A Question I Was Asked:


Should You Join a Restorationist Bible Study?

A Consideration of Third Wave Charismatics and the Restoration Movement. PLEASE NOTE: Sometimes the term 'restorationism' is used differently, including to refer to the sects such as the Christadelphans and Jehovah's Witnesses. We use it (we think, in the correct way)to refer to the successive waves of the charismatic movement.

The Restorationist movement claims that the office of Apostle still exists today in exactly the same powerful first century AD form which we find in the New Testament. So within Restorationism various charismatic individuals can be found who claim to hold this office. They also claim that the Old Testament office of Prophet still exists today although they would deny that this is an Old Testament office, pointing to the 'prophets' of the New Testament such as Agabus.
The movement emphasizes the belief that God's miraculous working in the Gospels and Acts describes the normalChristian life which all true believers should still experience in our day. Restorationists therefore seek to restore today's churchto reflect that perspective. Interestingly, the group frequently referred to as 'Restorationist' usually do not use that particular term for themselves yet often recognise themselves as “Third wave charismatics.”

Three "waves" of restorationism can be detected through the 20th century, and ongoing into the 21st century, and it is probably fair to say that all 3 groups are still around. Before preceding, let us just briefly pause to identify these groups:

  1. Classical Pentecostalism (from the beginning of the 20th century): Mainly believing that speaking in tongues is a necessary evidence of personal salvation and that physical healing should always be appropriated by faith (the physical healing included within the atonement teaching). This group mostly formed themselves into specific Pentecostal denominations, including Elim Pentecostal. Some of these denominations are now less insistent of the need for tongues and are less fiery than they once were.
  2. The Charismatic Movement (started from around the middle of the 20th century): They believed that a second act of grace or of being "Baptized in the Holy Spirit" is necessary after conversion, and that tongues should be expected as evidence of this. This group are highly experiential and continually stress the importance of personal experience, whereas the older Pentecostals were actually more interested in doctrine. Spiritual gifts in general (especially the more miraculous ones) are stressed rather than tongues-speaking in particular. The influence of this group (which was non-denominational) spread to affect many denominations even including parts of the Roman Catholic Church, this is largely because this group were mostly disinterested in Christian doctrine.
  3. "Third Wave Charismatics" (from the late 20th century): This is the "Signs and Wonders" movement, including the Vineyard churches founded by the late John Wimber. This group want all churches to experience what they consider to be the full power of the Holy Spirit, and they see a need for most evangelical churches (as well as non-evangelical churches) to experience a new reformation to bring them back to the standards evidenced within the Book of Acts. They often don't hold to a second act of grace, tongues as evidence of salvation, or even the 'healing included in the atonement' teaching, although there are many variations. There is often an emphasis on modern 'prophecy' and worship is often 'loud' with a youth emphasis.

One of the central planks of third wave restorationist belief is that we should see evidence of miracles all around us in today's church, and if we don't see that it just proves how far the church has departed from God. However, the evidence of the Holy Bible is that miracles only accompanied the major events in God's plan for Mankind – most notably the ministry of Jesus and the Apostles! The Bible seems to show that miracles were 'clustered' around these important events.

Jesus was the Messiah, and therefore we would expect Him to do some very special things. We cannot make everything that Jesus said and did the normal standard for all Christians of all ages!

In the first place, His miracles provided evidence for his identity: His miraculous ministry was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy (Matthew. 11:3-5). Jesus Himself cited his utterly unique miracle ministry as one of the evidences for his Messiahship (Matthew. 11:3-5; Mark 2:9-11; John. 5:36; 10:37,38).

Like the miracles performed by Jesus in the gospels, when Jesus later leaves this earth to return to Heaven, the miracles we read about in the Book of Acts are performed by a uniquely called people (the Apostles) during a unique time (the beginning of the New Testament Church). Okay, so how and why were the first century Apostles unique?

1. They saw Christ in the flesh.
Luke:1:2; Acts:1:22; 1Corinthians:9:1; 1John:1:1.

2. They were witnesses of the resurrection and ascension of Christ.
Luke:24:33-41; Luke:24:51; Acts:1:2-9; Acts:10:40-42; 1 Corinthians:15:7-9.

3. They were specifically empowered to work miracles, often of a most spectacular sort.
Matthew:10:1; Matthew:10:8; Mark:16:20; Luke:9:1-2; Acts:2:43; Acts 5:12-16; Acts 14:3; Acts 15:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3-4.

4. They were authorized to write Holy Scripture.
Matthew 10:40; John 14:26; 15:26,27; 16:13.

I think I am correct in saying that no modern 'third wave' “apostle” claims that points 1, 2 and 4 apply to themselves, yet they enthusiastically claim point 3.
The Apostles were a unique group of men who were ordained of God to confirm what happened during the ministry of Jesus and were granted special gifts and powers for this purpose. Notice how this is confirmed in Hebrews:

'How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.' (Hebrews 2:3-4, NIV, my emphasis).

Notice here that this clearly tells us that the purpose of the signs and wonders in the early church were for the intention to confirm and testify “this salvation” as “first announced” by the Lord. 2 Peter 3:2 also speaks in the past tense about these men, and notice how Acts 2:43, Acts 5: 12-16 and Acts 15:12 confirm that the miraculous 'signs and wonders' were for the ministry of the first Apostles:

'The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people...' (Acts 5:12).

Again, both these texts are written in the past tense. 2 Corinthians 12:12 specifically confirms that 'signs and wonders' denote an apostle and also places these things in the past tense: '...were done among you...'

That deals with the office of Apostle which, in a true New Testament sense, cannot recur at the present time therefore, I believe, the office should be respectfully left alone and not arrogantly claimed by any! For more specific information about the office of 'Prophet' which is being repeatedly claimed by 'Third Wave Restorationist' leaders please refer to my article, Are There REALLY Prophets in Today's Church?

Plus Points of Restorationism

First of all I would say that most “third wavers” do not amount to being a cult (although, be wary!). They loosely genuinely stand in the traditions of the great evangelical 'faith of our fathers'. The 'Third Wave' has also shown a refreshing willingness to challenge the errors of earlier charismatics and of Pentecostalism. Several restorationist writers are very positive towards developing more doctrinal understanding, and keen to challenge the excesses within their own group. They have to be praised for this. They also can be praised for challenging many of the assumptions of denominationalism.

But a Warning!

The charismatic enthusiasm for the spectacular is always dangerous. Countless lives of true Christian faith over the centuries, for instance, have often been marked by amazing answers to prayer (George Muller is just one of many examples), but have otherwise shown little concern or interest in the spectacular gifts, yet restorationism would tend to denigrate such men and women for standing within denominationalism rather than having a passion to embrace a first century 'supernatural restoration'.

But many of us would say that evidences of the supernatural frankly prove nothing and could even denote the presence of evil influences, whilst the Holy Spirit works where He wills and often just as much in quiet unassuming lives of faith!

What about joining a 'Third Wave' Bible Study? Are more mainstream evangelical Christians likely to encounter problems?

These groups will sometimes be found to be extreme and “prophecy” will usually play a part in their meetings. Despite this I have little doubt that some 'third wave' Bible study groups are not all bad. It will be up to the judgment of the individual whether such groups would be good places to attend. My own judgment? Be extremely wary! There will be serious doctrinal misunderstandings in these groups despite their sincerity (such as the misunderstanding of the correct doctrinal approach towards miracles and the office of Apostle which I have briefly considered here, to say nothing of their acceptance of modern “prophets” some of whom have made highly unbiblical claims). I can only say that I would not personally attend such a group nor could I recommend attendance of such a group.

Robin A. Brace, 2005.

It is also probably essential to read:
What are the 'Signs of an Apostle'?

What Does it Mean to be 'Filled with the Spirit'?

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