Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Defining Cessationism

I will not venture to speak for every Cessationist in the world, but I can at least assume that on the whole, the gifts we/they affirm as having ceased are the revelatory sign gifts. I say that because in my discussions with Continusists I frequently encounter this mistaken notion that the Cessationist position denies the continued existence of any and all spiritual gifts. This is simply false. I have never heard a Cessationist claim that the gifts of administration, marriage, celibacy, giving, etc., have all ceased. If anyone holds this position, I will say with all the Christian charity that I can muster that he or she is a brick shy of a load.

Continuists, listen: We do not believe that all the spiritual gifts enumerated in Scripture no longer exist or function in the Church, nor do we believe that God cannot and/or does not ever heal people who are sick when we pray for them. What we assert is this: All of the gifts that were revelatory in nature, those have ceased. They must have ceased at the close of the canon otherwise we would still be receiving revelation from God in addition to the Scriptures. Prophetic utterances which claim to be direct communications from God, messages in tongues, with their corresponding interpretations – these have ceased. There is simply no way to affirm that Scripture is complete, that the canon is closed, that the Bible is sufficient and is the only rule for doctrine and practice, and yet believe that there are continuing in the Church gifts which are revelatory in nature.

When we pray for someone who is sick, and God heals that person, there is no doctrine affixed to this event. There are no great doctrinal or theological conclusions to be drawn apart from noting that God has shown His loving-kindness. Hence it is not a revelatory event. And for that matter, neither is it a spiritual gift.

It seems that Continuists just can’t quite appreciate how great a gift Scripture is. Let me go on record and say that it would not be better to live in the days of the Apostles when miracles, tongues, and prophecy were the norm. Why? We would not have a complete Bible. We would be living with less than the full revelation God has given us in His Word. Peter himself tells us that his experience with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration was not and is not as certain and firm as the words of the prophets, i.e., the Scriptures (2 Peter 1:16-19).

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