by Jeff Hagan
“BAD” REASONS FOR BEING A CESSATIONIST:
The first on Storms list is when cessationists point to 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 assuming that the “perfect” mentioned is something other, or less, than the “fullness of the eternal state ushered in at the second coming of Jesus Christ.” He continues to say, “The ‘perfect’ is that glorious state of final consummation when, as Paul says, we will see ‘face to face’ and ‘know fully’ (v.12), as over against the limitations imposed by our life now where we see as ‘in a mirror dimly’ and know only ‘in part’” (v.12).
RESPONSE: I happen to agree with this interpretation. To me it clearly makes the most sense. Simply put, the terms “perfect,” “face to face,” and knowing “fully” clearly have Christ’s return and our eternal state in mind, at least in my opinion.
One cannot conclude from this passage that Paul had any indication that there would be a collection of works that would come to be known as the canon of Scripture after the apostles died. I don’t see this referring to the close of the canon as being plausible. Paul even seems to indicate he thought he might even be alive when Christ returns (1 Thess. 4:15-16; 1 Cor. 15:51).
However, although I agree with Storms on his interpretation of this passage, just as one cannot adamantly assert this passage refers to the closed canon because the passage does not make the explicit claim, one cannot adamantly assert this passage refers to Christ’s return and setting all things straight as the passage does not explicitly make that claim either.
His second “bad or illegitimate reason” for holding to cessationism is the “belief that signs and wonders, as well as certain spiritual gifts, served only to confirm or authenticate the original company of apostles, so that when the apostles passed away so also did the gifts.”
RESPONSE: Again, I can’t say that I disagree. I say this for a few reasons. For one, there is no passage in Scripture that makes the claim that the miracle (or signs and wonders) gifts of any specific kind validated the apostles. What Scripture does say is that signs and wonders validated Jesus Christ and the message of the apostles concerning Jesus Christ. If they were meant to only validate the apostles, then why do we see them operate in the lives of other believers like Stephen and Philip?
Cessationists at this point may direct people to Ephesians 5:20 to show gifts like prophecy were only attached to the apostles and only until the foundation of the Church was laid. But as pointed out above, not all who operated in the miraculous, in this case the prophetic, were apostles. How about Acts 2 where people from all walks of life seem to be allowed to exercise the gift? Or Agabus in Acts 11, or Philip’s daughters in Acts 21:9, or where all believers are exhorted to desire prophecy as seen in Rom. 12 and 1 Cor. 12:7-10; 14:1, 26, 39? And how about 1 Thess. 5:19-22?
In fact, these gifts even served more purposes than attesting to Christ and the messages the apostles gave about him. They served to glorify God (Matt. 15:29-31; John 2:11; 9:3; 11:4, 40); prepare the way for evangelism to take place (Acts 9:32-43); “as an expression of compassion and love and care for the sheep – Matthew 14:14; Mark 1:40-41);” and to encourage, strengthen, and build up the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7; 1 Cor. 14:3-5, 26).
“Signs, wonders, and miracles were attendant elements in his [Paul’s] apostolic work. But they were not themselves the ‘signs of an apostle.’” The problem with this second point of Storms is it still offers no evidence that these types of gifts are to be operative today.
Storms third “bad reason” for being a cessationist is the adherence to the view that since we now have God’s Word in full via Scripture, there is no longer any need for the miraculous, or sign, gifts. To me this cessationist observation makes logical sense. I think it may be a valid reason for one to deduce at least the possibility there is no longer a need for these gifts since we have the closed canon, the finished Word of God. But, I must concede to Storm’s point for the simple fact Scripture never once makes a claim of this sort. Not a single author found within Scripture makes any sort of claim that written and recorded Scripture has, or one day will, halt the need or operation of the miraculous gifts.
Storms then takes some liberty and pushes the issue to support his position by saying, “…if the glorious presence of the Son of God himself did not preclude the need for miraculous phenomena, how can we suggest that our possession of the Bible does?”
To me this is very weak. Christ’s “need” for “miraculous phenomena” was to authenticate who he was and what his mission was for. Both of these have already been firmly established. I think Storms was reaching at straws with that quote.
Fourth, another “bad” reason for being a cessationist is thinking that if you open yourself up to accepting all spiritual gifts have continued on to our time then you must also accept the Pentecostal position that one is baptized by the Spirit at a point after conversion and that the initial physical evidence of such a baptism is speaking in tongues.
RESPONSE: You can’t really argue this. What Storms says here is absolutely true, although I’m not familiar with any cessationists who are a cessationist for this reason. I did include it though because there is confusion and the difference between being Pentecostal and being a continuationist does need to be addressed for at least some who are reading this.
The truth is a person can be a continuationist and believe the Spirit baptizes all believers at the point of salvation, not after. And, one can be a continuationist and strongly disagree with the idea of tongues being the initial physical evidence. Continationists can also believe tongues are not a gift given to every believer, it’s only given to some and different gifts are given to others.
The fifth “bad” reason for being a cessationist is the belief that “if one gift, such as apostleship, has ceased to be operative in the church that the other, and perhaps all, miraculous gifts have ceased to be operative in the church.”
RESPONSE: Once again I find myself in agreement. I’d ask if “apostle” is actually a spiritual gift in the first place? Or is it perhaps descriptive of an office, or position? Either way, just because one gift might cease does not necessitate that all gifts must have then ceased.
Storms sixth “bad” reason for holding to cessatioinism is actually the one I hear most often. I don’t considered it “bad” at all, I consider it being appropriately cautious. The reason he gives here is “the fear that to acknowledge the validity today of revelatory gifts such as prophecy and word of knowledge would necessarily undermine the finality and sufficiency of Holy Scripture.”
RESPONSE: I completely understand the cessationists point here. When dealing with God’s Word we must recognize it is the final authority of faith. Scripture has the last word and is infallible and God-breathed, so we should be cautious.
However, this point automatically assumes that all those who hold to continuationism believe the product, outcome, or manifestation of a gift is equal to the authority of Scripture. This cessationist position assumes continuationists don’t see Scripture as “enough.” It assumes the gifts result in extra-biblical revelation to all those who practice them. This is a wrong assumption. Many who hold to continuationism do not believe a prophecy, or some other miracle gift, holds authority over a person, let alone authority over Scripture. Many continuationists will not accept anything outside of the realm of Scripture, they test all things (utterances and the like) with Scripture.
While it is good and righteous to hold Scripture in the highest esteem, it is simply unfair to state that all continuationists do not do the same.
Seventh on our list, eighth on Storms “bad reasons” list, is that because we “typically don’t see miracles or gifts today equal in quality or intensity to those in the ministries of Jesus and the apostles, God doesn’t intend for any miraculous gifts of a lesser quality or intensity to operate in the church among ordinary Christians. (Although many texts would refute this. See 1 Corinthians 12-14; Romans 12; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; James 5:13-18).”
RESPONSE: It seems to me miraculous, or sign, gifts if operative today, would function in the same capacity that we see in Scripture. I mean to me that just seems reasonable. But to be completely fair and honest, not seeing healing and miracles being exercised at the same level or as often as they took place during the apostlic ministry, does not automatically equate to God having completely removed the miracle gifts from the body of Christ at large. Is this something to be looked at, considered, and examined? Absolutely. But jumping to unreasonable conclusions serves no purpose for either side of this coin.
An eighth reason offered up as “bad” for being a cessationist (tenth on Storm’s list) is directing attention to church history alleging the absence of miraculous gifts beyond the first century.
RESPONSE: This is another of the more frequent arguments I have observed cessationists offer up. However, I think that they use this one out of ignorance of what is available to us from church history attesting to the miracle gifts being operative throughout. Either that, or they somehow find a way to rationalize or explain away the evidence they have read, seen or heard. I will cover this much more extensively later in this paper.
Ninth on our list and eleventh on Storms is a “bad” reason for holding to cessationism due to the “absence of good experiences with spiritual gifts and the often fanatical excess of certain TV evangelists and some of those involved in the Word of Faith or Prosperity Gospel movements (as well as the anti-intellectualism often found in those movements).”
RESPONSE: I agree that one cannot let a few bad apples spoil the bunch, or throw out the baby with the bath water, or lump all continuationists into one category. However, I need to expand a little more on this as I believe the WOF and Prosperity movements are the biggest cancer plaguing the body of Christ today.
When one sees, reads, or hears the things that take place under the guise of “gifts of the Spirit” from these charlatans it is extremely difficult to talk your mind into the possibility these gifts are operative today. It’s hard, at least for me, to separate their ridiculous, unbiblical, moronic, eccentric, animal like behavior from the Charismata. This is a bias on my part and is unfair.
These dregs of society need to repeatedly be called out, identified, countered, have warnings about them and their teachings distributed by any and every kind of forum possible. It’s best, and far more effective, to focus on their false doctrine and any behavior that is clearly unbiblical even to continuationists. Attacking the person, although many deserve it, and I’m sure I’m guilty of it, is not the best way to go about it.
I will stop here on this particular issue. WOF and Prosperity proponents are a pet peeve of mine. I guess I just made that much obvious. I have written on their movements many times. But let’s get back to our topic.
Tenth, and last on our list (twelfth and last on Storms), a “bad” reason for being cessationist is fear. Fear of what “embracing continuationism might entail for your life personally and the wellbeing of your church corporately.”
RESPONSE: I’ll simply agree. Fear is almost never a “good” reason, or proper motivation, to embrace any view or position. Let me add a small caveat though, if one is a cessationist and is entertaining the idea of accepting continuationism I think they should have a healthy dose of the right kind of fear before making such a dramatic change. They should have fear in the sense of reverence and awe for God’s righteousness and be sure the move they might be contemplating is aligned with His will.