Debunking Cessationism: A Cesspool of Deformed Theology – John Boruff

The Anti-Charismatic Bias of Reformed Christians

The original apostles of Jesus, also called “the Twelve” (Mark 9:35), are often assumed by most Reformed Christians, to be the last people on earth who ever experienced miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit—not only in the Bible, but in all of church history. They believe this for several reasons, but I think it’s mainly because they have had no personal experience with miracles. And so, because they have come to make sense of their Christian lives without miracles, they don’t think any further thought needs to be invested in the subject. They have a personal relationship with God; they have repented from sin; and trust in the cross for their atonement and forgiveness. They believe in the Holy Spirit, doctrinally, and infer that it must be that the Spirit that has leapt into their hearts and made them born again (John 3).

But they often lack any real experiential witness of the Spirit (Romans 8:16); nor are there burnings in their hearts (Luke 24:32), nor any baptisms in the Holy Spirit, where they feel God’s presence surround them during praise and worship, and overflow with joy unspeakable, praising God and speaking in tongues (Acts 2; 1 Cor. 14). With all the cares and concerns of life crowding in around them, and with all the natural things in life to care after, it seems that the majority of Christians in this camp, think it is unnecessary to get too concerned about applying Biblical statements like these to their lives:

These signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well (Mark 16:17-18).

Eagerly desire the greater gifts…follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy…my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 12:31; 14:1, 39).

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will [heal] the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:14-16, NKJV).

Read 1 Corinthians 14. The apostle Paul spends the entire chapter giving the charismatic church of Corinth directions on how to facilitate prophesying and speaking in tongues during a Sunday church service! If I didn’t know any better, I might have thought the apostle Paul was an Assemblies of God preacher when I read 14:4, 5, and 18:

He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself…I wish you all spoke with tongues…I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all!

Verses like these really bother Reformed Christians. Since they place a high priority on Bible study, as evangelicals they understand hermeneutical principles. After reading a passage of the Bible in its proper context, they then proceed down a three step process, knowingly or not: revelation, interpretation, and application. As they read the Bible with a prayerful and obedient spirit, they get revelation; they begin to understand what God is speaking to them through the Word; then they proceed to interpretation, which is the rational digging and researching about the deeper, more practical meaning of the Word; then, after they believe they have a solid understanding of the passage they read, they move on to application, and begin applying the commands of Scripture to their lives, and attempt to live by the Bible in whichever way they think is right. This discipline is central to evangelical Christianity and living by faith in Jesus.

Westminster Confession But Reformed Christians don’t speak in tongues; and often stubbornly refuse to speak in tongues. It’s either too weird for them, or they have never heard of the concept, or they have heard that Pentecostals and charismatics speak in tongues, but they are skeptical about their claims—either because they see too many scandals among Word of Faith televangelists, or because the tongues are often not of a known, verifiable foreign language (xenoglossy), like in Acts 2, or because the Westminster Confession seems to imply that tongue speaking (which is equivalent to prophecy when interpreted, 1 Cor. 14:5) as well as visions, dreams, and other prophetic experiences have passed away, because they believe all divine revelation has now been compacted into the Bible alone. In chapter 1, part 1 it says:

It pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which makes the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased.

This is from the opening statement of the Westminster Confession, and was penned by Calvinistic Puritans in 1646. The substance of the statement is based on their interpretation and application of Hebrews 1:1-2: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son.” However, a plain reading of the text suggests a both/and scenario: that just as in the Old Testament times, God spoke to the prophets by dreams and visions and angels (Num. 12:6), so also in the New Testament times, God has spoken to us (as Christian prophets) through Jesus, His Son. And now through faith in Jesus, we receive dreams and visions, and words of knowledge, from the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:17).

I believe these Puritans misunderstood Hebrews 1:1-2, because they saw it as an either/or. They looked at the text as somehow meaning that the Old Testament prophets received revelation by dreams and visions and voices—but now Christians just receive revelation by studying the words of Jesus as written in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Sure, we should pay attention to what Jesus said in the Bible in the first century; those words carry a special authority concerning our salvation, and many other things; but let’s not forget that the risen Jesus has been speaking by the Holy Spirit to saints all throughout church history;[1] and I believe, as a charismatic, that He continues to do so today. Jesus said, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). If He promises His spiritual presence to be with us for all of the Church Age, until the end of the world, then to me that means He will likely speak to us by His Spirit, illuminating us, glorifying the Gospel and the Bible, encouraging, warning, comforting, and guiding us in the very specifics of our lives. Thankfully, at the same time the Puritans were writing the cessationist[2] statement above, in the very same country of England, the Holy Spirit stirred up George Fox and the Society of Friends (the Quakers), which is arguably the first truly charismatic church since the Reformation began.

The Charismatic Conversions
of Augustine, Calvin, and Luther

The Puritans did not come up with cessationism from out of nowhere. Threads of the idea had appeared with earlier Christian thinkers during times of spiritual decline. Augustine once said around 409 A.D.:

In the earliest times, the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4). These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away.[3]

But after about 20 years (427 A.D.), experience had taught him that miraculous gifts were for today; and he spent chapters 8-10 in book 22 of The City of God sharing about miraculous healing testimonies that occurred in his own church. Augustine lived about 50 to 60 years after St. Antony and the Desert Fathers in Egypt, so it is possible that he was far removed from this charismatic movement. St. Patrick’s ministry in Ireland, which was very prophetic and charismatic, began just a couple of years after Augustine died.

The second historical testimony that cessationists rely on is a statement made by John Calvin in 1536:

Those miraculous powers and manifest operations, which were distributed by the laying on of hands, have ceased. They were only for a time.[4]

However, despite the fact that he wrote this, curious Christians will find in John Howie’s The Scots Worthies, evidence that John Knox and the Covenanters in Scotland were seeing visions and accurately prophesying the deaths of their persecutors over and over again. This charismatic movement was in another country than Calvin lived in, and the supernatural occurrences experienced by them happened about 10 to 20 years after Calvin wrote his cessationist comment in 1536. What’s more, is that Calvin himself, like Augustine, apparently had a charismatic conversion later on in his life. On December 19, 1562 Calvin seemed to have gone into a trance and heard supernatural sounds of war drums while he laid on his sickbed. He thought a war was happening; and so, he and his friends prayed about it in the morning. A few days later, word came to Calvin from a messenger that a great battle was fought between the Guisians and the Protestants outside of Paris.[5]

Martin Luther The third historical testimony is Martin Luther. What greater authority, aside from the Word, than the Reformer himself? So they think. In the year 1538, Luther said:

In the early church the Holy Spirit was sent forth in visible form. He descended upon Christ in the form of a dove (Matt. 3:16), and in the likeness of fire upon the apostles and other believers (Acts 2:3). This visible outpouring of the Holy Spirit was necessary to the establishment of the early church, as were also the miracles that accompanied the gift of the Holy Ghost. Paul explained the purpose of these miraculous gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 14:22, “Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not.” Once the church had been established and properly advertised by these miracles, the visible appearance of the Holy Ghost ceased.[6]

Luther totally changed his mind! Notice the line in “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” when he says, “The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth.” When the evidence is set beside Calvin, it makes Luther look like a John Wimber in the 1500s. The page numbers below in parentheses correspond to Thomas Boys’ The Suppressed Evidence.

  1. PROPHECY. Luther, in 1522, wrote to a friend named Lincke, and appears to have foreseen a war, either by a dream or vision. He said, “I seem to myself to see Germany swimming with blood…I certainly am of the opinion that I speak these things in the Spirit” (cp. of a strong persuasion, 1 Cor. 7:40). Three years later, this was fulfilled by the German Peasants’ War (182-183). On another occasion, Luther writes to a friend that one of his enemies, named Emser, had sinned a sin to the death, and that he would pray against him; soon after this, Emser died with convulsions, after going to a “splendid entertainment” with some rich and important person (186). Luther prophesied that a Franciscan monk movement would happen in many areas where the Reformation took place; and that people would go back to Catholicism and abandon the Gospel (189). Luther said, “It will be idolatry and the work of the devil.” He prophesied several times that this would happen in Germany after he would die; he also seems to have prophesied about the violence that Lutheran children would go through after they were fully grown. This is a possible prophecy of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) (191).
  1. HEALING. Once when Luther came down with a deadly illness, a group of people prayed for his healing, after all medical means proved useless. Luther said, “They prayed so hard for me to God, that the tears of many people proved successful on my behalf…God has already wrought a miracle on me this night, and does so still, through the intercession of good people” (193). Evidently Luther believed in practicing James 5:14-16. He appears to have suffered from migraine headaches; and on one occasion he thought he would die, because the pain in his head was so great. All medical means were used again, to no use. But his friend Pomeranus continued in “persevering intercession” for Luther’s healing, and he got better (195). On two occasions, Luther’s friend Friedrich Myconius (Mecum) was on his deathbed. On each occasion, he wrote a farewell letter to Luther, expecting to die. Luther wrote him back in friendly protest, and prophesied that he must die first, and then Mecum. Luther prayed for his recovery; and both times he was healed and continued to live, that is, of course, until one month after Luther died (196-199).

    Melanchthon was probably Luther’s best friend. He was on his deathbed, and his eyes were gazing off into space, and he could hardly breathe. When Luther saw him like this, he got angry at the devil, and began to pray fervently to God for his healing, looking out the window. Then, he grabbed his hand and said, “‘Be of good courage Philip, thou shalt not die. Though God wanteth not reason to slay thee, yet He willeth not the death of a sinner, but that he may be converted and live. He takes pleasure in life, and not in death. Inasmuch as God has called and taken back to His favour the greatest sinners that ever lived on earth, namely, Adam and Eve, much less, Philip, will He cast off thee, or suffer thee to perish in thy sin and sorrow. Wherefore give not place to the spirit of grief, nor become the slayer of thyself; but trust in the Lord, who is able to kill, and to make alive.’ While he thus utters these things, Philip begins as it were to revive and to breathe, and, gradually recovering his strength, is at last restored to health.” Melanchthon later wrote, “I should have been a dead man, had I not been recalled from death itself by the coming of Luther.” Melanchthon had apparently fallen into some grievous sin, for which Luther thought he had become so sick, and later wrote, “I fetched back Philip out of Hell” (202).

  1. DELIVERANCE. When praying, Luther saw an open vision of a demon (177). No visual description is given, but if Schongauer’s German woodcut of “The Temptation of St. Anthony” is in any way accurate, we may assume that he saw something like a hideous monster with warped, beastly features; and was most likely a spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7). It is also clear from Roland Bainton’s Here I Stand, that demons harassed Luther in Wartbug Castle. Seckendorf’s Historia Lutheranismi (1688)—written by a friend of Luther’s great-grandson (189)—gives two accounts of demon-possessed young women who Luther helped with prayer in the name of Jesus.

Sola Scriptura and the Authority of the Twelve Apostles

There seem to be two main ideas in the minds of Reformed cessationist preachers when it comes to the subject of miraculous gifts:

  1. Sola Scriptura, or the Reformation doctrine that the Bible alone is the only authority in all matters of faith and practice, and that all other authorities, or doctrines, must be subordinated or corrected by the Bible. To be more specific, it is the Lutheran view that the Bible alone is divinely authoritative, unquestioningly inspired by the Holy Spirit, and calls for unswerving faith and obedience to its commands; it also implies the sufficiency of Scripture to teach the way of salvation from Hell, the Christian life, and the way to Heaven. This sufficiency of Scripture means the Bible is perfect in every way, and hence not deficient: and so, no new revelations or traditions or papal pronouncements or modern theological developments, can in any way enhance our understanding of God’s will.[7]
  2. Miraculous Gifts Were Only Given to the Twelve Apostles to Prove Their Unique Authority to Write Scripture. That is, at least in the minds of some of the more hardline cessationist theologians:–one finds this idea that the only reason why miraculous gifts appear among the apostles, is because these gifts were God’s way of proving to mankind that the Twelve were given a special authority from God to write the Scriptures that would become the New Testament.

John MacArthurLest I be accused of setting up a straw man argument, or misrepresenting my opponents, I invite the reader to examine the views of B. B. Warfield,[8] John MacArthur,[9] Samuel Waldron,[10] and any other books by cessationists. Every one of them will have their own thoughts on things; but to be sure, I believe you will find the two ideas of “sola Scriptura” and “miracles were only for the twelve apostles” as two common themes that seem to undergird all of their other arguments.

In response to the first concern, sola Scriptura: I can agree with 90% of it as a charismatic Christian. Of course I believe the Bible is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16); it’s uniquely authoritative as the Word of God, and as such requires unquestioning faith and obedience to its commands. There is no doubt in my mind that the epistle to the Romans as well as many other portions of the Bible, are entirely sufficient to show the way of salvation from Hell and to train a Christian in righteousness. But where I think the Reformed or Lutheran view of this subject falls short, is when it removes any need for new revelations from the Holy Spirit in specific areas of the Christian life, areas where the Bible may be silent or unclear at first glance.

While I will admit the law of the Lord is perfect, and that it converts the soul (Psalm 19:7), I believe it is naïve to assume the Bible is perfectly understood by all people, of all ages, of all classes, and backgrounds, and that no new theological developments or research can enhance our understanding of the Bible as it is plainly written. I own that the revelation of the Bible is perfect and righteous in every way—morally, theologically—but when it comes to personal interpretation and application of what the Bible says—I say, a grounded conservative evangelical charismatic Christian, I think has the upper hand if he remains sensitive to new revelations (that is, from God to himself, which he might write down in a journal, but not even think of adding to Scripture itself), dreams, visions, and illuminations from the Holy Spirit regarding various teachings of the Bible, which he might have been otherwise foggy about. It is the Lutheran “sufficiency of Scripture” that I have a problem with, especially if it implies the cessation of miraculous gifts like prophecy, dreams, visions, and the voice of God. For this reason, I am more comfortable with the doctrine of prima Scriptura—that adhered to by Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Quakers, and Pentecostals—the view that the Bible is the primary authority in all matters of faith and conduct, but that our understanding of it, our interpretation and application of it, can be enhanced by church tradition (historical theologians like church fathers), reason, ordinary Christian experience, and even supernatural experiences that may come from miraculous gifts.

But the problem that cessationists have with prima Scriptura is that all of those other things—theologians, reason, experiences—are subject to imperfections and errors (although, strangely enough, Reformed Christianity is filled with theologians and books written by them). True, these secondary authorities are subject to error (and I’ll admit that for myself before anyone else gets to it first); but I would reply that in my mind, the Bible still remains the primary authority. And so if I am more diligent in my study of the Bible than in my study of all these other things, my spiritual discernment will get sharper and sharper to distinguish good from evil (Hebrews 5:14). But in the course of Bible study, if things become unclear, I think it is necessary to turn to theologians, reason, and personal experiences to fill in the gaps in my understanding. And this even opens the door to dreams, visions, and all supernatural experiences associated with prophecy.

Problem is, cessationists are perfectionists. They want total perfection—if not in sanctification—then at least in a knowledge of God’s truth. The Bible is that perfection. But for some, John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion or the Westminster Confession or the 1689 Baptist Confession is the perfection they seek. This theological perfectionism becomes a weapon of attack when they see charismatics attempting to share prophecies from dreams, visions, or words of knowledge—and the details of the prophecies do not occur exactly as understood or uttered. They are keen to point to Deuteronomy 18:20, 22:

A prophet who presumes to speak in My name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death…If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

Speaking in the name of other gods should be the furthest thing from any discussion on miraculous gifts. But I have surprisingly seen even this brought up in arguments between conservative evangelicals, conservative Pentecostals, and conservative Bible-believing charismatics—and this is just immature. In such a case, they all believe in the God of the Bible; they just have different views about some things. It’s nothing else than immature mud-slinging to accuse charismatics of speaking in the name of a god other than the Holy Trinity. However, experiential cults like the Mormons, which have produced their own “Scripture-level” revelations like The Book of Mormon, are definitely to be rebuked and resisted with evangelical fervor…and gospel grace. And since the Mormons are polytheistic, they do speak in the name of other gods. In Old Testament times, their founder Joseph Smith would have been stoned to death for his false prophetic heresies. As evangelical Christians, we should do our part to preach repentance, faith in the cross, and New Testament obedience to all people—including the Mormons.

When it comes to prophetic accuracy, the Reformed preachers feel that they have always got the winning argument against charismatic prophets. All they have to do is find one mistake, and immediately they can be labeled a false prophet according to Deuteronomy 18:22. But it’s not that simple. Why? 1 Corinthians 14 is why. This is often overlooked by them (or ignored). The apostle Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 14 to provide guidance for how to facilitate tongues and prophecy during a Sunday church service. In this chapter, he says the following in 14:26, 29-32:

When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built upTwo or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.

“Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said” (1 Cor. 14:29). This represents the New Testament attitude toward the gift of prophecy. Weighing carefully what is said, judging what is prophesied in a church service; and if necessary, providing negative feedback, with grace and love. It is totally okay to reject prophecies uttered in a church service. The gift of prophecy is a tricky thing to feel out sometimes: it doesn’t always come with absolute certainty: “we know in part and we prophesy in part…now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror” (1 Cor. 13:9, 12). I believe Paul is here referring to seeing partial, poor reflections of messages from Jesus through dream interpretation or symbolic visions, slow and hard to be understood;[11] or by impressions from the Holy Spirit, and how sometimes these are hard to distinguish from human emotions; or how internal voices from the Holy Spirit might be hard to separate from human thoughts. But sometimes such experiences can be very clear; and that is why prophesying is a valuable thing.

“If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed” (Deut. 18:22). I agree. Charismatic prophets can speak their own mind, thinking it was a word of knowledge, or the discerning of spirits; and all along, it was just their own opinion they formed by themselves—but it might have come up while they were in a prayer meeting, and then they thought it was a word from the Lord. This kind of stuff happens all the time in charismatic churches; but that’s no reason to stone people to death. That kind of Old Testament strictness was superseded by the grace of the gospel, and expressed in 1 Corinthians 14:29: “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.” Cessationists like John MacArthur may have a problem with this, saying that charismatics just prophesy conditional, unbinding, imperfect things, with cloudy uncertainty, prophecies that are “up for grabs” and do not carry with them any weight of authority. True, there is an “up for grabs” element with 1 Corinthians 14 prophecy, but hopefully mature prophets will prophesy good things that will be grabbed by church members who will be built up, warned, and comforted by truly supernatural prophecies from God! (1 Cor. 14:3).

Cessationists often wonder why only charismatics seem to hear God’s voice; and they usually ask this in a questioning and cynical way. The answer is quite simple: charismatics are the only Christians willing to have faith for prophecy today; and God converts non-charismatics into charismatics through supernatural experiences. So it ends up being that all the people hearing God’s voice today are charismatics, or become them; and are definitely not cessationists. Are you eager to prophesy? You should be (1 Cor. 14:1). Cessationists don’t hear God’s voice, because they don’t or won’t ask for it (James 4:2). And yet, they will accuse charismatics for spiritual pride and arrogance, because they seem to think they are better than cessationists because they get to experience dreams and visions from Christ, while everyone else just has to use the Bible. But this anger and frustration is not justifiable. It is because of their unbelief in miraculous gifts; and a stubborn idolatry of the Westminster Confession, or some Puritan writer, or something that keeps Reformed cessationists at the Bible-only level of spirituality:–if they would just trust God for new revelations from the Holy Spirit (not adding to nor taking away from Scripture, Rev. 22:18-19), then they too would have these mystical experiences.

Cessationists also quote Jude 1:3: Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” They think this means modern-day charismatic prophecies go against the idea of the once-for-all revelation of the Bible. But this is not so, except in the case of anti-Biblical cults. The epistle of Jude was written around 65 A.D., but the completed New Testament canon was not adopted until 393 A.D. Jude is talking about the Gospel, not the completed Bible. The context of Jude shows us that he was writing against antinomian teachers who were infecting the church with cheap grace ideas. Bible-believing charismatic prophets only practice prophecy in the framework of 1 Corinthians 14; they are not going to introduce anti-Biblical revelations. They too accept the once-for-all Biblical faith of the saints; it’s just that, unlike cessationists (who only believe what is written in the Bible), charismatics are eager for additional revelations from the Holy Spirit to build up, warn, and comfort in times of trouble or confusion or spiritual low points.[12]

Cessationists ask, “What’s the point of prophecy today? Why isn’t the Bible good enough for charismatics?” The reason is that “he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men” (1 Cor. 14:3, NKJV). The Holy Spirit can supernaturally speak to specific situations that only the Holy Spirit knows in the most intimate details of people’s lives: through the word of knowledge or wisdom or discerning of spirits. Sometimes the Holy Spirit can use the Bible to speak to specific circumstances; but in other cases, an additional word from the gift of prophecy is necessary. 1 Corinthians 14:24-25:

If an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

The closing of the canon of Scripture was very important. All evangelical Christians will admit that: as do Pentecostals and charismatics. The sixty-six books of the Bible are the authoritative rule for Christian faith and life. It took some time to get to this point though. For centuries since Augustine’s Council of Hippo (393 A.D.), the Catholic Bible included the Apocrypha; by the time of the 16th century Reformation, some of our Protestant Bibles still had the Apocrypha in it. It wasn’t until the Westminster Confession in 1646 that the Apocrypha was finally excluded from the canon of the Protestant Bible, in chapter 1, part 3:

The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.

Only the most extreme cults preach an open canon (e.g., the Mormons). To say the canon is open, would be along the same lines as saying the Apocrypha is equally inspired by God and is just as authoritative as the rest of the Bible. Some cessationists, like Samuel Waldron, insist that if charismatics are claiming new revelations from the Holy Spirit in dreams, visions, and words of knowledge—then it necessitates an open canon for them. In other words, if charismatics believe God still supernaturally speaks today, then they must also believe that their revelations could be added to the Holy Bible! This is ludicrous. Charismatics Michael Brown and Matt Slick both debated Waldron on this point[13] and emphatically denied that any such notion is held by charismatics today. Assemblies of God, the world’s largest Pentecostal denomination, denies the notion plainly:

We therefore understand the Bible to be the very Word of God in that God Himself revealed His will and purposes to chosen writers (Amos 3:8) who faithfully and precisely recorded what had been revealed to them for eventual and providential inclusion in our canon of sixty-six books…the Scriptures are not simply one authority among others; they are the final authority.[14]

John WimberThe Association of Vineyard Churches, founded by John Wimber, is the largest charismatic denomination, and makes the following statement:

The Bible is a collection of 66 books…The Old Testament books were written between 1400 B.C. and 430 B.C. These books were compiled into a collection called the “canon” about 300 years before the birth of Christ. The New Testament was written between 40 A.D. and 90 A.D. The early church recognized these writings as “Scripture” but they were not collected into an official canon until the 4th century.[15]

Most Pentecostals and charismatics today would identify entirely with these statements about the canon of Scripture by the Assemblies of God and the Vineyard. In no way is there any room for adding to the Bible or an open canon, as Waldron so emphatically asserts. Yes, Pentecostals and charismatics believe in miraculous gifts; yes, they believe that supernatural prophecies, dreams, visions, and words of knowledge are for today. In 1 Corinthians 14 and Acts 19:6-7, Christians are referred to as prophesying under the influence of the Holy Spirit, but no such idea is even remotely suggested about their prophecies being recorded into books, added to the New Testament Scriptures, or canonized. The purpose these prophecies served were personal, private, localized, and not meant to be shared with or binding on the entire body of Christ in all ages.

The same could be said of Paul’s vision in 2 Corinthians 12:1-4, where he briefly mentioned an out-of-body vision of Heaven, but refuses to go into any more detail about it. That is because the details of that vision were just meant for him; and were not meant to be part of the canon of Scripture. This is the level of prophecy that Pentecostals and charismatics will allow for today (they will either just remember or journal their revelations for personal inspiration or guidance); and all of these new revelations, often of a private or localized nature for a small church, are always received as subservient to the judgment of the canon of Scripture, which they understand to be the sixty-six books of the Bible (Isa. 8:20). The mystical theologians of the Catholic Church, which have had no problem with miraculous gifts, called these “private revelations,”[16] as opposed to the “universal revelation” of the Bible.

To Waldron, the cessation of apostles is central to his conclusion that there are no more prophets or healers or miracle workers in the church today. This is based on his interpretation of Ephesians 4:11-13 (something I don’t find very convincing). But towards the end of his debate with Matt Slick, he admitted that John Knox and Charles Spurgeon accurately prophesied the future and gave words of knowledge! But because neither of them claimed the title of “prophet,” these supernatural gifts were of no consequence! The tremendous inconsistency of his argument was revealed, by the fact that he seemed to be straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel (Matt. 23:24), over the subject of Biblical canonicity and authority and apostolicity, and forcing his conclusion that miraculous gifts have to be tied up with all of these things; and that therefore, miraculous gifts have ceased because the canon is closed and the twelve apostles are dead. Yet, he ignores or downplays the miraculous gifts that have occurred among Protestant reformers and revivalists, even when confronted with it (and even after acknowledging it)!

The closing of the Biblical canon is something I can admit 100% along with Waldron. But the cessation of apostles is still an open question for me. I think there could have been some post-Biblical apostles in church history and maybe even some in the recent past. The original apostles of Christ, also known as “the Twelve,” were a special group of missionaries that were eyewitnesses of the entire earthly ministry of Jesus, from the time He was baptized by John the Baptist, until the time He ascended into Heaven (Acts 1:21-22). During a prayer meeting among the eleven apostles without Judas Iscariot, they cast lots, and Matthias was chosen to take Judas’ place (1:26). These twelve were the following apostles (1:13):

  1. Peter
  2. John
  3. James
  4. Andrew
  5. Philip
  6. Thomas
  7. Bartholomew
  8. Matthew
  9. James son of Alphaeus
  10. Simon the Zealot
  11. Judas son of James
  12. Matthias

These twelve men carried with them a special sense of spiritual authority, because they had been with Jesus physically the entire time of His earthly ministry. They had all seen His resurrection and ascension into Heaven. The faith and the revelation they carried with them had a special touch of God on it, much more so than normal Christians. According to Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, all of them, except for John, suffered martyrdom for their faith in Christ, so convinced they were of His deity and Gospel.

Warfield Cessationists claim that only the Twelve received miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. Although there are variations of this opinion among cessationists, this seems to be a very popular idea among them. In 1918, B. B. Warfield said the miraculous gifts were

distinctly for the authentication of the Apostles. They were part of the credentials of the Apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confined them to distinctively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed away with it.[17]

They like to point to the fact that the church was “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20), as if this meant miraculous gifts were only intended for the Old Testament prophets and the Twelve, in order that the founding of the Christian Church might be possible. But the context of Ephesians 2 suggests nothing about miraculous gifts in point of reference to the founding of the church. The chapter is speaking about salvation, the Gospel, and how both Jews and Gentiles can be considered members of the body of Christ. The miraculous gifts are not in the chapter; much less anything about them only being temporary for the founding of the early church! Reformed theologians should know better than to use such poor hermeneutics, quoting a verse like this out of context, just to prove a cessationist idea. Warfield, however, in the context of the quote from above, provides absolutely NO BIBLICAL PROOF TEXTS to support his assertions! And that is simply because Warfield’s idea is wrong.

The Bible provides plenty of examples of Christians experiencing miraculous gifts:—people who were not in the list of the original twelve apostles. This totally contradicts Warfield’s idea that the miraculous gifts “were part of the credentials of the Apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church”; and that the miraculous gifts must have “passed away” with the deaths of the Twelve. NEVER does Jesus or anyone in the Bible claim that the ultimate purpose of miraculous gifts is only to prove someone’s ministry. However, they can be used as a credential, as when Paul—an apostle who was appointed by the Spirit of Jesus, and was not one of the Twelve—said the following: “I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles” (2 Cor. 12:12). Or even when Philip questioned Jesus’ deity, and He replied, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves” (John 14:11). But ministry authentication is not the main (or the only) reason for miraculous gifts.

The main Biblical reasons for prophecy are these:

  1. Convincing unbelievers of the reality of God (1 Cor. 14:24-25).
  1. Strengthening the faith of the church (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:26).
  1. Encouraging, exhorting (urging or warning), and comforting Christians (1 Cor. 14:3-4).

The main Biblical reasons for miracles are these:

  1. Compassion for the sick (Matt. 14:14).
  1. Glorifying Jesus (John 11:4; Acts 3:12-13).
  1. Faith for miraculous healing (Acts 14:8-10).
  1. The command to pray for miraculous healing (James 5:14-16).
  1. Persevering prayer for miraculous healing (Mark 7:32).
  1. Removing hindrances to ministry (Mark 1:31).
  1. Teaching lessons about faith (Matt. 21:18-22).
  1. Bringing people to salvation (Acts 8:6; 9:42).[18]

I can find no justification for why these reasons behind the miraculous gifts of 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and ch. 14 should have passed away. It is obvious that right now in the 21st century, as in all past centuries, that unbelievers need some convincing; and that Christians need revival, and a strengthening of their faith; and that there are times when they need encouraging, warning, and comforting.

In the Bible, there are plenty of non-apostles using miraculous gifts:

  1. The Seventy (Luke 10:1, 9).
  1. Stephen (Acts 6:8).
  1. Philip the Evangelist (non-apostle) (Acts 8:6).
  1. Philip’s four daughters (Acts 21:9).
  1. Paul (not one of the Twelve) (Acts 13:9-12).
  1. Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21:10-11).
  1. Ananias (Acts 9:10-18).
  1. An anonymous exorcist (Mark 9:38-39).
  1. The church of Corinth (1 Cor. 1:7; 12:8-10; 14:26).
  1. The church of Galatia (Gal. 3:5).
  1. The church of Ephesus (Eph. 4:11).
  1. The church of Rome (Rom. 12:6).
  1. The church of Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:20).
  1. The church of Antioch (Acts 13:1).
  1. Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32).
  1. The disciples at Tyre (Acts 21:4).
  1. Timothy (1 Tim. 4:14).

Why were all of these non-apostles prophesying, performing miracles, signs, wonders, healings, and exorcisms? These people were not the twelve apostles. These are extra disciples; and some of them were even anonymous. Why is this? I can tell you why. Warfield’s idea is wrong! Miraculous gifts were not given merely for the authentication of the twelve apostles. These gifts were given to authenticate the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:20); and they were (and still are) given to believing charismatic Christians straight from the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of convincing unbelievers and strengthening the faith of Christians. Even if the Twelve never existed, the Holy Spirit has and always will exist, and will give out miraculous gifts, just as He determines (1 Cor. 12:11).

Acts 2:17: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” This can’t only mean the first century (or the second century). The text clearly says prophecy through dreams and visions—supernatural experiences—will continue until THE LAST DAYS. All reliable theologians acknowledge the entire Church Age to count as the last days of world history: a period of time which will end when Jesus returns to set up His earthly kingdom. I can find no conclusion from this text other than the continuation of miraculous gifts until the return of Christ. We have this expressed again in 1 Corinthians 1:7: “You do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.” It is then, and only then, that prophecies will cease, speaking in tongues will be stilled, and words of knowledge will pass away (1 Cor. 13:8). To teach the cessation of miraculous gifts for right now is equivalent to saying Jesus has already come back; and Paul emphatically warned against this in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2:

Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to Him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come.

So where does that lead us as we think about miraculous gifts in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh centuries? What about the eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries? Were there miraculous gifts in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth centuries? Have we ignored, downplayed, or explained away with too much skepticism any miraculous gifts that may have occurred in the lives of Protestant saints? What about the biographies of saints in the eighteenth, nineteenth, and even twentieth centuries? What about the twenty-first century? What about RIGHT NOW?

A man named Jacobus de Voragine compiled a large book in 1260 called The Golden Legend. It became a bestseller as reading books became more popular in Europe. It compiled “lives” of Catholic saints from the first century all the way up to the twelfth century; and there is a strong emphasis on miraculous gifts in these mini-biographies. Unfortunately, from a Protestant viewpoint, there are many instances of praying to the dead, to Mary, and extreme medieval asceticism. But I still think it might be a good example of charismatic hagiography; and useful for the study of miraculous gifts; and how they can operate in a Christian’s life. Over time, however, although the Legend was read for devotion at first, it eventually came to popularize the use of the word “legend” as a pejorative word for folklore or myth. The word “legend” used to just mean a “reading,” but over time, due to skepticism and unbelief, Jacobus’ Legend came to mean just that to many: a collection of Catholic legends that are just unreliable, outrageous, and unbelievable. Warfield expresses this attitude. But Jacobus didn’t think that way about it; he saw himself as simply doing what Luke did when he wrote the book of Acts: recalling stories of saints and their experiences with miraculous gifts. If people have a problem believing in these miracle stories, it’s their fault, not the author’s fault, and not the stories’ fault. These were meant to be TESTIMONIES of SAINTS; and not just Catholic myths meant to entertain children.         

Jacobus told the stories of many saints: many of which contained no miracle stories, just experiences about living a holy life. Those he mentions with notable miraculous gifts, however, were St. Anthony (d. 356), St. Patrick (d. 492), St. Benedict (d. 543), and St. Francis of Assisi (d. 1226). In addition to Jacobus’ Legend, there were also individual biographies written about these saints, which go into greater detail about the miraculous gifts they experienced. A trend developed to call these by the “life of”:–Athanasius’ The Life of Antony, Muirchu’s The Life of Saint Patrick, Gregory the Great’s Life and Miracles of St. Benedict (many of which repeat the Biblical miracles of Elisha and Jesus), and Bonaventure’s Life of St. Francis (which is jam-packed with stories of miraculous gifts). Catholic hagiography continued after the 1200s, but it seemed to become more skeptical of miraculous accounts; and emphasized the ethical lessons of the saints, as in Alban Butler’s Lives of the Saints (1759).

It has long been a tradition among Protestant charismatic theologians to look to theological teaching literature from the early church fathers, or some other men of God in church history, in order to find evidence for miraculous gifts in the past (for example, Thomas Boys’ The Suppressed Evidence and Ronald Kydd’s Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church); and I’m all for this, but I think one of the weak points in this approach is that there is not enough information communicated about how exactly the miraculous gifts have operated through people’s lives in the past. I believe the narrative literature of hagiographies, or the lives of the saints, is where we will find the strongest evidence for continuationism (or the continuation of miraculous gifts throughout church history).

This approach is, in effect, picking up where the book of Acts left off, and continues to trace the historical flow of miraculous gifts, as they have traveled throughout various countries, and through the centuries. John Howie’s The Scots Worthies is the closest thing I know of that resembles a Protestant Reformation Golden Legend: it covers John Knox and the Covenanters; The Journal of George Fox (8 vols.) will likely have many examples of miraculous gifts in the 1600s, as will his Book of Miracles; The Journal of John Wesley has many miraculous gifts recounted in it (for a distilled version, see Daniel Jennings’ The Supernatural Occurrences of John Wesley); and for the 1800s, see also The Supernatural Occurrences of Charles G. Finney; for the 1900s, see Frank Bartleman’s Azusa Street and Stanley Frodsham’s Smith Wigglesworth: Apostle of Faith.

I am personally of the opinion (not that I would bind this on the consciences of all Christians) that apostles and prophets—holy saints with miraculous gifts—have indeed continued throughout church history. I don’t mean this in the institutional sense as some churches understand the phrase “apostolic succession,” but only in a spiritual, mystical, moral, and functional sense, in the lives of certain saints. Ephesians 4:11: “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.” Evangelicals have no problem with having pastors and teachers, and even evangelists in their churches; but apostles and prophets have been out of the question. This is wrapped up in the cessationist idea that miraculous gifts ceased with the deaths of the twelve apostles and prophets of the first century church. But I can find nowhere in the context of Ephesians 4 that suggests the ministries of apostles and prophets ceased in the early church, or that they were only meant to be temporary, transitional ministries: there is no explicit statement, much less two or three other Biblical witnesses, that confirm this idea (Deut. 19:15). Most evangelical theologians will say that you need at least two or three Scriptures saying the same thing in order to establish a doctrine, because Scripture interprets Scripture; and yet, there is NOT ONE BIBLE VERSE that implies the apostolic and prophetic ministries were supposed to cease in the first century.

So what does this mean? For some churches, such as the Assemblies of God, it means that their missionaries are apostles.[19] For me, it could mean an apostle is a missionary, but it would more accurately mean that an apostle is “one sent” directly and prophetically by Jesus, who lives in a manner similar to the apostle Paul.[20] I believe the apostle Paul is a perfect example of what I am arguing for here. This doesn’t mean I believe like some of the flaky Pentecostal churches do, where they go overboard with prosperity theology, or an authoritarian “spiritual authority” and “covering” power trip, or they declare themselves to be an elite class of end-times saints (Joel’s Army), and use grandiose titles like “Rev. Dr. Apostle Prophet Bob Smith.” Jesus was against titles; and such ministry titles are Pharisaical, silly, and arrogant (Matt. 23:8). I think that sounds more like the false apostles who masquerade as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-15). But Paul was considered a true apostle; and PAUL WAS NOT ONE OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES. To me, this proves the apostolic ministry continued outside the circle of the Twelve. The characteristics of an apostle like Paul would seem to be the following:

  1. Galatians 1. An apostle is directly sent by Jesus, through a vision, dream, or other such prophetic experience (1:1, 12). He has received a revelation about the Gospel of lordship salvation (1:4); and he does not receive his preaching ordination from men, but only directly from God (1:17-20).
  1. 1 Corinthians 4. An apostle suffers so much that he feels he has been given the death penalty; and made a spectacle of suffering to both men and angels (4:9). They are made to look like fools for Christ, because of their walk of faith, and desire to be guided by the Holy Spirit in their decisions (4:10). They are hated; they suffer hunger, thirst, poor clothing, beatings, and homelessness (4:10-11); they do manual labor; they are made fun of and are persecuted (4:12); and their reputations are defamed by slanderous lies (4:13).
  1. 1 Corinthians 9. An apostle has seen Jesus at least once in a vision or dream (9:1). He may not be viewed as an apostle by all Christians, but he will be to those who have been blessed by his influence and ministry (9:2). He can be married (9:5); and can quit work and live off of ministry donations (9:6-11); but he also realizes that living 100% from ministry donations is likely going to hinder people from receiving the Gospel (9:12): but not in all cases (9:13-14). The overall sense that apostles feel is that preaching the Gospel should be free of charge (9:15-18), because there is more reward in that; and its considered an abuse to charge money for preaching the Gospel. Apostles are interracial in their ministry scope (9:20-23); and they make quality friendships with the poor (“the weak”) so they can be saved (9:22). They understand conditional security, so they discipline their lives, and embrace their sufferings as from God (9:27).
  1. 2 Corinthians 12:12. They exhibit all of “the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles.”

In Reformed Christianity, there is only one kind of apostolic ministry: that which belonged to the original Twelve.

In Catholicism, there has always been an openness to call some of the Catholic saints “apostles,” such as St. Patrick, who is called “the Apostle of Ireland.”

In Pentecostalism, the use of the word “apostle” seems to have carried over from the Catholic use. In fact, the Azusa Street Revival of 1906-1909, was pastored by William J. Seymour at the Apostolic Faith Gospel Mission. Some of the early Pentecostals (and some groups today) still call themselves by the name “Apostolic.” The reason is they are trying to pattern their lives off of the book of Acts; and they can see the link between apostles and miracles.

However, the level of inspiration, authority, and miraculous power of modern-day apostles, or apostles in church history, such as Catholic saints and Protestant revivalists:–appears to have been much weaker than we see in the Twelve. Or is that wrong? Perhaps it depends on which saints you are referring to. I’ve read the lives of saints Columba, Benedict, and Francis of Assisi—and I have to say, it appears they experienced an equal or even surpassing amount of miraculous gifts than the twelve apostles. Reformed Christians, like Warfield, dismiss these hagiographies as superstitious and blasphemous Catholic legends. But the examples of holiness that permeate these stories makes it too hard for me to dismiss their miraculous elements.

Where I would draw the line between the twelve apostles and the Catholic saints is on the point of AUTHORITY. In some cases, it seems their divine inspiration and miracle working were equal in power or “anointing,” as Pentecostals say. But on the level of authority, I have to side with the twelve apostles alone, because they were with Jesus during His earthly ministry (Acts 1:21-22); and in the case of the apostle Paul, he was at least approved of by the twelve apostles later on, even if reluctantly (Acts 9:26-30). This was the rationale for all the men of God in past ages for why the canon of Scripture was compiled the way it was: all of the New Testament writings had to be written by someone who was in some way connected with the original twelve apostles. (And personally, I think Paul wrote Hebrews.) 2 Timothy 3:16: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” That’s an authority that no Catholic or Protestant saint can claim on me, no matter how anointed with miraculous gifts. I don’t care how holy, miraculous, or inspiring the life of a saint is to read: their hagiographies are not Scripture. Only the Bible is authoritative enough to be Scripture. Lives of saints, as stories, may have the touch of God on them, the influence of the Holy Spirit; but nothing is on the level of 2 Timothy 3:16 except for the sixty-six books of the Holy Bible.

So, in saying that I believe miraculous gifts (and even apostles, in a less authoritative sense) have existed throughout church history—I am in no way contradicting the absolute authority of the Bible. I refuse to accept any charismatic book under the name of “Scripture.”

The “Seek Not, Forbid Not” View:
A Watered-Down Pentecostalism

A. W. Tozer

The Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) is the traditional proponent of this view; a modern proponent would be Calvary Chapel. This is the “almost charismatic” attitude toward miraculous gifts; or the “open but cautious” view. And it basically takes a complacent or dispassionate view towards miraculous gifts. It is well aware of the abuses of miraculous gifts among various Pentecostal evangelists and seeks to distance itself from such abuses, using words like “charismania”; in the days of John Wesley, the words “enthusiasm” and “fanatic” were used to describe people who were too charismatic; so, this spirit is nothing new. But a preoccupation with such abuses is not sufficient. Paul corrects the abuse of miraculous gifts in 1 Corinthians 13, and makes it easy enough to understand: use these gifts with LOVE. Then he spends the entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 14 giving detailed information about how to facilitate and evaluate prophecy and tongues in church services. 

THE FEAR OF MIRACULOUS GIFTS is unlikely to actually enable these gifts a prominent place in your life for guidance, encouragement, and comfort (1 Cor. 14:3). Jesus says “fear not” several times in the Bible (Matt. 14:27). If we ask our Father for bread, He will not give us a stone (Matt. 7:9). We will not receive counterfeit gifts from Satan so long as we are living and believing in lordship salvation. And if Satan and his minions try to give us dreams and visions (which many of them do already), we should have the wisdom to say, “That’s not of God,” especially if we continue to read our Bibles.

1 Corinthians 14:5: “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.”

1 Corinthians 14:18: “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.”

1 Corinthians 14:4: “He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself.”

1 Corinthians 12:31: “Eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

1 Corinthians 14:1: “Eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.”

1 Corinthians 14:39: “Be eager to prophesy.”

There is no way around these Scriptures! Some are COMMANDMENTS; they have to be obeyed, whether you like them or not! This is not an Assemblies of God thing, nor a Vineyard thing, nor a denominational thing; this is THE BIBLE. You may say, “But so many people speak in tongues; and have no love and holiness,” but I say, “Well, why don’t you be the one to do it!” Some quote, “Do all speak with tongues?” (1 Cor. 12:30), as if this meant, “Oh, speaking in tongues is optional; I don’t have to speak in tongues.” No, that’s not what it means, because Paul says in 14:5, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues.” The truth is 12:30 is referring to Christians who don’t speak in tongues, because they don’t want to speak in tongues. But it’s a commandment; it’s an apostolic preference, a desire that the apostle Paul expressed! DO IT! “Oh, well, speaking in tongues is just not for me.” Really? Not your style? Too uncivilized for you? Paul didn’t think so. Cast this devil of unbelief out of you! Refuse to put on airs of pride and respectability; let yourself go and pray in the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:15). He who humbles himself will be exalted in the Spirit (Matt. 23:12). Do you imagine Jesus as a respectable American church man? What about when Jesus confronted the Pharisees by yelling at them in public (Matt. 23); or when He spit and put mud on a blind man’s eyes to heal him? (John 9:6). Respectability…give me a break! Jesus was totally radical: and we should feel free to be that way too.

The Christian and Missionary Alliance says:

Speaking in tongues is a valid gift for today. However, in the public ministry setting, the gift of tongues must have someone to interpret for it to be profitable for strengthening the body. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two–or at the most three–should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God (1 Cor. 14:27-28). This would indicate that if there is no interpreter present, tongues should be used in a personal prayer to God for which no interpretation is necessary. This, of course, is also of value to the individual believer’s edification and ultimately for the edification of the church and must not be considered a lesser gift…

Our expectancy should be that God will meet His people in a powerful way. However, it would be equally dangerous to demand a specific agenda or manifestation in that moment. Again, we should come to the Lord with great expectation, while seeking to free ourselves from human agendas or motives…Regardless of the gifts or manifestations a believer may experience, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, as described in Galatians 5:22-23 is the primary evidence of the Spirit-filled life…Rather than demanding a single gift or manifestation as the evidence of the filling of the Holy Spirit, we ought to gratefully embrace all the gifts, manifestations and fruit that the Lord desires to bring into our lives.[21]

This statement is technically Biblical and I can’t argue with it necessarily. But their choice of phraseology also shows their attitude about speaking in tongues in general: they don’t like it and it’s not their style. There would be opposition to charismatic praise and worship where people close their eyes, feel God’s presence, raise their hands, and speak in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance (Acts 2:4). I was part of a CMA church and I know; their attitude towards miraculous gifts is pretty dry and complacent, like the Reformed crowd; and one elder who had been in that church for 30 years was even stubbornly resistant to me about this, quoting J. Vernon McGee all the way. Don’t be misled by the CMA’s statement on spiritual gifts:–what they say with their lips, they do not generally seem to believe in their hearts, or eagerly welcome in their church practice. WE SHOULD BE PASSIONATE, EAGER, AND ON FIRE FOR THE MIRACULOUS GIFTS! But the CMA dawdles away in a clumsy reluctance and lukewarmness when it comes to this. Sure, there could be some exceptions: maybe a few charismatic CMA missionaries. But there is no way the CMA is as charismatic as the Vineyard is, or how the non-denominational charismatic churches are, which practice “prophetic ministry.”

The CMA has a theoretical view of miraculous gifts, but they do not have a pro-active attitude about eagerly developing these gifts in the lives of believers, which is tragic. This position has been called “seek not, forbid not,” a phrase coined by A. W. Tozer[22] in 1963: which means, “Sure, if you want to speak in tongues, go ahead, but just keep it to yourself. Sure, okay, you have dreams and visions, gee that’s nice…just don’t share them with the church…I mean theoretically that could happen, but last time I checked, you’re not one of the twelve apostles!” So there is a lot of doubt and skepticism; and no exercise of miraculous gifts in CMA church services: miraculous gifts are usually discouraged, explained away, and scoffed at. The CMA view of miraculous gifts exists pretty much only in their statement of faith; but you will not see very many miracles in their churches or in the personal lives of their church members. I’m afraid the same could be also said about Assemblies of God, which is a more tragic situation, because they have had Donald Gee, Harold Horton, and Smith Wigglesworth as teachers; and yet, where’s the power of God today in their churches? Let’s be different. Cessationism is a lie; but this “seek not, forbid not” attitude is skeptical, and ungodly, and un-Biblical. Let’s do what Paul said and “eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” (1 Cor. 14:1).

In a way I’m sorry if what I’ve said here about the CMA has come off too harshly, but I have no tolerance for a dispassionate approach to miraculous gifts; and what I find even more offensive is the idea of focusing on the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) instead of the miraculous gifts (1 Cor. 12:8-10). THE HOLY SPIRIT ISN’T DIVIDED!

Jack Deere, a leading charismatic theologian today, said:

I frequently hear leaders say, “I am open to the gifts of the Spirit and to God doing healing miracles.” Often people say this as though they think there is something noble about being “open.” However, being open doesn’t count very much with God. A person who is simply open is still a person who does not yet believe…It is not being open that gets blessing from God, it is believing and pursuing what He promised…I am sure in most cases it is better than being hostile, but a state of openness is not going to cause us to advance in spiritual things. Paul did not tell us to be open to the spiritual gifts; he told us to pursue them diligently (1 Cor. 12:31; 14:1, 39).[23]

In the next five chapters, I am going to take the reader down a Biblical and theological path which will hopefully, if mixed with faith, lead to that same reader having experiences with prophecy, speaking in tongues, healing, casting out demons, and maybe even working nature miracles (1 Cor. 12:8-10). But none of these things, I can assure you, will be possible without taking the first step: a step of faith into the gift of prophecy. This means a willingness to admit the following:

Heavenly Father, I reject all cessationist ideas. I ask that You would speak to me by the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus, through visions and dreams: just like the prophets and apostles in the Bible. Help me to trust in the Bible and the Holy Spirit more than the Westminster Confession or any traditions. And help me to grow in revelation!

—–

[1] Jeff Doles’ Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church; Ronald Kydd’s Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church.

[2] A “cessationist” is a Christian, usually of a Reformed persuasion, who believes in cessationism, or the cessation of the miraculous gifts. Although expressed in various ways, it usually means that with the death of the apostle John—the last of the Twelve—around the year 100 A.D., the miraculous gifts ceased, stopped, went extinct, or disappeared from the church forever, never to return again.

[3] Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 6.10.

[4] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.19.6.

[5] Thomas Boys, The Suppressed Evidence: or, Proofs of the Miraculous Faith and Experience of the Church of Christ in All Ages (London: Hamilton, Adams, and Co., 1832), p. 125.

[6] Martin Luther, Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, 4.6.

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sola_scriptura#Characteristics_in_
Lutheranism
. Louis Berkhof, the Reformed theologian, does not define it this way. His view is that the Reformers saw Scripture as sufficient in its authority over the Christian life; and that no charismatic revelations could rightly claim an equal authority [Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 168]. However, it seems that the popular opinion among Reformed Christians today, takes an anti-charismatic view: that the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture implies that all the divine revelation that will ever be given has now been compacted into the Bible; and that there are no true charismatic revelations given by the Holy Spirit anymore. As we have already seen, this view was not shared by Martin Luther and John Calvin: at least not consistently for all of their lives. Wayne Grudem rightly observes: “The sufficiency of Scripture does not mean that God will not give additional specific directions to individual persons for them to obey (such as a calling to serve in a certain church, or a calling to the mission field, etc.)” [The Gift of Prophecy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), p. 257].

[8] Counterfeit Miracles.

[9] Charismatic Chaos and Strange Fire.

[10] To Be Continued?: Are the Miraculous Gifts for Today?

[11] On 1 Corinthians 13:12, Adam Clarke said: “Possibly the true meaning of the words, through a glass darkly (KJV), may be found among the Jewish writers, who use a similar term to express nearly the same thing to which the apostle refers. A revelation of the will of God, in clear and express terms, is called by them aspecularia maira, a clear or lucid glass, or specular…used by the ancients for windows instead of glass. An obscure prophecy they termed…”a specular which is not clear.”…Numbers 12:6: If there be a prophet—I the Lord will make Myself known unto him in a vision, and I will speak unto him in a dream; Rab. Tanchum thus explains: “My Shechinah shall not be revealed to him…in a lucid specular, but only in a dream and a vision.”…From a great variety of examples produced by Schoettgen it appears that the rabbins make a great deal of difference between seeing through the lucid glass or specular, and seeing through the obscure one. The first is attributed only to Moses, who conversed with God face to face, i.e. through the lucid specular; and between the other prophets, who saw Him in dreams and visions, i.e. through the obscure specular. In these distinctions and sayings of the ancient Jews we must seek for that to which the apostle alludes.”

[12] Take, for example, David Wilkerson’s The Vision (1973). Many charismatics, myself included, believe that it accurately prophesies about many spiritual, moral, and economic calamities that have developed in America in the past 40 years. Knowing that God is in control despite all of these happenings is an encouraging element in this prophecy. But no charismatic would DARE to think of adding The Vision to the canon of Scripture!

[13] YouTube debates: “Have the New Testament Charismatic Gifts Ceased?” and “Does the Bible Teach That the Charismatic Gifts Are For Today?”

[14] Assemblies of God’s Position Paper: “The Inspiration, Inerrancy, and Authority of Scripture,” pp. 1, 6.

[15] “What Does the Vineyard Believe About the Bible?,” p. 2.

[16] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13005a.htm

[17] B. B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1972), p. 6.

[18] Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993), ch. 9: “Why Does God Heal?”; ch. 10: “Why God Gives Miraculous Gifts”; Appendix A: “Other Reasons Why God Heals & Works Miracles”; Appendix B: “Did Miraculous Gifts Cease With the Apostles?” Note: I do not agree with Deere’s past association with “manifest sons of God” or “Joel’s Army” teachings, nor his endorsements of the ministries of Paul Cain and Bob Jones.

[19] Assemblies of God’s Position Paper: “Apostles and Prophets,” p. 11.

[20] The Greek word apostolos means “one sent,” with a message, or with orders from a higher authority (Strong’s Gk. #652).

[21] https://www.cmalliance.org/about/beliefs/perspectives/spiritual-gifts

[22] Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997), p. 147.

[23] Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, pp. 154-155.

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About John Boruff

John Boruff is the founder of WesleyGospel.com, a husband, father, and sometimes an open air preacher. He graduated from UNC Pembroke in 2008 with a B.A. in Philosophy and Religion and views himself as a Baptistic Pentecostal. As a Christian, he feels connected with all members of the body of Christ, but can identify the most with churches like the Assemblies of God and the Vineyard. In 2015, he released "The Gospel of Jesus Christ," which is meant to be a Bible study for open air preaching. For his other writings, search articles on this site or see the E-Books section.
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2 Responses to Debunking Cessationism: A Cesspool of Deformed Theology – John Boruff

  1. Theodore says:

    Its really hard to grasp how anyone can defend Cessasionism scripturally. it was a great shock to me when i heard of this doctrine after i joined a baptist church a few years back.

    • John Boruff says:

      My reaction was exactly the same when I first encountered Baptists in 2005. I was like what the heck. How can these people say they believe in the Bible and then come around saying miracles are not for today? Sounds kind of crazy when you think about it.

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