I’ve just arrived home from the Baptist Union of Southern Africa‘s 2013 Assembly (It was the 132nd gathering of South African Baptists). The keynote sermons are a mixed bag of fruit. A sermon that really stood out for me this year was preached by Charlie Rampfumedzi. He is the principal of Christ Seminary (can someone closer to the seminary confirm the actual name of the seminary for me? I was told by Rocky Stevenson this past week that it’s actually Christ Baptist Seminary) in Polokwane. Christ [Baptist] Seminary is a campus of The Master’s Academy International.
Now in my home, over Sunday lunch, we play punch the preacher. OK, that’s an overstatement, Liezl (and whoever else is visiting for lunch) gives a critique of the Sunday sermon. Anything’s up for grabs, mannerisms to content, there are no holy cows. I find it useful to my personal growth and it’s become a way for me to gauge whether the main point of my message translated into the mind of my hearers.
Anyhow, the following critique emerged after I preached a sermon from Acts 1 (from both a parishioner and my wife), “You said you must be filled with the Spirit but you never said how.” This past Tuesday, when I sat down with a group over lunch and discussed Charlie’s sermon with them, John Rowland’s critique stood out for me because I’d heard it before. Let me be clear – I’m not advocating John’s position (he makes a link to Dispensationalism whereas I’d make the link to Cessationalism – and for the record, I’m both) but I’d love there to be some debate and John was bold enough to put pen to paper. Below is his thinking. I’d be interested to hear what you say (for the record Charlie only had 20 minutes to preach a sermon on a chapter from Acts so it was impossible for him to develop every theological point, however because this was noted, and because it’s been pointed out in my own preaching, and because John MacArthur… oh, you get the point… read it and comment below):
PRAYING FOR THE HOLY SPIRIT
The thesis of this short paper is that it is an inherent aspect of dispensational theology that Christians should not pray that God would grant the Holy Spirit to them.
In Luke 11:13 Jesus says:-
“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”
CI Schofield comments:-
‘To go back to the promise of #Lu 11:13, is to forget Pentecost, and to ignore the truth that now every believer has the indwelling Spirit #Ro 8:9, 15 1Co 6:19 Gal 4:6 #1Jo 2:20, 27.’
In his book ‘Found: God’s will’ Dr John MacArthur, Jr writes:-
‘I have sat in church and heard sincere people pray, “O, God, send Your Spirit,” and have thought to myself, No, He is here. He is here! I have heard people pray, ‘God give me more of Your Spirit,” as if He came in doses.’
Is it not also significant that MacArthur says nothing in his study Bible on Luke 11:13 about the wonderful promise, in answer to prayer, of our Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit?
Both Schofield and MacArthur are being consistent with dispensational theology. This teaches that after the Jews had rejected Christ and the kingdom, God moved to his parenthetical plan B and introduced the church age. Hence since our Lord’s words in Luke 11:13 were given in his teaching to Jews they no longer pertain to the church age because the church received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
I have heard two brothers from dispensational backgrounds; give moving messages on the need of the power of the Holy Spirit in ministry. Especially, they spoke of our need of him in preaching. Both failed to tell us how to obtain that power.
There are two problems with dispensational theology at this point:-
1 It dismisses precious truth taught by our Saviour as irrelevant.
2 It does not account for prayers in the other parts of the New Testament:-
‘I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.’ (Eph 1:17)
‘For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,’ (Eph 3:14-16)
On the same page quoted above, MacArthur also dismisses prayers for more grace. In many of the letters of the apostles we find such greetings as:-
‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (Phil1:2)
Also closing words of their letters such as:-
‘May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.’ (2Cor 13:14)
Are these two latter references not prayers?
To my dispensational brothers, I encourage you to turn from such erroneous teaching and to seek the Lord’s face for what the church in South Africa desperately needs. We need an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in revival. Pray in terms of our Lord’s promise in Luke 11:9-13.