Hints of Cessationism in NT?

(Posted by Paige)

A perennial puzzle that arises as we rub shoulders with our neighbors in the wider church is how we are to understand the claims of “continualists,” who attest that signs and wonders and special manifestations of the Spirit are (and ought to be) normative parts of Christian experience today. As this is a live question in my neck of the woods right now, I recently started thinking through the NT’s teaching, both implied and direct, on the temporary nature of these “special effects.” I’ve come to some interesting, tentative conclusions based mainly on a close study of Hebrews; but before I set these out for scrutiny, I thought I’d offer a question for your consideration and see what good thoughts I get back. Here is my basic query:

Can you identify in the NT any evidence of a shift, whether anticipated or inaugurated, from faith supported by words, sacraments, and miraculous signs to faith supported by words and sacraments alone? (Assume inspired words and the illumination of the Holy Spirit in both cases!)

Note please that I am only interested in NT support for this shift, not what the ECFs had to say about it. I’m also already familiar with the basic cessationist arguments, so no need to repeat Warfield or Calvin on this. What do you see in the NT that suggests a transition from an era that included wonders/sight to an era characterized by words/hearing?

Thanks in advance!

Update:My own contribution can be found in this comment.

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48 Comments

  1. Kris said,

    April 30, 2013 at 12:11 am

    I have nothing direct from the New Testament but only an observation from the Scripture as a whole. The Spirit’s work is reported in many others besides the apostles with various results but each had the mark of unusual power. The “special effects” were different depending on the person and the purpose. Ezekiel, David, Samson, Elijah and the Apostles, each had different expressions of the Spirit in their lives-yet, similarly powerful.

    Space limits me here as to how I would support what I am about to say so I will just throw out the idea. When we view the working of the Holy Spirit I think we should resist the idea of insisting that it work the same in each believer or even in each community exactly the same. It has never worked universally same-the mark is universally obvious-but not necessarily its actions. Today, the Spirit appears to work in many varied ways around the globe. Among the Islamic nations we see something different than what is happening in New York, in China something similar but distinct than in Buenos Aires. The stories out of Africa are different than what you hear out of Europe.

    I suppose it could have been this way in Israel too. What was seen in Jerusalem may not have been identical to what the believers experienced in Galilee. Rome and Asia Minor may have had a different frequency to the “special effects” they witnessed. I have not studied it so I can’t say for sure, but I just might now.

    If the Holy Spirit is not equal in its expressions, meaning it can be expected to act differently in different situations, then we have room to acknowledge his power when it demonstrates itself and reason to admonish those who insist on a performance. Thanks for the post.

  2. Kris said,

    April 30, 2013 at 12:14 am

    I do want to hear what you have gleaned from Hebrews so I’ll be sure to come back and learn what you have stumbled upon. Blessings.

  3. Jim Cassidy said,

    April 30, 2013 at 6:33 am

    The exegesis various tremendously among scholars, but I think 1 Cor 13 seals the deal for cessationism.

  4. paigebritton said,

    April 30, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Hi, Jim!
    Yes, the part about these things passing away “when the perfect comes.”

    I am looking now for NT examples besides this passage that suggest that the early church was either anticipating this transition, or that it had already begun to be the case that believers should expect their faith to be supported by words (and sacraments), rather than also by signs and wonders and the prophetic charismata.

  5. paigebritton said,

    April 30, 2013 at 6:57 am

    Kris,
    Yes, I agree with your observation that each of the “special effects” had particular, unique significance in the history of redemption, wherever they fell on the timeline (Old or New). Each time the signs & wonders underscored and validated new revelation from God. That’s in keeping with the cessationist position that such things ceased after the apostolic age, because they had served their purpose of attesting to the legitimacy of the apostles’ authority and the source of their message.

    Now I’m wondering if anyone else has noticed a trend in teaching and practice in the NT that suggests that the very early church was already being trained to expect to rely on what they had heard rather than ongoing wonders that they could experience and see.

    thanks for commenting!

  6. Logan Almy said,

    April 30, 2013 at 8:07 am

    Hebrews 1:1-2 and especially 2:1-4 indicate that God’s revelation in his Son is full and final. The tense of the verbs in Hebrews 2:1-4 is important. By comparing Ephesians 2:20, 4:11ff, and 2 Corinthians 12:12 it seems reasonable to establish that the nature of the apostolic office was foundational and that both the office and the “signs of a true apostle” would have ceased after they served their unique first-century function.

  7. AJ Erwin said,

    April 30, 2013 at 10:00 am

    I think it’s worth mentioning that Paul’s latter Pastoral Epistles give very “ordinary means” weighted instruction. If indeed there were going to be a continuation of the supernatural means of revelation and edification, Paul surely would have mentioned this in his instructions to Timothy and Titus. But instead you have ordinary qualifications for the offices (as opposed to the Acts 13:2 account) and ordinary instruction for how to order the house of God. This looks like quite a transition from the earlier epistles to the Corinthians on instructions for these extra-ordinary gifts that were still active.

  8. rfwhite said,

    April 30, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Paige,

    With regard to your good question, here are a couple of observations. First, I wonder if in your question you don’t mean to ask for evidence of a shift from “faith supported by spoken and written words, sacraments, and miraculous signs to faith supported by written words and sacraments alone?”

    Second, in answer to your question, I’d point to the NT witness to a shift or trend from apostolic to postapostolic and from spoken to written. Here’s an overview of what I have in mind.

    There was an early NT call to preserve the written as well as oral apostolic witness, 2 Thess 2:15. Already at the time of the apostles, their witness is called “tradition.” Its authoritative, binding character is seen in the fact that Paul, for instance, commands his readers to hold firmly to it (1 Cor 11.2; 2 Thess 2.15; cf. 3.6). Second Thessalonians 2.15 especially refers to those traditions passed on “whether by word of mouth or by letter.” We notice that here – shortly after 1 Thessalonians, perhaps the earliest NT document – written as well as spoken apostolic tradition is already in view as authoritative. Later there came the last NT call to preserve the witness, 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 2:14. In his last NT correspondence, Paul instructs Timothy to guard the deposit. Timothy is to preserve and maintain the authoritative deposit of truth. It looks to me that we have to ask, did the church have that deposit of truth in both spoken and written form (as the Thessalonians had had it) or in written form alone? It seems to me that the picture become clearer as we consider other factors.

    As far as I can tell, the NT itself anticipates and initiates a trend; it fixes the coordinates of a trajectory, using the model of a divine temple building project. The NT anticipates a move from the apostolic era of new covenant temple building to the postapostolic era of new covenant temple building. From the case of Christ as the foundational cornerstone (Eph 2.20b; 1 Cor 3.11), we learn that “foundationality” applies to that which is both functionally determinative of the integrity of a temple’s superstructure and historically initiatory and once-for-all, therefore non-continuing, in the course of the temple building work. By its very nature, then, the activity of laying the church’s foundation could not continue as long as the activity of building her superstructure. That foundation-laying activity must be preparatory to (at least the bulk of) the temple building work. There is an anticipated shift from foundation laying to post-foundation building.

    Also, Paul’s self-description in 1 Cor 15.8 implies the temporariness (non-continuation) of his office and so a pending shift from the apostolic era to the postapostolic era. When Paul states, in effect, that he is the last of the apostles, we have an important clue that apostleship was not permanent in the life of the church. In 1 Cor 15.8, Paul asserts that Christ made the last of all his post-resurrection appearances to him, that is, “the last of [Christ’s] specific acts in the salvation history that establishes the apostolate and terminates the period of appearance.” (See Peter R. Jones, “1 Corinthians 15:8: Paul the Last Apostle,” Tyndale Bulletin 36 [1985] 17. Jones is followed by [among others] A. C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians [NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000] 1210.) Paul says that he is “the least of the apostles” (15.9) specifically because the resurrected Christ appeared to him “last of all,” as one born abnormally (15.8), after he had already appeared to “all the apostles” (15.7, where, evidently, he is referring to the Twelve, cf. 15.5; see also Gal 1.17). Paul’s “least-ness” as an apostle hangs on his “last-ness” among the apostles: Paul knew that he was the last of the apostles because he was the least of the apostles. Paul, therefore, says, in effect, that he is the last of the apostles, since, according to him, legitimacy as an apostle depends on one’s having seen the risen Lord and having received a commission from Him (1 Cor 9.1; Acts 22.12-16; 26.12-18). If we compare the “last” of all of Christ’s appearances in 1 Cor 15.8 with the “last” of all of Christ’s enemies in 1 Cor 15.26 (and the “last” of all the seven husbands in Mark 12.22), we see that Paul is not merely speaking of himself as the last of a particular series of appearances by the resurrected Christ after which another series might take place. No, Christ’s appearance to Paul is the last of all of His appearances. Paul’s statements, then, anticipate a shift in focus from the apostolic to the postapostolic.

    That shift from apostolic to postapostolic is paralleled by a shift from spoken to written. As the apostles (and prophets) die off and their witness is completed – as their oral witness ceases and living apostolic oversight of that witness comes to an end, written apostolic witness becomes increasingly crucial and focal, until it, exclusively, is the Word of God on which the church is being built. This shift in focus from spoken to written corresponds to the intention Paul expressed to Timothy in his last correspondence. Broadly speaking, developments in the church concerning “the canon” (originally, a builder’s measuring tool) – the written Word – during the 2nd through 4th centuries complement that apostolic intention. Those developments involve the increasing awareness in the postapostolic church of its distance from its apostolic-prophetic past and so an increasing awareness of the foundational, revelatory nature of the inscripturated witness-tradition that they possessed. The complement to the apostolic intention, in other words, is postapostolic recognition of the NT canon, that is, the written Word.

    Sorry to go on a bit, but to me the observations above provide evidence from the NT of a shift from “faith supported by spoken and written words, sacraments, and miraculous signs to faith supported by written words and sacraments alone.”

  9. smahaffey@humco.com said,

    April 30, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    It’s difficult to be a cessasionist without being a preterist. If you see Matt. 24: 29-34 as fufilled in 70AD then the cessasionist argument is easy. Acts 2 tells us that the Day of Pentecost fulfills the prophecy of Joel (Acts 2:16-21). The prophecy of Joel begins with widespread revelatory gifts and ends with “blood and fire and vapor of smoke”. So, Joel 2 + Acts 2+ Matt. 24+ I Cor. 13 + Heb 8 (growing obsolete/nigh unto vanishing away) = preterism/cessasionism.

    Sean

  10. Cris Dickason said,

    April 30, 2013 at 4:17 pm

    Page – check out these resources…

    Eclipsing the canon? : the Spirit, the Word, and “revelations of the third kind” by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. and R. Fowler White

    Contrary to what you may have heard : on the rhetoric and reality of claims of continuing revelation by R. Fowler White

    In this volume:
    Whatever happened to the Reformation? / edited by G.L.W. Johnson and R. Fowler White.
    Phillipsburg, N.J. : P & R, 2001.

  11. Reed Here said,

    April 30, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Sean: maybe you should say that you find it easier to buy cessationism through support from preterism.

    I for one don’t find it hard to be a cessationist – and without preterism. ;)

  12. Reed Here said,

    April 30, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Paige: when I read your post this morning I thought of something along the lines of Dr. White’s post, but not as sophisticated.

    In terms of trajectory note that you have corrections for use of tongues in an early book, 1 Corinthians (penned AD 52-54).

    Yet in his latter books you find no references to tongues. This is especially telling in his latest books, the pastoral epistles (penned AD 63-67). These latter books do contain instructions regarding the preached word. They do not contain any instructions regarding tongues. Might this not be a hint: Paul gave no instructions on tongues because tongues were becoming irrelevant to the church’s ministry?

    Consider too that the other books which contain instructions on spiritual gifts, Romans and Ephesians. Both contain references to other speaking gifts (e.g., teaching, prophecy). Yet neither mentions tongues. If these book were written after 1 Corinthians (strong possibility), might this also be a hint of the passing away of tongues?

  13. paigebritton said,

    April 30, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    Wowee, this is terrific. THANK you. I welcome more if anybody has ideas — no one has yet mentioned a couple that I know of from John & Peter. I think I may have a bead on something original from my study of Hebrews to add to the discussion sometime, too. Exciting.

    Dr. White, yes to your distinction there — I hadn’t made it in my mind so much yet because I was imagining the oral reading and preaching of the written word after the time of the apostles, as well as the private (silent) reading of the written documents. But of course I would not put this kind of “spoken word” (at least the preaching about the words) on the same shelf with the original revelatory speech of the apostles.

    Okay, to press you all a little further: When the apostles & other evangelists first got to a community and began preaching, their words were often accompanied by affirming signs & wonders, right? Any evidence that a) when these first missionaries went away again, these special effects faded? lingered? and/or that b) later missionary efforts by those further removed from that first wave of “sent-ones” were not accompanied by the same sort of fireworks?

  14. Lee said,

    April 30, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Paige,
    I think you have probably nailed it with Hebrews. Hebrews is one of the later NT books, and I think part of the entire undercurrent of the book is a pleading with the audience that they already have it all. Christ is all. Nothing else needed. And that they were being seduced to go back to a world of touch, taste, see, and smell. The author instead directs them to Christ, and does so by directing them to the written word.

    I honestly think you could make a cessationist argument strictly from the book of Hebrews.

  15. RJS said,

    May 1, 2013 at 3:23 am

    Paige,

    I’ll be honest; I’m unconvinced that one can make a case for cessationism from the NT, though I am not a charismatic myself. Perhaps the strongest argument is the indication that Reed hinted at above, that Paul gives instruction on the charismatic gifts in his early letters, but in his later work they are silent on tongues etc. But this is no more than an argument from silence. As for ‘the coming of the perfect’, to suppose that Paul had the close of the canon in mind in 1 Cor. 13 is a bit far-fetched to say the least.

  16. paigebritton said,

    May 1, 2013 at 9:00 am

    Lee & RJS,
    What a funny juxtaposition of comments. RJS, you’ve put your finger on the challenge of this project, I think — there is no definitive text to go to, if the 1 Cor 13 one is deemed too dubious a support, that would directly deliver the argument that signs and wonders had already begun fading in the era of the NT church. This is why I’m looking for more holisitic supports, like trends and authorial emphases and yes, even arguments from silence. “Arguments from silence are notoriously slippery,” as Sinclair Ferguson says about this very topic; yet if it can be established that it’s surprising that a certain author has not mentioned something when he might have, such an argument can be at least suggestive. This is part of what I am gathering from Hebrews, though I realize it can’t be the sole foundation for the whole building. :)

  17. AJ Erwin said,

    May 1, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Paige,

    With respects to the “effects fading”, I believe of course the Heb 2:1-4 becomes critical. If the purpose of the signs and wonders was to authenticate, then it would naturally be expected for them to fade (in the same manner as it did in the OT with Moses and the Prophets/Elijah/Elisha) as the purpose of authentication had been served and preserved in the cannon of the NT.

    I think the best examples are those of Paul encouraging Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach ailments (1 Tim 5:23) and declaring that he had left Trophimus sick in Miletus (2 Tim 4:20). The apostle who raised men from the dead and sent out “handkerchiefs for healing” (sounds like a typical modern day psuedo-apostolic ministry) later resolves to leave fellow labourers to suffer with their ailments. This is a strong argument against the continuation of extraordinary gifts!

    As far as the argument from silence goes, that is always a two way street. I think the continuationist must explain why Paul would leave off speaking about the revelatory gifts as his ministry draws to a close and the signs and wonders fade. They must answer why there is no instruction in the pastoral epistles for the oversight of such gifts. I think they have to explain why Peter appeals to Paul’s weighty letters (2 Peter 3:14-17) for doctrine instead of extraordinary revelatory gifts, and makes a case for the end of revelation as he declares (2 Peter 1:15-21) that we have a “more sure word of prophecy” through the testimony of the apostles in the NT.

    Hmmm, now that I think about it, I really don’t think I agree that the NT is silent after all.

  18. rfwhite said,

    May 1, 2013 at 10:33 am

    13 Paige,

    Regarding your question at the end of #13, I find it helpful to put our thinking about questions like that in a larger context. What I mean is this: as I understand it, the Bible is fundamentally the record of redemptive-historical developments and therefore its accounts of miraculous events are inevitably going to be largely associated with special revelatory initiatives. Stated differently, the Bible exhibits a discernible disinterest in miracles that are not linked with God’s revelatory words and redemptive deeds. For example, the Bible shows no particular interest in miraculous during the post-Fall, pre-Flood millennia of world history in Gen 4-7. Yes, the Genesis narrative covering the post-Fall, pre-Flood history certainly indicates that miracules did occur apart from epochal developments in history, but evidently they occurred at a rate noticeably less than what we find, say, when we come to God’s covenantal initiatives with Noah. In other words, the Bible may indeed witness to the occurrence of miracles apart from revealed words and redeeming deeds, but evidently that occurrence was at a rate noticeably less than that of miracles associated with those initiatives. Certainly the occurrence of miracles was a matter of discernibly less interest in the Bible than those miracles associated with the progress of redemptive and revelatory history.

    Against that backdrop, it looks to me that James 5 illustrates how the occurrence of healing and other miracles in the church does not depend on the ongoing appointment of some to miraculous ministries, but on prayer and the ongoing appointment of some to eldership in the churches. With good reason, then, cessationists can argue that James 5 presents a paradigm adaptable to the situation of God’s people in the post-biblical period—that is, to a time when healing and other miracles would be as possible as they ever were apart from developments in the history of special revelation, but when the occurrence of miracles would not depend on the ongoing appointment of some to those ministries that had earlier served the foundational ministry of Jesus and the apostles.

  19. Nick Mackison said,

    May 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    “So now faith, hope and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love”. 1Cor. 13:13

    Faith and hope give way to sight and fulfilment at the Eschaton. So, if Paul writes that faith and hope abide while miraculous works pass away, there must be a period, prior to the Eschaton, where this holds true. In other words, faith, hope and love are what remain after the canon is completed and prior to the return of Christ; miraculous gifts cease during that interval.

  20. Ron said,

    May 2, 2013 at 9:34 pm

    Nick,

    Your major premise is a verse. You then insert a premise about “give way to sight…” followed by another assertion followed by a quantum leap having to do with the canon. You conclude these unrelated premises with your grand conclusion, which is none other than your unargued thesis.

    I share your conclusion but not for the same “reasons.” I’d recommend Gaffin though…

  21. Tim Harris said,

    May 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Acts 8:17-19 Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

    What this passage seems to imply is (1) those that the apostles laid hands on received a miraculous gift (cf. Acts 19:6), but (2) that “power” of conferring did not convey to those that got the gift. For otherwise, Simon would not have tried to purchase the power, for which he was severely rebuked, but would have instead simply sought to have hands laid on him.

    Yet the laying on of hands is an “ordinary” institution, as seen e.g. in Acts 6:6, 1 Timothy 5:22, Heb. 6:1.

    From this I infer an “early church hermeneutic,” namely, miraculous gifts were given to the apostles and their immediate successors to attest to their authoritative word; after this, analogous roles continued in the offices (paster, elder, deacon) without the miraculous gift, but maintaining the form of laying on of hands and jointly exercising the apostolic office, so far as this was now derivative and not originary.

  22. Nick Mackison said,

    May 3, 2013 at 2:10 am

    Ron, didn’t you read the title of the post, i.e. “hints”? This is a blog. I’m not writing a thesis…..

  23. Cris Dickason said,

    May 4, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Paige – Here’s something that crossed my mind as I was reflecting on Paul and Romans (teaching on Romans) and apostolic ministry.

    The apostles took no steps to establish an ongoing office of apostle. Paul (and the others) appointed and/or supported the ordination of men as elder and deacon. But they made no move to establish an on-going apostolic office.

    IF they had establish an on-going apostolic office we might then expect ongoing “signs of an apostle.” But then we might also expect that the canon of the NT would still be open, and not closed.

    -=Cris=-

  24. Ron said,

    May 4, 2013 at 8:05 pm

    Hi Nick,

    With respect to a valid argument there’s a lot of room between writing a thesis and offering a couple of hints, like merely one or two more premises having to do with the canon and how it relates to the passing away of certain gifts.

  25. Ron said,

    May 4, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Cris or anyone else,

    On a related matter to Cris’ post, does anyone know what RC’s say about the choosing of Matthias based upon the casting of lots? If apostles can only be called by God apart from human volitional-agency (accept for maybe identifying qualified candidates), then why do Cardinals vote for the successor of Peter? I don’t think they argue that casting of lots from Acts 1 is actually the casting of a vote. Rather, maybe since they distinguish popes from apostles, Peter being a Pope but the successors not being apostles, they allow for a change in the practice, but that would seem to presuppose a distinction between an apostle and a pope yet without a relevant difference between the two given the claims about the papacy.

  26. May 4, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Ron, I agree that my mentioning of the “canon” was unfortunate. It was written in haste and as a shorthand for something else (to denote a period subsequent to Paul’s writing and prior to “when the perfect comes”). Thus I do realise that I was making assumptions regarding the passage but this is a blog and brevity is a virtue in this context. A charitable reading of what I was trying to say would have recognized this without the seeming need to score points.

  27. Ron said,

    May 4, 2013 at 11:05 pm

    You seem to miss the point. I don’t agree that your reference to the canon was unfortunate. In fact, I think it’s spot on. I think this entire discussion hangs on the development of the relevance of canon’s completion, which you yourself find relevant having stated its completion as a sufficient condition for cessation. Yet for some reason you now say that you shouldn’t have mentioned it, but to retract your point about the canon is to leave gifts open until some other unstated condition is met prior to Christ’s return, the very thing you don’t want to do, nor I.

    As for “hints” precluding brevity of argument, a “charitable reading” being at odds with critique and evaluation suggesting an attempt at “scoring points,” it’s probably best to leave you to further reflection about how “charitable reading” applies your rendering of what I’ve written.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with your conclusion and I’m very satisfied with your latest reference to the “perfect” having come.

    Good Lord’s Day tomorrow,

    Ron

  28. Ron said,

    May 4, 2013 at 11:19 pm

    Tim 21, very compelling insight.

  29. May 5, 2013 at 8:48 am

    Ron, I apologise for being a tad over-sensitive. I didn’t like having a weak argument exposed and my pride got in the way. In Christ, Nick.

  30. Ron said,

    May 5, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Oh

    Oh goodness Nick, thank you but not necessary. I started it. My posts are often direct and to the point. Looking back at my first one, I regret not having filled in the rest and then followed with a question. True, I meant no harm but nonetheless my post came across as aggressive and I see that now. Thank you for calling me on it and please do forgive me.

  31. Nick Mackison said,

    May 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    Of course I forgive you brother. While you did come across as aggressive, I didn’t do myself any favours with my snide response. You’re abviously a very astute theologian and humble to boot. I think your choice of words hid this and switched me off to your argument (a reason but no excuse on my part I must add). I got the impression that you were just another Reformed keyboard-warrior when, in reality, that is not he case. I’ll try not and be such a sensitive tool next time. God bless. Nick

  32. Ron said,

    May 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm

    May we both go in peace, to love and to serve our Lord.

    Unworthy but oh so His,

    Ron

  33. paigebritton said,

    May 5, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    Okay, if you two gracious people are finished outdoing one another in honor now…Here’s a question that piggybacks off of your observations about the canon. During the years covered by Acts & the Epistles, when the NT Scripture was still being composed and circulated, would it be fair to expect to see a movement from a time of extraordinary signs-and-wonders-supported proclamation to a time of the ordinary pastoral work of preaching and teaching? And do we see any hints or evidence in the NT text that this is the case?

  34. Ron said,

    May 5, 2013 at 9:58 pm

    Paige,

    Not sure if this gets at what you’re asking but 2 Peter 2:1 speaks of false prophets looking backwards yet false teachers looking forward. Does that suggest the expiration of the gift of prophecy and if so, is that representative of the whole with respect to 1 Corinthians 13?

    Also, let’s not forget Tim’s post 21.

  35. Cris Dickason said,

    May 6, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Paige @ 33 — >> if you two gracious people are finished outdoing one another in honor >> Now, you’re not being a tad touchy this morning are you? /grinning as I type/.

    Ron @ 25 – interesting question. You are asking, “why is the pope selected by a vote of the cardinals, rather than appointed and designated or singled out by a direct, divine act?”

    If I get up the nerve I’ll ask around at work… my employer is che.org. My status as an OPC ruling elder is not an issue. So far no one complpains that I have the foreign missions trading cards for Hopp, Wright and Curto pinned on my cubicle wall!

  36. paigebritton said,

    May 6, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    Not touchy, just kind of amused — it’s a nice change to have that kind of exchange going back and forth. :)

  37. Ron said,

    May 6, 2013 at 9:23 pm

    Cris,

    Yes, but don’t get yourself in trouble with the boss.

    I’m amused that Paige is amused or has GB become a place where the gospel is only debated but not lived? :)

  38. paigebritton said,

    May 7, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Not often so nicely as you guys just did. :)

  39. paigebritton said,

    May 7, 2013 at 7:53 am

    (And really the amusing part for me was my wanting to nudge you back on topic but realizing that, for a change, the personal asides were the sort of things we moderators want to encourage, not squelch! Just laughing at my dilemma, not at you. ;)

  40. peacebyjesus said,

    May 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Objectively and doctrinally speaking, I see nothing compelling for cessationism, except the abundance of Benny Hinn types that purport to provide proof of the perpetuity of all “sign” gifts. However, apart from such, I see evidence that God has not taken a sabbatical rest from “confirming the word with signs following” in various ways including via gifts such as healing (though i myself do not claim this gift, or exhibit much Pentecostalism).

    And considering the NT church began in dissent from those who sat in the seat of Moses, and established their claims on Scriptural substantiation in word and in power, which included the miraculous through human agency, cessationism is contrary to how truth is established Scripturally in the full scope of attestation.

    Some point to the death of the apostles as signifying the end of gifts such as healing, however, it was not only the apostles who did miracles, but deacons such as Steven and Phillip, (Acts 6:8-10; 8:6,7) while the devout disciple Ananias also “ministered the Holy Spirit” to Paul. (Acts 9:10-16; cf. Gal. 3:5)

    Some believe the completed canon signifies “that which is perfect is come” (1Cor. 13:10) and thus the end of sign gifts. However, the things which characterize the coming of that which is perfect, such as knowing even as also we are known, (v. 12) best correspond to the perfect revelation of Christ, unfiltered by our flesh, in which “we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1Jn. 3:2)

    The decline in the mention of spiritual gifts as Acts progresses is also invoked as indicative of a coming cessation, yet this is easily attributable to the nature of events (such as Paul’s trial), while right near the end Paul is working miracles as opportunity is given.

    Then there is the premise that the miraculous is not needed in the light of a completed canon, but which presents us with a canon of Scripture that testifies to a miracle working God throughout the history of revelation, and in which the miraculous helped to confirm men of God as being such, (Jn. 5:36; 14:10,11; Rm. 15:19,20; 2Cor. 12:12) and additional revelation as Scripture, but which basically places such attestation and the book of Acts in a museum.

    To be sure, the miraculous will not persuade those who hate the light, (Lk. 16:31; Jn. 3:19-21) but supernatural manifestation is part of the extra grace God gives to souls, esp. those who are ignorant of Scripture, and among such the saints are often in competition with the devil.

    And regarding the latter, as seen in the first 3 miracles of Moses, (Ex. 7:11,22; 8:7) the devil seeks to operate on the same level as God, but rather than leaving the field to him, God overcomes evil with Good.

    Thus, Christianity being a supernatural faith, that does not merely claim to have a miraculous book (as Islam), then I believe that if anything, we need to pray as did the early church, that God would “grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word; by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus,” (Acts 4:29,30) especially as fabrications and skepticism abounds.

    But which takes more faith and holiness than i think i have.

  41. rfwhite said,

    May 7, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    33 Paige:

    You ask, During the years covered by Acts & the Epistles, when the NT Scripture was still being composed and circulated, would it be fair to expect to see a movement from a time of extraordinary signs-and-wonders-supported proclamation to a time of the ordinary pastoral work of preaching and teaching? And do we see any hints or evidence in the NT text that this is the case?

    I would say, yes, it would be fair to see the movement you describe. Noncessationists characteristically write of how signs, wonders, and miracles are connected with revival and the proclamation of the gospel. But, as noble as this observation sounds, it fails to respect the biblical linkage between those miraculous ministries and the unique place of Jesus and the apostles in the history of revelation. It is in this light that we have to say that noncessationists ironically undervalue the miraculous deeds in the NT. How so? The gospel proclamation of the present-day church is not on a par with the gospel proclamation of Jesus and the apostles. Jesus and the apostles proclaimed the gospel as infallible, “Spirit-moved” (cf. 2 Pet 1:21) sources of special revelation; the church proclaims the gospel as the fallible, if “Spirit-led” (cf. Rom 8:14-16) and “Spirit-taught” (cf. 1 Cor 2:6-16), interpreter of inscripturated special revelation. Throughout the NT — in the Gospels, Acts, and the Epistles — Jesus and the apostles are, respectively, the foundational cornerstone and rocks on which the church is built. It is, therefore, with Jesus and the apostles in these unique roles—that is, in distinction from the church at large—that ministries of miraculous deeds are invariably connected in the NT period. The ministries of miraculous deeds in the NT period served the ministries of foundational special revelation. Certainly, the burden of proof falls to noncessationists to show that in the NT miraculous ministries served any ministry other than the foundational ministry of Jesus and the apostles. As I suggested above (#18), the Bible is just not very interested in miraculous ministries that are not connected with ministries of special revelation. No ministries of special revelation, no ministries of signs, wonders, and miracles (which is not to deny that God works miracles through the due use of the “ordinary” means of prayer by the church’s elders, James 5).

  42. paigebritton said,

    May 8, 2013 at 7:46 am

    Thanks again to everyone for your replies. Here are some of my own observations — though not yet my argument from Hebrews, which I’ll offer for peer review whenever I have all my ducks in a row. These are two general things I have noticed regarding a shift in the NT itself from an era of sight, signs, and wonders to an era characterized by hearing, proclamation and reasoning. Interestingly, it seems to me that this transition is both anticipated and inaugurated during the apostolic age. See what you think.

    The first piece is this: Jesus’ ascension necessitated a shift from firsthand sight to eyewitness testimony.
    Maybe this is so obvious it doesn’t bear saying, yet I notice that the NT remarks on it several times, e.g.:

    “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…” (John 17:20)

    “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)

    “…these are written so that you may believe…” (John 20:31)

    “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him…” (1 Pet. 1:8)

    I’d suggest that this is the first stage of a divinely-designed changeover from the gospel known by sight + hearing to the gospel communicated through the ordinary, wordy channels of speech, writing, hearing and reading.

    The second piece is this: I think the book of Acts records a transition, even during the apostles’ ministry, from preaching with special effects to preaching with ordinary means.
    There’s a concentration of signs and wonders at the beginning of the church’s life, and also in conjunction with any significant new movement outward geographically or ethnically. However, once a believing core is established in a region, even the apostles’ ministry is conducted almost entirely through WORDS, both in evangelical outreach and in the ongoing instruction & encouragement of the church. (Interestingly, there is also an absence of signs and wonders when the apostles are speaking to an unreceptive audience, as e.g. the Sanhedrin!)

    I found it helpful to make a visual collection of all of the instances in Acts where Jesus’ missionaries are speaking either to persuade unbelievers or encourage believers, and I color-coded this so it’s easy to see where the special effects are present — and, more intriguingly, where they are absent. Take a look here if you are interested in the details.

  43. peacebyjesus said,

    May 8, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Noncessationists characteristically write of how signs, wonders, and miracles are connected with revival and the proclamation of the gospel. But, as noble as this observation sounds, it fails to respect the biblical linkage between those miraculous ministries and the unique place of Jesus and the apostles in the history of revelation.

    It is true that, as seen under Moses, that God most abundantly affirms the institution of a major convent of additional revelation. People did not believe Moses because of his intellectual pedigree, but in supernaturally affirming Him God was also affirming the faith and holiness of Abraham. And the Scriptural substantiation in both word and in supernatural power given to the Itinerant Preacher from Galilee, who was rejected by the official magisterium and which He reproved abundant provided warrant for belief for seekers of truth. (Jn. 5:36,39; 20:30,31) Likewise the apostles.

    However, it was not only the the apostles who did miracles, but other believers, and not a word is said about all such gifts ceasing during the church age. And after Moses, God yet continued to do miracles, including thru men, and the issue here is not that of a reduction in the occurrences of miracles, but the cessation of them, at least thru human agency, and which position is what i find contrary to scripture in principle and unwarranted and unreasonable. The church of the living God, whose Christ was anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power, and who shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, (Acts 1:3; 10:38) must always manifest the resurrection power of Christ, as the kingdom of God is of power, (1Cor. 4:20)

    This is primarily by the manifest miracle of the new birth, and by such the NT has its members, but as taught in 1 Cor. 12, it is to extend into other supernatural manifestations of grace as part of the interdependence of the body. I think the problem is that today Christendom has become such an amalgam of fabrications and false teachings that it admittedly seems preferable to doctrinally disallow the realm that manifests so much aberration. Safer if somewhat less than fully NT.

  44. rfwhite said,

    May 8, 2013 at 10:07 am

    43 peacebyjesus:

    Thanks for the interaction. Lots to agree about. For example, we can agree that people other than the apostles did miracles and that there is not a word said about all such gifts ceasing during the church age. Discussion of a couple of other questions might get us to still more agreement.

    Would you agree that there is also not a word said about all such gifts continuing during the church age? That is, can we agree that just as Scripture nowhere unequivocally states that all the Spirit’s gifts are temporary, so Scripture also nowhere unequivocally states that they are all permanent?

    Also, can you tell us where in the NT miraculous ministries are said to serve any ministry other than the ministry of those who were sources of special revelation, such as Jesus and the apostles?

  45. peacebyjesus said,

    May 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Would you agree that there is also not a word said about all such gifts continuing during the church age?

    Nothing explicitly, but i see cessation as contrary in principle. Where do we see any spiritual gift being only temporary? While as regards offices, have evidence that the NT church did not have a separate, distinctive class of sacerdotal OT priest/pastors (hiereus is never used distinctively for pastors, and is only used for all believers: Rv. 1:6; cf. 1Pt. 2:9), and some see Eph. 2:20 as restricting apostles (formally called) to the 1st century, yet spiritual gifts did not begin with the NT church (tongues and interpretation thereof apparently being an exception) and there is no intimation that they would soon cease.

    Instead, they are listed as an integral manifestation of the interdependence of the body of Christ.

    Also, can you tell us where in the NT miraculous ministries are said to serve any ministry other than the ministry of those who were sources of special revelation, such as Jesus and the apostles?

    Certainly, as related to my last statement, the working of the various gifts are set forth in 1 Cor. 12 as being a means for and manifestation of the interdependence of the various members of the church, in which “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.or to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge…To another faith…to another the gifts of healing..To another the working of miracles…” “If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?’ (1 Corinthians 12:7ff, 15)

    Now one can relegate all these workings as simply being for the purpose of providing attestation to the NT Scriptures, after which they all ceased, yet i see the Scriptures themselves as teaching a conveyance of grace that fulfills the Scriptures and manifests the church as being the body of Christ, manifesting Him as being that of the living God.

    Yet it is the holiness and strong preaching that convicts souls of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment, as seen in Acts and under great men such as Whitefield (an Anglican priest no less!), that is most missing today.

    And the Biblical norm is that the miraculous demands an explanation (which a regenerated changed life does), which is the gospel message.

  46. Thomas Martin said,

    May 19, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    The gathering of the Saints for intersessory prayer and the subsequent answering of prayer with healing or other blessing is no less a miracle then the laying on of hands.

    But as a general rule individuals recieving special gifts of the spirit has to a great extent ceased by those who hold strongest to sola scriptura
    BUT not by the community of believers that:
    1. Advocate apostolic succession
    2. Converted from Judaism and Islam and continue to minister to
    unbelieving Jews and Muslims

    I fear that those who discount the “gifts” and “miracles” may have lost the spiritual eyes to see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in these divers means.

  47. Thomas Martin said,

    May 26, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    The acts & gifts of the Holy Spirit are eternal and not limited by an office held of men such as apostles or to a greater extinct by time-space. The Holy Spirit’s’ work will cease at the Eschaton with glorification after “the perfect” completes His second advent as revealed in Mark 16:14-20. The trinity are not Cessionists.

  48. Andrew Lohr said,

    July 4, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    My wife’s cat was raised from the dead; therefore atheism and cessationism are false as total worldviews, however accurate in many instances. One single positive refutes a universal negative. Scripture is complete: the Bible distinguishes canonical prophecy from prophecy outside the canon. Similarly, there were apostolic miracles and non-apostolic, e.g. at Corinth, the clearest picture we have. (Does the NT silence about the Lord’s Supper outside the gospels and I Cor prove anything?) How can Benny Hinn blow smoke, and why would Mt 7 warn against such smoke, if there were to be no fire?
    (We) Preterists note that Jesus and the NT gave clear warning that the Temple/sacrifice/priesthood business was to cease. If charismatic gifts were to cease, would not something similarly clear be in order?
    Charismatics don’t ask cessationist questions because they have miracles and don’t need to. When a miracle is needed and does not happen, there’s a demand for an explanation. This demand arises from living by sight (I saw no miracle), not by faith (the God of miracles is my God.) When John Wimber came to believe in miracles, and to preach them, without seeing any for six months, he was living by faith.
    Andrew Lohr


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