A man clad in black declaring himself to be a prophet took California megachurch pastor John MacArthur and congregants by surprise when he purposefully stormed the altar to deliver a message of rebuke that he claimed was from God during a recent Sunday service.
The man clad in black and wearing a black backpack stepped onto the podium while MacArthur was addressing congregants at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, on Sunday, Aug. 16, according to a video of the encounter published on YouTube.
The man whistled as MacArthur spoke, immediately commanding the attention of all in the packed sanctuary. He then declared what he said was his message from God while pointing at the 76-year-old pastor, author and seminary president.
"You've grieved the Holy Spirit of God. Your doctrine of cessation is in error," the man declared in an unknown accent while looking directly at MacArthur, who also met the self-declared prophet's gaze. "He has been grieved, John MacArthur. He has sent me here to tell you that."
"You're sharpening the sword, and they are cutting each other," the unknown man added while pointing at the congregation. It was then that two men in suits began leading him away from the podium.
As he was shuffled down the stairs away from the stage, the man looked over his shoulder and continued addressing MacArthur: "You may not believe in prophets, but you're looking at one."
"Your doctrine of cessation is in error," the man repeated, raising his voice as he was rushed down the aisle and out of the sanctuary.
As murmurs, presumably from the congregation, become audible in the video, the man yells for "sinners" to "repent." He tells the onlookers "God bless you," as he is shuffled out of the door. At that point, MacArthur can be heard speaking, although it is unclear what the pastor says, as the video ends.
The doctrine of cessation that the unknown man claimed God was displeased with was the focus of a high-profile conference led by MacArthur and hosted at Grace Community Church in October 2013. The Strange Fire conference, as it was called, took on what MacArthur described as the excesses of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements within Christianity. The conference was timed with the release of MacArthur's book that takes on the same subject: Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship.
As a Cessationist, MacArthur does not believe that spiritual gifts such as speaking in strange or unknown languages (glossolalia), prophecy, or the power to heal others are made available by the Holy Spirit to Christians today, as they were among early Christians. Those who subscribe to Continuationism, on the other hand, believe the Holy Spirit still imparts such charismatic gifts to believers.
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"What I'm talking about is the Charismatic movement that offers to God unacceptable worship, distorted worship. It blasphemes the Holy Spirit. It attributes to the Holy Spirit even the work of Satan. People are caught up in it, deceived, led astray," MacArthur said at the time.
During the conference, which was accessed during a livestream by viewers in more than 170 countries, there were at least 15 different talks given by the various guests. In one of MacArthur's talks, titled "An Appeal to Charismatic Friends," the Calvinist theologian insisted that the Strange Fire conference was for "the true Church" so that they can "discern, be protected from error … and be a source of truth for others outside the Church."
He went on to claim that the Charismatic movement was "alien," led by the greater culture, seeker-driven and depreciates and diminishes the glorious way the Holy Spirit worked in the foundation of the Church, The Christian Post previously reported.
"The broader Charismatic movement has opened the door to more theological error than any other doctrinal aberration in this modern day," MacArthur added.
MacArthur met resistance from quite a few prominent Christians during and after the Strange Fire conference, including from former Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll, who allegedly crashed the conference and had an encounter with security at the venue. John Piper, like Driscoll, believes spiritual gifts like prophecy and speaking in tongues are still available to modern-day Christians.
Piper clarified his position on the matter after the Strange Fire conference, and revealed that he not only affirms spiritual gifts but believes Christians ought to pursue them in obedience to Scripture. Dr. George O. Wood, general superintendent of the Assemblies of God denomination that claims more than 66 million Pentecostals worldwide also threw his hat into the ring. Wood acknowledged in a letter that indeed "there have been isolated aberrations of behavior and doctrine over the past century among those who self-identify as Pentecostal or charismatic." But the Pentecostal leader insisted that "the movement as a whole has proved a vital force in world evangelization."
The Christian Post spoke with a representative of Grace Community Church requesting comment on the outburst during Sunday's service and to inquire if the church knew the man and if they were pursuing charges against him. CP's request for comment was not met by press time.