Pulpit & Pen have published a controversial article from a cessationist called Justin Bullingham entitled ‘8 Reasons Why the Next Missionary You Support Should Be a Cessationist’.
The title speaks for itself, and gives a very strong indication of what follows in the text. The cessationists would like to prevent spirit-filled missionaries from entering the field. They give no scriptural evidence, only a series of anecdotes, and a reference to another site that gives further scripture-free anecdotal reasons for dismissing continuationist missionaries.
Endued with power
Of course, this completely ignores Jesus’ command to the missionaries He sent out. He told them to go nowhere until they had been endued with power from on High.
Luke 24:44-49 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.
Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”
So Jesus’ commissioning of His disciples into missionary work was prefaced with an admonition to remain in Jerusalem until they had received the Promise of the Father, which was to be the baptism with the Holy Spirit that empowered them to be witnesses unto the uttermost.
Acts 1:4-8 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 baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.
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.”
There you have it then. Jesus endued His missionaries with power for their missional work. They were to be witnesses of His cross and resurrection and go into the whole world to preach repentance for the remission of sin. But they were to go nowhere until they were empowered by the Promise of the Father, also called, by Jesus, the baptism with the Spirit.
This is as clear as day. Even the cessationists at Pulpit & Pen insist that we have to derive everything in ministry and mission from Sola Scriptura, that is, scripture alone. Yet here, on the written page, is the apostolic command by Christ for the disciples to be empowered before they step out into their missional work. Even He would not send out His missionaries without the power of the Promise.
How does Bullingham attempt to exegete this dilemma? He removes Jesus’ command from the Bullingham version of scripture. He abandons Sola Scriptura for the following:
Continuationism is the (very) common belief that the sign and wonder gifts, such as prophetic utterances, miraculous healing, and spontaneous tongues, are still legitimately given, by the Holy Spirit, to Christians today — even though the Apostles of the first Century are dead.
I’ll be blunt: the sign gifts no longer have purpose in our time and have completely ceased. The Bible clearly affirms cessationism, and this is the strongly-held conviction at ThingsAbove.Us. Yes, God does miracles and is providentially working in our world; the Holy Spirit is working to bring the propositions of God’s Word to believers’ minds for application. He seals; He’s the down-payment; He gives us spiritual vibrancy and illuminates the Scriptures; He sanctifies and equips us for the Christian life.
So Jesus says go nowhere until you have the empowerment of the Spirit. Pulpit & Pen, via Bullingham, remove this empowerment and introduce a watered down version of missional work.
Not only does he ignore Jesus’ command, he makes a strong statement that is not backed up in scripture. He says, ‘I’ll be blunt: the sign gifts no longer have purpose in our time and have completely ceased.’
Well he can be as blunt as he likes, but I’ll go for the sharp two-edged sword of the Word of Christ where He says, “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.”
Desire spiritual gifts
Paul makes it just as clear in his teaching to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.
So we know that love hasn’t ended. So we are still to pursue love. Love is the motivation behind the gifts, because through love we can apply the gifts and bring comfort, edification and encouragement to the Church.
Paul also tells us to desire spiritual gifts. The word for desire is very strong. It means to be zealous for the gifts.
We’re to be fervent and knowledgeable, not ignorant. Certainly not rejecting the gifts as if they had ended. Paul begins this entire passage with an admonition to not be ignorant of spiritual gifts (1 Cor.12:1). Ignorant means not knowing. We need to know about the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit because He wants us to operate in them.
We should earnestly desire the gifts of the Spirit, then, and especially that we prophesy. That is contained within Sola Scriptura. One would think, then, that we should pursue the spiritual gifts as instructed.
The cessationists reject the baptism with the Spirit, also called the Promise of the Father, along with these gifts we are supposed to desire, and propose to send their missionaries out into the field without the empowerment of the Spirit, even though Christ instructed His disciples to go nowhere until they were filled with the Spirit, and to be desirous of the gifts as well as pursuing the love that motivates them.
Misrepresenting God’s intentions with the gifts
Bullingham even makes the gifts and empowerment of the Spirit sound as if they are a problem to missional endeavour when he says, “Continuationism is the (very) common belief that the sign and wonder gifts, such as prophetic utterances, miraculous healing, and spontaneous tongues, are still legitimately given, by the Holy Spirit, to Christians today— even though the Apostles of the first Century are dead.”
It’s a very common belief because Jesus told His disciples not to go anywhere without the Promise. It is the Promise of the Father that empowers us to be witnesses of Christ, according to scripture.
Notice that Bullingham ends his sentence with ‘even though the Apostles of the first Century are dead.’ What has their death to do with anything? The call is to all generations until Jesus comes for His Church.
The Apostles were not the only ones sent out. The whole Church was sent. The word apostolos means ‘sent out’. The Apostles were not the only ones sent out. The Body of Christ is sent into the world to preach the gospel. We are all missionaries of a kind. Some are sent into nations that have never heard the gospel, but this calling is not for a limited kind of believer. All believers are sent out to this end. Modern missions has made it into a specific group of people, but that was never Christ’s intention. the Apostles led the way, but the Church followed.
Peter makes it clear in the first sermon on the day of Pentecost. The Promise was the same that Jesus made when He told His disciples it was expedient that He go so that they could be empowered with the Spirit.
Acts 2 32-33 “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.”
The Promise of the Spirit was to equip the Church for the coming missional enterprise. It was for that generation and for all succeeding generations until Jesus comes again. The outpouring is, as Joel prophesied, upon all flesh.
Acts 2:38-39 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 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 outpouring of the Spirit was for all believers, from the ‘maidservants’ to the senior elders of the Church.
Acts 2:17-18 ‘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.’
This, again, was from the prophecy given by Joel. The outpouring was to be on all flesh – on all those who believe – and all would enter into the Promise of the Father. One of the signs would be prophecy, which was summed up by Peter on the Day of Pentecost as the languages of the Holy Spirit that were heard coming from the disciples as they received the outpouring.
This outpouring was repeated ten years later at Cornelius’ house as the same Holy Spirit was poured out upon the non-Jewish believers, bringing all together, Jew and Gentile, to receive the Promise of the Father. And all were sent out under the Greaat Commission.
Surely, then, no missionary should go out without the Promise of the Father to empower them for service.
Bullingham goes on:
The cessationist still affirms that the Spirit has a crucial role in the Christian life, but His ministry is Christ-centered. Now that we have the inspired writings of the Apostles and the canon is shut God speaks to His people exclusively through the Word.
Can you see what he is saying here? We only need the Word. We don’t need the Spirit. We don’t need the gifts that the Word teaches us about. We can now strip those verses form scripture for they are no longer relevant to the Church and our mission to preach to the whole of the lost world. That is not just poor exegesis, it is another gospel.
Pulpit & Pen, but promoting this kind of powerless gospel strips the Body of the power that was promised by Jesus. They would send their missionaries out into the field, not only empty of the Promise of the `father, but to preach this weak, watered-down gospel of cessationism.
Does the Bible affirm cessationism as Bullingham claims? Nowhere. There is not a single scripture that confirms or even suggests this. The Bile still says we should be filled with the Spirit and go out into the world to make disciples of all nations.
In fact, the Bible affirms the Promise of the Father. The Promise is for those who lived during the Book of Acts, and for those who are afar off in time and distance – unto the uttermost.
The very first missionaries Jesus sent out were continuationists. He was a continuationist. Cessationism has no Biblical foundation.
The Promise is for those who go into missions today. It should not be removed from our missionaries, but, rather, encouraged.