Here’s an interesting doctrinal quote from chookwatcher on one of their threads on a post about which churches they recommend.
Chookwatcher writes of certain ministers, cessationist and continuationist, who discuss the scriptures:
They all debate secondary issues (and they really are secondary) such as the continuationism vs cessationism position but what matters more to all these men is the Gospel, the good news about what Jesus Christ has done to reconcile sinners to God.’
Well we can all agree that the gospel is of paramount importance, and the good news should be preached, including what Jesus has done to reconcile sinners, but aren’t the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit part and parcel of the good news, and instruments God has granted the Church through the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus to demonstrate the love of God towards people?
Wasn’t Jesus our example? Wasn’t he sent and anointed of the Holy Spirit, going about and doing good by healing all who were oppressed of the devil? That is the information we receive in Acts 10:38, which is clearly describing the work of the Holy Spirit through Jesus, and continued throughout the Book of Acts by the disciples.
So here is the crucial question concerning chookwatcher doctrine.
Is the discussion about continuance or cessation of the gifts, manifestations and operations of the Spirit a secondary issue?
Cessationists say that the gifts and manifestations, the miracles and healing, deliverance and signs have ended. Continuationists reject this theology and say the Holy Spirit is still at work in the Church through these operations today.
For cessationists, of course, it’s a nonissue, so, in a way, it’s a contrary discussion, because for the vast majority of continuationists it’s a vitally important issue. Therefore, being a nonissue for cessationists, they could only, at best, grudgingly relegate the discussion to secondary status, whereas, in reality, they do not consider it of any importance at all.
So those who empathise or argue for the cessationist position, or support those who hold to it, are likely to declare it, in a discussion, a secondary issue when, in fact, it should be prominent in our theology since, for those of us who consider evangelism and disciple-making of paramount importance to all believers, the gifts and manifestations, which complement and enhance the preached gospel, are a crucial part of our armoury in the battle for souls.
Let’s look at scripture that immediately refutes the cessationist position when it is carefully studied.
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all…
1 Corinthians 12:4-7
If God the Holy Spirit considers them important enough to have Paul tell the Church that he, the Holy Spirit, distributes the gifts of the Spirit severally to whoever he chooses, and for the benefit of the whole, then we should certainly take note. We should consider his will of utmost importance, rather than yield to any reticence to discover the purpose and outworking of his gifts and manifestations.
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
1 Corinthians 12:11
This is a matter of the will of God, not the will of men to deny the truth. They are his gifts and manifestations. It is his will to distribute them as he determines.
From here Paul goes on to discuss the working of the Spirit in the Body of Christ and how we each have a function, a place and a purpose within Christ. We are set in the Body by the Father, the Head is the Son, and the gifts and manifestations are of the Spirit. Thus we are under the direction and leadership of the Godhead.
The gifts have not ended
There is no suggestion in scripture of this dynamic ending at some juncture in the first century AD, or subsequently. There is no way that the Holy Spirit changes himself and his mission a short time after Paul teaches about the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit as a vital part of the Body’s mobility and impact.
This is driven home especially when we observe that the same needs are experienced today as then, and, it could be said, more so, because the global population has exponentially grown and continues to explode.
The gifts and manifestations of the Spirit empower the Church to function in the way God intended. If we were more actively engaged in trusting the Holy Spirit to move through us in daily situations we would be far more effective in our witness, and Christ would be glorified far more through the witness of the Church.
Simply stating that these gifts and manifestations have ended and dismissing them as secondary is not good enough when the Bible is so clear about their function, and that it is the Holy Spirit who works them, distributes them, and oversees them as he wills.
Besides which, claiming a cessationist position isn’t just relegating the gifts and manifestations to a secondary discussion, it is actually removing them from the narrative altogether. It is dismissing the work and operation of the Spirit as irrelevant and inert.
Is Holy Spirit theology important?
The first thing we should consider is whether the theology of the Holy Spirit is a secondary issue.
Clearly it is not, since Jesus, the Word of God, told us that it was expedient that he go so that the Father could send the Holy Spirit into the earth to work with us and through us as the Church. The Holy Spirit and his ministry in and through the Church is a primary issue.
Cessationist doctrine revolves around whether the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are current or have ended. Cessationists usually say they ended when the last of Jesus’ Apostles passed away. There is absolutely no scripture to support this. Nor is there any logical reason for God to do this.
Neither is there any scripture to support the notion that the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit have ended, or that God the Holy Spirit has changed, or needs to change, bearing in mind that they are his gifts and manifestations, not ours. God has, in fact, declared that He is Jahweh, and He changes not. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. He is still operating through the Church by the leading of the Spirit, who empowers the Church for the work of the ministry.
Therefore the discussion is decided by determining, through scripture, the nature and purpose of the Holy Spirit, with regard to the gifts and manifestations, his interaction with those who receive Christ, and his continued ministry, through the Body of Christ, to those Jesus was sent to save, regenerate and revive.
The command and the promise
Jesus commanded his disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. By this he meant the outpouring of the Spirit, called the Promise of the Spirit, which would be poured out on all who believe, to empower them for the work of the ministry as witnesses of the risen Christ.
This alone places the baptism with the Spirit at the forefront of theology. It is no secondary issue, any more than the Holy Spirit Himself is secondary. He is identified in scripture as the third Person of the Godhead. This isn’t saying he is secondary. It is elevating his importance and omnipotence. God is God. There is one God. ‘God is a Spirit’, John tells us, ‘and those that come to him must worship him in spirit and in truth’.
Jesus made the baptism with the Spirit a priority. From the perspective of repentance and restoration, the most important change in a person’s life is the new birth. This is the baptism into Christ, and prepares the way for the baptism with the Spirit, which Jesus called the Promise of the Spirit.
Those who first received this Promise we’re all believers. There were 120 in the Upper Room when the Spirit was first poured out on Jewish believers on the day of Pentecost. They were Jesus’ disciples. They had been with him. They waited on the Lord and prayed for ten days until the Day of Pentecost had fully come, the Holy Spirit entered the room where they were, and the outpouring began – the Promise came. The Promise was, and is, the outpouring of the Spirit. And it is for all flesh. It has not ended. Nowhere in scripture does it say it has ended.
Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declared that this outpouring was that prophesied by Joel, and was for all believers.
The baptism with the Spirit was further granted to the Gentiles when Peter was send to preach to Cornelius’ household some ten years later, and the same outpouring was received by those gathered to hear Peter’s preaching. This was significant, because, for the first time, Jewish Christians realised that the Promise of the Spirit was for all who call upon the name of the Lord, including Gentiles. All who are near and all who are afar, in time and place.
Do not be ignorant
Paul taught that we were not to be ignorant of spiritual things. Therefore he placed an emphasis on the importance of the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant…
1 Corinthians 12:1
Why does Paul emphasise that we need to know about spiritual gifts? Is he not revealing their importance? Of course he is. They are significant because they are the outworking of the Spirit in our ministry to those he sends us to. We are to show ourselves approved, workmen and women worthy of our vocation in Christ.
It is irresponsible for ministers to deny the Body these gifts and manifestations by allowing their congregations to remain ignorant of their significance. Those who preach cessationist doctrine are limiting the effectiveness of their church members by refusing to acknowledge Paul’s admonition to avoid ignorance. When they demote the gifts and manifestations to secondary importance they are removing a vital set of tools from the armoury of the Body.
The Word of God
Amazingly, a large number of those who reject the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit make the claim that they are very strong adherents to the Word of God. They devise doctrinal headings like Sola Scriptura which appear to point to the vital importance of the Word of God and yet they, defying their own high standards, deny some of the key doctrines, training and teaching provided by the Apostle Paul in regard to the work and operation of the Spirit of God.
Thy claim it has ended. They remove it, theologically, from the accounts. They reject the work of the Spirit.
They make the claim that those who do adhere to the gifts and manifestations and claim them to be essential to our witness are only ever interested in the Spirit at the expense of the Word, which is a complete fabrication.
We cannot know the Spirit except by the Word. Jesus is the Word. The Spirit is of Christ. We know the Spirit through the Word of Christ. We understand the operation of the Spirit through our understanding of the Word. We read the Word and find that there is an outworking of the Spirit which much of the Church denied access to by teachers who reject it or ignore it.
There are two sides to ignorance: to be ignorant simply because we do not know or have not been told, or to be wilfully ignorant – to ignore despite having the information.
Obedience to the Word
Those of us who embrace the Spirit do so because we have read the Word and want to engage in all he has to offer as the Spirit of Christ. We embrace the Spirit because Jesus commanded that we should not go anywhere without being endued with power from on high. We embrace the Spirit because Jesus promised we would be filled when he came upon us. We embrace the Spirit because we are admonished not to be ignorant of spiritual things.
Those who reject the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit have the appearance of godliness but contradict its power. They accept the notion of Christ but oppose the Spirit of Christ by their words and inaction. They have knowledge without experience. They deny experiential Christianity when, in fact, it is part of our encounter with God.
Who would deny Paul’s encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus was an experience? In fact they reject anything experiential regarding the presence of God in our lives. They do not believe, therefore they do not engage.
Yet, we are told in Romans 5, that experience produces hope. It is the proving of God in our life through perseverance and endurance even in difficult times that develops character and takes us forward.
Now hope doesn’t disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
If God is true and is alive he will be the same as he was in the scriptures. If he is truly the deliverer he will perform the same works we read about in the Bible. He has not changed. He is not limited by anything but his own Word. If he has not stated categorically that the gifts and manifestations have ended then they haven’t.
There is much more we could say about this, and perhaps we will add more scripture to reveal the truth that the Spirit is the same today as he was when Christ ascended, and his gifts and manifestations have not ended because he has not ended, and that the Church needs the gifts and manifestations in place as much as when the Apostles of Christ walked the earth.
So we’ll call this part one and take another look in the future.
But the truth is inescapable that the gifts and manifestations are not secondary, nor is the need to reveal the truth of the outworking of the Spirit, nor is the instruction by Christ to go nowhere until we are endued with power from on high, nor is thePromise of the Spirit which empowers us to be witnesses of Christ, nor is the instruction to avoid ignorance of spiritual things, amongst others.
Preaching cessationist doctrine is a violation of scripture. It denies the work and operation of the Spirit. It inhibits the Church from correctly functioning as Christ intended. It diminishes the role of the Spirit, the Church, and the Godhead in the Biblical command to make disciples of all nations through the preaching of the gospel.
Chookwatcher doctrine on this subject has failed their audience.