BIBLE DIGEST - Number 68                                                                               January 1997

Allon Maxwell

"If a prophet arises among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder which he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, 'Let us go after other gods,' which you have not known, 'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him, and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and cleave to him." 
(Deuteronomy 13:1-4) 

Over the last couple of years the Pentecostal Movement has been plagued by controversy about yet another new phenomenon. This time it is the "Toronto Blessing", named for The Toronto Airport Church (Ontario Canada) where it is reported to have begun in January 1994. From there it has spread like an infection, to the Pentecostal movement, all over the world. 

However it is not universally accepted. There is also wide opposition and rejection from many of the more traditional Pentecostal leaders. Some well known "Spirit filled" authorities are as loud in their condemnation, as others are in promoting it. 

The experience is characterised by waves of uncontrollable "holy laughter", and "spiritual drunkenness", which infect whole meetings with confusion and disorder, disrupting all other activities. In some victims it appears as equally uncontrollable weeping, jerking, screeching, animal noises etc. Others are "slain in the spirit". 

Of course it is NOT really new. "Holy laughter" "the jerks", animal noises, and other bizarre behaviour identical to this 1990s outbreak, can be found in the history of the more abandoned "revivals" of the 18th and 19th centuries. And the same things can be found in modern pagan religions, and parts of the New Age Movement.

In some of the meetings which I have seen on video tape, confusion reigns supreme! ....... initiated by men who come in their own name (John 5:43) displaying their king sized egos in the most blatant ways! 

Paul had something to say about this sort of confusion. "For God is not a God of confusion but of peace." ( 1 Cor 14:33)

In that same passage, he also clearly rejected "spiritual experiences" in which there was any lack of self control! "The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets".

But, although that is enough of a problem in its own right, it is not just the confusion about which we need to be careful. The real issue is whether it can be clearly identified as a truly Biblical experience ....... whether it appears anywhere in the Bible as a valid "manifestation" of the Holy Spirit. 

That evidence is sadly lacking.

In some places there can be less noise and confusion, but the problem of false experience remains. It is merely the same unbiblical experience dressed up in different garments.

As with all other false Gospels , at the heart of it all lies a lack of real Bible knowledge in those who are deceived, and an inadequate concept of repentance. 

Don't believe everything you hear from people who claim experiences from the Holy Spirit! "Try the Spirits". (1 John 4:1)

Question them about the real Jesus ...... who He is ...... what He taught about obedience (especially the Sermon On the Mount) ...... what He taught about the coming Kingdom. Test whether these things are a part of the Gospel associated with the manifestations. 

These are, by and large, people who hear without hearing and see without seeing. (Matthew 13:14-15) Somewhere underneath all the trappings, you will find a false gospel and a measurable lack of the real fruit which is the test of true discipleship.

And if the "prophet" should happen to pass the test of lip service to true Abrahamic faith, check out the place of those things in the Gospel he now actually proclaims! 

Do they still really matter? Or have they been put on the back burner in favour of a new gospel about the Holy Spirit, instead of the true Gospel about Jesus ?

Especially, we might ask whether the source of this "spirit" is one which regards our Abrahamic Unitarianism as a heresy! 

Does that no longer matter? Shall we now profess "unity of spirit" with those who regard us as heretics? With those whose Gospel bears no resemblance to that believed by Abraham? 

Or does it place the experience under the same cloud as all the rest of that "other gospel" which we hear from those who tell us that we cannot be Christians until we accept the Trinity?

One of the distinguishing features of all these new Pentecostal other Gospels , is who they speak about.

Listen carefully to whether the preacher is talking about himself and his " ministry " (in his own name - John 5:43) or whether he personally knows the man and preaches the truth about the real Jesus (not just dropping the name occasionally!) 

A real work of the Holy Spirit will not be mere carnal "entertainment" appealing to carnal emotions and feelings.

It will be about repentance and holiness. It will truly glorify Jesus. It will bring its hearers to conviction of sin. And it will be much more likely to induce tears of contrition, than uncontrollable and ungodly and inappropriate laughter.


In stark contrast to this Toronto counterfeit, stands the real blessing that God offers to those who share the faith of Abraham. (Galatians 3:13-16 & 26-29)

That blessing has its foundation, its beginning, its present reality, and all its eternal future, in these words of Peter from Acts 3:25-26 :-

"You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God gave to your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your posterity shall all the families of the earth be blessed.' God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness."

A real trust in those words , and a real obedience to them, leads to a real peace with God and real experience of the Holy Spirit.


The "dressing up" of the Toronto "manifestations" in pseudo Christian language, does not make it either Christian, or from God. 

We need to heed Paul's warning to that first century "Pentecostal Church" at Corinth, which was experiencing similar problems with counterfeit "gifts" and ministries :- 

"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds." (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)