Thursday, October 18, 2018

3 REASONS I DO NOT PRACTICE CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER

I value quietness and solitude. In fact, it was in such a setting that I received the inspiration and direction for this article. It happened like this.
One morning I found myself wide awake at 3 a.m. No wanting to awaken Sue, I quietly arose and went into another room where I sat in a chair, enjoying the stillness and quietness of the early morning.
As I sat, with only light from a street light streaming through the window, I thought about God and His goodness and faithfulness. At times I would voice quiet words of praise and thanksgiving. As needs and concerns came to mind, I would present these in prayer. It was a wonderful, refreshing time. Sometime, during those quiet hours of fellowship with God, the title and layout for this article were presented to my mind.
Please do not confuse my “quiet time” with contemplative prayer. There is a world of difference. Contemplative prayer, emphasizing "silence," has roots that go back to the mystics of the medieval Roman Catholic Church. The mystics were, in turn, profoundly influenced by Neo-Platonism, a pagan, mystical religion founded by Plotinus, a disciple of Plato.
Although the word “contemplative” is, by itself, a positive word meaning “thoughtful” and “reflective,” contemplative prayer as taught by the mystics is entirely out of sync with what we know of Jesus and early Christianity. I am convinced that it is a hindrance rather than a help in nurturing a relationship with God.
Here are three reasons I do not practice contemplative prayer.
Reason #1
Contemplative prayer is rooted in a Pagan Concept of God
Contemplative prayer began with Plotinus (203-270), the founder of Neo-Platonism, who transformed the philosophy of Plato into a religion. Plotinus taught that all reality had come from a supreme deity whom he called “the One.” This supreme deity, Plotinus taught, is impassible, meaning that he is unmoved by human experiences of joy, sadness, or suffering. This is because he is absolutely “other than” and “separate from” this realm of physical and human existence.
From this One supreme being there had issued forth a series of lower beings resulting in a hierarchy of celestial beings, or gods. The Neo-Platonists believed that it was one of these lower (and evil) heavenly beings that had created the earth and its inhabitants. The Neo-Platonist sought for a way to ascend through this hierarchy of celestial beings and be united with the ultimate deity they called “the One.”
Because “the One” existed in a realm absolutely “other than” this earthly realm, human reason and language were deemed inadequate for understanding or communicating with him. In fact, “the One” could not be known by human beings but could only be experienced in a mystical encounter facilitated by a form of spiritual prayer characterized by silence and a mind emptied of any rational thoughts about deity.
This form of prayer was called “contemplation” or “contemplative prayer.” If one was unable to clear his/her mind of rational thoughts, a “mantra” or “prayer” might be repeated over and over to help them center their thoughts on the goal of their prayer—a mystical union or encounter with “the One.”
This concept of God and the form of prayer associated with it, found its way into the church of the Middle Ages through the writings of a Syrian monk who was obviously influenced by Neo-Platonism. One book he wrote was called On the Heavenly Hierarchy, where in Neo-Platonic fashion, he examined and classified the various heavenly beings in ranks of three with each having three subdivisions—seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, archangels, angels, etc.
According to this writer these constituted an ascending ladder or hierarchy of celestial beings leading to the throne of God. He also advocated a form of mystical/contemplative prayer by which one could ascend through this celestial hierarchy and be united with God.
The writings of this monk, who falsely claimed to be Dionysius, Paul’s convert in Athens (Acts 17:34), became foundational for the mystical movement in the medieval church. His writings were quoted by bishops and some of the most famous theologians of the medieval church, including Thomas Aquinas.
As a result, spiritual experiences and revelations through contemplation were exalted and valued. Paul was interpreted through the lens of this false Dionysius, and as Dr. Justo Gonzalez says, “Paul’s entire life was viewed as a process of mystical ascension.”
Today, both Catholic and Protestant scholars recognize the claim of this author to be the convert of Paul as false. The 16th century Reformers also rejected all notions of a mystical ascension to God through contemplative prayer as it placed too much emphasis on human effort and diminished the work of Christ in opening the way into God’s presence.
I do not practice contemplative prayer because it is a form of prayer rooted in a pagan, non-Christian concept of God. 
Reason #2
The Revelation of God in Scripture Becomes Secondary
Because the contemplative approach to prayer devalues human reason and language, its practitioners tend to neglect the concrete revelation of God in Scripture. This, in turn, leaves them vulnerable to deceiving spirits and the “angels of light” of which Paul spoke in II Corinthians 11:13-15.
Hans Kung, the most widely read Roman Catholic theologian in the world today, addressed this problem among the mystics of the Roman Catholic Church; but his assessment also fits many in the charismatic and prophetic movements today. He wrote,
These new revelations not only overshadowed the Bible and the Gospel, but also Him whom the Gospel proclaims and to whom the Bible bears witness. It is striking how rarely Christ appeared in all these 'revelations,' 'apparitions,' and 'wonders.' Catholics who followed in the wake of every new 'revelation,' which often turned out to be fantasy or deceit and indulged their desire for sensation by looking for the latest reports of miracles—and yet who had never once in their whole lives read the Scriptures from cover to cover (Hyatt, Angels of Light, 103).
The goal of the person utilizing contemplative prayer methods is to have a mystical encounter with God. To facilitate such a mystical encounter, techniques and postures of prayer, breathing, and meditation are very important.
One striking example of this preoccupation with posture and technique is that of Gregory Palamas, a 13th century monk who stressed quietness and stillness in the pursuit of a mystical union with God. As an aid to concentration, he recommended that the chin rest on the chest, with the eyes fixed on the navel.
God, of course, looks on the heart, not the physical posture of the person who seeks Him. This preoccupation with outward techniques and postures--staring at one’s navel--takes the practitioner away from Scripture. This is serious, for as the great historian, Philip Schaff, said, “Every true progress in church history is conditioned by a new and deeper study of the Scriptures.”
The great 18th century Awakenings in England and America were birthed, not out of contemplative prayer, but out of the study of Scripture. The Methodist revival that transformed the British Isles began with John and Charles Wesley leading a study of the Greek New Testament each evening from 6 – 9 p.m.
George Whitefield, whose preaching shook both England and America, lived and moved in the Scripture. In describing his commitment to Scripture after his conversion, he wrote,
My mind now being more open and enlarged, I began to read the Holy Scriptures upon my knees, laying aside all other books and praying over, if possible, every line and word (Hyatt, Revival Fire, 25).
In the 20th century, the Azusa Street Revival that helped birth the modern Pentecostal and charismatic movements was rooted and grounded in the study of Scripture. In the June 1907 edition of the Apostolic Faith, the official publication of the revival, the revival leaders wrote,
We are measuring everything by the Word; every experience must measure up to the Bible. Some say that is going too far, but if we have lived too close to the Word, we will settle that with the Lord when we meet Him in the air (Hyatt, Revival Fire, 27).
I do not practice contemplative prayer because it tends to lead those who practice it away from the Bible into an unhealthy introversion and self-serving pursuit of personal experience, also known as “staring at one’s navel.”
Reason #3
Jesus & the Early Church Did Not Practice or Teach It
Jesus does not advocate any form of mystical or contemplative prayer. He does not teach any postures or techniques for prayer and meditation. Neither is there any mention of silence or centering prayers.
Instead, He emphasizes a relational approach to God in which prayer is simple conversation with a loving, benevolent Being whom He calls Abba, an endearing term used only by children for the father in the Jewish household.
For Jesus, oneness with God is not a mystical union of one’s being with God, but a practical oneness of will and purpose. Not My will but Thine be done, Jesus prayed, showing that, in His incarnate state, union with God consisted of a submission of His will to the will of the Father.
When the disciples, in Luke 11:1-4, ask Jesus to, teach us to pray, He does not respond by teaching them techniques and postures for prayer and meditation. Instead, He says to them, When you pray, say, “Our father who art in heaven . . ..” Jesus teaches them to verbally express themselves to God in prayer. For Jesus, prayer is relational and is characterized by intelligent conversation with a personal Heavenly Father.
The early church followed in the footsteps of Jesus and prayed dynamic, relational prayers in which they recognized God’s majesty and greatness and asked for His help in the urgencies of life (see, for example, Acts 4:23-31). The miracles they experienced (healings, angelic deliverances, etc.) occurred, not in a mystical, contemplative state of prayer, but while they were going about the business of obeying Christ’s command to take the Gospel to the whole world.
I cannot imagine Jesus and His disciples all sitting in the lotus position with their eyes closed seeking to go into a place of silence and contemplation where they will ascend heavenward into a mystical encounter God. Such a picture is completely contrary to what we know of Jesus from the Gospels.
Instead, He promises His followers a baptism in the Holy Spirit that will empower them to be His witnesses from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Their encounter with God on the Day of Pentecost does not cause them to withdraw from the world into silence but compels them to go forth into all the world declaring the Good News of what Jesus has done for the human race.
I do not practice contemplative prayer because Jesus did not practice it, nor did His earliest followers.
Conclusion
A number of years ago, Sue and I participated in a weekend retreat in which everyone was asked to take a "vow of silence" and the contemplative approach to prayer and spirituality was put forth. I came away from that “spiritual retreat” convinced that what I had encountered was a substitute for the promised baptism in the Holy Spirit as an empowerment for life and service. My prayerful studies since that time have confirmed that determination and led me to decide to write this article explaining why I do not practice contemplative prayer. 
This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, Angels of Lightavailable from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

HOW TO APPROPRIATE THE FULL BLESSING OF CHRIST'S ATONING DEATH

We need to understand the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ in order to lay hold of the full benefits made available to us by His death and resurrection. We also need to understand His atoning death so as not to misapply or abuse His atonement as do universalists and some who are called "grace teachers." One place to start in understanding Christ's atoning death is the Old Testament Day of Atonement, which is a type and foreshadowing of the atoning death of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
A Full and Complete Atonement for Humankind
September 18-19 is Yom Kippur, or “Day of Atonement,” the most holy day of the year on the Jewish calendar. Yom means “day” and Kippur is probably derived from the Hebrew kofer, meaning “ransom.” It falls on two of our calendar days because the Jewish day begins and ends at sunset.
It was on this Day of Atonement that the Old Testament high priest went into the holy of holies, and with animal sacrifices, made sacrificial atonement for the sins of the people of Israel (Leviticus 16). Interestingly, there was to be absolutely no work on this Day. This Day was God’s idea and God’s work, with the high priest being the one carrying out the proceedings.
The Old Testament Day of Atonement was a type and foreshadowing of the atoning death of Jesus Christ, not just for Israel, but for the world. Jesus Himself said in Mark 10:45 that He had come to give His life a ransom for many. Paul speaks of the death of Christ as a sacrifice, even referring to Him as our Passover lamb. (I Corinthians 5:7).
Matthew 27:50-51 tells us that at the point of Jesus' death, the heavy curtain, or veil, that cordoned off the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. The Holy of Holies was the place where God dwelt and only the high priest was allowed to enter there once per year on the Day of Atonment to offer sacrifice for the sins of Israel. It was a fearful and awe-inspiring place.
This rending of the veil was an act of Almighty God showing that the way into His presence had been opened by the ultimate and final sacrifice of His Son. No longer were the masses to be cordoned off and kept at a distance, but all are now free to come into His presence through the atoning heath of Jesus Christ. As the writer of Hebrews said, "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus . . . let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assuracne that faith brings" (Hebrews 10:19-22; NIV). 

As both fully God and fully human, Christ’s death was vicarious and efficacious for the whole world, making it possible for humankind to be reconciled to God. Just like on Israel’s Day of Atonement, God did not ask or require our help in Christ’s atoning work. We have nothing to add. We can only come to Him and in faith and receive the benefits of the work He has already done.
The Benefits of the Atonement
Must be Appropriated by Repentance & Faith
One serious misunderstanding of the Atonement is the idea that its benefits are automatically applied regardless of attitude or behavior. This idea seems to run parallel with the popular teaching that since Christ has paid for my sins, I do not have to confess sins I commit or be watchful concerning sin.
This way of thinking downplays the need for repentance and has been labeled by opponents as “hyper-grace,” but is actually based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the Atonement.
The reasoning goes something like this. Jesus paid the penalty for all sins that have ever been, or ever will be, committed. Therefore, any sins I have committed in the past, or am committing now, or will commit in the future, have already been paid for, and borne away, by Christ. I, therefore, do not have to confess sin or be concerned with sin. There is no longer a sin problem for me or for the human race.
For many, this theory has an attractive ring to it, but it is at odds with so many passages of Scripture. For example, Simon the Sorcerer, who had been baptized in the great Samaritan revival led by Philip, offered Peter and John money in return for the authority to lay hands on people to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter’s answer to him was very telling.
Peter said to Simon, Your money perish with you because you thought the gift of God could be purchased with money (Acts 8:20). Peter went on to say, Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. (Acts 8:22).
Simon’s request had revealed the awful condition of his heart. Peter said that Simon, even though he had been baptized, was in a state of perishing and he called on Simon to repent of his wickedness and ask God for forgiveness.
Peter obviously did not see the benefits of the atonement being automatically applied in Simon’s case. He did not take Simon’s sin lightly. There was a need for repentance and contrition of heart on Simon’s part if he was going to experience the blessings and benefits of Christ’s atoning death.
Yes, the forgiveness and blessings of Christ’s atoning death are available to all, but must be appropriated by repentance and faith. This is why Paul, when speaking to the Ephesian elders, reminded them how he had testified to both Jews and Greeks, Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is why Paul expressed concern to the Corinthians about un-repented sin in their midst and said he feared that when he would come to them,
My God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced (I Corinthians 12:21).
No, the atoning merits of Christ’s death are not automatically applied across-the-board. The New Testament is filled with passages about the importance of repentance and faith in appropriating the forgiveness and blessings provided through Christ’s atoning death. This understanding is vital for another Great Awakening in our land.
The Atonement Was Not a Commercial Transaction
We must realize that the atonement of Jesus Christ was not a commercial transaction in which He paid the aggregate penalty for every single sin that ever was, or ever will be, committed. If this were the case, there would be no mercy or forgiveness on God’s part. God would be like an ice cold businessman who demands exact payment for every debt and obligation.
If such were the case, the sinner would be in the position of being able to demand his/her salvation from God since the precise debt for any sins they have committed, or ever will commit, has been paid. Salvation would not be a gift from God but something He owes and must give to every person regardless of their attitude, because the precise debt has been paid.
Instead, however, God is presented in Scripture as a merciful and caring being, willing to forgive those who come to Him in reverence and faith. The word “forgive” means “to remit” or “to cancel” or “to write off.” Because of what Christ has done, God is willing to “remit” or “write off” our sins when we put our faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning work through the cross.
We, therefore, should not think of the Atonement in terms of a quantitative payment for every individual sin. We should, instead, think of the Atonement in terms of “quality.” It was the quality of the sacrifice--Jesus Christ being God incarnate--that made His sacrifice acceptable in the sight of God and the basis for God to offer amnesty and pardon to a race of rebels, if they will only come to Him in repentance and faith.
The death of Christ on the cross was a public demonstration of God’s love for humanity and a public showing of His willingness to grant forgiveness and new life to those who will come to Him in repentance and faith. It also, however, showed the terribleness of sin and provided satisfaction for the just nature of a holy God who cannot wink at sin.
The Blessing of Repentance & Confession of Sin
On the Old Testament Day of Atonement, the people were instructed to “afflict their souls.” In other words, they were to examine themselves and repent of wrong and sinful attitudes and behavior. But is such an approach appropriate for a New Testament believer?
In I Corinthians 11:27-32 Paul cautions the Corinthian believers about taking communion in an "unworthy manner," that is, with unconfessed sin in their lives. Communion is a celebration of Christ's atoning death and sin is not to be treated in a light, trivial manner by those who participate. Paul then instructed, Let a man [person] examine himself and so let him eat . . .. In verse 31 he says, But if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged we are chastened by the Lord that we may not be condemned with the world

As New Covenant believers with the indwelling Holy Spirit, we judge ourselves by opening our hearts to the Lord and inviting Him to show us anything in our lives that is displeasing to Him. As He brings attitudes and behavior to our attention, we then acknowledge, or confess, our sins before the Lord as we are instructed to do in I John 1:9, a passage and letter written to believers. The results of such repentance and confession can be astounding.

This was the experience of a church, described by Charles Finney, that led to great revival. Through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the leaders of this church came to realize that in seeking numbers and recognition from the culture and community leaders, they had compromised their commitment to Christ. They, therefore, formulated a public statement concerning their “backsliding and want of a Christian spirit” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 177).
It was submitted to the congregation for their approval and then read before the congregation. As the confession was being read publicly, the entire congregation stood to its feet with many of its members weeping. Finney said that, from that moment on, the revival went forward in great power, and the opposition, which had been bitter, was silenced.
Jesus Provides a Picture of True Repentance
Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son to reveal the merciful, forgiving heart of God. However, the parable also reveals the attitude of heart in which the wayward son or daughter must return to the Father.
After coming to the end of himself in the pigpen, the prodigal departed for home with a different attitude. He determined that on arriving home, he would say to the Father, Father I have sinned against heaven and in Your sight and I am no longer worthy to called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants (Luke 15:18-19).
The prodigal was not perfect. He probably smelled like a pigpen. He probably had pig manure on his shoes and straw in his hair. But he had left the pig pen with a changed attitude and was headed in the right direction, back to the Father’s house. That is a picture of true repentance.
When the Father saw him afar off He ran and fell on his neck weeping. He then brought him into the house, completely restored him to his place in the family, and initiated a time of rejoicing for his safe return.
Appropriate the Atonement Blessings Today
God rejoices today when erring sinners return to Him in faith and sincerity of heart. If you have never appropriated the wonderful forgiveness and blessings of Christ’s Atonement, I urge you to do so today. Come to Him now in faith and sincerity of heart. He will receive you with open arms.
If you are a believer, I urge you to invite the Holy Spirit to search your heart for any attitudes, or any compromise with the world, that are displeasing to Him. As He brings these sins and weights to our minds and we confess them before Him with contrition of heart, I am convinced that we will see a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our lives, our churches, our nation, and the world.

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, Bible teacher, and ordained minister with a vision for Spiritual Awakening in America and around the world. His numerous books on revival and Spiritual Awakening are available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html. To schedule him to speak at your church, group, or conference, send an email to dreddiehyatt@gmail.com, and visit his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.





Wednesday, September 12, 2018

5 WARNING SIGNS THAT PROPHETIC MINISTRY IS BEING ABUSED

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, Angels of Light, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.

Winston Churchill once said, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” This is especially true of the church where the same mistakes have been made generation after generation concerning revival and the prophetic.
The following information is drawn from a document written around 1560 by Obe Philips, a leader in the sixteenth century Anabaptist movement that sought the restoration of New Testament Christianity. Philips was commissioned as an “apostle” in this movement and he commissioned others to this “office.”
The document, entitled “Confessions,” describes events in Europe in the 1530s. From this document I have delineated 5 telltale signs from their experience that can help us avoid the tragic mistakes that produced such great suffering and distress for them.
Warning Sign #1
When Prophecy is Used for Self-Promotion
1517-1537 was a very exciting time for many Christians in Europe. A great spiritual reformation was under way and many believed that God was restoring the church to its original purity and power. Many believed that out of this restoration would come a great revival and harvest that would usher in the coming of the Lord and the end of the age.
In the midst of this end-time, revival atmosphere, individuals began to arise proclaiming themselves to be special end-time apostles and prophets, endowed by God with miraculous power to usher in His kingdom upon the earth.
One of the most prominent of these “apostles” was Melchoir Hoffman, a powerful preacher and teacher who gained a large following. His status was further enhanced when a prophetess saw in a vision a large white swan, larger and more beautiful than all the others, swimming in a beautiful river. She claimed it was revealed to her that the swan was Hoffman and that he represented the fulfillment of God’s promise in Malachi 4:5 to send Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
Biblical Insight: Satan plays on human ego and pride. God calls us to humble ourselves before Him and promises that He will then raise us up. Demons, on the other hand, tell us how great, wonderful, and significant we are in ourselves. The “Elijah” prophecy given to Hoffman is one that Satan has used again and again to bring good men down because of pride.
The ultimate goal of prophecy is to point people to Jesus. This was confirmed by the heavenly being who was at John’s side as they observed the vast heavenly host worshipping and praising God. Overwhelmed at the sight, John fell at the feet of his heavenly escort to worship him, who stopped him and said,
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 (Revelation 19:10).
In John 16:13 Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit would come, He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is mine and declare it to you. The Holy Spirit is not here to promote a prophet, teacher, angel or any other creature. Jesus is the only Savior, Healer and Lord, and the Holy Spirit is here to point people to Him. When people use prophecy to put themselves and their own movement in the limelight, it is a warning sign they have strayed from the Biblical pattern.
Warning Sign #2
When Prophecy Becomes the Primary Means for Determining the Will of God
Another individual prophesied that Hoffman would be imprisoned for six months in the city of Strasbourg, and after that, his ministry would spread over the whole world. Based on the prophecy, Hoffman moved to Strasbourg where he began to preach and teach throughout that city.
The first part of the prophecy was fulfilled when the Strasbourg authorities arrested Hoffman and had him imprisoned. Philips says that he entered the prison “willingly, cheerfully, and well comforted,” convinced that the latter part of the prophecy would now soon come to pass.
While in prison, Hoffman wrote many letters which Philips says came every day describing “how his actions, his visions and revelations affected him.” One individual prophesied that at the end of his six-month imprisonment, Hoffman would depart Strasbourg with 144,000 true apostles endowed with such miraculous power that no one would be able to resist them. Elated with such prophetic predictions, Hoffman vowed that he would take no food other than bread and water until the time of his deliverance.
Six months passed, however, and he was not released. More time elapsed and he found it necessary to break his fast. Hoffman eventually died in prison, a very disillusioned man. Philips says;
Everything that he so boldly professed from the prophets and prophetesses, he, in the end, found it all falsehood and deception, in fact and in truth; and he was so deceived with all their visions, prophecies, commission, dreams, and Elijah role that my heart today feels pity for him on account of this distress of his soul.
Biblical Insight: It is clear from Scripture that personal prophecy is not for giving direction in life. There is not a single positive example of such in the New Testament. Neither Jesus or Paul ever encouraged anyone to seek direction from a “prophet.” In this New Covenant, all are given the Holy Spirit, and all are to be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) A prophecy may confirm, but never direct.
I know the value of prophecy as confirmation. I was lauuched into ministry by a prophetic word that revealed all that was in my heart concerning God's call.   I did not learn anything new from the prophecy; it merely confirmed what was already in my heart and gave me the courage to act on what God had already spoken to me.
The only New Testament example of a personal prophecy giving direction is in Acts 21:4 where certain disciples, by the Spirit, told Paul, who was on his way to Jerusalem, not to go up to Jerusalem. What did Paul do? He ignored what they said and continued on to Jerusalem. Prophecy must confirm what we already know in our heart and Paul had already purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21).
When prophecy is sought as the primary means for determining the will of God, those inolved have departed from the Biblical pattern and fallen into cultic divining and even witchcraft.
Warning Sign #3
When Prophecy is Preoccupied with Images, Numbers, and Symbols
Prophetic dreams and visions flourished in this movement. These dreams and visions predicted many remarkable things related to the establishing of God’s kingdom and the destruction of the wicked. Much of this information was given in symbolic form which had to be interpreted by those who were “spiritual.” Philips says,
One came dragging a wagon without wheels, another wagon had three wheels, one wagon had no shaft, some no horses, some no recognizable driver, some had but one leg, some were lepers and beggars, some wore a tunic or a cloak with a lappet of fur. All this they could interpret for the brethren in a spiritual sense.
These prophecies, dreams and visions predicted remarkable successes for the people of God, including a super-empowerment of the Spirit by which they would be enabled to overcome the wicked and establish the kingdom of God in the earth. In his very moving account of these matters, Philips says,
Now when these teachings and consolation with all the fantasies, dreams, revelations and visions daily occurred among the brethren, there was no little joy and expectation among us, hoping all would be true and fulfilled, for we were all unsuspecting, innocent, simple, without guile or cunning, and were not aware of any false visions, prophets, and revelations.
Biblical Insight: In the New Testament God communicates very clearly and precisely to His people. When He spoke to Ananias in a vision about going and praying for Paul, God gave precise instructions (Acts 9:10-12). He told Ananias the name of the man he was to pray for, the name of the man in whose house Paul was staying and the precise street address. When God does speak in a symbol or image, it is for the purpose of communicating a more clear and vivid message. It is never done as a riddle that must be searched out and solved, or interpreted by some spiritual elite. God wants to communicate clearly with His children.
Warning Sign #4
When Those Prophesying are not Open to Testing and/or Correction
During this time, two new apostles arrived in Philips’ home town of Leeuwarden. They declared that they had been commissioned to the apostolic office with such signs, miracles and workings of the Spirit that words failed them to describe it. They also declared that, “In a short time God would rid the earth of all shedders of blood and all tyrants and the godless.” Philips says that they frightened the people so that no one dared speak against them for fear they would be speaking against the commission and ordination of God. He says, “For we were all guileless children and had no idea that our own brethren would betray us.”
Biblical Insight: False prophets are unteachable and unwilling for their prophecies to be evaluated and tested, as Scripture commands. Virtually every time New Testament Scriptures speak of prophecy, they also speak of evaluating and testing the prophecy, which is the responsibility of every believer. I Thessalonians 5:19-21, for example, says, Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is God. I Corinthians 14:29 says, Let two or three prophets speak and let the others judge. And in this same vein of thought, I John 4:1 says, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Warning Sign #5
When Prophecy Becomes a Replacement for the Scriptures and Common Sense
The tragic end of this prophetic movement came, when based on dreams, visions, prophecies, and supposed angelic visitations, a number of these visionaries claimed that God had designated the city of Munster as the New Jerusalem and from there the kingdom of God would spread through all the earth. Philips says, “Some had spoken with God, others with angels—until they got a new trek under way to Munster.” Based on the prophecies and supposed visions, they went to Munster and took the city by force from the Catholics who controlled it and renamed it New Jerusalem.
The Catholics, however, quickly regrouped and regained control of the city. They wasted no time in inflicting a terrible slaughter on those apostles, prophets and their followers who believed they were setting up the kingdom of God on the earth.
Philips tells about going to Munster and walking among the bodies, many of them beheaded, of these individuals who had been his friends and acquaintances. It was a very somber time and a wake-up call for him as he observed the sad end of these apostles and prophets who had relied without question on their dreams, visions and prophecies.
This whole fiasco resulted in widespread persecution of all Anabaptists who were hunted down, imprisoned, hanged, burned, and drowned. Philips later lamented his role in the extremes of this movement. He wrote,
It is this which is utter grief to my heart and which I will lament before my God as long as I live, before all my companions, as often as I think of them. At the time that I took leave of those brethren, I had warned Menno and Dietrich and declared my [apostolic] commission unlawful and that I was therein deceived. I thank the gracious and merciful God who opened my eyes, humbled my soul, transformed my heart, captured my spirit, and who gave me to know my sins. And when I still think of the resigned suffering which occurred among the brethren, my soul is troubled and terrified before it.
Biblical Insight: In Psalm 119:105 David said, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to doubt His identity, He responded to each temptation with, It is written, and then quoted the appropriate passage of Scripture. John Wesley, who saw many unusual spiritual manifestations as the leader of the eighteenth-century Methodist revival, said, “Try all things by the written word, and let all bow down before it.” When Scripture and common sense are neglected for dreams, visions and personal prophecies, it is a telltale sign that the movement has gone astray.
Conclusion
This sixteenth century prophetic movement highlights the need to “test the spirits” and to “judge” prophetic utterances according to the Scriptures. For the most part, these were sincere, seeking people who suffered much pain, grief and even death because they neglected this Biblical admonition. May we learn from their example and not repeat their mistakes.
This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, Angels of Light, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

COMPELLING EVIDENCE OF WOMEN APOSTLES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT


In Rom. 16:7 Paul says, Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles who also were in Christ before me NKJV). Although the NKJV above has translated the Greek Junian as “Junia,” which is a female name, many today vehemently argue that the name should be “Junias,” which is male.
In fact, I recently received an email in which I was accused of “misleading” people by telling them that “Junia” is the correct reading of this passage and that she was a female apostle. In my response, I sought to be gracious, but shared the following information showing why “Junia” is the correct reading, and why she should be given her due recognition by the modern church.
Number 1
The Manuscript Evidence
In this passage, Paul wrote the Greek name Junian, ending with an “n,” because the name is in the accusative sense, i.e., on the receiving end of Paul’s greeting. Because of that ending, the name could be either male (Junias) or female (Junia), depending on how it is accented. Accents, however, were not introduced until the seventh century and so we are left, some think, with a textual conundrum.
The conundrum, however, evaporates in the light of textual and historical evidence. For example, Dr. Bruce Metzgar, one of the world’s leading New Testament textual scholars, points out that in and around Rome over 250 Greek and Latin inscriptions have been found with the feminine name “Junia.” The male name, “Junias,” on the other hand, is unattested.
This is significant since Paul’s letter is addressed to the believers who are in Rome; for while the female name “Junia” is common there, the male name, “Junias,” is unknown. “Junias,” therefore, is a hypothetical name invented, it would seem, by those who cannot accept the possibility of a female apostle in the New Testament.
Metzgar also points out that when accents were put in use, the scribes, without exception, made the name feminine. This means that even though the earliest manuscripts of Paul’s letter to the Romans had no accents and so were ambiguous on this point, when accents were added, every extant witness construed the name as feminine. This is why Dr. N. Clayton Croy says, “There is not a single ancient Greek manuscript that accents the name as ‘Junias.’ In effect, then, the interpretation of the name as that of a man is completely lacking in explicit textual support.”
Reason 2
The Historical Evidence
Early church fathers, even those who had a bias against women in leadership, understood “Junia” to be a female apostle in the early church. Origin (185-284), who is known as the church’s first systematic theologian, understood the name to be feminine as did the famous church father, Jerome (347-420), who produced the Latin Vulgate Bible.
There is also the testimony of John Chrysostom (349-407), Bishop of Constantinople, who exclaimed, "O how great is the devotion of this woman, that she should be even counted worthy of the appellation of apostle." (Hyatt, Paul, Women and Church, 25).
In her excellent book, In the Spirit We’re Equal, Dr. Sue Hyatt points out, “The first known commentator to understand “Junia” as the male name “Junias” was Aegidius of Rome (1245-1346).” She rightly notes that the idea of the name being male is, therefore, a much later development and not worthy of serious consideration.
Number 3
Evidence of Translations
Based, no doubt, on the overwhelming textual and historical evidence, early English translations all opted for the feminine name, “Junia.” These include Tyndale’s New Testament (1526), the Coverdale Bible (1535), the Great Bible (1539), the Geneva Bible (1560), the Bishop’s Bible (1568) and the King James Version (1611).
We only find the male name "Junias" appearing in modern translations beginning with the Revised Version in 1881 and followed by the RSV, the NASB, the TEV, the MSG and the 1984 NIV. Newer translations, such as the NRSV, NLT and NKJV, have returned to the original understanding of the word as “Junia.” Faced with the overwhelming evidence, the translators of the NIV changed the name to “Junia” in their 2011 edition.
The Issue of Authority
The most common reason given by those who oppose recognizing “Junia” as an apostle is that women cannot function in what they would call “the apostolic teaching office.” The problem with this reasoning is it has no basis in Scripture. Neither Jesus, the Twelve or Paul established an “apostolic teaching office.”
Jesus made it clear that His apostles would be characterized, not by authority, but by service. This statement came when James and John requested the two most authoritative seats in the kingdom. Jesus rebuked them and told them they were thinking like Gentiles, that is, those who do not know God.
After pointing out how pagan leaders lord it over those under them, Jesus said, Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all (Mark 10:44-45).
Jesus’ statement must have been shocking to those first apostles, for the word “servant” in this passage is from the Greek word diakonos and referred to a lowly household servant with no status or authority.
Nonetheless, they took His words seriously and diakonos became a common word for Christian leaders in the early church. Paul uses it of himself and his coworkers. We miss the force of the word for early Christianity because our modern translations often render it as “minister.”
John G. Lake, a true modern apostle, got it right when he wrote, “The modern conception of an apostle is usually that he is a big church boss, but that was not the conception Jesus left. An apostle was not to be a big boss; he was to be like his Lord--a servant of all.”
So, during the first century while apostolic ministry was characterized by “service,” women freely functioned in apostolic ministry. It was only after the church institutionalized and began to think of the apostolic in terms of “authority,” “office” and “power” that women began to be excluded from leadership and apostolic ministry.
Where We Go from Here
Jesus left His church an authoritative message. He did not leave her an authoritative office or structure. Professor Burnett Streeter was correct when he wrote,
Whatever else is disputable, there is, I submit, one result from which there is no escape. In the primitive church there was no single system of church order laid down by the apostles. During the first hundred years of Christianity, the Church was an organism alive and growing—changing its organization to meet changing needs. Uniformity was a later development (Hyatt, Pursuing Power, 43).
We are to contend, not for authority over others, but for the purity of the message that was entrusted to us. This is what Jude was referring to when he wrote, 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.
In such a setting, there are, I submit, a multitude of modern Junias who will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit prompting them to go forth and proclaim the authoritative message that has been entrusted to them and to the entire body of Christ.

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt’s books, Paul, Women and Church and Pursuing Power: How the Historic Quest for Apostolic Authority and Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church. Both are available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

BELIEVE IN MIRACLES, BUT FOLLOW JESUS


Many in the charismatic movement today are being led away from Jesus, not by sex, booze and drugs, but by an unhealthy fascination with signs, wonders and miracles. For example, a young man shared with me about being in a meeting where miracles were being greatly publicized. He said that at one point the crowd began to chant over and over “Signs! Miracles! Signs! Miracles!” 
Choking back the tears, he said, “I felt grieved in my spirit.” He was also confused. Why did he feel grieved inside? Aren’t we supposed to desire miracles? I assured him that what he experienced was the Holy Spirit in him being grieved by this crowd’s unhealthy preoccupation and fascination with miracles. Jesus had been preempted by their self-centered desire to see a miracle.
This reminds me of Herod who was “exceedingly glad” to finally see Jesus when Pilate sent Jesus to him during His trial. Why was Herod “exceedingly glad” to see Jesus? It wasn’t because Herod wanted to know Him and His message. Luke 23:8 says, “He hoped to see some miracle done by Him.” Herod wanted to be entertained by a miracle. His interest in Jesus and miracles was centered in himself and his own egotistical desire.
Believers are not to follow signs; signs are to follow believers. Mk. 16:15 says, These signs shall follow (accompany) them that believe. Believers are to follow Jesus and let the signs follow where they will. The devil can perform signs (remember Pharaoh’s magicians) and if we are following signs we are headed for trouble. Here are some suggestions to help keep us on track:
1.       Remember that Jesus is the source of true and genuine miracles, so seek Him.
2.       Remember that a miracle is not an end in itself--to be sought for its own value. Its only value is in bringing glory to Jesus and helping someone in need.
3.       Remember that the primary purpose of miracles is to honor and exalt the name of Jesus, not build up a preacher, church or ministry.
4.       Don’t follow signs. Follow Jesus and let the signs follow you.
5.       Beware of those who would nurture an unhealthy fascination with miracles instead of a closer, more intimate walk with Jesus.
6.       Avoid the Herod mentality that wants to be entertained by a miracle in much the same way that people pay to be entertained by a magician.
7.       Believe in miracles, but follow Jesus
The above article was first published in 2005. The late T.L. Osborn, a true apostle of God and the father of modern, miracle evangelism, read the article and sent the following email.
Hello Brother Eddie:
Congratulations on your newsletter: "Believe in Miracles, but Follow Jesus." We are facing a real serious plague of superstition in the body of the charismatic pentecostal world. I am often embarrassed, shocked, ashamed, by the silly things people are doing and saying. Keep up the good work. We must let the world know that somebody, somewhere is being faithful to Gospel Redemption teaching.
Greetings to you both. You are special. The writings that both of you are offering to our world are of tremendous spiritual value.
Your special friend and co-worker with Christ,
T.L. Osborn

Dr. Eddie Hyatt is an author, historian, Bible teacher and follower of Jesus Christ. He holds an earned doctorate from the School of Divinity at Regent University. His books on reformation, women in the church and Spiritual awakening are available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.