Most people who know me should know that I am a full continuationist, meaning I believe all gifts mentioned in the Scripture, especially those in the New Testament, are to continue until Christ comes to complete the renewal of all things. Heck, a colleague and I even host a blog called To Be Continued, which, oddly enough, is found at www.continuationism.com.
If it came down to why I believe all gifts of God, including those in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:11, still exist today, I think I could summarise it in seven specific points. So here they are:
1) God is an actual living, personal being
Almost every Christian would uphold this statement. God is a personal being and He is living. And, so, one would only expect a living, personal being to be a communicator, a speaker. This is not so much a biblical argument in which I want to specifically quote a few passages here and there (though I know we could). But it is simply a theological deduction from reading the entirety of Scripture.
Living, personal beings are communicators in so many ways. And with God Himself being a living, personal being, what else could one expect from Him? Thus, He will continue to communicate, speak, reveal, unveil, illuminate, until all things are completed. Well, and then He will keep speaking to those enjoying the blessing of the new heavens and new earth!
2) Christ is the charismatic prophet and his body is to follow
When I use the word charismatic, I mean it in the sense that Roger Stronstad defined it in his work, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (which I review here):
I use the term “charismatic” in a functional and dynamic sense. By “charismatic” I mean God’s gift of His Spirit to His servants, either individually or collectively, to anoint, empower, or inspire them for divine service. (p13)
And, as the living Word, Christ was the greatest Prophet to ever exist (as I share more here). There has been none like him who spoke and revealed the Father, for he taught us that whoever has seen him has seen the Father (John 14:9).
Therefore, if Christ is the great charismatic prophet, then by nature, his body is to follow in his footsteps. The body follows the head. It’s part and parcel to our calling in Christ. It doesn’t mean that everyone is particularly marked out as a prophet today. Of course not. But, via the Holy Spirit’s indwelling and empowering, Christ expects his body to get on with completing that which he initiated. Christ is still continuing that which he began to do and teach (Acts 1:1). Thus, we are now not only a priesthood of all believers, but also a prophethood of all believers.
3) The Spirit continues the same work of Christ
This really connects with the former point, but it is the Spirit that is the main one to continue the work of Christ. It is the Spirit that comes to indwell and empower the people of God here and now. We are the vehicle by which Christ continues his work via his Spirit.
I know this sounds like the A, B, C’s of pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit). But when one reads the pervading teaching about the Spirit of God throughout the Scripture, and especially noting the heightened teaching and activity in the NT, one receives the overwhelming sense that the Spirit that was sent at Pentecost was to continue acting in accordance with his nature as recorded in the OT and NT until that final parousia-return. Again, the basics on pneumatology, but the same Spirit that was actively at work in the first century was to continue to indwell and empower the body of Christ for the past 1900 years and counting.
If you are interested in more along these lines, I have written another article.
4) The positive affirmation in Scripture that such gifts would continue
I share much more here for you to read on this, but suffice it to say that there are actual Scripture passages teaching that such works and gifts would continue. In the article I have linked to, I specifically take time to look at these four positive Scriptural affirmations: John 14:12; Acts 2:17-18; 1 Corinthians 13:8-12; and Ephesians 4:11-16.
There are plenty more one could look at and consider, but those are a very solid starting point as to specific passages.
5) Faulty exegesis of the normal passages brought up by cessationists
By no means do I want to sound arrogant, but there are the ‘usual suspects’ brought up by cessationists as pointers to why certain gifts (or ‘sign gifts’) would cease once the full testimony of the gospel and new covenant was finished in the completed canon of NT Scripture. While I uphold the importance and authority of the Bible, I strongly believe none of Scripture points to the ceasing of any gifts prior to the parousia-return of Christ.
Four very often quoted passages are 1 Corinthians 13:8-12; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 1:1-2; and Hebrews 2:3-4. I have spent some time considering these passages in this article. So rather than dealing with them in depth here, you can follow the link and read my thoughts.
As a side point, it is also quite interesting to note that phrases like ‘word of the Lord’, ‘word of God’, or ‘word’ do not always refer to the graphe written Scripture. God spoke His word and always has spoken His word. Again, it’s part and parcel to be a living, personal being that desires to communicate with those He created. But here are some examples where the above mentioned phrases are not referring to Scripture:
- Word of God – Luke 3:2
- Word of God – Acts 4:31
- Word of God – Acts 6:7
- Word of God – Acts 12:24
- Word of the Lord – Acts 13:44, 48-49
- Word of the Lord – Acts 19:20
- Word of the Lord – 1 Thess 1:8
- The are countless times the word ‘word’ arises and does not refer to Scripture
6) The amount of times God actually spoke through and used those who were not prophets or apostles
Here is a smattering of examples just from the New Testament:
- Stephen (Acts 6:8)
- Philip (Acts 8:4-7)
- Ananias (Acts 9:17-18)
- The 120 believers at Pentecost (Acts 2:4)
- Cornelius and his household (Acts 10:46)
- Agabus (Acts 11:37-38; 21:10-11) – he was not an apostle
- The Ephesian disciples (Acts 19:6)
- The Galatian believers (Gal 3:5)
- The Corinthian believers (1 Cor 14)
This should give us courage who are not actually apostles or prophets. God wants to utilise His people in such ‘charismatic’ activities since He has been doing such from the beginning.
7) The great testimony of the charismata in church history
I have already written on this topic before, as you can see here. But suffice it to say, there are plenty of examples of God, by His Spirit amongst His people, speaking and acting out the charismata as found in 1 Corinthians 12.
And, a great resource to look at would be The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal by Vinson Synan. He takes time to chronicle what has happened over the past 100 years or so with the rise of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements. In today’s world, it is highly probable that there are some 500 million believers associating themselves with either Pentecostal, charismatic or neo-charismatic churches. And the accounts of God’s activity by His Spirit continue on into the 21st century.
So, suffice it to say, I find it extremely hard to argue for the cessation, or ceasing, of the gifts of the Spirit. For me, there is an overwhelming biblical, theological and historical positive case for the continuation of such.