Any who step across the portals of this blog will know I do not have a high opinion of the cessationist position. I have no shame in stating I passionately believe that all gifts of the Holy Spirit are given and distributed "as He will" today and are for the building up and edifying of the risen Lord's church. It was useful to be reminded by Stanley Jebb's recent blog post however that some cessationists don't like the claim that they are skeptical and guilty of quenching the Spirit;
"Christians who hold to a cessationist position are not skeptics nor unbelievers but are generally concerned conservative or reformed evangelical Christians who hold certain views about miracles, signs and wonders".
Traditionally the expectation has been on charismatic Christians to explain why they believe gifts should and do happen today. I think the environment has now changed - thanks to theologians such as D A Carson and Wayne Grudem and my favourite - Gordon Fee - along with others who have argued rationally and intellectually that there is NO Biblical statement that suggests the gifts of the Holy Spirit have passed away or ceased. Therefore I believe that that it is now upto cessationists to prove themselves.
If Stanley Jebb is correct in stating that cessationists are neither skeptics nor unbelievers but simply "concerned" Christians who hold to the supremacy of the Word of God then they need to argue consistently from Scripture - and not resort to scaremongering or citing examples of excess such as the "tortilla lady" that so upset John MacArthur. Cessationists claim to stand for orthodoxy. Stanley Jebb calls cessationists; "Concerned conservative or reformed evangelical Christians" - so the question we are left with is; "Is orthodoxy enough?".
Dr Martyn Ll0yd-Jones would think not;
"It is becoming clear to everybody - at least it should be - that the Christian church today is failing and failing lamentably. It is not enough even to be orthodox ... people want a word of authority ... We need authority and we need authentication. It is not enough merely that we state these things and demonstrate them and put them logically. Is it not clear that we are living in an age when we need some special authentication - in other words we need revival".
During the sermon Dr Lloyd-Jones then goes on to speak about cessationism. He begins by working carefully through the New Testament passages that demonstrate the gifts of the Spirit never ceased and summarises;
"It is perfectly clear in the New Testament times, the gospel was authenticated in this way by signs, wonders and miracles of various characters and descriptions. And you cannot begin to understand the New Testament, the epistles as well as the book of Acts without holding that fact in your mind".
One of the things that really irks me about cessationism is that they have divorced signs and wonders and gifts of the Spirit from the gospel - the spreading flame. The New Testament shows clearly that unbelievers are to come into the midst of believers "standing and prophesying" and the result is that they will be convicted, will fall down and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Spiritual gifts should impress and attract the world!
To distort the Word of God to claim these have ceased has stunted and robbed unbelievers of a means by which God intended to reveal Himself to them.
Let us be clear! 1 Corinthians 14:24 does NOT state (in this instance) that unbelievers come in and hear the "preaching". It speaks of them coming in and hearing the "prophesying" - the inspired, instant, Spirit-inspired utterances of the gathered church! Orthodoxy? What is "cautious" orthodoxy doing to save the lost masses in London, Birmingham, Bombay, Calcutta and of course China? Caution? Dr Lloyd-Jones summarises this cessationist argument as;
"We have got the truth so you do not need anything miraculous or supernatural".
"The Scriptures never anywhere say that these things were only temporary - never! There is no such statement anywhere! "
This post is not the place for a careful work through of the Scriptures cessationists like to use to claim the charismatic gifts have ceased (such as 1 Corinthians 13). My question is - are cessationists justified in claiming they are not trying to quench the Spirit but are rather "cautious" orthodox evangelicals. We must state the obvious - I don't believe ANY Christian would deliberately (at least I hope not) quench the Holy Spirit. Sadly they do. But I think the jury must remain out. All I see still of cessationist arguments are a people who are gripped by a spirit of self-control. They do not like being subject to the Holy Spirit and His designs and plans for advancing His church.
My personal experience and childhood is vastly different. I remember a glorious childhood growing up in a charismatic (yet never out of control) church. I remember what seemed like hours of heavenly worship standing with my parents watching and learning as they seemed "lost in wonder, love and praise". Sometimes someone would speak out in a strange tongue - and it didn't seem odd. It seemed fascinating. I remember even some of the elders bringing carefully weighed prophecies (rarely "silly remarks" that I remember as Stanley Jebb claims) that lifted even our hearts as children to God.
Then I remember the environment changing very definately. People eager to share prophecies would go up to the platform and speak with the elders and be sent down to their seats without being allowed to share (we would call it the "walk of shame"). Choruses and love songs were sung less and less and painfully tuneless hymns were sung more and more. Non-Christian friends of the family who would visit with us would ask; "Why have you lot become so miserable?".
Caution is okay - but it is a fine balance to walk before caution becomes quenching of the Holy Spirit. Let Dr Lloyd-Jones have the last word;
"This to me is one of the most urgent matters at this hour. With the church as she is and the world as it is, the greatest need today is the power of God through His Spirit in the church that we may testify not only to the power of the Spirit but to the glory and praise of the one and only Saviour - Jesus Christ our Lord".