My hyper-nutshell case for Cessationism…

In all the StrangeFire stink, there’s been precious little positive offerings of this blog (as has been pointed out).  While I should be napping (since my children are down for 45 minutes or however long they’re down), I’ll instead blast out a infinitesimally small outline of my case for cessationism.  Here’s my Biblical case for cessationism in a tiny-nutshell:

Bible Nutshell(source)

1.  The pattern of frequency of signs and wonders (in general) was that of extreme scarcity.  Only a handful of miraculous events occurred outside of the 70 year time frames of Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha, and Jesus and the Apostles.  Of all creation history, only around 200 years were marked by frequent signs and wonders.

2.  The Biblical Purpose for signs and wonders (in general) was clear and consistent throughout scripture (validation of the agent of divine action/revelation).  (i.e. Ex. 3-4, 1 Kings 17, etc.)

2.  The Biblical Definition of “Prophet” (a person who speaks on behalf of God, as God, to people) didn’t change in the NT, regardless of what Wayne Grudem says.  I address this definition here.

3.  The Biblical example of healing was on of public, unchallengeable, instantaneous, complete and total healing of outwardly manifest physical ailments.  You never once see an example of someone challenging the occurrence of a healing in the scripture, but rather the significance and meaning of a healing (i.e. John 9).

4.  The Biblical definition of tongues (speaking previously unknown earthly dialects via the miraculous work of the Spirit) didn’t change between Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 12-14.  Tongues is not, and has never been, an angelic language and 1 Cor. 13 does not suggest otherwise.  Tongues is not, and has never been, a private language for prayer or personal edification and 1 Corinthians 14 does not suggest otherwise.  Modern tongues has nothing to do with the Biblical definition.

5. The Biblical Purpose for tongues was to confirm the inclusion of the Gentiles into the church (i.e. Acts 2, 9, 19) and judge Israel for their unbelief in, and rejection of, their messiah (1 Cor. 14:20-22 spells this out).  Modern tongues has nothing to do with this fulfilled purpose and cannot reasonably fulfill it.

6.  Prophecy does continue and will so until the second coming (and Rev. 11 predicts the final 2 prophets that will walk upon the earth), but the definition doesn’t change and the punishment for false prophecy is still death (Deut. 13, 18).  I await all perspective prophets with a bible in one hand and a gun in the other.  I’ve yet to find a single prospective prophet willing to take the Biblical test for authenticity.

take_gun_and_bible(My “2 step prophetic evaluation” drawer.  Steps go from right to left… – source)

7.  Miraculous healing continues until the second coming but the apostolic sign gift of healing does not.  The “healing” that was evidenced in the life of Christ looks nothing like the “spiritual gift of healing” that most people claim to have have today.  Apostolic healing was as mentioned in point 3 and never required prayer; Jesus and his disciples simply commanded people to get up and walk (and no “if it be your will” sort of prayers) and they got up and started walking (and leaping).  In apostolic (quality) healing, Jesus allotted out a portion of his power over the physical body to people, and those people could heal or even hurt with that power (Acts 3:6-10, 13:11, etc.)

The “healing” that happens today is done at God’s discretion in response to prayer, but that’s not how Jesus did it.

8.  The definition and purpose of tongues hasn’t changed, so where are the real tongues?  All I see/hear about is ecstatic speech (unbiblical), self-edifying closet-prayer tongues (unbiblical), “missionary” tongues (unbiblical) and public communal chaos tongues (unbiblical).  None of the modern claimants to the label “tongues” look like what I see in the scripture, or are even aware of the biblical purposes of tongues.

I won’t be responding in depth to all the questions because I have other things to do for this week that are far more pressing than any demand for personal clarification on these issues.  My kids are up so my time is up.  Hope this helps some of you, but it most likely angers most of you…if you want a book, go read a book and not a blog.  Try this one on for starters or maybe this one.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “I WISH I could write a book on this stuff!” Unger

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54 thoughts on “My hyper-nutshell case for Cessationism…

  1. I see a lot of opinion but very little actual biblical evidence.

    I DO agree with what you say about the seriousness (life and death accountability) that ought to make “prophets” a lot more cautious about what they call prophecy. However, while I can accept there is no real difference between prophecy in OT days and prophecy in NT days, I wonder whether you understand the complete nature of OT prophecy. There was a range of different types of messages given by prophets and countless unnamed prophets who contributed not a single word to scripture. The main function of prophecy in the OT was the calling of people to repentance, yet most people seem to assume prophecy is mostly predictive.
    The above mentioned serious nature of prophecy is highlighted by two specific issues:
    1) Making predictions that do not come to pass
    2) Speaking messages that lead people to follow false Gods.
    As for the latter, there are a lot of people who dismiss the current validity of prophecy who are speaking things that lead people away from the God who equips His church with Spiritual gifts.

    • I wonder if you understand the nature of prophecy in general…?!

      The definition of “prophet” is the answer to “what is the nature of a prophet?”, not “what does a prophet do once they’re a prophet?”

      The range of different types of messages don’t help you understand what a prophet is, but rather what they do.

      I said nothing about inscripturation; I said nothing about scripture and don’t make any logical deduction from contemporary prophets to a compromise of sola scriptura. All scripture was written prophetically, but not all prophetic action resulted in the writing of scripture.

      You said “The main function of prophecy in the OT was the calling of people to repentance, yet most people seem to assume prophecy is mostly predictive.”

      That doesn’t tell me anything about what a prophet is. I said nothing about the function of a prophet.

      You’re bee-lining to arguments I have not, and am not, making.

      Just for clarity sake, I just posted a simple definition of prophecy for you and everyone else.

      • Please help me! I agree with the definition of OT prophecy and agree that most/all modern prophets are false accordingly. I can and do argue and point people who declare themselves as prophets to the Deuteronmy and Ezekiel 13 passages. But often they counter with 1 Cor 14. Which seems to say everything that edifies, encourages or comforts is prophecy. Good grief, If that is the definition then virtually everything is prophetic. Music, poetry, compliments, corporal punishment etc. This is exactly how some are approaching and defining prophecy in these last days. I have been told “it it edifies? Receive it. If it does not? reject it” I know this is kooky but have not seen it addressed as yet in all the bubub, Bub. Any light would be appreciated.

        Bruce

        • Bruce,

          Thanks for the question. Someone has said that “everything that edifies, encourages or comforts is prophecy”? That’s the broadest understanding of prophecy that I’ve ever heard of.

          I wonder where exactly they would get that idea from in 1 Corinthians 14?

          I have a post draft that will be finished tomorrow that will answer that question for you.

        • They get it from 1 Cor 14:3 – But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.

          This is how many justify the random “word of knowledge” or prophecy for another etc..

          I await the post.

          Blessings
          Bruce

        • Yeah. I’ll have it up tomorrow. I actually went through the whole chapter though. If you have further questions upon reading the post, feel free to toss them my way.

  2. Thanks for taking the time to write your little nutshell.

    As for reading something for edification regarding spiritual gifts – my book of choice for that purpose is the Bible itself. I don’t need to read other books that tell me why the Bible doesn’t really mean what it clearly says.

  3. “Tongues is not, and has never been, a private language for prayer or personal edification and 1 Corinthians 14 does not suggest otherwise.”

    On the contrary, a straight forward reading 1 Cor 14 suggests the complete opposite to your conclusion.
    And your opinions on the definition and purpose of biblical tongues is exactly that, an opinion that has no biblical basis.

    • Do you believe as most Pentecostal and Charismatics that tongues is an identifying proof of a Christian’s assurance of salvation? If so, how is that not adding to the Gospel?

      Seeing that Luke more than likely wrote Acts years AFTER Paul wrote his epistle to the Corinthians, why would tongues (languages) be ecstatic speech with Paul, but human languages with Luke? IOW, what changed?

      Why must one “speak” to God in a “tongue” in order to be spiritual or to really pray? Why can’t one speak in their normal, earthly language and still not be edified like Christians normally have been through church history?

      • Hi, thanks for your questions.
        NO, tongues has nothing to do with assurance of salvation. Neither do I believe it to be THE sign of receiving the Holy Spirit as most Pentecostals do. I merely accept it as a genuine gift of the Spirit as per scripture.

        Answer to Second question: Luke and Paul were two different writers addressing different issues for different purposes. Luke says very little about the nature or purpose of tongues. He mainly reports some cases of its use. Paul was writing instruction, Luke was writing historical record.
        Answer to third question: Who are we to question God’s ways? I can only look to what scripture tells us. Anything else is mere opinion. Whatever His reason, I’d rather trust Him than what seems right to man. And I’d rather rely on scripture than what man has thought best throughout church history.

      • I never asked for a book. I asked for BIBLICAL support for the cessationist beliefs you hold. Biblical support that takes into account context and isn’t merely pulling a verse out of context and “intepreting” it to fit a chosen viewpoint.
        Your “nutshell” article was sufficient to show that your belief is based on personal opinion and definitions rather than a straight forward reading and acceptance of scripture.

      • ps. And I have been and I am willing to read a book to get an understanding of the truth on this matter. The Bible. And I see absolutely no evidence there that God has withdrawn Spiritual gifts from His people.

        • LOL. Who in the WORLD is suggesting that “God has withdrawn Spiritual gifts from His people”?

          Also, for all your talk, you don’t have any biblical support for your position either. Feel free to bring anything at all to the table besides whining.

      • 1) John MacArthur and his cessationist followers are insisting (not suggesting) that God has withdrawn the gifts of the Spirit.
        2) If insisting that you give GENUINE scriptural support for beliefs is whining – then I’m more than happy to be a whiner.
        3) This is your blog and you are making certain claims about the validity of Spiritual gifts. It is therefore up to YOU to present the BIBLICAL evidence (instead of opinion) to support you views you are expressing. My insistence that you do that is what I’m bringing to the table.

        • You simply don’t have a clue what you’re talking about on point 1. Nothing of the sort has even. Even suggested.

          I don’t, and cannot, satisfy all the demands for whatever standards of proof each individual demands…

          You haven’t yet interacted with anything I’ve written except to toss it aside.

      • Surely you are joking.

        (above is repeat of a comment I posted above in the wrong place)

        And what is genuine support in my mind? Give me one in-context reference that suggests that Spiritual gifts will be withdrawn? And please not that old favourite about “when that which is perfect has come” (which has nothing to do with the arrival of the canon of scripture as so many cessationists like to claim).

        • Not joking. Nobody is saying that Spiritual Gifts are being withdrawn. People are suggesting that specific gifts (the tongues, healing and prophecy as practiced by the apostles and in their era) are not around anymore.

          As for one contextual reference, 1 Corinthians 14:20-22 is a place to start with tongues. This doesnt say that tongues will be withdrawn, but it clearly delineates a purpose of tongues that is not being fulfilled by any modern manifestations claiming to be “tongues”.

          I’ve already addressed 1 Cor. 13:8-10 on this blog, and I don’t suggest for a second that “the perfect” is the scripture. 1 Cor. 13;8-10 does teach explicitly that tongues will cease suddenly, in and of themselves. I don’t need to go there to make my argument. The biblical definition of tongues (given in Acts 2 and never changed after that) is sufficient for my purposes. If you are clear on the nature and purpose of tongues, then there is nothing in our modern era that resembles tongues in the first place and the debate is over.

        • “…there is nothing in our modern era that resembles tongues in the first place and the debate is over.”

          A statement that proves my earlier point your cessationistt beliefs are based on experience (more accurately lack of experience) and not scripture.

        • ““You have yet to walk through a single passage, offer a single refutation, or even directly address a single verse of scripture. I’m the only one who has put forth any positive support for what I’m talking about, and you may notice that it’s not in the form of testimonies or personal anecdotes.”
          In that article you look at ONE passage of scripture that offers only part of the picture. There are many other references to “tongues throughout the NT and Paul goes into much more detail in his writings. You should not create and support doctrine from one section of scripture and ignore what the rest of scripture has to say on the same matter. Scripture on this matter is clear enough to speak for itself and doesn’t need to be “walked through” (and thereby projecting a preconceived theological viewpoint into it).

        • In other words, you recognize that in Acts 2, tongues was earthly languages and neither ecstatic speech nor a prayer language?

          So where was tongues redefined? Which passage?

        • Who says tongues has been “redefined” and even if SOME have created a redefinition, how does that invalidate what scripture says?
          You give only one example form scripture that doesn’t give the complete picture. In this discussion it seems to be you alone who has brought up terms like “ecstatic speech”, “gibberish” and “babble”.
          The biblical term tongues merely means “languages” – and I’m not going to project personal opinion of the term to limit the extent of what languages that might include, nor the purpose of their usage. In Acts 2 it allowed the good news to be spoken and understood by those who had come to Jerusalem from different regions. There is no indication that subsequent usage of tongues was for the same purpose.
          In the case of Cornelius and his household tongues was taken by Peter as one of the evidences that the Holy Spirit had been given to that household. Similarly in the subsequent times that tongues is mentioned in Acts, it is linked with people receiving the Holy Spirit and there is no indication that its use was to expose foreigners to the good news.
          You also keep stating that tongues is not a prayer language. I find sufficient evidence of the possibility that it can be used for prayer in Paul’s writings (see 1 Corinthians 14)

        • And, you still haven’t dealt with the scripture. It’s like your afraid to touch it or something. Feel free to complain about the scripture I don’t address as some sort of lame-duck attempt at ignoring the scripture that I do address.

          Can you face the obvious facts if Acts 2? I can walk through the straightforward reading of Acts 9, 19, and 1 Corinthians 12-14. Soon enough, I will.

          Eventually, I’ll walk through every mention of Tongues in the NT and show, from a straightforward reading of the text, that tongues is and always has been earthly languages and was never ecstatic speech or a prayer language or a heavenly language. At that time, when you are faced with the word of God and I’ve dealt with every single text, will your theology change?

          At that point, we’ll see very clearly whose theology comes from experience and whose comes from scripture.

        • You may now want to examine the post that I’ve put up on the main page about the redefinition of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14. There’s plenty of straightforward reading of scripture there. I’ll fill you in when I have more to offer.

        • “You may now want to examine the post that I’ve put up on the main page about the redefinition of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14”

          Thanks, as soon as I get the time I’ll have a look.

  4. Thank you for this! This has actually answered alot of Qs that have been mulling around in my head about cessationism/continuationism. Believe it or not, I hadn’t heard of these defining terms until reading your blog (I’m sure you’re thinking “What theological rock has she been hiding under!” ha!). I always just thought it was classified as charismatic and noncharismatic. I had no idea there were so many nuances and varying degrees to these two trains of thought. The whole StrangeFire conference started to get me questioning/pondering/wondering about why this particular issue warrants so much attention (In the vein of “Is this debate detracting from the main issue that is the atoning work of Christ” and “how is this different than all the schools of thought on pre-tribulation, mid-trib, post-trib..etc..that doesn’t affect salvation”) And now I see how it does differ…

    All this to say, thank you for clearly showing why this issue does indeed matter. As someone who is just starting to wrap her head around all of this, thank you.

    (Especially with 2 non-sleeping little ones under 2!! Hang in there, stand firm, and keep up the good work!)

  5. “Do you believe as most Pentecostal and Charismatics that tongues is an identifying proof of a Christian’s assurance of salvation?”
    Mainline Pentecostals, like the Assemblies of God believe that the baptism of the holy spirit is evidenced by speaking tongues, but not that salvation or the assurance thereof. There ARE some looney groups (that are many times also Sabellian in their view of the Godhead) that believe what you say, but they are in the vast minority.

    “Seeing that Luke more than likely wrote Acts years AFTER Paul wrote his epistle to the Corinthians, why would tongues (languages) be ecstatic speech with Paul, but human languages with Luke?”
    Regardless of when penned, Acts recounts events previous to any of Paul’s epistles. By like 20 years. This doesn’t mean that continuationism is true (or false), but you are not being accurate.

    Unless I have woefully misunderstood you.

    • Tiribulus writes,
      Mainline Pentecostals, like the Assemblies of God believe that the baptism of the holy spirit is evidenced by speaking tongues, but not that salvation or the assurance thereof. There ARE some looney groups (that are many times also Sabellian in their view of the Godhead) that believe what you say, but they are in the vast minority.

      I am not sure which “mainline” Pentecostals and AOGs you have encountered, and maybe that is the “official” view of the denominations, but it is NOT the view from the pew. Without exception, all of those I have met, and they are many, sought out tongues as assurance that they were saved. Getting the “second blessing” or whatever, an utterly a-biblical view, was vital to their understanding that they were right with God. Those who didn’t speak in tongues or hadn’t experienced that “second blessing” would worry and fret that they weren’t saved or somehow had sinned against God that they now were out of favor with him. (Keep in mind that those mainline Pentecostals and AoGs are Wesleyan Arminians who have a solid foundation of perfectionistic doctrine affecting their theology).

      As to them being a vast minority, you are woefully naive and out-of-touch. Oneness groups are in the millions. That is not to mention the 100 plus million Roman Catholics who are “charismatic.”

      As to Acts being penned by Luke, if tongues were ecstatic speech as you seem to think Paul is addressing, at what point did tongues equating human language change to ecstatic speech without informing the readers? And again, I asked specifically, what is the point of tongues? Why is speaking in tongues better than normal, human speech? IOW, what is even the purpose for the gift today if it is ecstatic speech?

      • All I know is I spent 5 years in Ellendale ND, home of Trinity Bible College, an AG institution and that was not my experience. That WAS 20 years ago, so yes, maybe I’m outta touch now.

        I wasn’t making a statement about tongues at all.

        And Charismatic Catholics are not oneness which was what I was addressing.

      • True Story: One of my best friends is the pastor of the fastest-growing AoG church in Tennessee, but he doesn’t teach much at all about the “baptism of the Holy Spirit,” focusing instead on small-group discipleship, encouraging biblical literacy, and getting people involved in and serving the church. In the past two years, his congregation has grown tenfold and he now has to preach four services every Sunday just to keep up.

        …but when he meets with regional denominational leaders, his church’s growth is viewed as “not counting” because he doesn’t claim huge numbers of people suddenly being able to spontaneously jabber in uninterpreted tongues.

        • That’s great! I’ve heard other stories of people who are Charismatic “on paper” but are “practical cessationists” like your friend; their practice is better than their written doctrine.

          I praise the Lord for churches like that!

      • Just to be clear (and, I think, fair), the widely-held “view from the pew” that you’ve encountered is unbiblical according to AG official doctrine.

        “”The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a vital experience of the Christian life. It is a special work of the Spirit beyond salvation.” [emphasis added] (source)

        “The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.” [emphasis added] (<a href="http://ag.org/top/Beliefs/Statement_of_fundamental_truths/sft_full.cfm#8)

        This would also hold true for all the other denominations belonging to the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America (originally the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America).

        Why, then, is the “view from the pew” so prevalent? There’s the rub…

  6. Key Point (2. The Biblical Purpose for signs and wonders (in general) was clear and consistent throughout scripture (validation of the agent of divine action/revelation). (i.e. Ex. 3-4, 1 Kings 17, etc.) To understanding the purpose of gifts.
    again another example of what happens when scriptures taken out of context.
    Great Post Greg

  7. @ threegirldad

    I am well aware. The point I was denying and that I still deny is that tongues have any bearing on one’s state of salvation, assurance of salvation or lack thereof in historic Pentecostalism. I happen to disagree rather strongly with their view, but I prefer that my views be properly represented and I strive to extend that same courtesy to others.

    On a side note. Some of the finest, most sanctified and giving Christian people I have ever known in my life have been serious Pentecostals who live the doctrines of grace without even realizing it. I’ll take them all day long over theologs whose walk is barely discernible as different than the world. Beyond talk that is.

  8. Pingback: A Little Authentic Fire Announcement | Watch Your Life and Doctrine Closely…

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