February 21, 2013

Why Reformed Pastors Need Not Be Charismatic – Part 3

by Eric Davis

evidence of the SpiritIn parts one and two of this series, we examined some of the popular (but incorrect) assumptions continuationists often make on cessationism, particularly as they were preached in the recent Desiring God conference session, “Sovereign Grace, Spiritual Gifts, and the Pastor: How Should a Reformed Pastor Be Charismatic?”

In that sermon, Pastor Tope Koleoso gave a hearty exhortation for pastors to go charismatic, equating it to pastoral faithfulness. The grounds for why Reformed pastors “should” and “must” go charismatic were unhelpful, and, upon examination, actually give more credence to cessationism and reaffirm the necessity of separating “charismatic” from “Reformed.”

Beyond the misconceptions discussed in parts one and two, there are deeper problems with the call to go charismatic. Today’s concluding post will briefly look at them.

First, as discussed yesterday, many continuationists equate belief in the cessation of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit with a denial of the importance of the Holy Spirit’s ministry. But let’s consider: What is it that most evidences the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in the Reformed pastor? A supposed private prayer language? A dynamic personality? Supposed prophecies and visions and miracles? Biblically speaking, such things are not grounds for the Spirit’s presence, though they are evidences to which even condemned, false prophets appeal in the judgment (Matt 7:22-23).

So then, is the cessationist denying the work of the Holy Spirit and is his life absent of the Spirit’s presence and power? Not at all. Ask the question this way: What chiefly evidences the Spirit’s power and presence in the Reformed pastor’s (or any Christian’s) life?

The Spirits work

First is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). Fruit is that which evidences the life and presence and power of something. The list is revealing. The second evidence of the Spirit’s presence and power is the putting to death of the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8:13). More specifically, according to Romans 8:13, the Spirit’s presence looks like his divinely-enabled power to see personal sin, hate personal sin (especially as an offense to God), mortify personal sin, and turn to Jesus Christ with subsequent from-the-heart fruits of the Spirit. Third, the Spirit’s presence is evidenced by a Scripture-saturated heart (Eph. 5:18, Col. 3:16), overflowing into wise teaching, admonishing, singing, and thankfulness. Any other criteria for determining the Spirit’s presence in one’s life is to take a back-seat to these.

So, “must” Reformed pastors be charismatic? Suppose we were back in the foundation-laying days of the Church age. What would one of the Apostles say to such assertions as, “Reformed pastors must be charismatic”?

First, he would say, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Cor 12:11). And he might ask, “All or not apostles, are they? … All do not have gifts of healings do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they?” (1 Cor 12:29, 30). In other words, “Guys, be careful of universally mandating spiritual gifts with ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds.’ The body of Christ is diverse because God willed us to be so. Let’s not all try to be the hand, here. God alone decides which gifts he will give and to whom. And don’t elevate one over the other.”

stage of growth

Second, he would say, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor 14:1). In other words, “If we’re going to talk about what the Reformed pastor must be and do, let’s talk more about love and teaching Scripture, because Scripture alone is the Spirit’s words.” Or, as Jonathan Edwards put it in Love More Excellent than the Extraordinary Gifts of the Spirit: “This is what will make the Church more like the Church in heaven, where charity or love hath a perfect reign, than any number or degree of the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit…”

Third, he would say, “So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church” (1 Cor 14:12). In other words, “Again, Reformed pastors, if we’re talking in terms of ultimate ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts,’ let’s govern the whole line of thinking under edification. And edification is not about oneself, but those in the flock among you; the local church. Whatever doesn’t fall under that, whether it’s your subjective experience, an emotional high you had, supposed hunches, or anything like that, let’s set it aside to the category of ‘unnecessary’ at best. In the meantime, give yourself to accurately handling the word of truth so as to minister by the Spirit.”

So at best, “shoulds” and “musts” should and must be set aside in conversations about going charismatic. But perhaps more accurately, charismatic “musts” and “shoulds” necessarily need to be distanced and detached from “Reformed” and replaced with “cessationism,” in keeping with historical and theological integrity.

foundation on the already-built houseThe bottom line is this: The ground upon which the church is built has long been leveled, the foundation adequately laid, and the house is being built by the Builder (Eph 2:20). The baby was born 2000 years ago, she has been weaned, and raised passed her infancy days. The body is being built up into a mature man (Eph 4:13). We need no longer talk and reason like children. Those days of revelation, miraculous language-speaking abilities, and prophecies were wonderful—that is obvious. But the Church was still learning to walk, needing growth, accompanying validations, and to get her matured legs under her. To mandate continuationism is to build a foundation upon the framing, to put an adult back in her diapers, and to simulate by man’s fallen curiosity what God completed in his good sovereignty.

Pentecost was a wonderful grand opening. The “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:12) proclaimed that Israel was judged in that loud statement of impending redemptive globalization (Acts 2:4, 1 Cor 14:21-22). The Church was born. The doors of redemption were booted open wide as the gospel went out “to each in his own language.”

dubai towerChrist has been faithfully building for a while now. Let’s continue letting him. The days of the miraculous spiritual gifts are over. And these are no less great days in redemptive history. The framing is going up and up and up. Our taking up is imminent. The canon is long complete and available for the feasting and teaching by the Spirit’s presence and power. We can marvel at what the Lord has done in redemptive history and steer away from repeating in man’s strength what was once-and-for-all completed by the Spirit.

As Michael Horton put it:

The interim between Christ’s advents is not an era of writing new chapters in the history of redemption. Rather, it is a period in which the Spirit equips us for the mission between Acts and the Apocalypse—right in the middle of the era of the ordinary ministry with its new covenant canon. Just as the church cannot extend the incarnation or complete Christ’s atoning work, it cannot repeat Pentecost or prolong the extraordinary ministry of the apostles, but must instead receive this same word and Spirit for its ordinary ministry in this time between the times.

Let’s rejoice that the foundation is sufficiently laid. The glory days of Acts were no doubt glorious; and so were those carefree times in mom and dad’s arms. But we’ve been weaned. These recent days of seeing the return to the doctrines of sovereign grace and sound exegesis, are blessed. But our time will have this asterisk by it: that we sought, at least for these past 100 years or so, to rebuild the foundation that is built, to rebirth the Bride who is grown, and to rejudge the ones who have been judged.

Let Him Do His ThingI have great respect and love for many of my Reformed brothers in the faith of a continuationist persuasion. Many of them minister with admirable and exemplary love for Christ and the church. But it’s time to let go of our ecclesiastical infancy by laying continuationism to rest. If you’ll permit, allow the Holy Spirit to do what he’s doing. Let’s no longer say in pneumatological practice, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that we ask about this. There is a “still more excellent way.”

Eric Davis

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Eric is the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Jackson Hole, WY. He and his team planted the church in 2008.
  • http://www.facebook.com/LyndonUnger Lyndon Unger

    Good stuff Eric. Thanks for the helpful responses. I’m thinking that this whole issue is going to start picking up steam both in rhetoric and intensity…and I’m looking forward to the Strange Fire conference. I have a feeling that will set off a fair amount of TNT around the web.

    It’s about time. I live and minister in Todd Bentley’s home town. Nuff said.

    • David McArdle

      I agree. Things are ramping up to Strange Fire, both conference and book

    • Eric Davis

      Lyndon, David-

      Agreed. The SF conference is timely and the speaker line-up looks great.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bibchr Dan Phillips

    Very good. Thank you again for doing this, so that I didn’t have to.

    One more point deserves constant repetition: every time Koleoso talks about this “Holy Spirit” that sufficientists fear so cravenly, it’s a code-phrase. As you so adeptly deserve, it certainly isn’t the Spirit’s work of giving Scripture, or new life, or illumination, or holiness. The best writing on any of those subjects, as a rule, comes from sufficientist pens.

    In his mouth, it’s a code-phrase for “pathetic, pale imitations of apostolic phenomena, with a touch of New Age subjectivistic mysticisim.” That’s what sufficientists “fear.” And I guess I’d cop to fearing that… as I fear sin, folly, wasted time, and absurdity.

    So Koleoso is saying “Yeah yeah yeah, you all have Jesus and the Bible and the Gospel and everything all believers have had for 2000 years… but you don’t have babble and canonized hunches and manipulative emotional techniques and the ‘God-told-me’ card! Without that, your ministry is inadequate!”

    To which, I say, “Pass.”

    • Eric Davis

      Dan,

      Agreed. Thanks for the addition, put in more eloquent words.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bibchr Dan Phillips

        IRONY ALERT in 3… 2… 1…

        When I say “As you so adeptly deserve,” of course I mean “adeptly OBSERVE.”

        Oy.

  • Eric

    Hi Eric,

    I’m really appreciating and enjoying this series. Thank you for your important work. I have a question. Your article contains the following:

    “Second, he would say, “Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor 14:1). In other words, “If we’re going to talk about what the Reformed pastor must be and do, let’s talk more about love and teaching Scripture…”

    Are you equating the word “prophesy” from the text with “teaching”? I’m not sure I understand your re-stating. Thanks.

    • Eric Davis

      Eric-

      Good question. The short answer is “yes” and “no.”

      No, in that I am not blanketly equating prophecy and teaching. The gift of prophecy was an infallible and authoritative revelation from God for the foundation-laying days of the early church. As the foundation has been laid and the canon completed, it has ceased along w/ the other foundation-laying gifts.

      Yes, in that I am trying to make an emphasis on the priority of teaching Scripture for pastors. In the 1st century, the completion of the canon was underway. The gift of prophecy was God’s great means to move that process along. As people w/ that gift used it, they were, by definition, teaching the word of God. So the emphasis Paul is making is on the priority of edification through teaching God’s word. Whether during the 1st century, when the foundation-laying gifts were active, or now, when they are not, the emphasis on teaching for pastors is the same.

      Further, Paul’s overwhelming emphasis for those pastors/elders he installed (i.e. Timothy, Titus) was to teach the word. So, if we are going to talk about “shoulds” and “musts” in terms of faithful pastoral ministry, the last thing we should be talking about is continuationist notions. Instead, the “should” and “must” for faithful pastoral ministry is teaching Scripture.

      Hope that makes sense.

      • Eric

        Thanks Eric. I understand what you are saying, especially in the larger context of your post. I am thankful that you are willing to further explain what appeared to be a bit of a jump in wording. Thanks again.

        • http://www.facebook.com/bibchr Dan Phillips

          Glad you spurred this clarification. On the sufficientist side of the ledger, equating prophecy with (errant, un-God-breathed) preaching or teaching is just as great an error as equating prophecy with hunches, though perhaps subject to less abuse.

  • Jim Dowdy

    Thanks again Eric for this excellent series.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=602978012 Robert Briggs

    Excellent articles Eric. I was at the DG conference and present for Tope’s message. You have addressed it kindly, firmly and accurately. I also think this final article is vital. At the Q and A the question was asked how do we discern the marks of the Spirit in the church. I must confess I was disturbed by the initial silence of the men and then the faxt that Tope took over again with his pressing of the same things he spoke of in his address. Kent Hughes, whom I greatly respect remained silent, Mak Stiles pushed back a little, Darrin Patrick and Jason Meyer seemed out of their depth, but I felt John Piper should have pushed back harder than he did. To fail to speak of the fruit of the Spirit in detail as they ought truly left me disappointed. Overall I enjoyed the Conference but I did leave believing it is time for the Cessationists to stand up and push back in the spirit in which you have here brother. Thank you.

    • Eric Davis

      Robert-

      Thanks for the comment. Glad to have someone chime in who was at the DG conf. I must say, at least from your report in this comment, that is slightly disturbing. I don’t understand the silence on such a fundamental question. Perhaps I’m missing something. But Scripture is so clear on that issue and we have got to be biblically sound and historically versed enough to just speak to this unnecessarily-jumbled issue in our day. We will be held accountable. The confusion arising from continuationism is not necessary. We have the completed canon way behind us, the illuminating Spirit for clarity, and tomes from faithful exegetes upon which to stand and clearly and lovingly demonstrate the biblical integrity of cessationism. May God help us remove this asterisk from our present time.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bibchr Dan Phillips

        Maybe these folks the price one pays if he’s not “in”?

  • http://twitter.com/GoOnKev Kevin Peterson

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!

  • Nic Standal

    Excellent writing! But do you find it relevant under the context of “The foundation being already laid” to address the probability that God still uses Extraordinary miracles such as the true Gift of languages, healing, forth telling prophesy for His Purposes in a very unique not often way? Thanks again for this discussion and to God be the Glory forever!

    • Eric Davis

      Nic-

      Great question. First, yes, God certainly performs miracles in our day for his purposes in unique ways, consistent w/ his character and nature. Second, a case cannot be made for the idea that the early-church spiritual gifts of languages, healing, and revelatory prophecy still exist. Now, if I understand your question, you may be asking something like, “Assuming those gifts have ceased, can God still use those gifts in isolated ways today?” I would say no, on the premise that as gifts they have ceased.

      But one might ask, “But could God still give someone that ability today?” In other words, though one does not possess those spiritual gifts, could somebody still miraculously speak a previously unlearned foreign language for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel (the early-church gift of languages/tongues) or could God give someone a unique ability to heal or forth telling prophesy, purely as miracles of God and not as spiritual gifts?”

      I think you’re hard-pressed to make a biblical case for that. “But I, or so-and-so, have seen things like that happen!” I know, I’ve heard the stories, too, and seen some interesting things. And in this case, despite what I’ve seen and heard and experienced, I would have to yield to 2 Peter 1:16-21. At the same time, I would say that God does miracles of healing, for example, in his providence, but it is not a spiritual gift as seen in the early church.

      Bottom line is that we must yield every single experience we have to soundly-interpreted Scripture. Otherwise, we are blundering authority.

  • Brad

    I think it is possible 1) to be fully committed to Scripture and the gospel, 2) to emphasize the “ordinary” work of the Spirit, and 3) to experience some forms of the “extraordinary” gifts of the Spirit all at the same time. One side is “fearful” about the extraordinary work of the Spirit. The other side belittles the ordinary work of the Spirit. We should wisely and humbly pursue both. They are both wonderful gifts of undeserved grace!

    • Eric Davis

      Brad-

      Thanks for stopping by. I don’t think that cessationists are not fearful about the extraordinary work of the Spirit. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, we love and desire and pray to see the Spirit work!

      We just disagree about the existence and definition of “supernatural.” I would say that all things the Spirit does are “supernatural,” in the sense of beyond what man’s strength is able to produce.

      Though the foundation-laying gifts have ceased, the Spirit certainly still works powerfully! Far more powerful than those important 1st century gifts of languages, prophecies, and healing, for example, are the great miracle of regeneration by the Spirit. And his illumination, and sanctification, and conviction of sin, and enabling of us undeserving believers to use the other gifts today. Gifts such as serving, giving, mercy, teaching, and so on, should not exempt from supernatural. They are beyond what natural man can produce and therefore wonderfully supernatural displays of his grace towards and in us!

      Hope that makes sense. Thanks for the comment, Brad.

      • Brad

        Eric,

        I would agree 100% that the “ordinary” gifts of the spirit are supernatural!! But I have also seen God’s spirit do other supernatural things in our church like heal a man’s legs, give visions to people that edify the church and come true, cast out demons from people etc. I am not saying this happen all of the time or that one person can turn these things off or on like a light switch. I am just saying that these things still do happen and can be very encouraging in ministry. I prefer to see these as graces of God…evidences of God’s Spirit at work. At least they were encouraging to me and our church!

        I guess I am struggling to see how you would categorize these “more supernatural” things…Are they good or bad? Ridiculous? Useless? Satanic?

        And, of course, we should celebrate even more when people repent of sin, when people believe in the gospel for the first time, when we understand Scripture better, when the prodigal returns home, etc!!

        • Eric Davis

          Brad-

          I do not doubt that you have seen these things happen. Cessationists believe that God certainly does miracles. The main issue is not whether he does miracles, but that individuals no longer have the at-will ability, as a gift of the Spirit, to heal, and so on.

          As to how cessationists would categorize such things, good question. There are a few possible answers. One is that God answers our prayers and works to do things like heal illness and remove demonic oppression. Cessationists do not deny that God can do that. But there also is the possibility that such things are the works of false prophets. In Matt 7:15-23, Jesus warns of this. Further, he says that “many” will stand before him in the judgment who had the apparent ability to cast out demons and do miracles, but where never converted. Though these particular individuals seemed to have such abilities, they will be condemned.

          So I would not put a blanket statement over all things/miracles that happen as “ridiculous,” etc. They could be a variety of things which means we have to be careful to discern.

          Thanks Brad.

          • Brad

            Thanks Eric!

            Your response was helpful to me. I agree that individuals do not have the at-will ability to perform miracles by the Spirit. I guess I had never seen that as the biblical norm either…does anyone in the Bible have the at-will ability to perform miracles (outside of Jesus)? I think of the gifts of the Spirit as graces that the Spirit gives in certain situations to certain people for certain ministries. Here is an example of how this gets played out: In our church a crippled guys legs got healed. One night people were praying for him, but he wasn’t getting healed. Then another guy prayed and the guys legs popped back into place. I just categorized that as a grace, or gift, of the Spirit. So that’s an example of how I am using the graces/gifts of the Spirit evidences through people.

  • kateg

    Maybe we need more emphasis on teaching the providence of God.

  • HC

    Does the canon of Scripture, the creeds, the teaching of the church through history, spiritual gifts, or any spiritual experience bring the entire church to the Ephesians 4:7-13 kind of knowledge?

    Are cessationists saying they are complete/mature men …. attainable in this age (1 Corinthians 2:6) and not an eschatological state?

    Are the reformed claiming Ephesians 4:13 “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” is attainable now?

    Have the reformed churches reached the same level of maturity as Christ and hence no longer need Ephesians 4?

    Is not he metaphor of a mature person portrayed as the heavenly state of believers (1 Cor 13:10-12)?

    I understand the Reformed love 2 Corinthians 12:12, Ephesians 2:20, and Hebrews 2:3-4.

    We know who the apostles are but who were the prophets? OT Prophets? The Reformed inference is they being witnesses of Christ combined with the metaphor of a foundation suggests that the apostles and foundational prophets have a temporal limitation. Therefore, the apostles and prophets have passed away from the scene along with their gifts, sign and wonders.

    But just because they are foundational does not mean that their ministries are temporary. Is this foundation their ministry, their function or themselves? I believe it was them and not their function.

    While Heb 2:1-4 talks about the validation of the apostles message, it does not restrict the signs, wonders, and spiritual gifts to the apostles.

    Ephesians 2:20 seems to imply that the apostles and foundational prophets would pass away. The foundation metaphor can have this implication. Paul’s eschatological outlook, his expectation of the imminent return of Christ might have prevented him from really entertaining the view that they would pass away.

    If Christ tarried Paul felt it would not be long. But, if Christ did delay, the apostles and foundational prophets would pass away by default. This does not necessarily mean the miraculous gifts would pass away with them because these gifts have a role in edifying the church.

    When we look at 1 Cor 13;8-13 why are prophecy, knowledge, and tongues are singled out? My reformed brothers would argue they are revelational gifts, and different from the rest of the gifts. Is Paul contrasting the “perfect” (completed canon) with the “partial” (revelational)? yet Paul chose these gifts because they were not being used in love and the Corinthians loved them most, I expect.

    So the gifts only have partial results whereas “the perfect” will complete in us that which is partial. is that not the point of vv. 10-12). This can only be the Second Coming.

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Lots of questions here, so I’ll chose the most relevant ones, and do them one at a time: Cessationists are not saying that WE are mature men. We are saying that the miraculous gifts were given to the church to aide the transition from Apostles to elders, and from word-of-mouth to Scripture. Once eldres are established and Scripture is written, signs are no longer necessary to authenticate the truth of the Apostle’s message, and the church has achieved unity (one Spirit, one faith, described in one book).

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      The foundation is not temporary as it lasts as long as the building lasts (to continue the metaphor). So no, cessationists are not saying that the ministry of the Apostles was temporary in its effects, but it was temporary in its duration.

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      Here’s the best way to say it: We are saying that the sign gifts were temperary, because they are not around any more. People do not have the gift of healing anymore. People do not have the gift of Apostleship anymore. People do not have the ability to prophesy miraculously anymore. People do not have the ability to speak in languages they have not studied anymore. All of the Scriputural arguments are nice, and support the obvious because the Bible corresponds to reality.
      If any one has the gift of healing, they should go on hospital visits with me. If they have the gift of languages, they should go work for Wycliffe. Etc. Instead, what is often seen is that today’s charismatics redefine what the gifts are. The end result is (ironically) that they too say that the Apostle’s gifts were temporary! And instead they have been replaced with prayer languages that nobody knows, fallible prophecy, and faith-based conditional and partial healing.

      • Brad

        Jesse,

        This sure is a difficult subject. I might be thinking about spiritual gifts in a different way than you.

        1) You seem to limit the gifts to certain categories and distinctions as if the Bible is an exhaustive list and description of the spiritual gifts. I see spiritual gifts as grace that the Holy Spirit imparts to believers to serve and love the body, magnify Jesus and glorify God. In that way spiritual gifts are not stagnant in that one person has the gift of healing and so that is his/her duty or ministry.

        2) Instead, I believe the Holy Spirit gives gifts where the local body needs them…to different people at different times for different reasons.

        3) Also, I don’t think we need to limit the spiritual gifts to what is seen in the New Testament. The Spirit surely equips us for ministry in ways that are not mentioned in Scripture.

        4) Finally, I don’t really see a description in Scripture of how exactly the gifts are played out in real life. For example, in the New Testament the gift of healing certainly wasn’t limited to just the apostles. We know there were healers in Corinth but we don’t know who they were or how they exercised their gift. It seems to me that we can widen the description and details of what the spiritual gifts are and how they function beyond what is in Scripture.

        Those are my thoughts as of now!

        • Eric Davis

          Brad-

          If you haven’t seen it yet, Mike posted a helpful database on the issue here: http://thecripplegate.com/the-cripplegate-on-cessation-and-continuation/

          I would really encourage you, if you haven’t already, to browse through and read some of these articles (or all of them). I think you will be blessed and encouraged. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

      You ask a great question on 1 Cor 13:8-13. I might write about that in a future contradiction so I’ll save the details for now. But my short answer is that I see that passage talking about the transition i described above (Apostles to elders, word-of-mouth to Scripture), but I also see eschatalogical fulfillment in seeing face to face at the Second Coming. That’s not a condradiction, and I’ll write why not in the future.

      But I will quickly hasten, as your comment points out, that the temporary nature of the sign gifts being ascribed to the very early church is not simply derived from 1 Cor 13:8. Also from all of chapter 12 and 14, Eph 4, Heb 2, and Jas 5. Oh, and 1 Tim, 2 Tim, and Titus. And Romans 14.

      Thanks for the great comment HC. I’m thankful for your interaction here.

    • Eric Davis

      HC-

      Thanks for stopping in again and for the good questions. I appreciate you speaking up from a different point of view. It makes for good discussion.

      I cannot improve upon Jesse’s answers as they are spot on. A couple quick things:

      1. I share the view which Jesse articulated re: 1 Cor 13:8-13, namely, as eschatological fulfillment. And I’m looking forward to Jesse’s post on that.

      2. As far as the foundation-laying spiritual gifts lasting past the Apostles, that misses the point of those spiritual gifts. As Jesse said, they were temporary in duration. The reason they were is b/c of their function, namely, foundation-laying, canon-completing, body-unifying time of the Church. Inherent to their passing away is the completing of that canon and Apostles passing as they delegated the teaching of prophecy (now in the Bible) to elders/pastors.

      3. Those gifts as described in Acts are not observed in function today. As Jesse pointed out, there are attempts to resurrect and recreate, but in doing so, they are redefined, and therefore shown as inconsistent w/ the real gifts. Further, it would make no sense for those gifts to be around, just as Scripture teaches they are not, since the function for which God gave them was achieved 1900 years ago. And as I mentioned I think in part 1, church history has affirmed since very early on that they had indeed ceased.

      4.Regarding your question about maturity, I am not saying that local churches have all reached flawless Christlikeness, and therefore are not in need of equipping and sanctification. I think you are confusing individual Christian maturity with the timing of redemptive history in the Church age. As far as individual Christians go, we’re all in sanctification mode and will be glorified when we see Christ. We desperately need Eph 4 and Col 1:28 and Phil 2:12-13. The maturity I am talking about is the age of the Church or point in redemptive history. We are well beyond Pentecost… elders have been delegated by the Apostles long ago and the canon also completed when John laid down his quill in Patmos.

      Once again, thanks for the questions HC. Let us know if you have any others. And if you haven’t yet, check out Nate B.’s series on cessationism from “our series” link.

    • Eric Davis

      HC –

      If you haven’t seen it, check out Mike’s helpful database he put together on the issue. This should be a great help: http://thecripplegate.com/the-cripplegate-on-cessation-and-continuation/

      Thanks!

  • John_D_11

    “Pentecost was a wonderful grand opening.”

    Great line.

  • Pingback: The Cripplegate on Cessation and Continuation | the Cripplegate

  • Steve

    The many reponses on here first show me that love that is the end goal of everything isn’t evident. It’s all knowledge but unfortunately without discernment and especially not from a heart that wants to build up.
    So many treat what little God has shown them with contempt.
    Who is it that waters any of your spiritual lives?
    Online especially I see a continued character trait from those who say the gifts have ceased. Arogance. Cold hearted and a spirit of one upmanship.
    Does it even occur to you that we are all one body? You were called to be salt and light to a dying world, and yet many just want to argue theology without ever really applying what they do know.
    Whether you believe the gifts are present or not, many need to examine their hearts. You so easily forget you talking about Gods spokesman. Many of you bound the word of God about without humbly knowing you speak as an oracle of God. You forget you are nothing without Christ, you would be still in the pit unless he didn’t pick you up out of it. You brought nothing to God other than your sin. And yet some of you talk about your brothers in Christ as though they are the devil!
    You have no love you have nothing. And when u stand before him and he applies the fire to your works what’s going to be left?

    God requires justice and Mercy, to love your enemies and to do them good, how much more then your own family ?!
    Clanging symbols are noisy and grate… Are harsh… pull the beams out of your own eyes before pulling the specs from others.

    • Eric Davis

      Hi Steve-

      Thank you for stopping by the blog. And I understand your concern that we are not clanging cymbals. I, too, share that desire for my own life and the lives of all God’s people. Amen and amen.

      But I would have to disagree with some of the comments you made. They reflect common errors about the nature of discussing heating issues like these.

      It seems, from your comments, that you were somewhat quick to believe the worst about people from their comments. You mentioned that people are talking about others as if they’re the “devil,” but no on here has used vocabulary directed towards others consistent with that which we would about Satan. I haven’t seen such discussion.

      Also, in discussions like these, love, from 1 Cor 13:7, calls us to believe the best. In a comments thread, esp regarding a volatile issue, we must believe the best about one another’s motives, erring on the side of giving grace and being humble enough to discuss without being easily provoked (1 Cor 13:5). That means interacting around the issue; just discussing Scripture.

      Also, the act of discussing and disagreeing w/ a theological issue is not divisive, arrogant, or cold-hearted, as you insinuated some were being. Cold-heartedness is not inherent to addressing error. We are actually commanded by our Lord to accurately divide the word (2 Tim 2:15), to address doctrinal error (1 Tim 1:3-5), and guard the truths of Scripture (2 Tim 1:13-14). In fact, Paul commands this as an act by the Holy Spirit: “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” In order to obey that command, we must discuss theological error and confusion. That is what is going on in these posts and comment threads. It is obedient to the Lord.

      You also mentioned many here are interacting “without discernment and especially not from a heart that wants to build up.” Again, perhaps you are not believing the best about people. They very well may be motivated to comment and discuss by a desire that others are built up in their faith. In fact, we can assume that when we come to discussions like this. It may not look like that to us, but that’s ok. We don’t know motives. Also, the purpose of this blog and having a comment section as well: that we would all be built up. And even if there are comments which we perceive to be unloving (which we do not fully know the person’s motives) we can say to ourselves: “I do not know this person fully. I will believe the best and give them grace by taking in to consideration what is said. That’s ok if they may have not typed something the way I would. I am going to be a Berean here and see if these things be true, just interacting with the issue.”

      Also, you expressed a concern about the witness Christians have as they disagree w/ each other. I hear you on that. But a few things. First, these are important theological issues. We ought to discuss them and we ought to do so in love. Further, it is actually a good witness to the world, not when we avoid issues, but engage with each other on them. We show the world and each other that we’re not afraid or too decadent to humbly lay aside our sentiments in order to grow in Christ. That is love and a great witness to a world that, frankly, fails miserably to do such a thing. We can be comfortable w/ our standing in Christ to come to the table and engage w/ each other b/c iron sharpens iron.

      I hope that makes sense, Steve. I understand that it can be difficult to discuss issues.

      I would really encourage you, and anyone else thinking about these things, to read Mike’s excellent post (http://thecripplegate.com/five-uninvited-guests/#more-1170) on how to rightly discuss heated issues together like these. Thanks Steve

  • Greg Pickle

    Thanks, Eric, for these posts. They have been very helpful and edifying. I am always concerned that the believers I know and love would not be confused by these matters, and your articles have given me greater clarity in how I might help encourage others in their confidence in what they are being taught from the cessationist perspective. Keep up the good work!

    • Eric Davis

      Thanks Greg. May God give you grace to faithfully minister w/ biblical clarity to those in your midst.

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