“Emotional Blackmail” and “The Sin of Empathy”

When Joe Rigney published his first article on “The Enticing Sin of Empathy” on the DesiringGod website in May 2019, many were bewildered — where did this come from? In subsequent articles, Rigney has unpacked some of the sources of his position, including the work of Edwin Friedman and his “The Fallacy of Empathy.” But another significant source for this idea is found in the teachings of John Piper himself, particularly the concept of “emotional blackmail.” Piper developed this concept over the course of several years, from talking about our “emotionally fragile age” in 2006, to the way children “emotionally blackmail” their fathers in 2007, to a speculation regarding A.W. Tozer’s wife in 2008. Through Piper, the language of “emotional blackmail” became widespread among conservative reformed evangelicals, especially at The Gospel Coalition, so when Rigney wrote his articles on “the sin of empathy” a decade later, they found a ready platform at DesiringGod, and a ready audience (among some) in conservative evangelicalism, because they so closely resembled Piper’s original concept, if perhaps dressed up in new, more provocative, language. The following post documents this development from 2006 to 2021.

“An Emotionally Fragile Age”

John Piper does not include the phrase “emotional blackmail” in his 2006 book What Jesus Demands from the World, but he develops several points that he will pick up in later sermons and comments on “emotional blackmail.” In the chapter titled “Love Your Enemies—Lead Them to the Truth,” Piper includes a section under the heading “Challenging the Absoluteness of the Beloved”:

The next obvious implication of Jesus’ words for the meaning of love is that it is not unloving to call someone an enemy. We live in an emotionally fragile age. People are easily offended and describe their response to being criticized as being hurt. In fact, we live in a time when emotional offense, or woundedness, often becomes a criterion for deciding if love has been shown. If a person can claim to have been hurt by what you say, it is assumed by many that you did not act in love. In other words, love is not defined by the quality of the act and its motives, but by the subjective response of others. In this way of relating, the wounded one has absolute authority. If he says you hurt him, then you cannot have acted lovingly. You are guilty.

No one I have ever known in person or in history was as blunt as Jesus in the way he dealt with people. Evidently his love was so authentic it needed few cushions. It is owing to my living with the Jesus of the Gospels for fifty years that makes me so aware of how emotionally fragile and brittle we are today. If Jesus were to speak to us the way he typically spoke in his own day, we would be continually offended and hurt. This is true of the way he spoke to his disciples and the way he spoke to his adversaries.

The point of this is that the genuineness of an act of love is not determined by the subjective feelings of the one being loved.

I am stressing another side of the problem that seems unusually prevalent in our psychologized world. I am simply drawing attention to the fact that feeling unloved is not the same as being unloved. Jesus is modeling for us in his life the objectivity of love. It has real motives and real actions. And when they are loving, the response of the loved one does not change that fact.

pp. 641–43 in The Collected Works of John Piper, Volume 6.

Though Piper does not use the term “emotional blackmail” in this chapter, he will explicitly use some of this same language (“feeling unloved is not the same as being unloved”) when describing “emotional blackmail” in 2008.

One point seems interesting and important to note here. Piper draws attention to the fact that Jesus sometimes used sharp words in “the way he spoke to his disciples and the way he spoke to his adversaries.” All of the scripture references in this section of What Jesus Demands are directed toward his twelve disciples, Pharisees, Herod, and Jesus cleansing the temple. Though Piper would later apply this reasoning to a wife who claimed that she did not feel loved by her husband, casting doubt on her claim, and wondering whether she might be engaging in “emotional blackmail,” it is striking that this is a significant leap from the text of the scriptures that Piper cites to support his initial claim. What Jesus directs toward hard-hearted disciples and Pharisees, Piper will apply to wives, and anyone else who he thinks is too “emotionally fragile.” Whether such a leap from text to application is warranted, the reader must judge.

Children Blackmailing Fathers

The first reference to “emotional blackmail” in Piper’s works can be found in a 2007 sermon on Ephesians 6:1–4: “Marriage Is Meant for Making Children . . . Disciples of Jesus, Part 2: A Father’s Conquest of Anger in Himself and in His Children.” While unpacking the phrase “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger,” Piper acknowledges that angry children are not necessarily evidence of a sinful father:

So what shall we say to us dads about this matter of anger in our children? First, we should say that this verse may not be used as emotional blackmail by the children. Blackmail would say, “I am angry, Dad, so you are wrong.” Some people never grow out of this childish self-centeredness: “My emotions are the measure of your love; so if I am unhappy, you are not loving me.” We have all experienced this kind of manipulation. We know Paul does not mean that because Jesus himself made many people angry, and he never sinned or failed to love perfectly. Since all children are sinners, therefore, even the best and most loving and tender use of authority will provoke some children sometimes to anger.

(Note: this paragraph (indeed, the whole sermon) was reproduced in book form in 2009 under the heading “No Emotional Blackmail” in This Momentary Marriage (p. 151))

Though the focus of the sermon is on fathers and children, note that Piper broadens the scope to include people who “never grow out of this childish self-centeredness,” and manipulate others with their emotions. 

Aiden and Ada Tozer

The following year, Piper would use the term “emotional blackmail” in a discussion surrounding the wife of A.W. Tozer. Tozer (1897–1963) was a pastor and author who is probably best known for his two books The Pursuit of God (1948) and The Knowledge of the Holy (1961). In 2008, Lyle Dorsett published a biography of Tozer, A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer. Dorsett’s biography included frank descriptions of his home life,  including the fact that his wife Ada felt neglected by him.

The occasion that prompted Piper to write was a brief reflection on Dorsett’s book by Sean Michael Lucas, then the associate professor of church history at Covenant Theological Seminary. In his post, “A Passion for God,” Lucas said this:

Dorsett exposes a fundamental contradiction in Tozer’s character that raises all sorts of questions about holy zeal and its effect on the whole of life. The contradiction could be summed up: how did Tozer reconcile his passionate longing for communion with the Triune God with his failure to love passionately his wife and children? Perhaps the most damning statement in the book was from his wife, after she remarried subsequent to his death: “I have never been happier in my life,” Ada Ceclia Tozer Odam observed, “Aiden [Tozer] loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me” (160).

Now, certainly all human beings have flaws; that is not the point here. Rather, the point that Dorsett failed to explore adequately is how Tozer reconciled his pursuit of God with his failure to pursue his wife. This reconciliation–or failure to reconcile–should have raised questions about Tozer’s mystic approach and prophetic denunciation of the church and nuanced the value of his teaching on the Christian life. After all, if his piety could spend several hours in prayer and also rationalize his failure at home, then it should raise questions about his approach to piety. 

In his blog post on The Gospel Coalition, “Tozer’s Contradiction and His Approach to Piety,” Justin Taylor published an excerpt from Lucas’s post, and added that “John Piper writes in with a helpful caution.” Here was Piper’s “caution”:

Sean Lucas seems to say that Tozer’s wife’s greater happiness with her second husband implies Tozer’s “failure to love passionately his wife.” When she remarried after his death she said, “”I have never been happier in my life. . . “Aiden [A. W. Tozer] loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me.” Lucas may be right to infer from this sentence that Tozer loved his wife poorly. But Tozer’s wife’s statement does not prove it.

We would need to be as penetrating in our analysis of her spiritual condition as we are of A. W. Tozer’s. Not feeling loved and not being loved are not the same. Jesus loved all people well. And many did not like the way he loved them. Was David’s zeal for the Lord imbalanced because his wife Michal despised him for it? Was Job’s devotion to the Lord inordinate because his wife urged him to curse God and die? Would Gomer be a reliable witness to Hosea’s devotion? I know nothing about Tozer’s wife. She may have been far more godly than he. Or maybe not. It would be helpful to know.

Again I admit Lucas may be totally right. Tozer may have blown it at home. Lucas’ lessons from this possibility are wise. But I have seen so much emotional blackmail in my ministry I am jealous to raise a warning against it. Emotional blackmail happens when a person equates his or her emotional pain with another person’s failure to love. They aren’t the same. A person may love well and the beloved still feel hurt, and use the hurt to blackmail the lover into admitting guilt he or she does not have. Emotional blackmail says, “If I feel hurt by you, you are guilty.” There is no defense. The hurt person has become God. His emotion has become judge and jury. Truth does not matter. All that matters is the sovereign suffering of the aggrieved. It is above question. This emotional device is a great evil. I have seen it often in my three decades of ministry and I am eager to defend people who are being wrongly indicted by it.

I am not saying Tozer’s wife did this. I am saying that the assumption that her feeling unloved equals her being unloved creates the atmosphere where emotional blackmail flourishes.

Maybe Tozer loved his wife poorly. But his wife’s superior happiness with another man does not show it. Perhaps Lyle Dorsett’s new biography of Tozer, A Passion for God, penetrates to the bottom of this relationship.

A few things are noteworthy. First, it seems clear that Piper has not read Dorsett’s book (“Perhaps Dorsett’s new biography penetrates to the bottom of this relationship”). Everything he writes here about Ada Tozer is pure speculation. 

Second, note what Piper is “jealous” about, what provokes him to write: upon hearing of Ada Tozer’s claim that her husband neglected her for the sake of his ministry, Piper is not jealous to “raise a warning” to pastors. He could have said “Pastors, whatever you do, be sure to love your wife. If you have to leave the ministry, be sure to love your wife. Do whatever it takes to love your wife.” Rather, Piper is jealous “to raise a warning against emotional blackmail.” 

Third, note that in this post he draws together material from two previous occasions (1) What Jesus Demands from the World on “emotional fragility” and the fact that “Not feeling loved and not being loved are not the same” and (2) his teaching on the way that children attempt to manipulate and use “emotional blackmail” on their fathers; and then directs this combination at the claims of a wife that her husband was neglecting her and their family for the sake of his ministry.

(Note: for another review of Dorsett’s book from a reformed evangelical a few years later (2011) see Tim Challies, “A.W. Tozer: A Passion for God,” which highlighted the dichotomy in Tozer’s life and ministry, but did not question Ada’s account, or hypothesize on whether it amounted to “emotional blackmail”).

Ray Ortlund and Jared Wilson

Piper’s quote and particularly his phrase “emotional blackmail” was eventually picked up by other figures in the reformed evangelical network. In 2013 pastor Ray Ortlund republished Piper’s quote in a TGC blogpost (“Emotional Blackmail at Church”), and added his own analysis:

When a church’s mentality — the very categories and assumptions with which they process reality — is not biblical but therapeutic, this “great evil” can be perpetrated without any troubling of the conscience.  But no one should ever be pressured to confess as sin aspects of their behavior which the Bible itself does not identify as sin.  It is the Word of God, chapter and verse, and only the Word of God, not human expectations or emotions, which defines sin.  When we forget this, we exalt ourselves to the place of God with our own self-made demands and haughty accusations.  This is indeed a great evil, though self-exaltation rarely feels evil.  Misguided moral fervor feels good, even virtuous.

The following year (2014) Ortlund would reproduce this point, including Piper’s quote and discussion of “emotional blackmail” in his book in the 9Marks “Building Healthy Churches” series: The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (p. 101).

Jared Wilson also republished the quote on his TGC blogpost “Piper on Emotional Blackmail in the Church.” (This post appears to have been removed from the TGC website, but can still be found on Wayback).

As an observation, this is the way that a phrase and a concept work their way through a broader community, in this case, conservative reformed evangelicalism. Terms are coined, and then delivered in sermons and conference messages, then published in blog posts, and then in books, spread around by other influential pastors and writers. After a few years “emotional blackmail” became a part of the reformed evangelical vocabulary.

Marg Mowczo’s Critique

Not everyone appreciated Piper’s “warning.” In 2015, Marg Mowczo wrote a post critiquing Piper’s use of the term “emotional blackmail.” She also noted that “It seems the people at TGC really like these words” (“John Piper and Emotional Blackmail”). Mowczo found “a few things disturbing in John Piper’s words”:

First, John uses the examples of three women in the Bible who, for various reasons, had a problem with the godly zeal and devotion of their husbands. These three women—Michal, Job’s wife, and Gomer—are presented in a negative light in the Bible, and John compares their negative attitudes, words, and actions with the feelings of a woman who he admits he doesn’t know, Tozer’s widow.

The statement I have the biggest problem with, however, is this reference to Tozer’s widow: “… the assumption that her feeling unloved equals her being unloved creates the atmosphere where emotional blackmail flourishes.”

This is unfair. Why not believe her when she says she felt loved by her second husband, with the implication that she didn’t feel loved, or as loved, by Tozer. Why cast it as an “assumption”? And why attach her feelings to the issue of emotional blackmail? 

…It is disrespectful for John Piper to have used Tozer’s widow to explain “emotional blackmail.” But there is more to this quotation. 

He suddenly makes it personal and talks passionately about the emotional blackmail he claims he has often seen in his ministry…

John believes that some church members have wrongly assumed that he and other ministers have hurt them, when in fact they have loved them. He asserts that some hurting church members failed to feel the love of their pastors and then resorted to emotional blackmail.

I know of people who have been hurt by pastors. This usually occurs when people have unrealistic expectations of their ministers. Yet these expectations are usually reinforced from the pulpit or by church culture, or both. When pastors allow the perception that they are powerful people with a better or deeper spiritual understanding, maturity, or capacity than other church members, or when pastors accept accolades to that effect, then some church members will expect more than what pastors can actually give. Some members may even expect to be loved in such a way that they will feel loved.

To some extent I agree with John that “a person may love well and the beloved still feel hurt,” but what concerns me the most about his words is that John never admits that there were times when he failed to love well. He puts all the blame and guilt on those who have felt hurt.

Being a pastor can be a very difficult role, and there are times when pastors need protection. But John seems intent on protecting himself and his fellow shepherds at the expense of his fellow sheep. To protect A.W. Tozer’s reputation, he maligns his widow. To protect his fellow shepherds who have been emotionally blackmailed, he puts all the blame on the sheep. Surely there must be a way of supporting and caring for the shepherds without resorting to unhelpful and uncaring insinuations against fellow Christians.

For the record, I agree with Mowczo’s critiques here. I find Piper’s criticisms unwarranted and seeming to “protect shepherds at the expense of the sheep.”

Erik Raymond

In 2016, Boston pastor Erik Raymond published an article on TGC on “Common Evangelical Attacks Against Sola Scriptura.” In it he listed “3 common attacks upon the sufficiency of Scripture” and the third was “The unmeasurable and devastating emotional blackmail.” Raymond favorably quotes Piper’s 2008 remarks on the Tozers and concludes the paragraph with this: 

How does this undermine the sufficiency of Scripture? It does so because the Bible gives us the basis for interpreting what loving behavior actually is. There is fruit that corresponds with love. And sometimes it doesn’t make us feel very good.

“Emotional blackmail” had moved from a tactic used by children on their fathers, to a dismissal of a wife’s claims, to an attack on the sufficiency of Scripture.

Joe Rigney and The “Sin of Empathy”

In 2019, Joe Rigney published his first article on “The Enticing Sin of Empathy.” In this initial article, he does not use the term “emotional blackmail” but the ideas are consistent. In the genre of a “Screwtape Letter” Rigney has the demon Screwtape explain the plan for emotional manipulation:

Our policy has been to teach sufferers to resent all resistance to their feelings. Any holding back, any perceived emotional distance — especially a distance that is driven by a desire to discover what would actually be good for them — must be regarded as a direct assault on their dignity and an affront to the depth of their suffering.

Over the next couple of years, as Rigney further elaborated on “the sin of empathy,” he began to explicitly tie it to Piper’s language of “emotional blackmail.” In a January 2020 post on DesiringGod “Dangerous Compassion: How to Make any Love a Demon” Rigney analyzes a passage from C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, and includes a section under the heading “Emotional Blackmail.” One of Rigney’s “takeaways” is that we don’t always recognize 

“when our compassion ceases to be compassion and instead becomes a subtle tool of emotional blackmail. But if Lewis is right that the highest and best things become demoniac when they begin to be gods, then we ought to be aware that compassion — which is one of the highest and best things — can also fall into this trap.”

In May 2020, Rigney published another article “Do You Feel My Pain? Empathy, Sympathy, and Dangerous Virtues.” In this article, Rigney again puts an entire section under the heading “Emotional Blackmail” and this time explicitly references Piper: “Under the influence of empathy, we may open ourselves up to what John Piper calls ’emotional blackmail.’” He then includes a block quote from Piper’s 2008 speculation regarding Ada Tozer.

Others began to weigh in on the discussion, including Kevin DeYoung. In a March 2020 blog post on TGC (“Sympathy Is Not the Point”), DeYoung used the language of “emotional blackmail” to make his point: 

“feelings are not infallible. Sensitivity is one thing, sacrosanct is another. I am always responsible for what I do; I am not always responsible for how you feel. If emotional ineptitude is a problem for some, then emotional blackmail is for others.

In a May 2020 blogpost, Bethlehem College & Seminary professor Andy Naselli published a post summarizing Rigney’s articles on the sin of empathy (“How Empathy Can Be Sinful”). In this post, Naselli explicitly connected the dots between Piper’s “emotional blackmail” (quoting his comments on Ada Tozer) and our “emotionally fragile age” (quoting from What Jesus Demands from the World) and Rigney’s “The Sin of Empathy.” Naselli, too, affirms this as a “thought-provoking, insightful, and wise way to apply the Bible.”

“Empathy Blackmail” and “Ethnic Harmony”

Later that year, Naselli would apply this concept to the issues of race, or what Piper has termed “ethnic harmony.” Naselli taught a seminar at Bethlehem Baptist Church’s campus on “Ethnic Harmony” (“Ethnic Harmony 2020 North Campus Seminar”), and then published a journal article “What the Bible Teaches about Ethnic Harmony,” in the Midwestern Journal of Theology (2020). In the article, Naselli includes this point: “iv. Christians who are victims of ethnic partiality must not nurture resentment or show ethnic partiality in return.” He notes that:

“This statement might sound insensitive—the opposite of showing compassion. But that is not my intent. My intent is to show compassion by lovingly sharing the truth and by not withholding the truth” (38).

He then applies the concept of “empathy blackmail” to minorities who claim to have been on the receiving end of actual “or perceived” racism:

“here I am addressing Christians who are at the receiving end of actual or perceived ethnic partiality. With love I want to gently warn against adopting the mindset of a victim that is so common in our culture now. I am warning against empathy blackmail: “You must completely agree with me and share my perspective, or else you don’t love me.” I am warning against weaponizing empathy and manipulating others with it. I am warning against being oversensitive about what you perceive as micro-aggressions with the result that you are so easily “triggered” that you cannot live out what the NT says about loving your neighbor” (39–40).

To support his point in his article, he footnotes four of Joe Rigney’s blogposts on “the sin of empathy.”

2021

In April 2021, Joe Rigney published yet another article on empathy (“Where Do We Disagree?: Golden Rule Reading and the Call for Empathy”), and again explicitly tied the two concepts (“empathy” and “emotional blackmail”) together: 

If you’ve seen or experienced emotional blackmail in the name of empathy, or if you’ve seen Christians divided because some have adopted the logic that “I’m hurt; therefore you sinned,” then you’re more likely to be aware of that danger and thus emphasize the need for a deep respect for objective truth and goodness in our efforts to help.

And in May 2021, John Piper used the phrase again, this time to describe unbelievers (“Can Joy Come in Sorrow?”)

The enemies of Christ cannot succeed with emotional blackmail against Paul — that is, they cannot manipulate him by demanding the ruin of his joy because of their unbelief.

Conclusion

“Emotional blackmail” and “the sin of empathy” appear to be essentially the same thing. In what Piper thinks is an “emotionally fragile age,” he and those who have been influenced by him are concerned that we, especially fathers, pastors, and husbands, are not manipulated by the emotions of others, including children, women, and racial minorities.

To me, it is striking that one of the most important moments for the development of this concept, the discussion of Ada Tozer, was based on such flimsy evidence, from both the Tozer’s lives, or from Scripture. Without even having read the biography, while acknowledging that perhaps all of it was true, Piper felt “jealous” to expound on the danger of “emotional blackmail.” Though all of Jesus’s “hard words” were directed toward His heard-hearted disciples, Pharisees, or unbelievers, Piper directed this idea toward women. Once articulated in this way and in this context, the phrase spread broadly through conservative reformed evangelicalism.

Sometimes when you find yourself in a mess, you need to backtrack and figure out how you got there. What if we went back revisited this particular point? What if the warning about “emotional blackmail” was the wrong take then, and that’s what led us to “the sin of empathy” now? What if instead of “jealous to raise a warning against emotional blackmail” we were jealous for the flourishing of everyone in our communities? What if we stopped defending pastors and institutions at the expense of the sheep? Doing so may require going further back than we imagined, in order to untangle and undo years of harm.

Piper on Lloyd-Jones, part 6: Cessationism Quenches the Spirit

“Therefore, we may say emphatically that Lloyd-Jones was not a Warfieldian cessationist.

I think it is quite without scriptural warrant to say that all these gifts ended with the apostles or the Apostolic Era. I believe there have been undoubted miracles since then. (The Fight of Faith, 786; Joy Unspeakable, 246)

And when he speaks of the need for revival and for the baptism with the Holy Spirit and for a mighty attestation for the word of God today, it is crystal clear in Lloyd-Jones, he meant the same sort of thing as was meant in Acts 14:3, signs and wonders attesting to the Word of God. “It is perfectly clear…” – (Everything is perfectly clear to Martyn Lloyd-Jones) –

It is perfectly clear that in New Testament times, the gospel was authenticated in this way by signs, wonders and miracles of various characters and descriptions … Was it only meant to be true of the early church? … The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary—never! – (you can hear him saying it, can’t you?) – There is no such statement anywhere. (The Sovereign Spirit, 31-32)

He deals with cessationist arguments, and says some mighty powerful things, that I can’t imagine Iain Murray would leave out of his biography, which he did. “To hold such a view as Warfield held is simply to quench the Spirit (SS, 46).  Because Iain Murray was publishing it [Warfield] at the time.  Pushing it.  These views, according to their dear father, Dr. Jones, is the quenching of the Holy Spirit!  and he didn’t want to lose his friends any more than he already was losing them, probably, and so he didn’t want them published until he was gone.

~From “A Passion for Christ Exalting Power

Piper on Lloyd-Jones, part 5: Signs and Wonders

“And now, note, next step, we’re just moving closer and closer in to power evangelism.  Spiritual gifts, healing, miracles, prophecy, tongues, the whole area of signs and wonders, Lloyd-Jones is talking about power evangelism in terms more careful, more clear, more strong than John Wimber ever has, before John Wimber ever thought of it.

He says that spiritual gifts are a part of the authenticating work of revival and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We need the result of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is spiritual gifts in their sign form, and it is a “supernatural authentication of the message” (The Sovereign Spirit, 24).

Now, I’m going to back off for a minute, and reflect with you for a minute about what we reformed types have to come to terms with when we love the Word of God and esteem its uniqueness in power.  When we hear Paul say, “Jews desire signs, and Greeks seek wisdom, but  WE PREACH!” I can hear people saying that to Wimber, “WE PREACH! You desire signs, we preach, which is the power of God.” and I can hear them quote Romans 1:16: “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  DON’T DILUTE THE POWER OF GOSPEL BY COMPROMISING IT WITH YOUR SIGNS AND WONDERS AS THOUGH THE GOSPEL WERE TOO WEAK TO SAVE SINNERS!” Do you hear that coming out of Banner of Truth?

Well, it isn’t that simple, is it. And the issue here is not contemporary Vineyard, Third Wave versus Paul; the issue is Paul versus Paul.  Let me try to explain.  Evidently Peter and Paul and Stephen and Philip, who, would you agree with me, were the greatest preachers that the world has ever known.  Evidently they did not think that the attestation of signs and wonders alongside their unparalleled powerful preaching compromised the integrity or the sufficiency or uniqueness of the power of God through the gospel. (Mark 16:20; Acts 14:3; Heb. 2:4). Evidently they didn’t.

Lloyd-Jones is really impressed by this fact.  He says, “If the apostles were incapable of being true witnesses without unusual power, who are we to claim that we can be witnesses without such power?” (SS, 46). And when he said that , he did not mean simply the power of the word. He meant the power of spiritual gifts. And I’ll show you that from a quote:

[Before Pentecost the apostles] were not yet fit to be witnesses … [They] had been with the Lord during the three years of his ministry. They had heard his sermons, they had seen his miracles, they had seen him crucified on the cross, they had seen him dead and buried,  they had seen him after he had risen literally in the body from the grave. These were the men who had been with him in the upper room at Jerusalem after his resurrection to whom he had expounded the Scriptures, and yet it is to these men he says that they must tarry at Jerusalem until they are endued with power from on high. The special purpose, the specific purpose of the baptism with the Holy Spirit is to enable us to witness, to bear testimony, and one of the ways in which that happens is through the giving of spiritual gifts. (SS, 120)

Now here’s my answer, I wish Lloyd-Jones had given his but I couldn’t find it.  here’s my answer to the question that we must come to terms with, it is utterly essential, of how the power of the Word of God relates to the authenticating function of signs and wonders.  First of all notice the Bible teaches that the Gospel preached is the power of God unto salvation (1 Cor. 1:23) the Gospel preached is the power of God (Rom 1:16) but, the Bible also says that Paul and Barnabas “remained a long time in Iconium speaking boldly for the Lord,”  Would you dare to equate anybody’s preaching today with that preaching?  That was powerful preaching! They were preaching in Iconium with power, speaking boldly for the Lord, “Who, bore witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.”

Take all the conflicts today, go back to the New Testament and deal with them there. Don’t let anybody tell you it’s today versus the New Testament.  The issue is, how could preaching and signs and wonders not compromise each other then, not now. Forget now! Forget Wimber, forget everything in the 20th Century, explain Acts.  Explain how you could have the best preaching that ever was preached, described as the power of God unto salvation, and have alongside it God bearing witness with signs and wonders attesting to His word of grace, without saying by that, “My word is insufficient by itself.” Why did God compromise His word, by showing off His power physically? That’s the issue, not today.  Who cares about today, it’s the Bible that matters.

Now here is my effort to understand the Bible, which then maybe would help us today. Could we not say, in putting all this together, that signs and wonders – that is, I mean, healings, exorcisms, and so on – signs and wonders function in relation to the word of God, as a striking, wakening channel for the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the gospel? That may be the most important sentence I’ll give you.  Let me say it again: “Could it be, that signs and wonders function as a striking, wakening, channel, along which, through which, the self-authenticating glory of Christ in the Gospel moves, arrives.  I say emphatically, signs and wonders do not save. I say emphatically, signs and wonders do not transform the heart. I say emphatically, the glory of Christ seen in the gospel is the only power that regenerates, converts, transforms the heart, I base that on 2 Cor. 3:18-4:6. But, evidently, God chooses at times to use signs and wonders along side the regenerating word to win a hearing, to shatter the shell of disinterest, to shatter the shell of cynicism, to shatter the shell of false religion, and to help the heart fix its gaze on the glory of Christ in the gospel (see note 42).  Which, as 2 Cor. 4:4 says, is then like God saying “Let there be light” and boom, there is a new creature.

That’s my best effort at how to account, not for what’s happening today, but for what was happening in Paul’s life, and Philip’s life, and Stephen’s life, and Barnabas’s life, and Peter’s life.  The greatest preaching accompanied by signs and wonders.  Not the greatest preaching, so great it doesn’t need signs and wonders.”

~From “A Passion for Christ Exalting Power

Piper on Lloyd-Jones, part 4: Some Mighty Demonstration

Baptism With the Holy Spirit is an Authentication of the Gospel

“Now watch this – it comes visibly, he says. It is not just a quiet subjective experience of the church. Things happen, he says,  that make the world sit up and take notice. And now this was tremendously important to Lloyd-Jones. He felt almost overwhelmed by the corruption of the world and by the impotence of the church. And he believed that the only hope was something stunningStunning!  “The Christian church today is failing, and failing lamentably.” He preached these sermons in the fall of ’64 to the spring of ’65, near the end of his ministry, four years before he retired.  I hear, if I’m reading between the lines correctly, a growing disillusionment in Martyn Lloyd-Jones with the effectiveness of the church, even his own church.

The Christian church today is failing, and failing lamentably.It is not enough even to be orthodox. You must, of course, be orthodox, otherwise you have not got a message … We need authority and we need authentication … Is it not clear that we are living in an age when we need some special authentication—in other words, we need revival.  (The Sovereign Spirit, 25)

In other words, revival for Lloyd-Jones was a power demonstration that would authenticate the truth of the gospel to desperately hardened world. In fact his description of that world is remarkably contemporary, referring to the demonic and to new age kinds of things, and then at the end of that quote he says:

This is why I believe we are in urgent need of some manifestation, some demonstration, of the power of the Holy Spirit. (SS, 25)

Now, to be fair, he cautioned against excessive preoccupation with revival.  He warns against being too interested in the exceptional and the unusual, he said, “don’t despise the day of small things.  Don’t despise the regular work of the church and the regular work of the Spirit.” (The Fight of Faith, 384)

But.

I hear that caution as a gesture, that’s called for by reality, but not the heartbeat of Martyn Lloyd-Jones.  He was increasingly disillusioned with the “regular” work of the church, so that he goes on now, I think, and says things like this:

[We] can produce a number of converts, thank God for that, and that goes on regularly in evangelical churches every Sunday. But the need today is much too great for that.

In other words, he rejects steady state regular work as adequate.

The need today is for an authentication of God, of the supernatural, of the spiritual, of the eternal, and this can only be answered by God graciously hearing our cry and shedding forth again his Spirit upon us and filling us as he kept filling the early church. (Joy Unspeakable, 278)

What is needed is some mighty demonstration of the power of God, some enactment of the Almighty, that will compel people to pay attention, and to look, and to listen. And the history of all the revivals of the past indicates so clearly that that is invariably the effect of revival… When God acts, he can do more in one minute that man with his organizing can do in fifty years. (Revival, 121-2)

And I can’t help but wonder if he meant, “my fifty years.”

He so wanted to see this.

What lies so heavily on Lloyd-Jones’ heart is that the name of God be vindicated and the glory of the Lord manifested in the world. “We should be anxious to see something happening that will arrest the nations, all the peoples, and cause them to stop and think again” (Revival, 120). And that was the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The purpose, the main function of the baptism with the Holy Spirit, is … to enable God’s people to witness in such a manner that it becomes a phenomenon and people are arrested and are attracted. (JU, 84; SS 17, 35, 120)

~From “A Passion for Christ Exalting Power

Piper on Lloyd-Jones, part 3: “Picks him up, showers His love upon him”

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit Gives Exceptional Assurance and Joy

Let’s talk about the baptism of the Holy Spirit now.  He believes that this view discourages us, this current evangelical view that equates it with regeneration, discourages us from seeking what the church so desperately needs today, namely, “The greatest need at the present time,” he says, “is for Christian people who are assured of their salvation.” But now, he distinguishes, and he uses Thomas Goodwin here, the “customary assurance,” from the extraordinary, or “unusual” (Joy Unspeakable, 38) or “full assurance” of faith. (JU, 41)

“When Christians are baptized by the Holy Spirit, they have a sense of  power and the presence of God that they have never known before —and this is the greatest possible form of assurance.” (JU, 97).

Now let me give you the best illustration in the book Joy Unspeakable that liberated my people last spring when I was preaching on this, and they were shaking in their pews, wondering what in the world was becoming of me.  This was a kind of watershed Sunday morning** when I shared this illustration.  He get’s it straight from Thomas Goodwin, the puritan.  This is an illustration of the difference between a customary, happy, good walk with God as a regenerate, Spirit-indwelt person, and a person who has been baptized with the Spirit:

“A man and his little child [are] walking down the road and they are walking hand in hand, and the child knows that he is the child of his father [this God and the Christian], and he knows that his father loves him, and he rejoices in that, and he is happy in it. There is no uncertainty about it all, but suddenly the father, moved by some impulse, takes hold of the child, picks him up, fondles him in his arms, kisses him, embraces him, and showers his love upon him, and then he puts him down again and they go  walking on their way.”

That’s it! The child knew before that his father loved him, and he knew that he was his child. But oh! the loving embrace, this extra outpouring of love, this unusual manifestation of it—that is the kind of thing. The Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God” (JU, 95-6).

And so he says in another place, the baptism of the Holy Spirit carries us, “not only from doubt to belief but to certainty, to awareness of the presence and the glory of God (JU, 87).

Now this is revival:

The difference between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and a revival is simply one of the number of people affected. I would define a revival as a large number, a group of people, being baptized by the Holy Spirit at the same time; or the Holy Spirit falling upon, coming upon a number of people assembled together. It can happen in a district, it can happen in a country (JU, 51).

** John Piper, “You Shall Receive Power till Jesus Comes,” from Acts: What Jesus Did After the Beginning, 1990

“And now let me step back here and give you an illustration to help.  This seemed to help Tuesday night with the deacons.  we were here till almost midnight talking about these things, Tuesday night. And this was real precious, and God was there, it was a wonderful meeting.   I love those deacons. Oh! One of the joys of my life is the ruling counsel in this church, the counsel of deacons. We were just – you were there, weren’t you?  It was great.  Sort of bleary eyed the next morning.

Here’s the illustration, I took it from Martyn Lloyd-Jones…”

Piper on Lloyd-Jones, part 2: “You MUST read Lloyd-Jones”

Revival Is a Baptism of the Holy Spirit

From the beginning of his life Martyn Lloyd-Jones was, in a sense,  a cry for depth.  If I were to sum up, I almost titled this “A Cry for Depth.” If I ever do anything with it I might title it that.  A cry for depth in two areas—1) in Biblical doctrine and 2) in  vital spiritual experience, so Light/heat. Logic/fire. Word/Spirit. Again and again he would be fighting on two fronts: he would be fighting against dead, formal, institutional intellectualism on the one side, and he would be fighting  against superficial, glib, entertainment-oriented, man-centered emotionalism on the other side. He looked out over the world and thought it was in an absolutely desperate condition and he saw the church as very weak and impotent. He said one wing of the church was straining out the gnats of intellectualism and the other was swallowing the camels of evangelical compromise and careless charismatic teaching (The Sovereign Spirit, 55-7). and for Lloyd-Jones the only hope was historic, God-centered revival.  which is really what I want to talk about this morning.

So my aim is this: to talk about the meaning of revival as Lloyd-Jones’ understood it—the sort of power he was seeking,  what he thought it would look like when it came, and how he thought we should seek it.  And then I’m going to be really risky at the end and ask if he practiced what he preached.

More than any other man in this century, I think, Lloyd-Jones has helped  recover the historic meaning of revival.

A revival is a miracle … something that can only be explained as the direct … intervention of God … Men can produce evangelistic campaigns, but they cannot and never have produced a revival (Revival 111-2).

And Lloyd-Jones felt it to be a tremendous tragedy that the historic sense of revival as a sovereign outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church, had been virtually lost by the time he preached about revival  in 1959 on the 100th anniversary of the Welsh Revival. He said in those lectures, “During the last seventy, to eighty years, this whole notion of a visitation, a baptism of God’s Spirit upon the Church, has gone” (The Fight of Faith, 385).  And then he gives this explanation and with this he begins to part ways with almost the entirety of mainline evangelicalism.

The main theological reason that he said there was a prevailing indifference to historic revival and crying out for it is because people had begun to equate what happened on the Day of Pentecost with regeneration. Now let me read the key quote where he describes this view:

Yes, [Acts 2] was the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But we all get that now, (it’s not him talking, he’s quoting the view) and it is unconscious, we are not aware of it, it happens to us the moment we believe and we are regenerated. It is just that act of God which incorporates us into the Body of Christ. That is the baptism of the Spirit. So it is no use your praying to God for some other baptism of the Spirit, or asking God to pour out His Spirit upon the church … It is not surprising that, as that kind of preaching has gained currency, people have stopped praying for revival” (FF, 386).

Revival is when the Spirit comes down, he says, is poured out. And he’s crystal clear that it’s not the same, the baptism with the Holy Spirit is not the same as regeneration.  Here’s the quote, key quote:

I am asserting that you can be a believer, that you can have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, and still not be baptized with the Holy Spirit … The baptism of the Holy Spirit is something that is done by the Lord Jesus Christ not by the Holy Spirit … Our being baptized into the body of Christ is the work of the Spirit [that’s the point of 1 Cor. 12:13], as regeneration is his work, but this is something entirely different; this is Christ’s baptizing us with the Holy Spirit. And I am suggesting that this is something which is therefore obviously distinct from and separate from becoming a Christian, being regenerate, having the Holy Spirit dwelling within you (Joy Unspeakable, 21-3).

And so he laments that by identifying the baptism with the Holy Spirit with regeneration we have made the baptism of the Holy Spirit wholly non-experimental – as the Puritan’s would say — that is unconscious.  You don’t know when it happens,  you only can see perhaps some  later-on moral results from it. That is not, he says, the way it  happened in the books of Acts or the way it was experienced in the early church. (JU, 52). So he spoke with strong words about such a view.  This is very powerful now, knowing where he’s coming from and who his friends were:

Those people who say that [baptism with the Holy Spirit] happens to everybody at regeneration seem to me not only to be denying the New Testament but definitely to be definitely quenching the Spirit” (JU, 141).

Now just ponder that statement.   Therefore he would say, by implication, virtually the whole evangelical church is quenching the Holy Spirit.  That would be Martyn Lloyd-Jones’s opinion.  Dana told me last night that Warren Wiersbe was told by Martyn Lloyd-Jones that he asked these sermons not to be published before he died.  Well, there’s some real clear reasons for that, I think.  He founded the Banner of Truth publishing house.  It is emphatically cessationist.  Now I don’t know how he felt about that, but in 1972 after he had retired, they published B.B. Warfield.  He’s going to emphatically disagree with this book, in a moment.  And Walter Chantry, The Sign of the Apostles.  His biographer does not do him justice, in my judgment, in the chapter on Cross Winds.  He does not own up to what Lloyd-Jones is saying.  You won’t get the straight picture.  You must read Lloyd-Jones.

Piper on Lloyd-Jones, part 1: “I was never the same again”

This is a transcript of the biographical message given at the 1991 Pastor’s Conference on Spiritual Gifts and the Sovereignty of God, (Wayne Grudem [an Eau Claire native!] was the main speaker):

Sources

First a word about sources.  They’re almost out of these downstairs, but buy what’s left.  The 2 volume biography is where I got everything I know about his life, by Iain Murray, Banner of Truth.  And then, these three books are my three sources basically for what I’m going to say, Revival, Crossway, Joy Unspeakable and The Sovereign Spirit [also titled Prove All Things], Harold Shaw Publishers in this country. [Joy Unspeakable and The Sovereign Spirit were published together under the title The Baptism and Gifts of the Spirit].  If you want a 20 page outline of his life Five Evangelical  Leaders by his grandson, real fun book to read about Stott, and Lloyd-Jones, and Schaeffer and Packer and Billy Graham, little mini biographies.  I hope you all have or will have Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones I’m just going to dip into here for a few quotes that seem to me crucial.  And, uh, this is the Bible.  Which is in everything.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones The Preacher

In Preaching and Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Preaching has been my life’s work … to me the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called” (PP, 9).  and even as I read it again, it makes tingles go up and down my backbecause I have been privileged by God to be called to preach, I can’t get over the awesome privilege of having been called by the living God to herald his truth.

Many called him the last of the Calvinistic Methodist preachers because he had Calvin’s love for truth and sound reformed doctrine.  He was thoroughly calvinistic and reformed, and on the other side fire and passion.  For thirty years he preached at the Westminster Chapel in London. Usually that meant three times on a weekend, Friday evening,  Sunday morning and Sunday evening. Most of his time then was spent getting ready for that as well as speaking elsewhere during the week.  He said at the end of his career, “I can say quite honestly that I would not cross the road to listen to myself preaching” (PP, 4).

But most other  prople who heard him did not share that opinion.  J. I. Packer, when he was was 22 years old as a student heard Lloyd-Jones during the ’48-49 years and said that he had “never heard such preaching.” It came to him “with the force of electric shock, bringing to at least one of his hearers more of a sense of God than any other man”  (FEL, 170).  They did have a kind of falling out later on which is sort of sad, but Packer, never, never stopped praising Lloyd-Jones.  Not to this day in fact I recommend the book by Samuel P. Logan called Preachers and Preaching, I believe, something like that and Packer writes Why Preach as the lead essay and it’s dynamite and it’s got more of Lloyd-Jones in it.

Many of us have felt this electric shock though we never knew him personally, though we can hear him on tape, if you want to,  we felt it even coming through his books.  I can remember as a student in 1967 going to Urbana  with my fiancé Noel, and hearing George Verwer, as he always does, hold up a book and say, “This is the most important book that’s been written” in whatever amount of time he says.  And he held up in that time the two volume work by Martyn Lloyd-Jones’  on the Sermon on the Mount and he said, “This is the greatest book that has been written in this century.”  well he had no right to say that, because he doesn’t read all the books, but I said, “that is an amazing statement.”  I went home and in the summer of 1968 I read those 2 volumes through before I went to seminary, that was between college and seminary. and I was never the same again.  I was primed for the theology I discovered at seminary by this awesome picture of the Lord.   “the greatness and weight of spiritual issues” (The Preacher and Preaching, 7), is what Packer said very few men have been able to duplicate.

A Sketch of His Life

Just a real brief sketch of his life.  His path to Westminster was unique. He was born in Cardiff, Wales, in December 20, 1899. Then he moved to London with his family when he was 14 and went to Medical School St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, got his M.D. in 1921.  his supervisor said he was “the most acute thinker that he’d ever known” (FEL, 56).

He had a profound conversion experience during the 1921-23 year, and his  passion to preach just exploded so strongly that he left behind the medical career never to return in any official way.

He took a church in Sandfields, Aberavon , and  married Bethan Phillips, January 8, 1926, and  they had two daughters, Elizabeth and Ann, over the course of their marriage.  He stayed there I think about 12 years

And then he was in Philadelphia, preaching  and G. Campbell Morgan was in the audience, sitting in the back, the pastor of Westminster Chapel, and heard this young man preach, and felt, “I must seek this man to be my associate at the Westminster Chapel” and he did seek him and through a series of events, got him to come, that was September 1939 and in 1943 G. Campbell Morgan retired and until 1968 the preaching pastor of Westminster Chapel was Martyn Lloyd-Jones.

He retired in 1968, worked on his writings for 12 years as well as speaking, and then died in his sleep March 1, 1981.

Review: Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Hudson Taylor

Stirring – the good side of the Keswick Movement

I picked this up in anticipation of the 2014 Desiring God Pastor’s Conference, and John Piper’s biographical message on Hudson Taylor. (as an aside, I highly recommend the audio from that conference – the message on Hudson Taylor was one of the best evaluations of Keswick Theology I’ve ever heard).

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have a wariness to anyone promoting a “secret” to spirituality, and am not favorably disposed to the Keswick movement or their theology, but I read with an open mind, and this book stirred my soul.

It is the life story of Hudson Taylor, the man who founded the China Inland Mission, and advanced the gospel from the coasts of China to the unreached regions further in. It was written by his son, and emphasizes not just the facts of Taylor’s life, but his inward spiritual experiences as he went through them. The book is filled with excerpts from his journal and letters and you really get to see the innermost struggles and triumphs of the man.

Taylor was similar to George Muller, in that he did not ask people for money, and refused to take out debt. This was a firm conviction of his:

“I could not think that God was poor, that He was short of resources, or unwilling to supply any want of whatever work was really His.” (82)

God did prove in Taylor’s life and the CIM, that His arm is not short, and He is more than able to provide whatever is needed. There are multiples stories of remarkable providence, in which just the right amount of money came in for the need, and was on its way even before they prayed. One time, George Muller himself sent money over to the mission!

Taylor believed strongly in the power of prayer:

“We do well to remember that this gracious God, who has condescended to place His almighty power at the command of believing prayer, looks not lightly on the bloodguiltiness of those who neglect to avail themselves of it, for the benefit of the perishing…” (118)

Unlike other more extreme figures in the Keswick movement (Rees Howells, for example), there is no mysticism, or listening to “voices,” or growing out a beard to appease God. This is just straightforward: seeking, trusting, and serving God with your whole heart.

What God accomplished in and through this man and the CIM is incredible. His life is a great example for us. I was stirred greatly reading this book, and I highly recommend it.

Review: The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor

The Pastor as Scholar and the Scholar as Pastor: Reflections on Life and Ministry by John Piper and D.A. Carson (ed. Owen Strachan, David Mathis)

“with all your heart, and with all your mind”

On April 23, 2009 John Piper and D.A. Carson each gave a talk at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Those talks were then edited and expanded into this book, with an introduction by Owen Strachan and a post-script by David Mathis (of Desiring God).

This book was of particular interest to me: first, because of my own interests in both pastoral ministry and scholarship, and second, because of the example and impact of these two men in these areas. The book did not disappoint.

Piper’s chapter is largely biographical, and it is amazing to see how God took a young man who physically could not speak in front of people, and made him into one of the most useful preachers of our day. He really loves to take the weak things of the world to shame the strong, and to glorify His power in so doing. After the autobiography, he lays out “from the Scriptures that God’s purpose for right thinking (scholarship) is to awaken and sustain satisfaction in God that glorifies him,” (p. 52) and does so in nine points.

D.A. Carson’s talk starts with a 5 point introduction, with a 12 point body. He too tells some of his own story, from the chemistry lab to the pastorate, and how God then pulled him into scholarship. He retitles his portion “The Scholar as (Frustrated) Pastor.” After his autobiography, he lists his 12 “Lessons for the Scholar as Pastor.”

The strength of Piper’s chapter is in the telling of his story. The strength of Carson’s is in his 12 Lessons. On display here are two different men with different gifts that God has used greatly for His own purposes. What an example! Throughout, both men exalt Christ as supreme above scholarship, accolades, or anything else. They expose false dichotomies between “head” and “heart” and propose rigorous use of the mind in the care of souls, each according to his gifts.

If you have a chance, track down the audio to this event. The audio from Piper’s talk is bursting with energy that doesn’t come through in his chapter. There is also a Q/A session not represented in the book.

I recommend this book as an encouragement to love and serve Christ with “all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.”

“God just thinks His own way”

Another quote from the Q&A from the 1996 Desiring God Conference for Pastors, The Pastor and His Study.  Iain Murray was the featured speaker, and the biography was of Martin Luther.  I highly recommend the audio from the conference.

Q: With regard to signs, things such as falling down and whatnot, being of relatively low importance.  I hear people use the text on the counsel  of Jerusalem in Acts, where Paul addresses the Jerusalem church and there’s a hush over the crowd as he talks about the signs and miracles that were done  among the Gentiles.  And I hear people looking to that and saying, “something’s wrong in our time.”  Or at least something very, very significant is missing, when we have a situation where we’re proclaiming the gospel  and these things are not happening.  John or Iain I wonder if you could help me out there.

Piper: I do not accept the cessationist or Warfieldian argument that there are points in history at which time only there is a great flare-up of signs and wonders.  However, I do think there are seasons, for reasons, at which time there are great flare-ups.  In other words, God is not limited to the apostolic era, or Elijah, or some other time – the crossing of the Red Sea – at which we have a little flare-up of miraculous things.  

But I think while there’s nothing I can see in the New Testament that would limit signs and wonders to the apostles, I think there’s good reason to believe that they had something extraordinary going on upon them.  The drawing near of the incarnation, and the foundation of the church was unique,  and therefore it doesn’t trouble me as much as it does some that the quality and prevalence of miracles in the hands of the apostles should be greater than what we have seen typically throughout church history, I would expect that, frankly, I would expect that from what I see biblically.

However, from the other side, I think, probably, our low expectation of signs and wonders in the evangelistic enterprise is a self-fulfilling prophecy, it’s a self-fulfilling low expectation.  If you don’t expect God to do a thing, He probably won’t do it.  And therefore I would think that we probably could expect more, that we could expect some remarkable turns of events and dreams like we’re hearing about among Muslims.   I read about this morning, that “the Lord bore witness with signs and wonders to the word of His grace.”  The Lord witnessed to the word.  Now you had the word right there being preached by an authoritative eye-witness you don’t  need anything else.  You don’t need signs and wonders in Acts.  That’s the last place in history that you need signs and wonders is when you have eye-witnesses to the resurrection.  And yet the Lord gave them.

And we are a generation who don’t have eye-witnesses, and you’d think logically, we need ‘em!  Well, God just thinks his own way, and if he wants to win Muslims through dreams, or if he wants to do something here through a healing.  So, what I’m saying is, if somebody says to me, “ we should be seeing lots of these things, we should see the book of Acts.”  I say, “well, wait, wait, wait, you don’t know that you should see the book of Acts.”  The apostolic age was unique and the signs and wonders done through the hands of the apostles may not be what  gifts of healings is about in 1 Corinthians 12.  Gifts of healings and miracles there in 1 Corinthians 12  may be of a lower order and less powerful, and less frequent.  So yes, probably we could see more, but don’t set up an ideal in Acts that you demand has to be, or the church is carnal and unbelieving.