J D Hall has issued his definition of cessationism. It comes in an essay that attacks people for being charismatic calvinists, which is a bit of a misnomer, since Calvin was a cessationist himself, as Hall points out.
Nevertheless, it is very interesting to look at Hall’s definition of cessationist theology, because it gives us a good insight into the error.
‘So then, the Scriptural deduction regarding Cessationism goes something like this (consider this a crash course in Cessationism): There were certain spiritual gifts given to mark a true Apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12), to substantiate their message and authority. These Apostolic-related gifts were not altogether different than the type of signs and wonders demonstrated when God handed down the law to Moses and when God handed down the rest of the Old Testament through the prophets. Like the miracles of the Exodus period and like the miracles of the prophets, the miracles (or signs and wonders) of the Apostles were also meant to validate new Scripture being given. The ability to prophesy revelation and work signs and wonders was for the Apostles and in certain cases, those anointed by the Apostles by the laying on of their hands. As the Apostles died and the generation they ministered to died as well, the Apostolic sign gifts ceased, as the canon was made complete as the Gospel was fully given. That’s Cessationism in a nut-shell.’
What does 1 Corinthians 12:12 tell us, then?
The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.
Well we can agree that there were certain signs given to apostles, and they were extraordinary acts of the Holy Spirit worked amongst the people through appointed men.
However, they were not listed as gifts, but as signs, which were miraculous works. Notice that Paul says that ‘the signs of a true apostle were performed’. No mention of gifts or manifestations, here, although we know they must have engaged in them as well as the other believers in the Church.
Which brings us to 1 Corinthians 12, where there is a list of manifestations and gifts of the Spirit. This list does not refer to the works of the apostle. They are manifestations and gifts operated through believers.
1 Corinthians 12:4-11 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: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
He distributes these things to each one individually as He wills. The manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one – each believer – for the profit of all.
This is not directly referring to apostles. This is for the whole eklessia. The Holy Spirit will work through the believer He chooses at the time He determines. That is why we always need to be prepared to be called upon by the Spirit in a meeting, and why meetings should be overseen so that they are conducted properly in an edifying way, not a free-for-all.
This section of 1 Corinthians is very much discussing the operation of the Spirit in the local assembly. Paul is setting down the ground rules for doing everything decently and in order.
The Corinthian church had been somewhat unruly, so Paul was bringing correction. He is not saying that speaking in tongues, or prophesying, or operating in the gifts and manifestations are wrong. He says in the first chapter that they came behind in no gift. He is bringing them to attention so that meetings have some management and are not chaotic, as they had been before he brought order.
This is a special passage of scripture to us in this discussion because cessationists would have you believe that the gifts and manifestations have ended and been replaced by Sola Scriptura, yet here you have, in Sola Scriptura, instruction for the proper ministration of the gifts and manifestations, not just for apostles, but for the whole church whenever it gathers.
There is further confirmation that the ministry of the Spirit is not for apostles only. Remember what Jesus said to the disciples when He revealed the coming of the Spirit at His resurrection.
John 14:12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t specify apostles only. He says ‘he that believes in Me’. The works that Jesus performed would be replicated by those who believe. He goes on to say that He would send the Holy Spirit to be with us and in us, that is, those of us who believe.
Confining the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit just to the apostles is poor exegesis. Speaking to all believers, Paul admonishes them that they should all be zealous to prophesy. Neither is this an instruction that was constrained to the early Church only. It is a teaching for all believers.
1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
These are not cessation scriptures. They speak of continuation. They are as true to us today as they were when Paul wrote them under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We are told that all scripture is given by inspiration of the Spirit, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.
All scripture, including these verses, which have not ended at all, but are still vibrant and alive to us now.
Does the Word replace what it says?
Cessationists like Hall would have you believe that large portions of New Testament scripture have been superseded by, well… scripture, which, as you can easily see is a misnomer. How can scripture itself replace what it is declaring?
Either God means what He says and those scriptures are as vital to us in the here and now as they have been since they were given, or He is wasting our time giving us instructions we do not need to keep because His own Word has rendered them void. This doesn’t make sense.
If there were verses which told us that these things have ended, we could say, well, just like the cross was a once-for-all act, so the gifts have been fulfilled. But there is no scripture that says this. Cessationists attempt to contrive an end but fail.
Hall’s attempt to compare the Old Testament with the New falls spectacularly, because we have it written that the New supersedes the Old, but there is no third testament that overrules the New Testament. The message we have received is not to be added to or subtracted from. It is complete and it is established in the heavens.
Our only recourse is to take the Word at face value, recieve it, believe it, and act on it. It is the Word of God that sets the spiritual agenda, and shapes our doctrinal stance, not our conjecture, substitution or unbelief.
Neither have apostles ended. There is no evidence of this. It is an assumption made by cessationists who reject Paul’s teaching on the ministry gifts given by Christ at His ascension. They will accept evangelists, pastors and teachers, but they reject apostles and prophets. Again, they have no scripture for this.
This is a topic for another article, but cessationists have huge trouble with revelation. They have convinced themselves that the only form of revelation is that which was given by God to those who wrote the canon of scripture. There is an element of truth to this, but they have missed what Paul is actually telling us about revelation in the sense of the gifts and manifestations revealed in the local assemblies.
Because they have taught error in this regard, cessationists stumble themselves and their adherents every time. However, there is the revelation that came to the Old Testament and New Testament writers, that makes up the canon of scripture. This cannot be changed.
But there is also revealed knowledge and wisdom via the manifestations and gifts of the Spirit, as He wills, that is not to be recorded as addenda to the canon, but is relevant to individuals and groups in certain situations, to bring edification, exhortation and encouragement to them.
This is not in any way extra-Biblical. It is personal to that person or group’s life, and should always confirm the Word, and be based solely on the Word, never replace it, supersede it, nor countermand it.
A cessationist could not understand this or even believe it because they have convinced themselves that the gifts and manifestations were for now deceased apostles only, or that they have ended, therefore they do not study them, teach them or apply them. Worse, they even mock them, deny them, and forbid them.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies.
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.