Monday, May 14, 2018

The Self-Sufficiency Of Scripture Entails That Sign Gifts Have Ceased

           There is much heated debate among professing Christians and their respective denominations regarding whether or not certain gifts of the Holy Spirit have come to an end. The brimming controversy centers around the specific areas of speaking in tongues, prophecy, and miraculous powers to heal. The question that has aroused much fascination is whether or not the ability to exercise these spiritual gifts was terminated by the end of the apostolic age. In fact, there are folks on both sides (cessationism vs continuationism) who uphold rather extreme positions. While there are people who accuse those who claim to speak in tongues as being demon possessed, there are others who argue that those who have never encountered such moments have not really been born again. But we need not be up in arms on this matter, for it is not an issue directly related to the gospel. Nevertheless, both sides cannot be correct at the same time because that would constitute embracing a logical contradiction. Moreover, a study on the sufficiency of written revelation and purposes of the spiritual gifts in question should spell out quite plainly that they were meant to cease after the apostolic era.

           First and foremost, the Scriptures reveal to us that they are to be the final, sufficient standard of spiritual authority for the Christian church. They are to serve as our guide in our walk with God. They are to function as the measuring stick in the process of discernment. Scripture contains the instructions necessary for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15). Scripture enables the one who serves God to be "adequate" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Note that Paul goes on to define that thought as, "equipped for every good work." It addresses everything, at least in principle, that we need to know pertaining to faith and morals. Jesus Christ promised the twelve apostles that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things God intended to make known (John 14:26; 16:13). The faith has been delivered once for all to the saints (Jude 3). Therefore, there can be no new revelations. He has communicated all that we need to know concerning the will of God through written revelation. God has given us (in the past tense) everything pertaining to a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). Not everything is about the individual. We are not to rely on our emotions and personal experiences in discerning truth from error, but rather are to read Scripture with a humble and prayerful heart. The testimonial of the apostles and prophets is a part of the church's foundation (Ephesians 2:19-20), which logically suggests cessation.

           Anything that contradicts the commandments of God should be rejected immediately at all costs. If a so-called revelatory experience confirms completely to the message of the Bible, then it becomes redundant. One should be adhering incessantly to the voice of Christ as proclaimed throughout its pages. Scripture is the only known, safe road map for traveling the route of Christianity. Once a person departs from the formal sufficiency of written revelation, opportunities for propagating heresy arise, which is a springboard for another objection to continuationism. False Christs and teachers can arise that perform counterfeit miracles (Ezekiel 13:9; Matthew 24:24; Acts 20:28-30; 1 John 4:1-4). How then can we distinguish truth from error? What standard exists to judge the validity of wolves in sheep's clothing? Tongues were needed to preach the gospel in other languages. Prophets uttered prophecies to give us a fuller picture of God's plan of redemption. He has now spoken fully in His Son (Hebrews 1:1-3). People can now "prophecy" only in the sense of edifying other people in the faith. We have the more sure word of prophecy recorded in Scripture (2 Peter 1:16-21). The apostles originally worked miracles for the purpose of establishing the Christian church (2 Corinthians 12:12). Scripture speaks of the performance of miracles in the past tense (Hebrews 2:3-4).

           Now, none of the materials presented within this article is meant to suggest that God does not work miracles or cannot work today. The Holy Spirit is still at work in our midst. God still intervenes with His creation. Spiritual gifts need not be communicated through human instruments today because they have fulfilled their designated purposes and we now possess Scripture. The objective of this paper is not to imply that all charismatic types are unsaved, but rather that that they have taken matters too far. In other words, continuationist beliefs are misguided. The grace of God is sufficient for all Christians. His strength is made perfect during the times of our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). God uses times of suffering to conform us to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

1 comment:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I think the best defense of cessationism is looking at what the charismatics claim about the various gifts. All their claims are frauds!