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Monday, November 18, 2013 | Comments (15)

by Cameron Buettel and Jeremiah Johnson

It is not new, it is not apostolic, and it is not a reformation. – John MacArthur on the New Apostolic Reformation

What should we think of self-styled apostles who meet none of the biblical standards for apostleship? They make much of the gift of prophecy but lack the prophetic ability to identify charlatans and phonies in their own midst. They can’t perform apostolic-quality miracles and healings, and their message sounds nothing like what the original apostles preached. The truth is that they don’t do anything that would qualify as “apostolic” by any biblical standard.

Who are these apostles?

The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a movement pioneered by C. Peter Wagner. This is what charismatic and continuationist doctrine looks like when taken to its logical conclusion. The NAR claims that not only the gifts, but also the office of apostleship still continues today. And as apostles, they pretend to speak for God and wield His divine authority—but it is all merely a pretense.

What is the rationale behind this movement? According to Wagner, God’s people can only ever return to pure Christianity, as seen in the early church, if they “recognize, accept, receive, and minister in all the spiritual gifts, including the gift of apostle.” [1](David Cannistraci Apostles and the Emerging Apostolic Movement (Ventura, CA: Renew Books, 1996], p. 12.).

Why do we suggest their apostleship is a sham? According to the New Testament, an apostle had to be:

  • A physical eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:7–8).
  • Appointed by the Lord (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:2; 10:41; Galatians 1:1).
  • Able to authenticate his apostleship with miraculous signs (Matthew 10:1; Acts 2:43; 5:12; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3–4).

Undaunted by those biblical requirements, Wagner’s own apostleship was confirmed under somewhat different circumstances. In 1995 two women prophesied that he had received an apostolic anointing. A second prophecy was given in Dallas in 1998 during a bizarre ceremony that Wagner now considers his ordination. [2](John MacArthur, Strange Fire [Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013], p. 86–87)

But the “proof” of Wagner’s apostleship came in 2001, in the form of an apostolic decree that God supposedly gave him to pronounce the end of mad cow disease in Europe. [3](C. Peter Wagner, Wrestling with Alligators, Prophets, and Theologians [Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2010], p. 243) Never mind that nearly ten years later, doctors and veterinarians were still diagnosing the disease in people and animals throughout Europe.

Wagner is unperturbed by those failures and shortcomings. Instead, he sees his ordination as the dawning of a new apostolic age. In the foreword of Ted Haggard’s The Life-Giving Church, Wagner wrote:

The New Apostolic Reformation is an extraordinary work of God that began at the close of the twentieth century and continues on. It is, to a significant extent, changing the shape of the Protestant world. [4](Ted Haggard, The Life-Giving Church [Ventura CA: Regal Books, 2001], p. 14).

Wagner even goes so far as to describe this era as “The Second Apostolic Age.” His “studies indicate that it began around the year 2001,” although he doesn’t bother to  explain or define what those studies were. [5](C. Peter Wagner, Apostles Today [Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2006], p. 6).

In this new age of apostles, several apostolic networks have been established. Wagner’s is called the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA). Its website contains a global map to help locate the apostles in your part of the world. According to the network, there are more than 150 apostles in the U.S. alone.

ICA claims the NAR is “heralding the most radical change in the way church is done since the Protestant Reformation.” On the same webpage Wagner defines an apostle as a

Christian leader who is gifted, taught, and commissioned by God with the authority to establish the foundational government of the Church within an assigned sphere of ministry by hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches and by setting things in order accordingly for the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

But who determines when God has commissioned someone? How does one become an apostle?

Actually, it’s not too different from joining a country club. According to the ICA website, the aspiring apostle must be nominated by two existing apostles who can show that he meets the ICA’s criteria. There are some fees, too.

The pricing table for apostleship is curious. The ICA charges an annual $450 fee to be an apostle. However, Native Americans receive a $100 discount. There’s also a couple’s rate of $650, just in case your wife also happens to be an apostle. And you want to stay on top of your dues, because failure to renew your membership on time results in a “deactivated” apostleship—it’s not clear if that includes the deactivation of any spiritual gifts as well. All is not lost, however—a deactivated apostle can be reactivated for an extra $50.

Put simply, becoming an apostle with the ICA is only slightly more difficult (and expensive) than purchasing a season pass to Disneyland.

That’s a staggeringly low bar for apostolic authority—particularly when that authority includes speaking on behalf of Almighty God. People believe in Wagner’s apostleship simply because he had the temerity to claim it. But you won’t find delusions of grandeur and audacious whimsy in the list of biblical requirements for apostles.

What is truly frightening is that Wagner is not an anomaly. The charismatic movement is overrun with modern apostles like Wagner. Some of its most influential leaders have claimed similar apostolic authority for themselves, dismissing the biblical standards and usurping authority the Lord exclusively bestowed on the founders of the church. Just a simple reading of the book of Acts is enough to illustrate how impotent and unfit these modern apostles are, and how their fanciful assertions have perverted and distorted the office of apostle beyond recognition.

And they are impotent. As we’ll see next time, these modern apostles fall far short of the ministries of the New Testament apostles. Forget signs and wonders—these guys aren’t even capable of basic discernment.


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#1  Posted by Gary Lee Fennimore  |  Monday, November 18, 2013 at 8:37 AM

Jesus Christ warns us in Matthew 24:24 that false christs will arise and basically counterfeit Christ's miracles. These charlatans that say they are Apostles today are of this very creed. I will not be surprised if they might even reproduce these miracles someday. That is why we must be diligent to recognize these so-called christians that this "Strange Fire" conference as so equipped us all to use. Thank you Pastor John MacArthur and the speakers at this conference. In II Peter 3:14-17 the Apostle Peter warns us about those that distort the scriptures and tells us all to understand "these things", the future events that will transpire and that each of us must be "knowing this beforehand, be on your guard….." These false doctrinal positions are only the fulfillment of what Jesus Christ warned and told us some 2,000 years ago. It is not some "new thing" that we should be unaware of unless we are not diligently seeking to understand and teach "these things that are hard to understand."

Thank you, sirs

Gary Lee Fennimore

#2  Posted by Tony Miano  |  Monday, November 18, 2013 at 12:29 PM

Cameron and Jeremiah,

Good, succinct article. Passing it along to all who follow me on line.


#3  Posted by Jerry Pomeroy  |  Monday, November 18, 2013 at 2:40 PM

Thanks for staying on top of trends like those evident in the NAR. It's disturbing that so many who name the name of Jesus fall victim to these charlatans. Bible knowledge is the key defense against such error, but too many simply do not know what the Bible says, let alone what it means. Thanks for doing your part and then some to correct that.

#4  Posted by Dan Phillips  |  Monday, November 18, 2013 at 2:56 PM

Excellent. The title alone is worth the price of admission. Best-evar.

To your list of things-the-poseurs-don't-do, I would add "and they aren't writing any Scriptures."

Similarly, to the list of what real apostles are "able" to do, I would add "assert that their very words are commands of Jesus (1 Cor. 14:37), and have their writings put on a par with Scripture" (2 Pet. 3:16)."

#5  Posted by Greg Riedel  |  Monday, November 18, 2013 at 3:54 PM

I will choose my words wisely. I do understand this is a place for expressing thoughtful opinions and comments. But after reading this opinion, I wondered if the writer/blogger attempted to interview C. Peter Wagner. As a matter of integrity, it would seem appropriate to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume the best of him instead of the worst. You can learn a lot from a person by listening. I know it's much easier to read it off a website and come to your own conclusion. But I also believe C. Peter Wagner would be open to correction and even rebuke if his error was brought to his attention. You don't just become an apostle without lots of correction in your life, and at his age, I am sure he has received his fair share. I encourage you to take the time to interview him about his ministry. I look forward to reading your next article. Thank you.

#6  Posted by Greg Riedel  |  Monday, November 18, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Anytime a blogger writes an article on someone's life or character, you should always, always source it. Did you interview him? What do you really know about him other then what you read on the internet? Please be smart here and be sure you have your facts before you write about someone's character on a blog like this. Thanks.

#7  Posted by James R. Agosto  |  Monday, November 18, 2013 at 5:54 PM


#8  Posted by Mulugeta Degaga  |  Monday, November 18, 2013 at 6:20 PM

Very nice be blessed you can see from the presentation how far the false gospel is gone far from neighbor of truth,Satan didn't need to change really startegy,look how it it similar to the catholic church was selling salvation during Luther time or Simon in Acts 8 offer money to get the power how is that different from what we see in modern Apostels, I think Simon what to be born in this age even though his destination is the same.I really want to ask one question to these modern age apostles or their followers deceived or ignorant, how can they in their healthy mind go to sleep today that they are not part of the Mathew 7:21"Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” 23Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.” go away from me from the lips of Jesus if that is not going to happen nothing will happen, for me I will sleep very sure very sure I am not that party ,every thing I teach ,every thing I believe is in the Bible,so no surprise, imagine that being asked from the Alimighty God Where you get that? new revelation from God as an apostle, let me put more security in to it even today if they do miracles even wonders I don't belive it will qualify them for apostles by the standard of the Word of God.Case Closed in order for just apply for apostle ship your minmum age requirement is 2000 years old I think you understand what I mean.

#9  Posted by Arthur Jules Roonacker  |  Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 7:19 AM

You make the ICA look like a franchise.

#10  Posted by Kevin Moore  |  Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 9:40 AM

Actually Dan, they are writing Scripture (although they would not admit it)! Check this out:

Cal Pierce is an ICA "apostle" and his website sells a book he wrote called "Power Quotes":

"Power Quotes is a compilation of insights the Holy Spirit has dropped into Cal's spirit as he has prepared messages for conferences and while speaking at meetings throughout the world."

If the Holy Spirit has given him these insights then by definition it is inspired scripture and if he is writing it down and claiming as such then he is effectively adding to Scripture, whilst denying its sufficiency. Yet the canon is now closed and we shouldn't add or take away from the Word as given through the true apostles and prophets and there is nothing that is "God-breathed" about his quotes.

Not only does this "apostle" claim extra-biblical revelation he also regularly visited so called healer John G.Lake's grave to receive his anointing and healing mantle.

There is absolutely no discernment, just strong delusion. Very sad.

#11  Posted by Dan Phillips  |  Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 10:19 AM

< sigh >

It's that whole culture, that whole mindset of running their mouths with no accountability. They're isolated enough as to have no one to call them on such claptrap.

But since you're going there, I'll say that sufficientists come closer than should when we pray that God will set the preacher aside and put His words in the preacher's mouth. That's a prayer for prophecy, taken strictly.

So yeah, like James says about the mouth. Scary thing.

#12  Posted by Ed Arrington  |  Tuesday, November 19, 2013 at 5:33 PM

The modern day "apostle" has become the face of a deceiver. They promise everything you want to hear, and deliver; broken homes, debt in the name of giving, and a manipulated congregation.

These hirelings have disrupted our families and brought shame to the true Gospel of Christ. They have brain washed people in believing whatever they say is the "truth". Yet when challenged on their false gospel, become bitter and even threatening. They have no boundaries regarding their behavior and justify it with snippets of scripture.

How do I know all this? I have lived it. That said; I still pray for these false teachers that I know, and the homes they help wrecked, that they may yet repent.

#17  Posted by Jeremiah Johnson (GTY Admin)  |  Thursday, November 21, 2013 at 1:55 PM

Greg (#5 & 6),

I think if you'll look again, you'll see that we have thoroughly sourced this and the subsequent articles in this series. All quotes are attributed to the proper publications, and several links have been provided so you can read the quotes in their original context on the websites.

In all honesty, what you see above is much more thoroughly sourced than the vast majority of blog posts you might find on the web. In this case, our goal was to let Wagner's and the other charismatic leaders' words speak for themselves. Every source we've quoted in this series is also taken from published material or public statements from these men and women. It's not private--it's what they've said and written for public consumption and, in the case of this series, public critique.

#18  Posted by Nathan Hall  |  Friday, November 22, 2013 at 6:25 AM

Mr. Roonaker, that's pretty much what the ICA is. You pay to be endorsed; to have a title applied to your "ministry". If you by into a franchise you pay to use the name. So I'd say that's a pretty fair summary of the ICA.

#19  Posted by Guymon Hall  |  Friday, November 22, 2013 at 12:33 PM

I think one thing that's important to remember, and articles such as this highlight the need very clearly, is to measure people's claims by their actions, and not just what they say.

For example, in looking at the ICA website, their statement of beliefs includes things such as the inerrancy and authority of the Bible, Jesus' sacrificial atonement for sins, etc. For the most part, all great things that any evangelical Christian would buy into (mostly).

BUT, when you examine their actions, a far different story is told. Jesus says, "You will recognize them by their fruits." And today, I think far too many folks are being sold a bunch of snake oil because of some fine-sounding words and Biblically-sounding truth claims while not taking into consideration the need to match up actions with words.

We see this not only in the Charismatic movement as highlighted here, but also in many other evangelical circles as well. There are even churches that claim to hold to things like Reformed theology, the 5 Solas, 9 Marks, etc., but when you spend time in these churches it's clear that the only reason these things are touted are to draw people in that are for the most part solid Christians; however, these churches have no intention of actually putting feet to their "faith" in these areas. They are simply bait to draw folks in.

All this to say that when John commands us in 1 John 4 to "test the spirits", we do so by not just taking what folks say at face value, but by matching up their words AND their actions, both wilful and consequential, to the Scriptures. And that is why articles like this one are sorely needed today.