Until recently I was a fence-sitter on the continuation/cessation of spiritual gifts debate topic, never really researching it enough to pick a side. My position was that while the gifts could continue, I’d never seen them done properly (e.g., those enamored with the gift of tongues never obeyed the handful of verses governing their use, the faith healers were obvious fakes, etc.). Other than some “sloppy God talk” that I’ve addressed many times, I never went to a church where leaders took things too far (e.g., the Benny Hinn / Bill Johnson – Bethel / etc. nonsense). And most importantly, I didn’t understand that the point of cessationism isn’t that all gifts ceased, just the apostolic gifts.
Now that I’ve done more research (including reading Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship by John MacArthur) and understand the history and Bible verses better, I’m a cessationist.
But in a very real and relevant sense, both sides are cessasionists, just with one side being less so than the other. Many who believe in the continuation of the “sign” gifts (healings, tongues, prophecies) are very sound when it comes to the essentials of the faith, the inerrancy of scripture, etc. , yet they concede that many things have indeed ceased since the 1st century. Consider these:
- The canon of scripture is closed. Even when you point out the claims made by books like Jesus Calling, which insist that the authors heard directly from Jesus, the continuationists don’t think that anything should be added to the Bible.
- The New Testament-style healings have ceased. The healings of Jesus and his apostles were vastly different from what charismatics claim to do today. Biblical healings were 100% successful, immediate and public. The continuationists explicitly redefine “healings” to be private, partial and not always successful — and of course, dependent on the faith of the healer and/or the sick person.
- Things like Philip’s miraculous transportation to see the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 ceased. If Charismatic leaders thought that sort of thing continued they wouldn’t ask for money to buy top end jets.
- Things like Paul’s encounter with the snake in Acts 28 have ceased. Wait, I take that back . . . some Pentecostal pastor did try to replicate that. And died.
- Church discipline a la Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 has ceased. Ironically, if it hadn’t ceased, these Charismatic leaders would be the first to be slain for lying about the Holy Spirit.
- The office of apostle has ceased. Even charlatans like Bill Johnson and Bethel don’t embrace the “New Apostolic Reformation” tag (although their buddies consider them part of it).
- The gift of foreign language tongues has ceased. In Acts 2, people miraculously spoke in foreign languages that they previously didn’t know, and the other references to tongues use the same terms. Continuationists explicitly redefine what “speaking in tongues” means because none of them have that gift of speaking in foreign languages. That is why their “tongues” aren’t recognizable to anyone.
- Infallible prophets ceased. Continuationists explicitly redefine what prophecy is to allow for the obvious errors of their “prophets.” In the Bible, prophets had to be 100% right 100% of the time – and the penalties for being wrong were severe. The charismatic “prophets” readily concede many errors and can’t name a single infallible prophet among them, yet they cling to their belief that their random correct “prophesies” are divinely inspired. They have to ignore 2 Peter 1:21 and more to do that (For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit).
- The receiving of gifts has also been redefined. In the Bible, the gifts were immediate and full. With the continuationists you usually need to be trained to heal, prophesy or speak in tongues — hence the
Harry PotterBethel School of Supernatural Ministry (it makes up for its cost by being unaccredited).
That is a significant list of things that we agree have ceased or significantly changed. So there is no debate with these folks that some things have ceased, just about what other things have ceased.
And I think it is significant that, as noted above, they have had to redefine healings, tongues and fallibility of prophets from the original biblical definitions and even the nature of what a gift is. That is a huge liability for them. If the three main things they focus on don’t resemble what we see in the Bible and now you have to be trained in the “gifts,” have they truly continued?
And even with the redefined gifts, did they really continue? No. History is clear that they did not, so the continuationists need to twist scripture to say that they did cease for 19 centuries but are back now. Again, most agree that even the redefined gifts didn’t exist during that time frame.
- If babble tongues (my term for non-real foreign language tongues) is a gift of the spirit, why do some fringe Catholics and many other non-Christians practice them? Since when does the Holy Spirit give supernatural gifts to non-believers?
- These healing ministries unwittingly breed contempt for those without enough “faith” to be healed. The sick and hurting people feel pressure to at least show some improvement so they don’t let the healers down or give “evidence” of a lack of faith. Then groups like Bethel chalk up those improvements (not even full healings) as miracles.
- John Piper acknowledged that one charismatic leader was completely wrong about multiple prophecies about him, but then was impressed when the guy got one right about someone else. But the prophecy was about a guy who was nervous about whether a visa was going to come through. How do people like Piper forget about Satan and his demons?! The man’s visa issues were easily known to the demons, and the “prophet” got one right. So what? But Piper et al have let the charismatics’ redefinition of a prophet stand, so they can’t be dismissed even when they get loads of prophesies wrong. It is hard to believe they can get such a simple thing so wrong.
- If the gifts have really continued, why would the charismatics have to argue for their position and not just show us with legitimate signs and wonders?
- The sign gifts were to demonstrate the authority of the Apostles or those under them. 2 Corinthians 12:12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
- These gifts weren’t mentioned in the Epistles after the end of 1 Corinthians, which was one of the earliest letters.
- The signs and wonders were already phasing out towards the end of the Book of Acts. The last recorded miracle was when Paul cured someone from a stomach ailment on the Isle of Malta. When Timothy had stomach ailments Paul didn’t send a piece of fabric he had touched, he just told Timothy to drink some wine.
So many things have ceased and even those that allegedly continued have significantly different definitions, which would make them more like new gifts — if real — than continued ones. How is that biblical?
One of the biggest problems with the continuationist/charismatic movement is that it conditions people to look outside the Bible for new revelations and experiences. It also encourages people to speak for God when He hasn’t spoken. And it makes newer believers question their faith unnecessarily since God isn’t “speaking” to them that way. Those things are dangerous and blasphemous. The movement claims to be all about the Holy Spirit but they ignore what He really does and fixate on things that He doesn’t do. Giving lip service to the Bible while constantly seeking experiences and allegedly new revelations from God is not Christianity.
Here’s a good video on the topic:
18 thoughts on “Most charismatics are closet cessationists”
Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.
Just because you see the extremes of the gifts being missused, doesn’t mean they have ceased. Please use the Word of God, in the voice of two or more witnesses ( scriptures ) , to make your position valid. In your limited understanding of only those who misuse the gifts, you have used a very wide brush to paint all beleivers.
Hi – thanks for visiting and commenting. I thought it was clear that I wasn’t just referring to those who misuse the gifts — though your response begs the question and assumes they exist and are being used properly. Kindly show me someone who can heal on command, or speak foreign languages with no training, or prophesy accurately 100% of the time and in the way described in 1 Cor 14.
Deut. 18 and other places show how they need to be right all the time. Burden of proof is on current “prophets” and their supporters to explain how that went away. Interestingly, they have to create a convoluted case for that yet ignore Ephesians 2:20 where it says the foundation was the apostles and prophets.
As a charismatic, and a casual observer of the strange fire conference, I came away from that conference a stronger charismatic. In fact, I agreed with the evidence of extremes and counterfeits – charismatics have also pointed that out. But the most important tidbit I came away with was the belief that the cessationist doctrine should be taught in all bible colleges, and revealed for what it is – false doctrine. It is not in the New testament. Read the NT and you will not encounter that doctrine. What you have to do is cherry pick a verse off the page, out of it’s context, put it together with another verse, from another page, lifted also out of it’s context, and then STILL have to convince someone that it means cessationism. Even cessationists realize it’s not stated in the NT. The strange fire conference just showed that their are counterfeit twenty dollar bills, But I’ll still use the real ones. Pleeeeease, read 1 Cor. 14 very slowly and carefully. You’ll find that not all tongues have to be understood. Have a nice day.
Hi – thanks for visiting and commenting. I appreciate that you went to Strange Fire.
I’ve read 1 Cor 14 slowly and closely many times. If they don’t interpret they are false. Seriously, read Strange Fire and note the history of their gibberish.
And you didn’t defend what is really not taught in the NT: How prophets no longer need to be 100% right, how the type of healings radically changed, that you need to be taught the gifts, etc.
P.S. Just curious – what do you think of Bethel / Bill Johnson? https://1eternitymatters.wordpress.com/2017/10/01/bill-johnson-bethel-church-and-the-jesus-culture-band-super-creepy-super-false/
Thanks for your polite response. It’s nice to converse, even disagree, without the animosity that is common on the internet. Again, I would say that you didn’t read 1 Cor. slow enough. As I stated, it clearly states that not all uses of tongues need to be understood, unless it is in a public setting, then it needs to be interpreted. The apostle Paul is talking about praying in the spirit, as well as the public use of tongues in the church setting. Look closely at that chapter and you will see he even talks about singing in the spirit. No need to address other issues if we can’t even see what 1 cor. 14 plainly states. Again, cessationism is not in the NT. Nowhere. Thanks again for your courtesy.
Thanks for the dialogue, but since you are just repeating your claim and ignoring all the issues I raised I’ll consider this complete. Be blessed.
I felt that I should tell you this; look back into your life and answer for yourself – have you had any supernatural occurrences that you knew came from God?
If you have never had any such experiences, then ask yourself, Why not? Is it possible you have quenched the Holy Spirit? (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19).
The NT never says the gifts ceased.
I am not a Bethel-type charismatic. I like the Vineyard which is more balanced. However I don’t like their speakers and authors constantly retell incidents of miracles, prophesies without verification.
Hi – thanks for visiting and commenting. I don’t think your first paragraph is addressing what I wrote.
What I am trying to say is, disregard the false signs and wonders.
Ask yourself the question; whether you have never seen miraculous works of the Holy Spirit in YOUR life.
I have, but that is a non sequitur to what I wrote about.
Did I understand you correctly – You say that you have seen the miraculous works of the Holy Spirit in your life, yet you say that his works do not exist today?
You are going to be moderated now. Unfortunately your reading comprehension is such that you continually misunderstand what I have written. Carefully re-read the post but stop commenting. I NEVER said his works don’t exist today. That’s a straw-man argument on your part. Not sure what your agenda is but please stop wasting my time.
1 Corinthians 13:5 “Love.. does not dishonor others.. is not easily angered.”
I appreciate your introspection in noting that you were easily angered by my post and reacted by dishonoring me. That’s a great start for you.