Friday, March 14, 2014

Cessationism versus continuationism

A conference called Strange Fire, held at John MacArthur's church last fall and attended by notable keynote Christian pastors, there has been an ongoing fire of its own. The conference was to expose the heresies of the Charismatic movement and to explain biblically why continuationism has a falsely interpreted basis.

Continuationism is the hallmark of the Charismatics and to a degree the word faith believers also. It holds that the first century apostles' healings, direct prophecies, and other miracles are normative to every Christian's experience. Cessationism holds that the miracle spiritual gifts were for a foundation only, alive in the first century apostles and designees only and ceased after the foundation of the church was laid the the bible was completed.

A lot of ink has been spilled in the debate prior to and subsequent from the conference. It is still raging. But there was one comment I enjoyed for its succinct biblical explanation of why these miracle gifts have ceased. It is from a blog essay posted this week by John MacArthur, who is following up on some things from the conference regarding John Piper. I encourage you to go to the essay and its follow up and read the piece in its entirety.

The comment I enjoyed is here, #44 by comment moderator Gabriel Powell. He was responding to the people who embrace continuationism by saying that to reject cessationism is to reject the Holy Spirit entirely.

Posted by Gabriel Powell | Tuesday, March 11, 2014at 3:47 PM

It seems like there is some confusion over what cessationism rejects. While there are clear differences between the two theological positions, the reality of miracles and healing is not one of them.

Cessationism affirms that God maintains the power to heal and perform miracles. What we deny is that the "gifts" to perform signs and wonders which were so prevalent and normative in the 1st century church are still prevalent and normative today.

God's character remains the same (which is the point of "Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever"), but He deals with His people in unique ways at unique times (Hebrews 1:1).


12 comments:

  1. This is justvmy opinion, but I believe one of the obvious reasons the gifts didn't continue is because in the church age we believe on faith not sight. You know the verse, blessed is he who has not seen yet believes. In the OT and in the future tribulation, God will show Himself in obvious unmistakable ways, but in the church age we are blessed because we believe by faith. If everyone was running around performing miraculous things, then we wouldn't be believing by faith but by sight or experience. And although I agree that God still heals and performs miracles, I believe He mostly works through natural means to do that, again for the same reasons. This is just my opinion.
    Jennifer

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  2. Why do you worship MacArthur so much? You quote him on your blogs more than you do the Bible.

    -Jeff

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    1. Great question! However I don’t worship Dr John MacArthur. I worship Jesus. You know that.

      I quote MacArthur a lot for several reasons:

      --He is doctrinally correct on every issue I’ve heard him speak to. This means his interpretations are aligned with the bible. This is a precious rarity in these days
      --His entire body of work is online, and easily obtainable. Therefore he is easy to quote
      --He has addressed all of the relevant cultural issues, and these also are online and available, and once again therefore easily quotable

      I also often quote GotQuestions, for the same reasons, and Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. I’d quote Phil Johnson just as often as I do MacArthur but his sermons are not transcribed as MacArthur’s are. And as a side note, he said a couple of years ago that the same lady has been his transcriber for over 40 years. What a blessing to the faith these people are! We all benefit.

      I have quoted in the past Jonathan Edwards, but his language is further away from ours, being almost 300 years old. Same with Charles Spurgeon and Matthew Henry. But I still quote them on occasion as well

      If you came across a doctrinally correct, easily obtainable body of work freely given to the body of Christ from a persevering man of faith, why would you NOT want to use it as much as possible? That is what it is there for.

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  3. Mario: I did not post your comment. I am not going to debate. Thank you for reading this piece and for your thoughtful response. However, continuationism is not the biblical stance. That was shown to the ends of the earth through Strange Fire conference, where 19 elders of our faith consistently showed this. The scriptures are clear: the miracle gifts are done. If you'd like to search the scriptures for why, please go to the link I'd provided above. Blessings.

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  4. I believe the bible clearly teaches the gifts have not ceased. One thing I've been pondering on is --are we getting gifts and miracles confused? Certainly, one of the gifts is healing.

    I just read a comment on a blog from a reliable source that really helped me separate the two. I quote: "Although they are often lumped together healing and miracles are not the same. A healing is when someone is sick, say with cancer and after prayer it is totally gone, no trace, nothing on the X-ray. A miracle might be someone without an arm or a leg that suddenly has a new arm or leg appear on their body, they were not sick, merely missing a limb in this hypothetical case. A better example might be when the dead are raised. Paul raised a young man (Eutychus) from the dead who fell out of a third story window due to Paul’s long sermonizing (see Acts 20:7-12). Eutychus received a miracle, not a healing."

    so, yes the miracles of raising people from the dead or healing someone's shriveled up arm has ceased because miracles where performed as proof a sign that Jesus was the promised Messiah -the Son of God.
    quote: "The question really is, does God still heal people today? My answer is, simply yes He does, but He does so according to the sovereign good pleasure of His will and not at the command of any man or woman. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
    Does God heal through healing evangelists? No." To begin with there is no such ministry in the Bible. There is the ministry of an evangelist (see 2 Tim. 4:5), but even Timothy, the evangelist, needed to take some wine for his stomach ailments (see 1 Tim. 5:23) but there is no such designation as “healing evangelist.” Aimee Semple MacPherson, Kathryn Khulman, A.A. Allen, William Branham, Oral Roberts, T. L. Osborn, Peter Popoff, W. WV. Grant, R.W. Schambach, Benny Hinn, etc. are ALL FRAUDS, LIARS and DECEIVERS. They possess no healing gifts at all.
    What is miraculous about the so-called “healing” evangelists is that NONE of them can offer any independent verifiable PROOF that people have been or are being healed under their SINistries and yet still have huge followings and reap millions of dollars each year they are in existence! One would think after a year or two of non-miracle crusades people would have quit listening to Mr. Hinn or others. Yet almost 20 years later, they still flock to his false promises and lies, leaving sick and much poorer spiritually and financially.
    One can “fake” healing by simply paying shills to claim they have been healed in the meeting. Miracles are a different manifestation altogether."-end quote

    So my question for any sincere Christian is, does God's word teach that the (gifts) have ceased or does God's word teach that the miracles have ceased?

    There are many charlatans out there claiming to perform miracles wherever they go and we know Jesus even said there would be many who in Matthew 7:22 who will perform many miracles "in my name" who are "workers of iniquity." God has never worked miracles through people like that. Jesus, Peter, Paul nor any of the other disciples had their "personal" ministry of constantly healing people.

    Bob DeWaay is another respectable teacher who is also a continualist

    Read these verses and tell me, does it sound like the gifts have ceased?

    And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly. (Romans 12:6a)

    So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church. (1Corinthians 14:12)

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    1. Hi Linda,

      You can believe the bible teaches that the miracle gifts have not ceased, but you would be wrong. they have.

      A miracle is 'A supernatural intrusion into the natural law that can have no other explanation than that God is acting'. The miracle gifts are distinct from the other gifts the Spirit places within us. The miracle gifts were given to apostles and designees, and they include prophesying, healing, tongues and interpretation of tongues.

      2. The Spirit gave these for several reasons, which have expired -
      --to show that judgment has come upon Israel Isaiah 28:11-12
      --to lay the foundation of the church Eph 2:20
      --to authenticate the messengers of the word of Jesus 2 Corinthians 12:11-12

      we now have the word and the foundation has been laid. "It's clear from the gospels through Acts, in fact, that there's a progressive lessening of miracles, a lessening and lessening and lessening so by the time you get to Paul's Epistles it just isn't even there. You don't even find them. People get sick in Paul's Epistles, they stay sick, including Paul." (JMacArthur)

      Let's be clear, again. God CAN and DOES do miracles. The Holy Spirit does not give the miracle gifts to man anymore to do. Man's ability to supernaturally intrude into the natural law that can have no other explanation than that God is acting, no longer occurs.

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  5. Thank you for your response Elizabeth. I read what you wrote and it doesn't answer what God's word actually teaches about gifts. Let's be clear about whether or not the gifts have ceased or not...What does the Bible actually teach concerning the gifts?

    Here is Bob DeWaay's article: http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue47.htm

    if you have the time read it and then know I stand with what he has said in rightly dividing God's word concerning gifts and whether they have ceased or not:

    In Christ, Linda

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    1. Linda, The Strange Fire conference I mentioned above, has 19 sermons from credible pastors rightly dividing the word that clearly show that the miracle gifts have ceased. I've listened to them all. I've read the bible, I've quoted the reasons for the miracle gifts' cessation in my response to you. I just shared 4 verses with you in the above response alone. The truth is the truth. I don't need DeWaay's article. I've read the word and the miracle gifts are not dispensed by the Spirit to man any longer. Thanks.

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  6. Okay, I've read the bible as well Elizabeth and I love John MacArthur as probably one of the top most godly men that I've learned from as well as listened to a few of the strange fire conference). I have to say, (lovingly) I am disappointed that you would not read Bob DeWaay's article. For whatever reason, that's between you and the Lord and I will leave it at that.

    Thanks for all your hard work and for the most part I thoroughly enjoy reading your articles

    In Christ, Linda


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    1. Thanks so much Linda for your reply. Here is why I don't need to read the article you offered. I've read John Piper's reasons for continuationism. I've read and listened to Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology and his reasons for continuationism. I've read the Puritans on it and Spurgeon. I've listened to 19 Strange Fire sermons directly expositing cessationism and refuting continuationism. I've read the bible regarding each of the verses on both "sides." I've prayed and I've thought. I came to a Holy Spirit led conclusion. I don't need more because I'm settled on the issue and I'm confident with it. :)

      Please do continue to read and comment. You're welcome to anytime. I look forward to it.

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  7. I am so upset by this article. It is a shame that you have so little faith. From someone who has heard stories from wonderful faithful Christians -- God still raises people from the dead, he still heals people, I know many people who speak in tongues, and people who prophesy. The gifts are still alive an active. You are blind leading the blind.

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    1. Hello Anonymous,

      I'm sorry you are upset. Sometimes the truth is upsetting, especially when we hold to unbiblical doctrines and learn the truth otherwise. It actually takes more faith to believe the Bible when my flesh wants to believe that faith healers are still active and God could possibly give me a personal prophecy.

      We no longer need to have prophets tell us the word of God because He spoke finally through His Son and we can all read what he said in the Bible. The reasons for prophecy in the New Testament/Pentecost times was that the Bible was not written yet. God was revealing His new plan to the Church. But He concluded His messages with the final Amen of Revelation 22.The canon is closed, and there are no more prophecies.1 Corinthians 13:8, FMI go here. https://www.bereanbiblesociety.org/when-did-the-gift-of-tongues-cease/

      As for tongues, the "tongues" you hear today are gibberish and not a real language. The gibberish is either made-up, or someone is demonically being controlled. In the original time of tongues, they were real languages and hearers of that language understood the language. In addition, they had a short-term purpose. Tongues were for a sign to unbelieving Israel that God was now dealing with the Gentiles and not Israel (for a time, by building His church).1 Corinthians 14:22. FMI see http://www.spiritandtruth.org/questions/125.htm?x=x

      As for raising from the dead, there are NO documented proven cases of that where the person was dead for three days, as Lazarus was, or even a few hours, totally dead as the youth was who fell out the window when Paul was preaching. None. In this age of instant cell phone video, sometimes while earthquakes are still happening, and yet there are NONE of someone rising out of a grave? That's because they didn't and there aren't any.

      Just because you see some kind of activity happening and someone calls it tongues, or prophecies, or resurrection, does not mean that they are. Remember, we have to compare to the Bible and His word is the ultimate authority. The Bible is clear that the things you mention, those gifts of healing, prophecy, tongues were sign gifts given to the first century church before the canon was completed. God Himself can still do anything, but he worked in many ways before and those ways for now have ceased. Hebrews 1:1-2

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