Rees Howells Intercessor- A Critique

The power of our sovereign God is unlimited. As we read of the creation in Genesis and the parting of the Red Sea in Exodus there is no doubt that nothing is too hard for Him. Throughout the pages of Scripture, we are shown over and over that we can trust Him and His power.
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I do not believe it is possible to overemphasize God's power, but I do fear we may tend to give too much credence to the power of His servants. Having said that, God has no doubt used men in amazing ways throughout history to fulfill His plans. Miracles happened during the ministries of Moses, Elijah, the Apostles, and others. Still as we read the Biblical accounts miracles were not ordinary, they were extraordinary. In other words, if they were common place, there would be little miraculous about them.
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I believe that God still does the miraculous today. That is part of the reason why I pray. At the same time, I do not believe we can presume on His power. If it is His will to work, He will do it- if not, we cannot force His power.
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As I considered God's power interacting with man, I read with interest the story of Rees Howells as told by Norman Grubb in his book, Rees Howells Intercessor. I was impressed that Howells stressed that prayer would only be answered if it were according to God's will, but I became concerned when presented with extra-biblical revelation that suggested he could know God's will for certain.
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As I continued to read, I must admit that I was quite impressed with Mr. Howells charity and willingness to forsake the cares of this world for the cause of Christ. Further, his trust in God's daily provision was also something I would commend him for, though preparation for the future among the Lords servants is not prohibited. (Luke 22:36)
The issue that continued to trouble me was his extra-biblical revelation- especially when all of his predictions did not come true.(Deut. 18:20-22) “... the last person Mr. Howells had said would be healed, had so recently died.” (pg. 93). Either Mr. Howells was mistaken about what he had been told, or the messages did not actually come from God, because God does not make mistakes.
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If this were simply an issue about God's revelation about which prayers of Rees Howells would be granted and which ones would not, this would be concerning, but not nearly as serious as what ends up being presented in Grubb's book. Not only was the extra-biblical revelation used to to determine what to pray about, but it was used to teach specific points of doctrine. Since the book presents teaching that it claims comes directly from the Holy Spirit, we must ask if those teachings match up with God's written word.
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In chapter 32, this quote is attributed to the Holy Spirit, “I have not come to give you joy, or peace, or victory.” This directly contradicts what God has already declared in His written word: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Based on the testimony of the Scriptures, I believe Norman Grubb is relaying a message from another spirit in his book.
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Consider this quote attributed to the Holy Spirit in chapter 5. “As the Savior had a body, so I dwell in the cleansed temple of the believer. I am a Person. I am God, and I am come to ask you to give your body to Me that I may work through it. I need a body for my temple (I Cor. 6:19), but it must belong to Me without reserve, for two persons with different wills can never live in the same body. Will you give me yours? (Rom. 12:1). But if I come in, I come as God, and you must go out. (Col. 3:2,3). I shall not mix Myself with your self.” (pg 38)
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To put this quote in context it was said, “The meeting with the Holy Ghost was just as real to Rees Howells as his meeting with the Savior those years before.” He is teaching that the coming of the Holy Spirit is a separate event from salvation, but consider the verse that was referenced above: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” ( 1 Corinthians 6:19). The Holy Spirit is already in the believer once they trust Christ.

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?: (1 Corinthians 3:16)

“And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)

“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Rom. 8:9)
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As Howells spoke of this second blessing of the Spirit, he said he, “I had never seen that He must live in bodies, as the Savior lived in His on earth.” (pg 38)
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Though God clearly uses man, to suggest that the Spirit is unable to work independent of a human body is to miss the earliest testimony of scripture. “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Gen. 1:2).
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The teaching that the Spirit needed a body to function, that once He came in the human will was no longer even there, that He will not mix with Himself with our self, and that this was just like when Jesus took on human form has frightening repercussions if taken to its full extent. It would mean that the person is no longer a normal man, but is now functioning as if he were God.
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Let us consider another quote from later in the book. “But He showed us, 'There is all the difference in the world between your surrendered life in my hands, and I living My life in your body.'” (pg. 233). To clarify what they believed by this it was stated, “...and if God the Holy Ghost took possession of these bodies, then His life was going to consume all that there was of ours.” This is how they frame the subject, “The Holy Ghost as a divine Person lived in the bodies of the apostles, even as the Savior had lived His earthly life in the body that was born in Bethlehem.” (pg. 233)
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We have already established that every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but to suggest that such an indwelling would put us on the same level as Jesus Christ is blasphemous. Though Grubb does not outright elevate Howells quite to the level of Christ, he does come dangerously close.
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In fact, in chapter 11, Howells is said to have been given a choice between giving his life or having a woman he had been praying for die. He was told, “If she is to be delivered, accept death in her place to-night.” (pg. 80). Consider as well the testimony that Howells gives about the Holy Spirit taking control of him. “He was coming in as God, and I had lived as man, and 'what is permissible to an ordinary man,' He told me, 'will not be permissible to you.'” (pg. 40) Howells seems to be claiming that since God was coming into him, he would not be living like a man anymore. He would no longer be an ordinary man.
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Rather than an ordinary man, Rees Howells is represented as acting in the place of God. Note this quote, “God is 'a Father of the fatherless,' and 'relieveth the widow'; so he knew that unless he could prevail for the husband, the Holy Ghost would insist on taking that place through him, and he would be responsible to provide for this woman and support her children.” (pg. 92) When he spoke of prevailing for the husband, he meant healing him through intercession so he would not die.
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Mr. Howells was considered an intercessor in prayer as distinguished from a prayer warrior. Grubb writes, “A prayer warrior can pray for a thing to be done without necessarily being willing for the answer to come through himself, and he is not even bound to continue in the prayer until it is answered. But an intercessor is responsible to gain his objective, and he can never be free till he has gained it. He will go to any lengths for the prayer to be answered by himself.” (pg. 103 emphasis mine) The glory for answered prayer should go to God and not man. “For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.” (Isaiah 48:11).
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In closing, let me ask a question to those who have read Rees Howells Intercessor. After reading the book, did you find yourself focused on following Christ, or wanting to follow the example of Rees Howells? No doubt this is a challenge anytime we read a biographical work, but this book made the challenge even greater. Unbiblical teaching was presented in the name of the Holy Spirit, and man was elevated to a place that he was not worthy of; therefore, I believe this book is dangerous and will lead people farther from God rather than closer to Him.
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Grubb, Norman P. Rees Howells, Intercessor. Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1984. Print.

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JD Miller's picture

After reading Norman Grubb's book, I went and re-read Harry Ironside's classic, Holiness: the False and True. If you have not read that book or have not read it in a while I fully recommend scimming through it.