Listening to Chris Rosebrough’s Pirate Christian Radio program Fighting for the Faith is a painful process at the best of times, but it is useful for getting into the theology of a cessationist.
In an attack on the ministry of the late John Wimber, Rosebrough completely misses the point of what Whimber is saying about the gifts of the Spirit in evangelism.
In so doing, Rosebrough inevitably reveals his own error.
Wimber was presenting a thesis on the viability of the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit, when we are preaching the gospel, as a tool to open up the hearts of people who would otherwise be hardened against anything to do with Christianity or the Bible.
Rosebrough mocks and scoffs his way through the teaching, interrupting along the way with the quips of an unbeliever. At one point early on in the process, Rosebrough actually states his position.
‘It doesn’t say anywhere that signs and wonders are a necessary part of evangelism.’
This, of course, is a weak semi-truth. It is used by Rosebrough to deflect the listener from the actual truth being taught by Whimber that God the Holy Spirit works alongside believers as they preach the gospel and is always ready to confirm the Word with signs following.
Power evangelism is the cooperation of the believer and the Holy Spirit in preaching the gospel. The Apostle Paul explains.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Here the Apostle Paul reveals that he came preaching Christ crucified, but not in a demonstration of oratory, or of human logic or reason, but in a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. This, he says, is so that our faith is not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Now this power comes from the dynamic of the preached Word of Christ, which is the power of God onto salvation to those who believe. As Paul reminded the Romans, no one can be saved without a preacher, and no one can preach unless they are sent. God sends us out as believers with power of the Holy Spirit to preach the Word with power.
He also sends us with the Holy Spirit, who is ever ready to back up the Word as it is preached with signs that follow the ministry of the Word. This is what Whimber calls power evangelism. It is the cooperation between the believer, the Word and the Spirit in preaching the gospel that draws the hearer to Christ.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t evangelise without a human vessel, a believer, and the Word of God preached through that human vessel. This is the dynamic.
Romans 1:17 I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes…
Evangelism, then, is the power of God at work.
Go into all the world
Here’s a second witness to the fact that the power of God is present when the gospel is preached.
Mark 16:15-20 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptised will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.
And 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 anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
These signs that followed the preaching of the Word are evident throughout the Book of Acts.
Essentially, what Rosebrough is admitting is that he doesn’t believe what Jesus says, and he doesn’t believe what Paul says. He denies the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the believers in the Church as they go about their ministry of preaching the gospel.
When Rosebrough scoffs at Wimber’s teaching it is through the veil of ignorance to the truth revealed in the very Word he claims to live by.
The veil of ignorance
Cessationists live behind this veil. They teach through the veil. They say the gifts, manifestations, miracles and ministry of the Holy Spirit have ended and miss the very point of what Paul is saying to the Corinthians, to the Romans, to the Galatians, to the Thessalonians, the list goes on, and what Jesus is saying to His disciples.
1 Thessalonians 1:5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
The gospel did not come in Word only. Did you read that? It also came in power, in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance.
Cessationists would bewitch believers and unbelievers alike into thinking that the Holy Spirit can no longer perform great signs wonders and miracles amongst us. They would blind the eyes of those who have been redeemed and offered the great opportunity of being vessels of honour in the household of God, including the manifestations and gifts of the Spirit as part of our weaponry of righteousness.
Galatians 3:1-6 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?
This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Read that again. ‘He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you.’ Does that not say it all? The false gospel was one that attempted introduce law in the place of grace and faith, and to deny the work of the Holy Spirit. It rejected the miracles of Christ through the Spirit. Isn’t that what the cessationists are doing?
Is Jesus Christ still alive? Alive, yes and seated in glory. Do we still have the Spirit with us? Indeed, and the same Spirit who worked in, through and with the early Church. Is He the miracle worker? Always.
Never allow the cessationist veil to fall over your eyes and bewitch you as it has those who preach its error.
Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.