Why I Reject Cessationism

There is a theological position known as cessationism.  The basic idea behind this doctrine is the rejection of the contemporary existence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Now, there are various degrees of cessationism.  A few people reject the gifts of the Holy Spirit altogether.  But much more common is the rejection of the more “spectacular” gifts, namely that of prophecy.  And there are various reasons for this position, namely, it is based on the belief that upon the completion of the canon of Scripture, there was no more need for the gift of prophecy.  So, with the Scriptures being complete, the gift of prophecy is viewed as having faded away.

Such is a very short and simplistic overview of the cessationist position.  And there are many reasons why, Biblically speaking, we should reject such a position.

One of the main reasons we should reject such a view is because the Scriptures teach no such thing.  Proponents of cessationism say that the contemporary existence of the gift of prophecy would undermine the important reformation doctrine of sola Scriptura— that the Scriptures alone are sufficient for our faith.  But the main problem with this argument is that the Scriptures do not teach that the gift of prophecy somehow undermines the sufficiency of the canon of Scripture for our faith.  It is rather ironic, that while espousing sola Scriptura, those who hold to a cessationist position actually rely on an extra-Biblical argument to make their case.  And in doing so, they are actually the ones undermining the doctrine of sola Scriptura.

For instead of teaching about the prophetic gifts fading out of existence after the completion of the canon, the Scriptures teach in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14, and Ephesians 4 that the gift of prophecy actually compliments the revelation contained within the Scriptures, and has a usefulness in the regular life of the church beyond the writing of sacred Scripture.  Indeed, in these passages the gift of prophecy is seen as a gift that exists for the purpose of building up others in the faith, and serving as an aid to maturing the body of Christ as a whole.  To say that the gift of prophecy existed for the primary purpose of the creation of the canon of Scripture is to employ an argument the Scriptures themselves never make.  As central as the Scriptures are to our faith, might I be so bold as to say that its existence is merely a bi-product of the gift of prophecy, and not the main purpose for which the gift was intended?

For the primary purpose of the gift of prophecy is to actively declare the mind of God.  The prophet is one who literally speaks on behalf of another.   In the history of the prophetic ministry, the Scriptures were so inspired out of men who actively declared what God had to say.  And in all their declaring, a body of literature was written down and preserved for all time, and this body of literature contains within it the faith once and for all handed down to the saints.  And we must never minimize this whatsoever.  But the Scriptures in themselves never contain every prophetic message ever uttered in the history of time.  Indeed, Noah was a prophet, but none of his oracles are recorded.  The prophet Samuel spoke many times on behalf of the Lord, and all of Israel confirmed Samuel as a prophetic minister.  Yet we have hardly any of his prophecies.  Likewise, John the Baptist spent quite some time out in the wilderness prophesying, yet we only have a handful of his words recorded.  And above all people, our Lord Jesus Christ spent three years on earth ministering as a prophet, yet for all the words He spoke, John reminds us that Christ said and did many more things that were not recorded.

But in saying all of this, and as important as these points have been, I believe there is one major reason alone why we should reject any partial or total cessationist theologies.  And that reason is central to all of the Scriptures.  We should reject cessationist theologies because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a contemporary, modern-day prophet.  Indeed, Hebrews 1 reminds us that God has in these last days spoken to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.  And Jesus Christ, as a modern-day living prophet, is still carrying out His prophetic ministry that began 2,000 years ago in Judea.  The Lord has not grown silent just because the canon of Scriptures is complete.  Jesus Christ is still speaking on behalf of God today.

And one of the ways in which Jesus Christ still speaks on behalf of God today is through the Church.  Namely, through those who, being a part of His body, share in the prophetic ministry He Himself has.  It is my contention that those well-meaning brethren who deny contemporary prophetic ministry have a major blind spot in their theology.  Namely, they fail to see that Jesus Christ has a present day prophetic ministry.  And though they confess Him as Prophet, Priest, and King, practically speaking, they deny the prophetic ministry of Jesus Christ by denying a place for the gift of prophecy in the Church today.  For in making no room for prophetic expression today, the ministry of Christ Himself as a prophet is effectively silenced.

And the last thing this world needs is for God to be mute.  This is why I reject cessationism.

2 responses to “Why I Reject Cessationism

  • Taylor

    Thanks for the post, Jimmy! What do you think the differences are, if any, between prophecy and teaching?

    • christthinks

      Excellent question. Well, Biblically speaking, not much. Both are supernatural giftings from the Holy Spirit, that give one the ability to communicate the knowledge of Christ. I think they are similar in many ways. I think where they differ is that prophecy is much more what “thus saith” the Lord. That is, it is actively declaring the present mind of Christ in what is being said. Whereas teaching is much more about re-communicating what has already been said. Both are gospel-centered in their message. But the perspective and vantage point is different.

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