When a man does terrible things he has to live with himself, but when a church leader does terrible things others have to live with what he has done. One such terrible indictment is false doctrine, or the lack of doctrine, infiltrating our churches today at such an alarming rate and has become so prevalent in our culture, truth has become a free for all. The “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) is fragmented as church leaders strive to be relevant in our society rather than defending and proclaiming the faith. Deception prospers when preaching is patchy and the Gospel message is diminished. Many today go to great length to avoid publicizing the full truth of God’s Word being more occupied with making the church seem cool to unbelievers they can’t be bothered with whether or not their doctrine is wobbly.
“The only infallible interpreter of what we see in nature or know innately in our own consciences is the explicit revelation of Scripture. Since Scripture is also the one place where we are given an infallible account of Christ, the Bible is the touchstone to which all truth-claims should be brought and by which all other truth must finally be measured.” – The Truth War/John MacArthur
The gospel has been cheapened today to the point where truth isn’t even on the back burner, it’s been taken completely off the stove and the majority don’t care so long as their “felt needs” are met. Sensationalism has so permeated the church that those who hear the Berean call are now suspect by the church. It is those who search the Scripture for truth and question the faulty teaching of church leadership who are pushed out. Church leadership has developed a ministerial immunity as they project all sorts of strange doctrine but lack in having any realism in the Scripture. One such example is Bill Johnson in an article he wrote called “Apostolic Teams” (www.bjm.org) where he states, “There are major changes in the “wind” right now. For the last several years people have started to gather around fathers instead of doctrine.” In his view, doctrines only has a measure of success but is not proficient to bring unity.
To Bill, unity of this nature is based upon uniformity, today, God is saying something new. Though Bill believes doctrine is divisive, good doctrine, sound doctrine is not the problem. When division in the Body of Christ occurs over doctrine, it’s not the fault of doctrine itself, it’s our perception of said doctrine. All that God wants to say and has said is discovered in Scripture, there is nothing new. It’s the “new and the fresh” revelations which are causing division, not doctrine.
If you study enough of Bill Johnson’s teachings, you soon realize he is a “grab it and rabbit” teacher. Bill’s claim that there are major changes in the “wind” is correct, but spiritual fathers (church leaders) are to equip and edify the body of Christ with sound doctrine, not every wind of doctrine (Eph. 4:11-14). This is a proof text that the body of Christ is strengthened, unified, and comes into the fullness of Christ when healthy doctrine is prescribed. Healthy doctrine is the progress of maturity in the believer promoting stability and integrity resulting in the whole body’s growth. It is and always has been the plain preaching of God’s Word which unleashes the power of truth, not “new and fresh” revelation. Some of the greatest threats to truth today come from within the visible church. Apostates and false teachers are there in vast abundance–teaching lies, popularizing gross falsehoods, reinventing essential doctrines, and even redefining truth itself. 1 God does not expect us to be successful, only faithful. However, healthy doctrine is the pathway for prosperity from God’s point of view. Scripture is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, not new and fresh revelation (2 Tim. 3:16).
We find strength and stability in the Scripture, through it we are provided a sound understanding of the true Gospel, we obtain full assurance of salvation, we are given confidence in the lordship of Christ and the inimitability of Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation.
The Spirit of Revelation
Bill Johnson has a foot in two camps, the NAR (New Apostolic Reformation), and the WOF (Word of Faith) making him just one of a long list of Apostles and Super Apostles appearing on the scene today. The heartbeat driving these movements is the “Spirit of Revelation” or, extra Biblical Revelation which they claim, God is doing a new thing. While one vain is pumping out new and false doctrine, another vain is down playing Biblical Doctrine in an attempt to push their agenda. At the heart of their apostasy is rebellion against Christ’s lordship. Even if they confess with their lips, they deny with their lives. They may call Jesus, “Lord, Lord” but they do not do what He says (Luke 6:46). Their apostasy eventually poisons all their doctrine. They twist and pervert and reinvent teachings of Christ. They adjust the gospel to suit their own tastes. When you get to the core of where they are, they simply want to be kings of their own domains.2 Below is an excerpt from Bill Johnson’s article “Apostolic Teams” under the topic
“The Spirit of Revelation.”
“One of the things that helped to keep the early church strong and healthy was their continual devotion to the apostle’s doctrine.6 However, you’ll notice that there is no mention of a list of beliefs that the Bible declares to be the official record of important doctrines. It is safe to say the “apostles doctrine” is referring to something other than a specific list. Peter understood this when he exhorted the church concerning ‘present truth’.7 That phrase is to direct our attention to that which the Lord is emphasizing for this season. That is the apostle’s doctrine. The word coming from apostles is to bring clarification of the Father’s focus for the church, and in turn strengthen our resolve to His purposes. Fresh revelation carries fresh fire, which helps us to maintain the much needed fire in our souls.”
I want to focus primarily on two points from Bill’s quote, the apostles doctrine and his emphasis on ‘present truth.’ There are two important facts I’d like to point out here which Bill seems to be missing. First, hermeneutics require we interpret Scripture in context. Here in acts 2 there are seven essentials listed which I believe are elements of the Apostles doctrine.
1. Jesus, the historical Person . Acts 2:22
2. Christ Crucified. Acts 2:23
3. Christ Raised. Acts 2:32
4. Correspondence with Old Testament prophecy. Acts 2:34-35
5. The promised Messiah. Acts 2:36
6. Repentance and faith. Acts 2:37-38
7. The Promise of the Spirit. Acts 2:38-39
These are contemporary messages, as vital for today as they were when Peter first spoke them for it is “to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). We have been invited by God to enter a living relationship with the historical Jesus. In accordance with the Scripture (1 Cor. 15:3-4), Jesus, the eternal Son of God lived and died and was raised again to bring us forgiveness and the power for a new life. Secondly, the Apostles were obedient to the commission of Jesus Christ to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the Age” (Matt. 28:19-20). Here in Acts 2 not 50 days after they were commanded to go and make disciples we see them wasting no time as Peter preached his first sermon resulting in three thousand souls being added to the church. If you study the new testament as a whole you will find the seven essentials mentioned above to be a theme threaded in all of the Epistles written by the Apostles.
Verbalizing words prompted by the Holy Spirit are never a substitute for the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. In 1 Peter 1:16-19 Peter shows the relative importance of prophetic words or experiences we receive compared with the place of the Scriptures themselves. For example, Peter in this text compares his own experience with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration to the abiding “prophetic word” of the Holy Scripture “confirmed,” and thereby makes a dramatic point for our understanding through all church history. If Peter’s experience with Jesus Himself is said by Peter to be subordinate to the “more sure” Word of the Scriptures, we have both a guideline and an ultimate statement. The guideline is that no experience holds greater authority than the Word of God. The ultimate statement is that we have the sufficiency of God’s Word, it contains everything we need for salvation, for faith, and for obedient living. So the Scriptures are ultimate, conclusively authoritative, and nothing is it’s equal.4 I’m sure Peters experience on the Mount of Transfiguration was euphoric but the point Peter makes in this text is we are never to allow ecstatic experiences to come between us and the more sure word of prophecy (Scripture). Doctrine is substantial to our spiritual life, it is the Scripture which is profitable for doctrine enabling the child of God to be matured (“perfect” 2 Tim. 3:17) in
the things of the Lord fully equipped unto all good works. As I said earlier, when division in the Body of Christ occurs over doctrine, it’s not the fault of doctrine itself, it’s our perception of said doctrine. Men such as Bill Johnson want to eliminate biblical doctrine all together or at least minimize it. He reinvents new doctrine because He, like so many others in the NAR and WOF view biblical discernment, doctrinal boundaries, and the authority of divinely revealed truth to be worn-out relics of past epochs. Hence, that’s what causes division, and that’s why he can look at a verse such as Acts 2:42 and say ” there is no mention of a list of beliefs that the Bible declares to be the official record of important doctrines” and refer to Peters mention of “present truth” (2 Peter 1:12) to justify his faulty doctrine.
Bottom line, when you consider the context of Bill Johnson’s article “Apostolic Teams” it becomes clear he is referring to receiving Prophetic Revelation from the Spirit over Biblical Doctrine. He claims there is no official record of important doctrines in Acts 2:42, then assumes the apostles doctrine is referring to something other than a specific list. Here is where he does the “grab it and rabbit” as he pulls the clause “present truth” out of 2 Peter 1:12 and applies it to the apostles doctrine. Bill says that “this phrase (“present truth“) is to direct our attention to that which the Lord is emphasizing for this season. That is the apostle’s doctrine.” This then rationalizes his belief that prophetic revelation is equivalent to Scripture and now, after 2000 years God has decided to reveal new truth to those he calls “fathers.” That means the “fathers” are the only ones who know this new truth so people need to gather around these fathers instead of doctrine. At least that’s my take on it. He claims that Apostles are first and foremost fathers by nature, and since they are the only ones who God is using to reveal new truth and the Scripture is now out-dated we must go to them for truth. All this sounds a lot like Mormonism. Simply put, what our modern day Apostles speak by Prophetic Revelation takes precedence over what has been written.
Doctrine is the keystone to the believers spiritual vitality! Doctrine was important to the Apostle Paul, he commended Timothy for following sound doctrine ( 1 Tim. 4:6) and was admonished to give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortations and to doctrine (1 Tim. 4:13). Paul also urged Titus to speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). Doctrine is the outer perimeter of protection for God’s people that God intended, it sharpens our discernment ability to sense both good and evil, right and wrong (Heb. 5:12). Maybe this is the very reason men such as Bill Johnson are so driven to keep people from it, that he may lord over God’s people. Maybe it’s just his hunger for power, prominence, and profit. Either way, he is dangerous to the Body of Christ.
11. The Truth War study guide; John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Copy right
2007 p. 23
2. The Truth War study guide; John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Copy right 2007 p. 15
3. Apostolic Teams; Bill Johnson, www.bjm.org
4. Spirit filled Bible; General Editor Jack W. Hayford, copyright 1991 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. p. 1920/Kingdom Dynamics.
3 Apostolic Teams; Bill Johnson, http://www.bjm.org