“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted – you may well put up with it!” [2nd Corinthians 11:3-4 NKJV]
Serious stuff. Not taken seriously by today’s church however. I intend to break down what Paul actually means by this warning, but first, it needs a little context. Anything taken from the Bible in isolation is easily manipulated into man-made doctrines that suit the purposes of those who use the words in such a manner. Let me be clear: my motivation is firstly to help people understand Paul’s warning, but also to make all believers aware of the very present danger which is upon us today.
Paul’s second letter to the church at Corinth (which was made up of both Hebrews and Gentile believers) was written (probably) around AD 57 whilst he was preaching the gospel in Macedonia. His first letter to Corinth had been brutal because of their poor discipline. He wrote again to reaffirm what still needed addressing, as well as to affirm his love and concern for them. As with all of Paul’s letters, we find that his main concern revolves around the church’s faithfulness to the gospel, and ultimately, to Christ.
In verse 3 he tells the Corinthians that he fears that they will be deceived in the same way the Eve was deceived by the serpent. We might all think we know the story of Eve and the serpent, but I find that when I think like that, God tends to show me something I have missed, so let’s take another look.
Firstly, the serpent used what God had already said to Adam and twisted it very subtly. God had said to Adam, “Of every tree in the garden you may eat freely; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” [Genesis 2:16b-17]
I am convinced that the serpent has no new tricks, so if you come across someone who is ‘bending’ scripture to fit their own purposes, then be very aware. Of course, in order to discern when this is happening, you will need a good grasp of God’s word. Eve had a good understanding of what God had spoken, and she used it against the serpent.
Then the serpent came back at her: “You will not surely die.” [Genesis 3:4b]
Again, the subtle twist of what God had said. Now the reason why Paul used this example is important. Eve knew what God had said. She even used what God had said to defend not eating the fruit. But it was the second subtle twist of God’s word that influenced Eve. This time, instead of standing her ground, Eve crumbled. Up until this point the serpent hadn’t yet tempted Eve. He had just tested her to see if she would stand up to temptation; to see where her heart was. What came next was a three-pronged approach from the serpent – a comprehensive set of temptations to which simply following what God had said would have been more than adequate defence.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” [Genesis 3:6a]
So, Paul’s warning to the church at Corinth was actually this: Don’t let your minds be corrupted. You have the word of God from us already, use it to protect yourselves. Don’t be like Eve, who was swayed by what seemed tasty, attractive, and wholesome.
I said earlier that the serpent has no new tricks. If you turn to Luke chapter four, you can see him using exactly the same set of temptations upon Y’shua (Jesus’ Hebrew name). Y’shua was tempted to turn the stones into bread (good for food); when shown the kingdoms of the world, He was offered them to have (pleasing to the eye); and when tempted to throw himself down (testing what God had said). The apostle John identifies these same temptations as the Lust of the Flesh; the Lust of the Eyes; and the Pride of Life (1st John 2:16).
Paul continues his warning in verse 4, saying that if anyone comes to you preaching a gospel other than the one you have already received, or imparts a different spirit other than the one you have already received, or another Y’shua, then, he fears, they may well accept it as being of God. After all, by using the example of Eve and the serpent, Paul was saying that it will sound like it is from God; it will appeal to your (fleshy) senses; and it will appear to be spiritually beneficial.
You may well be, by now, asking why I am going on about this. Surely we are grounded enough in the gospel not to be deceived? You might like to think so, but I can tell you that it is far easier to have your head turned or your ears tickled than you might believe. Eve, and the Corinthians, both had a good grounding in the word of God. Eve, from Adam himself, and the Corinthians from Paul and his team. Paul was no fly-by-night evangelist either; he spent around 18 months at Corinth grounding the church there in God’s word. But Eve was deceived in spite of her grounding, and Paul was concerned just how easy it would be for the church at Corinth to equally have their heads turned, even though he had spent so much time with them.
What I want to do is to show you, firstly, just how easily today’s church can have its head turned, and secondly, on a practical note, how this all works.
A little over twenty years ago, a series of events, which have become known as the Toronto Blessing, occurred and have been the trigger for a series of other events. To be totally honest, if you are aware of these events, you will probably already have an opinion regarding whether it was the Holy Spirit or not. I don’t intend to try to change your mind either way. I just want to present some scripture to you which goes some way to explain some of these events.
In my research for writing this piece I came across an article written in October 1994, at the time when these events had just started happening. I intend to draw extensively from this article and quote from it. It was written by Randall Hardy and he has kindly given me permission to use his work. Here is a link to the full article, which I strongly advise you to read in its entirety and in a prayerful manner. The link will open in a new window or tab. “A Different Spirit From The One You Received?”. I am very grateful to Randall for allowing me to quote directly from his article.
For those of you who don’t know, the term Toronto Blessing is used to describe a series of meetings held at the Toronto Airport Fellowship, then a branch of the Vineyard Church ministry, in which supernatural events took place, including people appearing to be drunk, others roaring like lions or crowing like cockerels, and various involuntary shakings and incoherent mumblings. Now, I have no problem with the supernatural, providing that it is clearly of God. I am not a cessationist, that is one who believes that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were exclusive to the age of the original apostles. I believe firmly in both the receiving the Holy Spirit and in the power of the Holy Spirit falling upon people for whatever purpose God deems necessary. That is to say that I believe in order to be a true disciple of Christ we must receive the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:9), and, at times when God’s will and purpose require it, the Holy Spirit will fall upon us in order to equip us for a particular task (see the story of Samson in Judges 14, or when the disciples asked for the boldness to speak God’s word in Acts 4).
You might well ask yourself why I am looking at something that happened over twenty years ago? It is good that you question these things. I look back to these events because the deception that grew in strength from there is still widespread throughout the church today, albeit in many different forms. In other words, the deception is easily transferred – remember Eve gave some of her fruit to Adam, and how easily he received it.
The occurrences and manifestations that took place in those early meetings at Toronto Airport Vineyard are largely seen by the church as a good thing. However, when I discuss the topic with people whom agree with that sentiment, I have observed two issues. Firstly, frequently the defence of the Toronto Blessing is aggressive in nature – the credibility of any who questions whether it is of God or not is often brought into question. This is worrying because it means that in order to defend what they believe is of God, they are happy to be un-Christ like.
My second issue is the serious lack of scriptural foundation for either the events that took place or the justification of those events afterwards. In the article by Randall Hardy, he picks up on this second point:
“Papers and articles focussing on this phenomena divide into three types – those written by the enthusiasts, others by those who condemn it completely and finally ones authored by those who like Gamaliel choose to sit on the spiritual fence (Acts 5:34). Sadly the vast majority of papers which have come my way have been very light on Biblical examination of the events that are taking place at present. This is as true of those who have written critically as those who are encouraging others to drink deeply. I hope not to follow such a path in this study: my aim is to examine carefully Scriptures which are relevant and so provoke consideration of the teaching which has over the years prepared the way for what we see happening now.
The documents I have read by those who are involved in this move are without exception weak in both their use and exposition of the Scriptures. So weak that I feel there would be little benefit in taking space here to repudiate the handful of texts they are clutching at to support their “roarings” and “shakings”. By way of example though I would point out that the passage in Acts 3 where the only occurrence of the phrase “times of refreshing” in the whole of Scripture is to be found, is a passage that is evangelistic in nature and consequently provides no support for this description being applied to events within the Church. In context Peter seems to be looking forward to the return of Christ and specifically the preceding restoration of Israel (Rom. 11:19-27).”
Our own experience of speaking to someone who advocates the Toronto Blessing as being of God is also concerning. My wife, Caz, made the point that God would never cause us to do anything against our will, or in order to embarrass us. A great deal of the anecdotal evidence of these events describe the manifestations as being involuntary, that is to say, beyond the control of the person to whom it is happening. I agreed with Caz. My basis for agreeing is that God would never do this according to Paul’s 1st letter to the church at Corinth where he states that “the spirits of the prophet are subject to the prophets” [1 Corinthians 14:32], which I believe I am right to understand that even under the hand of the Holy Spirit, the prophet himself maintains full control. Because Paul was talking in particular at this point about orderly conduct in church services, I believe we are right to extend that from prophets to all upon whom the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit would fall. Therefore, by that rationale alone, any supernatural manifestation that appears to be beyond the control of whoever it is happening to, should be regarded with the greatest caution.
In the conversation to which I am referring, it was argued that God does ’embarrass’ us at times in order to humble us, and scripture was indeed cited. They quoted that David, when he danced before the Ark of the Covenant, embarrassed himself in front of everyone. Although I chose to bite my lip at the time, I am inclined to believe that their understanding of what David did was flawed. David was not embarrassed at all. Only his wife Michal was embarrassed and God made her pay a heavy price for that (see 2nd Samuel 6:14-23).
Further to the subject of a scriptural basis for the involuntary manifestations of people at such meetings, I have heard pastors and teachers alike state that there are examples of such things in the Old Testament that support it being from God. And, although I have looked, I am so far unable to find anything that supports some of the occurrences. In the presence of angels, some men are recorded as being like the dead from fear. Interestingly enough, the first words of angels are generally along the lines of telling any witness to fear not or to be at peace. The barking like dogs or crowing like the cockerel or even the roaring like a lion falls on even harder ground, as Randall Hardy confirms:
“It has been widely reported that one manifestation of this spirit is people making animal noises and in particular “roaring like a lion”. There is no statement in the Scriptures that identifies this as a work of the Holy Spirit. In Daniel 4 we are told that in spite of a clear advanced warning Nebuchadnezzar found himself behaving totally like an animal as the result of God’s judgement. Similarly passages such as Is. 13:21,22, Is. 34:11 and Jer. 50:39 list a variety of animals in the context of them possessing places which have experienced judgement. In one (Is. 34) the nation concerned is Edom, the descendants of Esau who despised his birthright and whom the New Testament uses as a warning to Christians not to neglect their salvation. The other two speak of Babylon, which from its origin as Babel has long been associated with false religion and demonic activity.
It is in the same section of Jeremiah that we do find an occasion predicted when THE LORD will cause people to roar like lions “They will roar together like young lions, they will growl like lions’ cubs.” (Jer 51:38) What follows in the next two verse is not blessing but judgement, a judgement that is very similar to that described in Is. 29. THE LORD causes the Babylonians to roar like lions in order to lure them into a perpetual sleep!”
I have a simple rule. It is based entirely upon something that the apostle John wrote in his first letter. He says this:
“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. By this you will know the Spirit of God:
Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.” [1st John 4:1-3a]
This is one of those passages that are often misunderstood and, as a result, people treat it with caution, or even ignore it. Because followers of God aren’t taught to be discerning in situations, they don’t know how to test the spirits. I suspect that the confusion over this particular passage is rooted in a poorly translated text. If you do not object to my paraphrase, I hope it will provide something of a greater understanding.
“Brothers, make sure you test all the spirits to check that they are from God. God’s word was personified in the person of His Son, Y’shua, who is the Christ. If what is spoken in a meeting doesn’t point directly to the person of Y’shua, then that spirit is not of God. If the spirit is the Spirit of God, know this: His role is to glorify the Son, and therefore, what is spoken will direct us all to the person of Y’shua, who is the word made flesh.”
A simple test, but one that is overlooked. It is clear that God’s final revelation to all of us is in the person of Y’shua, the Messiah. In Him is the fullness of everything that God intended us to know of the Father Himself. There will be no new revelation, only a deeper understanding of Y’shua as we draw nearer to Him. Any spirit (that is to say, that anyone who is speaking under the influence of a spirit in prophecy or tongues or any other supernatural manifestation) that doesn’t glorify the person and nature of Y’shua, is not of God.
I suspect the whole controversy regarding Toronto could have been cleared up two decades ago had that rule been applied.
The next big issue regarding all things of the so-called Toronto Blessing, and the subsequent movements that have been propagated in its wake, is the church’s lack of understanding of spiritual things in general. Were the church to be focused upon making disciples, as it once was, then correct teaching about spiritual matters would have been at the top of the agenda. However, the message has been water-down over the years in order to attract more people in. The deeper matters of living life by the Spirit have become unfashionable in a church who has moved with the world in some vain attempt to be more relevant to it. There is a price to pay for such unfaithfulness to God’s word. The Old Testament is full of examples of Isra’el doing just that. And all of Paul’s letters warn those churches against it.
Let’s start at the beginning. We know, from Y’shua, that we must be reborn spiritually in order to see or enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:3-7), and Paul confirms this by telling us that until the point when we first believed, we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2; Colossians 2). So, how does this conversion come about?
It comes about when we hear or read God’s word to us. In my own experience, for years, my father told me about God and salvation and everything, but, until that moment when the Holy Spirit made those words make sense to me, I was dead. At the moment when my ears and eyes were opened to it, spiritually speaking, I was born again.
Now, at this point, before we go on to the next stage after our initial conversion, I want you to think about what we have just discussed.
At the very beginning of this article, I quoted from Paul’s 2nd letter to the church at Corinth. He made it clear that what the Corinthians were given via him and his fellow servants of God was the genuine article. He refers to what he had preached or said to them. It is the words that carry the message which the Holy Spirit quickens in us and makes us alive. God is consistent in this. Right from the start He uses words – ‘Let there be light’. We know that Y’shua is God’s word made flesh. So what Paul was talking about was the very words he spoke to them. God’s words. And, because the words come from God Himself, they are not only true, but also perfect. The psalmist tells us that this is so:
“The words of the LORD are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” [Psalm 12:6]
This can be complicated, but I am trying to simplify this, hopefully without insulting anyone.
When God speaks to us, through His Holy Spirit, through a prophet or a preacher, it is all about how we receive those words and whether or not we act upon them. The Parable of the Sower confirms this. Read it again carefully and then look at the explanation of it in Luke chapter 8. It is clear that the seed that is sown is the word of God. The problem is never with the seed, only the soil where it falls. The Parable of the Sower provides a good example of how we receive the gospel.
The second aspect of our life as believers, after we have received God’s word, is the receiving of the Holy Spirit. Up until that point the Holy Spirit is still external to us. How do we know this? In Acts chapter 8 we see Philip in Samaria. He has preached the word to them. This word was accompanied by signs and wonders and many people believed what was said and were baptised. In other words, they had received the word of God, which the Holy Spirit had quickened in them and they were reborn, spiritually. In order to ratify this, they were baptised. When Peter and John arrived, after hearing about this in Jerusalem, they started to lay hands on the people who had been baptised in order that they might receive the Holy Spirit.
So, from that account in Acts 8, we can see how believers receive the Holy Spirit – in this case it was imparted by others whom had already received Him. Of course, we can also ask to receive the Holy Spirit, and He will be given freely, without measure.
Before we continue with the third aspect of spiritual rebirth and ongoing life, I want to return to Randall Hardy’s article. He addresses a very important point about receiving the Holy Spirit. I will let you read for yourselves what is said:
“Two points need to be made initially. Jesus taught that we should “ask the Father to give us the Holy Spirit” – I understand that common practice today is to “ask the Spirit to come”. Secondly, the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict people of sin, righteousness and coming judgement as well as to lead believers into all truth. There seems to be little evidence of this level of conviction and as I will seek to demonstrate later, no increase in the desire for the truth. For these reasons I found my own heart unsettled with Luke 11 being appealed to, and so I asked THE LORD to make it clear whether I was resisting His work and His word or whether what Jesus taught on this occasion was now being quoted in error by some. It was over two weeks before I believe THE LORD gave me His response. I ask you to test my conviction for yourself. The phrase I heard from THE LORD was “for He gives the Spirit without measure.”
The above is from John 3:34 and the whole verse states “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” This is in a section that seems to be the apostle John making an author’s comment as he wrote his account of the life of Jesus and is perhaps therefore his introduction to the story which follows, (though it is now separated from it by the introduction of chapter divisions.) What follows is the account of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. In 3:34 we have a clear statement by the Holy Spirit (through His inspiration of Scripture) that when the Father gives Him (the Spirit) to anyone it is without measure. In the context John is saying this about Jesus and so we have every person of the Godhead involved in this very simple but important statement. John here states that when we receive the Holy Spirit we receive all of Him not a part. If I visited you at home and you welcomed me in you would have to welcome all of me – it would be impossible to think of asking me to leave one of my arms or legs outside.
Receive the Spirit – but how often?
For years we have debated in the Church when and how believers are baptised in, or filled with the Spirit, but we have failed to consider another New Testament term, that of receiving the Holy Spirit. It occurs in 9 passages in the New Testament (John 7:39, John 14:17, John 20:22, Acts 2:38, Acts 8:15,19, Acts 19:2, 2 Cor. 11:4, Gal. 3:2, and Gal. 3:14). However, this description puts an emphasis on our responsibility when we first encounter Him in power – we have to welcome Him into our lives, we have to receive Him. (David Pawson in his book The Normal Christian Birth points out that Evangelicals have majored on the un-Biblical practice of “inviting Jesus into our lives/hearts” and neglected to teach that it is the Holy Spirit whom we are to “receive”.) My concern here though is to emphasise in the light of John 3:34 that when we receive the Holy Spirit for the first time, because He is a person and not a commodity, our Heavenly Father gives the whole of Him to us and not a portion. I agree that we seldom recognise that the fullness of God already dwells within us because we have not allowed Him to fill every part of us (Eph. 3:19, 2 Pet. 1:4). However, our failure to allow the Holy Spirit to fill us continually does not negate the truth that we have received Him in His fullness.
Look at Acts 19:2 listed above. Paul asked those men if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. It seems that he expected that this was the normal time to do this and that it should be an identifiable experience. In contrast he also encouraged Christians to continue being filled with the Spirit. It is as if we leak or more probably allow other things take the space in our lives that He should fill. We are like a glass with a number of stones in it. When water is poured in until it overflows, the glass appears to be full of water, but when some of the stones are removed then there is space for more water. At such times do we need to receive the Holy Spirit again? And again? And again?…..
Think once more of my visit to your home. You receive me, but you then realise that you are not giving me your full attention. I doubt if you would ask me to step outside, knock on the door again so that you could receive me once more and then give me all of your attention. That would be absurd! All you would need to do is change your attitude (repent), ask my forgiveness and behave differently from then on. Similarly, we do not (cannot) start all over again with the Holy Spirit.
The Fountain of Flowing Water
Twice in his gospel John records Jesus’ teaching relevant to our need for constant refilling. In his conversation with the Samaritan woman already referred to above he said, “Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 3:13,14). Later, at the Feast of Booths, Jesus taught, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'” John adds “But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39).
On both occasions Jesus spoke of the source of flowing water as being located within the one who drinks the water that He supplies, once they have initially received it from Him. John very clearly identifies this water as being the Holy Spirit who was not given at the time of Jesus’ sermon, because Jesus had not been glorified. Knowing therefore that I have the Holy Spirit residing in me as a spring of living water I have to ask “How can I receive Him again?” Returning to my visit to your home, we are in conversation when a knock comes to the door. The one person you know it cannot be is me – I am sitting there in front of you. How silly then if you said, “That must be Randall Hardy, I will go and let him in.” Even if the man at the door used my name it could not be me – could it?”
Now, I just want to pick up on something in that text from Randall Hardy regarding the ongoing filling by the Holy Spirit. I would like to suggest that the process works something like this:
Imagine that I, as a Spirit-filled believer, encounter a situation that makes me angry. I know God’s word about refraining from anger and turning from wrath, but I allow the fleshy part of me to choose which path I pursue – God’s way or my way. Imagine, at this point, an evil spirit, not of God, perhaps a spirit of anger, comes to me and influences my decisions, or even to test if my heart is really devoted to God. As the anger raises in me, the Holy Spirit recedes, or perhaps even leaves (remember He is described as a dove), as I let the spirit of anger dominate my thinking and I give into the desires of the flesh. Of course, I calm down eventually. And, as I seek God and repent of my anger, He forgives me, and the Holy Spirit returns in His fullness, and once more I know God’s peace.
In that example, it could be said that I received another spirit; one of anger. But the example could have easily have been of lust or covertness or even of false teaching. The thing about the spirits I might receive that I know to be wrong, is that once I truly repent, God restores His Holy Spirit. But, and think about this, if the spirit whom I receive sounds like it is of God, and I don’t see the error in it, what happens then? If I don’t know it to be wrong, I will never repent, and possibly never by restored by God and His Holy Spirit. Sobering thought isn’t it?
The third aspect of the life of a believer, after receiving the word of God, being reborn spiritually, and then receiving the person of the Holy Spirit in all His fullness, is when the Holy Spirit falls upon us in power. Let’s take a look at the original disciples to see how it worked for them in practice:
In John chapter 20 we see the disciples behind closed doors, concerned for their safety, confused, when Y’shua appears among them. After putting them at peace, He then breathes on them and tells them to “receive the Holy Spirit”. This is important that we note that it was His breath that imparted the Holy Spirit, as you will see shortly. So, they had heard the word of God (over a three year period), had accepted it, been baptised, spiritually reborn, and now, because He is about to go away (just as He said), He gives them the Holy Spirit, which they receive.
At another occasion, when He appeared again, right before He ascended, He told them to remain in Jerusalem until they received power from on high (Luke 24:49). They rightly obey, and ten days later, at Pentecost, when they were together in one place, and with one accord (of one accord because they had all received the Holy spirit – it is the Holy Spirit who brings unity to us, without Him, there is no unity), the Holy Spirit falls on them in power. Now, what we are talking about here is believers who already had received the fullness of the Holy Spirit, being given the additional power of the Holy Spirit, in this case the gifts of tongues, in order to further the will and purpose of God. They didn’t ask for another ‘filling’ of the Holy Spirit, He just fell upon them and empowered them. If we look at another occasion, we see in Acts 4 that they asked for boldness to speak God’s word, and were once more empowered from on high by the Holy Spirit. They never asked for it, it was given because their hearts were willing to do God’s will.
To sum up those three aspects up, we first receive the word of God. Then the Holy Spirit quickens that word in us and we are born again, spiritually. We then received the person of the Holy Spirit in all of His fullness, even if we never realise that, and finally, for whatever task is at hand, God will pour out His Holy Spirit upon us in order to fulfil His good will and purpose. Got it?
The Bible gives us, perhaps surprisingly, very little in the way of direct information about how spirits are able to influence people. We see snippets here and there, mainly in the pages of the Old Testament, but nothing completely definitive. I have learned to think slightly differently about the whole subject in order to understand it. I think the major obstacle for us is the word spirit. It is very easy when we hear or read the word to think ghost. However, I think that there is much more to it than that. In the English language the word can be used to mean many things. From life force to disposition; from the unity within a team to the influence upon an individual; from the part of man that cannot be seen to the mind which the body contains.
The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible counts four different Hebrew or Aramaic words which, in English, are rendered as spirit. There are also two Greek words.
In the Old Testament, the most commonly used word is ruach, which can mean to breathe, or breath, wind or to exhale, or even mind or intellect. Think about Y’shua breathing on the disciples in John 20. Perhaps the most well known usage is the name of the Holy Spirit, which in Hebrew is Ruach HaKodesh – quite literally ‘the spirit who is set apart‘.
In the New Testament the most common word is pneuma, which also means a current of air or a breeze. It can, at times, be given to mean the vital principle of a person or the mind. At others it is interposed as soul, or angel or life.
Of course, none of this is particularly helpful to the subject at hand, except that I want to help people to think differently about the word. We have a tendency to see the word spirit as relating to something of a personably nature, that is to say, having a personality. I think in some cases it would be more preferably to consider the word spirit to mean influence.
To return to the initial quote from Paul’s 2nd letter to the church at Corinth, which is where we started, I think we need to start thinking differently about how we walk with God; about how easy it is to be deceived; about how easily we can drive the Holy Spirit away; about how all of that process works for us in a practical manner.
When Paul stood up in synagogues or in market places he spoke out the gospel. God’s words then settled on the people. They either received the word or they didn’t. Think about the different soil types in the Parable of the Sower. Is this example any different from say a politician today speaking at some conference or rally and some people agree and others don’t? Some will give their support, whilst others won’t. That is exactly what happened at Corinth. They heard the words Paul had spoken and they received them. The Holy Spirit activated the words in them and they were spiritually reborn.
Now, what happened when someone else arrived at Corinth and spoke a different gospel about a different Jesus? Paul warned them that they could easily get drawn in. Why? Because they didn’t know how to stand upon what God had already said, just like Eve. However, the example of Y’shua in the wilderness shows us just how to stand upon God’s word. What happened then? Y’shua resisted and Satan fled, just as James promises he will in his letter (James 4:7).
What happened at Toronto Airport Vineyard was not of God, but He allowed it in order to test the church to see if they could be faithful to Him. Although it is not in his original article, Randall Hardy has pointed out to me that there is a precedent for such an action from God:
“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’ – which you have not known – ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” [Deuteronomy 13:1-3]
Interesting isn’t it?
Toronto was over twenty years ago, but it spawned so much more. The so-called revivals at Brownsville, Lakeland, and at Dudley in the West Midlands are all questionable, but those involved all went to Toronto to receive the ‘anointing’. It is well documented. A basic internet search will reveal the links between these churches. I strongly suspect what was received was not from God. If it was, it would stand up under the light of scripture. If, as I suspect, it wasn’t from God, then we have a really serious issue. We have deception masquerading as truth. A different gospel. A different Jesus. A different spirit.
The real trouble comes when we fail to see false teaching. If we accept it then we may never repent and never once more receive the Holy Spirit, in His fullness. What if what happened at Toronto was simply not of God? What about all those good and true spirit-filled believers who have since laboured under the idea that the teaching, the gospel, the spirit they received was of God? If they don’t know, they will never repent, if they don’t repent, they will continue to walk in error.
If they received a spirit other than the one of God, how many more have received that wrong spirit when hands have been laid upon them? How far has this deception propagated?
When I have failed to be faithful to God’s word, I repent and draw close to Him. When I do, I know He draws close to me and restores His Holy Spirit to me. It doesn’t take much to seek God and ask Him to show us any error in us. If we are patient and wait for an answer, He will always respond. If you have received a spirit, a gospel, a Jesus, other than the one your first received then you can repent, and God will restore you. He is faithful, even when we are not.
We can, of course, always follow David’s example when we have done wrong. Psalm 51 can be used as a prayer for restoration.
I am very grateful to Randall Hardy for allowing his work to be reproduced. Please take the time to read his original article in full. It is honest and scriptural. Here’s a link to the article itself and his website.