A few years ago at The Gospel Coalition, Thomas Schreiner and Sam Storms wrote companion articles presenting the cases for cessationism vs. continuationism with regards to certain spiritual gifts. Schreiner argues that gifts like apostleship, prophesy, tongues, and possibly healing have ceased since the closing of the canon and the death of the apostles. Storms asserts that though the apostles have passed away, these spiritual gifts continue on in the experience of the local church. I found both articles to be extremely helpful in articulating the best arguments for both camps.
That being said, I believe that many discussions about spiritual gifts do not remain so biblically centered. No, they often degenerate into muckraking and accusations concerning abuses in both camps. However, I think that both camps need to take an honest look at themselves and realize what cessationism and continuationism are not.
Cessationism Is Not…
Dead orthodoxy. (Romans 6:11)
Going through the motions. (Matthew 9:13)
Pretending that reciting the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday with droning voices and no spiritual fervor is somehow pleasing to the Lord. (Acts 4:31)
Treating the Bible like it is a book for mere theological systematization. (Hebrews 4:12)
Acting like the Spirit does not move in the midst of God’s people, especially when they are gathered together. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Using the Bible to kill the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:6)
Studying the Bible just to discover how to live a moral and undisturbed life. (Matthew 28:18-20)
Using God’s Word to promote your own treasured dead traditions in the Church. (Matthew 15:6-9)
Living and acting as though you believe Christians have not been given the Spirit of God to live inside of us as believers. (1 John 4:13)
And Continuationism Is Not…
Disregarding the Scriptures. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Pretending that the Holy Spirit’s primary means of conviction and direction is something other than the Bible. (2 Peter 1:21)
Acting like your heart is not easily deceived when Scripture has not been hidden there. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)
Promoting chaos in the corporate gathering of the body. (1 Corinthians 14:31-33)
Believing that those who speak in tongues are “more spiritual” than those who do not. (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)
Looking down on churches with intentional liturgy designed to bring glory to God when the church body is gathered. (Romans 12:1-3)
Let’s Be Honest.
The truth is that what happens is each camp tends to pit the Word against the Spirit. Continuationists accuse cessationists of being all Word and no Spirit, while cessationists accuse continuationists of being all Spirit and no Word. Brothers, this should not be. We do not have to choose. Why would we want to choose? We can have our cake and eat it, too–both of us.
The Word and the Spirit are inseparable in the work of God. The Spirit wrote the Bible. The Bible was written to enliven the Spirit in our regenerate hearts. The Word and the Spirit were meant to work in the believer like some kind of violent upward surging spiral, the one spurring on the other. When we read God’s Word, the Spirit brings conviction and wisdom. The Spirit inspires greater love for the Word and drives us to its pages. This intimate connection of Spirit and Word is the reason Paul refers to the Word of God as “the Sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17).
Just because you think tongues, healing, prophecy, and miracles have ceased does not give you the Biblical right to pragmatically squelch the Spirit’s work in your heart. Just because you believe the Spirit still gives the gifts of tongues, healing, prophecy, and miracles does not give you the Spiritual right to pragmatically squelch the Bible’s supreme influence over your life and belief.
Cessationists have to recognize the dangerous tendency to fall into the pit of lifeless doctrine. Continuationists have to recognize the dangerous tendency to fall into the pit of lively heresy. Neither is any good to the Kingdom. A Spirit-infused faith is one that is fed by the Word. A Word-fed Christian will be full of the Spirit.
What camp do I fall into? Let’s not get sidetracked…