When cessationists reject the gifts, manifestations and work of the Holy Spirit as He operates through the Church, they are not only dismissing scripture, they are denying the Promise of God made by Christ to the Church.
This Promise is that of the Holy Spirit. It was prophesied that the outpouring of the Spirit that began on the Day of Pentecost would impact the Church to impact the world as witnesses with power.
The Promise of the Spirit is one of the signs predicted as evidence of God’s redeeming work amongst His people.
We are saved by grace through faith unto good works in Christ, and the Holy Spirit is essential to the ministry we are all called into, including the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit.
Churchwatcher cessationist errors revealed
Here are some comments by the churchwatcher ‘team’ on their own site:
In response to Jesus’ words in Mark 16, that ‘These signs will follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will by no means hurt them; the will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover’, chookwatcher erroneously says, “Those signs were fulfilled by the apostles”, when Jesus clearly says the signs will follow believers, not just Apostles.
Are there still believers? Anyone? Then the signs remain. The reference to protection from serpents and poison is towards those under threat of persecution for preaching the gospel, by the way, not a ministry practice, which would be tempting Christ.
In response to the Acts 2:16-18 verses on the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, churchwatcher claims that, “These scriptures were fulfilled in the Book of Acts”, by which churchwatcher could could only mean that the outpouring and the Promise of the Spirit has ended, thus repeating the cessationist line.
Then chookwatcher produces a lengthy quote from another cessationist which eisegetes away the New Testament gift of prophecy and revelatory gifts – word of knowledge, word of wisdom, tongues and interpretation.
It also confuses revelatory gifts with the completion of the canon of scripture, completely misunderstanding the significance of the gifts of the Spirit and misrepresenting the Spirit of God’s intentions for the operation of His gifts in the Church.
Fortunately for the true follower of the Word of God there is not a shred of Biblical evidence to back this up. Nothing. Anywhere. There is nothing in scripture that declares that we should now disregard Paul’s charge to pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, especially that we should prophesy.
On the contrary, Paul admonishes against quenching the Spirit or despising prophecy.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings.
Rejection of the gifts
Cessationist ministry has largely rejected this operation of the Spirit in the Church. They have, by their teaching, disregarded and removed this vital part of local church ministry from their congregants.
Cessationist rejectionism denies the validity of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit beyond the establishment of the canon of scripture, which did not fully come to us as we know it in the evangelical church until the fourth century after Christ.
We uphold that canon and agree that it is the basis for Christian living, but to reject large portions as cessationists do is to deny the Body the whole counsel of God.
Cessationists have, therefore, kept their church members away from the gifts and manifestation of the Holy Spirit – on the premise that the Holy Spirit’s own gifts and manifestations ended either with the Apostles of Christ, or at the end of the Book of Acts, or, as some claim, with the giving of the canon of scripture.
There is no Biblical evidence whatsoever that the Holy Spirit has changed His nature, from whence the gifts come, or His will, which is the basis of the release of the gifts and manifestations, nor that He has withdrawn His operations through the Church.
Wait for the Promise of the Spirit
What does scripture say about prophecy, the gifts of the Spirit and the outpouring?
The disciples of Christ were instructed to wait in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. There were 120 disciples in the Upper Room when the Promise first came. Only twelve of them were Apostles. The rest were disciples. They were all believers. Jesus had told them to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit.
Acts 1:4-5 And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptised with water, but you shall be baptised with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
The Promise is synonymous with the baptism with the Holy Spirit and is revealed as an outpouring upon all flesh. The purpose of the promised baptism with the Spirit is to empower believers as witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
This speaks of the ongoing work of the Spirit as He operates through believers to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. This makes the Promise universal and generational, because every generation has increasing numbers of people who need to be reached with the gospel.
It was not, as cessationists claim, for Apostles only, but for all believers to help them reach all who are lost.
As we have already seen, out of 120 in the Upper Room only twelve were Apostles. They were all filled – all 120 – and all began to speak in tongues, which are languages not known to the speaker given by the Holy Spirit. He gives the utterance. Believers speak.
This outpouring began on the Day of Pentecost. It was a sign of the last days. If the last days prophetically began at Pentecost, it stands to reason that we remain in the last days, which will continue until God calls time.
In the Upper Room, where the outpouring began, each person was filled with the Spirit, and all spoke with tongues – languages unknown to the speaker, but heard by the diaspora – Jewish people who had relocated to other nations – in the language of their adopted land.
Some claimed that the disciples were intoxicated, but Peter declared that they were not drunk with wine, but that this was the beginning of the fulfilment of the prophecy of Joel.
Acts 2:16-18 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy.
Dreams, visions and prophecy would be the signs of the outpouring on those who received. Prophecy is very much included. The Greek prophetes means ‘to utter forth, or declare, a thing which can only be known by divine revelation’.
We know that this outpouring was not isolated to this single event because Peter, by revelation, told us that the Promise was to all that are afar off, for as a many as the Lord God calls. Signally, then, it is clear that this fulfilment was not complete on the Day of Pentecost, nor was it confined to the Book of Acts accounts, nor was it only for Apostles.
Acts 2:39 “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
The Apostle Paul, for instance talks about prophecy as an essential spiritual gift that all believers should desire. He admonished the Church to pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, especially that we may prophesy.
Love is essential to the gifts
This ends the theological argument that love is the greatest gift therefore we need no other. In fact, love is the new nature of the regenerated believer, and the primary motive for the manifestations of the Spirit. Just as faith works by love, so the gifts are outworked through love. Without love, Paul tells us, our works are like a clanging gong. Love is an imperative not an option. Paul tells us to pursue love, yes, and to desire spiritual gifts.
The primary gift he encourages us to desire is prophecy. Read this for yourself from his letter to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 14:1-5 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries. But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification.
He is not saying that speaking in tongues is wrong, by the way, but that, in an assembly, prophecy is more beneficial and expedient, which is an obvious assessment since prophecy is an utterance of the Holy Spirit given through the human understanding to others present, whereas speaking in tongues is an utterance given for the edification of the speaker.
Speaking in tongues, you notice, is not speaking to men, but it is speaking to God, and that in mysteries.
This also tells us that there are two operations of speaking in tongues – one is a personal prayer gift whereby we speak to God in mysteries and are spiritually edified, and the second is a ministry gift of tongues, whereby we speak by the utterance of the Holy Spirit in an assembly and there is an interpretation by the utterance of the Holy Spirit that follows, which edifies the church, and is the equivalent to prophecy.
Hence Paul tells us that not all speak in tongues in the assembly, which, of course, is the case, but this doesn’t mean that we can’t all speak to God in mysteries in private in prayer and exaltation, which is a separate operation.
Speaking in tongues edifies, or spiritually builds up the speaker, whereas prophecy edifies the hearer, or the Church. Both are important but for different reasons.
1 Corinthians 14:24-25 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.
This tells us that prophecy is very important in the assembly, not just for those who believe, but for the unbeliever, or for the unlearned in the things of God. Paul is not forbidding the Corinthians, and therefore the Church, from either speaking in tongues, or from prophecy, but is correcting the hitherto looseness of the Corinthian gatherings and bringing order to meetings.
Order and safeguarding in the church
Neither does he forbid the utterance of tongues in the public setting, provided there is an interpretation, nor does he forbid revelation, nor bringing a teaching, as long as it is conducted decently and in order.
1 Corinthians 14:26-33 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter, let him keep silent in church, and let him speak to himself and to God. Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.
But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, let the first keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.
For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
Notice that Paul says to the person with a tongue that they should keep silent in the church if there is no interpreter, but should speak to himself and to God – not in the church, that is before an assembly, but in private before the Lord, because tongues is a private language between a believer and God, unless there is an interpretation in an assembly. So speaking in tongues is a good thing in private, and, with interpretation, a good thing in gatherings.
Prophecy, also, is permitted as long as there are mature believers present who can judge the content. Thus Paul gives safeguards. He gives safeguards regarding tongues, and he gives safeguards regarding prophecy. He also gives safeguards for teaching, psalms given and revelation. But he does not dismiss them, neither does he forbid them. He encourages them in the local church assembly as long as they are given decently and in order.
Measured against the Word
Regarding these safeguards, prophecy should always be judged against the Word of God. The Holy Spirit will never contradict the Word of God. He will always confirm the Word.
He is the Spirit of Truth. If He gives a believer an utterance it will always point to Christ and to the Word of God. It will never be revelatory in the sense that it introduces some new doctrine, rather it will illuminate, for the individual or group, scripture that is already established. It will not displace or replace the canon of scripture.
It is a gift for the Church governed and outworked by the Holy Spirit through believers as He wills. He gives the information that we release to whomever He directs us.
At this level, prophecy is no longer absolutely revelatory in the sense of bringing forth new doctrine from the Father. Rather, it is incidentally revelatory in that it gives understanding to the speaker or hearer of scripturally established things they or their hearers may not have understood previously with full clarity.
It is revelatory in respect to a person’s life. A word of knowledge given by the Holy Spirit through a believer will show the hearer that God is familiar with their life and circumstances, and will reveal knowledge not known to the speaker. The word of wisdom is similar, except that it will give information that will assist the hearer to apply the Word and Spirit to their life in a beneficial way.
God interacting with His people
This is not new revelation separate from the canon. It is God the Holy Spirit interacting with His sons and daughters, and even with those who have not yet made a commitment, according to Paul, as they come into the assembly and hear things about themselves from God that will help change their lives. He goes on to say that we should not forbid tongues, nor prohibit prophecy.
1 Corinthians 14:39-40 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.
These are vital and often missing elements to Church life. Cessationists obstruct the will of God by saying that these manifestations and gifts ended when the Book of Acts was completed, for which they have no Biblical evidence, despite their appeals to what they term Sola Scriptura. On the contrary, as we have seen here, cessationists tend to remove vital elements of scripture from their adherents.
The Church is being robbed by their false doctrines of cessation of gifts, including prophecy. These teachers who say that the Holy Spirit no longer manifests His gifts are taking away some of the most potent tools in believers’ armoury. They are His gifts and manifestations to give, and He does, severally to every person as He wills, according to scripture.
It should be pointed out briefly that prophecy is not preaching, which is a different operation altogether.
To say that prophecy has ended is to reject a tool that God has deemed vital to the ministry of the gospel and to the work of the Church. Believers need to resist the teaching of cessationist ministers.
Restoration of the gifts
There also has to be a restoration of these gifts and manifestations in the contemporary church where, more often than not in recent years, the Holy Spirit has been given a back seat, so that the order of meetings becomes man managed rather than Holy Spirit inspired. The convenience of well orchestrated meetings has taken the place of Holy Ghost led assemblies.
We need the Word of God, and it needs to be accurately and responsibility ministered, but we also need the power of the Holy Spirit to be demonstrated in meetings. His gifts and manifestations have not ended, except in places where He is resisted and rejected.
Even the unsaved and unchurched who visit need to know, and, in fact, long to know, that God is omnipotent and omniscient, that He knows us inside out, and that He is with us when we gather in His name.
There is so much more we could say on this that it is hard to know where to end this piece, but for now, this is plenty to chew on, with much more to examine. Suffice to say that the Promise of the Spirit remains for all who believe. All can be filled. All can be used by Him.
Let the Father be glorified through the Word and Spirit in the Church without compromise and without hesitation.