In the past, I have addressed four major passages of Scripture that cessationists might typically use to discount the continuation of all gifts of the Spirit following the first century (or sometime there abouts). Those four passages are:
In my article, I specifically showed how I believe these four passages are, often times, misunderstood and misused by cessationists to teach that there was an expectation in the first century that certain gifts (supernatural gifts or miraculous gifts or sign gifts) were to cease as we moved toward the full and faithful teaching of the first apostles now recorded in the New Testament.
I don’t say these words – misunderstood or misused – arrogantly. Yet, I still believe that if we read the passages carefully and fully consider what they are teaching, we will see that none of these four give solid ground for the case of cessationism.
Of course, there are other passages that could be dealt with from a cessationist standpoint (i.e. Ephesians 2:20 – that apostles and prophets were foundation layers and we no longer need a foundation to be laid since it was laid once for all time in the first century). But I decided to mainly focus on those four passages, though I have addressed the Ephesians 2 verse in another article.
But, while, at times, it is good to address how another viewpoint utilises certain passages, it is also quite healthy to lay out Scripture passages that would support one’s own specific view. So we don’t just take up the ‘polemical approach’ or addressing what we consider wrong, but we also take up the ‘apologetic approach’ in confirming what is true.
I’m not talking about moulding passages to fit our view, though it is easy to fall into that trap here and there (and I’m sure I could be accused with the form four passages and what I will address in just a moment in this post). But we can’t just defend against another view. We have to make sure Scripture actually teaches what we believe it teaches.
Thus, there are four major passages I would like to point out that I believe give a positive case for the existence of all spiritual gifts from Christ’s first advent to second advent. Those four passages are:
These words in John 14 are well-known, at least to most charismatics and Pentecostals:
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.
I don’t want to spend an immense time on this passage, as my colleague over at our combined project, To Be Continued (www.continuationism.com), has done fine exegesis on it. But I will share a few of my own thoughts.
I know that for many, this passage can merely be put down to talking about doing more evangelism, reaching more people than the one Christ could in His incarnation. And while I absolutely support such a notion, I would argue that to say it only speaks of that is a bit reductionistic. It misses the bigger picture
I believe this statement entails all of the works of Christ. He simply meant it that way. I love the first words of Luke in Acts 1:1:
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach.
Christ, in His incarnation, had only begun to do and to teach. There was a lot more work to accomplish. A lot more! Hence, the Father and Son had this great plan to send the Spirit to indwell all of God’s people to empower them to do the works that Jesus did. It’s absolutely astounding that Christ Himself would want His body, in the power of His Spirit, to continue the works He did.
Of course, this is not limited to gifts of the Spirit as listed in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. Nor is this just about miracles and healings. It is about that. But not only about that, just as it was not only about evangelism.
And Jesus said these wonderful words, ‘whoever believes in me’. That’s challenging, but a good challenge for us who are believers. The works of Jesus, in all their variety, which includes miracles and healings and prophecy, are available to the Spirit-indwelt and Spirit-empowered body of Christ. There is no denying this or reducing this. All of the works of Christ are available to all of the body of Christ, not just the spiritually elite nor the spiritually elite of 1900 years ago.
I love Acts 2:17-18, where, at Pentecost, Peter quotes Joel’s prophetic words from centuries before:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
After the Spirit had fallen on the 120 like never seen or known before, Peter has a revelation: This is the fulfilment of Joel’s words spoken so long ago. Joel said that, in the last days, God would pour out His Spirit on all flesh. This was happening right in front of eyes and ears as these tongues of fire descend and these new tongues are spoken.
The last days had just been initiated way back then. This was not to be some few final years of planet earth. The last days began some 1977 years ago at that great Pentecost.
What was the fruit of this outpouring?
That God’s people would become of prophetic community. Oh sure, God would continue to have those specifically gifted as prophets (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11; etc). But from now on, during the last days of the Messianic age when Messiah would reign over all heaven and earth, God’s Spirit would allow all of God’s people to be utlitised in the prophetic. Moses had longed for it (Numbers 11:24-30), but this was the beginning of the prophethood of all believers, as I’ve written about before.
This work of the Spirit would break all gender barriers and age barriers: sons and daughters; young men and old men; male servants and female servants.
Because the last days are the entire age from Pentecost onwards (or we might technically say first advent of Christ to second advent), we must expect God’s people to always function as a prophetic community. This includes revelations, prophecies, visions, dreams, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, etc. None of this has to be leather bound and added to the New Testament, and thankfully Scripture stands as a measuring stick of whether such prophetic action is truly of God today. But there is no doubt that the last days are to be a continuing work of Jesus by the prophetic Spirit amongst His church in the world.
1 Corinthians 13:8-12
8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
For an in depth look at my thoughts on this passage, I would encourage you to read this article. But, suffice it to say, the ‘perfect’ of this passage is not the completed New Testament canon. I believe the New Testament canon is the God-breathed Word. I’m not into backing away from that reality. But the perfect that Paul speaks about in this passage was not the awaiting of the New Testament.
He was awaiting the perfect One, the perfect ending, where we would see ‘face to face’ and we would ‘know fully, even as [we] have been fully known’. This is quite obviously talking about the final consummation of all things when Christ brings the fullness of His kingdom.
Thus, prophecies and tongues and [words of] knowledge (vs8) have not yet been done away with.
11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
I’ve personally been doing a very long series for the past few months on apostles today and what all that entails, of which I have posted about 17 articles already. You can click here for the first one or do a search on the category sidebar of my blog for ‘apostles’ or ‘apostles today’.
But, at least from the perspective of the ministry of the prophet in this passage, we are told some very helpful information about the enduring nature of that ministry. We are told that Jesus has given these five (or some argue for four) ministries spoken of in Ephesians 4:11 to help equip God’s people to do the work of ministry. They are equippers of the body so that the body can get on with the work of Christ. And I wonder what work(s) Paul had in mind? Possibly the works of Christ, going back to John 14:12.
But vs13 of Ephesians 4 is very important here. It tells us about the duration of these gifts: until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Well, I think everyone could easily agree that we are not there yet. The word ‘until’ denotes we are headed that way. But we all know we have not reached the point. And we might not be as far along as we had hoped after 1900 years.
Hence, Jesus still gives all five of these ministries. Not just shepherds or evangelists or teachers, though they provide a necessary part. But all five to help equip us and prepare us to move towards the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God. Prophets (and apostles also) are still needed. Again, it doesn’t mean we are to add a new book to the Bible and call it 2 Romans or 1 Chicago. But we need their ministry to help equip us. And prophets will be very helpful in seeing the body formed into the prophetic community we have been called to, for Joel (and Peter) prophesied of the prophetic community of this new covenant age.
Therefore, I believe this ministry is absolutely vital until we reach that place of unity in the faith and become mature, reaching the full stature of Christ. I would even argue that we would be found somewhat lacking if we do not allow for this ministry in our midst, just as we would be found lacking without shepherds, teachers and evangelists.
Thus, these are four very strong passages that have helped me realise that Jesus still desires that all the gifts be utilised in the present age as He reigns at the right hand of the Father. I don’t want to put my eggs solely in the basket of miracles, healings, prophecy, tongues, etc. But I do want those gifts to be a few of the eggs that go in the ‘full basket’ of what Christ has called His body to by the empowering of the Spirit.
All I can say is this provides for both an exciting and challenging move forward in seeing the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. I’m up for such an exciting challenge.