Strange Fire

Just recently the Grace to You ministry of Grace Community Church under the leadership of Pastor / Teacher Dr John MacArthur held a three day Strange Fire Conference in Southern California from October 16-18, 2013. While I have previously followed most of the speakers and do welcome the preaching against the false teachings of the Pentecostal / Charismatic / Word of Faith (PCWoF) movements, there still remains some teachings that I do not agree with. One teacher that teaches well is Justin Peters in his A Call For Discernment; I attended his conference that took place at KwaSizabantu Mission at Kranskop, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa in 2012. As early as August 5, 2013, I also got to hear of Conrad Mbewe of Zambia and also posted his blog-posting Why is the Charismatic Movement Thriving in Africa at my Luke 9:23 Evangelism blog.

Whilst I am NOT a Calvinist, and I am NOT an Arminian, I do see myself as a Biblist that believes what is written in the Holy Word of God, The Bible. In faith I take what is written therein to be the very Words of God and Truth for all teaching as it is written in 2 Timothy 3:16,17 ~

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16,17

One of the most theologically sound teachings I heard from the Strange Fire Conference was the presentation by Dr Steve Lawson entitled The Puritan Commitment to Sola Scriptura. Agreeing with what was expounded, based on the five points of Calvinism, does not make me a follower of Calvin or should even term me a Calvinist – it can be seen from the Bible what is True. Instead of taking on the name of another man as a Calvinist (who incidentally had Michael Servetus murdered because of a theological disagreement), I do rather profess to being a follower, a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore need not ascribe to any man’s doctrine to confirm what I believe. The litmus test is: Are you truly a follower after God’s Word – Sola Scriptura? Or is there Strange Fire even in what you believe? We read of the account regarding strange fire from the Holy Scriptures, as it is written in Leviticus 10:1,2 ~

1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.
2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

Now, whilst much can be learned from the preachers / pastors / teachers from the Strange Fire conference exposing false prophets (see Jeremiah 14:14; Matthew 7:15, 24:11,24; Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1), false apostles (see 2 Corinthians 11:13), false teachers (see 2 Peter 2:1) and healers – in a description wolves in sheep’s clothing (see Matthew 7:15) – we come to Scriptures that seem to be overlooked by the same main stream teachers that do expose error. If we are to hold to Sola Scriptura, then we are to teach accordingly in all matters the Word of God; this even includes the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. It is worrisome to see that Dr John MacArthur, who is an expository preacher, has ignored the Scriptures that give the very historical date that can be calculated of the birth of our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. It is sad that many believers still brandish the name “Christmas” around when this very word does not appear in Scripture. If anyone would want to refer to the birth of Christ, a more accurate way would be to refer to His nativity and not use the pagan infested word of “Christmas” – the mass of Christ with its pagan and popish traditions. As one of the most quoted preachers Charles Spurgeon preached on December 24, 1871, said, quote [writer’s emphasis in italics and bold]:

We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it whether it be said or sung in Latin or English; and secondly, because we find no scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Saviour; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. [C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1971, pg. 697].

John MacArthur’s ministry promotes “Christmas” and along with it the purchasing of his books (even some having “Christmas” in the titles) and other materials as “Christmas” gifts (refer to the many times Carl Miller promotes the buying of “Christmas” gifts on the Grace to You radio show). To hold to Sola Scriptura in the Holy Word of God according to the Gospel of Luke which gives pertinent historical and Hebrew information, we can see that the Scriptures tell us that the birth of the Saviour of the world was at the Feast of Tabernacles (Booths). To preach and teach anything else is heresy. When the whole world appears to worship or celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25, discernment would warrant that we should test why Roman Catholics, New Agers, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Word of Faith, unbelievers, pagans, Christians and many other religious and cult groupings “celebrate” at this festival day. One should then ask the questions:

a) What has Christ and Belial in common? and

b) How can a Christian for the love of God mix His Truth with Satan’s deception?

What I have found really disturbing is how preachers would negate certain teachings or teach falsely to fit with the preachers’ dogma. A point in question can be seen from an extract from John MacArthur’s sermon The Announcement of Jesus’ Birth, Part 1 from July 11, 1999 which says, quote [writer’s emphasis in bold]:

And so typically shepherds would stay out in the fields on the elevated plain of Jerusalem, the mountain area near Jerusalem from April to November typically. That’s one of the reasons why people doubt that Jesus was born in December because typically the shepherds wouldn’t be there in December. Well you can’t really be dogmatic about that either, we don’t know what month it was. There is really no way to know. We don’t even know what year Jesus was born, somewhere between 6 and 4 B.C. He was born as we calculated the calendar back, we can’t be specific, we don’t have enough data for that. There’s no reason to believe it was December 25, that was invented in order to try to sanctify a pagan festival. They thought if they put the birth of Christ celebration on the same day as Saturnalia, the worship of the sun god, they could sanctify that and all they did was corrupt the celebration of the birth of Christ with all the Christmas legend. It backfired on them. But there’s no way to know when He was born. It is possible they could have still been out there in December, we don’t know that.

What Dr. MacArthur says is that “There’s no reason to believe it was December 25” and that the date was a “pagan festival” and further “But there’s no way to know when He was born.” All three statements are contradictory and therefore misleading and deceptive for we certainly can calculate when our Lord Jesus Christ was born if we will just believe the Scriptural text and do the math from the very pertinent information provided to us in the Scriptures. Here is an extract from a book writer wrote titled The Birth, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ [incidentally the Christian printers I approached would not undertake the project of printing the book – I guess it goes against the fabric of man’s traditions and customs – you can email me to obtain a pdf version] that reads as follows [Quote]:

To calculate when the course of Abijah would appear in the year we need to first understand the Jewish calendar. The time when Jesus Christ was born into this world, the Jewish calendar would be using the post exilic sacred months as recorded in the above diagram on this page.

The Jewish Calendar

MONTHPRE- / POST EXILIC OF YEAR SACRED / CIVIL MODERNEQUIVALENTMONTHS
Abib / Nisan

1 / 7

March / April

Ziv / Iyyar

2 /8

April / May

Sivan

3 / 9

May / June

Tammaz

4 / 10

June / July

Ab

5 / 11

July / August
Elul 6 / 12 August / September
Ethanim / Tishri 7 / 1 September / October
Bul / Heshvan 8 / 2 October / November
Chislev 9 / 3 November / December
Tebeth 10 / 4 December / January
Shebat 11 / 5 January / February
Adar 12 / 6 February / March

Therefore, the year would start off in the month of Nisan and the months were based on the lunar calendar of 30 days per month. This would therefore equate, according to the Jewish calendar, to a 360-day lunar year. In accordance with the course that the priests would appear in the Temple, the calculation would be:

24 Courses multiplied by 2 Temple duties a year equals 48 weeks, plus the three pilgrimage weeks which totals 51 weeks.

The 51 weeks equate to 357 days which fits within the 360-day lunar year calendar.

As a result of these calculations we can therefore see that the course of Abijah, i.e. the eighth course (1 Chronicles 24:10), would serve the tenth week during the first half of the year, as a result of the following:

  • Passover / Feast of Unleavened Bread were celebrated starting on 14th / 15th Nisan:

5In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S passover. 6And on the fifteenth day of the same month is the feast of unleavened bread unto the LORD: seven days ye must eat unleavened bread. 7In the first day ye shall have an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein.8But ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD seven days: in the seventh day is an holy convocation: ye shall do no servile work therein. ~ Leviticus 23:5-8

  • The Feast of Weeks [Shavuot (Pentecost)]:

15And ye shall count unto you from the morrow after the sabbath, from the day that ye brought the sheaf of the wave offering; seven sabbaths shall be complete: 16Even unto the morrow after the seventh sabbath shall ye number fifty days; and ye shall offer a new meat offering unto the LORD. ~ Leviticus 23:15,16

Zechariah had his vision while serving in the eighth course of Abijah, which fell in the tenth week of the year, calculating from the beginning of the sacred year in the month Nisan. As with the manner of women, let us add two weeks to comply with the purity laws (Leviticus 15:19,25) which would then bring the conception of John to be in or about the 12th week of the year. If John was born about thirty-nine weeks (nine months) later (for we are not sure of the exact day of conception calculated at about 39 weeks from Elisabeth’s last menstruation cycle) during the fifty-first week (12 + 39 = 51) that would bring us to the birth of John at the Passover festival. [Our present day calendar works on a 52 week year, but according to the Jewish calendar they were working on a lunar 360-day calendar, that equates to approximately 51 weeks.] The writer believes that in God’s providence John the Baptist was born at Passover at the very time that Elijah was, according to the Jewish tradition, supposed to appear.

Now, continuing and using the calculations in operation and the Scriptures told, God’s mandate is perfect and He is very specific about times and shadows of events to come (past, present and future), that His Son Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit six months (about 26 weeks) after John the Baptist’s conception. For we know that the Scriptures say that thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her” (Luke 1:36). This means Christ Jesus was conceived about the 38th week around the festival Hanukkah. This would also mean the Light of the world [see John 1:9] was conceived during the festival of lights! Conceived, not born in flesh entering into the world, as the Christmas holiday dictates – there is a huge difference here!

To fulfil prophecies, the prophecy would have to be fulfilled to the last detail and therefore it would be clear to understand in fulfilment of God’s prophetic Words, God would not generalize specifics as this would take away from His omniscient glory. To be precise in the prophetic Word given, God, being a God of divine order, would be exact and precise in bringing His Word to pass, just as the star (see Matthew 2:2) in the night sky appeared at the exact time He sent it to appear, and the angel Gabriel appeared at the exact time he was sent by God as His messenger, so too was the birth of His Only Begotten Son precisely when God chose for His Son to enter this world – on time to the last detail, as we read:

4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, ~ Galatians 4:4

Therefore, understanding God’s precise mandate and ordination of all things, Jesus was born thirty-nine weeks later (around week 76 from the beginning of our calculations at the preceding year’s month of Nisan; that is week 25 of the following year) which brings us to the time of the autumn (fall) Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) in the month Tishri (i.e. September/October). Is God giving us a Revelation of when He revealed Himself as His Son, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin and entered into this world as the God-Man? – “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14) – “Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (see Matthew 1:23). [End Quote]

Birth of Christ

___________

From research we also notice that for about the first 4 centuries no such tradition of “Christmas” was recorded by the early Church celebrating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and we can also pick up that “Christmas” was not entertained by such men in later years as the Puritans, the Reformers, John Knox, the Scots, the English, by settlers of America and by Charles H. Spurgeon, to mention but a few.

“So why did the Scots ban Christmas? Depending on which site you visit, the blame generally seems to lie with John Knox and dates range for 1562 to 1583, even though he was dead in 1572. What is certain is that with Cromwell and the Puritans, the rest of Britain took on the Scottish policy and Christmas was banned in 1644, being changed by parliamentary decree to a fast day rather than a “popish holiday”.

Charles II restored Christmas in 1660. Unfortunately for America, the Puritans took their anti-Christmas beliefs to America with them. Christmas was banned in Massachusetts in 1659, with the law remaining on the statute books for 22 years, which is strange as the same state was the first one in the US to make Christmas a legal holiday in 1856.

Pennsylvania and New England resisted Christmas celebration too for long periods.”

___________

Spurgeon also said, quote: “When it can be proved that the observance of Christmas, Whitsuntide, and other Popish festivals was ever instituted by a divine statute, we also will attend to them, but not till then. It is as much our duty to reject the traditions of men, as to observe the ordinances of the Lord. We ask concerning every rite and rubric, “Is this a law of the God of Jacob?” and if it be not clearly so, it is of no authority with us, who walk in Christian liberty.” (from Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David on Psalm 81:4.)

“Knox believed in the Regulative Principle of Worship, that anything offered to God in Worship should be fully and unequivocally sanctioned in Scripture. Needless to say, because there is no ‘Christmas’ in the Bible, and because we are to do nothing to diminish God’s commands in worship, Knox had no time whatsoever for a Christmas festival, or any other religious festival. He wrote . . .

“That God’s word damns your ceremonies (referring to Christmas and the other Roman Catholic inventions), it is evident; for the plain and straight commandment of God is, ‘Not that thing which appears good in thy eyes, shalt thou do to the Lord thy God, but what the Lord thy God has commanded thee, that do thou: add nothing to it; diminish nothing from it.’ Now unless that ye are able to prove that God has commanded your ceremonies, this his former commandment will damn both you and them.”

See Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32 ~

Deut 4:2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.

Deut 12:32 What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

(Quote from John Knox’s History of the Reformation in Scotland (Ed. by William Croft Dickinson; New York: Philosophical Library, 1950), Vol. 1, p. 91.)

So is there Strange Fire being offered to God contrary to what He has commanded? I do think so – it is worship of God not as God has commanded! What Scripture does tell us, and Sola Scriptura for that matter, is that we are to remember the death of our Lord Jesus Christ until He returns at His second coming, as it is written:

19 And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you. ~ Luke 22:19,20

and

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. ~ 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

And then, to cap it all off, here is a disturbing teaching that John MacArthur teaches regarding the taking of the mark of the beast. MacArthur says that a person could take the mark of the beast and still be saved. If he holds to this teaching, he is misleading people due to the fact that the Scriptures teach that those that take the mark of the beast are damned to the lake of fire for they worship the beast. This is what the Holy Scriptures – Sola Scriptura – reads in Revelation 14:9-11 ~

9 And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand,
10 The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb:
11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

Since the same sermon [Q&A session] remains up on the Grace to You website and has not been removed; and it appears that MacArthur has not recanted his early teaching on this issue nor publically repented for this false teaching, there is Strange Fire in John MacArthur’s ministry that is heresy and goes against the Word of God! Here is a video that deals specifically with this issue:

In closing, another thing that is disturbing is that the Grace to You ministry is not satisfied with tithes and offerings, the selling of books, CDs, DVDs and other merchandise, but they also request people to partner with them and to donate to their ministry. It’s a very prosperous ministry, akin to the prosperity preachers’ ministries of TBN, and yet they could not answer a call for some financial help on June 6, 2011, nor even having the courtesy of answering the email. I am reminded of the words of the Lord Jesus Christ ~

35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. ~ Act 20:35

SOLI DEO GLORIA

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3 Responses

  1. Just for clarity, it is Arminian and not Armenian. Armenians are an ethnicity.

    • Thanks for the clarity. The same has been amended.

  2. Here is a blogpost at Grace to You that was posted by Phil Johnson. Seeing John MacArthur taught on the matter it would have been more appropriate if he had answered the queries in this regard. http://www.gty.org/Blog/B131030

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