Forgiveness for the Fallen

By Mark W Swarbrick

The Abundance of Grace

SwaggartismSo long as someone genuinely repents and turns to Jesus for mercy they will be forgiven no matter what they have done. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This opportunity for repentance and restoration, of course, includes ministers. When famous Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart was caught (the first time) with a prostitute in 1988 he made a dramatic emotionally charged televised confession, saying tearfully, “I have sinned…

At the time, I preached a sermon to my church saying that we must forgive and pray for Jimmy Swaggart, that if he has turned to God for mercy and grace, he has received it and that we must also extend our hearts and prayers to him with the same grace that God has given us.

It is always God’s will to restore someone who has fallen into sin. Galatians 6:1 says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.”

In the Corinthian Church a man fell into sexual sin with his stepmother. He was temporarily excluded from the Church, but then the Apostle Paul wrote to the Church and said, “Sufficient for such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the majority, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.” (2 Co 2:6-8)

Hell is a fearful thing. We should never want anyone to go there. Scripture tells us that “God desires none to perish.” No matter who someone is, how they may have let us down, or in what manner they may have hurt us – no matter what they have done – our desire should be the same as God’s; that they repent so that they can be restored into God’s, and the Church’s, good graces. People who have been ensnared by sin need the Church and they need God’s people to love them, care for them and accept them without looking down upon them in any way.

Even if a person repeatedly falls into the same sin, God’s grace is always available so long as they are repentant and humbly want help. Jesus said, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Later Peter asked Jesus, “‘Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’  Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.’” If we are to forgive a person for sinning against us 490 times in one day, then we cannot expect that God will do less. There is mercy for those who struggle with sin so long as they are repentant and attempting to change. Scripture says, “But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.” (Romans 5:20)

A Case Study: The Special Situation of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries (JSM)

I am often accused of not forgiving Jimmy Swaggart. Here is a typical post on my website made by a fan of Swaggart.

“Shame on the administrator of this trashy site for slandering Pastor Jimmy Swaggart! Rather than trying to crucify the Swaggarts, why don’t you just pray for them and acknowledge their good work? Sounds like you don’t believe Jesus can forgive sin.”

There is much to say in response to that. The short version is this: Forgiveness requires repentance, and if that is done, forgiveness itself does not automatically mean that God wants them to be free to do, be, or teach anything they wish without accountability to, and discerning judgment from, the Church.

Restoration of a fallen minister is different from restoring a regular member of a church. Ministers have a serious responsibility and their lives affect many others. Consequently, restoration of a minister to a position as a minister will take longer and be more involved.

In Jimmy Swaggart’s case, that restoration process was circumvented by Jimmy’s own actions. In order to explain exactly what happened it is necessary to explain what he did and why the Church responded as it did and why cult watch groups say what they do today in regard to JSM. But before we get into that we must discuss the main issue with Jimmy Swaggart – his strange heterodox teachings.

Swaggart’s Strange Doctrines

bible3The reason that numerous cult watch groups across America warn the Church about Jimmy Swaggart is not because of what he did in the past, but because of what he teaches today. However, as we shall see shortly, what he teaches seems to be a result of what he did.

Nevertheless, whenever the doctrinal errors of Swaggart are pointed out, his followers divert from dealing with the scriptural errors and complain that Swaggart is being unfairly castigated for his previous sins. Let me emphasize then, the teachings of JSM are the primary concern.

Swaggart’s aberrant teachings can be summarized as follows:[1]

  1. The entire church world does not have the complete gospel. Jimmy Swaggart has received a special revelation from God that he says is “new to the Church.”[2] In this revelation Jimmy claims to have received “more light than the Church has previously known,”[3] and that his revelation sheds “more light on that which was originally given to Paul.”
  2. This special revelation, which he calls The Message of the Cross, is supposedly the key to living a victorious overcoming Christian life free from sin. Central to this revelation is the idea that the object of a Christian’s faith should be the cross alone, rather than in the Lord Jesus Christ. Swaggart claims that his revelation is “the true Gospel” and that his ministry alone has a mandate from God to reach the world with this restored Gospel.[4]
  3. No church, denomination, minister or teacher has this revelation except Jimmy Swaggart Ministries. Unless they learned of it through JSM, they do not have this secret information.[5]
  4. Swaggart claims that this revelation which he received from God is “the single most important material for the believer to know and understand.[6]
  5. The Apostle Paul (and the other apostles) did not understand the cross and lived a defeated Christian life (for a time) while preaching the gospel. It seems that Jesus had neglected to pass this essential information on to his apostles. Consequently, they were overcome by sin until they also got this same revelation from God. (Apparently this revelation became lost throughout church history until God again revealed it to Jimmy Swaggart. Although Swaggart claims his revelation is Biblical, he never explains why it was never discovered by people just reading scripture.)
  6. Jimmy Swaggart visited prostitutes only because there was no one in the Church who could tell him of the lost revelation, consequently he had no means to resist sin. All Christians will be overcome with sin unless they heed his special revelation.
  7. All, or nearly all, churches, denominations, ministries, are of the devil, false, apostate and have abandoned Christ. The only exceptions seem to be JSM and those churches who acknowledge the preeminence of Jimmy Swaggart’s revelation. Their disdainful arrogant attitude towards other churches and ministries is evidenced on their television programs, which are often filled with vicious attacks upon other Christian denominations or ministries.
  8. Since most churches are false and don’t believe in Jimmy’s secret revelation, people are subtly encouraged to quit their church and join his online church and send their tithes in to JSM.
  9. God the Father has a body similar to a man’s body. God is not omnipresent. Jimmy says, “I believe His body is in one place at one time, wherever that may be.”
  10. Heaven is a planet in our universe which is in the direction “north.”
  11. Christians that don’t speak in tongues are “of little worth to the Kingdom of God.”
  12. Adam was not the first man.

Anyone familiar with the fundamental doctrines of historic Christianity will recognize with concern that these teachings, taken as a whole, are beyond bizarre; they are both cultic and dangerous. Many who watch Jimmy Swaggart Ministries on television are fine Christians who are not aware of these teachings and certainly would not go along with them if they were aware.

I Call Them Swaggarites

But many are aware of what is taught and they don’t care. These people are so enamored with Jimmy Swaggart that they have discarded their discernment. They will believe whatever he says. They are convinced he is a great anointed holy man of God with a new revelation from heaven. They refuse to hear any Biblical assessment of his teachings. They resent his new doctrines being questioned.

They have mistaken dramatic eloquent oratory for Holy Spirit anointing. They don’t know their Bible well enough and are not sufficiently educated in the cardinal doctrines of historic Christianity to recognize the false teaching. They have been brainwashed by the Swaggart cult and often can no longer be reasoned with. For such as these, I have a name: I call them Swaggarites. They don’t know it, but they adhere more to what Swaggart says than to what Jesus and the apostles taught.

While many Swaggarites defend these teachings, many others object strongly, saying that he absolutely does not teach these things at all. To be sure, he does not teach all these things openly in his television broadcasts. He is much more careful in that venue. But once a person is seduced into following his ministry more closely, by getting his newsletter and his Bible commentary, then they are at risk for being indoctrinated with these strange teachings. They are then on the road to quitting their local church and becoming a full-fledged Swaggarite.

Examining the Fruit

Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” The teaching of our Lord is that as part of examining a doctrine for its veracity we should include an examination of the life of the teacher. If they are a false prophet or false teacher there will be bad fruit evidenced in their life.

Wolf4That is why it is important to have a knowledge of Jimmy Swaggart’s past. If he was just a normal Bible teacher or pastor of a church, teaching sound Biblical doctrine, then this would not matter. His past, if repented of, is forgiven and forgotten and doesn’t need to be brought up.

But for someone who claims to be an end-time apostle with a special revelation greater than the Church has known before, and who condemns most all other churches as false, then it behooves us to take a close look at his life, both past and present.

His sins may have been in the sea of forgetfulness, but his own claims to special superior prominence have dredged them back up. Swaggarites bitterly complain and condemn anyone who examines Swaggart’s life but the fact is Jesus commanded us to examine the fruit in order to confirm someone as a false teacher and we must do so whether anyone likes it or not.

Incidentally, examining the fruit does not mean that we are to consider how much money he has or how successful he is or how big his cult has grown. Swaggarites point to this as proof that Jimmy is a true apostle of God. If having riches, a large following, and great influence is God’s stamp of approval, then we should all join the Mormon cult. No, examining the fruit means rather to reflect upon whether his life is abundant with the fruit of the Spirit, or if it exudes the deeds of the flesh.

The Hidden History

Swaggart at Travel Inn Motel with Prostitute

Swaggart at Travel Inn Motel with Prostitute

After Jimmy married his 15-year-old girlfriend, he entered into ministry as a singing evangelist. After building a large multi-million-dollar real estate empire from donations to his television ministry, he was caught on camera coming out of a motel room with prostitute Debra Murphree. The prostitute said they had an ongoing sexual relationship, that Swaggart was “kinky” as he had tried to persuade her to bring her 9-year-old daughter to their sexual encounters.

According to court documents, Swaggart told the Assemblies of God that he had a “long standing sexual aberration and that he had consorted with prostitutes for many, many years.” In tears, Swaggart told Rev. Marvin Gorman, “I’ve been doing this for twenty-eight years. I have chased prostitutes in every city where I have conducted revivals or crusades.

After Jimmy confessed on television, he met with the Assemblies of God leadership. Mercifully they offered him one year of counseling and mentoring, and required him to step down from ministry during this time so he could devote time to restoring his marriage and his relationship with God. Jimmy refused, telling them arrogantly that he heard directly from God and didn’t need or want their help. After only two months he AGLetterreturned to full time ministry. Consequently, the Assemblies of God had no choice but to revoke his ordination.

Three years later, in October of 1991, Jimmy was caught again with a prostitute. In Indio, California Swaggart was stopped by police for driving on the wrong side of the road. He had just picked up a prostitute by the name of Rosemary Garcia and he had her in the car with him. She told officers that Swaggart had solicited her for sex. This was all over the news. But this time Jimmy didn’t cry and confess. He stood before his church and said, “God has told me it is flat none of your business.” He continued to pastor the church.

Prostitute in Swaggart's Car Questioned by Police

Prostitute in Swaggart’s Car Questioned by Police

Four years later, in 1995, Jimmy was caught once again. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in a red-light district known as The Strip, Jimmy was pulled over by police under suspicion of soliciting a prostitute. The officer found pornography underneath Jimmy’s car seat. He was released in this instance as there wasn’t sufficient evidence to convict in court.

When a public figure such as a television evangelist commits such egregious transgressions, a public statement of remorse is expected. No such repentance has ever been demonstrated for these last two escapades. How many more escapades there were, is unknown. Presumably there were many more than the two in which he was found out. In any event, “Its flat none of your business” does not sound like repentance. Additionally, he has never expressed repentance for his defiance of the Assemblies of God and going back on his word that he had given to operate under the authority and guidelines of that denomination. Repentance is a prerequisite for forgiveness.

Financial Scandals

There has been one scandal after another at JSM. Money scandals particularly. Money would be solicited for children or medicine or to further the ministry, but then the money would be redirected into the pockets of Jimmy Swaggart and his family. A 30,000 Rolex watch, a fleet of new Mercedes, multi-million-dollar mansions, a private jet, and a 50,000 per year country club membership.

JetBooks have been written about his extravagant lifestyle. Hard earned money given by struggling people who wanted to further the Kingdom of God has been used to build a real-estate empire for the grandiose extravagant luxurious lifestyle of the Swaggart family.

MansionDake Publishing successfully sued Jimmy Swaggart Ministries for copyright infringement and plagiarism. There have been fraudulent land deals and suspicious business dealings. Swaggarites complain bitterly if anything bad is said about their beloved prophet, but Swaggart himself was found guilty of defamation of character and ordered by the court to pay ten million dollars restitution, but he gets a pass on this from his followers. Scripture says that no man of God “in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him…” (2 Timothy 2:4). There is no question, Jimmy Swaggart is entangled.

Print Shop Scandal

HumanSacrificeThen there is the print shop scandal and its attempted cover-up, wherein the JSM ministries print shop, part of their non-profit corporation, made money by printing outlandish CD covers for secular Hip-Hop bands and posters for area night clubs.[7] The CD Covers depict drugs, violence and gangs. One of the CD covers features satanic symbols and human sacrifice. The music that the CDs contain are filled with profanity.

One CD Cover is emblazoned with, “Includes the hot single – U Nasty!” A night club poster they printed says, “Liquor! Party! Action!” Some posters feature scantily clad women, another poster is for a gay night club and advertises the gothic band Strap On Halo. Needless to say, using money donated to a non-profit Christian organization to generate a profit by promoting wickedness is both illegal and immoral. Scripture says that Jesus hates the deeds of the Nicolaitans. Can you image what he thinks of this?

Poster1Consider this poster that JSM made for a local nightclub. Is there any excuse for a tax-free Christian ministery to use money given by Christians – money intended to further the gospel – to be used to operate a print shop that is producing ungodly material such as this?

For further information on the Print Shop Scandal at Jimmy Swaggart Ministries I recommend the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUdvQT7Bg6U This video was made by Mishel McCumber. She worked at Jimmy Swaggart Ministries. She now has a website, www.DeceiptionBytes.com which has excellent inside information about the oppressive and scandalous work environment at Jimmy Swaggart Ministries.

Youth Ministry Scandal

Below are some of the ladies in leadership at JSM. Left to right: Grace Larson, Youth Worship Leader, Family Worship Center Team Singer. Jennifer Douglas, – Sister in law of Pastor Gabriel Swaggart, Worship Team member of Crossfire and staff member of Front Office of Jimmy Swaggart Ministries. Jill Swaggart, Wife of Pastor Gabriel Swaggart, Family Worship Center Worship Team member, Crossfire Worship Team leader, Family Worship Center Camp Meeting singer. Alaina Simoneaux – Former worship leader for Crossfire Ministries and IYC.

GirlsApparently they are in a bar. Note the wine bottle, the demonic signs. Whether they know it or not, one of those signs is the 666 signal used by musicians frequently, and the others are gang signs. Note the girl on the left with the short dress and her legs immodestly spread and the evil facial expressions, the dead demonic look in their eyes and the evil seductive poses of their bodies.

Gabriel Swaggart tried to dismiss it with, “They were just kidding around and having fun” but I guarantee you if any other church did this, the Swaggarts would be all over it, pointing out this as an example of how evil other churches are. Why isn’t Jimmy’s special revelation getting these girls to live godly lives and set a proper example? Why is the JSM magic formula not working?

What would the Apostle Paul say if he could see this picture? We don’t have to wonder. Look at his teaching. Study that picture and then ask yourself if these Swaggart Ministry leaders are obeying the spirit of these scriptures written by the Apostle Paul:

“I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” (1Timothy 2:9)

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” (Titus 2:3-5)

“There must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” (Ephesians 5:4)

Are these girls acting “sensible,” as the scripture teaches? They are ministry leaders. Are they setting good examples for how mature Christian ladies should conduct themselves? Clearly not and evidently disobedience is contagious through the ministry from the top down.

Continued Sexual Scandals at JSM

Wife No 1 & 3

Wife No 1 & 3

Following Jimmy’s example, many sexual scandals have erupted in their church over the years. Donnie Swaggart (Jimmy’s son) divorced his wife to marry a lady in the church who was a 5-time divorcée. He then divorced her and remarried his first wife in 2015. He continued to minister during this time.

Many people have suffered the tragedy of divorce and those who endured the pain of that need the compassion, love and empathy of the Church.

Wife No. 2

Wife No. 2

However the scripture is clear that if things are falling apart in your family life you cannot take care of the Church of God. A minister should step down from ministry until his home life is stabilized. When we see the leaders themselves playing musical chairs with wives, and all the while pastoring the church, well, that is simply outrageous. Jesus said to examine the fruit. Not only does their doctrine fail the test of scripture but their lives show the kind of fruit that Jesus said would mark the life of a false prophet.

The Damage of Cults

This website exposes the errors of various non-Christian cults such as Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Christian groups holding aberrant doctrines, such as Catholicism, Oneness Pentecostalism, and so on. The intent is to help people reach out to friends and family members who are caught up in error by arming them with the facts.

I get lots of feedback from people who are distressed over the damage to friendships and family relationships that are caused by these groups. By far, the one outfit that I get the most negative feedback about is Jimmy Swaggart Ministries (JSM). One cannot look through the comments on this site without being shocked by the sheer number of people who comment that their family relationships have been negatively impacted when a family member or friend becomes involved with JSM.

As previously mentioned, Swaggart teaches that most Christian churches are of the devil and that nearly all churches except his own are in error. The result of that indoctrination is that Swaggart followers will begin treating fellow Christians as though they are not really saved. Many Swaggarites tend to be arrogant and disrespectful towards other Christians. They desire that everyone revere Swaggart as they do, as a great apostle of God, and when they do not, rabid arguments ensue. It is a pattern that repeats over and over. There is clearly a spirit of divisiveness at JSM that infects its followers. Just read some of the comments on the Swaggart articles on this website to see the heartbreak that has ensued.

The Sensitivity of Cults

Publicly pointing out the theological errors of a cult is akin to poking a stick at a hornet’s nest. The hornets come out in force to sting! Those caught up in a cult believe they have finally found the light and they are passionate about it. They don’t take kindly to having their bubble burst.

It is interesting to note that the most vicious responses I receive, above any other cult, come from JSM. They are quite convinced God is going to strike me dead with a bolt of lightning and leave nothing but a grease spot. Here are some typical responses from Swaggarites:

  • “I would be very careful speaking against another Christian the way you are doing…”
  • “God will take you to account for spreading so many lies!”
  • “Be careful of what you say about the Lord’s anointed! Remember David was anointed to be king but yet he chose not to take Saul’s life and said, “I will not touch the Lord anointed.” Remember what happened to the man who brought David King Saul’s crown.”
  • “You are not acting as a man of God. If you were, you would NOT be attacking Brother Jimmy Swaggart. I have never been misled by any of his teachings. He is truly an anointed man of God. People like you are the ones who will one day have to stand before El Shaddai and give account of your derogatory remarks of Brother Swaggart.”
  • “You are a liar…you need to repent, you are in danger my friend. The Bible says “Touch not my anointed and do my Prophets no Harm.” I love the Swaggarts. I am a Media member…May the Lord have Mercy on your soul.”
  • “If you do not forgive you will not be forgiven. There is no man who has not sinned…you should fear the judgment of God for coming against the only world-wide ministry broadcasting now to all nations of the world. “This Gospel” of the Kingdom, is the Cross!”
  • “Touch not God’s anointed. I think the finest man and preacher that God has on this earth today is Reverend Jimmy Swaggart. Speak kindly about Brother Swaggart…Honor God’s anointing on Jimmy Swaggart. I believe the anointing of the Holy Spirit on him is greater than any other preacher.”

It must be pointed out that their quoting of not touching God’s anointed is from an Old Testament scripture that had to do with the heathen nations not harming Israel, a nation of prophets. The other reference is about David not killing Saul, the king God had appointed, even though he was behaving badly. Those scriptures, of course, have nothing to do with whether or not God has appointed Jimmy Swaggart to do or be anything. Furthermore, no one here is advocating killing anyone. This website simply advocates adhering to the truth of scripture and being freed from following false teachers who live unprincipled lives. I’m confident God is not going to kill me for that, but rather commend me.

Never Judge

Cult leaders want to circumvent critical thinking in order to prevent their falsehoods from being put to the test. They do this by twisting the New Testament teaching concerning Christians using sound judgment. Whenever you point out to a cultist the Biblical inconsistencies in their religious leader’s life or doctrine, you receive a programmed response which they have been conditioned and indoctrinated to use. You are liable to be told that Christians should not judge others. Here are some actual responses from Swaggarites:

  • “God is the only Judge…All denominations, such as Church of God, Assemblies of God, Baptist, Catholic, etc. are all nothing but man made. SBN is critical of most denominations as I think the Lord Himself is. Denominations are sending people to HELL every day. Denominations mean NOTHING.”
  • “You are wrong about Jimmy Swaggart I do not appreciate you talking about him like a dog or do you also forget about what Christ says in Matthew 7:7, “Judge not or you will be judged.”
  • “This website is a smear job! You’re a freaking loon! That is all.”
  • “Be very careful about judging anyone, I’m sure that you know the pertinent Scriptures.”

The “judge not that ye be not judged” scripture (M’t 7:1), when read in context, does not mean that you shouldn’t be on guard against false teachers, for that would contradict the scripture’s command to watch out for wolves in sheep’s clothing. Rather it means to not judge hypocritically, pridefully, blindly, condescendingly or spitefully. Jesus, in John 7:24 tell us that we are in fact called to judge, but to “judge with right judgment.

The Abundance of Grace

womanWe find that Jesus was extraordinarily merciful with sinners. The woman caught in adultery, without even asking for forgiveness or mercy, is told, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” The woman at the well, who had married and divorced five husbands and was then living with a man is treated with mercy and kindness by Jesus as he offers her “living water.” The paralytic who was lowered down through the ceiling for healing was told, “Your sins are forgiven” and that, before he had even uttered a word. Then there was the woman of ill repute who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair. Of her, Jesus said, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven.” The criminal executed on a cross next to Jesus, who had admitted he was so bad that he deserved to die, was told by Jesus, “Truly I say to  you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Clearly Jesus abounds with mercy and grace.

Behold the Goodness and the Severity of God

But for religious leaders who thought they were something special, who didn’t operate in love, who taught false doctrines, who believed the rules only apply to others, it was another story. For these Jesus’ response was another thing entirely:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites… You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” (Matthew 23:23,33)

“You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good?”  (M’t 12:34)

In Revelation 2:6 Jesus says to the Church at Ephesus: “But you have this to your credit: You hate the works of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.”

Was Jesus being unkind? Was he judging? Was he being unchristian? The modern cultist would say so, for they condemn as unchristian any type of common-sense analysis of their strange doctrines and quickly start complaining that Jesus said not to judge. You have to wonder about those who have this mindset. Do they even know Jesus? Have they even read what He did and said to the false teachers of his day? Have they not learned the importance our Lord attaches to correct doctrine?

The Pharisees didn’t like being called out by Jesus any more than cultists like it today. They wanted to kill him for it, just as cultists today call down their imaginary God-will-get-you death sentence upon anyone who contradicts their false teachings. But Jesus’ severe reaction to false teachers is an example set by the Good Shepherd. We must heed it.

temple2When Jesus made a whip, and lashed out at people, turned their tables over and chased them out of the temple, he demonstrated the importance God places upon things being done correctly in the house of God. The real Jesus is not a namby-pamby push-over. Notice how many times the scripture records that the disciples “were afraid to ask him.” He could be severe. Jesus didn’t tolerate fools. The Lamb of God is also The Lion from the Tribe of Judah.

We know the apostles got the Lord’s message loud and clear, for we find them writing things such as found in 1 John 4:1, where we are adjured to “test the spirits.” 1 Co 14:29 says the church should “judge when the prophets speak” Luke, in chapter one and verse three tells us that he had been “investigating everything carefully from the beginning.” Acts 17:11 says that the “The Bereans were more noble minded because they were examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” All through the New Testament Christians are instructed to think and investigate all matters carefully and critically.

Ephesians 5:11 says, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness but instead even expose them.” In Romans 16:17, Paul commands, “Mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them.” It says to “mark them.” The word used in the original Greek is scopio, which means: “To scope out, to take aim at, to consider, to watch.”

And mark them they did. They named names. In 2 Timothy 4:14-16 the Apostle Paul says “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil.” In Gal 2:11 Paul says “when Peter came to Antioch I withstood him to his face because he was to be blamed.” In 2 Tim 4:10 Paul says, “For Demas, having loved this present world, has deserted me…” 1 Tim 1:19-20 Paul says “…some…concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” In 2 Tim 2:17 Paul says, “Among them are Armenaeus and Phileitus, men who have gone astray from the truth.”  In 3 John 1:9 the Apostle John reports, “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will not welcome us.”

The reason we find the apostles writing to the Church and naming names is to warn the church about these men. It wasn’t enough just to point out false teachings. The false teachers themselves were “marked” so that the Church would be cautioned concerning them. No doubt the followers of divisive people such as Diotrephes complained that the Apostle John was judging and wasn’t being loving and forgiving. That cultic tactic is as old as the Bible.

There is an interesting account, passed down from the Apostle John, to Polycarp to Irenaeus and then to us, which shows how the apostles reacted to false teachers. They didn’t just ignore them and hope they went away. The Apostle John, the apostle of love, was inside a pubic Roman bath house taking a bath, as was the custom of the day. Then he realized that the heretic Cerinthus had entered the bathhouse. Cerinthus was a popular false teacher with a large following. John immediately rose and fled from the bathhouse, exclaiming publicly that the false teacher Cerinthus was inside and he didn’t want to be killed when the building collapsed under the righteous judgment of God! The apostles of our Lord took false teachers very seriously. So should we.

Repentance or Self-Justification?

MadSwaggart1It seems likely that Jimmy Swaggart’s claim to having a special revelation grew out of his extreme public trauma that he suffered as a result of his many years of sinful philandering while trying to maintain the façade of being a righteous man of God. The stress must have been overwhelming. No doubt Jimmy’s embarrassment and distress over having his secret life exposed to the world has left him with a post-traumatic stress disorder. Sadly, he has developed a facial tic, an involuntary spasm, wherein he jerks his head in a downward motion repeatedly while speaking. It’s painful to watch him preach. His son has it also, by emulation perhaps, to a lesser extent.

Before Jimmy was caught in his sin, he would often proclaim that God had called him specifically to be the instrument of God to reach the entire world with the Gospel. I remember then, in the 1980’s when he would say that, that I was concerned that it smacked of prideful megalomania.

Today his self-magnification knows no bounds. He styles himself as God’s only end-time apostle to restore a teaching that supposedly has been lost to the Church for nearly two-thousand years. The sheer number of people that have been seduced and fooled by his audacious claim is astounding. His normal broadcasts feature, for the most part, normal Christian doctrine and good Christian music but this serves only to cause people to let their guard down to receive the false teaching that comes later.

There is forgiveness for the fallen found in the mercy and love of Jesus. Whether or not Jimmy Swaggart has truly repented we don’t know. I sincerely hope so. But his arrogant statements, his rejection of the ministerial authorities over him, his continuance in sin, all these things call that into question. We can only pray that he has.

Everyone needs the Church, even, or should I say especially, Jimmy Swaggart. But he has cut himself off from the Church, isolating himself from the advice, feedback, accountability and counsel of fellow ministers – something all preachers need – and surrounded himself with yes-men. This has served to further his slide into unorthodoxy.

His continual harping about his peculiar special revelation and his insistence that Paul was a defeated sinner, his suggestion that he sinned with prostitutes only because he didn’t have the secret revelation from God, all this is telling. It all smacks of being a prideful excuse for sin, rather than humble repentance and trust in the shed blood of Jesus to cleanse him.

Requirements for Ministry

Swaggarites often write to me claiming that God has appointed Jimmy Swaggart as a great man of God and no one, no church, no authority, no denomination, no ministry, no Christians, have anything to say about it. This reflects their complete lack of understanding that New Testament ministers are chosen based upon certain criteria, chief of which are the Biblical qualifications for ministry.

The Bible makes it very clear what are the requirements for ministers:

“An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money. He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity (but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?), and not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil. And he must have a good reputation with those outside the church, so that he will not fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.” (1 Timothy 3:2-10)

handsForgiveness for Jimmy Swaggart requires true repentance towards God. That is between Jimmy and God. But for the Church to receive him as a bonafide minister, that is between Jimmy and the Church. New Testament teaching shows that ministers are appointed by the Church through the laying on of hands and designation by Church authority. Swaggarites misunderstand this, thinking that it is as in Old Testament days, wherein God would arbitrarily appoint a prophet for Israel. That’s not how it is done in a proper New Testament church.

Restoration to ministry, according to the New Testament, is something that happens with and through the Church in accordance with the scriptural qualifications for ministers. Unfortunately, Jimmy rejected the path for that to happen and went maverick. He has castigated all of the Church and called them all anathema, except for his little cult. So how can the Church approve him?

Those who wish to have authority must first show that they can be under authority. Those who wish to be trusted must first show themselves trustworthy. Jimmy has failed in those areas and lashed out at the Assemblies of God, calling them a cult. The rabid animosity that Swaggarites have for any denomination is an outgrowth of Swaggart’s own rejection of authority.

Swaggarites point out David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, and then his subsequent forgiveness, as an example showing that Jimmy Swaggart should be considered legit, in spite of his sin. But this argument fails to take into account that David’s sin with Bathsheba was not an ongoing thirty-year affair and that David repented sincerely as evidenced by the 51st Psalm. When Nathan the prophet told David, “Thou art the man,” David did not respond with, “It is flat none of your business.

Furthermore, there was a cost to David’s sin. His son died and he was not allowed to build the temple for the Lord. There was a price he had to pay. Additionally, the Bible says that the New Covenant is a “better covenant.” Some things are done differently than they were done in the Old Testament. They are done better. New Testament ministers are ordained through the Church, not divinely appointed separate from it. And lastly, there is the matter of Swaggart’s false teachings and his scorn for the Church, which is something that hinders restoration.

The scandals in Jimmy’s life and the ongoing sexual, legal, moral and financial scandals in JSM show the kind of bad fruit that Jesus said would delineate a false teacher. Though Swaggarites scream that we are not to judge, the scriptures tell us to use wisdom, common sense and discernment and to examine the fuit.

The vast number of injured family relationships and the propensity for Swaggart followers to leave their church, and the vicious hateful attacks that Jimmy Swaggart Ministries makes against other ministries, all go to show that there is something very wrong with the kind of influence that JSM has on people. Without a doubt, Jimmy Swaggart exudes the very same pharisaical attitude that Jesus condemned in the strongest possible terms.

I pray for Jimmy Swaggart. I hope he makes it to heaven, though I am quite sure his strange revelation is a work that will be burned up in the fire. I feel bad for him for how he has injured himself. I pray he comes to his senses, but I fear his great riches have hindered him, for truly Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (M’t 19:24)

I don’t wish to say anything that would cause him anguish, but my concern must also be for the countless numbers he has deceived with his false teaching. He has no idea the trouble he has caused and is still causing. His church has grown into a large cult that is deceiving multitudes.

Yes, there is forgiveness for the fallen. Ministers who have erred can be restored to ministry. Their sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus never to be remembered against them again, unless however, they castigate the Church, teach false doctrines, set themselves up as a self-appointed prophet of their own cult while proclaiming they have more light than the church has ever known; then, not so much.

Conclusion

Not all that JSM teaches is bad, but that is true of nearly any cult. They do teach salvation in Jesus, but they mix enough other false doctrine in with it that it becomes quite dangerous. A Swaggarite, when fully trained, will leave his church to join a Swaggarite satellite church, castigate his family members and fellow Christians for not following Swaggart, and believing all the while that he is above and beyond any kind of sin.

Deborah Layton is a survivor of the Jonestown massacre wherein false prophet Jim Jones convinced 909 people to commit suicide by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide poison. She had this to say:

People will not normally join cults that will kill them. It is usually only gradually that a group turns into, or reveals itself, as a cult, becomes malignant, but by then it is often too late. There are essential warning signs early on. Our alarm signals ought to go off as soon as someone tells us their way is the only right way. If I as a young woman had someone explain to me what cults are and how indoctrination works, my story might not have been the same.”

Jimmy Swaggart Ministries has the marks of a cult and all the warning signs are evident. Once a person becomes fully indoctrinated by them they are effectively brainwashed and it seems nearly impossible to reach them with reason or scripture.

D.M Canright was a minister who escaped the delusion of a cult and then spent his life exposing their false teachings. He said this:

“To criticize, expose and condemn others is not a pleasant task; but when religious teachers enthrone error, and mislead honest people, silence would be unkind and censurable.[8]

Swaggarites ask me, “Why don’t you just shut-up and pray for Jimmy if you think he is wrong.” I do pray for him. But I pray more for his followers and those in the future he has yet to seduce. If I can get the word out there and save some of them from being deceived by his false teaching, I will do it. No, I will not be silent, for the scripture’s command is clear:

“Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints…Hold fast the faithful word…exhort in sound doctrine and…refute those who contradict.” (Jude 1:3, Titus 1:9)

 

Footnotes:

[1] For evidence of his teachings see article on this website: The Swaggart Bible at:  http://www.christiananswerman.com/the-dangers-of-the-swaggart-bible/

[2] In Swaggart’s book, “Brother Swaggart Here is my Question About the Cross,” Swaggart says, “Considering that this message is new to the church…”

[3] http://www.francesandfriends.com/message-cross/

[4] Jimmy Swaggart, The Evangelist, January 2004

[5] See video at: http://www.christiananswerman.com/is-it-a-cult/

[6] See video at: http://www.christiananswerman.com/is-it-a-cult/

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUdvQT7Bg6U

[8] Seventh Day Adventism Renounced, Gospel Advocate Restoration Reprints