Time for full disclosure: I'm a Pentecostal/charismatic. Not a rookie, either: third generation. In fact, a great uncle of mine was a Pentecostal preacher who was burned out of brush arbors, and I don't even know what a brush arbor is. (As the "preacher" of the family, I inherited his Bible with sermon notes from my grandmother and, frankly, I know why he was burned out!) Growing up, all my friends were Pentecostals, with my best friend's grandfather playing a role in establishing our home church back in the forties. In other words, my worldview was constructed with an expectation that God could and will do supernatural things and that a Christian lives a supernatural life. While conceding that there is much to be desired in Pentecostal/charismatic theology (or the lack thereof), I continue to hold to the supernatural worldview that I grew up with, albeit from a more Scripturally informed base.
There are several examples I'd like to use to illustrate why I believe in, anticipate, and even expect the Holy Spirit's supernatural work in my life, the lives of my church members, and, indeed, within the entire body of Christ.
First, it's obvious that the act of becoming a Christian itself is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit who leads and directs us to Christ. No man naturally seeks after God, but is drawn by (one may say "apprehended by") the Holy Spirit. We're then given the faith to believe that Christ died for our sins and was supernaturally resurrected from the dead and, by the power of God, we're transported into the kingdom of the Son of God's love. Not one part of this is "natural." Further, we learn upon studying God's Word that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us, giving us new life, and empowering us to please God. Pleasing God is something that by Biblical definition is unequivocally supernatural, for without the faith that God Himself grants me by His grace, it is impossible to please Him. As the Westminster Confession puts it (yes, charismatics can read and even "interpret" these things!):
Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things God commands; and of good use both to themselves and others: Yet, because they proceed not from an hearing of faith; nor are done in the right manner, according to the Word; nor to the right end, the Glory of God, they are therefore sinful and cannot please God.
Of course, we all know this to be true. But the Christian cannot stop there, for we are also told that God intimately directs and controls the affairs of man and the universe. He upholds all things by the Word of His power while setting kings and kingdoms up and pulling kings and kingdoms down. Truly "the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord and He turns it any way that He desires." Yet God is not only concerned about great cosmic events and earthly rulers, but directs the path of the righteous in every way. The Christian would never say that he believes in chance (one would hope not anyway), so that leaves only one option: believing that God is in supernatural control of our lives. So I think it fair and safe to say that to this point all Christians would be in agreement.
Health and Long Life
Building upon this, the second area I anticipate living supernaturally in and by the Spirit is in the area of health and long life. First, God can supernaturally grant that we are healthy and stay healthy; second, if we do get sick, He can supernaturally heal us. The televangelists who have created the modern "health and wealth" message have twisted and abused this aspect of the gospel, but that's no reason to reject the very Biblical basis for a fundamental truth. One of the powerful promises God made to Israel was, "If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you" (Ex. 15:26). David sang about God's supernatural blessing of health and healing when he instructed us to "forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases" (Ps. 103:2-3). The implication of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:17-32 is that the Holy Spirit was actively blessing believers with health or cursing them with sickness or death according to attitudes and actions at the Lord's Table. Further, Paul recalls a promise embodied in the Ten Commandments as an important incentive: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother,' which is the first commandment with promise: 'that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth'" (Eph. 6:1-3). Do we not think that God honors His promises by supernaturally blessing covenant obedience? In an age of disposable parents, I expect God to extend health and long life to my church members as a testimony to His Word and to allow the gospel light to shine in a sea of darkness. How can that be controversial among Christians?
If we are sick, we are instructed to do a very unnatural thing — if we have sinned, we are to confess and pray for a supernatural act: "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (Jas. 5:14-16). While I thank the Lord for doctors and utilize their services on regular occasions (we have three doctors in our church), I make no apologies for believing that God not only theoretically can heal us, but can and will do so when we act upon His Word in expectant faith through prayer.
Third, I expect, based not upon presumption, but upon His covenant promises, for God to work supernaturally in the area of prosperity. Again, simply because this has been abused does not mean we should forsake it. God took an enslaved, oppressed, and impoverished people, transferred an incredible amount of wealth overnight into their possession, led them into a land flowing with "milk and honey," and then transferred even more wealth to them. After this, in Deuteronomy 8 He reiterates that it was a supernatural blessing and that they should not think it was the natural result of either their brilliance or effort. The warning was "say [not] in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth'"; rather they were to "remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day" (vs. 17-18). Deuteronomy 28 specifically tells us that if we obey His Word, He will bless us in "the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks." There's no vague notion of "bless me spiritually" here — this is objective, usable wealth.
Obedience in tithing and offerings carries a promise of supernatural prosperity as stated in Malachi 3:8-12. It's interesting to note that this is the one area that God says to "test Me" and see if the promise is not true. On the negative "supernatural" side, God declares that covenant breakers will be even more frustrated because they will earn wages but that those wages will be "put into a bag with holes" (Hag. 1:6).
God grants us productivity and fruitfulness in our work (and work we must — no magic formula here) and He bestows upon us wisdom and skill to the point that we stand before kings: "Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before unknown men" (Pr. 22:29). We are given favor with men not because we're brilliant or clever, but because "if God is for us, who can be against us?" We work towards dominion for the glory of God who gives us the "power to get wealth" and stand before kings as a testimony of God's goodness and faithfulness so that His covenant is established on earth. In the hands of greedy false teachers God's covenantal promises have been turned into a magical formula or a "natural law" that operates independently of any ethical or unethical action. They must be rebuked, but God's supernatural promises should not be forsaken because of the unfaithfulness of man.
Fourth, Christians' prayers reflect the supernatural aspect of our faith as our prayer life regularly acknowledges an active supernatural God who hears the prayers of His people and answers those prayers. Think about the area of spiritual warfare for a moment. We have been given not carnal nor natural weapons to engage the enemy, but spiritual ones that are mighty in God for pulling down strongholds (1 Cor. 10:4). These include the imprecatory prayers of the Bible, which allow us to prosecute, in Ray Sutton's words, a covenant lawsuit against the wicked before the throne of God. Imprecatory prayers actively call for God to supernaturally judge the wicked and move to destroy them. In the overwhelming number of cases, Christians must not pick up a rifle and revolt against a civil government, nor should they bomb an abortion clinic, precisely because we have the assurance that we serve a supernatural God who hears the prayers of His saints.
Do we not believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever? If so, why are we hesitant to hope for or acknowledge supernatural judgment on wicked men such as Herod, who was struck down by an angel of the Lord and became food for worms (Ac. 12:23)? R. J. Rushdoony notes the supernatural act of God protecting His church in the death of Arius. In The Foundations of Social Order he writes:
Arius, after Nicea, regained power through political influence. On his recall, Alexander, Primate of Alexandria, in tears prostrated himself in the sacrarium, praying, "If Arius comes tomorrow to the church, take me away, and let me not perish with the guilty. But if Thou pittiest Thy Church, as Thou dost pity it, take Arius away, lest when he enters heresy enter with him." The next morning, on his triumphant procession to the church to be formally and publicly reconciled on imperial authority, Arius stopped and left the procession suddenly because of gastric pain. After waiting some time, his followers investigated and found that the old man Arius had collapsed in blood and fallen headlong into the open latrine. The orthodox party triumphantly recalled the words concerning Judas' death, who "falling headlong, burst asunder in the midst" and died (Ac. 1:18). Arius' manner of death was used by the orthodox to discomfit the heretics and encourage the saints, and it was declared an act of God.
If the only thing we give consideration to is natural means, we spend all of our time building a man-made church or man-made political party rather than the kingdom of God. However, what would happen if one or two Supreme Court Justices were struck dead immediately following their vote to sustain and further partial birth abortions? Frankly, it wouldn't be too long before any judge, whether appointed by Republican or Democrat, would have a quick change of heart!
In summary, every aspect of my life is permeated with the expectation of the Spirit of God performing supernatural acts that extend the kingdom of God and glorifies Christ Jesus. Is this only a "charismatic thing"? I hope not, and frankly, I don't think so. I think it's a Biblical thing. If I didn't believe in God's supernatural activity in the affairs of men, I could never preach another sermon, pray for my church members and the body of Christ around the world, nor conceive of putting forth anything so bold as Christian reconstruction. Pentecostals/charismatics may have their many faults, and I'm grateful to Chalcedon and others for providing a solid, dynamic Biblical theology that I had missed growing up, but I'm also thankful that the Pentecostal expectation of supernatural living is so deeply imbedded within me that I anticipate both our church and my members will not only reminisce about God's power in the past and long for it in the future, but experience it today.
- Craig R. Dumont, Sr.
Craig R. Dumont, Sr. is the Senior Pastor of Okemos Christian Center, a “Reformed Charismatic” Church of God (Cleveland, TN) near Lansing, Michigan. You can read more about Okemos Christian Center at www.biblicallyspeaking.com. Craig can be reached by phone at 517-336-4148.