A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 27
Have Some Gifts of the Spirit Ceased?
From this lesson, you will gain insights into the ongoing theological debate regarding the continuation or cessation of certain spiritual gifts, particularly prophecy and miracles. The lesson introduces four main perspectives: cessationism, continuationism, functional cessationism, and word of faith. The instructor identifies as a continuationist, believing that these gifts continue to operate today, but he stresses the importance of discernment and adherence to scripture. The lesson encourages respectful dialogue among believers with differing views on this topic.
Have Some Gifts of the Spirit Ceased?
A. Question: Do some gifts cease?
B. First Corinthians 12:28 - Are all apostles, prophets, teachers, workers of miracles, gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, interpretation?
C. Significance of the question in the context of the church
A. Definition of Cessationism
B. Belief that certain gifts like prophecy and miracles were important until the Bible was complete and the church was established
C. Prophecy as a means of hearing the voice of God until the completion of the Bible
D. Cessationism's view on the apostolic era
E. The possibility of prophetic gifts in new missionary eras
F. The perspective on miraculous gifts and their necessity
A. Definition of Continuationism
B. Belief that miraculous gifts, including prophecy, continue as God gives power
C. The expectation of prophetic utterances and new revelations
D. The role of the Holy Spirit in providing these gifts
E. Distinction between apostolic and prophetic leaders
IV. Functional Cessationism
A. Intermediate position between cessationism and continuationism
B. Belief that God can continue to provide these gifts but is often messy and dangerous
C. Emphasis on sticking to the Word and wisdom rather than pursuing prophetic gifts
V. Word of Faith
A. Belief in the present reality of the kingdom of God
B. Claiming authority to speak healing and other creative actions
C. Distinction from continuationism with a higher level of authority
VI. Personal Position: Continuationism
A. Belief in the continuation of prophetic and miraculous gifts
B. Personal experiences and convictions
C. Importance of testing the spirits and verifying revelations
VII. Interpreting Passages
A. Examination of passages like First Corinthians 2 and Romans 8 in cessationist interpretation
B. Alternative interpretations and discussions on the role of the Holy Spirit
VIII. Prophecy Definition
A. Different interpretations of prophecy
B. Proclamation with heart-transforming power
C. Overlapping with teaching but focused on heart transformation
IX. Conclusion and Call for Respectful Dialogue
A. Acknowledgment of different perspectives
B. Encouragement to engage in respectful discussions and not despise differing views
C. Emphasis on unity among followers of Jesus Christ
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- In this lesson you will gain insight into the Bible's clarity, sufficiency, and authority, and the Canon.
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- This lesson provides a comprehensive examination of atonement, its various dimensions, and the theological concepts surrounding it.
- Learn about the Holy Spirit, baptism, and its role in Christian faith. Understand diverse perspectives on its workings in believers' lives, emphasizing its incorporation at conversion and empowering influence, supported by biblical insights.
- Gain insight into the relationship between spirit baptism and conversion, the various terms used in Scripture, and the importance of ongoing fillings with the Holy Spirit for special ministry tasks, character, and as a command for all believers.
- This lesson explores the role of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts. It challenges traditional definitions, proposing that any ability empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in ministry is a spiritual gift. The primary gift is the Holy Spirit himself.
- Learn about the theological debate on spiritual gifts like prophecy and miracles. Explore four perspectives: cessationism, continuationism, functional cessationism, and word of faith. The instructor, a continuationist, emphasizes discernment and scripture while promoting respectful dialogue among believers with differing views.
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- From this lesson, you gain insight into the biblical concept of God's Kingdom, its significance in Christian theology, and its impact on eschatology, social justice, and the Church's role.
- In this lesson, you gain insight into eschatology, examine biblical perspectives, explore key events like the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium, and Final Judgment, and learn the significance of eschatology for today's believers.
- By studying the eternal state, you gain insights into the new heaven and earth, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, deepening your understanding of Christian hope and assurance.
- Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
- In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the nature of Scripture and learn to interpret the Bible within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts while addressing challenges in biblical interpretation.
- This lesson delves into the structure and authority of a church, examining different leadership models and emphasizing the overarching role of scripture as the final authority, while also highlighting the need for congregational involvement in decision-making processes and the unique nature of the apostles in early church leadership.
- Learn Dr. Breshears' local church leadership principles: focus on equipping, inspiring, empowering, unifying, exemplifying, caring for, overseeing, and shepherding members. Rooted in biblical teachings, emphasizes servant leadership. The lesson discusses congregational decision-making, women in church leadership roles with respect for differing views.
- Learn about church leadership principles, roles of elders and deacons, active membership, mutual commitment, gift utilization, and clear processes in this comprehensive lesson.
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- In this lesson, you'll grasp the essence of baptism, its questions, and debates. Discover belief's role, its confession, and the link to repentance and faith. Explore diverse views on baptism performers, methods, and locations. Gain insights and wisdom for informed baptism decisions in your faith community.
- From this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of Communion, also known as the Lord's Supper or Eucharist. It will provide you with insights into the controversy surrounding its terminology and the theological background of Communion, primarily focusing on 1 Corinthians Chapters 10 and 11. You will learn about various theological perspectives on the real presence of Christ in the Communion elements and explore different viewpoints on the frequency, leadership, eligibility, and practical aspects of Communion. Overall, this lesson will equip you with the knowledge to better understand and participate in the Communion meal.
- This lesson delves into two ends: individual death and the end of the age. It explores human death, material and immaterial aspects (Ecclesiastes 12:7, Genesis 3), fear, loss of autonomy, cremation, death determination, rewards, and urges preparation to meet Jesus, facing the undeniable reality of death.
- Learn about the Kingdom of God, its aspects, Christ's return interpretations, and key concepts like inaugurated, Messianic, and millennium kingdoms. Emphasizing humility and mission in theological debates, it prepares you for insightful discussions on Christ's return and tribulation.
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Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.
A Guide to Christian Theology
Dr. Gerry Breshears
Have Some Gifts of the Spirit Ceased?
I am laughing here as we start because Will over here asked the very question that I'm going to be answering and I said, "Let's do a topic instead of a question." But the question is, do some gifts cease? First Corinthians 12:28, are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers, do I work miracles? Do I have the gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues or interpret? And the question that comes out of that many times is are there some gifts that aren't around anymore like apostleship? Is that uniquely the 12 apostles prophecy? Does that continue now that the canon of scripture is complete? And this is a big question that comes up and it's something I want to dig into a little bit. And the thing that happens here, and there are four different approaches here to the question, have certain gifts ceased? One group is called cessationism. I'm using common terminology and cessationism is the idea that prophets and miracles are really important until the Bible is complete and the church is functioning.
Prophecy is really important because we need to hear the voice of God. And prophecy is a way to do that until the Bible is complete, then we don't need prophets anymore. This is cessationist argument. In the early days of the church, miracles are really, really important to accredit and show the reality of God at work. But now the church is established in function, we should look at the church as the confirmation of the gospel and we don't need miracles anymore. Now that's not to say that prophecy and miracles would never happen, but they're not normal things at least. So cessationism is the idea that miraculous gifts, healings, tongues, prophetic utterance, that sort of thing is only an apostolic era. And once we have the can scripture and the functioning church, we don't need them anymore.
Some would make the argument that would be the same thing in a new missionary organization, a new missionary era and unreached people group. Until you have the Bible translated and the church functioning, there may be prophecy and miracles in that context, but the goal is to get the Bible translated, to get the church functioning and then prophecy and miracle will cease. So that's cessationism, and think particularly of prophecy, the speaking of God, which is a central kind of thing in this idea, we do not look at prophets to be happening today. We don't expect prophecy today. We've got the Bible, we've got wisdom, that's sufficient. That's cessationism.
Another view would be what is commonly called continuationism. And that's the idea that miraculous gifts and think particularly of prophecy is a new covenant thing. So in Acts chapter two, Paul quotes Joel chapter two and says that your sons and daughters will prophesy. And the point of it is this is a now prophecy. Speaking the word of God with power is something that happens throughout the work of the churches on everybody to be able to speak the word of God with power and there isn't any hint anywhere of a command that they will stop. So continuationism is the idea that prophecy miracles continue as God gives power. It's not that we have control of them, but the Holy Spirit gives those and we expect prophetic utterances. We expect new revelation not about the character of God, but we expect new revelation like Paul's command, "Don't go north, don't go south, go to Macedonia."
We expect that kind of prophetic direction or information given for the sake of ministry as a normal thing in the church today. Of course, you have to test the spirits and such. So continuationism, yeah, we expect fully prophecy to continue. We expect fully that miracles are going to continue to happen. We expect apostolic leaders, we expect prophetic leaders. Not big A apostles, the people writing scripture. So the canon is closed. Nobody will add anything to the book that's authoritative for the entire church, but there may be authoritative directions from the Holy Spirit and revelations for particular people or particular circumstances. This is continuationism
That's cessation, basically it stopped. Continuation, no, it continues. There's an intermediate position that I run into a lot of times which I call functional cessationism. And that is I believe God can continue to do these things, but it gets so messy and so dangerous, let's just not do it. Let's just stick to word and wisdom because we know about those things. And these are people that will not take theological cessation. They'll not say that they've ceased, but every time I look at prophetic stuff, it gets into all kinds of wonky stuff and get miracles of all kinds of abuse. Let's just stay away from it. Let's stay. Preach the word, be faithful in and out of season, that sort of thing. That's functional cessationism. So in the book that Wayne Grudem edited on gifts to the spirit, Bob Soci, a longtime friend taught his old career at Talbot, he's with the Lord now, amazing man of God.
He wrote the book on, he called it Open but Cautious. So he's opened, but he's really cautious. And knowing Bob, I said, "Yeah, Bob, you're slightly open and extremely cautious." He's a functional cessationist. He's not saying it can't happen, but in practice stuff you don't do it. You don't have a time in your church service where you ask if somebody has a word from the Lord that should be shared with the congregation or something like that. And then you've got on other side, I just call it word faith and that's the idea that the kingdom is a present reality and we have the ability to speak healing because the atonement brought healing for every disease and it's always God's will to heal and we have the authority to speak creatively. This is the word faith movement. Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagen would be founders or powerful people in that movement. And that goes beyond continuationism and says we have a higher level of authority to speak as kind of present day, big A apostles. So four areas, cessation, functional cessationism, continuationism, word of faith.
Now I'm a continuationist. I think God continues to speak today. I think God continues to do miracles today and I have been around supernatural healings that we've prayed and seen tremendous things done. I've seen us pray for things that God should do and he didn't, which just frustrates me to no end. I tell God that. And in my own life, I have seen a revelation of God. Well, let me scripture. Yeah, let's do that. Look at one Corinthians 14. Corinthians 14:26 is the only place in scripture that we get a direction of what to do in the gathering. Really at First Corinthians 14:26, "What then shall we say brothers and sisters?" First Corinthians 14:26, "Would we come together?" There it is. We go to the place in First Corinthians 11 where it talks about the communion. "Each of you has a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so the church may be built up."
So he's clearly talking about a revelation here as a common thing in the church in Corinth. Now, a cessationist will say, "Yeah, the revelation in that but would not be today. We'd always go to Bible. That would be the only revelation." And I absolutely completely agree and evangelicals group agree the canon of scripture is closed, nothing will be added to the Bible, nothing authoritative for the entire church of Jesus Christ in all places and all ages. That's the canon of scripture, period. But I absolutely believe that God can speak to circumstances and speak authoritatively and to violate that revelation would be sin. We're not getting new things about the character of God or the work of Jesus, but God does give special revelations akin to what happens to Paul in Acts chapter 16. I think that continues to happen.
My own story, I spent the three years in the Philippines and it was absolutely transforming to me. I came back, went to seminary, did my PhD work at Fuller Seminary, taught Biola halftime while I was finishing up there. Loved it. I was headed in the Philippines to be a missionary, Bible college teacher and church planner. I'd been there three years. They were excited to have me come back. We had done all the preliminary applications and I got a letter from Bob Cook, who was the academic vice president at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, Portland, Oregon. He said, "We've heard that you're finishing a doctoral program and we wondered if you would like to apply for a position of a theology professor at Western. We have been looking for a theology professor for three years and not be able to find a suitable candidate. And your mentor, Gordon Lewis has thrown your name in the pot."
It was a little more formal than that. I looked at the letter knowing Western Conservative Baptist Seminary and dropped the letter in the trash. I said, "I will have nothing to do with that fundamentalist organization. I know the crowd. I want nothing to do with him." And I literally, I dropped the letter in the trash, walked away from it. God said [inaudible]. And I said, "Oh no, Uh-huh. Can't be God going to Western Conservative Baptist Seminary." I'm being a little sarcastic, but 24 hours later I went back to the trash can, pulled the letter out, because God would not give up. Same thing that took me to the Philippines in the first place.
And I went to my team, the group at Althena Baptist Church that I was very close with and I told them what had happened. I said, "W you pray with me and see is this really God calling me to that fight and fundee place up in Portland that I didn't go to seminary at when I came back from the Philippines?" And we prayed together. And longer story short, I've been now starting my, I'm in my fifth decade at Western. It's no longer Western Conservative Baptist Seminary. I don't mean just of the title, but there was a fundamentalist streak in Western's history and it was coming to a close, but I didn't know that. And my coming to Western with some others and some major changes, we were no longer Western Conservative Baptist Seminary. We're a mainstream evangelical seminary and frankly, one I'm very proud of.
But that was a place I think for me to go to the Philippines and become a missionary church planter, Bible college teacher would've been sin because I had gotten a revelation from God and said, go to Portland, Oregon. Had I gone through with what I still think would've been a great plan and I would've been in sin. I've had other people say, "No, no. You might know afterwards it's God." No. I knew for sure at the time and that's why I took a deep breath and flew up here and did interviews. And like I say, I'm in my fifth decade of teaching here at Western. I think that happens today, but you got to verify it. How do you verify something like that? Again, coming back to the notes here, I've got the couple lists in here. Does it promote Jesus Christ as God in the flesh?
Does it follow scriptural principles? Does it encourage missionary rebellion? Does it edify the exercise lovingly? Those are some tests. Going beyond that, another list here, are the speaker and message loyal to the Lord. Well, yeah, for sure. Is it consistent with scripture? Got that. Is what they describe or predict accurate? Is the character Christ-like? And for me at Western, that was a big deal because the fundamental spirit in my judgment is not Christ-like consistent. Is their word up building or encouraging to elders affirm their word and do in a prophecy 14:two9, 2 or three prophets should speak and the others should weigh carefully what is said. That's why I went to my team of close people and said, "Pray with me. Is this in fact God?" And I submitted to their leadership. I think revelation happens today. If you're a cessationist, I'm confident some of you listening to this are, that's a legitimate way to connect dots.
And what I'd like you to do is be faithful to the word, be very faithful to the word and be wise in what you're doing and follow God's direction, coming through his word and through his wisdom and through his body. And if you reject the idea that God gives authoritative commands today, that's legitimate. Some very good and godly men and women believe that. But for all of us, please, please do not despise or condemn people who take different views. That's the fundamentalist spirit that I speak so strongly against. I got my way of connecting the dots. If you connect the dots in different ways, you're not a, "I can't associate with you". I talk about the die for, divide for, decide for. There are just a few things we're divided for and they're important, but we can't despise each other, even if we divide over them, seems to me because we're followers of Jesus Christ and a part of the same family overall. So that's where I'd come in terms of the cessationist/continuationist. And it's a really, really important question and more than we can develop here. So dig in further.
Comments, questions? How does the cessationist interpret passages like First Corinthians 2 where it talks about the spirits searching all things and that what we received is not the spirit of the world, but the spirit was from God so that we understand what God has freely given us? Or Romans 8 where it talks about living in the spirit and paying attention to that and even the fact that we can only understand scripture by the Spirit revealing that to us? So how do they interpret passages like that?
Yeah, so the passage you're talking about is First Corinthians 2:14-16. The person without the spirit does not accept the things that come from the spirit of God but considers them foolishness. The hardest Cessationist is still going to believe that the Holy Spirit illuminates scripture, frees up our mind so that we can understand scripture. Now, that's not factual understanding. Some of the best commentators on scripture are not believers in Jesus Christ. It's not that you don't accept them factually, understand what it's saying. It's that they seem stupid. I don't accept it as something in my life. And you say, "Well, that's what the scripture says, but only a fool would believe that." Be like me if I were specialist in Islam, for example. I know a fair bit about Islam, but I don't receive it. And that's what I was talking about.
The Holy Spirit does not accept the things. So that's the work of illumination and everybody agrees the Holy Spirit does that, to clear my mind of sin or blocks so I can understand in a receptive kind of way what God is saying. And that would be done by everybody and the Holy Spirit does work in me to show me convicting, that sort of thing. Again, everybody believes in that as the normal understanding of the spirit. It's the miraculous prophetic new revelation where no, that doesn't happen. That's finished with scripture.
I don't agree with that. But this is not a wild eyed, and they're not denying the work of the Holy Spirit, though that's often the way it comes out. So the thing here is we do not receive or receive is a good word. Because wee think, "That's stupid. Nobody would believe that." So you describe something and then kind of roll your eyes like people do about a lot of cults.
So while their prophecies and words might directly contradict scripture, what would you say to say a Mormon who would say, "We have an acting prophet, someone who is a mouthpiece for God?"
Yeah, the highest office in the Mormon church is called the first prophet and the group ... Well, I'll just leave it at that. I will give you my jaundice interpretation. And again, I'm not a Mormon, though I've studied Mormons and with Mormons and we have many cultural things in common. When I look at Mormonism and I look and see say the apostles creed, which begins, "I believe God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth," Mormons can't agree to that because the God of this world is not the maker of heaven and earth. I refer to Jesus Christ as God always, the log offs we talked about. They don't believe that. Jesus came into this world exactly the same status as we are. He's fully human and he is exalted and will become God of another world. And Mormons never pray to Jesus because he's not our God.
I can't agree with that. When it says their first prophet, I think when I look at the prophecies of the Mormon church, I am inclined to think if you're connected with the spirit, you're not connected with the Holy Spirit, you're connected with a different spirit. And that's the question of First John 4, how do I test the prophets? Do they confess that Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh? And they don't. So my test there would say, "You may be in touch with the spirit, but it's not the Holy Spirit." And I'm careful how I say that, but I really believe that's true. They have violated the scriptural test of a prophet in fundamental ways. And I say at the same time and say, I think there are Mormons who are saved. They go to the Mormon church because they like the community. They don't believe what the Mormon church says.
And frankly they don't even know what the Mormon church says. They just like the community and such. They're like Baptists. Most Baptists have no idea what they really believe, but they kind of like the crowd they hang with and they kind of believe in Jesus. And I think they can be saved. So I think there are Baptists who are not saved. I think there are Mormons who are not saved. And I think there are crowd in both. Now to be sure, I think the Baptists are much closer to the truth than Mormons. But the first prophet, they're not in touch with the spirit of Jesus is what I would say. And I'd say that theologically.
Do the cessationists have scriptures that they refer to support their view?
Yeah, actually that's a very good question. Because I'm not a cessationist and that's my question for everybody. Now where's that in the Bible? That's always a legitimate question. "Oh, it's all over the Bible." Okay, could you show me where it's at? I can be just an absolute stubborn, well, I'm from Missouri, so I get to be stubborn. I'm also in Enneagram eight, so I really get to be stubborn. Where's it in the Bible is always a question. And if you ask, many times you get, they'll go to First Corinthians chapter 13, the love chapter. And if you go to 13:8 this is a common appeal. So in First Corinthians 13:8, "Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease. Where there are tongues, they will be stilled. Where there is knowledge, it will pass away for you know in part, prophesy in part. But when completeness comes, what is in part disappears."
And many appeal to this passage and say, "There it is." So prophecy ceases, tongues are stilled. Supernatural knowledge. This isn't normal knowledge. This is supernatural knowledge, will pass away when the complete comes. And the argument there is the complete is the canon of scripture. When in scripture canonized word of God is complete and the church is now functioning, then those will go away. And the question is, what is completeness referring to? And many cessationists, that's referring to the Bible and the work of the church. When they're complete, then you don't need prophecy and tongues and knowledge anymore.
I think completeness is Jesus. And this is talking about when the Lord comes back, because he goes on. And I think that's what he's talking about here. When the completeness comes is the end of this age. When the Lord returns, those things will cease. And that's an interpretive difference in this First Corinthians 13:10. And frankly, I think I'm right, and I know cessationists who don't appeal to this passage. It's more logical theological construction. But this is the passage they go to. And the thing is, what is the completeness? Is it scripture and church or is it Jesus Christ? I think it's Jesus. And when we defer, I say, could we smile, look at you and say, "I think I disagree. Can we talk about it?" That's what I want to do. Great question. MacArthur absolutely appeals to this one.
Another question while we're at this here is what is prophecy? What is prophecy? We're talking about prophecy ceasing. What is prophecy? So in the notes, I've got some stuff here on prophecy, and I think prophecy is the spirit empowered proclamation. That's the blank. Spirit and powered proclamation of the word of God. That speaks with deep power to heart transforming power. So as I understand prophecy and look at it in scripture, it's a speaking gift. It's an ability to speak the word of God that presses deep in with transforming power in somebody's life. The word of God can be scripture or it can be new revelation. That's my understanding. As I understand prophecy, that's the proclamation with heart transforming power and prophecy is a speaking gift, not a receiving gift. The very common definition of prophecy is a different one, and that's the idea to receive without any [inaudible] word from God, directly from God. And then I give out what I receive from God.
So that group, and it's a large group, would say prophecy is something directly from God. He does not imply my understanding. It's a direct revelation from God, not mediated through scripture or another person. So revelation now is a receiving gift and that's very common. Max Turner, a great English, New Testament scholar and many others, that's the definition. Wayne Grudem has that same definition. So prophecy is now something I receive directly from God and then speak it without running really through my understanding, or should be. And I think Isaiah is just a spirit empowered sermon from the book of Deuteronomy. There's little there that's new revelation. It's new application, but it's not new revelation as I see it, but he speaks with power.
Wayne Grudem for example, makes a big distinction between prophecy, receiving from God and teaching that comes from scriptural study and he puts them categorically different. Prophecy is getting word from God that I speak with authority, but divine authority. When I'm teaching from scripture, then that comes through my authority of understanding. And so he says women can be prophets but not teachers in the church, for example. We'll get to that when we talk about church. So the definition of prophecy is a significant thing. I think prophecy and teaching are overlapping to a large degree. Where they differ, prophecy goes to the heart. Teaching is an equipping for ministry. That's where they differ. Prophecy transforms the heart.
So First Corinthians 14, it talks, "So when you come among them in a prophet and they hear prophecy, the secrets of the hearts will be exposed in a context of grace." I think that's what prophecy does. Teaching is an equipping for the work of ministry, Ephesians 4:11. And where they're different, and I think they're really overlapping, some sermons are prophetic, most of them are not. They're encouraging or instructing, but sometimes sermon can be prophetic and you see people walk away with just heart transformed power. That's where I would come out.