FALSE GIFTS AND MANIFESTATIONS
by W. G. Hathaway
(Written in 1933)
In dealing with the subject of the gifts of the Spirit we frequently find people who are terribly afraid of what they term “false gifts,” and an examination of this question may on the one hand shed some light on the subject, and on the other allay many needless fears.
Of one thing we may be fully assured: no one who seeks bread from God will be given a stone; none who seeks fish receive a serpent (Luke 11:9-13). Likewise none who seeks the Holy Ghost and His gifts, fulfilling the conditions laid down in God’s Word, need be afraid of receiving something not of God. No one who dwells in the consciousness of the covering of the precious blood of Christ will be allowed by his heavenly Father to be entrapped by Satan against his will.
This fear is largely due to ignorance, though sometimes it is due to the influence of opponents of this glorious work of the Spirit. Christians have been nourished so long in the false idea that everything supernatural is to be avoided, that they are naturally suspicious. While caution should be exercised, and the necessary safeguards are given us in the Word of God, we should also remember that there must be faith in our approach to God, for without faith it is impossible to receive anything from Him. Faith is fundamental to the possession and exercise of every supernatural operation in evidence today as being of the Devil is to show gross ignorance of the working of the Holy Spirit.
It is certain then that while there are true manifestations of the Spirit of God there may also be certain manifestations whose origin is satanic. Spiritualists, we are told, have supernatural manifestations, and even speak in other tongues and claim healings. But these have nothing to do with the gifts of the Holy Ghost. They are Satan’s counterfeit. The Holy Ghost gifts are pure and holy, they exalt Christ and are only manifested among believers, while the other manifestations appear among those who deny the Deity of Christ, and tend to lead man away from Christ, away from the Bible, and away from the Blood. The acid test is: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Today many people are afraid of spiritual gifts because they have heard of these false gifts. They are like the twelve spies sent out by Moses to view the Promised Land (Num.13). Ten were filled with unbelief and only saw the giants, but two were filled with faith and saw the promises of God. Unbelief always sees the difficulties and magnifies them, but faith sees God and magnifies him.
False gifts and manifestations appearing in assemblies of Christ-loving people are extremely rare, and generally where they do occur they are quickly detected by a Spirit-filled leader and promptly quelled. When these rare occurrences have happened, it has invariably been proved when the matter has been investigated that the person has had something to do with Spiritism, or else is unregenerate. Wherever the power of God is being manifested in times of revival, in any section of the Christian Church, one frequently finds all sorts of queer folk seeking to associate themselves with the work; people of weak intellect and of unsound principles, and also spiritual cranks, who come with the object of attracting attention to them themselves. Often a genuine and sound work of God is blamed because of the discredited actions of these irresponsible persons.
Let us bear in mind that every real work of God will be counterfeited. There can be false healings manifested by the power of Satan; false gifts; false conversions; false doctrines; false christs; but they are only the counterfeits. It would be folly to reject all bank notes because someone has discovered a spurious one. The counterfeit does not deny the real, but rather proves the existence of the real, of which it is only an imitation.
It is surprising how these stories of “false gifts” get around. Who has not heard of the old story — now hoary with age and footsore by its travels up and down the land for about a quarter of a century in various garbs — of the person who, in a meeting in a south coast town, spoke some blasphemous words in the Chinese language. The writer has tried to trace this story to its source, but without success. If the incident was not born in the imagination of some prejudiced person’s mind, then it is evident that this speaker in tongues was no child of God, but an impostor — either a spiritist or a trickster. During the twenty-five years since this Pentecostal outpouring first came to Britain, cases of false gifts being manifested have been almost unknown. True, there have been many human imitations of prophecy and interpretation, spoken by well-meaning but presumptuous or misguided people; but of false gifts operated by satanic powers only a few isolated cases have occurred.
Now can we find some safeguard which will prevent people being deceived? We can! And the test is given in the Word of God. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Sprit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God” (I John 4:1-3). This challenge is to be made, not to the person, but to the spirit speaking by the person. The Holy Ghost will never call Jesus accursed, and no man can say that Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Ghost (I Cor.12:3).
We remember reading an account some time ago which will serve as an illustration of this. A young man, tired of the cold formalities of modern religion, had become interested in spiritist meetings, and one evening came home to his godly parents with the account of how at a séance he had through a medium got into touch with the spirit of his grandmother, who had been dead some little time. The parents, realising the danger the youth was in, persuaded him to have nothing to do with these things; but no, he was enthusiastic with his new discovery, and continued time after time to attend the séances. After much prayer the father was prompted to speak to the young man again about it and the opportunity came when he arrived home with the information that he had again been in touch with his grandmother. “Very well,” said the father; “you know full well the godly life your grandmother lived, and of her testimony for Christ. Next time you get into touch with her I want you to ask her one question: Was Jesus Christ the Son of God, and did He come in the flesh into the world.” To this the young man agreed.
At the next séance the medium was again controlled by the spirit of the supposed grandmother, whereupon the young man expressed a wish to ask a question. The momentous question was then put to the medium. For a moment there was silence and no answer; but the young man pressed the question again, and there broke forth from the medium in reply a torrent of abuse and profane language, and the young man fled from the place, convinced of its satanic origin. No! the fact remains that no person speaking under the influence of a spirit can acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, except it be by the Holy Spirit, who always magnifies Christ and gives Him His rightful place.
Here is a striking fact, that throughout the world wherever this Pentecostal outpouring has gone, the result has been an uplifting of Christ and a magnifying of the precious Blood. True, there have been extravagances due to ignorance, and fanaticism has also crept in in some quarters, but they can be traced, not to the basic principles of the movement, but to Satan’s attempt to spoil the glorious work by pushing people to extremes. Speaking of the movement as a whole, the teaching is of a definitely scriptural character, the meetings are full of the praises of the risen Lord, while thousands upon thousands can praise God that ever they came into contact with the movement, for through it they were led into the experience of the new birth. Even critics who do not agree with all the teachings of the movement are bound to admit that Christ is magnified. This glorious twentieth century outpouring of the Spirit has everywhere resulted in changed homes, changed hearts, and changed lives; and the gifts of the Holy Ghost in operation among us have exalted the risen Christ, and intensified the glorious hope of His soon coming again. People who have received this wonderful baptism of the Holy Spirit know the blessedness of owning the Lordship of Jesus Christ.