Pulpit & Pen have regurgitated a teaching by JD Hall in which he claims that continuationism, or as he puts it, Pentecostal and charismatic theology is no less than the resurfacing of Montanism.
He bases his own teaching on that of Calvin, who claimed that, the canon being complete, there is no longer need for the revelatory gifts, including prophecy, despite the fact that they are outlined in the canon in 1 Corinthians 12, 13, 14, Romans 12, Acts 2 and other places in the New Testament.
He also refers to the Westminster confession which basically reiterates Calvin’s premise.
And, for scriptural reference, he appeals to Hebrews 1:1-2, as does Calvin. So let’s use scripture only to demonstrate that Hall’s appeal to tradition doesn’t match the canon. We’ll start with Hebrews One.
Hebrews 1:1-4 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.
Notice what the writer is saying here. He says that ‘in times past’ God spoke ‘to the fathers’. How? ‘In various ways’ ‘through the prophets’. Therefore the writer includes a time emphasis here, and is clearly speaking of the fathers of the faith who are referred to under the Old Testament, not the New, although the last of the Old Testament prophets was John, who bore witness to Jesus as the Christ. He was the forerunner who called on all Israel to repent because the kingdom of God was at hand.
From then on, God spoke through His Son, Jesus Christ. The testimony we have is that of Christ, which is the Spirit of prophecy, we are told in Revelation.
Revelation 19:9-10 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”
So we have the prophecy that was delivered by the prophets of old, and we have the testimony of Christ which is called the Spirit of prophecy.
The testimony Christ is the Spirit of prophecy
If it were true, as Calvin and Hall claim, that the former type of prophecy were now superseded, there would be no requirement for the New Testament writers to refer to prophecy as part of the New Testament Church, since the fathers were no longer with us in the flesh, and there was, subsequently, no reason to prophesy further since the prophecies of the Old Testament are written for our attention, and since we have been or are watching them unfold over time.
However, to countermand this claim with scripture, we know that the New Testament does indeed refer to prophecy as part of the outworking of the Church, and the very testimony of Christ is called the Spirit of prophecy. The entire Word of God in the gospels and epistles is prophetic in its dynamic as it involves the testimony of Christ.
The key to unlocking this understanding is to know what scripture says about the way in which the Son is now speaking to the Church.
‘God has in these last days spoken to us by His Son’. Notice the reference to the last days. This is important, because we remain, obviously, in the last days, so any reference to the last days must be linked in some way to the way in which the Son is speaking to us, since He is said by scripture to be speaking to us in the last days.
So let’s look at scripture that indicates the beginning of the last days, which surely commence with the Day of Pentecost.
Acts 2:1-4 When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.
Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
We know that, on the Day of Pentecost, there was a great outpouring of the Spirit. Amongst other phenomena, the disciples, men and women both, all began to speak in tongues as the Spirit gave utterance. They did not expect this. It was part of the outpouring.
Peter then explained what was happening using a prophecy from the Old Testament.
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.
Notice, again, that Peter, referencing Joel, talks about the last days. ‘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.’ ‘I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.’
This was being fulfilled, Peter says, on the Day of Pentecost, when people heard the disciples magnify God in tongues. He referred to speaking in tongues as a form of prophecy. And by ordinary people.
None of this prophecy, by the way, is recorded as scripture. They gave utterance by the Holy Spirit in languages understood by some of the hearers, yet none of it is written down, so none of it is scripture. We only know that the disciples were magnifying God. From this simple fact we know that not all prophecy has to be regarded as scripture, even though it was the Holy Spirit who was giving the utterance.
We can also say that the utterances were, at that stage at least, for those who believe and call out on the Lord, because Joel’s prophecy goes on to say. ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ This, too, places us in the last days, because there are still those who have yet to call out on the name of the Lord and be saved.
Prophecy in the last days
Are we yet in the last days? Of course. If the last days began at Pentecost and the very last day has yet to come, we are still in the last days.
Is the Spirit still being poured out on all flesh? Well, evidently, since all flesh must refer to anyone who repents of his or her old ways and receives Christ, and, subsequently, is filled with the Spirit of Christ.
Part of the way in which the Son will speak to us in the last days, then, includes through prophecy, including speaking in tongues. This is scripture, by the way. But let’s seek out other witnesses, because scripture tells us that a thing is established by two or three witnesses.
Romans 12:3-7 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
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.
Paul has just been telling members of the Church to be transformed by the renewing of each person’s mind, and to prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. We know, also, that Paul goes on, immediately, to discuss the function of the members of the Body, saying we all have, individually, differing gifts, and that we should use them according to the proportion of faith and measure of grace.
Included in this section are various gifts, starting with prophecy – ‘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’.
Paul, then, is clearly not ending prophecy for the Church, even though he has written a large portion of the New Testament. He is admonishing us to use the gifts according to their function to enhance the work of the Church. This is scripture. It is not Montanism. It is Church.
New Testament scripture, clearly, does not end prophecy. Rather, it reminds those with the gift to engage in it according to the measure of grace and proportion of faith.
Let’s view a third witness from scripture, of how, in part, the Son speaks to us in these last days.
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.
Prophecy edifies the Church. There must have been many prophecies spoken by the Corinthian church members, yet none of it is recorded as scripture today, which ends the argument that all revelatory manifestations of the Spirit must be considered scripture.
Paul tells us to pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, especially that we prophesy. Do we still pursue love? Of course. Love is the great motivation behind the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit. Love is not a gift of the Spirit. Love is a fruit of the Spirit. It is the better way that makes the gifts viable. It is the motivation that opens us up to be used of the Spirit.
Should we desire, or be zealous for spiritual gifts, then? Evidently, and in love, since Paul encourages this. But notice that he puts an emphasis on prophecy – ‘but especially that you may prophesy’.
Then he lists reasons why speaking in tongues is beneficial to the person speaking, but that prophecy in the public setting is more favourable to the whole assembly. This should be taken in context with times when we are alone with God in our prayer and worship life, and when we are amongst the brethren in a Church setting.
From 1 Corinthians ch.12 to ch.14 Paul gives instructions on the way in which the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit are to be correctly utilised in the assembly. He is not removing them from the Church. He is encouraging their correct use – decently and in order.
This is one of the ways in which the Son speaks to and through the Church – by the Spirit of Christ in the assemblies. It is not like Old Testament prophecy, which was primarily foretelling, but it is New Testament prophecy which is forth-telling. It is not revelation outside of the Word of God. It is not new scripture. It is not ex-canon.
It is guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, who will never countermand the Word of God. The overseeing factor is the measure of prophecy against the existing Word of God. It should conform with and confirm the Word of God not run contrary to it.
1 Corinthians 14:26-33 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 last phrase – ‘As in all the churches of the saints.’ This was a universal instruction to the Body of Christ on the way in which prophecy, revelation and tongues were to be conducted in the assemblies. It is not a rejection of prophecy, or revelation, or tongues, or interpretation of tongues. It is instruction in their correct use.
Indeed, Paul, writing to the Ephesians tells them that he daily prays that they will be blessed with the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God.
Ephesians 1:15-20 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places…
Well surely this isn’t talking about the kind of revelation that we consider scripture. Revelation is the revealing, it’s the uncovering of truth. It’s the eyes of our understanding coming open to the truth contained in the revealed Word of God. Here, then, it is perfectly explained what we mean by revelation. It has nothing to do with proclaiming new scripture as the polemicists and cessationists falsely claim, showing themselves to be inept at understanding scripture themselves.
No man knows all scripture or its meaning. It is revealed to us through our reading and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit within. Tat is what Paul is praying about for the Ephesians. That is obviously what Paul means by wisdom and revelation in the Spirit, and this is obviously what is being discussed when we refer to the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14. New Testament prophecy and revelation complement the written Word.
Tradition isn’t scripture
I’ve shown you just a portion of scripture on this subject, and that should be the only requirement in establishing a testimony. This is how the Son speaks to us in the last days – through His Word and Spirit. He also uses, by the Spirit, the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit to encourage, edify and exhort the Church.
JD Hall’s appeal to tradition through Calvin’s error, his attempt at lining up continuationism with Montanism, and his rejection of prophecy as part of the Body of Christ’s directive goes against scripture.
It is also a syllogism. He says that Montanists prophesied, and were considered heretics, therefore if continuationists prophesy they must be heretics. Churches have bells, and my bicycle has a bell, therefore it must be a church.
His logic is a cardinal misuse of the passage at Hebrews One. It goes against Paul’s instruction not to forbid tongues or despise prophecy in the Church.
1 Corinthians 14:39 Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.