Posted in bible, continuationism, discernment, strange fire

Strange Fire Q&A: Why have some gifts ceased and others continue? Are we picking and choosing?

One hundred years ago, the modern Pentecostal movement was born. By October 2013 the Pentecostal movement has morphed into the Charismatic movement with its particular brand of false doctrine and had infected much of western Christianity and polluted quite a bit of Christianity abroad. The excesses of the movement include faith healing, reports of raising the dead, babbling tongues, alleged prophecies and direct revelation, disorderly church services and worse. The movement assaulted the sufficiency of scripture, the inerrancy of scripture, besmirched the name of Jesus Christ and damaged the faith of many.

John MacArthur and his team at Grace To You took a stand against this movement and sought to bring clarity to why its doctrines needed comparison to the Bible correction. To that end, they organized the Strange Fire Conference, held in the fall of 2013. One of the main purposes of the conference was to initiate a substantive discussion about these issues. It achieved its purpose. Every sermon preached at the conference rebuked the movement simply by preaching the truth, and brought correct biblical doctrine to the fore. Given the outcry, it seems that the effect was immediate.

There were many good questions asked at the various seminars and Q & A sessions held during the conference period, but not all of them could be immediately answered. After the conference concluded, ministers and theologians at Grace Community Church and The Master’s Seminary wrote out answers to these unanswered questions, compiled them, and put them on one web page.

The page is a treasure trove of good, solid rebuttals to and practical helps about what to do if encountering Charismatic doctrines in your church, in your family, or in yourself.


Why are the teaching gifts and others in the list of gifts in effect today if the others ceased? Do we pick and choose?

As in all matters of life and doctrine, we must follow carefully the teaching of Scripture. We must be careful to interpret the text and to apply its direct teachings and its principles to every area of life. God has indicated clearly in His Word that some spiritual gifts were given for the duration of the church’s time on earth and some were intended for use only during the establishment of the church. We don’t have the authority to decide which gifts belong in those categories, nor do we desire to make that decision. Our only desire is to follow what God has revealed to us in Scripture.

The miraculous sign gifts accompanied the apostles and validated them as true spokesmen for Christ (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3–4). The ministry of the apostles and New Testament prophets was to lay a doctrinal foundation for the church (Ephesians 2:20). They laid the foundation on which the evangelists, pastors, and teachers can build (Ephesians 4:11–13). Evangelists anchor new people into the foundation, and pastors and teachers strengthen and grow them from the foundation.

After the apostles died and the canon of Scripture was completed, the church has carried on through the equipping ministry of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. And now every Christian has the ability to discern truth from error by studying the written Word of God.
For a careful explanation of which gifts have ceased and how we know they were intended by God as temporary gifts, I refer you to Tom Pennington’s excellent teaching in “A Case for Cessationism.” Explore our sermon archive for more detailed exposition on the key passages related to the temporary spiritual gifts, such as 1 Corinthians 13:8–13, 2 Corinthians 12:12, Ephesians 2:20–21, and Hebrews 2:2–4.


Posted in charismatic, continuationism, john piper, spiritual gifts

Cessationism versus continuationism

A conference called Strange Fire, held at John MacArthur’s church last fall and attended by notable keynote Christian pastors, there has been an ongoing fire of its own. The conference was to expose the heresies of the Charismatic movement and to explain biblically why continuationism has a falsely interpreted basis.

Continuationism is the hallmark of the Charismatics and to a degree the word faith believers also. It holds that the first century apostles’ healings, direct prophecies, and other miracles are normative to every Christian’s experience. Cessationism holds that the miracle spiritual gifts were for a foundation only, alive in the first century apostles and designees only and ceased after the foundation of the church was laid the the bible was completed.

A lot of ink has been spilled in the debate prior to and subsequent from the conference. It is still raging. But there was one comment I enjoyed for its succinct biblical explanation of why these miracle gifts have ceased. It is from a blog essay posted this week by John MacArthur, who is following up on some things from the conference regarding John Piper. I encourage you to go to the essay and its follow up and read the piece in its entirety.

The comment I enjoyed is here, #44 by comment moderator Gabriel Powell. He was responding to the people who embrace continuationism by saying that to reject cessationism is to reject the Holy Spirit entirely.

Posted by Gabriel Powell | Tuesday, March 11, 2014at 3:47 PM

It seems like there is some confusion over what cessationism rejects. While there are clear differences between the two theological positions, the reality of miracles and healing is not one of them.

Cessationism affirms that God maintains the power to heal and perform miracles. What we deny is that the “gifts” to perform signs and wonders which were so prevalent and normative in the 1st century church are still prevalent and normative today.

God’s character remains the same (which is the point of “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever”), but He deals with His people in unique ways at unique times (Hebrews 1:1).

Posted in continuationism, miracles, spiritual gifts

The spiritual gift of miracles given to Christians in the first century is not for today

Men are not endowed with the power today to heal miraculously, like they were in the time of Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha & Jesus/Apostles. Those miracles were for a sign to authenticate the message and the messenger, in the building of the foundation of the church. Today we have the messenger whom we authenticate if he preaches the same Jesus and if his message is consistent with the one delivered once for all to the saints. (Jude 1:3).

In the time of the Apostles, the miracles were authenticated, undeniable, and sufficient. Lazarus was dead. Then he wasn’t dead. There was no ambiguity. Jesus healed a man born blind. He could not see. Then he could see. (John 9:1-7).

The one I always got a kick out of was Peter’s mother-in-law.

And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him.” (Matthew 8:14-15).

Jesus’s touch healed her completely. When you have a fever, you’re usually sick for a period of time, days even. You get weak. You cannot keep food down. You body deteriorates and after the fever breaks, you need time to recuperate to get back to 100%. Not so with the miracle of Jesus and His healing touch.

Her healing was authenticated, because there were witnesses. It was undeniable, it is in the bible. It is sufficient, because she was healed and restored to 100% perfect health.

What does one do when they are delivered from a bad situation? You’re grateful. Imagine the gratitude of Peter’s mother-in-law being delivered from an illness of a person in advanced age. Gratitude, unto service. Her gratitude was so great, she served the Lord. It was so complete, she could serve the Lord.

God can and does still perform miracles today if He chooses. He does not give people that ability any more, those gifts have ceased.

I’m listening to a Phil Johnson lecture in the series Drive By Pneumatology. He defined cessationism and continuationism. Here is Pastor Phil Johnson on the miracle gifts:

“The Holy Spirit is at work in us in the ordinary things of life. A lot of people have an idea that the Holy Spirit is only working if He is doing miraculous or phenomenal things. If it not something that takes your breath away, or amazes you, that if He is not doing things like that, He is not at work at all. But I believe that scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit is at work in all the ordinary aspects of life. He orders every minute detail of our lives. It is He who actually gives us life. That’s what it says in Romans 8- He gives life to our mortal bodies… . Most of what he does seems ordinary but it is really extraordinary because He is the Holy Spirit.”

He went on to explain the difference between revelatory gifts and ministry related gifts, revelatory ones (the Charismata) are utterance of wisdom, utterance of knowledge, faith (a supernatural measure of faith, not saving faith we all have) prophecy, miracles, healing, tongues and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians) compared to the gifts in Romans 12; preaching, service, exhortation, generosity, leadership, mercy, and teaching. In comparing the two lists of gifts, the Romans 12 one is ministry related, and is neither supernatural in character nor revelatory.

Phil said, “The distinctive claim of the Charismatic movement is that these revelatory gifts of healing, miracles, tongues knowledge/wisdom and prophecy are continuing today just as they were in Apostolic times. The Charismatic person says they continued since then and never ceased. That these gifts are available and operational just as they were since Pentecost. This is the continuationist view.”

The opposing view is cessationism. The belief that these revelatory gifts, these sign gifts, have ceased. That they pertained uniquely to the Apostolic age and that those gifts ceased sometime at the end of the first century upon the death of the last apostle.

(Phil is a cessationist).

So the question is, is the Holy Spirit doing everything exactly as He was doing as He did in the book of Acts? Has that stopped, or has that continued? And is there a proof text that shows it has stopped?

The miraculous gifts of the apostolic era had a specific and clearly defined purpose. I contend that it I also clear in scripture that they did diminish in frequency and importance and in fact, faded from use after the era in the Book of Acts ended.

Cessationism is today a minority opinion. It was practically standard evangelical theology for many centuries until about 60 years ago. Prior to the 20th century, it would have been hard at any time to find any protestant who believed that the charismata, the miraculous gifts, continued uninterrupted from the time of the apostles thru all of church history. It is a fact that the most theologically orthodox church theologians all believed the miracle gifts ceased.

In summarizing the next part of Pastor Johnson’s lecture, the reason they say this today, that the charismatic gifts continue, he explained, is that they cannot find a proof text or a verse that would support the view that the spiritual gifts of this nature have ceased. Specifically there is no one verse in scripture that says the miracle gifts have stopped at a particular date or time. Bottom line there is no proof text that states that the miracle gifts would end at the conclusion of the Apostolic era.

There is no proof text to show the Jehovah’s Witness to show their flawed view of the Trinity, either. You compare scripture with scripture to show the Trinity and I would say the same method applies to cessationism.

Those of us who are cessationists base our conviction not on a single proof test but is a theological conclusion that is drawn from a number of biblical, historical, and doctrinal arguments.

Scripture does teach that the charismata had a specific, foundational and temporary purpose. They are part of a hierarchy of supernatural signs and wonders that were associated with the founding of the church. That hierarchy is listed in 1 Cor 12. It specifically states not all the miracle gifts were given to all in the church. (He goes on to explains some verses here). Scripture does not have a specific proof text that shows the Apostolic age ended, that there are no more apostles. There is no specific proof text that the canon of scripture is closed. Those arguments are the same exegetical arguments used to also say that the miraculous gifts ended too.