PART 2: TOO MUCH CONFIDENCE IN MAN
By Roelof Ham - translated by Ursula Moestapa
The status of apostles (and prophets)
As I have explained in my first article on the New Apostolic Reformation or N.A.R. (click here to read), the restoration of the ministries of apostles and prophets is one of the important elements for this movement, i.e. the restoration of the New Testament ministries of prophecy and apostleship. This goes way further than how it has been dealt with in many other evangelical and charismatic communities. In order to see this clearly and distinctly, we must first go back to the New Testament.
The apostles of the New Testament had great authority, especially the twelve apostles that were chosen by Jesus Himself and to which Matthias was added after the apostasy and death of Judas. Their authority rested on the Lord Who had chosen them and on the fact that they were eyewitnesses of Jesus in His life, death and resurrection. This was the core to which they owed their position: the Lord had chosen them and they were eyewitnesses to what had happened. For Paul, who called himself the least of the apostles, the choosing encounter took place on the way to Damascus. There he met Jesus his Lord whom he was still persecuting at that time. The text of Acts 9 in this context is significant: Paul was the only one to see the resurrected Christ, his companions only heard His voice.
The word apostle stems from the Greek word apostolos, which means ‘messenger on behalf of ….’. The disciples and Paul were thereby the apostles of Christ because they were the direct messengers of Christ Himself. They ‘proved’ it by the signs and wonders they did. The Holy Spirit put in this way a divine exclamation mark behind their position and ministry. They had the authority of Christ in their speech.
The Bible speaks, apart from this group of apostles, also about others. Andronicus and Junia in Romans 16 for example, are likewise literally called apostles. These apostles are therefore also messengers, but by and on behalf of the Church. They represent the Church, sometimes this is a local church.
That makes their position somewhat different from that of the twelve and Paul and their status is therefore probably also different as a result of that.
The apostles of the modern day N.A.R. attribute the status of the twelve and Paul to themselves. You become an apostle when people with the same position in a community also see that in you. You then receive a ministry from them that is fully in line with the apostleship of the twelve and Paul in the New Testament. In this way the expectations these apostles raise are too high. This becomes all too apparent in their minestries, for what the apostles say, has the status of the Word of God itself. That is a great problem in the N.A.R., for in doing so they create a source of divine revelation apart from the Bible.
A logical consequence of this is that it implies that the prophecies and announcements of apostles (but also of prophets) are directive and guiding. Therefore, the revelations they have received must be accepted by the churches. If someone doesn’t accept them as Gods Word, then there’s something wrong with him. Then ‘the spirit of religion’ is at work in him (which comes down to a false and hypocritical spirit of outer religiosity as we saw with the Pharisees) or ‘the spirit of Jezebel’ with a reference to the Old Testament stories of Elijah and his adversary queen Jezebel. In the worst case a person can be accused of having ‘a spirit of demons’ because he rejects God and his prophets and apostles. This is how the messages of the apostles and prophets get an absolute character. The problem with this is that they ignore the fact that nobody is perfect and infallible, including these apostles and prophets. An example? In the election battle between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in 2020, a number of these prophets (Jeremiah Johnson, Kris Vallotton and many others) prophesied that Donald Trump would be reelected in this election. History tells us that it did not happen.
This undermines their claim to be speaking with the absolute authority of God. Their failed prophecies show that these prophets and apostles are not God’s apostles and prophets. The Bible is very clear about that. If this is the case one writes himself off as prophet and should be considered fortunate if he makes it out alive. Deuteronomy 18: 18-20 puts it this way: ‘I will raise up for them a prophet from among their countrymen like you (Moses), and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them everything that I shall command him. And it shall come about that whoever does not listen to My words which he speaks in My name, I Myself will require it of him. But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name, a word which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’
Perhaps you are wondering: ‘Is there a way to measure whether or not a prophecy is from the Lord? There is a way indeed: if a prophet claims to be speaking in the name of the Lord, but his words doesn’t come true and nothing happens, then that wasn’t a prophecy from the Lord. Don’t show respect for a prophet who arrogates that unto himself.’
This is not the only text in the Bible on this subject. Prophets speak on behalf of the Lord and because the Lord takes His reputation very seriously, mistaken and incorrect prophecies are not considered lightly.
This also shows once again that when we put limited men on a pedestal in a church and elevate them as the prophets and the apostles, it creates a recipe for mistakes, misinterpretations and wrong choices. In the church of Jesus there is just One single Person Who has absolute authority and that’s Christ Himself.
The lack of a touchstone
This brings us to the second point. This is where the heart of the matter lies: the lack of an absolute touchstone. Not only persons, but also the human experiences become elevated in the N.A.R. to the very measurement of things. Experiences are at least as important as the Word of God which is revealed in the Bible and by prophets and apostles. However, as I already wrote previously, man is not perfect. Although we have been saved and redeemed in Jesus and by Jesus, we remain imperfect and sinful up until He definitively redeems us on His return. The devil will therefore always try to get access to our lives and sometimes even succeed too. When we make our feelings and experiences into the guide to what is right, it can go sideways really fast. Nobody is perfect and feelings and intentions can be wrong and misguiding. Even the most sincere intentions can be wrong, for sincerity cannot be a measure for truth. Look at the Nazis. They were sincerely convinced that they were right, but they were not. We should be constantly aware that we only live by grace. Man in himself can therefore never be the measure of the touchstone for what is true and good, let alone for what’s from God and what not. Unfortunately this is the pit in which the N.A.R. has fallen. They know this, but consider themselves ‘risk takers’, in order to give God and His Spirit maximum space to work. People enter ‘into the adventure’ and in doing so, give in to the creed: ‘If it’s good and it feels good, if it works out well, then it must be from God.’ That’s the gist of the argument of communities that have been shaped by this movement. If you want to see this for yourself, just take a look at the website about Bethel Redding www.bethel.com/about. In the videos posted there, you constantly get bombarded with the principle that people themselves, especially their leaders and apostles/prophets, are the measurement of things.
This is sad, because God has given us a different measure: His Word, the Bible. In it, God’s will has been revealed. In it, we find everything that may lead to life everlasting, starting with the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ Himself. In 2 Tim.3: 16-17 it is clearly stated: ‘All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.’
This text is plain as day: we need no other touchstone than this.
If we make God’s Word the central focus and measure for our life, then we are fully ‘equipped for every good work.’
However, this is lacking in many communities inspired by N.A.R. Sometimes it's still there in theory (e.g. in a faith confessions), but in practice the primary responsibility lies with the leaders, with the apostles and prophets, and with the experiences and emotions of men. A statement of Bill Johnson, the apostle of Bethel Redding, speaks volumes in that regard. He responds to a comment of an interviewer on the position of the Bible by saying: ‘The (Biblical) lists don’t contain God, they reveal God. They don’t limit what God can do.’ This is not true. The Bible is the standard for us as churches and as believers that still want to follow Him, two thousand years after the resurrection of Jesus, precisely because those are God’s own words. It’s therefore very sad to see how this limited and humanized view leads to all kinds of vague, weird and plainly bizarre practices and shapes in the practice of many of these communities.
This doesn’t do the testimony of Christ any good. It will eventually only lead to more and more derailments. Unfortunately, this is what we will see in the following and final part of this threefold series.