If you’ve been following us for some time, you’ll know that while we do preach Biblical discernment in all matters, we firmly assert that we are not cessationists. I think today we should clarify our position a bit so that there is no mystery on where we stand.
We are functionally cessationist while theologically we acknowledge
that God remains Sovereign over His gifts
First, let’s clearly define cessationism. Cessationsim is the assertion that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in the Bible are no longer available or in operation today. That at some point in early church history, they ceased. Sometimes this assertion is tied to dispensationalism, at other times it is simply tied to the Apostles (or those upon whom the Apostles had directly laid their hands). When tied to dispensationalism, the assertion sometimes sounds like, “God doesn’t operate or deal with His people in that way anymore”, and when tied to the Apostles it sounds like, “those where only for a short time as a testimony of the authority given to the Apostles, and now that there are no more Apostles, the need for those gifts has gone away”. These views are held (in general) by both Lutherans (who generally take the Apostolic argument) and Calvinists (who generally take the dispensation argument). Our problem with the assertion of cessation of certain gifts of the Holy Spirit is that it isn’t taught in Scripture. That presents a bit of a problem when one considers Sola Scriptura as a major tenet of the Reformation.
Generally speaking, there is an argument within the cessation camp that pre-supposes a win as its fundamental argument for discernment. The argument is, “God doesn’t speak to people directly anymore; therefore, anyone who claims a direct revelation from God is either lying or deceived”. This is an argument that really should cease. If the Bible declared that God no longer speaks to His people directly, then there would be no further argument. That it doesn’t, means that we should drop this argument or at least demote it from being a foundational presupposition. At best, it is an empirical bias that may motivate an individual to exercise Biblical discernment, but the assertion should really be presented as a bias and not an objective Biblical truth.
Common Proof Texts for Cessation of Gifts
To Seal both Vision and Prophet
Perhaps one of my favorite pastors to listen to, whether it be one of his sermons or his discernment ministry, is Pastor Chris Rosebrough. When it comes to preaching the Word of God and practicing sound Biblical hermeneutics in breaking down bad teaching, I’ve not found anyone better. I haven’t heard him speak on this recently, but in the past on his program I’ve heard this approach taken a few times. This proof comes from Daniel 9:24. Let us start at the beginning of Daniel 9 so we understand the context of this passage.
Daniel 9:1-2 (ESV) 1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, by descent a Mede, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.
Okay, so we have Daniel, one of the exiles who feared the Lord God and was blessed by God and promoted to a leadership position in the realm of the Chaldeans. We see here that as he studied the Scriptures, he perceived the minimum number of years of the exile prophesied by Jeremiah as 70 years. What follows is Daniel’s prayer of repentance for himself and on behalf of Israel. In so doing, Daniel is following the instructions given to Solomon at the completion of the Temple.
2 Chronicles 7:11-22 (ESV) | If My People Pray
11 Thus Solomon finished the house of the Lord and the king’s house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the Lord and in his own house he successfully accomplished.12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’ 19 “But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And at this house, which was exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished and say, ‘Why has the Lord done thus to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and laid hold on other gods and worshiped them and served them. Therefore he has brought all this disaster on them.’”
Solomon and Israel did not obey, and God kept His Word, as He always does. But now that the 70 years had been completed, Daniel sought the Lord in prayer.
Daniel 9:3-5 (ESV)3 Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. 4 I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.
I encourage you to take some time and read his prayer in full. For now, let us skip to the response from the Lord given to Daniel by messenger, the Angel Gabriel.
Daniel 9:20-27 (ESV) | Gabriel Brings an Answer
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my plea before the Lord my God for the holy hill of my God, 21 while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. 23 At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision. 24 “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Itsend shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”
So, our proof text for cessation comes from a Messianic Prophecy. This scripture gets presented as a declaration that when the second Temple is built both vision and prophet are sealed up, which is taken to mean “closed”. The Hebrew words used here can be legitimately interpreted in that light, so there is no point in digging into the roots of the words. There are 2 problems with using this passage, the first is that it comes in a prophecy regarding the Temple and the Anointed One (Messiah or Christ) which points to Jesus. So it is difficult to treat this text as a clear teaching text, because it was a specific message, to Daniel, regarding His plans for Judah and Jerusalem. The second problem is that if we are to take this as a definitive closing of both Prophet and Vision, well, then we have a problem because the New Testament has both visions and prophets revealed by God the Holy Spirit. So, in this text, there is no mechanism for putting this sealed up vision and prophet “on hold” until sometime after the John finishes writing the Book of Revelation on the Isle of Patmos.
This proof-text isn’t always used alone. It is often used in tandem with the following proof text.
But in These Last Days
Many will point to the introduction to the book of Hebrews as the proof that God no longer speaks directly to His people. The argument goes that the author is declaring that while God spoke in many ways to our fathers by the prophets, He now only speaks one way and that is by the Son. Let’s take a look at it.
Hebrews 1 (ESV) | The Supremacy of God’s Son
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son,
today I have begotten you”?
“I will be to him a father,
and he shall be to me a son”?
6 And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7 Of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
and his ministers a flame of fire.”
8 But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you
with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,
“Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
But is the author making a declaration regarding how God will no longer speak, or is he pointing out that in Christ, the Son of the Living God, we now have something far better than Moses and the Prophets? I believe it is the latter. Why? Well, because this letter is first and foremost a letter to those who are familiar with the Law and the Prophets, but need better understanding and teaching on how Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets and is now our perfect High Priest of a covenant superior to all previous covenants. There is also the matter of a member of the trinity not being included in this intro, namely, God the Holy Spirit. We know that God the Holy Spirit was promised to the Apostles to teach, remind, and grant power and gifts for the edification of the Church. Therefore, if the event that silenced God from speaking directly to His people by prophets was the virgin birth of Jesus, then why are we promised God the Holy Spirit?
Prophecies Will Pass Away; Tongues Will Cease
This one is less often used, but I have seen it so I want to point out the issue with using this one. It comes from 1 Corinthians 13.
1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (ESV) 8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
The idea behind using this proof-text is that this passage demonstrates that all of these gifts have a limit. What follows is usually an argument from silence or borrowing from the close of the Book of Revelation to suggest that tongues already ceased once we learned how to understand all of the major spoken languages and that prophecies have ceased since the canon of Scripture is now closed. The problem with using this text in that way is that its primary teaching is to demonstrate the eternal quality of love (a more excellent way). Paul explains that we see in part and prophesy in part but when the perfect comes… ah, Paul did insert a marker. To what is Paul referring here as when the perfect comes? The Return of Jesus Christ Our Lord. And that stands to reason, for once Jesus returns, we’ll have no need of prophecies or tongues or even knowledge, for all will know and bow down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Of this I am quite confident, especially when we consider that the very next chapter is a prescriptive text on the primary gifts of the Holy Spirit that cessationists make off-limits, namely the gifts of Tongues and Prophecy.
Cessationism is Lazy Discernment
It would be very easy to rubber-stamp any claim to a direct revelation from God the Holy Spirit as clearly heretical (and many take that stance). However, we know that God speaks to everyone through His Written Word, and we know that all scripture is God-breathed. We also know that God will not add to the Law, the Prophets, or Revelation and as such the canon of scripture is closed. We know that if anyone preaches a Gospel that does not agree with the Gospel revealed in Scripture, that person is to be accursed. We know that signs and wonders do not in themselves point to God or His blessing, nor do they prove the existence of an “anointing”. We know this from both the Old Testament Law regarding testing of the Prophets as well as in the New Testament warnings. We also have 1 Corinthians 12-14, we have the Book of Revelation, we have several mentions in Acts of prophets and prophetic words spoken over Timothy.
Biblical Discernment is a Mandate
While I do consider cessationsism to be lazy discernment, what I’ve found in the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is that no one exercises discernment beyond their emotions, or what they call “feeling in their spirit that it isn’t right”. They seem to rely only on the Gift of the Holy Spirit listed:
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (ESV) 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.
In the KJV, the highlighted portion phrases it “discerning of spirits”. So, they (in my experience) seem to rely on “those with that gift” to practice discernment just as they rely on those with the gift of prophecy to prophesy. In my opinion, that goes beyond lazy and into negligent. I have yet to find an online biblical discernment ministry from a Pentecostal/Charismatic point of view. I have come to believe (granted, by an argument from silence) that the movement(s) actively discourage Biblical discernment ministries and seeks to silence them. The seeker-mergent church actually teaches in their leadership conferences that those who question the pastor (exercise discernment) are wolves and need to be silenced, even going so far as practicing excommunication. Brothers and sisters in Christ, if you are standing on solid, Biblical foundation, there is no need to fear being challenged doctrinally. I’m not saying you have to stop mid-service to entertain a heckler every time, but the standard is Scripture, not the so-called “vision of the pastor”.
The Biggest Problem in Today’s Church
Cessationism is not the biggest doctrinal problem facing today’s Church. A Church that limits itself to only hearing from God the Holy Spirit as He speaks to them through the Written Word of Scripture has in no-way hamstrung itself, for the Word of God (in this case Written) will not return void. Some leaders take cessationism to an unhealthy extreme where they believe it is unbiblical to pray and ask for healing, or for wisdom, knowledge, etc… but in those cases the Scriptures refute their false teaching directly. Where cessationism is hurting the Church, is in its outreach to those who are lost in a sea of mysticism or being tossed about by every wind of doctrine. When one claims to be engaging in Biblical discernment, and starts with an assertion, that person has laid a stumbling block for the individual similar to that taught in 1 Corinthians 8. By all means, take every thought captive and submit it to Christ, and tear down every lofty opinion that raises itself against the knowledge of Christ. Expose the false teacher by his fruit, his false doctrine.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete,equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 4:2-4 (ESV) 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
The biggest problem in today’s church, is that we’ve allowed the entertainment culture to supplant the preaching of the Word and sound doctrine. And many have turned away from listening to the truth and wandered off into myths. Mysticism has infiltrated every Christian denomination and many have abandoned the infallibility of Scripture because for too long they’ve ignored (or down-played) its sufficiency.
Not every direct revelation was included in Scripture, in-fact, we have record of some direct-revelation that were specifically prohibited from being recorded or spoken. The problem isn’t when someone says, “the Lord showed me” or “the Lord told me” or even “the Lord spoke to me”… the problem is when what is being claimed as coming from God the Holy Spirit isn’t Biblical. When someone claims “thus saith the Lord” when God has not spoken, that is blasphemy, and the individual is a false prophet. A teacher’s fruit is NOT how much money they raise, or how many disciples they gather; rather, it is their doctrine and what they teach.
In closing, if this is your first time visiting this site and you are worried about our non-cessation stance, here are some links to give a better picture of where we do stand. It could be argued that we are functionally cessationist while theologically we acknowledge that God remains Sovereign over His gifts.
Thank you for reading through to the end. Our desire is to study the Word of God in context, and as free from outside influence as possible, by God’s Grace. If you disagree with us, or feel we’ve missed a clear passage of scripture, do please share either in comments below or by contacting us directly. One final thought, in our understanding and application of Sola Scriptura, we affirm that unless a doctrine can be taught from scripture, it shouldn’t be taught from the pulpit. I don’t mind referencing a commentary or “church father” from time to time to maybe bring a different perspective, but we will not be “teaching” from the extra biblical texts. Sola Scriptura is indeed Scripture Alone. As Alistair Begg puts it, “the plain things are the main things, and the main things are the plain things”.
May the Grace of God be with you today and always,
In Christ Jesus,