Cessationism

Carlos asked, “I heard James White reference 1 Corinthians 13:8 in reference to his belief in Cessation. After reading and rereading the text, I do not understand how he came to this conclusion.”

 

Great question Carlos. Those who embrace cessationism (the belief that the miraculous or more supernatural gifts have ceased) appear to fall into the theological trap called eisegesis. Eisegesis is when you already have your mind made up so you read into the text what you want it to say, backing up your preconceived beliefs. Exegesis is the better way to study the Bible, where you let the text form your beliefs, rather than vice versa. 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 actually teaches the exact opposite of what the cessationists claim it teaches. Verse 8 does say that prophecies, tongues and knowledge will cease or come to an end (this is an example of the first century literary device called parallelism; cease and come to an end are meant to be taken as referring to the same thing). The question is, “When will these spiritual gifts stop?” Our text tells us. Verse 10 says, “When the perfect comes.” All we have to figure out is what does Paul mean by “the perfect”? Verse 12 makes it clear; the perfect is when we see face to face. There is no doubt at all that Paul is referring to the second coming of Jesus. When we see Him face to face, we will no longer need the spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues and knowledge. If this is the proper interpretation then this passage actually teaches that these gifts won’t cease until the second coming of Christ, thus disproving cessationism. Most scholars today agree that Paul was referring to the second coming. Cessationists usually say it refers to the completion of the canon of the Bible. Once the Bible was written we didn’t need these supernatural gifts. They make three errors here: 1) They find themselves in the conundrum of saying they actually know more than Paul who admitted he only knew in part (v.12). 2) They fail to recognize that these gifts were not used to write the Bible. None of the Corinthians wrote Scripture. Wayne Grudem makes an excellent case for the idea that the gift of prophecy was not the same as the OT Prophets and NT Apostles who spoke and wrote “the very words of God.” The NT gift was rather receiving impressions from God and sharing them in the man or woman’s own words. These prophecies were to be tested (14:29; 1 Thess 5:19-22). 3) The NT indicates that we do still need these gifts. They seem to be normal gifts in a local church to help encourage and edify the believers (1 Cor 14). Why would God give this elaborate teaching on these supernatural gifts only to rescind them a short while later?

            The Scriptures are clearly against the idea of cessationism. Acts 2:17-21 states that in the last days the gifts of prophecy, dreams and visions will be prevalent among God’s people, even on the servants and “nobody’s” of the world. It specifically says “in the last days” describing the very end of time when “the sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the great and remarkable Day of the Lord comes.” Are we past the last days? Obviously not. This passage clearly teaches these supernatural gifts will continue until the Day of the Lord, His second coming.

            The cessationists don’t have a Biblical case, but they should be commended for wanting to elevate the Scriptures as our final authority. Way to many people take these gifts and abuse them, seeking a “fresh word” from God as if the Bible is stale. Prophecy is easily elevated to equal or superior status with the Scriptures if we are not careful. Ephesians 2:20 clearly states that our foundation is the Biblical prophets and apostles. Our supreme authority is the Bible, which is alive and fresh, reviving the soul that digs in to find out what God says. But God still speaks to His people. He still whispers in our ear, telling us He loves us. He still guides us, even directing us in miraculous ways at times. We need to gently share with the cessationists that they should not throw out the baby with the bathwater. We also need to warn our Pentecostal friends of the danger of elevating human words to the status of divine. Biblical balance is the best advice.