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Cessationism: Are Gifts of the Spirit Available Today?

God's Word First

Bible study of 1 Cor 13:8-13 and Eph 4:7, 11-13. Learn the accurate conclusion according to scripture: Does God want us to have power or not?

Most parents want to talk to their children, right? They go out of their way to provide for them, take care of them, see them grow into adults... then stay in touch with them. Why would God be any different? Did God cease all communication with His children at the end of the first century AD?

A rising number of people think so. It’s called Cessationism. Are they right or wrong? Let’s find out according to scripture!

What it is: Cessationists are people who think that the manifestations of the holy spirit are no longer available today, they are said to have ceased in the first century.

Mainstream Cessationism teaches that the revelatory manifestations (methods of divine communication) such as speaking in tongues, along with interpretation of tongues, prophecy and knowledge, have ceased. Since these are communication manifestations extreme Cessationists also include word of wisdom and discerning of spirits into the manifestations that have ceased.

Cessation Theory is Wrong and Here's Why

They say these manifestations were no longer given to the church by the Holy Spirit after the completion of the New Testament canon. Basically, they believe all communication between God and man has stopped!

Ask yourself this question: Why would God not want to communicate with His children any more? Did He just write His book and that’s all He had to say? I don’t think so. That would be a shallow one sided relationship.

Knowledge has not ceased. In fact, knowledge has increased over the last 2,000 years; both in biblical understanding and in secular technology. That is undeniable.

Mnay people have thier own personal experiences manifesting holy spirit in various ways and in personally witnessing other people manifest the spirit of God. But let’s focus only on scripture for the time being.

Cessationist Bible Verses - Their Core Belief

The Cessationists’ core belief resides in an erroneous interpretation of only one passage of the Bible. Only one! And we know that only one passage alone does not establish a doctrine; especially a doctrine that ultimately conflicts with other sound doctrine and multiple related scriptures.

The one passage Cessationists look to is 1 Cor 13:8-10.
8) “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10) But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”

Cessationists are divided in their theory on exactly what this passage means.

In contrast, Continuationists, those who feel manifestations of the holy spirit are still available today, argue that Ephesians 4:7-13 affirms continuation of holy spirit manifestation. However, Continuationists who believe in futurist eschatology say gifts will cease when Christ comes back at some unknown time in the future.

Continuationist Bible Verses

Ephesians 4:7, 11-13
7) “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
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) [How long will these gifts last?] 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 fullness of Christ:  [Has mankind attained this level yet? No, end of argument; but let’s continue anyway]
14) That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15) But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16) From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

That’s heavy. We could do a full teaching on that passage alone. And maybe we will sometime soon. Paul is saying that God’s communication is crucial for the growth and development of the church as each member does his or her job within the church according to the spirit.

Cessationists have told me with a straight face, in all sincerity, that "tongues had its place in the first century and in Biblical history but have nothing to do with us now."

To them I direct their attention to 2 Tim 3:16-17
16) “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
17) That the man of God may be perfect[Greek word “artios”; complete, fitted, ready] thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

On this point we can all agree; that the Bible thoroughly equips us with the right information for every situation. But what about having the power to do anything with that information?

And then there's Col 1:26-28
26) "the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, has now been manifested to His saints,
27) to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. [The power that Christ had]
28) We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ." [Having the same power that Christ had, plus more]

Remember what Jesus said in John 14:12 – “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

Then I ask them, “How can we be ‘thoroughly equipped for every good work’ as ‘complete in Christ’ if we are lacking in power from God to do His wonderful will?”

We can't! God gave us the gift of holy spirit to use in our lives to do His work on earth. God is a giver, not a taker. Only supernatural gifts (from God) will work in warfare against a supernatural enemy (the devil).

Jesus said, “He that believeth on me”. That is all inclusive. Although he was speaking directly to his disciples at that time, he was making an all inclusive statement concerning mankind. He did not say, “only you guys here that believe on me”, or “for the next 50 years, he who believes on me”. Jesus was speaking of a perpetual indefinite time period.

God gave mankind the gift of holy spirit through a blood covenant with Jesus Christ. That covenant was sealed by the sacrifice of Christ and his blameless blood being spilled unto death. God gave this gift to man through Jesus so that man could be thoroughly equipped to do God’s will on earth and combat the evil one who gets in our way of doing God’s work.

Once God gives someone a blessing through a Blood Covenant He never takes it away. Not just anyone either, but God’s own son, the promised Messiah! All the power God gave to mankind through the blood of Christ in the first century is still available today.

Like Jesus Christ, the Apostle Peter was also under the impression that the gift of holy spirit was to be a long lasting thing for himself and for other people. He did not assign any time limits. He boldly drove the point home in front of over 5,000 people; including some who put the Lord to death!

Acts 2:
38) Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
39) For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

Peter did not say, “for the promise is unto you for the next 50-100 years”. Or “just for me and my friends until we die off”.  No, he said “unto you and your children”, meaning their entire lineage. Same expression as how Jews in Jesus’ time stated they were the children of Abraham, a man who lived nearly 2,000 years before them. They were of his lineage. Everyone at that time understood what Peter was declaring.

Peter made this speech about 20 years before Paul wrote his epistles to the Corinthians. And we know that scripture can not contradict itself, regardless of the time span in between. Therefore it’s impossible for Paul to have meant that tongues, prophecy and knowledge will cease in any specific span of time.

Oddly, both Cessationists and Continuationists use 1 Cor 13:8-13 to defend their point of view.

Let’s read it:
8) “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9) For we know in part, and we prophesy in part [meaning, we don’t know everything].
10) But when that [that, not he; this verse does not refer to Christ coming back] which is perfect [fully developed] is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11) When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12) For now we see through a glass, darkly [obscured, in a riddle, not understanding]; but then face to face [clearly, with full detail]: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13) And now abideth faith, hope, charity [Agape love], these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”

In verse 10 it reads, “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.”

The Greek term used for “perfect” is “teleios”, meaning fully grown; thus signifying a process of growth within the church until completion. It is not a reference to Christ coming back. In support of this interpretation, Paul goes on in the next verse with an example, talking of becoming fully grown spiritually using a metaphorical image of a child’s growth unto manhood.

Also, if it was a reference to Christ, why then would Paul say in the same verse that Christ will be done away? Remember the rules of proper Bible interpretation. One of those rules states that sometimes a verse will interpret its own meaning in the same verse.

Accurate Conclusion According to Scripture and Common Sense

If taken out of context, and read as a stand alone verse, 1 Cor 13:8 could lead to thinking that prophecy, tongues and knowledge have ceased. 8) “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away."

But the contextual interpretation Paul is saying the value of love is greater above all other spiritual gifts. So great that faith, hope and love will be "abiding," or remaining, waiting to continue in the new heaven and earth after these gifts are no longer needed.

Paul is making a strong point in verse 10: “but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” Since man is polluted by the world and by his “old man nature” of sin, then it stands to reason that the church will never grow to full spiritual maturity in our present “old man” earthly bodies.

Ask yourself: Why would God NOT want to talk to His children, especially when we need him most being trapped in a sin filled world? God went through all the trouble of bringing our messiah into the world and then delivering the "Sacred Secret" (Romans 16:25) that was hid from the ages (Col 1:26), that is "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col 1:27), only to yank it away from us 50 years later?

The notion that God, our loving heavenly Father, would do such a heinous thing is simply ridiculous. Since we are still trapped here on Earth, and not yet resurrected in our perfect (fully matured) bodies, then all manifestations of the Holy Spirit are still available TODAY.

Therefore, I Cor 13:8-13, Paul is referring to a future tense in our fully developed resurrected bodies. At that time, all other things might cease to be necessary and manifestations of the holy spirit will probably cease. Yet love will never cease to be necessary; faith, hope and love will continue forever. 

Continue to next article: Holy Spirit is Available Today

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