Poor Jesus I ended thus: It is obvious that signs, wonders and miracles are intended to confirm the gospel as it is preached throughout the world to every creature even as the sick are healed and those oppressed by the devil are delivered (to name just two of many such benefits).
If God didn’t cause the charismata to cease, why has this division occurred? That is a big question, and we will address it in Poor Jesus II, Lord willing.
Remember, the establishment of the canon of scripture, which cessasionism says eliminated the need for the charismata, occurred at the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. Cessationism would not be invented till 1500 or so years would pass by-so the charismata, not knowing that they were passé, continued to manifest themselves in the Christian Church, though to a diminishing degree.
Constantine the Great, emperor of the Roman empire from 324-337 A.D., was supposedly converted to Christianity, due to which multiplied thousands of unconverted Romans “joined the Church.” The worldwide church grew in numbers and declined in spirituality, and suffered a division resulting in two mega-churches, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. The dark ages ensued, and the Catholic Church, under the papacy, became so corrupt that even the true way of salvation by faith in Christ was distorted into a “salvation” of works and Ecclesiastical rituals. All the while, God always had pious individuals or small groups (remnants) who were true Christians and among whom the charismata were evident.
God raised up Martin Luther who began the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, restoring the true salvation (justification by faith) and doing away with the gross practices of the Catholic Church such as selling of indulgences (licenses to sin). The immediate task was to evangelize the unsaved church members and the secular population and the number of true Christians began to grow, especially with the advent of the printing press and Bibles in the language of the common people.
As the people got saved and read the Bible for themselves, they began to obey the great commission of Jesus to “Go into all the world and disciple all nations—-” (Mathew 28:19, 20). They were doing so largely without the benefit of the charismata, as the reformers had a hard enough time just getting the means of true salvation back, that they had not entered into the baptism with the Holy Spirit and the charismata.
God began an effort to restore these essential graces to the church until in 1906 these efforts broke out into the “Azusa street revival” in Los Angeles. Thousands responded and were baptized with the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues, and began manifesting the charismata. Hooray!
Alas, the major old-line denominations (except for a few individuals) rejected the movement and labeled it heresy. But they had a problem—the Bible clearly spoke of the baptism with the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues, and the charismata were gloriously evident in the book of Acts and all through the New Testament epistles. In First Corinthians, chapters 12-14, clear teachings about and regulations for the use of the charismata in the Christian Church are given. How would they explain why they weren’t obeying these teachings and instructions?
Someone (I am not aware of just who) came up with this ludicrous explanation, cessationism. God only intended for the charismata to prop up the church until the canon of Scripture was complete and recognized by the Church, after which they should stop. Aha! That will get us off the hook. So the old-line denominations kept plodding along, trying to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth, against the strenuous opposition of the devil, without all the resources God intended them to have.
The small denominations, many of them of “Holiness” background, who responded to the 1906 Azusa Street revival and experiencing the charismata, surged ahead and did exploits, here in the USA and on the mission field. They were lumped together as “Pentecostals” and despised by the old-line denominations.
Let us pause and consider the status of things in 1906. By this time:
· The industrial revolution had occurred and was in overdrive, freeing millions from the necessity of raising their own food;
· Jobs in the city provided income to spend above mere subsistence;
· Railroads provided easy transportation far from home;
· The era of modern medicine removed many health hazards and extended life expectancies;
· The automobile and the airplane had been invented and were in initial development;
· More and more money was being spent on non-necessities (the good life, later to be labeled the “American dream”), the beginning of materialism-the worship of things.
From this posture began the most terrible time on the earth since Noah’s flood:
· The weapons of war were enormously enhanced by invention and the means of production;
· World War I (the war to make the world “safe for democracy”) raged from 1914-1918, killing and maiming multiplied millions;
· The pent up passions of wartime burst into what was called the “Roaring Twenties,” characterized by bootlegging, crime, jitterbugging, and degeneration of morals;
· But it was a time of financial prosperity, with the stock market zooming ever higher, and the population in general getting caught up with greed, speculating on the stock market;
· The stock market crashed in 1929, wiping out the riches of the amateurs, while the canny old pros were richer than ever. The fall of Wall Street plunged the country into an immediate, deep depression;
· This was followed by many years of drought, the “dust bowl” in the Midwest and further deepening of the depression. The drought finally lifted at the end of the thirties, just in time to feed humanity through World War II;
· A crash armament production in anticipation of the war ended the depression around 1940, with the war now raging in Europe;
· On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor put us into the war that lasted until November, 1945, and killed over 50 million people. The two atom bombs we dropped on Japan put the world into the dreaded, and still current, nuclear age;
· Much of Europe, Japan, China and various other spots lay in ruins, the world was exhausted, many countries were bankrupted, millions of veterans were maimed in body or psyche, and the youth were hopeless because of the nuclear threat to their future;
· Before we could catch our breath, while we still had a strong military presence in Japan, the Korean war broke out. Pilots that fought in World War II, went back to fight in Korea, and new batches of soldiers were drafted to put boots on the ground in another war;
· By 1960, Alva and I were in our fifth year at the Chapel in the Pines. It was the beginning of the terrible youth rebellion of the sixties and the emerging of the hippie life style. Alas! Alas!
But God was not dead! He wasn’t even asleep. But we will have to wait till Poor Jesus III to find out what He was up to. See you then.