the errors and heresies I learned and then taught others. I have been amazed at the Grace of God to forgive me my many sins and for the Pastors He provided to help teach true doctrine and destroy much of the bad theology I grew up in and later espoused. To God Alone be the Glory and Honor for He is faithful to correct, rebuke, reprove and instruct in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16 KJV). Paul also told Timothy to “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth…” (2 Tim. 2:15)

Tomorrow, Oct. 27th, my church (Faith Lutheran LCMS – Mountain Home) will be celebrating the Reformation when God used Luther to bring to light many false teachings and bring back the true Gospel to His People so they would no longer be under the burden that somehow their obedience plays in their justification. Three Solas came out of the Lutheran Reformation (in the Calvin version there are 5 Solas):

Sola Gratia (Grace Alone)

Sola Fide (Faith Alone)

Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone)

That salvation is found completely outside of us is essential to understanding the Power of God unto salvation.

First, it is through Grace, not merit. You do not earn salvation by being a good person, doing your job right, helping those around you, not lying, cheating or stealing or coveting (those are fruits of regeneration). Grace is a favor that you don’t deserve. None of us deserve this grace of God and THAT is exactly why it is called grace: unmerited favor. Not one person who has ever lived or will live deserves the goodness of God towards them. We all deserve eternal damnation and apart from grace, we will get what we deserve.

Second, that saving faith was gifted to you. Faith is not something you pump up in yourself. It is not some feeling that your get yourself excited for. Neither is it blind trust in something nor a mathematical equation you calculate to see if it works. Faith is a gift. Faith is a treasure given the Means of Grace (Preaching of the Word, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). You do not activate your faith, nor does everyone have that faith that they just need to move over to Jesus. God gives this faith alone. It also means that that faith is alone. Works never saved anyone. Works never justified anyone. Paul Speratus’ hymn states it quite well:

(You may listen here)

Salvation unto us has come

By God’s free grace and favor;

Good works cannot avert our doom,

They help and save us never.

I love the line: good works cannot avert our doom. So, what or who does?

Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone,

Who did for all the world atone;

He is our one Redeemer.

Third, salvation is found in Scripture alone…and thus begins my story of how my Christian life began with all this extra-biblical junk, the stuff of human making, the broken and debilitating gospel of me-ology.

Jesus was very clear that the Bible is not about you. It is not a to-do book. It does tell us what we should do in the Law but it tells us quite clearly and plainly that you cannot do it so Jesus did it FOR YOU! The Bible is not: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth UNLESS those instructions are about Jesus and the Gospel promises of life and forgiveness.

That is not how I learned it. Here then, is the story of where I came out of and how Christ, by His Holy Spirit through His written Word and the proper preaching and teaching of it, pulled me out of a self-focused belief system into the true Gospel where God does everything from outside of us to affect the inside.

Coming out of Pentecostal and Charismatic theology

In 2005 my husband, Roberto, and I were on our way to a summer camp that our church, Evangel (Long Island City, NY) promoted. One of our Assistant Pastor’s would often speak during this week and my husband and I looked forward to gaining a “greater anointing” as well as enjoy the Blue Mountains of Pennsylvania. That year, as we were leaving my husband pulled of the bookshelf the book God’s Generals II and I grabbed Old Paths by JC Ryle. It would change our lives and our theology quickly and decisively.

The next morning at camp my husband comes into our cabin asking, “Have you heard of Jan Huss? Have you known about justification by faith alone and Martin Luther?” Though familiar, as my father had become more reformed in his theology at the end of his life, I was not thoroughly versed in either subject. However, reading from Old Paths and just finishing the chapter on Justification that moment of epiphany hit. Bobby said it best, “If this is true, we are in a heap of trouble because what we’ve been learning and teaching goes against the Bible.” We both sat and closing our eyes began to repent of serious error and asking for God to straighten us out theologically and bring us to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. That moment would forever change the course of our lives as we transitioned from Pentecostal/Charismatic to Reformed Baptists to Calvinists (Continental reformed) to Lutheran.

This change in theology also caused quite the stir that summer at the camp. Everything we were taught from the pulpit we began to search the Scriptures to see if they were true. It also became a new book, A Modern Ninety-Five (Available here).

Sadly, most of what we were taught was false doctrine. This blog has a two-fold purpose: first, it is a warning to the leaders of today’s churches to bend their knees once again to what the scriptures teach and submit under the lordship of Jesus Christ and teach the faith once handed down to them. Second, it is an alarm to the people in the pews to run from the false teachers who would use them to build their ivory palaces with their “seed money” and false teachings across the television screens, over the radio waves, and across the Internet in the guise of “prophetic utterances.” This is a clarion call to the Church to return to the truth because “The truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

As I said earlier, no one is immune to these errors and heresies. I count myself as having been, formerly, an enthusiast, or as Martin Luther and the German reformers referred to them as, Schwaermers. Only as I began to search out whether or not these teachings were in Scripture as well as studying the history of the Church did I find that what I had been taught in a Holiness Pentecostal church and then later in a more generically charismatic evangelical church and under the New Apostolic Reformation was patently false and somewhat heretical.

It was not easy to admit that I had been duped and fooled into these teachings so much that I pushed them myself at various women’s meetings and privately in conversation but confession is always a good course to follow when you come to realize you have sinned. Elevating personal revelations, words claimed to be from God over and against the written Word of God are never good and always dangerous. History shows that many throughout history have looked for God speaking beyond Scripture and it has always led to heresies of one shape or form. This work will show by Scripture, Church History and the Confessions that the modern Pentecostal movement, and subsequent offshoots, i.e. Charismatic, Word of Faith, New Apostolic Reformation, began in falsehood and continue to push an Intra Nos focus which leads to desperation and its followers are continually hounded by this monstrous uncertainty.

Moving from Pentecostalism, semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism, through to the Charismatic movement, along the byways of the prophetic and apostolic movements, and into the darkness of deliverance ministries, I wandered for over fifteen years. I ran after the newest teachings thinking that they were true but instead found myself swallowed in the mire of error and the muck of heresy. I grew up in a Holiness Pentecostal church who held that “the Christian faith in light of their new experience of God[2]” was the proper way to interpret Scripture. “Experience is my creed…” is the position from which they argue for all their experiences and teachings. There was, in the early Pentecostals and the church fellowship of which I was a member (Ridgewood Pentecostal Church Fellowship) a belief that one needed to re-read the Scriptures since “in the light of their own experience of God and the spiritual needs of the world…the one thing that mattered was that the whole thing rang true to their own lived experience of faith…[3]

One also did not need outside teachers because you had the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you into truth. How did one tell that the Holy Spirit was leading them? You would know on the inside. Verification for their experiences were Intra Nos or inside themselves. No one was permitted to doubt since the Holy Spirit spoke, sometimes audibly, directly to your own heart. Sometimes they would say that if you feel the Spirit impressing something then you would just know it. Often those butterflies one feels when nervous would be taken to be the Spirit guiding you and speaking to you. Feelings over facts. Inward word over the objective truth. What is in your heart over and against what is written down in the Bible. The Pentecostals, modern day Schwaermers and Enthusiasts desire and preach an Intra Nos focus first rather than how God has always worked first, via Extra Nos. Feelings and emotions lead the Pentecostal Christian as Arthur Clement notes, “People flocked to Azusa Street, hoping to meet God there.[4]

Rather than meeting God in the Sacraments, those means of grace God has gifted to the Church, people head to specific places to experience God outside of His directed means. Instead of meeting God in His Written Word, they seek a new revelation, a new word hoping to encounter a higher experience, often called “the Anointing”. Always wanting an inward experience this teaching fosters a monstrous uncertainty causing its adherents to seek experience more and more[5] only finding it leaves them empty and wanting.

Various doctrines, essential to the Christian faith, would be slowly changed and then outright rejected from within the Pentecostal movement many of whom came out of the Wesleyan/Arminian/Holiness movements. Perfectionism[6] or Perfect Sanctification here in this world, even an instantaneous sanctification experience[7] to a rejection of Justification by Faith Alone[8][9], the hinge upon which the door of salvation swings, or the ground upon which the Church stands or falls, would be espoused by leaders of the Pentecostal movement.

Justification by your works plus faith

Since Pentecostalism stems from the Holiness bodies and churches, their teachings came along with them. These churches and groups began to teach that justification by faith alone is only for the sins of the past[10]. While others taught that justification by faith alone cannot reach original sin[11] and therefore sanctification, perfectionism, is that which one must seek. Furthermore, creating a second baptism[12], that of the spirit, over and against what the Scriptures teach, “one Lord, one faith and one baptism” these Pentecostal preachers and teachers would either add to the Word or remove clear teachings and obscure them in these new revelations.

A more recent example of modern day “prophets” who deny the Triune God, rejecting the confession and creed of the Church since its beginning came from a personal encounter. At a home church meeting, which my brother-in-law attended with his children, and to which my husband and I visited a local “teacher/prophet” spoke and said to the group that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that the doctrine of the Trinity was false and that the Holy Spirit was simply a power. When I raised my hand to object, saying that a “power” cannot speak to someone, the group shut me down since this man was a “prophet” and if that is what God told him, then that is his truth and we were not to question it. Later, asking my brother-in-law why no one else challenged this false prophet, he said to me that the Holy Spirit has spoken to him before so you cannot challenge what he says now. Understand that this is not uncommon in Pentecostal circles; the Spirit telling people the exact opposite of what the Church has confessed and the Bible plainly teaches. The ideologically-focused Intra Nos theology relies voices and visions within and trumps the Extra Nos of the Written Word and the Sacraments as the Means of Grace. The popular mantra, “touch not god’s anointed” is the resounding call to all who would challenge the false doctrines and subsequent teachings of these groups. Once again the tangled web of this monstrous uncertainty challenges the basis for objective truth, the Written Word of God, and substitutes a subjective voice within.

Over and over feelings and experience led and guided me as well as nearly every Pentecostal or charismatic I know and/or learned from. Seeking the voice of God within remains a key aspect of this theological type. A continual voice of God over and against the complete, sufficient and superior written Word of God is necessary, in their view, to living out the Christian faith. In the Anabaptist fashion, Pentecostals teach “that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of men without the divine Word…regarding the ‘inner light’…[13]” Arthur J. Clement, in rebutting this inner light, writes,

To Luther there was simply no arguing the fact that the enthusiasts, those heavenly prophets, were walking the devil’s road instead of standing firm on scriptural ground. Either Holy Scripture is the ‘lamp to my feet and a light for my path’ (Psalm 119:105) or each is a light unto himself as he follows his own imagination.[14]

Maintaining this Intra Nos theology, or as Dr. Luther and later CFW Walther called it, the Theology of Glory, Pentecostals, Charismatics and Word of Faith teachers believe that one must “discover from within rather than learned from the outside[15]” that which is purported as true spirituality. They were among the first to separate religion from spirituality in favor of the latter. Convinced that they had recovered the Acts 2-type church they were adamant that the church between the first and 19th centuries had lost these truths. As Douglas Jacobsen writes, “They were convinced that their new views were superior to the dead and/or mistaken teachings of the ‘orthodox’ Christianity they had experienced before becoming Pentecostal.[16]” Their theology, however, was fluid and creative which is always a dangerous concept with regards to the unmitigated and unchanging truths of the Written Word of God. Their focus on feelings and experience was misguided since God always works from the outside (Extra Nos) first to effect the changes within (Intra Nos)[17]. Here, Pentecostals would even reject any work from outside, save perhaps the proclamation of the Gospel in the hearing of individuals. However, the response is typically because something stirred within, nearly akin to the Mormon “burning of the bosom”. Pentecostals look within, Intra Nos, for a subjective confirmation of spiritual life rather than to the objective promises of God in the Scriptures and through the Sacraments, which is Extra Nos. This Intra Nos focus will automatically lead to the monstrous uncertainty both regarding assurance of salvation and assurance of what God has said.

Luther, teaching against the Intra Nos focus of Dr. Karlstadt’s treatise can be applied to this Pentecostal Intra Nos focus which leads to a monstrous uncertainty about God’s Written Word and one’s own salvation. He writes,

Observe carefully, my brother, this order (Extra Nos first, then Intra Nos), for everything depends on it. However cleverly this factious spirit makes believe that he regards highly the Word and the Spirit of God and declares passionately about love and zeal for the truth and righteousness of God, he nevertheless has as his purpose to reverse this order. His insolence leads him to set up a contrary order and, as we have said, seek to subordinate God’s outward order to an inner spiritual one…should you ask how one gains access to this same lofty spirit they do not refer you to the outward gospel but to some imaginary realm, saying: Remain in ‘self abstraction’ where I now am and you will have the same experience. A heavenly voice will come, and God himself will speak to you...[18]

That Pentecostals and their theological children reject the outward work of God as the initial grace of God will lead to a monstrous uncertainty of both the uniqueness of the Written Word and of Salvation itself. It tears at the very fabric of God’s Order and His Means of Grace ripping from it any assurance one has. One prophet can tell you that God is doing a new thing and even a “new grace[19]” while another tells you the Trinity is heretical. Still another prophet tells you that your justification is only from sins past while another proclaims that God has instant sanctification[20] waiting for you if you will just yield to the Spirit. Prophets may say what they want and you, the pew-sitter, can say nothing because, after all, they have the “anointing” and you do not.

Since this is their teaching, which leads to being chained to the ferocious monster of uncertainty, it becomes the duty of faithful Christians to challenge them both privately and publically. Rather than cowering from this task it is from deep concern over what is going on in modern Christianity because of the popular teachings publicized across the world that this thesis is written. The teachings of pastors and teachers trouble me with their special “revelations.” Special “prophets” and “apostles” today receive and preach on TV, preach over the radio, and put into their books heresies that frighten me and cause me to think that we may be heading into another dark age. My heart is heavy because we have been bewitched and seduced by those who look like sheep but are in actuality wolves. I, too, was caught in the thrill of hearing a word from the Lord, of being “slain” in the spirit, of prophesying over others, including many sincere and eager believers. Caught up in the excitement and ecstasy of the “anointing,” I forgot that all we need for life and godliness has already been provided for (cf. 1 Pet 1:3). Extra Nos. God works from the outside first and then changes us inwardly, Intra Nos. We seek words of knowledge and wisdom apart from the Written Word (Intra Nos) when God has provided both sufficiently in his written word and in the word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ (cf. Col; Jas 3:16) through the Means of Grace, Extra Nos.

There may be those who challenge what I am saying in this thesis thinking I have no first-hand knowledge of these teachings. Perhaps you believe that I am looking from a theological high tower and never had boots on the ground in Pentecostalism. Or, perhaps you believe me to have a “spirit of theology” as one pastor claimed I had, from which I need deliverance. These would be incorrect. I grew up in a holiness Pentecostal church and became quite involved in the New Apostolic Reformation movement, received (I was informed) the greater “anointing” through which I became a seer and prophet to help heal others of their past. I am very aware of the grave error that I both learned and proceeded to teach to others. Trapped in the thrill, I let my guard down, did not check out what I was being taught against the scriptures, and helped to disperse these errors and heresies. However, the grace of God has shown me the beauty of his Law and Gospel and it is this transcendent splendor that I want to bring to the forefront again. With the help of God, I will endeavor to bring the truth—truth that can be examined in the scriptures and validated by God’s word. I offer to you, the reader, the gospel of God, knowing that his purpose will be performed even though I am woefully inadequate for the job.

The worst part of this Intra Nos focus is the “Monstrous Uncertainty” that it brings with it like a ball and chain. The Uncertainty of salvation. The uncertainty of belonging to Christ. The Uncertainty that their sins are forgiven. The Uncertainty that you can hear God speak, plainly and clearly in the gift of His Written Word. The Uncertainty that one can know God’s will from the Written Word. This Monstrous Uncertainty steals the assurance from believers and slams the prison doors on true hope and the real Gospel. It locks Christians into doubting the Lord. This monstrous uncertainty wreaks havoc in the lives of believers since they are taught to look Intra Nos for that which God does Extra Nos. I have been both an Enthusiast in the Pentecostal sense and one in the sense of the Calvinist teachings. Both tell the believer to look inwardly for assurance rather than to the outward Means of Grace, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. In the Heidelberg it states that my only comfort in life is “Because I belong to him, Christ, by His Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life…[21]” (Lord’s Day 1 Q. 1) and that I am called a Christian because of what I do: “confess His name…present myself to him…strive with a good conscience against sin…[22]” (Lord’s Day 12 Q. 32)”

Looking inward for assurance will become a monster of uncertainty. Luther countered this when he wrote, “when God sends forth his holy gospel he deals with us in a twofold manner, first outwardly (Extra Nos), then inwardly (Intra Nos).[23]” Many of these churches have flipped God’s order thereby focusing first on the inward. Luther continues, “But whatever their measure or order the outward factors should and must precede. The inward experience follows and if effected by the outward. God has determined to give the inward to no one except through the outward.[24]” (Italics mine)

It is my desire that those in Pentecostal churches will re-think their own denominational and church origins and come out from among them having destroyed this monstrous uncertainty through the Word of God which works first Extra Nos and then Intra Nos.

[1]. Ibid. p.146-147.

[2]. Douglas Jacobsen, Thinking in the Spirit: Theologies of the Early Pentecostal Movement (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003), Preface.

[3]. Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., Luther's Works, 40 (Saint Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1955–1986).

[4]. Arthur J. Clement, The Pentecostals and Charismatics: A Confessional Lutheran Evaluation, Impact series (Milwaukee, Wis: Northwestern Pub. House, 2000), 35.

[5]. Ibid., 216.

[6]. Clement, The Pentecostals and Charismatics, 25.

[7]. Frederick Emanuel Mayer, The Religious Bodies of America, 4th ed., , revth ed (Saint Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1961), 311.

[8]. Clement, The Pentecostals and Charismatics, 17.

[9]. Mayer, The Religious Bodies, 311.

[10]. Ibid.

[11]. Ibid., 312.

[12]. Clement, The Pentecostals and Charismatics.

[13]. Erwin L. Lueker, ed., Lutheran Cyclopedia (Saint Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1954), 425.

[14]. Clement, The Pentecostals and Charismatics, 214.

[15]. Jacobsen, Thinking in the Spirit, Preface.

[16]. Ibid.

[17]. Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., Luther's Works, 40 (Saint Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1955–1986), 146.

[18]. Ibid. p.146-147.

[19]. John Eckhardt, Mobilizing the Prophetic Office (Ventura Ca: National School of the Prophets, Session 12, 2000).

[20]. Mayer, The Religious Bodies, 311.

[21]. Christian Truths Summarized (n.p.: United Reformed Church, 2011).

[22]. Ibid.

[23]. Jaroslav Pelikan, ed., Luther's Works, 40 (Saint Louis: Concordia Pub. House, 1955–1986), 146.

[24]. Ibid.

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