8th December 2016

Alpha Course

“What is the Alpha Course?”The Alpha Course was started in the United Kingdom, at HolyTrinityBromptonChurch, by Nicky Gumbel and Sandy Millar in 1977. This Anglican church in London was the center of the holy laughtermovement in England and Europe, (see below) and has been known for services that include "slaying in the spirit" and behaviors such as uncontrollable laughter, spasms, loud animal-like noises and physical manifestations during emotionally driven services. While there is much good teaching in the Alpha Course, this extreme background eventually finds its way into the teachings of the course.The Alpha Course begins with a sold presentation of the gospel message, and progresses with some solid biblical teachings. But, sadly, the Alpha Course eventually works its way into error and ritualism, works-based salvation, and even occult manifestations. The push is for experience-driven evangelism while biblical doctrines are side-stepped or ignored

1 Timothy 4:13Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you. It is interesting that the Alpha Course does not seek to teach about the person, character or attributes of God, and does not focus on doctrine, which may cause division among those who they seek to include, New Age adherents and Roman Catholics, for example. The Alpha Course is ecumenical and any "course" that can appeal to the wide range of traditions and denominations, as the Alpha Course does, has to sacrifice many essential Bible truths. A wide tent that is inclusive of those who hold teachings contrary to the tenets of the faith for which we are to contend (Jude 3), necessitates that the Word of God is sliced and diced into palatable portions, leading to error and following humanistic viewpoints rather than the revealed Word of the Lord.This course also teaches the "Kingdom now" theology, which is also called "dominionism" or "triumphalism." This is the idea that those who have enough faith can enjoy right now all or most of the physical and health benefits promised during the coming Millennial Kingdom of Christ on earth. This is nothing more than the "health, wealth, and prosperity" gospel repackaged with a new name. Wealth, health and good times are promised in the name of "faith." This treats God like a spiritual ATM machine who must give what we ask, rather than a holy God deserving of our submission to His perfect will and His sovereign purpose. In the view of the Alpha Course, the Holy Spirit can be called upon to perform His works in response to man's demand. This, of course, is not biblical. It incorrectly applies passages such asJohn 14:12where Jesus says, "anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these." Jesus, in His incarnation, was limited to one space at one time as He laid aside the prerogatives of His divine naturePhilippians 2:6-86 Though he was God, (Or Being in the form of God.) he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges (Greek he emptied himself.)he took the humble position of a slave (Or the form of a slave.) and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form,8he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross.

The sending the Spirit to live in the hearts of the apostles and believers has brought untold millions to faith in Him and that is the "greater" works referred to here, not the miracle signs that accompanied Jesus' ministry on earth to authenticate Himself as the Jewish Messiah. The Lord Jesus Christ told the disciples and all who would believe upon Him through their testimony (John 17:20)that He had to go away to prepare a place for us but would not leave us comfortless or orphans but that the Father would send another comforter. This comforter is another of the same kind and quality as Christ Himself and He would be with them and in them (John 14:17) not that He would come upon them and cause them to lose control of themselves. We are called to do "all things decently and in order" (1Corinthians 14:40). Nowhere in Scripture do we see the Lord Jesus ever laying His hands on the disciples and producing manifestations of uncontrollable laughter, shaking, animal noises, the need to be restrained to protect oneself from harm, or the loss of bodily control. Rather, Jesus rebuked the demons or devils that caused these manifestations and healed those that were possessed of them (Matthew 4:248:16, 289:3212:22 15:22).Peter warns us in 2 Peter 2:1 about false prophets and false teachers, who would "introduce destructive heresies and even deny the sovereign Lord."Although there are many positive things about the Alpha Course, it is the introduction of these false ideas that are dangerous. The Apostle Paul said,"a little leaven, leavens the whole lump" (1 Corinthians 5:6 Galatians 5:9). As believers, we are to test the spirits and to be informed and not deceived by the false teachers that abound today, who the Apostle Paul warned of in his day (2Corinthians 11:13 2Timothy 3:1-7). And these valuable lessons are left for us to use and apply in every age. The Alpha Course, especially in its more "advanced" sections, is not theologically sound and therefore should be avoided.

“What is holy laughter?”The term “holy laughter” was coined to describe a phenomenon during which a person laughs uncontrollably, presumably as a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit’s joy. It is characterized by peals of uncontrollable laughter, sometimes accompanied by swooning or falling down to the floor. First-hand accounts from those who have had this experience vary somewhat, but all seem to believe it to be a sign of a “blessing” or “anointing” of the Holy Spirit.The experience of holy laughter is, by nature, a subjective one.

Therefore, in an effort to find the truth of the matter, we must try to be objective. When our definition of truth depends upon our experience of the world, we are a very short way from becoming entirely relative in our thinking. In short, feelings do not tell us what is true. Feelings are not bad, and sometimes our feelings are aligned with scriptural truth. However, they are more often aligned with our sin nature. The fickle nature of the heart makes it a very unreliable compass. “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). This deceitful-heart principle is specifically applicable to the phenomenon known as “holy laughter.” There is no doubt that people have indeed begun to laugh uncontrollably at revival meetings. That is a fact. But what does it really mean? Laughter is addressed a number of times in the Bible. Often it is used to describe a mocking or scornful response, as was the case with Abraham and Sarah who laughed when God told them they would bear a child in their old age. Some verses use it as a sign of derision (Psalm 59:8; Psalm 80:6; Proverbs 1:26), and still others make pointed statements about the nature of laughter itself. Solomon, for example, made the following observation in Ecclesiastes 2:2, “I said of laughter, 'It is madness,' and of pleasure, 'What does it accomplish?'” He then goes on to say, in 7:3, “Sorrow is better than laughter, for when a face is sad a heart may be happy.”Proverbs 14:13 says the reverse: “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end of joy may be grief.” Both of these verses are true: a sad person may laugh to cover his sadness, and a person may cry although they are inwardly happy. So, not only does emotion fail to give us truth, but we also see that laughter is not always indicative of joy, but can mean anger, sadness, or derision. Likewise, the lack of laughter does not automatically mean sadness. Laughter is clearly very subjective. The most convincing Scriptural argument against what is called “holy laughter” is found in Galatians 5:22-23. It says: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” If self-control is a fruit of the Spirit of God, how can uncontrollable laughter also be a fruit of His Spirit? Revival leaders claim that being “filled” with the Spirit means that we are sort of “tossed about” by His whims. But the idea that God would make people act drunk, or laugh uncontrollably, or make animal noises as a result of the Spirit’s anointing is directly opposed to the way the Spirit acts, according to Galatians 5:22-23. The Spirit described in Galatians 5 is one that promotes self-control within us, not the opposite. Finally, there was no one in the Bible more filled with the Holy Spirit than Jesus, and not once does the Bible ever record Him laughing.In light of these things, it is profitable to take a look at the following passage from 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul talks about speaking in tongues. “But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching?” (v.6)“For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air" (vv. 8-9). “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God” (vv. 26-28). “…for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (v. 33).In those days, many people in the churches were speaking in languages that were unrecognizable to others, and therefore, Paul says they were useless in the church because the speaker could not edify others with his speech. The same could be applied to holy laughter. What does it profit (Paul asks) unless we speak to one another with revelation, teaching, knowledge and truth? Again, he says “let all things be done for edification.” He caps off his argument by saying, “God is not a God of confusion, but of peace,” which makes it clear that he does not want the atmosphere within the church to be one of confusion and meaninglessness, but one of knowledge and edification.It seems, from what Paul is saying, that which is called “holy laughter” would fall under the category of what is “not edifying” to the body of Christ, and should therefore be avoided. We have recognized that

a) laughter is an unreliable emotional response;

b) it can be a sign of several different emotions; and

c) it does not accomplish anything useful. Furthermore, uncontrollable spasms of emotion are contrary to the nature of the Holy Spirit. It is advisable, therefore, not to look to “holy laughter” as a means of growing nearer to God or as a means of experiencing His Spirit.

“What is Kingdom Now teaching?”Kingdom Now theology is a theological belief within the Charismatic movement of Protestant Christianity, mainly in the United States. Kingdom Now proponents believe that God lost control over the world to Satan when Adam and Eve sinned. Since then, the theology goes, God has been trying to reestablish control over the world by seeking a special group of believers-known variously as “covenant people,” “overcomers,” or “Joel’s army”-and that through these people, social institutions (including governments and laws) would be brought under God’s authority. The belief is that, since believers are indwelt by the same Holy Spirit that indwelt Jesus, we have all authority in heaven and on the earth; we have the power to believe for and speak into existence things that are not, and thus we can bring about the Kingdom Age.Among the most controversial tenets of the theology is the belief that secular or non-Christian society will never succeed. Hence, Kingdom Now opposes a separation of church and state. Other beliefs include the idea that, as the Body of Christ, we are Christ. In other words, we have His divine nature. Proponents of Kingdom Now teaching also don't believe in the rapture, which is explained away as a feeling of rapture or excitement when the Lord returns to receive the kingdom from our hands. In other words, everyone will be “caught up” emotionally when He returns. Also among the unbiblical beliefs is the idea that all prophecies regarding future Israel-both in the Old and New Testaments-actually apply to the church.Kingdom Now theology sees the second coming of Jesus in two stages:

1. Through the flesh of the believers (and in particular the flesh of today’s apostles and prophets),

2. Then in person to take over the kingdom handed to Him by those who have been victorious (the “overcomers“). Prior to the second coming, overcomers must purge the earth of all evil influences. Kingdom Now claims that Jesus cannot return until all His enemies have been put under the feet of the church (including death, presumably). Although there are people who believe in some, but not all, of Kingdom Now teachings, they do have in common the beliefs outlined above, all of which are outside of mainstream Christianity and all of which deny Scripture. First, the idea that God has "lost control" of anything is ludicrous, especially coupled with the idea that He needs human beings to help Him regain that control. He is the sovereign Lord of the universe, complete and holy, perfect in all His attributes. He has complete control over all things-past, present and future-and nothing happens outside His command. Everything is proceeding according to His divine plan and purpose, and not one molecule is moving on its own accord. "For Jehovah of Hosts has purposed, and who shall reverse it? And His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" (Isaiah 14:27). As for men having "the power to believe for and speak into existence things that are not," that power belongs to God alone, who doesn't take kindly to those who would attempt to usurp it from Him. "Remember this, and be a man; return it on your heart, O sinners. Remember former things from forever; for I am God, and no other is God, even none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from the past things which were not done, saying, 'My purpose shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure'; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my purpose from a far country. Yes, I have spoken, I will also cause it to come; I have formed; yes, I will do it" (Isaiah 46:8-11). Kingdom Now's denial of the rapture of the church is also unbiblical. The explanation that the rapture is nothing more than the people of God being caught up in rapturous feelings ignores the fact that such an application of the term “caught up” is strictly an idiomatic expression peculiar to English, not Greek. “I was all ‘caught up’ in the movie (or other excitement)" is not the equivalent of harpazo, used to describe the catching up bodily into heaven in 1Thessalonians 4:17 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; and Revelation 12:5. The word is also used in Acts 8:39, where Phillip is bodily “caught away” by the Spirit to another location. As for our being Christ and having divine nature, we are not Christ, although we do partake of His divine nature at salvation with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:4).

But Christ is the second Person of the Godhead, and no one becomes God. This is a lie from the father of lies, Satan, who first told it in the Garden of Eden when he tempted Eve with "you shall be as God" (Genesis 3:5). The idea that the church has replaced Israel and that the fulfillment of the prophecies to Israel pertain to the church is known as Replacement theology, (see below) and it is unbiblical. The promises to Israel will be fulfilled in Israel, not in the church. God's blessings to Israel are eternal, and they are without recall. Finally, the second coming of Christ(see below) will be when He, not men, defeats His enemies and puts all things under His feet. The description of the second coming in Revelation 19 is the description of a mighty warrior who comes to put all things to right, not of one who comes to an earth already cleaned up and ready for Him to rule. Verse 15 is clear: "And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, so that with it He should strike the nations. And He will shepherd them with a rod of iron. And He treads the winepress of the wine of the anger and of the wrath of Almighty God." If the earth has been "purged of all evil influences," as the Kingdom Now-ers believe, why does Christ need a sharp sword to strike the nations, and why does the anger and wrath of God still exist against them? Kingdom Now theology is another in a long line false, unbiblical, and misleading philosophies of men whose vain imaginations seek to humanize God and deify man. It is to be avoided.

“What is replacement theology / supersessionism?”Replacement theology (also known as supersessionism) essentially teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God's plan. Adherents of replacement theology believe the Jews are no longer God's chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel. All the different views of the relationship between the church and Israel can be divided into two camps: either the church is a continuation of Israel (replacement/covenant theology), or the church is completely different and distinct from Israel (dispensationalism/premillennialism).Replacement theology teaches that the church is the replacement for Israel and that the many promises made to Israel in the Bible are fulfilled in the Christian church, not in Israel. So, the prophecies in Scripture concerning the blessing and restoration of Israel to the Promised Land are "spiritualized" or "allegorized" into promises of God’s blessing for the church. Major problems exist with this view, such as the continuing existence of the Jewish people throughout the centuries and especially with the revival of the modern state of Israel. If Israel has been condemned by God, and there is no future for the Jewish nation, how do we explain the supernatural survival of the Jewish people over the past 2000 years despite the many attempts to destroy them? How do we explain why and how Israel reappeared as a nation in the 20th century after not existing for 1900 years?The view that Israel and the church are different is clearly taught in the New Testament. Biblically speaking, the church is completely different and distinct from Israel, and the two are never to be confused or used interchangeably. We are taught from Scripture that the church is an entirely new creation that came into being on the day of Pentecost and will continue until it is taken to heaven at the rapture (Ephesians 1:9-111 Thessalonians 4:13-17). The church has no relationship to the curses and blessings for Israel. The covenants, promises, and warnings are valid only for Israel. Israel has been temporarily set aside in God’s program during these past 2000 years of dispersion.After the rapture (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), God will restore Israel as the primary focus of His plan. The first event at this time is the tribulation (Revelation chapters 6-19). The world will be judged for rejecting Christ, while Israel is prepared through the trials of the great tribulation for the second coming of the Messiah. Then, when Christ does return to the earth, at the end of the tribulation, Israel will be ready to receive Him. The remnant of Israel which survives the tribulation will be saved, and the Lord will establish His kingdom on this earth with Jerusalem as its capital. With Christ reigning as King, Israel will be the leading nation, and representatives from all nations will come to Jerusalem to honor and worship the King-Jesus Christ. The church will return with Christ and will reign with Him for a literal thousand years (Revelation 20:1-5).Both the Old Testament and the New Testament support a premillennial/dispensational understanding of God’s plan for Israel. Even so, the strongest support for premillennialism is found in the clear teaching ofRevelation 20:1-7, where it says six times that Christ’s kingdom will last 1000 years. After the tribulation the Lord will return and establish His kingdom with the nation of Israel, Christ will reign over the whole earth, and Israel will be the leader of the nations. The church will reign with Him for a literal thousand years. The church has not replaced Israel in God’s plan. While God may be focusing His attention primarily on the church in this dispensation of grace, God has not forgotten Israel and will one day restore Israel to His intended role as the nation He has chosen (Romans 11).

“What is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ?”The second coming of Jesus Christ is the hope of believers that God is in control of all things, and is faithful to the promises and prophecies in His Word. In His first coming, Jesus Christ came to earth as a baby in a manger in Bethlehem, just as prophesied. Jesus fulfilled many of the prophecies of the Messiah during His birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection. However, there are some prophecies regarding the Messiah that Jesus has not yet fulfilled. The second coming of Christ will be the return of Christ to fulfill these remaining prophecies. In His first coming, Jesus was the suffering Servant. In His second coming, Jesus will be the conquering King. In His first coming, Jesus arrived in the most humble of circumstances. In His second coming, Jesus will arrive with the armies of heaven at His side.The Old Testament prophets did not make clearly this distinction between the two comings. This can be seen in (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6-7) and (Zechariah 14:4). As a result of the prophecies seeming to speak of two individuals, many Jewish scholars believed there would be both a suffering Messiah and a conquering Messiah. What they failed to understand is that there is only one Messiah and He would fulfill both roles. Jesus fulfilled the role of the suffering servant (Isaiah chapter 53) in His first coming. Jesus will fulfill the role of Israel's deliverer and King in His second coming. Zechariah 12:10 and Revelation 1:7, describing the second coming, look back to Jesus being pierced. Israel, and the whole world, will mourn for not having accepted the Messiah the first time He came.After Jesus ascended into heaven, the angels declared to the apostles, "'Men of Galilee,' they said, 'why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven'" (Acts 1:11). Zechariah 14:4 identifies the location of the second coming as the Mount of Olives.Matthew 24:30 declares, "At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory."Titus 2:13 describes the second coming as a "glorious appearing."The second coming is spoken of in greatest detail in Revelation 19:11-16, "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. 'He will rule them with an iron scepter.' He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."

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