October 26, 2013

Strange Fire & Miraculous Gifts

by Nathan Busenitz

Strange_Fire_LogoToday’s post is adapted from my Friday morning breakout session at the Strange Fire Conference. The title of my seminar was: Charismatic Counterfeits: Do the Modern Gifts Meet the Biblical Standard? 

Introduction

The title for our seminar this morning is “Charismatic Counterfeits: Do the Modern Gifts Meet the Biblical Standard?” That subtitle really defines our topic for this session. We want to consider the way in which the contemporary charismatic movement defines key spiritual gifts. And then we will compare the charismatic version with the Word of God to see how they match up.

As a side note, I want to note that much of the material we will cover today parallels what you will find in the Strange Fire book. I mention that at the outset, so that if you are interested in doing further study on this critical topic, you can do so by reading what Dr. MacArthur has published in that important resource.

Definition of Terms

Now, before we begin, it is important that we define several terms. If you were in my seminar yesterday afternoon, this part of the seminar will sound familiar. But I promise this is a different seminar, it is just important that we begin by making sure that we are being clear about the terms we are using:

Charismatic – The term “charismatic” is very broad, encompassing millions of people and thousands of denominations. Charismatics are known for their emphasis on the Holy Spirit and for their belief that the miraculous and revelatory gifts described in the New Testament should be sought by Christians today. According to the International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, there are more than 20,000 distinct Pentecostal and Charismatic groups in the world.

Those groups are generally subdivided into three broad categories or “waves.” The First Wave is the classic Pentecostal Movement which began in the early 1900s under the leadership of men like Charles Parham and William Seymour. The Second Wave is known as the Charismatic Renewal Movement. It began in the 1960s as mainline Protestant denominations were influenced by Pentecostal theology. The Third Wave represents the influence of Pentecostal theology within evangelical denominations. It started under the leadership of C. Peter Wagner and John Wimber, both of whom were teaching at Fuller Theological Seminary at the time. Today, we will be using the term “charismatic” to encompass all three waves — doing so in an admittedly broad fashion.

Continuationist – The term “continuationist” is similar to the term “charismatic” in that it refers to a belief in the continuation of the miraculous and revelatory gifts of the New Testament. Thus, continuationists assert that things like the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues, and gifts of healing are still functioning in the church today.

The term “continuationist” is sometimes used to differentiate theologically conservative charismatics from those in the broader charismatic movement. Well-known evangelical continuationists would include Christian leaders like John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and Sam Storms. And, it is important to note, that while we do not agree with their position regarding the charismatic gifts, we have much that we appreciate about these men.

The term “continuationist” helps us differentiate conservative evangelical charismatics from those in the broader movement. Here is how one continuationist author explained the term:

The term charismatic has sometimes been associated with doctrinal error, unsubstantiated claims of healing, financial impropriety, outlandish and unfulfilled predictions, an overemphasis on the speech gifts, and some regrettable hairstyles. . . . That’s why I’ve started to identify myself more often as a continuationist rather than a charismatic. (Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters, 86)

Cessationist – The term “cessationist” refers to those who believe that the miraculous and revelatory gifts passed away in church history after the apostolic age ended. Cessationists therefore assert that supernatural phenomena like the gift of apostleship, the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues, and the gift of healing are no longer functioning in the church today. Rather, they were given as signs to authenticate the ministry of the apostles during the foundational age of the church. Once the apostolic age has passed, and the canon of Scripture completed, the primary purpose for those gifts was fulfilled and they ceased.

Approach

There is obviously significant disagreement between charismatics and continuationists on the one hand and cessationists on the other. The first group contends that the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit (such as prophecy, tongues, and healing) are still functioning in the church today. Cessationists, by contrast, assert that those extraordinary gifts were limited to the apostolic age of church history, after which they subsequently passed away.

This raises a key question. How should we approach this controversial issue?

Charismatics often approach the debate from an experiential starting point. They argue that the extraordinary gifts must have continued because they have personally experienced them, or they know someone who has. Pentecostal author James C. Warner illustrates the experiential argument: “It is hard to argue with somebody that speaks in tongues that there isn’t such a thing!” (The Handgun of the Holy Spirit [Xulon: 2007], 118). As Warner’s quote suggests, charismatics believe that their personal experience makes it hard to argue that the extraordinary gifts are no longer happening.

By contrast, cessationists often approach the debate from a chronological starting point. They go to passages like 1 Corinthians 13:8–10, and they argue that the miraculous and revelatory gifts passed off the scene shortly after the first century.

Now, seeking to know when the extraordinary gifts ceased is certainly a valid investigation. However, it seems this type of argument seldom succeeds in convincing charismatics (and continuationists) that their contemporary practices are misguided. After all, even if the cessationist is able to demonstrate that the extraordinary gifts quickly passed off the scene in church history, many charismatics will respond by asserting that those gifts returned in full force starting in 1901.

So, we find ourselves at a little bit of an impasse when we consider the usual ways that this discussion is framed. Cessationists are generally unimpressed by the subjective experiences of charismatics. And conversely, charismatics remain largely unpersuaded by some of the chronological arguments made by cessationists.

Is there a better way for us to frame the discussion, in our efforts to think about these things in a meaningful and fruitful way? I am convinced that there is.

Before we start talking about when the gifts ceased, we first need to establish what the gifts were. Once we determine what the gifts were from Scripture, we can then compare that true version of the gifts with contemporary charismatic experiences.

Proposition

Our goal this morning is to articulate a biblical understanding of the miraculous and revelatory gifts. We will then compare that to contemporary charismatic practice. What we will find is that, when compared to the real thing (as described in Scripture), the modern charismatic gifts simply don’t measure up.

We will begin by asking what I call the what question. In other words: What were the gifts in the New Testament (based on the biblical evidence)? And how does modern charismatic practice compare?

Only after we answer that question are we then ready to address subsequent questions like: if the biblical gifts are no longer functioning in the church today, then when did they cease and why did they cease.

In particular, this morning, we are going to consider the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and healing. These three represent major points of disagreement and controversy between charismatics and cessationists—so it is important that we consider each one from a biblical perspective.

Prophecy

We are going to treat prophecy only briefly in this session, because I covered this topic in more depth in my seminar yesterday afternoon. Rather than repeating everything I said yesterday, I would refer you to that content if you are interested in digging into this topic in more detail. That being said, I do want to address the gift of prophecy briefly this morning.

As I noted in my seminar yesterday, Scripture gives us three criteria for evaluating anyone who would claim to be a prophet, or by extension, anyone who would claim to be delivering a word of prophecy from God. What are these three tests?

(1) First, a true prophet must be doctrinally orthodox. Conversely, any self-proclaimed prophet who deceives people by leading them into theological error is a false prophet. There are a number of biblical passages we could look at on this point, but for the sake of time we will look at just Deuteronomy 13:1–5.

Deuteronomy 13:1–5: [1] “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, [2] and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ [3] you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. [4] “You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. [5] “But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you.

In other words, this passage makes it clear that, if a prophet comes to you and even if the prophet makes predictions that come true — if the prophet leads you away from the truth and into error, then that prophet is a false prophet. And you’ll notice how seriously God treats this offense: He prescribes the death penalty for that kind of errant prophesy.

(2) Second, a true prophet must have moral integrity. Any self-proclaimed prophet who lives in unrestrained lust and greed shows himself to be a false prophet. Again we could look at numerous biblical passages to demonstrate this point. But, let’s just look at 2 Peter 1:1–3.

2 Peter 2:1–3: [1] But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. [2] Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; [3] and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

So again we see that false prophets can be identified by their lifestyle. As Jesus said, we can know them by their fruits (Matt. 7:20). And when we see the fruit of gross immorality and impurity in someone’s life, we can be confident that he is a false prophet no matter what he might claim.

Well, that brings us to a third test. In addition to doctrinal orthodoxy and moral integrity, a true prophet must meet one more qualification.

(3) Third, a true prophet must demonstrate predictive accuracy. Or to put this in the negative, if someone claims to speak prophetic revelation from God about the future (or about some other secret thing), but then that prediction does not come to pass or proves to be false, we can safely conclude that person to be a false prophet. Once again, let’s look at the Scriptures to see this principle delineated.

Deuteronomy 18:20–22: [20] ‘The prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ [21] “You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ [22] “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

Well, that is just about as clear as possible. How can we know if a prophet is really speaking for the Lord, or if the prophet is presumptuous and false? Well, in addition to the other two tests we’ve already covered, look at the prophet’s ability to disclose divine revelation about hidden things like the future. The Bible holds prophets, in their declaration of divine revelaiton, to a standard of absolute accuracy.

Charismatic Comparisons:

Now, if we take a look at the broader charismatic movement – especially that which is represented by TBN and mainstream charismatic media – we quickly see that the modern charismatic version of prophecy fails to meet these three biblical criteria. The broader charismatic movement is hardly known for its doctrinal orthodoxy and it is often plagued by moral scandals.

But I want to focus on that third requirement of biblical prophecy – accuracy – because I think it underscores just how different the charismatic definition of prophecy is from the way that Scripture itself defines it. By their own admission, proponents of the modern gift of prophecy readily acknowledge that modern prophecies are often inaccurate and full of errors.

Let me give you some examples from charismatics themselves. Now I shared some of these in my seminar yesterday, but I need to repeat just a few to illustrate the point:

Rick Joyner: “There is a prophet named Bob Jones who was told that the general level of prophetic revelation in the church was about 65% accurate at this time. Some are only about 10% accurate, a very few of the most mature prophets are approaching 85% to 95% accuracy. Prophecy is increasing in purity, but there is a still a long way to go for those who walk in this ministry” (Rick Joyner, “The Prophetic Ministry,” The Morningstar Prophetic Newsletter. Vol. 3, No. 2, p. 2).

Bill Hamon: “We must not be quick to call someone a false prophet simply because something he said was inaccurate. . . . Missing it a few times in prophecy does not make a false prophet. No mortal prophet is infallible; all are liable to make mistakes.” (Bill Hamon, Prophets and Personal Prophecy, 176)

Jack Deere: “Prophets are really messy. Prophets make mistakes. And sometimes when a prophet makes a mistake, it’s a serious mistake. I mean, I know prophets just last year that cost people millions of dollars with a mistake they made. I talked to people who made the wrong investments, actually moved their homes, spent tons of money….” (Jack Deere, National School of the Prophets, “Mobilizing the Prophetic Office,” May 11, 2000, 11:30 AM tape #3)

In spite of the fact that Scripture says that a true prophet must be held to the standard of 100% accuracy, modern prophets simply ignore that standard, being content with the fact that their prophecies contain hundreds of mistakes. Even among conservative evangelical continuationists, this same sub-standard approach to prophecy is made.

Wayne Grudem: “There is almost uniform testimony from all sections of the charismatic movement that prophecy is imperfect and impure, and will contain elements which are not to be obeyed or trusted” (Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, 110).

John Piper: “Now compare this to the gift of prophecy. It is prompted by the Spirit and sustained by the Spirit and based on a revelation from God. God reveals something to the mind of the prophet (in some way beyond ordinary sense perception), and since God never makes a mistake, we know that his revelation is true. It has no error in it. But the gift of prophecy does not guarantee the infallible transmission of that revelation. The prophet may perceive the revelation imperfectly, he may understand it imperfectly, and he may deliver it imperfectly.   . . . The gift of prophecy results in fallible prophecy” (“NT Prophecy differs from OT Prophecy,” online at: http://preachingjesus.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/nt-prophecy-differes-from-ot-prophecy-john-piper/)

The implications of this view make it essentially impossible to know when a prophecy is actually true or erroneous.

Wayne Grudem: Pastorally, if someone is in charge of a home fellowship group or if a pastor is in charge of a prayer meeting, you call it as you see it. I have to use an American analogy, it’s an umpire calling balls and strikes as the pitcher pitches the ball across the plate. (Wayne Grudem in his debate with Ian Hamilton, Timestamp 59:53; online at: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/02/23/a-debate-on-the-continuation-of-prophecy)

In the end, the charismatic version of prophecy consists of supposed revelation that comes from God which is then declared by the human prophet—but in such a way that the prophecy itself is full of errors and is, therefore, not authoritative or binding on people’s lives. As we just read from Wayne Grudem, it contains elements which are not to be obeyed or trusted.

But, you see, that is not at all how the Bible defines prophecy. Revelation that comes from God is authoritative. It is absolutely trustworthy and must be obeyed. If the human prophet distorts that revelation, so that now it is no longer accurate or authoritative, the human prophet falls under the condemnation of God Himself.

So you can see, when we start with the biblical criteria for evaluating the gift of prophecy, and when we compare the biblical data with the contemporary charismatic movement, it becomes quickly apparent that the two do not match up.

If we had time this morning, we could spend more time demonstrating that prophesy in Scripture — in both the Old and New Testament — was the authoritative and accurate declaration of direct revelation from God. When we compare that to the modern charismatic version of prophecy, we find that the latter falls woefully short.

Tongues

The charismatic gift that launched the Pentecostal movement in 1901 was speaking in tongues. But does the contemporary version of that gift match the biblical data?

The definitive passage on the gift of tongues is Acts 2 — where the majority of both cessationists and continuationists agree that the phenomenon consisted of the supernatural ability to speak in previously unlearned human foreign languages.

Acts 2:4–12 –  [4] And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. [5] Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. [6] And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. [7] They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? [8] “And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? [9] “Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, [10] Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, [11] Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” [12] And they all continued in amazement and great perplexity, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

Verse 4 indicates that this was a speaking gift. And it consisted of real human languages which were miraculously spoken by those who had never learned those languages, such that Luke can list more than a dozen different dialects that were spoken.

By contrast, charismatics generally acknowledge the fact that the type of tongues that characterizes modern charismatic practice does not consist of real human languages — or, at least, not of languages that are immediately recognizable as such. Speaking of this gift, Wayne Grudem explains, “Ordinarily it seems that it will involve speech in a language that no one understands, whether that be a human language or not” (Wayne Grudem, Making Sense of the Church, n.p., accessed through Google Books).

While Grudem acknowledges that the gift of tongues could result in a real human language (in keeping with the inescapable implications of Acts 2), he is quick to admit that the tongues that pervade modern charismatic practice consist of unintelligible speech.

Modern linguists who have studied charismatic tongues (or “glossolalia”) would agree that the modern phenomenon does not consist of a genuine language. After years of first-hand research, University of Toronto linguistics professor William Samarin came to this conclusion:

William Samarin: Glossolalia consists of strings of meaningless syllables made up of sounds taken from those familiar to the speaker and put together more or less haphazardly. The speaker controls the rhythm, volume, speed and inflection of his speech so that the sounds emerge as pseudolanguage—in the form of words and sentences. Glossolalia is language-like because the speaker unconsciously wants it to be language-like. Yet in spite of superficial similarities, glossolalia fundamentally is not language.

Based on linguistic studies, it seems obvious that the contemporary charismatic version of tongues — in terms of non-human languages that no one understands — fails to match the gift as it is clearly described on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

In order to bypass this dilemma, continuationists contend that there are more than one kind of gift of tongues in the New Testament. As one continuationist writer explained,

Adrian Warnock: “One thing that most of us agree on is that there are different kinds of tongues…. I think it is fair to say that the tongues of 1 Corinthians are different from those of Acts 2.  Paul himself speaks here of different kinds of tongues [1 Cor. 14:10]. It is at least possible that at different points in this passage [in 1 Cor. 12–14] Paul is talking about different forms of tongues.”

But does the biblical evidence allow for this distinction? More specifically, is the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians categorically different than the gift described in Acts?

Here are seven observations from the text, suggesting that the gift of tongues described in Acts was the same as that described in 1 Corinthians 12–14:

1. Same Terminology: In both Acts and 1 Corinthians 12–14, the same words are used to describe the gift of tongues. The primary word for tongues in Acts is “glossa” (2:4, 11; 10:46; 19:6). Glossa is a Greek word that means languages. Thus, it is the gift of languages! As in Acts, the primary word for tongues in 1 Corinthians 12–14 is “glossa” (12:10, 28; 13:1, 8; 14:2, 4, 5, 9, 13, 18, 19, 22, 23, 26, 27, 39).

Even continuationists acknowledge that glossa means languages:

Wayne Grudem: It should be said at the outset that the Greek word glossa, translated “tongue,” is not used only to mean the physical tongue in a person’s mouth, but also to mean “language.” In the New Testament passages where speaking in tongues is discussed, the meaning “languages” is certainly in view. It is unfortunate, therefore, that English translations have continued to use the phrase “speaking in tongues,” which is an expression not otherwise used in ordinary English and which gives the impression of a strange experience, something completely foreign to ordinary human life. But if English translations were to use the expression “speaking in languages,” it would not seem nearly as strange, and would give the reader a sense much closer to what first century Greek speaking readers would have heard in the phrase when they read it in Acts or 1 Corinthians. (Systematic Theology, 1069).

On that point, I heartily agree with Dr. Grudem. The problem comes when one allows the word “language” to mean something other than a real foreign language.

2. Same Description: In both Acts and 1 Corinthians 12–14, the gift of tongues is described in ways that rational languages would be described. The miraculous ability, as it is described in Acts 2, is the supernatural ability to speak in other tongues (meaning foreign languages) (2:4, 9–11). In 1 Corinthians, as in Acts, the gift of tongues is described as a speaking gift (12:30; 14:2, 5).

The fact that it can be interpreted/translated (12:10; 14:5, 13) indicates that it consisted of an authentic foreign language, similar to the tongues of Acts 2. Paul’s direct association of tongue-speaking with foreign languages in 14:10–11 and also his reference to Isaiah 28:11, 12 strengthens this claim.

Just as a side note, when Paul speaks of different “kinds” of tongues in 1 Cor. 12:10, the word for “kind” is genos from which we get the English word, “genus.” It refers to different families of languages. So it is not suggesting a human kind of language verses a non-human kind of language. It is differentiating different families of human languages.

3. Same Source: In both Acts and 1 Corinthians 12–14, the gift of tongues was given by the Holy Spirit. The miraculous tongues in Acts were directly related to the working of the Holy Spirit (2:4, 18; 10:44–46; 19:6). In fact, tongue-speaking is evidence of having received the “gift” of the Holy Spirit (10:45). As in Acts, the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians was directly related to the working of the Holy Spirit (12:1, 7, 11, etc.). Similarly, the gift of tongues is an evidence (or “manifestation”) of having received the Holy Spirit (12:7).

4. Same Recipients: In both Acts and 1 Corinthians 12–14, the gift of tongues was experienced by both apostles and non-apostles. On the Day of Pentecost it involved all of those gathered in the Upper Room. In Acts 11:15–17, Peter implies that the tongue-speaking of Acts 10 was the same as that of Acts 2, even noting that Cornelius and his household had received the same gift as the apostles on the Day of Pentecost.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul, as an apostle, possessed the gift of tongues (14:18). Yet he recognized that there were non-apostles in the Corinthian church who also possessed the gift.

5. Same Primary Purpose: In both Acts and 1 Corinthians 12–14, the gift of tongues was given as a sign to the nation of Israel that God was now working through the church. In Acts, it is presented as a sign for unbelieving Jews (Acts 2:5, 12, 14, 19). In 1 Corinthians, as in Acts, the gift of tongues was a sign for unbelieving Jews (1 Cor. 14:21–22; cf. Is. 28:11). Note that the gift is even called a “sign” in 1 Cor. 14:22. Thus, the Corinthian use of tongues was a sign just as the apostles’ use of tongues was a sign on the day of Pentecost.

6. Same Connection to the Other Gifts: In the book of Acts, the gift of tongues is closely connected with prophecy (Acts 2:16–18; 19:6) and with other signs that the Apostles were performing (2:43). In 1 Corinthians, as in Acts, the gift of tongues is closely connected with prophecy (all throughout 12–14).

7. Same Reaction from Unbelievers: In Acts 2, some of the unbelieving Jews at Pentecost accused the apostles of being drunk when they heard them speaking in other tongues (languages which those particular Jews did not understand). Similar to Acts, in 1 Corinthians, Paul states that unbelievers will accuse the Corinthians of being mad [not unlike “drunk”] if their tongues go uninterpreted (14:23), and are therefore not understood by the hearer.

Added to all of this is the fact that Luke (the author of Acts) was a close associate of Paul (the writer of 1 Corinthians), and wrote under Paul’s apostolic authority. Moreover, the book of Acts was written after the first epistle to the Corinthians. It is unlikely, then, that Luke would have used the exact same terminology as Paul if he understood there to be an essential, categorical difference between the two gifts (especially since such could lead to even greater confusion about the gifts — a confusion which plagued the Corinthian church).

Conclusion: The biblical evidence leads us to conclude that there is only one gift of tongues, and that it consisted of authentic foreign languages that the speaker had not previously learned (Mark 16:17; Acts 2:4, 8–11; 10:47; 11:17).

Such a conclusion has significant ramifications for contemporary charismatics: by acknowledging that the form of tongues-speaking so prevalent in modern charismatic circles does not involve actual foreign languages, they are simultaneously acknowledging that their contemporary experience does not match the New Testament precedent.

Historical Note: It is probably worth noting at this point that the original Pentecostals under the leadership of Charles Fox Parham considered the gift of tongues to refer only to real, authentic foreign languages. As a result, in the early 1900s, they sent missionaries to foreign countries only to have those missionaries return in disappointment when it became clear that the tongues they were speaking were not real languages.

As charismatics authors Jack Hayford and David Moore explain:

Jack Hayford and David Moore: “Sadly, the idea of xenoglossalalic tongues [foreign languages] would later prove an embarrassing failure as Pentecostal workers went off to mission fields with their gift of tongues and found their hearers did not understand them” (The Charismatic Century, 42).

Regrettably, when Pentecostals realized their tongues were not real languages, they changed their interpretation of the Bible to fit their experience.

Additional Observations about Tongues:

I’d like to give 8 additional observations about the gift of tongues – because as we look at what the Bible says about tongues we quickly find how different the biblical gift was from the contemporary charismatic version of it.

(1) Not every believer was expected to speak in tongues. Many charismatics claim that everyone should speak in tongues. But 1 Corinthians 12:8–11 and 27–31 make it clear that not every Christian received the gift of tongues (cf. 14:26).

Now someone might object by point to Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 14:5 (“Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues”). But Paul has already explained that not everyone speaks in tongues, and he cannot be contradicting himself here. So how are we to interpret 1 Cor. 14:5? Well, I think we are helped when we recognize that it is almost identical to his earlier statement in 7:7 regarding singleness. (“Yet I wish that all men were even as myself”). Obviously, Paul wasn’t commanding every believer to pursue singleness. He was making a rhetorical point. Thus, Paul’s wish does not indicate that everyone in the Corinthian congregation actually spoke in tongues.

(2) Paul’s reference to the ‘tongues of angels’ does not justify unintelligible speech. The “tongues of angels” in 1 Corinthians 13:1 should be interpreted hyperbolically in keeping with the context of the passage (as Paul’s subsequent examples demonstrate). It is parallel to his statements of “knowing all mysteries and all knowledge” and “faith that literally removes mountains.” Both of those statements articulate hyperbolic impossibilities, and that is how we should likewise the “tongues of angels.”

Some commentators have further suggested that the phrase could be a figure of speech meaning “to speak very eloquently.” But even if one insists on taking it literally, there are still two things to consider: (A) It is the exception and not the rule, as evidenced by the rest of the New Testament teaching on tongues and as evidenced by the other examples Paul uses in vv. 1–3. (B) Every time angels spoke in the Bible, they spoke in a real language that people could understand (cf. Gen. 19; Exod. 33; Joshua 5; Judges 13). Thus, an appeal to angelic speech cannot be used to justify incoherent babblings.

(3) The fact that true tongues could be translated indicates they consisted of genuine languages. The concept of interpretation implies a rational message. As Norm Geisler (Signs and Wonders, 167) explains:

Norman Geisler: “The fact that the tongues of which Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians could be ‘interpreted’ shows that it was a meaningful language. Otherwise it would not be an ‘interpretation’ but a creation of the meaning. So the gift of ‘interpretation’ (1 Corinthians 12:30; 14:5, 13) supports the fact that tongues were a real language that could be translated for the benefit of all by this special gift of interpretation.”

(4) The purpose of the gifts was to edify others, not to edify oneself. The purpose of the gifts (as articulated in 1 Cor. 12-14) was to edify other believers in the church body (12:7; cf. 1 Pet. 4:10–11). Paul’s whole point is that love is superior to the gifts (chp. 13). The intended use of tongues, therefore, occurs when the message is translated so that fellow believers are edified. Tongues (languages) that are not translated do not profit the body because the message cannot be understood (14:6–11). Paul was not promoting a private use of tongues, since that does not edify others—cf. 14:12–19. Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 14:4 that the one who speaks in tongues edifies himself was said as a negative, as the context makes clear. Paul was noting that tongues was less desirable than prophecy, because prophecy did not need to be translated in order to edify the hearers.

(5) The prayer “in tongues” that is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 14 is a public prayer, not a private prayer. Charismatics want to define tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 as a private prayer language. But Paul’s prayer in 14:14–15 is a public prayer, not a private prayer. The languages spoken had to be translated so that those listening to the prayer could understand what was being said (v. 16).

Along those lines, Paul defines what he means by “speaking to God and not to men” when he says that “no one understands” (14:2). This would be true of a foreign language that someone spoke but no one else knew. The hearers would not be edified because they would not understand what was being said. But God knows all languages, so He would understand what was being said even if the language remained untranslated.

(6) These gifts were to be exercised in an orderly way. The gift of tongues was to be used in an orderly manner in the church (14:27–28, 39–40). Any disruptive or disorderly use of tongues-speaking goes against the way God intended the gift to be used.

(7) Nothing in 1 Corinthians suggests that the tongues described there were anything other than genuine foreign languages. Viewing tongues as authentic foreign languages is the only natural interpretation of Acts 2 and has the least number of problems in interpreting 1 Cor. 12–14.

As Thomas Edgar observes, “There are verses in 1 Corinthians 14 where foreign language makes sense but where unintelligible ecstatic utterance does not (e.g. v. 22). However, the reverse cannot be said. A foreign language not understood by the hearer is no different from unintelligible speech in his sight. Therefore, in any passage where such ecstatic speech may be considered possible, it is also possible to substitute a language not familiar to the hearers. In this passage there are no reasons, much less the very strong reasons necessary, to depart from the normal meaning of glossa and to flee to a completely unsupported usage” (Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit, 147).

In interpreting the Bible, we use the clearer passage to help us understand the less-clear passage. In this case Acts 2 is the clearer passage. So it is appropriate to allow our understanding of Acts to inform our interpretation of 1 Corinthians.

As a side note, we might add that there are no other passages that specifically teach about the gift of tongues. Some charismatics try to find tongues in Romans 8:26 and 2 Corinthians 5:13, but the context in those passages makes it clear that the gift of tongues is not in view.

(8) We might also add that, while not authoritative, the universal testimony of the church fathers supports the cessationist understanding of tongues. The church fathers agreed that the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians was the same as that described in Acts. Moreover, they interpreted that gift as consisting of rational, foreign languages. Though many could be cited, here is a small sampling from several early Christian leaders.

Augustine (354–430): “In the earliest times, ‘the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues,” which they had not learned, “as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ These were signs adapted to the time. For it was necessary for there to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth” (Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 6.10).

Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329–390): “They spoke with strange tongues, and not those of their native land; and the wonder was great, a language spoken by those who had not learnt it. And the sign is to them that believe not, and not to them that believe, that it may be an accusation of the unbelievers, as it is written, ‘“With other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people, and not even so will they listen to Me” saith the Lord’” (The Oration on Pentecost, 15–17).

John Chrysostom (c. 344–407), commenting on 1 Cor. 14:1–2: “And as in the time of building the tower [of Babel] the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak divers languages” (Homilies on First Corinthians, 35.1).

Severian of Gabala (d. c. 408): “The person who speaks in the Holy Spirit speaks when he chooses to do so and then can be silent, like the prophets. But those who are possessed by an unclean spirit speak even when they do not want to. They say things that they do not understand” (Pauline Commentary from the Greek Church. Cited from 1–2 Corinthians, Ancient Christian Commentary Series, 144, in reference to 1 Cor. 14:28).

Based on the biblical and historical evidence, we are convinced that the gift of tongues was a supernaturally endowed ability, given by the Holy Spirit to select Christians, enabling those believers to speak in previously unlearned human languages. The content contained words of praise to God, and the intended use of the gift involved the translation of the message for the general edification of fellow believers. The gift also functioned as a sign to unbelievers. This ability was not given to all Christians nor were they commanded to seek it. It was not considered the hallmark of the early church, nor is it ever highlighted as a normal part of the Christian experience.

But that is not how charismatics define tongues. In modern charismatic practice, the gift of tongues primarily consists of a devotional prayer language which is available to every believer, and which normally goes uninterpreted. This prayer language does not consist of authentic foreign languages. Rather it consists of a so-called spiritual “language” which (upon investigation) does not conform to the linguistic structures of earthly, human languages. Many churches teach their people how to speak in tongues, underscoring the non-supernatural nature of the practice.

When we compare the biblical evidence to modern charismatic and continuationist experience, we find that the two are not the same. The New Testament does not present two types of tongues; but only the miraculous ability to speak previously unlearned foreign languages. Clearly, that does not match the contemporary phenomenon.

As Norm Geisler observes:

Norman Geisler: “Even those who believe in tongues acknowledge that unsaved people have tongues experiences. There is nothing supernatural about them. But there is something unique about speaking complete and meaningful sentences and discourses in a knowable language to which one has never been exposed. This is what the real New Testament gift of tongues entailed. Anything short of this, as ‘private tongues’ are, should not be considered the biblical gift of tongues.”

Healing

We intentionally spent the bulk of our time this morning discussing the gift of tongues. But I would like to conclude our time by considering the gift (or gifts) of healing.

Charismatics remain convinced that God is still doing New Testament-quality miracles of healing in the church today. But what happens when we compare the healing ministries of Christ and the apostles to the supposed healings that are paraded on charismatic television? We quickly find, once again, that the charismatic version of healing simply does not match up to the biblical reality.

Let me show that to you by articulating 5 characteristics of biblical healing.

(1) New Testament healings did not require faith on the part of the recipient. Unlike charismatic faith healers, who make the promise of healing conditional on the sick person’s faith, the healings performed by Jesus and the apostles were not dependent on any such prerequisite.

For example, only one of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11–19 expressed faith, yet all ten were healed. The centurion’s servant received healing, but only the centurion is said to have had faith (Matt 8:5–13). Lazarus in John 11, Jairus’ daughter in Matthew 9, and the widow’s son in Luke 7 were all dead and incapable of displaying faith. The demoniacs of Matthew 8:28–29 and Mark 1:23–26 cannot reasonably have had faith before being healed. The lame man healed at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1–16) did not even know who Jesus was until later. Jesus healed the multitudes (see Matt 9:35; 11:2-5; 12:15-21; 14:13-14, 34-36; 15:29-31; 19:2), not all of whom believed.

In Acts, we similarly see the apostles healing a lame man without demanding faith (Acts 3:7) as well as delivering a girl from demons (Acts 16:18) and even raising the dead (Acts 9:40; 20:10), miracles which did not demand faith from the recipient.

(2) New Testament healings were complete, permanent, and 100% effective. The narrative of the Gospels and Acts is clear that the healings of Christ and the Apostles were complete, permanent, and successful. Jesus healed real diseases, not psychosomatic ones. He cleansed lepers, gave sight to the blind, made crippled men walk, and raised dead people.

For example, in Matthew 14:36, those who touched the hem of Christ’s garment “were made perfectly well.” Moreover, Christ healed lepers (see Matt 8:2-3; Mark 1:40-42; Luke 5:12-13; 17:11-21) whose healing had to have been complete in order to pass the inspection of the priest (see Lev. 14:3, 4, 10). In fact, there is no record of any New Testament miracle which was not ultimately complete and successful.

The two exceptions some may point to, however, include the inability of the disciples to cast out a certain demon (Matt 17:20) and Christ’s decision to heal a blind man in two stages (Mark 8:22-26). Yet, in the first case, the failure was caused by a lack of faith on the part of the disciples, and Jesus later did cast out the demon (see v. 18). And, in the second case, Jesus fully restored the man after the man saw “men like trees, walking” (v. 24). Not only did Christ have 100% success in His healing ministry, but so did the apostles in the book of Acts.

(3) New Testament healings were undeniable. The healing miracles of Jesus and the apostles could not be denied, even by the enemies of Jesus.

The unbelieving Pharisees did not deny Jesus’ power, they simply distorted the truth in order to cast dispersion on the source of His power (Matt. 12:24). For example, in John 11:47-48, Christ raised Lazarus and “everyone, including His enemies, stood amazed, astounded, and unable to deny or discredit the miracles.” In Acts 4:16–17, after Peter healed a lame beggar (Acts 3:1-10), the Sanhedrin was unable to deny that such a miracle occurred.  In Acts 16, when Paul cast the demon out of the slave girl in Philippi, her angry owners did not deny what had happened. Rather, they dragged Paul before the city magistrates and had him thrown in jail.

(4) New Testament healings were instantaneous. Another common characteristic of the healing ministries of Christ and the Apostles was that their healings were instantaneous. There was no period of recovery or recuperation necessary. One such example is found in Mark 1:42 where “as soon as [Christ] had spoken, immediately the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.”

Although no exceptions to this rule occur in the book of Acts, there are three possible exceptions in the Gospels.  These are found in Mark 8:22–26 (where a blind man is healed in two stages), Luke 17:11–19 (where the ten lepers are cleansed while on the way to see the priest), and John 9:1–7 (where the blind man is healed after washing in the Pool of Siloam). But those delays were a matter of only a few moments, and in keeping with Jesus’ purposes for those specific healings. Moreover, those people were completely healed—not over days or weeks, but in a matter of minutes. Thus, an overall examination of New Testament healings will show them to be immediate.

(5) New Testament healings were not prearranged. Another important characteristic of the miracles of Christ and the Apostles is that they were not prearranged, but rather were done in the normal course of ministry.

For example, in Matthew 8:14–15, Christ healed Peter’s mother-in-law simply because she was feeling ill when He came to Peter’s house. In Matthew 9:20, He healed a woman who simply, and secretly, touched the hem of His garment while he was walking to Jairus’ house.  In Matthew 9:27–29 during Jesus’ travels, He healed two blind men who happened to be in the vicinity.  And, in Acts 3:6-7 Peter healed a beggar while he and John were “about to go into the temple” (v. 3).

These, and other instances, confirm that New Testament healings were not pre-scheduled. Jesus and the apostles did not limit their healings to healing crusades in environments that could be highly organized and tightly controlled. Jesus certainly did not require the help of screeners—those found at charismatic miracle meetings who keep the seriously ill and physically disabled from reaching the stage.

Charismatic Comparisons:

So you can see how different New Testament healings were from the so-called healing ministries of modern faith healers. When modern faith healers excuse their inability to heal on the lack of faith in the sick person, or when their healings are not successful, or when their supposed successes don’t stand up under scrutiny, or when they claim their healings take place over a long period of time, or when they limit their miracle crusades to tightly controlled and highly manipulated events … they show just how far from the biblical standard they are.

Now, to be fair, evangelical continuationists are more conservative on this point. They generally distance themselves from faith healers, and that’s a good thing. But they essentially reduce the gift of healing to answers to prayer. A person with the gift of faith prays for a sick person, and God answers that prayer in accordance with His will.

As cessationists, we would wholeheartedly agree that God answers prayer, and that He can do so in ways that seem extraordinary.

But praying for God to heal and then waiting to see if God is going to answer that prayer is not how the New Testament describes miraculous healing. That is certainly not the way in which the healing ministries of Christ and the apostles are portrayed. But by insisting that the New Testament gift of healing has continued, charismatics set themselves (and their followers) up for confusion and disappointment.

Here is an example of that frustration from one charismatic leader:

John Wimber: Sometimes our experiences don’t fit with our understanding of what the Bible teaches. On the one hand, we know that God is sovereign and that he sent Jesus to commission us to pray for and heal the sick. On the other hand, we know from experience that healing does not always occur. Why would God command us to heal the sick and then choose not to back up our act (so to speak) by not healing the person for whom we pray? This can be downright discouraging, as I learned years ago in my own congregation when I began to teach on healing. It was nine months before we saw the first person healed. (John Wimber, “Signs, Wonders, & Cancer,” Christianity today, October 7, 1996, 50)

Wimber is right to be frustrated. But he fails to recognize the real problem. It is his misguided understanding of the miraculous gift of healing that results in the disconnect he observes in real life between his experiences and what the Bible teaches.

So again, there is a clear contrast between how the New Testament describes miraculous healings, and the way in which healing is defined within modern charismatic circles. By comparison, the modern version falls far short.

Summary

This morning we have just briefly considered the what question. In other words, we have asked the question: What were the gifts in the New Testament (based on the biblical evidence)? And how does modern charismatic practice compare?

Our survey has been admittedly brief, but here is what we have found:

The Gift of Prophecy: New Testament prophets are to be held to the same standard as Old Testament prophets since the NT writers make no attempt to distinguish between the two. Thus, the content of their prophecy (whether foretelling or forth-telling) must accurately convey the true, error-free revelation they are receiving from God. If their prophecy is shown to be incorrect, it is also shown to not be from God. Moreover, now that we have the completed “prophetic Word,” additional revelation from God is no longer needed for the present age.

The Gift of Tongues: The gift of tongues was a supernaturally endowed ability, given by the Holy Spirit to select Christians, enabling those believers to speak in previously unlearned human languages. The gift served as both a sign to unbelievers and as a way in which to edifiy fellow Christians (in which case it had to be translated). This ability was not given to all Christians nor were they commanded to seek it. It was considered less valuable than the gift of prophecy because translation was required in order for the gift to fulfill its purpose of edifying others.

The Gift of Healing: The NT gift (or gifts) of healing were of the same quality and kind as miraculous healings in the Old Testament, Gospels, and book of Acts. While cessationists appreciate answers to prayer in which God intervenes in healing a sick person, they maintain that this does not fit the biblical description of miraculous healing by a Spirit-endowed healer. Since the healings of contemporary charismatics do not fit the biblical description, they cannot be construed as being the same thing.

Conclusion:

It has not been our purpose this morning to address the questions of when the true gifts ceased or why they passed away. We could certainly do that if we had time. And we would look at passages like Ephesians 2:20, which limits the presence of apostles and prophets to the foundation of the church.

Rather, we have addressed a more basic question. What were the biblical gifts? When we start there, and when we compare the biblical description to the modern charismatic version of those gifts, we find the modern version to be greatly lacking.

So, as cessationists, do we deny that charismatics are experiencing things? Of course not. Rather, we deny that what they are experiencing is equivalent to what was happening in New Testament times.

They claim to “prophesy” but it is not prophecy as the Bible describes it. They claim to “speak in tongues” but their irrational speech does not consist of real human languages. And they claim to possess the New Testament gift of healing, yet nothing about modern charismatic healings matches up to the healing ministries depicted in Scripture.

The implications of this are significant. Though charismatics claim to possess the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and healing, a comparison of their experiences with the biblical reality demonstrates that the charismatic version of these gifts consists of something other than the real thing.

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
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  • JohnH

    I listened to this talk this morning. I found it very informative, thank you. Also I thought you took Todd Friel’s teasing very well at the Q&A session.

  • John Caldwell

    I loved the conference, and I amreally enjoying this blog. One of the criticisms of SF is that the concerns raised are not reflective of the whole movement. I’ve been dipping into my collection of books written by old pentecostals – and the evidence shows that these issues have always been a problem for pentecostals. For example: One Pentecostal Pastor warns about the spritual decline of pentecostalism in 1972: “Often-times there is an exibition of the false fire of emotionalism.”http://jjcaldwell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/pentecostal-pastor-warns-about-false.html

  • John Pleasnick

    Very thankful for your work on this! Your writing is always clear & cogent.

  • John_D_11

    Nate – I could use some help just walking verse by verse through 1 Cor 12 – 14. I felt this important passage was skipped over at the SF conference. Verses like 10:31 “Earnestly desire the higher gifts”14:1 ” Earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” 14:39 “Earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.” I also don’t have a clear understanding of the “Perfect” in 13:10, which Pennington hinted as being important to the discussion but never got back around to explaining it. As a cessationist I of course want “Perfect” to mean “Scripture” but that seems invalid. Could you point me somewhere or maybe just do a brief verse by verse explanation on these chapters and address some of the passages that don’t actually mean what they seem to mean at face value, in a style similar to your clear and cogent format above?

    IN talking with continuationist friends, I sometimes feel like Philip, all bold and clear about my beliefs at first (We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and also the Prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph – Jn 1:45) but then when I get a little pushback (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”) I lock up and get tongue tied and just resort to “Come and see” and then point folks here or to the SF audio.

    Really appreciate SF and all you’re doing. I nearly went to hell in a charismatic church with my hands raised and my heart “full” (of what, I’m not sure…).

  • Daniel

    Nathan, I appreciate the thought you’ve put into this post and I applaud someone in your organization for actually addressing the biblical interpretion regarding miraculous gifts. Yet this is where I think you guys fundamentally go wrong. You should have focused your conference purely on greed, pride, and spiritual abuse rather than seeking to undermine gifts as a whole; you’re on much more biblical ground there. As a charismatic, I freely acknowledge that the way that gifts are exercised in the charismatic/Pentecostal world are not always with the orderly nature that I believe Scripture teaches. I also hate that, while claiming to use the gifts, many money-grubbers and false teachers commit spiritual abuse. They should be severely warned against. But just like Paul, I don’t believe the correction to inproper use of the gifts is prohibition (or cessation), but rather correction.

    The fundamental problem I see with your view here is that you’re very selective with the evidence you’ll consider – something I’ve sadly seen in nearly every part of the SF conference that I’ve watched online. (Phil Johnson quotes Lee Grady to prove the Brownsville revival had “pandemonium” and bad fruit, but conveniently leaves out that Lee Grady saw gospel-fruit too. The preacher “demanded repentance from spiritual compromise” and “It did not matter if you were a drug addict needing conversion or a pastor living in secret sin—everyone found forgiveness, and an unusual sense of refreshing in that holy place.”)

    I don’t think the comment box is the place to go point-by-point through your post, but I’ll mention a few of these points because some of your readers may not have the context to see what your post omits.

    First, the NT doesn’t teach that gifts would pass away. That is a later theological assumption. One of your key texts, Ephesians 2:20 is addressed here, for example: http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/ephesians-2:20—the-cessationists–go-to–text–an-on-going-response-to-strange-fire-

    Secondly, the universal testimony of the church fathers does not support the cessationist understanding of tongues. For example, you conveniently omitted the Montanists, of which even Tertullian was a part: http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/holy-spirit—montanism

    Third, you did address some of this, but there is a great deal of evidence that tongues are more than human languages. Sam Storms’ counter-argument to yours is online here: http://www.samstorms.com/enjoying-god-blog/post/when-one-speaks-in-tongues–must-it-always-be-in-a-human-language

    Fourth, I’m as opposed as you are to actual false teachers! Your application of Deuteronomy to NT prophecy is definitely convenient to your case, but it’s bad interpretation because it omits how the NT defines NT prophecy. I find the exegesis of Piper and Grudem on this more nuanced and accurate than yours. New Testament prophecy is different in significant ways from OT prophecy, and must be judged differently than the OT instructed if we uphold the authority of the New Testament. I believe this is clear from the definitions of “false prophet” in the NT and Paul’s admonition to “test” and “weigh” what is said without suggesting that person be stoned if some of what they said is inaccurate. Wayne Grudem unpacks this much more, even in his Systematic Theology, and Sam Storms upacks it online here: http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/interpretation-of-tongues–judging-prophetic-words—and-women–1-corinthians-14:26-40-

    Fifth, you use several quotes of Pentecostals and charismatics against them to make your points, while not offering their own explanations why, being reasonable and gospel-loving men (Hayford, Deere,…), nonetheless believe in the gifts. It is irresponsible to accuse charismatics of being blind and dishonest regarding problems with their own movement on the one hand, and then using their own lucid and honest statements against them without asking, “If you’re standing side-by-side with me, seeing the same things, why are you still ok with this?” The answer might be enlightening for those who’ll listen.

    As you know, there is much in print by Grudem, Carson, Fee, Deere, and Storms, for example, but I’m linking to Storms because it’s immediately readable for open-minded readers. These are good starters:
    http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/are-miraculous-gifts-for-today—part-i
    http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/are-miraculous-gifts-for-today—part-ii

    I encourage discerning readers to keep exploring.

    • Daniel

      A brief clarification: I realize that you didn’t fully address Eph 2:20 because it was beyond the stated limitations of your post. I was going chronologically, but I want to recognize that.

    • Nate_Busenitz

      Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for your comments. I am grateful for the opportunity to think through these important issues.

      Admittedly, my seminar did not address every point or issue involved in the debate. Due to time constraints, it was necessary to be selective. But I am happy to direct you to places where I have expanded on the issues you have raised:

      1) Regarding Ephesians 2:20, please see: http://free-in-truth.blogspot.com/2007/02/cessationism-when-question-part-7-eph.html

      2) Regarding the church fathers and the gift of tongues, please see: http://www.tms.edu/tmsj/17e.pdf . For what it’s worth, I do not think Montanism is a convincing example of patristic support for the modern charismatic movement, largely because Montanism was denounced as a heresy by the church.

      3) Regarding tongues being something other than human languages, please see: http://thecripplegate.com/facebook-gibberish-and-the-real-gift-of-tongues/
      http://thecripplegate.com/two-kinds-of-tongues/

      4) Regarding how the New Testament defines prophecy, please see:
      http://thecripplegate.com/strange-fire-modern-prophecy/
      http://thecripplegate.com/throwing-prophecy-under-the-agabus/

      5) Regarding the way in which modern Pentecostals and charismatics justify the continuation of the gifts, please see:
      http://ifcamedia.org/ifcaweb/pubs/ifcavoice/VOICE12novdec.pdf
      http://audio.gracechurch.org/sc/2006notes/Thats%20the%20Spirit,%20Busenitz.pdf

      You mentioned the writings of Grudem, Carson, Fee, Deere, and Storms. I am familiar with these authors and their positions (especially those of Grudem, Carson, and Storms). However, I believe they have redefined the extraordinary gifts of the New Testament in order to accommodate modern charismatic experience. If we examine the New Testament gifts on their own terms, I remain convinced that the modern charismatic versions fall far short.

      You might also be interested in this article on cessationism: http://thecripplegate.com/what_cessationism_is_not/
      Like you, I encourage discerning readers to keep exploring – by comparing the gifts of the contemporary charismatic movement with the clear biblical standard.

      http://thecripplegate.com/why-im-not-a-charismatic/

      • Daniel

        Thanks for your reply, Nate. Do you mind if I ask? At what point in history do you believe the ‘sign gifts’ ceased? (Maybe down to the decade, if not the year.) I scanned several of the articles you linked to that I thought would answer that question, but didn’t see this; I apologize if I overlooked it.

        • Alex

          Daniel,
          I think it was probably with the Apostles as the “sign gifts” were signs of Apostolic authority (hence the word sign?)

          Interesting point regarding pride and greed. IMO pride is truly the underlying factor in all of this. For someone to think that they would have the gifts given to the Apostles for the foundation of the Church is truly a prideful thing, unless you know someone who actually does (according to the biblical definition).

          Daniel, I don’t think any Christian could think that GOD cannot answer prayer in an extraordinary way, or that HE could re-institute the biblical “sign gifts” If HE sees fit

          HE will not contradict Himself, but there is no crystal clear “proof text”, HOWEVER, there are a number of passages that point to the gifts in dispute ceasing, which coupled with the fact that a genuine and consistent display of these gifts (according to HIS word) from men with both genuine integrity and sound doctrine has not come into the light, leads one to conclude that the gifts have ceased.

          I want to say, that It is tempting to waste a bunch of time chasing after the claims, and that time can be better used serving, also many have done this, and either 1 compromise their biblical definitions, or 2 conclude that the gifts have ceased. HOWEVER if it is on your heart so heavily, to seek after signs and wonders, be careful, pray before hand, don’t compromise the biblical definitions and present your findings to the Church

          I see that you are upset by the the urgency and the anger of the conference, but I pray that you will see that it is necessary in order to guard against false teachers, deceitful spirits, and misunderstanding.

          If in fact genuine sign gifts are in use today then cessationism are wrong, If they are not, than the urgency and anger is; a little late, not enough and by the Grace of GOD, just the beginning.

          • Daniel

            Alex, thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate that you’re saying humble and open-minded things like “he could re-institute the biblical sign-gifts if he sees fit” and “if in fact genuine sign gifts are in use today then cessationism is wrong.” I seek to weigh all the evidence as well – biblical exegesis first, but also experience and fruit as they match up with the Bible. Nate and I clearly differ regarding what the actual gifts are, and I’m trying to reveal why I respectfully think he’s wrong on this.

            I encourage you to read the links I gave in my comment above, if for no other reason than to *understand* what you’re speaking against from their own words. It makes me sad to see you write, “a genuine and consistent display of these gifts (according to HIS word) from men with both moral integrity and sound doctrine has not come into the light.” My friend, it’s true that some of what you see on YouTube and TV is disturbing and ungodly – and we HAVE to discern the difference – but you don’t know what you’re missing in good churches in the Vineyard movement, A/G, Foursquare, New Frontiers, and more. Men like Jack Hayford, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, Jack Deere, Sam Storms, Terry Virgo, Tope Koleoso, John Wimber, Michael Brown, Mike Bickle (and others) are the men you’re looking for.

            When Paul saw mis-use of the gifts in Corinth, he didn’t prohibit them. Instead, he gave correction and then said, “earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” That’s what many of us are humbly and biblically trying to do.

          • Alex

            1st Corinthians is pretty much a rebuke through and through of a Church that had been corrupted by pride and false teachers.

            Consider that Paul’s “thorn” in 2nd Corinthians was not a physical ailment, but false teachers, leading brothers astray? 2cor 11.1-12.12

            John Piper is not miraculously healing people, or speaking other languages, if he does, I am sure he will let his brothers know.

        • Daniel

          Here’s why I’m asking: The “when” question is a big one keeping me from being convinced by cessationism. When did the gifts cease, down to maybe the decade?
          Trying to step into your shoes, I see a few options:

          1) “They ceased around 100AD, with the death of the last apostle.” But then what do you do with the strong witness of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Irenaeas (besides the Montanists) that so-called sign gifts continued until at least 200 or 250AD? (Against Heresies, 5:6,1, for example.)

          2) “They ceased around 250AD based on the last strong witness of the church fathers, excluding Montanism.” But then how can you hold Ephesians 2:20 to claim that these were only foundational gifts excercised by the apostles? It’s clear they were active in many other believers for some time.

          3) “I don’t know when they ceased.” That’s honest, but then how can you claim that they’ve ceased and then rely on your proof texts? Is it not just as possible that they were supressed only to later re-emerge?

          As I said, with such questions, I’m unconvinced that the gifts ever ceased. Am I missing something important? How do you reason through these?

      • Daniel

        Nate, although Alex gave his answer to my question, I’m still interested to hear yours.

        • Alex

          Nate and I clearly differ regarding what the actual gifts are, and I’m trying to reveal why I respectfully think he’s wrong on this

          What is your definition of the “actual” gifts?

          • Daniel

            To adequately answer that question would take a book, but I’ll point to what I implied above. I believe there are kinds of miraculous tongues, both humanly understandable and not. I also believe that New Testament prophecy – that which Paul mentions in 1 Cor. 12-14 – consists of God bringing something to mind which otherwise wouldn’t be there in order to encourage, console, or convict someone. The “charismatic” movement is wide, but that said, I believe some of what is practiced in the movement today are actual gifts as they were practiced in the New Testament. If you’re interested in a thorough unpacking of all the gifts, one reference I’d recommend is Storms’ book on Spiritual Gifts (“Beginners Guide” – nevermind the name, it’s good).

            In a comment you deleted, you hinted that you respect Piper. I do too. Here are some of his comments on these things:
            http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/piper-on-prophecy-and-tongues

            I also respect Spurgeon. Here’s an example of prophecy in action by Charles Spurgeon well after the apostolic age. This couldn’t be contrived, because he said he didn’t even believe in the gifts, but it fits the definition given in 1 Cor 14:24-25 very well.

          • Alex

            Daniel,
            I understand the hesitancy to take a firm stand on this, but I ask you, If you know of someone consistently speaking another known language that they do not know, for the purposes of building the Church, than have them come forward!

            I respect many who are non-cessationists but that doesn’t mean they are correct, John Piper’s humility is beautiful, FTR it does not surprise me that the LORD would have him there as so many Christians are caught up in this.
            His discussion of tongues was particularly beautiful important to note, he concedes that he has never heard tounges as other languages only other peoples stories, and that he does not have this gift genuinely, and that he almost tricked himself into thinking he did.

            When you wrote that you believe that actual gifts are practiced in the charismatic movement today, I think every speaker at the Strange Fire conference would agree, there would just be a debate about which gifts there are ie, preaching, administration, encouraging are all obviously in “Charismatic” Churches, [as Pastor MaCarthur said despite the fact that they are Charismatic not because of it]

            Defining prophecy as spiritual sensitivity, or intuition is I think incorrect, I think it was something above that, I think that it is communicating the very Words of the Most High GOD.

            In a sense anyone who reads the Scripture outloud is “prophesying”, but is that the gift of prophecy? No! It is the gift of reading and speaking.

            If we are going to define it as something other than communicating the very words of GOD, we could say that it is explaining the words of GOD (ie preaching), If you do define it as any of those, than yes, there are many spiritually sensitive Christians (and Non-Christians), there are many preachers, there are many who can read outloud,

            However as words of this day and age have been twisted and skewed about, it is important that the distinction is made,

            Thus Saith the LORD has been said, and the truth has been once and for all delivered. No Christian can deny the existence of ministering spirits, or the leading of the LORD HOLY SPIRIT, who frees us from slavery to Satan, and using the scriptures, makes us more like the LORD JESUS, but to compare that leading, or sensitivity to those ministering spirits, to the delivery of the very words of the Most High GOD, ; diminishes the Scriptures and either plays on delusion, or attributes angelic activity (evil or otherwise) to GOD, which creates an idol, another god, and if the latter, you bet does not appreciate such things.

            It is important to note, if we give such a loose definition of Prophecy, (which I think we can derive from {Deuteronomy 13 and 18 is not what the LORD feels we should do), then anyone who says anything that lines up with the Word of GOD is prophesying. So, if someone tells you to mind your own buisness, you think of 1 thes 4.11, that person is a prophet, Or is it divine providence? even if miraculous, like you really needed to hear that, or even predictive (intuitition, or we know from Scripture that Angels evil or otherwise can predict future events, though not solidly)

            For a look at divine providence, and Charles Spurgeon’s view of calling spiritual sensitivity, and intuition prophecy, I refer you to Phil Johnson’s seminar Providence is remarkable.
            http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/TM13-15/providence-iisi-remarkable-phil-johnson

            Looking forward to reading (your) book!

          • Daniel

            Alex, I’ll be honest with you that I’m having trouble deciphering chunks of your response. But overall, it seems clear that you’re expressing your agreement with Nate and John MacArthur. I’m not sure that after this dialogue, much more is helpful, so I wish you grace and peace.

          • Alex

            Grace to you

          • Alex

            Daniel,
            If you want to discuss the subject any more, email me at aeg459@gmail.com, happy to discuss.

          • It’s always puzzling to me that people insist that Spurgeon prophesied even while he would deny that claim himself.

            People interested in this question should read this post: http://thecripplegate.com/spurgeon-impressions-and-prophecy/

            Also, it’s hard to get around his scathing denunciation of attributing impressions to the authoritative revelation of the Spirit to one’s own mind:

            “Take care never to impute the vain imaginings of your fancy to Him [the Spirit]. I have seen the Spirit of God shamefully dishonored by persons — I hope they were insane — who have said that they have had this and that revealed to them. There has not for some years passed over my head a single week in which I have not been pestered with the revelations of hypocrites or maniacs. Semi-lunatics are very fond of coming with messages from the Lord to me, and it may spare them some trouble if I tell them once for all that I will have none of their stupid messages. . . .

            “Never dream that events are revealed to you by heaven, or you may come to be like those idiots who dare impute their blatant follies to the Holy Ghost. If you feel your tongue itch to talk nonsense, trace it to the devil, not to the Spirit of God. Whatever is to be revealed by the Spirit to any of us is in the word of God already — he adds nothing to the Bible, and never will. Let persons who have revelations of this, that, and the other, go to bed and wake up in their senses. I only wish they would follow the advice, and no longer insult the Holy Ghost by laying their nonsense at his door.”

            From “The Paraclete,” October 6, 1872.

          • Daniel

            Mike and Nate, I read the post you linked. Here’s another quote of Spurgeon’s:

            “I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description, that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, ‘Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.’”

            You both interpret all NT prophecy to be identical to OT prophecy. I disagree, but for the sake of argument, let’s say you and Spurgeon are correct not to call this prophecy. If we did not call it “prophecy,” would you be satisfied to say that God can and does reveal accurate things spontaneously and subjectively through believers as he did with Spurgeon in these dozens of instances? Would you be content (as Spurgeon must’ve been) for believers to test what was said to discern what is truly from the Holy Spirit and what consists of human concoction?

          • If we did not call it “prophecy,” would you be satisfied to say that God can and does reveal accurate things spontaneously and subjectively through believers as he did with Spurgeon in these dozens of instances?

            The key word is reveal. I have to answer your question, as it’s currently stated, “No,” and Spurgeon would answer the same way. There is no revelation outside of Scripture.

            But I think Nate, Spurgeon, and I would all be quite happy to speak of God’s meticulous providence, and even cases of extraordinary providence (like Spurgeon’s examples) wherein the inclinations or impressions of one’s heart/mind are obviously used to bless the church and/or glorify the Lord.

            But there is no way to determine whether such impressions are indeed from God or are simply our own impressions, except in retrospect. Therefore, no one should be saying, “The Lord told me,” or “The Spirit is speaking to me that….” If you have an impression, share your impression as your impression, and not as the revelation of God.

            For more on that, this post and the comments may be helpful.

            http://thecripplegate.com/the-spirit-led-me-to/

          • Daniel

            I’m glad to hear your response.

            Mike, Benny Hinn claims lots of things. We agree that Benny Hinn is a nut. Please put him aside for a moment in your thinking.

            We may disagree on terminology. You’re very uncomfortable with the terms “prophecy” and “reveal” for what we just described. I’m comfortable with them because I believe they’re thoroughly biblical. That is a legitimate place of disagreement between us. Let’s put that aside for just a sec too.

            What I don’t think we disagree on is the PRACTICE of what we’ve just discussed. Mike, I’ve experienced what Spurgeon indicated on numerous occasions. I’ve had people, like Spurgeon, “read my mail” as it were, in ways that were undeniably biblical, edifying, and confirmed. By God’s grace, I’ve had similar impressions for others. Regardless of what we call it, I’d like for you and Nate and John MacArthur and Phil Johnson to see that, despite your strong desire to control terminology and strict theological definition — the PRACTICE that you all are condeming in much of the charismatic movement is the one of which you just (rightly) approved.

            In these churches we say, “I have a strong impression for you that I believe is from the Lord, but please test it…” We don’t think we’re getting inspired Scripture, and we measure it against the authority of Scripture. In retrospect, if it proves true, yes, like Spurgeon, we gladly say God has spoken to us and give him glory for it.

            Are some people immature? Of course! Please don’t let the immaturity of some lead to you false and sweeping conclusions about a whole movement. An immature charismatic might claim something is of God that isn’t. They’ll be corrected, just as an immature cessationist might claim that God never heals at all, even by prayer. They’ll be corrected by you, too, I’m sure.

            Will you please be willing to understand and nuance your views and critique to this extent? To do anything less is to beat up a straw-man – not to interact intelligently and graciously with a different view that’s held by your brothers and sisters.

          • Benny Hinn claims lots of things. We agree that Benny Hinn is a nut. Please put him aside for a moment in your thinking.

            Who said anything about Benny Hinn? Benny Hinn (and those like him) hadn’t entered my thinking in this discussion until you mentioned him now.

            We may disagree on terminology. You’re very uncomfortable with the terms “prophecy” and “reveal” for what we just described. I’m comfortable with them because I believe they’re thoroughly biblical. That is a legitimate place of disagreement between us. Let’s put that aside for just a sec too.

            I’m not uncomfortable with the terms “prophecy” and “reveal.” They are, of course, biblical. What I’m uncomfortable with is using those biblical terms to describe something other than the biblical practices / phenomena that they describe.

            Regardless of what we call it, I’d like for you and Nate and John MacArthur and Phil Johnson to see that, despite your strong desire to control terminology and strict theological definition —

            It’s not about controlling terminology or policing theology for accuracy’s sake. It’s about being thoroughly biblical.

            And to position this as if it’s simply a disagreement about nomenclature is disingenuous at best and eye-crossingly naïve at worst. There are criminal, shameful, and deceitful practices that take place under the banner of calling unbiblical practices by biblical names. So when conservative continuationists like yourself insist that prophecy can be something other than NT prophecy, tongues can be something other than NT tongues, and the gift of healing be something other than the NT gift of healing, you do, unwittingly or not, provide cover for the “nuts,” as you call them, that make up the majority of the Charismatic movement. Once “prophecy” can be fallible, once “tongues” can be nonsensical gibberish, once “healings” don’t necessarily have to heal fully or immediately, charlatans and deceivers can contrive those phenomena and claim biblical and theological cover by making use of the conservative continuationist’s (a) arguments and (b) reputation. The Strange Fire book documents charlatans appealing to Wayne Grudem’s theological defense of fallible prophecy to justify the kind of malfeasance that I’m sure Grudem (and other men like yourself) would reject.

            …the PRACTICE that you all are condeming in much of the charismatic movement is the one of which you just (rightly) approved.

            Nobody has condemned sharing advice with brothers and sisters, with giving counsel to Christian friends based on biblical principles. Nobody has condemned extraordinary providences or sharing one’s impressions as impressions. We have condemned the notion that any of that is revelation that should be stamped with the imprimatur of the authority of God, which is what happens throughout the Charismatic movement.

            And if we do condemn using biblical terminology to describe something other than what that biblical terminology originally described, we do so (a) to be biblically faithful, and (b) to safeguard against the abuses that I described above. And that is what John MacArthur and the other speakers at the Strange Fire conference are calling their conservative continuationist friends to do.

            Will you please be willing to understand and nuance your views and critique to this extent? To do anything less is to beat up a straw-man – not to interact intelligently and graciously with a different view that’s held by your brothers and sisters.

            You have mischaracterized our practice and have therefore misdiagnosed for a solution. Nothing you’ve said requires me to nuance my views and critique in any way that they weren’t already so nuanced. There is no straw man. We have not claimed that you’re doing something that you’re not. We are critiquing precisely the practice that you outline in your comment, as well as the extensive and woefully damaging abuses for which such a practice provides cover.

          • Daniel

            Mike, you talk about safeguards against abuse. I see your naive and raise you one. If it were more convenient to him, do you seriously think that Benny Hinn wouldn’t stand on stage, hair waving, yelling “behold the extraordinary and meticulous providence of God!” and do exactly what he’s doing now?

            I know for a fact that some “Calvinists” are justifying their sin every day because they abuse the Calvinistic doctrine that God is sovereign over human will and actions. “God must want me to do it.” “It doesn’t matter because I’m elect.” Does this mean that John MacArthur is giving these sinners “cover” – or does it just mean they’re just perverting something that’s true and good when used properly? I could organize a conference to say it’s MacArthur’s fault, but that wouldn’t make it true. How dare you say the same is justified of conservative charismatics.

            Unless we want to claim that Spurgeon was deluded, we have to concede that at times, God communicates supernaturally through people in uncanny and incredibly specific ways that cannot be dismissed as mere “counsel” or general “impressions.” If that truth makes the Christian life or pastoral work feel a little unsafe, messy, or out of control, because this truth can be abused, so be it. It’s still true.

          • You’re just repeating yourself now, Daniel, but just adding a little more rhetoric. The points you raise have been answered above. Let’s not go around in circles.

      • Daniel

        Here’s why I’m asking: The “when” question is a big one keeping me from being convinced by cessationism. When did the gifts cease, down to maybe the decade?

        Trying to step into your shoes, I see a few options:

        1) “They ceased around 100AD, with the death of the last apostle.” But then what do you do with the strong witness of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, and Irenaeas (besides the Montanists) that so-called sign gifts continued until at least 200 or 250AD? (Against Heresies, 5:6,1, for example.)

        2) “They ceased around 250AD based on the last strong witness of the church fathers, excluding Montanism.” But then how can you hold Ephesians 2:20 to claim that these were only foundational gifts excercised by the apostles? It’s clear they were active in many other believers for some time.

        3) “I don’t know when they ceased.” That’s honest, but then how can you claim that they’ve ceased and then rely on your proof texts? Is it not just as possible that they were supressed only to later re-emerge?

        As I said, with such questions, I’m unconvinced that the gifts ever ceased. Am I missing something important? How do you reason through these?

  • Steve Rowe

    Well, nice try on your conclusion that tongues must be a known language to the hearers, but it is a rather contrived exegesis which is mainly to aid the person who doesn’t accept that speaking in tongues is still for today.

    The Scriptures are, sadly, manipulated to fit a concept. Anyone who believes that tongues is for today and is blessed to speak in other tongues will recognise straight away that there is a variant understanding of the author’s take on it.

    I’m sure it will convince those who are already decided, but, sadly, there will be some who are seeking the truth who will be talked out of speaking in tongues out of respect for the author of this piece.

    “Forbid not to speak in tongues”. The problem is that if speaking in tongues has ended, and there are a great many Christians who do speak in tongues, then there is a controversy in the Church which cannot be resolved without concluding that those people who do speak in tongues are in serious error.

    “God is not the author of confusion”. Therefore we have to make a decision about why, if tongues has ended, God has played such a cruel trick on countless genuine believers.

    I know the cessationist will then say those of us who speak in tongues are deceived, but you have to realise that we love God too much to believe this to be the case.

    Something is badly amiss here.

    • Alex

      Steve,
      What do you define as speaking in tounges?

      • Steve Rowe

        Clearly speaking in tongues is speaking languages. Biblically the speaker is articulating a language unknown to the speaker. The utterance is given by the Holy Spirit.

        The claim here is made that it must be a known language, which has some basis in fact, but who knows all languages but God? The example taken is from the day o Pentecost in Jerusalem where people heard the speakers in the Upper Room magnify God in their languages. Of course it doesn’t tell us what other languages were spoken by the disciples.

        The there is an extraordinary claim that, therefore, the language spoken must be understandable to someone on earth at the time it is spoken. There is no Biblical evidence for this.

        In fact, Paul makes it clear that those who speak in tongues are not speaking to men, but to God, and that no man understands them because they are speaking mysteries by the Holy Spirit.

        But how naive it s to think that we could know all languages. Do you know how many language groups there are in the world? I lived in the north of Australia where there are hundreds of language groups in Arnhemland alone. Many of the indigenous people speak several of he languages. There are languages which have not yet had Scripture translated into their tongues.

        Then there are displaced languages. Sixty years ago on the island I grew up in, I would have been speaking a language which dates back to before William the Conqueror, but after WW2 English totally replaced this language, which is now all but lost, with a handful of people doing what they can to restore it.

        How many languages have been displaced by progress and conquest? Ironically, the Church has been responsible, over the ages, for the demise of many languages and dialects.

        I was in a London Inn recently where a group of men were speaking in an English dialect which I could barely understand, yet hey were speaking in English. How can you be naive enough to think that God could not use any language of the past or present as a tongue form our lips.

        I find it insulting when cessationists call speaking in tongues ‘gobbledegook’, or ‘babble’ or similar, as if they know all tongues and all languages and can translate all the tongues o the earth, or of men and angels.

        It shows gross ignorance of both culture and history. It is anthropologically naive. And it boxes the work of the Holy Spirit into a corner of the hearers understanding and not of His amazing capabilities.

        • Jeremy

          Thanks for the input, Steve.

          So if I undertsand you correctly, you would then accept that in this Youtube clip Howard-Brown and Copeland are actually speaking in tongues as practised by Paul and the rest of the early church?

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ixOr_bT0mOk

          Sorry – just an ex-charismatic trying to work out at which point the interpreter (1 Cor 14:28) might put in an appearance.

          • Steve Rowe

            I just read a post, ‘Myths about the Strange Fire Conference’, where Mike Riccardi took to a person, J.J. who placed a 2.5 minute clip of Dr McArthur actually saying that many charismatics did not have the gospel, were not saved and were not brothers or sisters i the Lord because of this, so, as a result, he did not consider he was divisive since they were not part of the Body.

            He clearly stated it. Two and a half minutes is actually enough time to establish a thought or a position.

            The clip you produce is not typical of any charismatic or Pentecostal meeting I have ever been in. I think they are in error for not at least producing an interpretation, but I do not know and cannot tell if they later did produce an interpretation or not. This i a one minute clip, and clearly not complete. Was there an interpretation? I saw it at the time and did not think it was entirely appropriate, even though it was part of a believer’s conference.

            Now we can always seek out the most extreme examples of things we are suspicious of or do not consider Biblical. These days, with Google and the internet it is simple matter. But we have to be honest about things. You tube will always produce the goods.

            The claim is that Dr McArthur doesn’t mean what he seemed to be saying in the video clip on the other thread. Apparently he was taken out of context, but quite what the context was, then, is hard to know.

            Are these men speaking in tongues? Probably. Possibly. Are they conducting themselves in an orderly manner. I don’t think so.

            But, as to your question, I do not think it has any bearing on what I said in my comments at all.

            Th question I am asking is, where in the Bible does it ever say that the manifestations and gifts of the Spirit have ever ended?

  • Johnny

    Looking forward to listening to this audio (I just listened to some of Phil’s talks last night… great stuff!) http://www.gty.org has all the audio for those interested.

  • Link Hudson

    The real issue is whether the Bible teaches these gifts are real. If God hasn’t decreed that these gifts are no more, then we should expect them to still be in operation. I Corinthians 12 says that to one is given the word of wisdom, to another the word of knowledge, and lists gifts like faith, prophecy, healing, working of miracles, divers tongues, and interpretation of tongues.

    What I gather from what I’ve seen and heard of the Strange Fire conference is that the real opposition to spiritual gifts comes from so-called ‘theology’ rather than scripture. The real issue is the movements understanding of ‘sufficiency of scripture.’ This isn’t something the Bible teaches, but rather a believe ABOUT the Bible. The Bible teaches the gifts are real and legit. This movement teaches that certain gifts can’t be in operation today because that would not fit with their doctrine of the role of the Bible. II Timothy 3 reminds Timothy about two sources of revelation, the word he had heard (the Gospel was in oral form back then) and the scriptures he’d read as a child. Realistically, those scriptures would have had to be the Old Testament scriptures. It makes no sense to argue for cessationism out of this, especially if you want to consider II Timothy 4 to be inspired. If II TImothy 3 closed the canon, then the canon wouldn’t be open after Paul wrote ‘fully equipped.’

    Logically, fully equipped is not the same as ‘all you need.’ A Roman soldier with armor but no sword could be given a sword so that he might be ‘fully equipped’, but he still needs the other stuff to be equipped.

    Also, you wouldn’t hear someone say, “The Bible makes us fully equipped, so we don’t need love or faith. We don’t need love or faith because we have the Bible.” The reason is because the Bible teaches us we need love and faith. Well, the Bible also teaches us that the Spirit gives gifts to the saints distributing them as He wills, teaches us to covet and desire spiritual gifts, not to despise prophesyings, and to forbid not to speak with tongues. We wouldn’t throw out love or faith because the Bible makes us fully equipped because we need what the Bible says we need. So we shouldn’t use that verse to throw out other things the Bible teaches us we need, like spiritual gifts. The scripture is profitable for doctrine and reproof, including doctrine and reproof when it comes to spiritual gifts. And the doctrine of scripture on the gifts is NOT that we don’t need them when we have the completed Bible. It’s just not in there.

    The time period arguments have no weight if you don’t assume cessationism in the first place. Acts 2 fits with an open-ended time period, the last days, when men prophesy. There is a progression of gifts, first with the apostles doing miracles, then a couple of the Seven, then various prophets in Jerusalem. By the time we get to I Corinthians 12, Gentiles way far away from Jerusalem, who aren’t apostles, are doing miracles, healing, speaking in tongues, and prophesying, and that was in a rather immature church at that, too. Yet these still had these gifts.

    I Corinthians 1:7 So that ye come behind in no spiritual gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    We are still waiting. Why should we come behind in spiritual gifts? This is the opening of the book that gives instructions on speaking in tongues and prophesying in church.

  • Link Hudson

    On prophesying, I am concerned with certain people who say that false prophecy is no big deal. Not all Pentecostals feel that way.

    On speaking in tongues, I have a degree in Linguistics, so this is of interest to me. I’ve studied about 7 or 8 languages and I’ve lived in a few countries. Some speaking in tongues sounds like real human languages to me. Some doesn’t. I’ve been in a situation where I didn’t know if someone was praying in a regional language or speaking in tongues until an interpretation of it came.

    Can tongues be tongues of angels? I think the context should lead us to at least allow for that possibility. You say it’s hyperbole, but look at the other examples. Isn’t it possible to give one’s body to be burned? Yes. People have done such things. Is it possible to give all of one’s possessions to the poor? Yes, it has been done? It is also possible to remove mountains. If you think that it is a metaphor, it is possible to do it, metaphorically. If you take it literally, Jesus said it was possible to do so with faith. So why would tongues of angels be impossible if the other are not?

    As far as Linguist’s go, one of them discounted speaking in tongues saying it did not have human intonation. But I’ve heard plenty of speaking in tongues with intonation. And I’ve heard people who get going in prayer who speak in the same type of monotone they showed in the clip of the speaking in tongues he was evaluating. Another Linguist said by definition it wasn’t language since the speaker did not understand what he was saying. If that’s the definition of language for the Linguist in question, then he would discount a lot of Biblical tongues as languages, even if they were genuine human languages. Paul said of himself when he spoke in tongues that his understanding was unfruitful. Why would one pray to interpret (v. 13) if one could naturally understand the language. That is a reason I reject the assumption of the article that tongues were interpreted in a natural way. Tongues are interpreted with a supernatural gift of the Spirit.

    Even if it is not the norm, and shouldn’t be expected to be based on I Corinthians 14, there are numerous accounts of people understanding speaking in tongues. A Topeka newspaper had an article about Agnes Ozman speaking German and a German restaurant worker understanding her back after the Topeka Outpouring. Valdez had an account of it at Azusa Street in his book Fire on Azusa Street. Then there was that book in 1971 Spoken by the Spirit by Paul Harris that had 70 accounts about speaking in tongues, including accounts of people understanding what was spoken in tongues.

    Were healings always instant in the Bible? No, one one occasion, the Lord Jesus Himself ministered healing. The man saw, he said, men as trees walking, so the Lord ministered healing again.

    And were they permanent? Christ said go and sin no more lest a worse thing come upon you.

  • Bryan Burke

    Nathan, I’m curious. Would you consider yours or Dr. Macarthur’s teaching gift as a sort of “forth-telling” that we should demand 100% accuracy from?

    Also, as far as for your biblical arguments, would it be possible for you to interact more substantially with Jack Deere’s actual arguments from scripture detailed in his books rather than cherry-pick him?

    Lastly, have you ever asked the Lord personally- to display the revealing and healing ministry of the Holy Spirit to you? Have you ever asked the Lord to show you what it would mean to be obedient to I Corinthians 14:1 if you didn’t bring the cessationist theology in to the hermeneutics?

    http://betterwine.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/heart-helmets-and-the-mack-truck-of-cessationism-discerning-the-strange-fire-conference-the-half-truth-matters-conference-sponsored-by-grace-and-fear-to-you/

  • Steve Rowe

    Cessationist – The term “cessationist” refers to those who believe that the miraculous and revelatory gifts passed away in church history after the apostolic age ended. Cessationists therefore assert that supernatural phenomena like the gift of apostleship, the gift of prophecy, the gift of tongues, and the gift of healing are no longer functioning in the church today. Rather, they were given as signs to authenticate the ministry of the apostles during the foundational age of the church. Once the apostolic age has passed, and the canon of Scripture completed, the primary purpose for those gifts was fulfilled and they ceased.

    There’s you problem right there. You state clearly that all doctrine must be based on Biblical evidence, but there is no Biblical evidence for any of this, which is why you nee to write long treatise with contrived explanations to convince yourself and your hearers that the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit have ceased.

    First of all, there is no Biblical evidence that there was a defined ‘Apostolic’ age that began at a certain time and then ended at another time. None. We know that the Church is built on the foundation of the apostle and prophets, but there is no evidence that we no longer need or have apostles or prophets. In fact, we are told in Ephesians that Christ gives the gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. Nowhere are we told this has ended. Or, for that matter, why they needed to end if they had.

    Notice it is the Church which is built on this foundation, and not the canon of Scripture. There was no canon of Scripture existent when the last of Christ’s apostles died, including Paul, who was an apostle called out of time, having not been with Christ in the years before His death and resurrection. The canon was formulated some years later.

    The Church is still an organic Body. It is still growing. Like the Kingdom of God, it is expanding with each generation. There is no reason to believe we do not need exactly what was needed during the time of the Book of Acts when the Church was in its formative years.

    Therefore it is far more likely that we need the ministry gifts as much as they did in the beginning o the Church.

    Secondly, there is no Biblical evidence to suggest that the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit have ceased any more than the fruit of the Spirit has ceased. They are not gifts or manifestations which can be replaced or superseded by the canon o Scripture. The canon is vital and complete, but it is the written foundation on which he hits and manifestations are arranged decently and in order.

    They are not mere gifts or manifestations, as if we can possess them in ourselves, or they are of the Church or the individual of the Church They are of the Spirit. To say they have ceased is to say that the Spirit has ceased being the Spirit. he has not. he is the Lord, He changes not. he is the same yesterday, and today, and forever. the manifestations are of the Spirit. He determines who He will empower to operate hem. he distributes severally as he wills, not as we will.

    Had He determined to cease the operation of the gifts and manifestations he would have informed us. We are told that god does nothing except he first informs the prophets. Therefore it would be written that the gifts and manifestations would cease at a certain time. There is no Word on this. You can reason all you will, but you have no Scripture to back it up. There is Biblical reference to cessation.

    There is no Biblical evidence that the gifts and manifestations were given as a foundational sign for the Apostolic age. First, because, as I have shown, there is no defined Apostolic age. Second, because there is nothing in Scripture to suggest that there needed to be foundational evidence of the Apostolic age, even if one existed.

    The age we are in is the same age that commenced on the Day of Pentecost when the Spirit was poured out on all flesh. This was for that day and for all time until Jesus comes for the Church. It is also called the Age of the Gentiles. It is the Church age. There is nothing in Scripture which even hints at a specific Apostolic age which terminated when the last of the Apostles of Christ passed away.

    Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

    Acts 2:37-38

    Tis was in reference to what hey saw and heard of the Spirit, and after Peter had stood up to say that it was according to the Prophet Joel, who revealed the outpouring of the Spirit that began on the Day of Pentecost.

    If you say the gifts and manifestations have ended, you are declaring that the outpouring ended and Peter told an untruth when he declared that this promise was tot those present, and to their children, and to all who are afar off, even as many as the Lord will call.

    The Spirit is the same as He ever was. Hs fruit is the same. His gifts and manifestations are the same. The outpouring continues. This is Scripture.

    There is no Biblical evidence for cessation of the gifts and manifestations. None.

    • Alex

      3Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 3

      6And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—Jude 6

      8Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. Jude 8

      2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy 2Tim 3.2

      21But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”Luke 8.21

      Though Christ does not expressly state whether he intends this gift to be temporary, or to remain perpetually in his Church, yet it is more probable that miracles were promised only for a time, in order to give luster to the gospel, while it was new and in a state of obscurity. It is possible, no doubt, that the world may have been deprived of this honor through the guilt of its own ingratitude; but I think that the true design for which miracles were appointed was, that nothing which was necessary for proving the doctrine of the gospel should be wanting at its commencement. And certainly we see that the use of them ceased not long afterwards, or, at least, that instances of them were so rare as to entitle us to conclude that they would not be equally common in all ages.

      Yet those who came after them, that they might not allow it to be supposed that they were entirely destitute of miracles, were led by foolish avarice or ambition to forge for themselves miracles which had no reality. Thus was the door opened for the impostures of Satan, not only that delusions might be substituted for truth, but that, under the pretense of miracles, the simple might be led aside from the true faith. And certainly it was proper that men of eager curiosity, who, not satisfied with lawful proof, were every day asking new miracles, should be carried away by such impostures. This is the reason why Christ, in another passage, foretold that the reign of Antichrist would be full of lying signs, (Matthew 24:24;) and Paul makes a similar declaration, (2 Thessalonians 2:9.)
      -JOHN CALVIN’s Commentary on Luke 16.17

      19And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1.19-20

      18For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens,3 but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, Eph 2.18-20

      11And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds2 and teachers,3 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,4 to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes Eph 4.11-14

      15Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,16making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Eph 5.15-17

      9The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 2 Thess 2.9-10

      • Steve Rowe

        I’m not sure if you are making a point, here, Alex. Perhaps it would be simpler if you would just make the point without the references only, because, on their own, they do not say anything relevant to my comment.

        My understanding of the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit is that the motive for them is always love. God’s love. Love is the overarching necessity for all things Christian. Without love in the gifts, or in faith, or in works, we are nothing but a clanging gong.

        But, now, if I love the people God sends me to, and the Spirit seeks to meet them at their point of need with the gospel, the gifts and manifestations, so that He might operate through me to bring a word of knowledge or prophecy or healing, then it is love – agapé love – which touches them with the gifts of the Spirit, and they are drawn to God, to Christ and to His love which saves.

        I don’t see what ‘bitter jealousy, selfish ambition, or devilish wisdom’ has to do with whether I love a person enough to be used of the Spirit to help change their situation through the gospel, the demonstration of the Spirit, and through God’s interaction with their lives on a personal level.

        And what has the ‘lawless one’ to do with the Holy Spirit? Are you claiming that now all healing is through the devil and his minions and none through the Spirit? Are you saying that healing and deliverance only comes through the enemy of Christ?

        So now the devil heals and the Spirit has ceased?

        Then you are saying the kingdom of darkness is divided against itself. The devil casts demons out of the demonised. I think not.

        You need to consider what a lying sign is and what a genuine miracle is, where they are issued from, and what they look like.

        But why not spell out what you mean, so we know for certain?

  • Steve Rowe

    A further thought on this, which, perhaps, some have not considered.

    Nathan Busenitz produces Scripture to illustrate his points, but a well versed Pentecostal could use the same basic Biblical structure to demonstrate continualism. Therefore, Nathan has looked at the idea of comparing healings, prophecy and a tongues with that of the early Church.

    He does this because, as i have shown on this thread, there is no Scripture in the canon whig even hints at a defined Apostolic age which ended with the last of Christ’s Apostles, nor, following this, any Scripture which tells us the gifts and manifestations would end at a specified time, or that the outpouring of the Spirit had ended.

    I disagree with Nathan on his, obviously, partly because he could not possibly know exactly what took place in the early Church in regard to tongues, healing or prophecy. We have the written record in Scripture, which is not extensive, but we wee not there, so we do not know exactly how these things were n reality. We can only speculate and generalise.

    But, for the sake of fairness, let’s agree that some of what Nathan says is correct, and there are aspects of modern charismatic ministry which are not Biblical. i could agree with this to a certain extent. There is definitely excess is some quarters. There are things which are not Biblical, which border on error, and some which is error.

    But this in itself still fails the Biblical test, because, as we have seen, and can clearly discover for ourselves, there is nothing in Scripture itself which concludes the era of the Apostles of Christ as a septic time of gifts and manifestations.

    This takes us to my new point. If there is no evidence that the gifts and manifestations have ended, yet there is a case for saying that some of what takes place in charismatic circles is not the real deal, what, then should be our next move?

    Should we, then, say we’ll have nothing to o with the Spirit and His gifts and manifestations? Or, should we seek God to get it right? To have a correct approach to the gifts and manifestations? To work towards allowing the Spirit to move in the assemblies, but decently and in order?

    i think if Nathan has a point, and in some ways i agree with parts of his assessment, if not all, then it is not conclusive proof of cessation, but possible evidence that we have not continued in the right manner, or with the right motives, or with the correct application.

    It is just as likely to be proof that we have fallen short of what God expects from us as believers than that the Spirit has ceased to want to work through believers to heal people, or give them a word of knowledge, or word of wisdom, or discerning of spirits, prophecy and the like.

    if God’s love has not ceased, then His gifts have not ceased, nor His manifestations, for love has always been the motive behind the gifts.

    If there is no Biblical evidence of the gifts and manifestations ending,yet things have been not as accurate to Scripture as they should be, then it is we who are fault, and we need to seek God for what is right for this time.

    • Steve Rowe

      Sorry. Not ‘septic’ time. ‘Specific’ time. Spellchecker!

  • John Caldwell

    For those of you who like lingering around dying camp-fires: http://jjcaldwell.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/michael-brown-seeks-to-quench-strange.html

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