Greg Austin │ November, 2009
We have arrived at an hour in the Church when there is much confusion,
many questions and a multitude of heretofore unheard and
unexpressed doctrines and spiritual practices being promulgated by
so-called “revivalists,” “apostles” and “prophets.” I have italicized
these titles, because I am convinced that a fair number who claim such
designations are not what or who they claim to be. This in no way is
intended to denigrate the legitimate among us, but rather to
differentiate between the true and the false.
Without doubt, no generation since
the crucifixion of Jesus Christ has been faced with more questionable
and previously unheard of teachings than the current generation of
believers. This is a time when mature believers who have been grounded
in the incorruptible Word of God must stand up and let their voices be
heard. In the balance are potentially millions of souls who are naive,
gullible or ignorant of the devices being employed to destroy their
faith in the Sovereign God.
Sadly and dangerously, we also have come to an hour when anyone who
questions currently claimed revelation or "present truth," regardless of
how spurious it might appear, is held in absolute contempt and disregard
and is relegated to the ranks of the hyper-heresy hunters,
doubters-of-everything good, and the Pharisaical accusers of the
brethren or even as outright enemies of the Cross.
Because of the immediate and violent attacks any honest questioner
enquirer might be confronted with, many have been effectively silenced
because of the scorn and retribution meted out by those who embrace
extreme and extremely questionable doctrines.
The writer of this article has no reputation to protect and no empire to
preserve, and thus welcomes any and all attacks from those who oppose
honest questions from simple believers in Jesus.
I am only one voice, but I am a voice. I will not be intimidated by
those who choose to indict my faith and insult my intelligence by
hurling their own accusations. So long as God gives me breath, I will
speak the truth as it is revealed in His holy, pure and incorruptible
In this article, I have been kind, I think; generous, and even positive
in my assessments of what I have witnessed by those involved in various
Charismatic and Pentecostal movements, renewals and outpourings. I have
not attacked and will not accuse any person; I refuse to condemn any
individual. My observations are about doctrine and practice, and not
personal criticism. I remain supportive, as a Brother in Christ to those
with whom I disagree. This is about positions and practices and not
I have not accused any man or woman of being demonically controlled or
of being adherents of New Age teachings. I have maintained the position
that the Lord of Hosts would eventually reveal either the truth or the
error of events in and around Lakeland. I believe that ultimately, a
righteous and holy God will deal justly with those who would lead even
one of His own elect astray. I continue to refrain from personal attack,
even though those affected by this article may feel otherwise.
Finally, this writer is no enemy of revival; on the contrary, I have
been both a student of revival and a participant of a powerful move of
the Holy Spirit which began in my own life and church in 1995 and
continued unabated until 2003. The effects of that move of the Spirit
remain with me today. There are those who will make the claim that since
“the voices of the former move of God will always condemn the current
revival” I am obviously guilty of the same.
Whenever I learn of moves of God here or revival there, my initial sense
is always of support and not opposition. I caution anyone against
attacking any revival before the fruit of that revival may be seen.
After spending many years among Pentecostal and Charismatic fellowships,
and after having seen the genuine, the precious move of the Spirit of
God, the lives transformed, healed and set free along with abuse,
excess, gross error and rampant disregard for the solid Rock of God’s
word, I am compelled to speak for the sake of the innocent and the
hungry and for the future of revival in a world so desperately in need
of a genuine visitation from heaven.
Gregory J. Austin, Th.D.
Compass, The Anchor and the Stormy Seas of Life
For those gallant sailors who have met the imposing challenge of the
great seas of our planet and have spanned their breadths piloting marine
vessels, some of the smallest and most seemingly insignificant
instruments have become the most essential possessions.
Approaching a trans-oceanic vessel from water level, an ocean-going ship
appears monstrously huge. Its hull was laid with the effort of men and
machines and with much sweat and muscle and exertion. Gazing at such a
massive craft, one would likely not notice or pay attention to something
as mundane and miniscule as a compass, or even an anchor. Yet without
these two devices, any journey would be suicidal, for one provides
direction while the other assures security. It is the compass that
ensures the seaman of his course and of his eventual destination. It is
the anchor which grips the sea floor and holds the vessel in place when
wind and waves would shatter the ship on rocky shores.
If I have perceived anything regarding some current expressions of
“revival” as manifested in various places around the world, neither
instrument is prominent, and without both a compass and an anchor, an
eventual collision between the ship of this revival and the jagged rocks
of reality is inevitable.
The compass and the anchor of which I speak is the singular instrument
of the Bible, the divinely written, inerrant, perfect, complete and holy
Word of God: A book possessed by virtually every modern believer in
Jesus Christ, but one which either is untouched by or largely unfamiliar
to far too many Christians.
Biblical knowledge has been trumped by spiritual experience.
We live in an era of general biblical ignorance, where the value and
emphasis of experiential Christianity trumps the old, boring disciplines
of learning and applying the scriptures to one’s life. The Bible itself
warns, when people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But
whoever obeys the law is happy (Proverbs 29:18 NLT). We want this verse
to refer to divine guidance as experiential revelation, but the context
of the verse leaves no room for misunderstanding, “. . . whoever obeys
the law is happy.” The “Law” refers to The Book, The Word of God.
Experience Finds its Source in the Word of God, not the Reverse
Many have quoted the well used line, "A man with an experience is never
at the mercy of a man with an argument." That is a patently false,
misleading and dangerous statement: If someone has an experience that
flies full in the face of the revealed word of God, are we to accept
that experience over and above the clear teaching of Scripture? If
however a person reports an experience which is upheld by the Word of
God, the very reliability of God’s word trumps any other experience,
because all spiritual experience must flow from the word of God, and not
the other way around.
Merely because someone physically shakes is not an indication that the
Holy Spirit is the primary causa of that physical experience. Falling to
the floor or being “slain in the Spirit” in itself offers no certain
evidence that God is involved in the falling. Speaking with other
tongues, or glossolalia, while impressive to the ear is not in itself
necessarily expressive of the Spirit’s activity.
Physical responses, often called “manifestations” may be the result of
the activity of the Holy Spirit, but they are not certain indicators of
God’s presence. I’ve watched Satanists shake and Hindus fall to the
floor in trancelike states. I am not persuaded that God is present just
because someone shouts unintelligible syllables into a microphone. I’ve
heard men shout “hula, hula, hula,” “boola, boola, boola,” and “yoi, yoi,
yoi,” among other unintelligible phrases. I’ve never felt particularly
spiritually encouraged or especially blessed in the hearing of these
utterances. I am, however impressed when the blind see, the deaf hear
and the lame walk.
Indeed if the Spirit’s work in an individual is to place him into a
state of ecstasy wherein he can merely mumble incoherently, please tell
me how that person will effectively be a witness for Jesus in the
marketplace of men. Will a non-believer suddenly cast off his unbelief
and embrace Christ if I chant, “hula, boola, moola” to him?
Heart and Character, Not Trances and Dances
The acid test of all spiritual encounters is this: What happens to the
character of the person experiencing that manifestation? If I have been
genuinely touched by God, should I not expect to be benefited in my
heart and in my character? As has been said, “When a man is truly born
again, even his dog ought to know it.” Any person touched by heaven will
reflect something of heaven to those around him or her. That’s Bible:
You can trust your life – your eternal life on that Book, and only on
I realize in making such a statement that there are believers, followers
of Jesus who do not hold to a time-worn and time-tested reliance upon
the Word of God as the singular infallible, divinely inspired,
inexhaustible rule of faith and conduct. I recognize that in some
Christian circles today, such language is considered out of date,
pathetically cerebral, without anointing or unction, but, dear reader,
those very terms – anointing and unction came to us not by a
revival-spawned revelation but by anointed men of God, moved upon by the
The biblical phrase "inspired by God" in 2 Timothy 3:16 is translated
from a single Greek word qeopneustos. The first word is qeos. It is the
word for God. The second word is pnew which means "to breathe" or "to
blow" and is also the verbal form of the Greek word pneuma, meaning
The resulting understanding from Second Timothy is that "all Scripture
is God-breathed." The very breath and Spirit of God is infused into the
words of Scripture. This is why we refer to the Bible as the Word of
God. If reliance upon the Word of God, the very God-breathed words of
God is somehow unspiritual or out of date, what then may we rest our
souls upon and in what may we place our trust for our eternal future?
In support of the veracity and genuineness of what many Charismatics and
Pentecostals call renewal or revival, various devices outside the Bible
have been utilized which, under scrutiny fail to bear the weight of
authenticity. Following is a non-inclusive listing of the most
objectionable teachings and or practices I have witnessed by the
proponents some of these movements and the extreme prophetic, “mystical”
1. Use of Well-Known Personalities to legitimize and justify an
experience, renewal or revival. The appearance of and endorsement by
known apostles within the Charismatic church is not an assurance of
biblical accuracy or of ministry appropriateness.
It was no less a recognizable name than the Apostle Paul who declared,
“though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you
than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed”
I care not one whit if Smith Wigglesworth or John Wesley themselves are
trooped across the stage in support of any so-called move of God; if
their testimony is not consistent with the eternal word of God, their
presence means absolutely nothing to me beyond the astonishment of
seeing the dead raised to life.
With reference to well-known and beloved ministry personalities, I will
doggedly hold to Paul’s counsel in Galatians 1:8, cited above. I may
love and honor such persons, but they are not equal with or superior to
the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God.
It is biblically and spiritually appropriate that we recognize and honor
any man or woman whom God has used mightily, we are never encouraged by
Scripture to place our trust or our hope in any human vessel. The world
has never seen any faultless, complete or sinless figure outside of the
Person of Jesus Christ Himself. To place final trust in any man or group
of men is to invite spiritual disaster. God’s Word and not God’s
creation must be our ultimate and final authority. This is especially
and critically true with regard to those who claim prophetic gifting,
calling and office. Vast numbers of hungry believers have been
devastated because of foolish, presumptuous and even down-right silly
so-called prophetic direction.
2. Relating with Contemporary Society by adopting the language and the
behavior of the culture outside of Christ. Simulating the use of illegal
drugs, and using the language of the illegal drug culture is not a
legitimate way of reaching the “lost.”No exceptions and no apologies.
Terminologies such as “Godka,” “Toking the Ghost,” “Jehovajauna” and
“Holy Ghost Bartender,” among many others do great dishonor to the
character and nature of a holy God. To reduce the Holy Creator of the
Universe to a joint of marijuana or a bottle of alcohol is a crime I am
convinced no true, sensitive follower of Jesus could ever allow him or
herself to commit.
“Toking the baby Jesus” as was demonstrated in one online video is
blasphemous. Strong language, I know, but the images I have viewed of
such behavior also are strongly objectionable and trivialize the
Holiness and the Purity of our God and of His Holy Spirit.
Further, consider one specific meeting where the leader advocated and
demonstrated the procedure for locating and injecting a vein with
heroin. The “leader” then mumbled, “that’ll hit you in about half an
hour.” Imagine someone in that meeting who had recently (even not
recently) been delivered from mainlining heroin or from any other
illicit drug: How will that person respond to such a suggestion?
3. Use of New Age or Misinterpreted Terminologies and Practices will
never be conducive to a true, Spirit-engendered practical theology and
faith. I have listened to one “revivalist” use terminologies such as
coming into the state of the “ecstasy” of God wherein he describes the
spiritual states of “Mystical Union,” “Absorption Ecstasy” and
“Concentration Ecstasy” as conditions that thirsty Christians should
seek to experience. These terms are mentioned in the International
Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) where, on page 996 under the heading
of “Prophet” (dealing specifically and exclusively with the question of
how “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” in 2
Peter 1:21) and hails to the unio mystica discussed by J. Lindblom in
the aforementioned text.
From the ISBE, I quote regarding the unio mystica, or mystical union,
“The ecstasy of the true prophets did not usually display itself in
peculiar behavior, for their ecstasy was basically a private experience
of the conscious reality of God’s presence. The prophets’ profound
spiritual experiences should not, therefore, be confused with mystical
experience, nor with the frenzied and irrational behavior of heathen
prophets.” Please note that final sentence: “The prophets’ profound
spiritual experiences should not . . . be confused with mystical
experience, nor with the frenzied and irrational behavior of heathen
prophets. “Hula, boola schmoola?”
4. Uncorroborated Testimonies of Healings and Raisings from the Dead.
Nothing will kill the reputation of revival quicker and more decisively
than making claims of miracle healings and raisings from the dead which
cannot be substantiated by outside medical sources. Expecting believers
and non-believers alike to simply “swallow” these claims without
evidence is not only arrogant, but stupid. If a person were raised from
the dead at a hospital, do you actually believe that no nurse, no
physician, no friend or family member at that hospital would be aware of
such a miracle, and be willing to talk about it?
Over the years, secular journalists who have heard reports of
conspicuous miracles – the dead being raised, cancers dying, diseases
disappearing, have sought to receive from the related ministries medical
corroboration of such phenomena. Time after time, generalized
testimonies and incomplete information, coupled with evangelistic
gobbldy-gook has not only substituted for simple, direct medical
evidence, but has also given the Church a black eye in the view of the
unbelieving public. Verifiable testimonies and medical documents go a
long way in substantiating claims made and establishing the veracity of
any claimed move of God. Yet the media packet held no proof beyond
names, locations and contact information which had been blacked out.
If God – not a contemporary evangelist or the Apostle Paul or Greg
Austin – if God is raising the dead, we should expect to see evidence of
these miracles. We should be able to see these people on camera, listen
to interviews with them, and hear the astonished physicians’ statements
of the veracity of these claims. These would surely honor God, but
refusing to provide anything specific beyond claims that “we have X
number of people raised from the dead and counting,” is both dishonest
and dishonoring to God.
5. The Centrality of Angels and Apostles to the neglect of the true
centrality of the Person of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit does not
desire to be noticed, but He always points our hearts to Jesus. The Holy
Spirit has come to us to guide us into all truth: Jesus said, “I am the
Way, the Truth and the Life.” The Holy Spirit magnifies Jesus. Never do
we find the Holy Spirit exalting angels. Indeed, Paul asks the
Corinthian church rhetorically, “do you not know that we will judge
angels?” (1 Cor. 6:3).
Much emphasis today has been placed upon the title or office of Apostle.
I have watched with some concern at what I believe is an unhealthy and
unholy veneration of those called “Apostles.” As I read through the New
Testament, I see the apostles as servants; men and women with hearts of
humility and grace, who desired that the work of God and the Kingdom of
God should be advanced far more than their own work and their own were
benefitted or that their own names should be known or remembered. The
Bible speaks of apostles as “foundational” gifts to the church. These
are they who establish and maintain the flow of spiritual ministry based
upon the revealed word of God. Nowhere in scripture is there any
indication that apostles should be worshipped, or their words taken as
the inspired word of God. Apostles champion God’s word; they do not seek
veneration from any man.
During His temptation, Jesus told the devil, “'You shall worship the
Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve' " (Lk 4:8). To a Samaritan
woman who desired to understand true worship, Jesus said, “worship the
Father” in John 4.
When a messenger from heaven appeared to John in Revelation 19, John
says, “. . . I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "See
that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren
who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus
is the spirit of prophecy."
When certain Greek seekers came to Philip, their request was
straightforward: They said, “Sir, we would see Jesus.” The point in all
these scriptures is that there is only One Who is worthy of our worship
and our adoration. I thank God for those true apostles who quietly and
decisively carry out their calling and their office, but a true apostle
would be the first to warn us “don’t worship me.”
In all that I have said, I am not suggesting that no miracles have taken
place in any revival or renewal atmosphere. I have listened to more than
one testimony from individuals I personally know who have testified to
receiving healing or miracles as they sought God during such meetings.
But here is the key: They were seeking God. A principal upon which we
may rely is this: God will not deny Himself, and if an honest seeker
reaches out to God in faith, regardless of what personality may be
present on a platform, God will honor such faith. One of the greatest
dangers to any leader is to believe that when miracles are taking place
in his meetings, he is somehow responsible for those healings.
The Word of God is the only reliable compass for negotiating the
spiritual realms of life. The Word of God is the singular anchor that
will hold us when the storms of life arise.
Any reliance upon any other device for direction, doctrine or practice
than God’s inspired and immutable word; any use of so-called revelation
that takes one beyond the boundaries of the revealed word will lead
surely and ultimately to disaster.
Forgive my repetition, but it bears reiterating: “though we, or an angel
from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have
preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).
There is no legitimate “progressive revelation” that will carry us
beyond the parameters of “the faith which was once for all delivered.”
Jude writes (Jude 3) “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you
concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you
exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all
delivered to the saints.” Please observe, “the faith which was once for
all delivered . . .” “Once for all.” There is no progressive revelation
that will carry us beyond the parameters of “the faith which was once
for all delivered.” The principles of the Word of God have been
established for all time and eternity. The thrice repeated declaration
of Jesus should settle our hearts on this matter: “heaven and earth
shall pass away, but My words shall never pass away” (Mt. 24:35; Mk
13:31; Lk. 21:33).
God’s word is all inclusive; that is, whatever man needs to know or may
know about the secrets of the Kingdom of God or the world to come has
already been provided within the covers of our Bibles. If we waver on
this crucial issue, we lose the whole structure upon which our faith is
May we grow in our understanding of the increasing depths of God’s word?
Absolutely! Is God’s word so deep and so rich with spiritual truth and
meaning that we may not, in a dozen lifetimes understand all its
secrets? Without doubt. But once again, all the truth which may be known
concerning faith and Christian practice is contained within God’s word.
There exist mysteries which finite man cannot know. There are unknown
realms man cannot approach because we are creatures of time and space
and not of eternity – yet. It was John, the Apostle who declared,
“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed
what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like
Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” (1 Jn 3:2).
Please notice, “it has not yet been revealed what we shall be.” There
are unknowns, ambiguities, secrets unrevealed, undisclosed until the Day
The natural instinct of man is a desire to teneo ultra, “know beyond.”
When the serpent approached Eve in the Garden, her vulnerability was the
thirst to “know beyond” what God had revealed. The entry point for the
venom of sin was the desire to teneo ultra, to “know beyond.” The
serpent played upon her desire for knowledge beyond what God had
provided. While every tree God had placed in the garden was available to
her and to Adam, one tree was forbidden of God to be touched. But the
curiosity, the desire to “know beyond” what God had revealed drew Eve
inexorably into sin like the mesmerized Ulysses of Homer’s Odyssey is
drawn to the seductive song of the Sirens, who lured men to their death
on the rocks around their island. Interestingly, Homer depicts the
Sirens song promising “wisdom and knowledge of past and future.” And so
Eve attempted to satisfy her desire for “wisdom and knowledge,” and in
the process committed an act that would require the sacrificial death of
God’s own Son to remedy.
New Age practitioners, cultists of every ilk, and myriad false
religionists and magicians play upon the same, instinctual need to “know
beyond” in order to ply their trades and fill their coffers. When a
Syracuse, New York banker named David Hannum (not P.T. Barnum)
proclaimed, “There's a sucker born every minute," he was merely
affirming the truth that man wants to know and is willing to commit
intellectual suicide or pay exorbitant material and perhaps eternal,
spiritual fees in order to know even what cannot be known.
Many claims have been made by various revivalists of visitations to the
“third heaven.” Support for those claims comes from Paul’s statements in
Second Corinthians 12 of his own (singular, so far as we can read)
translation into the third heaven. He writes, “I know a man in Christ
who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether
out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to
the third heaven.”
Follow Paul’s discourse regarding that incident in Second Corinthians,
chapter twelve. Does he speak of revelations that surpass contemporary
knowledge of the things of God? Does he reveal deep revelations of
angelic encounters or of prophetic knowledge beyond what other apostles
were aware of? Paul’s own words are notably absent of any such claims.
In fact, he divulges no deep secrets to his readers. He speaks of
“inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” He
makes no claims of super-revelation, he is decidedly not lifted up in
pride and arrogance. He is silent about what he saw and heard while in
Paradise, but instead tells us that he is careful not to boast of the
experience, and even goes on to describe his personal caution.
He says, “I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees
me to be or hears from me. And lest I should be exalted above measure by
the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me,
a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.”
A Final Proverb
In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus and his men have landed on the island of
the Lotus-Eaters, and Odysseus sends out a scouting party of three men
who ate the lotus with the natives. This caused them to fall asleep and
cease to be concerned about going home, with only a desire to eat the
Odysseus went after the scouting party, and dragged them back to the
ship against their will. He set sail, with the drugged soldiers tied to
the rudder benches to prevent them from swimming back to the island.
Unrealized by the stupefied sailors, Odysseus not only is saving their
lives, but he is returning them to the true desires of their hearts; to
After a life of pursuing truth and the knowledge of God’s Son, the
Apostle Paul bursts forth with the heart-cry, “that I may know Him and
the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings,
being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10).
There are, I fear, those who only desire to “eat the lotus” and not to
know the Jesus Whom Paul pursued and was willing to lose everything in
order to find.
My heart cries out for these “scouting parties” who have fallen prey to
the “lotus” of false spiritual experience and subjective revelation. I
want to reveal the truth of God’s word, and with Odysseus, drag them
back to the ship of faith in order to save their eternal lives.
The false, temporal substitute of the Lotus – of temporary
psychological, emotional, physical manifestation and experience crumbles
and falls to the earth in pieces when confronted with the superiority
and supremacy of a solid and true faith and experience in the Christ of
God’s Word and in the Word of God’s Christ.
I am thankful to God for the Compass of His Word and the Anchor that
holds us in the swelling tide. “On Christ, the Solid Rock I stand, all
other ground is sinking sand.”
Several years ago in Derry, Northern Ireland, I was conversing with
Clive Price, a free-lance journalist from England. We were discussing
the very topics I have written about here. Speaking
about certain extreme practices and unsupportable claims I said, “Clive,
I believe God is calling the church to clean up its act, and if we won’t
clean up our act, the world will do it for us, and the world won’t be
benevolent when it starts cleaning.”