Justin Peters is a critic of what he calls Word-Faith ministries. He is also a self-professed cessationist.
There are a few definitions of cessationism. For instance, CARM’s Matt Slick, a Calvinist and continuationist, serves up the following:
Cessationism is the position within Christianity that the Charismatic Spiritual gifts (speaking in tongues, word of knowledge, word of wisdom, interpretation of tongues, etc.) ceased with the closing of the Canon of scripture and/or the death of the last apostle.
That would be close to the definition I understood as the position of most cessationists. It is important to understand the basis of this stance because it is from this standpoint that most Reformed or Calvinist cessationists argue against the charismatic and Pentecostal movements.
In other words, their so-called discernment is issued from a stand-point of controversy.
Website ‘gotanswers’ gives the definition as:
Cessationism is the view that the “miracle gifts” of tongues and healing have ceased—that the end of the apostolic age brought about a cessation of the miracles associated with that age. Most cessationists believe that, while God can and still does perform miracles today, the Holy Spirit no longer uses individuals to perform miraculous signs.
Wow! That is an astonishing thing to declare, and publicise online for all the world to see. The Holy Spirit, apparently, no longer works through the saints.
His manifestations, then, are rendered null by this evidence-free theological decision to cease the gifts at some juncture undefined by cessationists, which falls somewhere between when the alleged last apostle died and the ratification of the present canon of scripture some 350 years later, despite the contrary teaching and admonitions of the Apostle Paul.
Is there a specific date for the end of the gifts?
Of course, although the Bible we read today is generally accepted amongst Protestants and Evangelicals as definitive, the reality is that the formation of the canon was gradual and any specific moment of its coming together as the established canon remains disputed, so there is no defining day, hour or moment when it could be said in full agreement across the Body of Christ that this is, indeed, the conclusive canon that, according to cessationists, ended the manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
For instance, are you going date it to the Synod of Hippo Regius, Council of Carthage, Council of Rome, or to the Protestant movement of Luther (who wanted to remove Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation because he perceived they disputed ‘sola scriptura’ and ‘sola fide’), or to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, or to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Calvinism, the Synod of Jerusalem for Eastern Orthodox, or at which particular juncture does the cessationist crew want to choose as the defining moment God elected to end His gifts and manifestations?
I’m not disputing the inerrancy of scripture. I totally concur with it’s fidelity as it stands.
I’m pointing out the folly of arguing that the gifts have ended at some undefined point when the canon became inerrant. And I ask the obvious question, if, as some claim, the canon was more or less apparent three or four hundred years after the alleged last apostle, was the Spirit still allowing His manifestations up to that point?
The Peters definition
What does Peters say, then? Does his view differ in any way. This is important because he is regarded as one of the foremost authorities on the movements that teach that the gifts, miracles, manifestations of the Spirit have not ended and are still an important part of the Christian faith today.
Here is Peter’s definition in his own words:
Cessationism is not the belief that all of the spiritual gifts have ceased, only that the apostolic gifts have ceased… tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy in the sense of foretelling the future, and healing. Those gifts are no longer in operation. The gifts of mercy, the gifts of teaching, the gifts of exhortation, administration, all of those gifts very much still in effect (sic).
This seems to be a somewhat confused way of looking at gifts. It has an element of selection of gifts one can believe in comfortably and gifts that are a little bit out there.
Some gifts have ended, he claims, but others remain. Who decides? Read through the list in Romans and tell me which of these is now removed and why.
Romans 12:4-8 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
“Let us use the gifts according the grace given us” Paul tells us, under inspiration of the Spirit. However, according to Peters, mercy, teaching, and administrations are OK, but prophecy has gone.
This seems incongruous to scripture, which, cessationists claim, has superseded the gifts, when, in fact, scripture teaches on the gifts, and admonishes us to use the gifts in proportion to our faith, wherein is a clue to this whole controversy. Do the cessationists place their fullest trust in the inerrancy of scripture when they clearly remove certain passages as ceased?
Have the gifts ended?
Either the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit have ended or they are still in operation. There is nowhere in scripture that explicitly says that the gifts have ended in this present age.
Neither is there any passage of scripture that says the so-called apostolic gifts have ended. What are the apostolic gifts? Where are they listed in scripture? There are signs of the apostle, but they do not exclusively include speaking in tongues or interpretation of tongues as Peters claims. They are not necessarily unique to the apostles. Jesus said that believers would speak in tongues, heal the sick, cast out demons.
The apostles’ signs are more to do with signs and wonders and mighty deeds, but, again, there is no Biblical evidence anywhere that miracles or healing are mutually exclusive to any type of ministry, or have ceased, even if it were correct that apostolic ministries ended, which, again, is a matter of contention.
In fact, the passage where this is mentioned is written to the Corinthians, whom Paul, in his first letter, commended as falling behind in no spiritual gift, and whom he taught and admonished on the correct use of the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit.
The weakness of the cessationist argument on this is in the implication that only apostles spoke in tongues, or healed the sick, or performed miracles. In fact, part of the evidence apostleship would be that these things took place, but that in no way means nobody else could perform miracles, healing, or prophesy, or speak in tongues.
So even if apostles ended, which many dispute, there is no evidence that gifts and manifestations subsequently ceased. But did apostles end with the alleged last apostle?
The reality is that Jesus, when He ascended, gave gifts onto men, what we call the ascension gifts, that of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, for the edifying of the Body of Christ, and to train the Church in ministry.
It is a fact that Jesus had His own Apostles, selected by Himself to continue His ministry after He ascended, who were with Him and appointed as Apostles before He was crucified, and before He was raised from the dead, and before He ascended.
But it is declared in scripture that after He ascended He gave gifts, including apostles and prophets, to the Church to assist with the training and teaching of the Body whilst Christ was raised to the right hand of the Father. This would indicate that apostles and prophets are still in God’s plans.
Be zealous to prophesy
As for the manifestations of the Spirit and speaking in tongues, Paul is very clear about it. He tells us to be zealous for the gifts, especially that we should prophesy. he says to forbid not speaking in tongues.
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.
Where does it tell us that this admonition has ended? It doesn’t. These manifestations are as important to our walk as the gift of mercies, of administrations, of teaching, and any of the other gifts mentioned in Romans 12.
In fact, the Corinthians gifts are revealed to us as manifestations of the Spirit. They are showing forth the Spirit in our midst. They are His manifestations, and He works them through whomever He chooses whenever He desires. He has not ended, so why would His manifestations have ended? He is unchanging.
Pursue love and be zealous for spiritual things
We are told to pursue love. Has this ended? Of course not. It is the basis for the manifestations. In the same sentence we are told to desire spiritual gifts, but especially that we may prophesy. That word for ‘desire’ is very strong. It means, more literally, to be zealous. We are to be especially zealous to prophesy.
In fact, the Greek, interpreted, says ‘be zealous for spirituals’. It doesn’t mention charis at this point. The idea is to develop a strong desire and hunger for spiritual things as offered by the Holy Spirit Himself. He wants us to enter into this pursuit of love and zeal for spiritual matters.
The previous contextual chapters begin with an admonition to not be ignorant of spirituals, or of spiritual things. He wants us to be in the know, and to be available, and to enter in. He wants to operate through HIs saints. He wants to empower us with His divine ability to say and do extraordinary spiritual things by His leading.
These are, in a manner of speaking, apostolic manifestations, in the sense of being for those who are sent-out-ones, that is the born-again believers, the saints of God, who are called, chosen and separated onto God for His purposes. But they are not for apostles alone. There is a distinction here.
Who is being addressed here? The apostles only? Not at all. Every saint is being addressed.
1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours…
All who in every place call on the name of Jesus are being addressed.
There is no such thing as cessationism, by any of the definitions given above. It is a false doctrine served up by those who reject many of the teachings of Paul, especially from 1 Corinthians, and, of course, the ascension gifts of Ephesians 4.
These things are important for Christians because it is from this basis that cessationist Reformed operatives criticise much of the Body of Christ.
Speaking in tongues has not ended. Miracles have not ended. Healing has not ended. The manifestations of the Spirit have not ended.
To say they have ended is, in fact, a serious scriptural error.