The Gospel Coalition

I am not writing on this topic because I have the final answer on spiritual gifts, for the matter is difficult and Christians who love God and the Bible disagree. Readers should know that Sam Storms and I are friends. We love one another, even though we differ on a secondary or tertiary issue, while at the same time upholding the importance of truth. Over the years I've become convinced that some of the so-called charismatic gifts are no longer given and that they aren't a regular feature of life in the church. I am thinking particularly of the the gifts of apostleship, prophecy, tongues, healing, and miracles (and perhaps discernment of spirits).


Why would anyone think that some of the gifts have been withdrawn? I will argue that such a reading fits best with Scripture and experience. Scripture takes priority over experience, for it is the final authority, but Scripture must also correlate with life, and our experiences should provoke us to re-examine afresh whether we've read the Bible rightly. None of us reads the Bible in a vacuum, and hence we must return to the Scriptures repeatedly to ensure we've read them faithfully.

Foundation of the Apostles and Prophets


Paul says the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets" (Eph. 2:20). I conclude that all we need to know for salvation and sanctification has been given to us through the teaching of the apostles and prophets, and that this teaching is now found in the Scriptures. Now that God has spoken in the last days through his Son (Heb. 1:2), we don't need further words from him to explain what Jesus Christ has accomplished in his ministry, death, and resurrection. Instead, we are "to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all" through the apostles and prophets (Jude 3).

To put it another way, we don't have apostles like Paul and Peter and John anymore. They gave us the authoritative teaching by which the church continues to live to this day, and that is the only teaching we will need until Jesus returns. We know that new apostles won't appear since Paul specifically says he was the last apostle (1 Cor. 15:8). And when James the brother of John died (Acts 12:2), he wasn't replaced. Apostles, in the technical sense, are restricted to those who have seen the risen Lord and have been commissioned by him, and no one since apostolic times fits such criteria. The apostles were uniquely appointed for the early days of the church to establish orthodox doctrine. There is no warrant, then, for saying there are still apostles today. Indeed, if anyone claims to be an apostle today we should be concerned, for such a claim opens the door to false teaching and to abuse of authority.



If the gift of apostleship has ended, then other gifts may have ceased as well, since the foundation has been laid by the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2:20). I conclude from this point that the gift of prophecy has ended also, for the prophets identified here are the same sort mentioned elsewhere (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 3:5; 4:11). The early churches didn't have the complete canon of Scripture for some time, and hence an authoritative and infallible prophetic ministry was needed to lay the foundation for the church in those early days.

The most significant biblical argument against what I'm saying is the claim that New Testament (NT) prophecy differs from Old Testament (OT) prophecy, for some say OT prophecy is flawless but NT prophecy is mixed with error. But the idea that NT prophets could make mistakes isn't persuasive for several reasons. 1.) The burden of proof is on those who say prophecy in the NT is of a different nature than prophecy in the OT. Prophets in the OT were only considered prophets of God if they were infallible (Deut. 18:15-22), and the same is almost certainly true in the NT. 2.) The admonition to judge prophecies instead of prophets (1 Cor. 14:29-32; 1 Thess. 5:19-20) is often adduced to show that the gift is different in the NT. But this argument is not convincing, for the only way to judge prophets in both Testaments is by their prophecies. We only know prophets aren't from God if their prophecies are false or if their words contradict scriptural teaching. 3.) We have no example of a NT prophet who erred. Agabus didn't make a mistake in prophesying that Paul would be bound by the Jews and handed over to the Romans (Acts 21:10-11). To say he erred demands more precision than prophecies warrant. Furthermore, after Paul was arrested he appealed to the words of Agabus, saying he was handed over to the Romans by the Jews (Acts 28:17), so it's clear he didn't think Agabus made a mistake. Agabus spoke the words of the Holy Spirit (Acts 11:28; 21:11), so we have no example in the NT of prophets whose prophecies were mixed with error.

Some object that my view of prophecy is off target since there were hundreds and thousands of prophecies in NT times that never made it into the canon. That objection doesn't convince, however, for the same was true in the OT. Most of the prophecies of Elijah and Elisha were never written down or inscripturated. Or we can think of the 100 prophets spared by Obadiah (1 Kings 18:4). Apparently none of their prophecies was inscripurated. Nevertheless, the prophecies were all completely true and unmixed with error, for otherwise they wouldn't have been prophets (Deut. 18:15-22). The same principle applies to the prophecies of NT prophets. Their words aren't recorded for us, but if they were truly prophets then their words were infallible.

What some people today call "prophecies" are actually impressions from God. He can use impressions to guide and lead us, but they aren't infallible and must always be tested by Scripture. We should also consult with wise counselors before acting on such impressions. I love my charismatic brothers and sisters, but what they call "prophecy" today isn't actually the biblical gift of prophecy. God-given impressions aren't the same thing as prophecies.

What About Tongues?


The gift of tongues is a more difficult issue. In Acts (2:1-4; 10:44-48; 19:1-7) this gift signifies that the age of fulfillment has arrived where God's covenant promises are being realized. First Corinthians 14:1-5 and Acts 2:17-18 also suggest that interpreted (or understood) tongues are equivalent to prophecy. It seems, then, that prophecy and tongues are closely related. If prophecy has passed away, then tongues have likely ended as well. Further, it's clear from Acts that the gift involves speaking in foreign languages (Acts 2), and Peter emphasizes in the case of Cornelius and his friends that the Gentiles received the same gift as the Jews (Acts 11:16-17).

Nor is it persuasive to say the gift in 1 Corinthians 12-14 is of a different nature (i.e., ecstatic utterances). The word tongues (glōssa) denotes a linguistic code, a structured language, not random and free vocalization. When Paul says no one understands those speaking in tongues because they utter mysteries (1 Cor. 14:2), he isn't suggesting that the gift is different from what we find in Acts. Those hearing the tongues in Acts understood what was being said because they knew the languages the apostles were speaking. If no one knows the language, then the tongue speaker utters mysteries. Nor does 1 Corinthians 13:1 (tongues of angels) support the notion that the gift of tongues consists of ecstatic utterances. Paul engages in hyperbole in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. He's clearly exaggerating when referring to the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 13:2), for no one who prophesies knows "all mysteries and all knowledge."

I believe what's happening in charismatic circles today regarding tongues is similar to what we saw with prophecy. The gift is redefined to include free vocalization, and then people claim to have the gift described in Scripture. In doing so they redefine the gift to accommodate contemporary experience. So are contemporary tongues demonic, then? I don't think so. I agree with J. I. Packer that the experience is more a form of psychological relaxation.

Miracles and Healings


What about miracles and healings? First, I believe God still heals and does miraculous things today, and we should pray for such. Scripture isn't as clear on this matter, and thus these gifts could exist today. Still, the primary function of these gifts was to accredit the gospel message, confirming that Jesus was both Lord and Christ. I doubt the gift of miracles and healings exists today, for it isn't evident that men and women in our churches have such gifts. Certainly God can and does heal at times, but where are the people with these gifts? Claims for miracles and healings must be verified, just as the people verified the blind man's healing in John 9. There is a kind of biblically warranted skepticism.

Now, could God in cutting-edge missionary situations grant miracles and signs and wonders to accredit the gospel as he did in apostolic times? Yes. But that's not the same thing as having these gifts as a regular feature in the ongoing life of the church. If the signs and wonders of the apostles have returned, we should see the blind receiving their sight, the lame walking, and the dead being raised. God heals today (sometimes dramatically), but the healing of colds, the flu, TMJ, stomach, and back problems, and so forth aren't in the same category as the healings found in the Scriptures. If people truly have the gift of healing and miracles today, they need to demonstrate such by performing the kinds of healings and miracles found in the Bible.

Doesn't 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 Contradict Your View?


Let's consider an objection to the notion that some of the gifts have ceased. Doesn't 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 teach that the gifts last until Jesus comes again? Certainly this text teaches that the gifts could last until Jesus returns. There's no definitive teaching in the Bible that they've ceased. We might even expect them to last until the second coming. But we see hints from Ephesians 2:20 and other texts that the gifts played a foundational role. I conclude, then, that 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 permits but doesn't require the gifts to continue until the second coming. And the gifts as they are practiced today don't fit with the biblical description of these gifts.

For reasons like these the Reformers and most of the Protestant tradition until the 20th century believed the gifts had ceased. I conclude that both Scripture and experience verify their judgment on the matter.

Editors' note: See also Sam Storms's companion article,"Why I Am a Continuationist."


Comments:

[…] Gospel Coalition recently published two posts: one argued for cessationism and the other for continuationism. Cessationism is the belief that the so-called extraordinary […]

[…] I have my views and you likely have yours.  What do you believe and how do you support your position?  Here you have a couple of very well considered position papers supporting firmly and honestly held beliefs about the way God is operating in His Kingdom today.  Both writers clearly love the Lord and wish to serve Him faithfully.  The views were expressed on The Gospel Coalition website and you can get to the original postings at: HERE (the Continuationist view by Sam Storms)  and HERE (the Cessationist view by Thomas Schreiner).  RMF […]

Grab bag | Words of Grace

March 22, 2014 at 09:37 AM

[…] Thomas Schreiner writes helpfully on a controversial subject:  “Why I Am a Cessationist.” […]

[…] Sam Storms writes about Why I Am a Continuationist. Thomas Schreiner writes about Why I Am a Cessationist. […]

Don Wagnon

January 31, 2014 at 10:18 AM

When Philip preached the "good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" the people "saw the signs which he was performing" (Acts 8:12, 6). The gospel that Jesus and the followers of Christ preach includes the signs and wonders and miracles. The good news of the kingdom of God that Jesus and the apostles proclaimed is salvation, redemption, forgiveness of sins, deliverance from demons, healing of our sicknesses, and more. The good news that Jesus preached includes signs and wonders; without the miracles our gospel message isn't complete.

The gospel of the kingdom of God that Jesus preached included the promise of the Father (baptism of the Holy Spirit). If we are in Christ and Christ is in us through the Holy Spirit, it seems logical that we taste a little bit of that kingdom which will come in its fullness at the arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even Paul said we have received a down payment of our inheritance, which was the Holy Spirit. God is not dead; he is alive and active through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is still healing, delivering, and saving mankind, for he is the same today as he was yesterday. The ministry of Jesus still continues today through the ministry of the Holy Spirit?

What was the ministry of Jesus? Matthew outlines Jesus' ministry: 1) he taught in their synagogues, 2)proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom of God, and 3) healed every kind of disease and sickness among the people (Matt. 4:23). The Holy Spirit continues that ministry through believers. The Holy Spirit didn't ceases his activity like you and those in your camp believe. He continues his activity through believers in Jesus Christ, to witness to Christ and his resurrection from the dead. What is the Spirit's activity? Teaching the word of God, proclaiming the kingdom of God and healing the sick. Just as the Holy Spirit needs an instrument to teach the word of God and proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, he needs an instrument to walk in the Spirit and heal those who are sick, showing the compassion of the Father.

RMH

January 27, 2014 at 12:20 PM

GOD is not a GOD of changes; Jesus Christ is the SAME, yesterday, today and forever; The Holy Spirit does not change is the same.
As a Christian we believe in Two Covenants or Testaments. The Old Covenant/Testament and the New Covenant/Testament. Both of these Covenants had all the gifts mentioned. Since we still exist in the New Covenant/Testament church, and not some third Covenant/ Testament church, and the gifts are a very clear part of the New Covenant/Testament church, they still exist.
GOD is not a respector persons, (unless one holds to certain heresies that are still popular amongst some sects and cults), therefor the gifts are still available to all groups of people.
Biblocally speaking prophecies as a ministry gift of the Holy Spirit are for edification, exhortation and comfort. Any Christian can minister these IF they are willing to be led by the Holy Spirit (as opposed to being taught by theologians). Just because a person prophecies does not make them a prophet. At the same time the OFFICE of the Prophet does have the mandate to correct.
Paul never saw Jesus physically, (at least it is not recorded as such) but is considered an Apostle. He did have a vision of Jesus though. Since GOD is not a respector of persons, it is logical to assume that other people could have a vision of Jesus and be considered an Apostle.
OK. So we understand that the author does not believe in the GODHEAD (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) as taught in the Bible. We know that the author does not believe the Bible either. Usually those who teach a different GODHEAD than what the Bible reveals (e.g. Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, Atheists, etc) are not considered Christians. Does the author maintain, in the face of the evidence that the Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit he seems to believe in, that he is in fact a Bible believing Christian? The evidence points away from such.

Fr. John Morris

January 27, 2014 at 12:18 AM

You really need to read some church history. The most ancient documents that we have after the New Testament such as the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Clement of Rome and St. Irenaeus of Lyons tell us that the Apostolic ministry continued because the Apostles did not leave the Church leaderless, but appointed successors that we call Bishops. Miracles still take place. All of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still given, although I believe that glossolalia as practiced by Charismatics is simply learned behavior and not the genuine Biblical gift of tongues.

Angelo

January 26, 2014 at 12:05 AM

Good 7 standards Steve. Whichever side we fall on, such should be our standards. Also, not only should we interact with the other side about the existence or non-existence of the charismatic gifts but encourage them to practice and live these standards.

John Carpenter

January 26, 2014 at 04:33 PM

I think Jennifer made an excellent point. Do you?

Link Hudson

January 25, 2014 at 12:58 PM

I Corinthians 13 should be interpreted in light of I Corinthians 1:7.

"So that ye come behind in no spiritual gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Paul knew he was going to talk about spiritual gifts such as tongues and prophecy when he wrote this epistle. The first chapters touch on several topics and themes he will address throughout the epistle. This verse gives us insight into when the perfect comes. Also, I Corinthians 1:7 doesn't make room for a theory that the saints will go through a period of time between writing his epistle and the second coming where these gifts will not be available.

David Reeves

January 25, 2014 at 11:03 AM

Very true statement about the volume of each type of church. It is explained, I believe, on the spiritual emphasis of each type of church. The first on biblical scholarship and reasoning, and the latter on experience and empowerment. While I believe the first approach is vastly preferable to the second, there can be a danger in the first to rely too heavily on human reasoning at the exclusion of the true empowering work of the Holy Spirit. I believe we are seeing, and will continue to see, a significant increase in Scripturally-sound continuationalist churches.

[…] Gospel Coalition did a counterpoint series on miraculous gifts this week. Tom Schreiner explains why he does not believe in the continuation of the miraculous spiritual gifts for the […]

Matthew Lilley

January 25, 2014 at 07:52 AM

So you believe that God had prophets whom He spoke to clearly and personally in the Old Testament and in the "apostolic age", but now God has left us with a book and no longer speaks directly and personally to His people? And this is the better/new covenant? But we don't get to communicate directly with God, like His people did throughout history, now we get a book? Fascinating.

Alan

January 25, 2014 at 07:41 AM

John, the vast majority of my notifications of new comments are about yours. As you seem too biased to be a chairperson in the debate, and you're not the author of the article, I wonder if perhaps you're posting a little too much. Dominating a comments thread through sheer volume is not an achievement and usually makes others lose interest and leave. (With the length of some of my occasional posts I should know!)

The Saturday Post(s) | A Pilgrim's Friend

January 25, 2014 at 06:50 PM

[…] Two Great Theologians/Pastors Discuss Spiritual Gifts Still Exist or Not. Take the opportunity to read to respected theologians graciously discuss their views about the Spiritual Gifts. You can get to both from here and here. […]

Steve Cornelll

January 25, 2014 at 06:17 PM

Include a seventh to the list above:

7. Character and gifts: Fruit and service - The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in the life of a believer should be evident in the use of all spiritual gifts. We should use whatever gift or gifts we have been given lovingly, joyfully, peacefully, patiently, kindly, considerately, faithfully, gently and with self control.

Steve Cornelll

January 25, 2014 at 03:51 PM

We might find even more common ground if we agreed on the following six standards for spiritual gifts

1. Source and Power: The Holy Spirit - I Corinthians 12:11 “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (cf. Ephesians 5:18-21).

2. Perspective and Attitude: Sober humility - Romans 12:3 - “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

3. Goal and Motive: Praise to God - I Peter 4:11 “…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” (cf. Matthew 6:1).

4. Measurement and Boundary: Scriptural authority and Love - The final measurement for defining and guiding all professed gifts is the written Word of God. The parameters for the function of gifts is love (see: II Timothy 3:16-17 and I Corinthians 12:31-13:8; 16:14)

5. Outcome and Means: Edifying and Orderly - “Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.” “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.” (I Corinthians 14:26,33).

6. Service and Gifts: General and specialized - Don’t limit ministry to gifts. All believers have a responsibility to be involved in many areas covered by spiritual gifts. We are all to be involved in evangelism (Acts 1:8) and giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), serving (Galatians 5:13; 6:10) and encouraging others (Hebrews 10:25). Spiritual gifts are related to emphasized areas of ministry based on God-given gifts in a believer’s life.

(From: http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/spiritual-gifts/)

Link Hudson

January 25, 2014 at 03:23 AM

About prophecy and fallibility, I think some of the Reformed continualists argue for that because they want to stick with a certain set of vocabulary and concepts about prophetic inspiration that draw from theology and a 'doctrine of scripture'-- but aren't exactly Biblical. They want to make some kind of distinction between prophecies and scripture to make scripture of a higher quality. Maybe they want to cut some people who've made some mistakes some slack.

Old Testament prophecy doesn't fit well with the heavily deterministic mindset of some Calvinists. The Old Testament shows God relenting of certain things. Jonah prophesied the destruction of Nineveh, but God relented because of repentance. God relenting after decreeing destruction was already established in the Torah. He didn't wipe Israel out and make a great nation of Moses after Moses interceded.

Link Hudson

January 25, 2014 at 03:19 AM

I was looking at his article, and I had a thought about this part.

***I conclude from this point that the gift of prophecy has ended also, for the prophets identified here are the same sort mentioned elsewhere (cf. 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 3:5; 4:11). ****

In I Corinthians 14, Paul says to 'let the prophets speak two or three and let the other judge.' Here, prophets is in the third person. This is a subset of his audience. Not everyone was prophets. But 'ye' in the epistle refers to the church reading the epistle. It is interesting that Paul says, "For ye may all prophesy one by one." If a prophets is talking and another sitting by receives a revelation, the prophets is to be quiet, for ye may all prophesy.

Paul also writes of a scenario in which all in the church prophesy and an unbeliever or unlearned who attends hears the secrets of his heart made manifest and falls on his face saying that God is truly among you. He says, 'every one of you...'hath a revelation.'

If he tries to do away with prophets, that doesn't do away with prophesying. Prophets could prophesy. But all could prophesy. Surely he wouldn't say every single member of the Corinthian church was a part of the foundation.

In Revelation, John saw 12 apostles' names on the foundation of the city which descended as a bride adorned for her Husband. With Paul, there are 13 apostles. With Barnabas, that's 14, and that's not all of them. If there were some apostles who weren't written on the foundation, why would all apostles or prophets be in the foundation.

d camp

January 25, 2014 at 01:11 PM

I think you will see verifiable miracles when Darwin's intermediate forms materialize -- regardless of how well intentioned some people are. When the faith-healers show up at our local oncology or paraplegic facility and truly heal, then I will go back to Scripture and re-examine. I witness examples of healing every day, but it is called God's providence and works through the means that he has given us.

Andy

January 25, 2014 at 01:06 PM

Impression or Prophecy... Just a battle over words... bottom line it would seem both sides would agree that God still speaks to his people today whether you call it an impression or a prophetic word. And both sides would state the impressions/prophetic word needs to be weighed by scripture.

Jeff Rickel

January 24, 2014 at 12:47 PM

There are three positions one can take on this. 1. The gifts have ceased. 2. The gifts continue to be manifest in exactly the same form and for the same purpose as was described in the New Testament. 3. God is still giving spiritual gifts today, but the exact manifestation and purpose may be different in some ways than in the New Testament, which may have been reflections of even greater gifts.

I urge you to read the following two articles:

1)Modern Spiritual Gifts as Analogous to Apostolic Gifts: Affirming Extraordinary Works of the Spirit Within Cessationist Theology by Vern S. Poythress . Linked here:

http://www.frame-poythress.org/modern-spiritual-gifts-as-analogous-to-apostolic-gifts-affirming-extraordinary-works-of-the-spirit-within-cessationist-theology

2)Piper Addresses Strange Fire and Charismatic Chaos by Tony Reinke (This focuses mostly on the gift of prophesy) Linked here:
http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/piper-addresses-strange-fire-and-charismatic-chaos

It is interesting that sometimes light is used in referring to God and things of God. In trying to understand light there were two theories: 1 That Light behaves like a wave (think ocean or sound), 2 That Light behaves like particles (think shotgun blast). One could not fully understand light if it had to be one or the other. Only when we began to accept the fact that truth contains both theories could we fully understand light. I think that a lot of our theological discussions are similar that. With God there is a mystery that we may never fully understand, and that sometimes you have to allow two apparently contradictory positions into the equation and trust the scriptures more than our own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5-6
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Worth a Look | SummitCollege_Blog

January 24, 2014 at 11:46 AM

[…] I Am a Continuationist, Sam Storms and Why I Am a Cessationist, Thomas Schreiner – Questions about the nature of charismatic gifts have recently been […]

[…] Thomas Schreiner’s defense of his Cessationist views was published at the Gospel Coalition yesterday.  It can be read here. […]

Ekemini

January 24, 2014 at 11:02 AM

Dr. Schreiner, can you expound upon the difference between "impressions" and "prophecy"? I am curious, because I have been wrestling with cessationism vs. continuationism.

Dan

January 24, 2014 at 10:57 AM

Using that argument both cessationism and new revelation are unneeded.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 10:56 PM

I know of no discrepancies between the accounts of Paul's conversion.
If you're talking about whether the people heard or understood the voice, that's cleared up, I believe, by the Greek.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 10:54 PM

Except that the Bible (e.g. 1 Cor. 12:7) says we need them for "the common good".

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 10:53 PM

Excellent point!

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 10:52 PM

1. You might need to know whether the guy one of your young lady members is dating is not actually a Christian. True story. Or all kinds of things for pastoral care.

2. "For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God for no one understands him but he utters mysteries in the Spirit." (1 Cor. 14:2).

3. True.

4. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says they are for the edification of the body.

5. Baloney. Now, let's see you critic, call-out, and condemn the inflammatory rhetoric of people like Phil Johnson and some of the others of the "Strange Fire" conference.

Michael Awbrey

January 24, 2014 at 10:52 AM

A very well written article and well-balanced in its approach. I think most sane cessationists and continuationists are much closer than they realize.

For me the compelling evidence for the cessationist viewpoint is:
1) If Scripture is all-sufficient, what need do we have of prophecy that adds something to it. (I am fully ok using the term prophecy for what one does when they proclaim the Word of God, ie. preaches.)

2) Tongues in Acts are not ecstatic speech, why would that change for the Corinthians?

3) The amazing, providential, and miraculous still happen, but very rarely is it at the level that we see in Scripture.

4) These signs are for the spread of the gospel, not our comfort.

5) The failure of continuationist to be able to critic, call-out, and condemn the many who abuse the supposed continued gifts.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 10:49 PM

Cute title on your article!
Acts 21:12, Agabus gives the prophesy and "we" and "and the people there" (which would include Agabus) urged him not to go to Jerusalem.
Later the Jews were fighting to kill Paul when the Romans forcibly took him. The Jews then conspired for sometime to get Paul back, even plotting an ambush. I don't see how that can be interpreted as the same as the Jews willingly handing Paul over to the Romans.

shelli rehmert

January 24, 2014 at 10:37 AM

Maybe my comment is a bit simplistic but here it is. If the gifts have continued then why do I not see them displayed in churches other than charismatic churches? I have not seen anyone prophecy, speak in tongues (meaning foreign language), interpret tongues, etc. in any churches I have been involved with unless they were charismatic ones. Wouldn't Christ pour these gifts out to all churches where believers are present whether we believe they continue or not? After all if the Holy spirit gifts us in the body of believers does He just say, "oops, these guys are cessationists, better not give them the prophecy gift"! Wouldn't He possibly gift Dr. Schreiner with tongues whether he believed they continued or not? Wouldn't there be some pentecostals who don't have the gift of tongues? Just pondering.

What About Tongues? | At the End of All Things

January 24, 2014 at 10:31 AM

[…] from Why I Am a Cessationist by Thomas […]

d camp

January 24, 2014 at 10:28 PM

Cessationists are equally perplexed by the staunch position that lies behind your question. This is not about letting God be God; he will do that anyway. The question is how he has revealed He will providentially rule His Kingdom and whether He has the right or desire to modify where, how, and to what extent He reveals His power and authority.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 10:06 AM

Not so. See my comments above about tongues. He completely ignores 1 Corinthians 14 by insisting that the unique and foundational experience of Pentecost must be normative. I don't see how Paul could be any more clearer that tongues was a gift for private edification that is not normally used or understood by other people: "For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God for no one understands him but he utters mysteries in the Spirit." (1 Cor. 14:2).

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 09:30 AM

As for Schreiner's brief mention of church history:
1. remember the words of Luther's great hymn: "the Spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him who with us sideth".
2. remember that part of the great theological controversy between Protestants and Catholics was the role of scripture and the claims of the Catholic church to continuing revelation;
3. some so-called cessationist statements from church history are not statements of a doctrine of cessationism but simply a report of the absence of seeing miracles in their day;
4. the Puritans would not be considered cessationist by our standards because they believed in the possibility of dreams and visions from God (as the Salem Witch-craft trials tragically portrayed);
5. cessationism is a modern doctrine, of B. B. Warfield in the 19th century, in a Christianized culture.

Mark

January 24, 2014 at 09:17 AM

Dr. Schreiner makes a great point that continuationists have to redefine both prophecy and tongues in such a away that disagrees with the prevailing Biblical material. Prophecy is understood biblically as authoritatively speaking for God. Tongues, as clearly indicated in Acts and suggested at in 1 Corinthians, are real languages that can be understood. The Bible nowhere holds up incoherent babble as a gift that is meant to edify the church. This is evidenced by the lack of reliable interpreters of this babble today. When tongues is understood as real languages, it is reasonable to know whether or not an interpreter is present who can do the job rightly. Thanks for the article.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 09:15 AM

Schreiner's handling of speaking in tongues is, perhaps, the worst part of the article. He takes one passage, Acts 2, and insists it is normative for all other occasions of speaking in tongues, even when Paul plainly and repeatedly describes speaking in tongues when no one present understands what is being said. "For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God for no one understands him but he utters mysteries in the Spirit." (1 Cor. 14:2). He then goes on to instruct the Corinthians to then use tongues privately and says he does so himself. Schreiner doesn't really try to interpret 1 Cor. 14 at all. He just dismisses it since it doesn't fit with the exclusive definition of tongues he derived from the unique and foundational experience of Pentecost.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 09:11 AM

I'm grateful he honestly admitted "There's no definitive teaching in the Bible that they've ceased."
A doctrine that purports to defend the sufficiency of scripture but which cannot be found in scripture is self-contradictory.

If scripture is sufficient, why do we need the extra-Biblical doctrine of cessationism? Scripture is sufficient. It's simply that cessationism is false.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 09:05 AM

Good comment. Schreiner is to be commended for his mature, Christian tone and humility.
A scripture that makes your point is 1 Cor. 12:7, "To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."
Note that the gifts are (1) not called "revelatory" or "apostolic" gifts but "manifestations of the Spirit"; (2) that they are given "to each" member of the Body; (3) they are not for attestation of revelation but for "the common good" (i.e. edification).

Gabriel

January 24, 2014 at 09:03 PM

John, text please? Also, there is no reason to believe his prophesy was inaccurate. See this article for a helpful explanation: http://thecripplegate.com/throwing-prophecy-under-the-agabus/

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 09:01 AM

Show us the scripture that says God doesn't give a gift of healing. Then show us the scripture that speaks of "apostolic gifts".
Please don't make claims for God without a Biblical foundation.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 08:59 AM

Schreiner’s denial that Agabus erred when he said that Paul wouldn’t be bound by the Jews and handed over to the Romans is incredible. It’s a denial of the obvious. The Jews were fighting to kill Paul when the Romans forcibly took him. The Jews then conspired for sometime to get Paul back, even plotting an ambush. To some how interpret that as meaning the same as the Jews willingly handing Paul over to the Romans — as Schreiner does — is an absurdity. Acts 28:17 does not say that Paul thought Agabus was precisely correct, as Schreiner falsely claims, but only that Paul was taken prisoner by the Romans in Jerusalem.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 08:58 AM

Actually it is sound, straight-forward exegesis of 1 Cor. 13:8-13 that shows us that the gifts will cease "when" (not before) the "Perfect" (whom we'll see face-to-face) comes. There is no scripture that teaches cessationism and this scripture teaches that the gifts cease at the coming of Christ.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 08:55 AM

That's sounds like a kind of hyper-Calvinist: as though theology and means don't matter. You say that if the gifts existed today then they'd be present in all churches, even those that deny them. So, would you argue that preaching the gospel isn't necessary for salvation? that people are born again just as well in churches that deny the gospel as those that proclaim it?

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 08:49 AM

I agree with you. 1 Corinthians 13:10ff makes a definitive statement when the spiritual gifts will end: at the return of Christ. To say otherwise is to contradict that scripture.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 08:45 AM

Not so. Agabus urged Paul not to go to Jerusalem based on his (inaccurate) prophesy.

John Carpenter

January 24, 2014 at 08:44 AM

It’s true that “all we need to know for salvation and sanctification has been given to us through the teaching of the apostles and prophets”. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need other words from God for decisions and ministry.

Schreiner assumes a mis-definition of the gifts of the Spirit — for the purpose of authenticating revelation. That definition is contrary to the Word of God: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7). All members of the body of Christ can have some gifts of the Spirit — they weren’t confined to apostles or prophets — and they are for edification.

As for when the gifts will cease, 1 Corinthians 13:10ff tells us: when the Perfect Revealer comes again, whom we will see face-to-face. Not before then.

Flotsam and jetsam (1/24) | Everyday Theology

January 24, 2014 at 08:22 AM

[…] Why I Am a Cessationist (Tom Schreiner) and Why I Am a Continuationist (Sam Storms): Two good posts offering different perspectives on an important subject. Worth checking out. (Gospel Coalition). […]

[…] and recommend. Thanks to my friend Emmanuel Durand for sharing this. Why I Am a Cessationisthttp://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2014/01/23/why-i-am-a-cessationist […]

Jennifer C

January 24, 2014 at 08:12 PM

I'm honestly perplexed about why Cessationists feel the need to take such a staunch position regarding the workings of the Holy Spirit. A healthy believer's faith is centered on the Giver, not the gifts. Why can't we freely let God be God?

Jennifer C

January 24, 2014 at 08:07 PM

Lovely comment--blessings!

Dan

January 24, 2014 at 07:45 AM

I am unsure of what the author means when he talks about impressions be "God-given." If he means that God in His providence gives and uses all things including impressions, then I would be in agreement. If he's making an argument that God is trying to communicate his will through impressions, I would say, "where's the Biblical evidence?" There is no scripture that describes impressions as being a way that God communicates. The burden of proof falls squarely on those who would argue for an individual will being communicated through feelings. Show me where that's happened in Scripture. A great resource is Garry Freisen's book Decision Making and the Will of God. He has a chapter called "Impressions are Impressions."

Besides that, I feel like this article did a great job of simply explaining the cessationist view.

Tom Beetham

January 24, 2014 at 07:28 AM

Amen to that Andrew! I'm with you and thank God for Dr. Schreiner's good work on behalf of the church!

Kyle

January 24, 2014 at 07:19 AM

Calling it an "apostolic gift" of healing is begging the question. Only cessationists (so far as I know) make such specific distinctions as claiming healing gifts were only for apostles. In fact, there are many examples in Bible of spiritual gifts of tongues, prophecy, and healing given to people who were not apostles, you can read the other article for more examples.

Kenton

January 24, 2014 at 05:49 PM

I'm a continuationist, though hesitant to call myself a charismatic. Yet I'd agree that Agabus' words are true.

First, Luke gives no hint that what Agabus said was wrong. He shores up Agabus' credibility by mentioning his earlier prophecy about the famine. Luke's strong emphasis on prophecy (indeed, he regards speaking in tongues AS prophecy) would make such a conclusion faulty.

Second, Agabus never tells Paul what to do, so commands are not involved here. The other believers "through the Spirit" were telling Paul not to go.

Third, the discrepancy between the prophecy and the actual events is no more troublesome than the discrepancy between the three accounts of Paul's conversion.

Jesse

January 24, 2014 at 05:11 PM

Perhaps it takes a deep amount of holiness to perform gifts today. And that type of holiness is very difficult to obtain with all the distractions and temptation around us. We simply aren't holy enough.

I see NO proof of spiritual gifts today which makes the cessation view a comforting thought. Otherwise I would be forced to question my faith.

anderson

January 24, 2014 at 05:00 PM

Hello Dr Schreiner, I'd like to know If It's possible to translate theis article into spanish and post it to my blog. Thanks!

Alan

January 24, 2014 at 04:16 AM

Hi Andy,
I see what you mean on what Paul meant as he wrote, but in applying these verses to a church context many miles and years away from Ephesus I think we do need to make those leaps.
I was only really trying to tackle Brad's assertion that Ephesians 4 is so obvious that it closes the case and demonstrate that it's not so plain. Taking your line though, if Paul is talking about the people, wouldn't that suggest (following Brad's point of these things being necessary parts in a chain) that the church there in Ephesus needed an Apostle there with them for the whole duration of their particular journey towards maturity in Christ? Surely Paul has to be meaning something beyond that immediate possible reading!

And if he is talking more generally about the whole church through all ages, couldn't you argue that there's a very logical progression of Apostles first, then prophets in the infant church, with evangelists taking the message further afield, and pastor-teachers then caring for the local fellowships that have been planted? That seems pretty spot on for the progression of Acts, with the turning points of the Apostle led church in ch 2 and the prophecy that sent out Paul and Barnabas in ch 13, the missions that followed, and the custom of appointing elders in each place. By that interpretation, it's a logical process that is done up to the pastor-teacher stage, but may have to be repeated from the evangelist stage in places where there isn't yet a local church.

I really don't want to be writing this much or setting out a cast-iron exegetical case. I just baulked at Brad declaring that no-one could possibly understand Ephesians 4 a different way to him.
Maybe I should have questioned whether maturity in the image of Christ will ever be attained by any church, or if local churches year by year will get closer and closer. If this isn't such a clear line of progression and it's more that we're at a fairly constant state now (oscillating back and forth place by place, generation by generation, individual to individual, but with the worldwide church remarkably constant) and are waiting for a sudden consummation at Christ's return, the Apostles and the rest of that chain have been consistently failing for 2,000 years so far! However questionable my suggestions are, Brad's original assertion doesn't suit the verses well enough either, Paul can't be intending to say exactly that either.



Whatever the case on all of that Andy, I'm a little uncomfortable about the distinction you're drawing between the Apostles and NT teaching. The Apostolic message, the gospel, is preserved for us in them, with historical accounts of what was taught, alongside actual records of what some of the Apostles and other church leaders wrote. It wasn't the automated thing we would like it to be as if the Apostles were briefed to write the NT, but through the more organic method we have exactly the same result (and it's in a far better form than the systematic textbook we might have got!).
Jude 3 is the standard 'proof text' for that sort of perspective: there is a body of teaching that has been definitively given to the church; we have it preserved for us within the pages of the NT. And in the "OT = Law, Writings and Prophets" mould, I'd say "Apostles" would be a great term to use for the NT.

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January 24, 2014 at 03:02 AM

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[…] Gospel Coalition, Thomas Schreiner and Sam Storms wrote companion articles presenting the cases for cessationism vs. continuationism with regards to certain spiritual gifts.  Schreiner argues that gifts like […]

Robert Briggs

January 23, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Great stuff by Dr Schreiner. Not so great some of the comments, but that is church life folks ! This is not a small matter it has significant implications.

Rob

January 23, 2014 at 12:22 PM

Dr. Schreiner:

As a continuaionist, I was grateful to read your argument. I felt like you conveyed your position with grace and humility. Although, I disagree with you on this secondary matter, I do have a great deal of respect for you and for many other cessationist brothers and sisters. I only wish the tone of these type of arguments could be more like this one as seen on The Gospel Coalition today. God Bless!

Truth Unites... and Divides

January 23, 2014 at 12:10 PM

C.S. Lewis said something like "The one thing that Jesus couldn't be was a good man. He's either Lord, Liar, or Lunatic."

Adapting this reasoning, can one make the argument that neither continuationists, nor cessationists are sinning when they take the doctrinal position that they uphold?

In other words, are cessationists sinning be believing and teaching that miracle workers like healers, prophets, and genuine language tongue-speakers have ceased? That it's a sin for cessationists to not fervently pray and desire for them to become gifted miracle workers?

Likewise, for continuationists (or charismatics or enablers of charismatics) is it a sin to believe and teach that miracle workers like healers, prophets, and genuine language tongue-speakers are continuing if there really aren't.

Must we say that one side or the other is sinning or in sin? Or can we safely place this issue on some scale of adiaphora, treat it as a matter of Christian liberty, and move it over to something akin to a who-cares dispute between worshipping with guitars versus worshipping with piano?

Can one be indifferent to the matter? Or must one take sides?

And for what it's worth I lean irenically towards cessationism.

Lyndsey Jolley

January 23, 2014 at 11:53 AM

I so appreciate your honesty in seeking to search out this issue. With that, however, sometimes it is easy to limit God by what we have or have not personally experienced, rather than by what His Word teaches. With great respect for the journey of faith we are all on, I humbly submit that this may be the case and basis for the thoughts shared above. And yet God loves us and continues to invite us to believe Him and take Him at His Word. It requires childlike faith and trust - not intellectual understanding. He invites us not to do mental gymnastics to try and make His Word fit our experiences, but rather to let His Word define and prescribe our experiences. Unbelief is a sneaky intellectual tumbler, but God's Word is not that complex on this issue. Very plainly, three times in the New Testament it says to "earnestly desire" spiritual gifts/prophesy (1 Cor. 12:31; 13:1; and 14:39). And 1 Corinthians 12-14 clearly teaches about the reality and scriptural practice of the gifts of the Spirit. God is simple, clear, and loving in His explanation of these gifts, and He invites us to take Him at His Word.

May each of our journeys be filled with ever-increasing faith in our God and His Word. Blessings.

Johnny Appleton

January 23, 2014 at 11:36 AM

The sheer volume of Scripturally-sound cessationist churches, contrasted with the notable lack of Scripturally-sound continuationalist churches, is a large part of why I don't buy into the charismatic movement.

That, and the fact there aren't many charismatic puritans...

Jim

January 23, 2014 at 11:15 AM

Dr. Schreiner, I appreciate your tone and spirit. I grew up in a charismatic context and became very disenchanted with what I perceived as a constantly forced attempt to show miraculous gifts. I knew (and know) many well-meaning believers who claimed to have the gift of prophecy, tongues, or healing and I never once saw someone use their gift in a verifiable manner. Prophecies were, as you said, typically impressions or so off-the-wall as to be impossible to verify (or just downright wrong). Tongue-speaking was always ecstatic and even when interpreted, the interpretations were almost ubiquitous (something like, “God desires to pour His Spirit out on this congregation” etc.). I have seen people who claimed to have the gift of healing “heal” people who were hard of hearing, etc. Never were there miraculous or verifiable healings (although, as you say, God does heal and do the miraculous). My father died of cancer even after being told he would be healed by people who claimed the gift of healing. By God’s grace I never lost faith in Him and for this reason I appreciate the tone of your post. When many continuationists are turned off by the tone of some objections, it is posts like these that show we can have a grace-filled conversation about these doctrines. Blessings

Chris Taylor

January 23, 2014 at 11:09 AM

Dan, I stand corrected. It's not as clear cut as I presumed, however I think there is a relationship between what all the prophets were telling Paul and the admonitions as found in Acts 21:4 -

And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. (Act 21:4 ESV)

Jim

January 23, 2014 at 10:56 AM

Hi Nick, we are talking about the "ecstatic" or "charismatic" gifts and their normative usage in our churches. For example, there are many examples of miraculous happenings all throughout the world, but they aren't necessarily attributed to specific persons with gifts, but to God's glory. I was raised in a Pentecostal and charismatic context and grew weary of the attempt to normalize miraculous gifts. I saw dozens of examples of Benny Hinn-type healing but none were verifiable or miraculous. The same was true of prophecies and other charismatic experiences. My experience alone doesn't invalidate healers, prophets, or tongue-speakers (although I know of folks who have spoken in unlearned foreign tongues) but in my extensive experience, I am unconvinced that in our culture in particular, there are believers with gifts of healing, prophecy, etc. Miracles happen every day all over the world, but I have never seen a person who claimed to have the gift use it in a verifiable manner (in the way that healings, etc. were recorded in the NT).

SuzanneT

January 23, 2014 at 10:38 AM

Biblically clear, sound, concise and spiritually testifying. Thanks so much for this article!

Michael

January 23, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Tom, thanks for this article. Something I've never seen mentioned in discussions of cessationism vs. continuationism is this: How do you as a cessationist understand The Great Awakening and the phenomena that accompanied it? What do you think of Jonathan Edwards' views on these?

Andrew

January 23, 2014 at 09:45 PM

I am very thankful for Dr. Schreiner's thoughtful examination here. While I remain unconvinced of the cessationist position, I praise God for Dr. Schreiner's appeal to Scripture in these matters. He is an excellent exegete and teacher, my only disappointment is that he did not have more space to elaborate on some of his statements. SDG!

Tim

January 23, 2014 at 09:42 AM

Dr. Schreiner,
As a continuationist, I have always appreciated your gracious engagement with your continuationist brothers and sisters on this issue. I wonder, though, whether the argument for cessationism on the basis of the cessation of apostles is really parallel to the other gifts. It seems to me that apostleship as a gift/office was *in principle* limited to a specific set of individuals (those who had seen Jesus personally). After these individuals died, there couldn't be any more who received that gift, not because the gift had necessarily ceased in principle, but because it had ceased as a historical possibility. But I see no reason in Scripture to assume that any other gifts were *in principle* restricted to a set collection of historically-situated individuals. While Paul is clear that not everyone receives every gift in practice, 1Corinthians certainly assumes that gifts such as tongues and prophecy (however understood today) were being practiced by the members of the church in Corinth. I can't read Paul's mind, but I can't see any indication that he would have seen these gifts as limited to a set class of believers in the same sense that apostleship would be limited to a set class. Is it possible that the cessationist argument from the cessation of apostles doesn't apply to other gifts? It seems quite possible that apostleship hasn't so much "ceased" as run out of eligible candidates, whereas I see no similar restriction on "candidacy" for the other gifts.

John S

January 23, 2014 at 09:16 AM

I appreciate your take on things, but especially that you agree there is no definitive text that they have ceased. I am a 'continuist' but agree with much of your thoughts, or at least can see the logic behind them.

I have not seen many of the supernatural gifts functioning, but the nub of the issue may be that I desire to see these gifts function, and you don't have that desire. My desire is not solely or even primarily out of desire for experience or 'manifestation' -both of our views are rooted in Scripture.

So when I couple 'no text that they have ceased' with 'desire the gifts' and 'do not prohibit' and their purpose is to 'build up the church' I am going that way. Even if their is possibility of error (as their is in all we do including teaching and showing mercy).

A couple other thoughts: i cor 12 :28 seems like a random choosing of which are still functioning or not. Arent' they are all gifts of the Spirit and thus supernatural? Why have some ceased and others not?

I agree if NT prophecy is a prediction and wrong the person should not be permitted to speak again. However could what you consider an 'impression' actually be the NT prophecy, which is for 'upbuilding, encouragement and consolation' and causes unbelieving visitors to worship God by 'convicting' and 'disclosing the secrets of his heart'? The description of NT prophecy in 1 cor 14 does not appear to have anything to do with predictions. The effects on believer and unbeliever alike are immediate and not dependent on some future fulfillment of a prediction to be affective. In my reading it does not appear to be predictive proclamations at all - substantively different.

Now I will read Sam Storms and see if he says I'm off too :>)

Collin Hansen

January 23, 2014 at 09:14 AM

Read here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2014/01/23/why-i-am-a-continuationist/

Stan

January 23, 2014 at 09:08 AM

All I can say is God still heals. 25 plus years ago I got sick with what was a big white fatty mass on my liver. My now wife( then girl friend) was in Bible College at the time and her missions prayer group began to pray for my healing, as did my co workers at the Mission Kitchen that I ran. After on failed byopsy another was scheduled to find out what it was. Before that the Dr. ordered one more ct scan to pin point the loacation of it, only to say to me "It's gone" I see a scar though. Fast forward to 2010 I had a tumor on my arenial gland, and needed surgery. The GI and team said you also have 25 on your liver as this is related to a genetic disorder that I have, they are all small, but I see a large scar on your liver.... Have you had one taken off before ? No I said, shared the story and shared Jesus with the Jewish GI and the Muslims and East Indian specialist on her team.
Fast forward to December 2013 my friend who pastors had a unsaved married couple come to church, the came forward for salvation and gave their lives to the Lord,and the man said,"I came in here blind in one eye, but when I started to sing praises to God I could see, oh ya both were delivered from smoking on the spot.
When the Bible says it all will cease it means during the tribulation, there are no such thing as faith healers, but the Word says, " A prayer in faith will make the sick person well." I'm a testimony to that, and if any of you want proof come see me.

Dan Phillips

January 23, 2014 at 09:08 AM

Excellent article.

Remind me: what command did Agabus issue in God's name that was disobeyed with impunity?

Scott

January 23, 2014 at 09:03 AM

GC: Could we please have an article tomorrow that is titled, "Why I Am a Non-Cessationist?"

Norma Andersen

January 23, 2014 at 08:54 AM

My God still heals and delivers and the Holy Spirit as evidenced by speaking in tongues is alive and we'll. I am living proof. I have dicernment and can usually tell when the truth is being spoken. I challenge you to become spirit filled

[…] dad and Sam Storms write from different positions on whether the miraculous gifts are still in […]

Rey D.

January 23, 2014 at 08:45 AM

Quick question regarding, “What some people today call "prophecies" are actually impressions from God. He can use impressions to guide and lead us, but they aren't infallible and must always be tested by Scripture.”

It will be correct to base this argument on Philippians 2:13? (“…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”).

This “impressions” could be the exercise and another aspect of HIS sovereignty our life? Knowing that everything need to be 100% align with the scriptures.

Siggi Winkler

January 23, 2014 at 08:41 PM

I'm growing weary of Christians choosing sides, when there is only but two sides to choose from. What is a Cessationist? What is a Calvinist? What is a Continuationist? What is a Baptist or a Pentacostal believer? Where is that in the Bible? Will God base our eternal communion with Him on doctrines or church membership.

One thing the author wrote is perfectly true and that is he and no human on earth has the final answer in MANY of these especially non-essential issues. I see the church of Christ as a bunch of children trying to play church and many of us only succeeding in some areas, but never in all areas. And we need to be very aware that where we find the truth, is nothing of our own doing, but all because of God's undeserved grace that He would honor us by revealing such precious truths to us.

But we let pride ruin our success in thinking, we are better than others or know more. I know the author wasn't claiming this directly, but indirectly he did make some points that hint in that direction... "all the rest are further from the truth than we are". His statements at the beginning doesn't negate the rest of the blog post.

Shouldn't we think of others better than ourselves and humble ourselves without compromising the truth? And where many people disagree, it seems we must be careful to judge who is on what side of the truth spectrum.

That's why I thought this organization called "The Gospel Coalition" came to life, because we would focus on what is essential and non-negotiable... The Gospel of Christ. Let's focus on what unites churches and not what splits them. What I'm saying is, this blog post and others that don't relate to this site's topic can be posted on the author's private pages to describe their personal opinion, but here at TGC, please please please... Let's focus on what brings people UNITED to the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

PS: I'm not a Baptist although I love pastors like John Piper. I'm not a Calvanist although I enjoy preachings of Paul Washer. I'm not a Pentacostal believer although I am a member and full time staff of a church that welcomes Continuationist views.

All I know is that I am a child of God who was salvaged by His Son Jesus Christ from a terrible life full of sin and now I'm only capable to follow Christ through His supernatural Grace because I know that although I'm a new creation in Christ, I still am far from perfect and need to be totally reliant and focused on Him to succeed in my quest to please my Father in heaven.

Alan

January 23, 2014 at 08:33 AM

What a thoroughly excellent article! The approach is superb and gracious.
Strangely, this isn't the cessationism that I see all around. In fact, it's pretty similar to what I, to my cessationist friends, call continuationism! Could we call it sensible cessationism, or proportionate continuationism perhaps?

My only comment would be to allow less of a clear end to prophecy and tongues, in the same way that miracles are to be expected in cutting edge missionary settings. But the clear definition of biblical prophecy and tongues against todays' impressions and free expression is really excellent and defines the issues where most debates today go around in circles.

Nick

January 23, 2014 at 08:33 AM

This is akin to me not believing that the gifts of teaching, wisdom, serving, giving, leadership, mercy, administration, or pastor exist. Logical fallacy. As a matter of fact, I'm surprised that TGC would even post this.

[…] Tom Schreiner – “Why I Am a Cessationist” […]

Mike

January 23, 2014 at 08:20 AM

"Certainly God can and does heal at times, but where are the people with these gifts? Claims for miracles and healings must be verified, just as the people verified the blind man's healing in John 9."

To claim that these gifts aren't functioning today is quite possibly due to a lack of exposure to churches of a different theological camp, or to a lack of exposure to what God is doing in other parts of the world. Perhaps at times we are guilty of being excessively skeptical because the verifiable evidence can't be explained within our current theological stance, and so we find ways to dismiss it.

Bruce Taylor

January 23, 2014 at 08:15 AM

You have some good points about how the gifts are being described / defined today by many groups as opposed to what the Bible actually describes / talks about. I have found the recent discussions on this topic interesting and challenging. Yet at the end of the day there is no teaching from the Scripture that clearly states that the gifting of the Spirit for Disciples of Jesus would ever cease. I think part of the problem is that we have a lot of groups / leaders who put on big emotional shows and they may not even be saved yet claim to be Christians then teach things contrary to the Gospel and the Bible. So those who hold fast to the Word and the true Gospel find themselves throwing the "baby out with the bathwater" so to speak. My conviction and what I teach is what I find in the Word of God. May I never hold a position with such firm grasp that I fail to be moved by its Truth. I would suggest that with great desire to follow the Word we have received, we are to humbly submit ourselves to its teaching and where it is hard for us because others have abused and mis-taught then we teach even more the Truth of the Word, not dis-count its teaching.

We must be careful, because of the lack of proper Scriptural support for the ceasing of gifts, we also lack a definitive statement of which ones are no longer in use. IT is far better to teach effectively what the gifts are and equip people to identify what is false. IF the real has been removed then we will no longer see it, plain and simple. The false is no evidence that the true is gone and "not available" for True Disciple of Jesus.

Anyway I appreciate your article even though we do not end up at the same conclusions.

Chris Taylor

January 23, 2014 at 08:04 AM

Dr. Shreiner, I think you would agree that the nature of prophets changed between testaments in this way, the OT prophets were authoritative and to be obeyed, whereas Agabus is proof that NT prophets could be ignored, as Paul certainly did.

What is Cessationism? | Kingdom Scribe

January 23, 2014 at 06:08 PM

[…] What is Cessationism? […]

Kenton

January 23, 2014 at 05:53 PM

Well, yes, that's the assumption, and the fact that Paul talks about perfect and imperfect knowledge and dim mirrors indicates this. The gifts are present because we see dimly. That said, however, we must keep in mind that Paul fully expected Jesus to return within his natural lifetime (whether he lived to see it or not). So that factor into our exegesis.

Why I Am a Cessationist | Union and Communion

January 23, 2014 at 05:53 PM

[…] Why I Am a Cessationist. […]

Kenton

January 23, 2014 at 05:50 PM

The only reason why Ephesians 4 isn't so clear cut is that Paul doesn't differentiate between the different roles/offices, and it isn't clear what the role of the apostle is, especially as it compares to that of the evangelist. I tend to think of them in the same way: both preach the gospel. If I had to guess, I'd say Paul means more than just the titular office of apostle, but he in fact is referring to what apostles do. And what apostles do seems to be not all that different to what missionaries do. I could be wrong on this, but it would seem to me that Paul was primarily about planting churches, which of course means preaching the gospel to people who have never heard. In contrast, Paul describes Timothy as an evangelist. But again, it isn't clear what the distinction is between the two (and especially whether or not an evangelist in Paul's day is the same as one in ours).

The only other consideration is that Paul expected the Lord to come in his lifetime. So for him, the only cessation was literally when Christ came back, because he expected Jesus to come in that generation. So even if Paul himself died, the apostles would conceivably still be around. We have to keep that in mind.

Andy

January 23, 2014 at 05:45 PM

Hey Alan,

Above you wrote "Though they have died and were not replaced because the office ceased, you do still have the Apostles, don't you? The part of them that was important for the growth of the church towards maturity and the likeness of Christ, their teaching, is still very much with us, and is preserved, communicated and applied by God's Spirit.I don't think Apostles can mean their teaching/the scriptures and not themselves."

In Ephesians 4, Paul is saying that the gifts are men not abilities. Also to say that we still have apostles in the sense that we have their writing seems a bit silly. It seems rather inconsistent when you use the same logic for other gifts. To say we no longer have human evangelists for example but "we still have the part of evangelists with us, in that they shared the Gospel before." This seems like a way bigger stretch in reading the text than just assuming their are still apostles. Also, the Bible itself never says that the role of apostles is to write Bible. The majority of NT apostles didn't write a shred of scripture and Luke the guy who wrote more Scripture than anyone wasn't an apostle as far as we know!

So to reduce the Apostles still being with us in the sense that we still have their writings actually makes Ephesians 4 look like a pretty slam dunk argument especially in light of the fact that scripture itself tells us how long we will need these gifts. Until the church is perfect! Scripture itself also doesn't say the gift has ceased. Just my thoughts.

In His Grace,

Andy

Kenton

January 23, 2014 at 05:41 PM

So 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 2-4 are the key passages. I'll address them and then a larger point about how cessationists interpret "foundation".

1) 1 Corinthians 13 is not meant to give a concrete timeline. Fair enough. I'd adamantly agree. But as you admit, it is referring to Christ's return, and not the "closing of the canon", as many cessationists believe, an arbitrary point of demarcation if there was any (exactly how many letters did the apostles and others have to write before the canon was recognized as closed?). And the point is that the gifts exist because we see dimly, but then we shall see face to face, such that faith, hope, and love are preeminent now and forever (among which love is greatest because it shall be eternal). Scripture is not being considered here.

2) I'd argue that the reference to apostles and prophets in Ephesians 2-4 isn't about Scripture (much less the canon of Scripture) either. But setting that aside, you seem to imply that because the apostles and prophets are described as a foundation, that means that they are temporary/introductory. Yet from my limited knowledge, foundations are never temporary, but permanent. Now I want to be clear: I'm not saying that I think there are apostles on the order of Paul and the Twelve. I don't think that's the case. But Paul seems at times to use the term apostle in a wider sense, or at least the function. He does this particularly in 1 Corinthians 9 and 15.

In chapter 9, he says:

"Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?" (1 Corinthians 9:5, 6 ESV)

So Paul seems to be including Barnabas as an apostle (at least possessing the same rights as an apostle).

chapter 15:

"and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve... Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles." (1 Corinthians 15:5, 7 ESV)

So according to Paul, it seems that there are more apostles than just the Twelve. If all the apostles simply meant the Twelve again, he would have indicated this. Granted, they all saw the risen Lord. This is only important because if this is what Paul means, then this foundation extends beyond simply the Twelve+Paul.

3) The cessationist interpretation of "foundation" is problematic for a numbers of reasons. And by interpretation I mean the identifying of this foundation as the New Testament canon.

a. there's obviously the problem of a conscious completion of the canon.

i. The obvious question is, "How many letters did it take to complete the canon?" Was Paul allotted a certain number, Peter a certain number, John a certain number? What indication do we have that any of the writers were conscious of a New Testament canon?

ii. did Paul and Peter get together to compile what they each had written? Did Paul send copies of his letters to Jerusalem for them to read? Did they read them?

iii. what about those writers that were not apostles? Particularly Mark, Luke, and the author of Hebrews? When were they added to the list of canon-completers? How were they if they weren't apostles? This is recognizing that Mark's gospel never claims to be Peter's account, and Luke never claims to be writing on behalf of or in connection to Paul. Hebrews isn't Paul's letter, despite the erroneous attribution of it to him. What about James and Jude? Neither were apostles.

iv. if the apostles and prophets were the foundation, with the stipulation that the foundation is the New Testament canon, why do we only have writings from four apostles, Matthew, John, Paul, and Peter? Where are the writings from the other 9 (including Matthias as Judas' replacement)? And where are the writings from the prophets?

b. foundations are laid before the edifice is built. If so, then before there were ever elders or bishops or teachers or deacons, the apostles and prophets would have had to have sufficiently laid the foundation beforehand, if we are taking the cessationist view of foundation. But, we see elders and bishops in the lifetime of the apostles. So that would imply that the foundation had already been laid. Yet the apostle Paul was still working.

The only other doctrine I know that supposes that the church's foundation hadn't already been laid is the one that says that in 60 AD, Peter and Paul were in Rome laying the foundation of the church (indicating of course that Rome is the foundation of the church, and it was only built up in 60 AD, and not before). That's obviously a false doctrine.

AndyM

January 23, 2014 at 05:35 PM

Bring on the verifiable evidences, and you'll find people listening. It always seems to be a nebulous "in a country far far away where nobody had a video camera".

Alan

January 23, 2014 at 05:06 PM

I'm glad I stated I was just throwing that one out as a question! (And I wasn't doing it because I didn't know the answer by the way) :P

I guess though, following that point, the classic cessationist view of the canon could equate prophets with the writers of Scripture, meaning they ceased, but are still available to the church in the same way I suggested Apostles are.

All I'm meaning to do is show that Ephesians 4:11-13 isn't as slam dunk obvious as Brad said. I wasn't trying to set the record straight and give a definitive rebuttal and correction. I just saw an overly grandiose claim (especially accentuated, given the generous tone of the article), so I questioned it, showing one viable alternative.
I get misunderstood a lot when I do that. It seems you have to be comprehensive in everything you say when discussing theology on the internet.

Justin

January 23, 2014 at 04:58 PM

I know people love to boldly assert that 1 Cor 13:8-13 teaches that the gifts will last until Jesus returns but that is bad exegesis in my opinion. Anyway I was a Charismatic for years and it was the exegesis of 1 Cor. 13:8-13 that convinced me that I was in error. Here is a link to my findings on that passage. http://www.ccrmin.com/SpiritualMin2012.pdf

Kenton

January 23, 2014 at 04:22 PM

Prophecy is very specific in the Bible. It's either Spirit-compelled speech" taking the form of praise to God, or it's receiving the direct words of God. "Preaching" and "teaching" are not it, or else Paul wouldn't have been able to distinguish them as distinct gifts and roles.

Mark

January 23, 2014 at 04:14 PM

You have to ask the question: When Paul was writing this (1 Cor 13:8-12), was his point to give his readers a timeline for the continuation of the gifts? We have to be careful not to read our modern-day questions into the text.

I would agree that Paul is clearly referring here to the return of Christ. We see now in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. But the emphasis here is not on the specific list of things that will pass away, but the partial, obscured quality of the believer's present knowledge brought by prophetic gifts, in comparison with faith, hope, and especially love. This partial knowledge (mediated through various means) will not cease until the arrival of "perfection", or Christ's return.

Paul's concern here is on the partial quality of the believer's present knowledge, and NOT the particular media of that revealed knowledge. The particular media (whether prophecy, tongues, knowledge, etc.) are incidental. Prophecy and tongues are included here because of his wider concern in chapters 12-14, but he's not concerned with the specific time of their cessation. His interest is in showing the duration of our present, partial knowledge, by whatever means they may come.

Whereas most continuationists read 1 Cor 13:8-12 and focus on the specific modes of partial knowledge, they miss Paul's main emphasis on the partial quality of that knowledge compared to the glorious full knowledge we will have at the parousia.

This is not reading cessationism into the text. If you read on to verse 11, Paul gives an analogy of what he just said and describes the behavior of a child. "When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways." Would you really say that Paul's focus there is on the childish modes of acting? It makes much more sense to see his emphasis on the childish quality of knowledge vs. adult knowledge, and his examples of speaking and reasoning are just incidental. So the contrast in 1 Cor 13:8-12 is primarily qualitative (imperfect vs. perfect quality) and not quantitative (X# of gifts will definitely last until this point).

I really think Eph 2:20 is conclusive for cessationism. Wayne Grudem (a popular continuationist) himself seems to think so when he says: "If [Eph 2:20 is] referring to all the prophets in all the local congregations in first century churches…then it would seem that they are portrayed in a unique 'foundational' role in the New Testament church, and we have to agree with Dr. Gaffin—we would expect this gift to cease once the New Testament was complete."

Wayne Grudem gets around Eph 2:20 by understanding the phrase "apostles and prophets" to mean "apostles, who are also prophets", but this is the least likely option based on the Greek (Check Wallace's Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, he agrees Grudem's position is least likely from the greek).

So you are left with two options - either believe that the foundation of the church has not been fully laid and authoritative apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20) are still around today who should be writing scripture, or believe that prophecy, like apostleship, was for a foundational period of the church. The important thing to remember is that men like Wayne Grudem, Sam Storms, John Piper, and other popular continuationists are not really continuationists in the fullest sense - they would ALL deny that the gift of apostleship continues to the modern day, because they know that to affirm such a thing would do violence to the idea of a closed canon.

Alan

January 23, 2014 at 03:50 PM

Can't they? Are you sure those verses have to mean exactly that and be applied that way and no other?

Though they have died and were not replaced because the office ceased, you do still have the Apostles, don't you? The part of them that was important for the growth of the church towards maturity and the likeness of Christ, their teaching, is still very much with us, and is preserved, communicated and applied by God's Spirit.

We do still need prophets too. No article this size can possibly cover all the bases - what exactly a prophet is and does is something that wasn't discussed. A preacher stands up on a Sunday morning and heralds God's word. What do you call him? Preacher? Angel/messenger? Prophet even? I'm not so sure that prophecy, in a biblical sense, has to be telling the future. A great deal of the OT prophets' roles were more to do with discerning what was going on in their own time.

I'm not saying what I've suggested on those issues is right and what you've said must be wrong. (For what it's worth I'm totally convinced of what I've said on Apostles, but on prophets I'm just throwing out the question.) However, your first sentence is most definitely wrong. ;)

Daryl Little

January 23, 2014 at 03:42 PM

As a cessationist who was raised charismatic, I think the biggest problem in the whole debate is the insistence by many (not all) charismatics that this is a primary issue and not a secondary issue at all.

Too often the charismatics present their stance on the apostolic gifts as a necessity for the church, all the while ignoring the fact that the gifts in the NT were give "as the Spirit willed" without regard for belief in or search for, those gifts.

It seems to me pretty plain that if those gifts were still active, they would be present in all churches.
But Pentecostal theology by passes this by teaching that there are certain pre-conditions necessary for the gifts to be given and received. They've actually created sort of a works-righteousness category as a requirement for the gifts.

Those continualists who are easy to work with and who are the most accepting of their cessationist brethren are, in my experience, those who admit that the gifts, whether active or no, are not necessary for the life of the church.

Daryl Little

January 23, 2014 at 03:34 PM

Stan,

What you have described is certainly out of the ordinary but it comports fully with what cessationism teaches.

God still heals, as cessationists affirm, but he doesn't work through the apostolic gift of healing given to individuals to dispense freely ala Peter & John in the Temple.

[…] Magazine contributor, Thomas Schreiner, has written an article at The Gospel Coalition called, “Why I Am a Cessationist.” Sam Storms has written the opposite article, […]

Gabriel Powell

January 23, 2014 at 03:11 PM

Agabus gave no command for Paul to ignore. He was simply stating what would happen to Paul. Is there a specific text that demonstrates prophets were different?

Kenton

January 23, 2014 at 02:52 PM

I'm not convinced that prophecy changes substantially between the covenants. Three case studies to demonstrate this:

1) Prophecy under the Sinai covenant was a) not limited to the major/minor Prophets, and b) of differing kinds.

a) 1 Kings 13 recounts two prophets, both unknown by name. The first prophesies about Josiah, but gives no instruction or command. His words are not about doctrine, but the future. The second prophet lies to the first (claiming he received a command), but later speaks by the word of the Lord against the first prophet, who had just disobeyed God. Both are counted as prophets, and their actual prophecies are infallible. Neither one pens any words. But they speak the word of the Lord. No impressions.

b) 1 Samuel 10 describes a second order of prophecy than the first (the first comprising words from the Lord concerning the future, the past, or the present, including commands and instruction, ranging from the national to the individual). I'll give this second-order prophecy in full because of what it signifies. This is Samuel talking to Saul:

After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, where there is a garrison of the Philistines. And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man. Now when these signs meet you, do what your hand finds to do, for God is with you. (1 Samuel 10:5-7 ESV)

This is described as prophecy, yet we'd never call it that. This is clearly ecstatic, uncontrolled speech that is more akin to praise than prophesying the words of God. But note the language Samuel uses: "The Spirit of the Lord will *rush upon you*". Sound familiar? It should.

It's precedent is in Numbers 11. Again quoted for context:

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Gather for me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there. And I will take some of the Spirit that is on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone." ...Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied. But they did not continue doing it. Now two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the Spirit rested on them. They were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord ’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Numbers 11:16, 17, 25-29 ESV)

"The Spirit rested on them". That's VERY familiar, yes? But notice, again, that this is prophecy. And they are called prophets (albeit one-time prophets). These are the elders of Israel, and they are commissioned and empowered by God through this special act. They, and only they, receive the Spirit of prophecy, which was on Moses, as an identifying sign of their office (though Moses himself does not prophesy in this manner). But note that Moses expresses a desire that ALL God's people were prophets (defined by their being Spirit-filled). No small wish.

The last stop before the obvious reference, Joel 2, quoted again:

“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit." (Joel 2:28, 29 ESV)

In light of Numbers 11, Joel 2 (and Deuteronomy and Ezekiel and Jeremiah by the way) appears as a fulfillment of Moses' wish. The Spirit comes upon all God's people without distinction, and they prophesy as a sign that He is among them. This fits with Numbers and 1 Samuel. Again, this represents a second-order type of prophecy, but it obviously represents more.

2) The second case study concerns the second-order prophecy - Luke's account of Pentecost. I'm not going to quote Acts 2 except for these words:

"...both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” (Acts 2:11)

Firstly, Luke describes the second-order prophecy not as speaking the direct words of the Lord (the first-order), but telling the mighty works of the Lord. I assume that you know Acts 2:1-4 pretty much by memory, so the parallels in language between that, Numbers, and 1 Samuel indicate that Pentecost should be viewed in light of those two events, rather than as an entirely unique phenomenon. What makes Pentecost unique, of course, is the fact that this prophecy, this speech, is passed through the media of multiple languages, rather than one. This is significant in that Luke is focused on evangelism "in Jerusalem... to the end of the earth." Hence, multiple languages.
The point we glean from this is clear: Luke views "speaking in tongues" as second-order prophecy.

3) The third case is Paul's valuation of prophecy. It's clear that he DOESN'T view speaking in tongues as prophecy. Whereas for Luke it's important and central to the fulfillment of scripture, for Paul it's the least important of gifts, only to be practiced if there is accompanying interpretation. So the prophecy that he esteemed is the first-order. And he gives no indication that it's any different than under the Sinai covenant. We must keep in mind that prophecy is NOT specifically tied to the writing of Scripture.

Four quotes, three from Ephesians and one from Corinthians, from Paul to illustrate his views on prophecy:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone... (Ephesians 2:19, 20 ESV)

When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. (Ephesians 3:4, 5 ESV)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ... (Ephesians 4:11, 12 ESV)

Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. (1 Corinthians 14:1, 24, 25, 39 ESV)

The first thing to be said is that Paul views prophecy as a distinct role, along with apostleship. It's clear that they are different offices (the apostles and prophets are not the same people), but it's unclear whether he is talking about apostles as functional roles or as offices (i.e., the Twelve). I lean toward the former (in which Paul includes himself, Barnabas, and perhaps Apollos).

He views both apostles AND prophets as the foundation of the church, and lest we fall into the trap of presuming that Paul means that they wrote Scripture, it should be noted that the only book of prophecy we have is Revelation (whose author we aren't sure is John the Apostle). It can be assumed that the prophecies about the future in 1 and 2 Thessalonians were made by prophets in the church, since Paul give no scriptural backing for them and doesn't claim to have seen them.

But it should be noted that the apostles and prophets were active in instructing the church, and did not spend 10-60 yrs composing the New Testament. These doctrines and prophecies predate the writing of Scripture, and therefore the role of these two can't be tied to just the NT canon.

Prophecy in the Corinthian churches doesn't seem to fall into the Ephesian or Lukan categories of distinct roles in the wider Church. Rather, it falls in line with general gifts spread among all, including healing, miracles, spiritual discernment, speaking in tongues, etc. So these would appear to be one-time gifts, carried out in the assembly (Paul's only focus), rather than a general role or status. Hence why it is regulated, and why it must be evaluated by others.

I've said far too much as it is, but I am a continuationist, based on Scripture and not on what is practiced in charismatic and Pentecostal circles. I don't think viewing prophecy as different in the NT is necessary for the continuationist position (because it isn't different). Rather, it's continuity from Moses to Jesus remains intact.

That said, I think it would be wrong for us to regard the gifts as normative (that is, every day) or widely practiced in all churches. It's no mistake that Paul only addresses the Corinthian and Thessalonian churches about the gifts (especially prophecy). It should also be said that the gospel always remains central for Paul, so that even when he discusses gifts, he can still say that the most important thing is the gospel.

Brad

January 23, 2014 at 02:00 PM

No one can read and understand this passage in Ephesians 4 and conclude that apostles and prophets ceased.

"And he gave the APOSTLES, the PROPHETS, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, UNTIL we ALL attain to the UNITY of the faith and of the KNOWLEDGE of the Son of God, to MATURE manhood, to the measure of the stature of the FULLNESS of Christ," Ephesians 4:11-13 (CAPS LOCK added for emphasis)



I don't know about all of you, but the church I pastor, nor myself have attained to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ... So we are in need of apostles and prophets. If anyone can explain that Ephesians 4 text in a way that

Tom Beetham

January 23, 2014 at 01:11 PM

Schreiner: "I conclude, then, that 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 permits but doesn't require the gifts to continue until the second coming." This exegetical reasoning seems a bit weak to me. The text in 1 Corinthians 13:10 says, "but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away" (ESV). If we take these words at face value, it is when the perfect comes (Christ's return) that the partial will pass away (spiritual gifts). That is when they will cease. To suggest otherwise seems a watering down of this text. I suggest, therefore, that 1 Corinthians 13 is actually an argument for the Continuationist position. It also seems to me that in many places Paul assumes that all of the spiritual gifts will be passed on to the next generation of Christians in his first epistle to the Corinthians (1 Cor 12-14). He actually tells that church (which would include many in the post-apostolic generation) to seek these spiritual gifts, including the more spectacular gifts. I am not charismatic in the sense that I have never exercised these gifts, but I am convinced from the NT that they still exist and are intended to be a blessing to Christ's church today.

[…] Erickson and Carl F. H. Henry both citing him on this debate. When Thomas Shreiner concluded his post on cessationism at The Gospel Coalition with the statement that “the Reformers and most of the Protestant […]

Alan Rennê Alexandrino Lima

February 4, 2014 at 09:13 PM

I would like to get permission from you to translate this article into Portuguese and published in my blog.

Already, grateful.

[…] originalmente el 23 de Enero para The Gospel Coalition. Traducido porArmando […]

Por qué soy cesacionista – TGC Español

February 19, 2014 at 10:03 AM

[…] Publicado originalmente el 23 de Enero para The Gospel Coalition. […]

Carl Wilkinson

February 19, 2014 at 07:30 PM

Thank you for posting this blog, and for your openness to ideas. I have to admit, I didn’t read all of the comments below, so I probably covered some of the same material as other commenters, but I addressed every Scripture of direct relation to the subject and your claims. Please feel free to share your thoughts.
Commenting on Ephesians 2:20 you said, “I conclude that all we need to know for salvation and sanctification has been given to us through the teaching of the apostles and prophets, and that this teaching is now taught in Scripture.” The fatal flaw you’re making here is the assumption that apostles and prophets only exist to lay the foundation of salvation and sanctification. Ephesians 4:11-13 says “[Jesus] Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teacher, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God…” Admittedly you have a disagreement of the faith with a your friend Sam. This is an example of one of many purposes for apostleship that has not been fulfilled, yet. The disunity of the faith necessitates that the full five-fold ministry be in place.
You’re missing the point of Hebrews 1:2, or perhaps you’re not missing the point, but you’re adding meaning to it that doesn’t apply. The verse doesn’t say God only spoke to us through His Son. We also know that after Jesus ascended God spoke through men by the Holy Spirit-prophecy. The point of the Scripture was to reveal the closeness of God to people, that there was no prophet to go through but He came Himself. It’s not about prophecy or any gift of the Spirit ceasing.
1 Corinthians 15:8 is a misunderstanding as well. The word translated “last” is better translated “least.” In context Paul is speaking of his humility. He is not speaking about the progression or digression of apostleship as an office, but rather his standing in worth and value among the apostolic office.
Acts 12:2 doesn’t say that James wasn’t replaced, or that apostles are limited in some way by number that they can only be replace when one dies or resigns, like a Supreme Court Justice. Acts 1:3 tells us that Jesus appeared to “many” over a period of forty days. This means, according to your definition there are potentially thousands of candidates for first century apostles, depending on exactly what the quantity of “many” may be.
Jude 3 is not talking about apostleship. It’s talking about the finished work of the cross for salvation. Jude wrote the letter to bring to light people who were misunderstanding the grace of God and believed they could be saved and live a lifestyle of evil without consequence. The faith has been delivered once for all, but that Scripture, in context has nothing to do with apostleship, and doesn’t even mention or hint at apostleship in any way.

I have to disagree with you about the cannon thing. I don’t think the lack of the canonized Scripture meant the necessity of prophecy. I don’t see that assertion made biblically. I don’t even see the idea of canonized Scripture expressed biblically, but I’m open to it if you have a reference. But think about this: what about cultures and people groups other than our own that don’t have the bible translated into their language. Do they still have apostles and prophets, since your reason for them not existing doesn’t apply to them?
If you want to say that the gifts have ceased, and refer to 1 Corinthians 12 do you also believe that faith and knowledge have ceased? Because both of those are listed with prophecy, miracle and tongues (1 Corinthians 12:9, 13:2)
I also think your understanding of prophecy and impression is a silly definitions game. Point to me in Scripture an “impression from God” that is distinct from prophecy. Or rather do these “impressions” accomplish what is described in 1 Corinthians 14:3 “But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.”
Perhaps these “impressions” aren’t the same as Old Testament prophecy or what Paul was referring to as prophecy, but what do you do with contemporary prophecy that reflects the style and deadly accuracy of Old Testament prophecy? There are tons of credible accounts of this happening within our generation, and from the ones just prior!
Your understanding of tongues is also incorrect. “this gift signifies that the age of fulfillment has arrived where God’s covenant promises are being realized.” That’s not quite true. Tongues only signifies all of that in Acts 2:1-4, based on the prophecy in Joel 2 which is a prophecy of a Church age reality that would continue on. The other times in Acts it is a symbol of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and for Cornelius it was to say that Gentiles could be saved without being a proselyte (One converted to Judaism; adopted Gentile). 1 Corinthians 13:1 is hyperbole, but it’s exaggerated truth. For the prophet does understand mysteries and have knowledge, though not all of it. Though the one who speaks in a tongue does not speak in EVERY tongue, he does speak in tongues. Some speak in tongues of men, other in tongues of angels. The question remains, what does 1 Corinthians 13:1 mean, saying, “I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…” Did you know many times someone speaking in a tongue has often been interpreted by someone who spoke that tongue as their native language! There’s tons of credible accounts of this happening, within our generation!
I have to challenge you, also, on what you said are the reasons many Christians believed the gifts had ceased. It wasn’t because they look at the Scripture and concluded it, but rather because they looked at the world around them. It’s not hard to believe that healing has ceased when you see a bunch of sick people stay sick. I think that’s the main reason, and then people have turned to the bible, perhaps even asking, to find out why. The arguments for cessationism are preconcluded and then studied.
Similarly I think believing in the gifts of the Spirit will come (mostly) by experience. When one sees a broken leg healed, or gets prophesied over, it won’t be denied, and a light will shine brightly on the Scripture.

j david gilliland

February 11, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Like the theory of evolution, the charismatic movement ultimately fails on hermeneutical/exegetical grounds, but the natural history of each is worthy of study. Science doesn't determine biblical truth, but it must be consistent in areas that are meant to be observed. And where inconsistencies exist, they should send us back to the Scriptures. When one sets sail and wakes up at the same spot without falling of the edge, it's time to question the theologians that teach that the earth is flat.

Darwin died in despair as ultimately no "intermediate" fossil forms were ever found to substantiate his theory -- and that is still true today. The current theory of miracle healing falls by the same weight of evidential silence. There are millions of sick people with faith, and millions of faithful Christians who have been told they have the gift of healing, and yet no single proven case of a "healing" miracle by biblical magnitude exists -- and biblical healing was meant to be observed by the non-believing public. The pharisees and skeptics didn't deny Jesus' miracles, that is why they hated him all the more! They were undeniable to all!

The Scriptures call us to have "hope in things unseen" -- eternal life and heaven. It is a far different matter -- and dare I say scandalous -- to advocate hope in something unseen that was meant to be seen.

CigarDawg

February 11, 2014 at 09:30 AM

Stop pestering me with facts, logic and sound biblical interpretation and exegesis. I know what I beleive and I won't be moved from it. ;-)

Why I Am a Cessationist

February 10, 2014 at 11:04 PM

[…] Read More. […]

[…] I Am a Continuationist  (Sam Storms—on the sign gifts of the Spirit.) Why I Am a Cessatianist (Thomas Schriener—on the sign gifts of the Spirit.) Seven Paradigm Shifts in the American […]

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