The life of a Christian often involves refining Biblical truths. We frequently hear stories about one’s shift from dispensationalism to covenantal theology, from premil to amil, from synergism to monergism, from continuationist to cessationist. I’ve been through a number of those and am thankful for it. As we continue to dig into God’s word we should be growing in understanding.
One issue that has been at the forefront lately is the issue of spiritual gifts. To cut to the chase, I have now come to embrace freely the Biblical continuation of all spiritual gifts, including miracles, prophecy, and tongues, whereas previously I had held a “spirit-filled” cessationist position. I am now a continuationist. Why the change? One reason:
After years of being a cessationist (which many assume to be the default of those who hold to the Reformed faith), and storing up a number of arguments to back the cessation of the “sign gifts,” I have come to realize that I cannot defend cessationism from the Bible, only extrabiblical writings about the Bible. In other words, while I have arguments to back the cessationist position, I cannot faithfully and with good conscience do so when I open up Scripture; and we all know which one trumps the other.
Whatever notable argument I make, when asked to back it up biblically, I have to dance around those pages not pertaining to spiritual gifts to make my case, and have to shy away from the ones that deal specifically with it. When backing up the continuation of spiritual gifts I can do so within the chapters that specifically address it.
In addition, many of the the well-known cessationist arguments that everyone parrots, just cannot be found when examining the text of Scripture. Some examples:
The sign gifts served to authenticate the apostles and died out with that office.
Sounds solid, but when I examine that with Scripture, I cannot find it. What do I see instead? Non-apostolic believers performing them! Most importantly, I read, “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal” (2 Cor. 12:7).
If someone has the gift of healing, why are they not out at hospitals healing all the time.
A question I used to ask. But when I look at 1 Cor. 12, I note that no one has THE gift of healing. Both words, gift and healing, are plural and lack the definite article……hence gifts of healings. I also see that it is a sovereign work of God, not man, note the illnesses of Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30), Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23), Trophimus (2 Tim. 4:20), and perhaps Paul himself (2 Cor. 12:7-10; Gal. 4:13).
And on and on…….Tongues are only intelligible languages and were only used to further the gospel; prophecy is no longer a foretelling but a forthtelling; healing has nothing to do with faith or the faith of another; the canon of Scripture is closed, etc…….all of these are common sayings we all have today, yet a simple study of Scripture and they cannot be backed up.
On the contrary, I have realized that the arguments I have been using are mainly philosophical, and most importantly they create categories where categories should not be made and have not been made historically.
I know that this leaves many holes unfilled: What about the abuses? The canon must then be open? Don’t we all believe that God still heals? What are the Biblical boundaries? How to test?, etc., but for now I will leave it at that.
Stay tuned, however, as in the upcoming weeks I will be writing more about this and expounding on the Biblical view of the gifts as a continuationist, a view that comes through a plain and simple reading of the text, not a modernly created category and system called cessationism.