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Have the gifts ceased?

Discussion in 'General Theology' started by Andrew, Jul 24, 2002.

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  1. Andrew

    Andrew Well-Known Member

    Cessationists -- Christians who believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased to exist -- maintain that the gifts died out with the 12 Apostles or with the completion of the Bible. They use the following passage to support their argument:

    1 Corinthians 13
    8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
    9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
    10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
    11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
    12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    They say that the "perfection" in verse 10 refers to the completion of the Bible, and since we have the Bible today, the gifts have passed away.

    What is the "perfection"?

    The "perfection" in verse 10 refers to our perfection, not the completion of the Bible. The context itself clearly tells us this, as it talks about "we" and "I" knowing in part, then knowing fully; being a child, then growing into a man.

    9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
    11 When I was a child,...When I became a man,...
    12 ...Now I know in part; then I shall know fully,...

    If we say that the perfection refers to the completion of the Bible, then we are actually saying that the Bible -- a non-living thing -- went through these human growth processes!

    The passage clearly talks about us (not scrolls of scriptures) knowing partially then knowing fully, and that when the latter happens, the gifts of the Holy Spirit (that help build up and empower the church) will no longer be necessary and hence be done away with.

    From glory to glory

    12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.

    Again, to say that the perfection refers to the completion of the Bible is to also say that the Bible once saw a "poor reflection" of itself in the mirror, then saw "face to face" with someone once it was completed. This, of couse, is ludicrous. So, what is the verse saying?

    Let us look at two other verses for the meaning or symbolism of "mirror". Let the Bible interpret the Bible:

    2 Corinthians 3:18 -- and we all, with unvailed face, the glory of the Lord beholding in a mirror, to the same image are being transformed, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. [YLT]

    James 1:23 -- because, if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, this one hath been like to a man viewing his natural face in a mirror, [YLT]

    Christians have "unveiled faces" in the sense that they are able to see that Jesus is Lord by the grace of God. But for the Jews, till today, their hearts are "veiled" whenever they read the Old Covenant scriptures -- they cannot see that Jesus is the Messiah. But should any Jew turn to the Lord, the veil is removed (2 Corinthians 3:14-16).

    But we don't see the Lord "face to face" now as He is still literally at our Father's right hand, interceding for us, since His ascension. What we see is a "poor mirror reflection" of Him (1 Corinthians 13:12). Because we are in Christ and Christ is in us by His Spirit, we reflect His image, albeit poorly, when we "look in a mirror". That is why James 1:23 says that a person who hears the Word but does nothing about it only reflects his natural self (not Jesus) as he "looks in a mirror".

    Despite the dim reflection, the more we behold Jesus, that is, to learn about Him, the more we are transformed from glory to glory into His likeness (2 Corinthians 3:18). This transformation is still ongoing for every Christian, but it will be completed when we see Christ "face to face" -- no longer as a poor reflection in a mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12). In other words, when Christ comes back for His church at the rapture, we would be perfected -- complete knowledge with glorified bodies 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, 1 Thessalonians 3:16,17; 2 Thessalonians 1:1).

    Who knows it all?

    Has "know fully" or "perfection" happened to every Christian? The answer is obvious. Just because we have the Bible, study aids and Bible teachers does not mean that we now know perfectly. No honest Christian will say that he understands perfectly every verse in the Bible, let alone the mysteries of this age.

    Some cessationists then argue that we should not take "know fully" in absolute terms. They say that "know fully" just means knowing God's salvation plan.

    Well, the qualification is in verse 12 -- "even as I am fully known". We are fully known by only one person -- God. So, have we come to the place where we know fully to the same degree and standard that we are fully known by God? Again, the answer is obvious.

    A related argument is that the passage is only talking about us having at our disposal, perfect knowledge -- the Bible. But verse 12 clearly talks about us knowing fully, not us having at our disposal, perfect knowledge.

    This means that complete knowledge has to be "in our heads", not in a book we keep on our bedside tables. It is one thing to say that you own a complete set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, but a totally different thing to say that you know perfectly everything that is written in it.

    Furthermore, I believe that God has much more knowledge and revelation in store for us than just what is contained in the Bible. The Bible is silent on many topics, such as how many galaxies God created, the truth about "aliens" or why there is no salvation plan for the fallen angels.

    Total Christian unity?

    Ephesians 4
    11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
    12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
    13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

    Here, it clearly says that God gives gifts to the church for the perfecting of Christians, for ministry work, for the edification of Christians, and that He will continue to do so until all of us are united in the faith and knowledge of Jesus -- perfect men with the stature of the fullness of Christ.

    The latter has obviously not happened, given the many different Church denominations and doctrinal arguments that continue to exist. And as regards the former, much ministry work still has to be done, such as missions and evangelism. Christians still need to be edified and encouraged. All this tells us that the church still needs the gifts, in fact, all the more in these last days.

    Only the Apostles?

    Cessationists also argue that Paul was only referring to himself and the other Apostles in the passage. In other words, only the Apostles came to "know fully" -- supposedly after they had finished writing the various scrolls that would one day make up the modern Bible.

    We have already established that the putting together of the Bible has nothing to do with the passage. But was Paul talking only about himself and his fellow Apostles? A clue lies in verse 9:

    9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

    Prophesying was not a gift unique to the Apostles. The New Testament records many other Christians prophesying, such as the disciples in Ephesus (Acts 19:6), the four daughters of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:9) and a prophet named Agabus (Acts 21:10). So, "we" here cannot mean just the Apostles.

    Furthermore, if we look at the broader context (the entire chapter 13), Paul was giving instructions to the Corinthian church on their use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The fact that he was teaching them, not himself, about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and their proper usage proves that he was referring to the church.

    To suddenly say that Paul was only talking about himself and the other Apostles from verses 9 to 12 is to be inconsistent in interpretation. We might as well add that Paul was also talking about himself or teaching himself in the earlier verses 1 to 3, since here he uses "I" too:

    1 Corinthians 13
    1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
    2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
    3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

    How is it cessationists take "I" here to include the Corinthian church, but "I" and "we" in verses 9, 11 and 12 to mean only Paul and his fellow Apostles? There is no consistency in such an interpretation.

    Refuting other points brought up by cessationists

    1. The purpose of miracles was to prove that the 12 Apostles were true Apostles of God.

    No verse of scripture states that signs and wonders bear witness to or confirm the authenticity of the Apostles. In fact, miracles bear witness to the person of Christ (Luke 7:19-22, Acts 10:38) and to the message preached about Him (Mark 16:20, Acts 4:29,30; Acts 10:44, Acts 14:3, Galatians 3:5). The Holy Spirit moves in power with signs and wonders to exalt Jesus and point to Him, not man (John 14:26, John 15:26).

    If miracles prove that a person is an apostle, then how do we identify false apostles and prophets performing miracles (Matthew 7:15,22; Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22)? We turn to scripture and their "fruit", not miracles, to test the miracles and the message the "apostle" is preaching (Matthew 7:16, 2 Timothy 3:16).

    The Apostles were not the only ones who performed signs and wonders by the power of God. Stephen, who was not an apostle, performed great wonders and miracles too (Acts 6:8).

    The church in general performed signs and wonders too, as God gave gifts to the church, including the working of miracles and healings (Galatians 3:5, Ephesians 4:8, 1 Corinthians 11:8-10).

    2. God performed miracles through the Apostles because it would prove that the scriptures they wrote were divinely inspired.

    The books of Mark, Luke and Jude were not written by Apostles. The authors did not perform any recorded miracles. Hebrews is anonymous. Yet, we regard these books as divinely inspired too.

    Philip, an apostle, performed signs and wonders (Acts 8:6,39), yet did not write any scripture.

    3. Miracles were needed as a "rocket booster" to launch the early church and get people saved.

    There is no scripture proof for this.

    This demeans the inherent power of the Gospel message itself to save (Romans 1:16, Romans 10:8-10). It implies that God had to "add" signs and wonders to a "lacking" Gospel to get people saved.

    It also ignores the power of the Holy Spirit to convict the sinner without Him having to resort to signs and wonders (John 16:8). In fact, most Christians are saved just by hearing the Gospel, getting convicted and then believing (Romans 10:8-10).

    We are saved by grace through faith, not by signs and wonders (Ephesians 2:8).

    4. The Gospels and the book of Acts are just "transition books" -- from Old Testament to New Testament. Acts records an infant, immature church. Hence, Acts does not portray "normal church life".

    If that were true, it would also mean that the church down through the centuries should not have referred to the Gospels and the book of Acts to formulate doctrines that are still being taught and believed in today, such as those on unconditional election, holy communion, salvation by faith, the born again experience, forgiveness, dispensationalism, missions and evangelism, eschatology etc. It would mean that much of our doctrines are based on "abnormal" church life.

    5. 2 Corinthians 12:12 -- "Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds." -- proves that miracles authenticated the Apostles.

    The verse simply says that miracles, among other things, were one of the signs that accompanied the ministry of the apostle. It does not say that only true apostles of God can do signs and wonders, and that if you witness the latter, the person must be an apostle.

    Stephen -- non-apostle -- also performed signs and wonders (Acts 6:8, Acts 8:6,39).

    The other "telltale signs" of apostleship which Paul considered more important were his sufferings (1 Corinthians 4:9-13, 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, 2 Corinthians 11:16-33). We could also consider the effectiveness of his preaching as there were many conversions, the call of God (Acts 9:16, 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1) and a blameless ministry life.
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  2. Gerry

    Gerry Jesus Paid It All

    Oh Andrew, Andrew, Andrew!!!
  3. debs

    debs Member

    answer: is no
  4. Patmosman_sga

    Patmosman_sga Member

    Cessationism is a dangerous heresy which has contributed to much division within the Church. It is a convenient little weapon for modern-day Pharisees who want to control every aspect of the Church's life. At its root is the same Enlightenment-era, hard rationalism that forms the basis for liberalism and deism.
  5. Andrew

    Andrew Well-Known Member


    Huh? is that disagreement?

    Amen Patmosman, but i'd watch the word 'heresy' (been told here by mod not to say that of people's views).

    anyway, post meant for some cessationists here.
  6. MikeMcK

    MikeMcK Well-Known Member

    In Relationship
    I believe that the gifts are still in effect today but I wouldn't argue with someone who didn't. It's a non-essential and they have the liberty to believe that.
  7. molly

    molly Just a child of God

    I must agree with MikeMcK , it seems that todays christians would just like to stay in a safe place, and not use the gifts of the Holy Spirit, how sad is that?
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