What Is Cessationism?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

What is cessationism? It is biblical? What does the Bible say about the gifts of the Holy Spirit?

What is Cessationism?

In short, the question of whether the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased, we would have to say, no, the gifts have not ceased in this day and age, but some gifts are not as prominent in the church today as they were in the first century church. Some believe they have all ceased, while others say they have not. Those who believe the gifts of the Spirit have ceased are called cessationists, and their doctrine is cessationism, which means that the spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing have ceased with the end of the apostolic age. Some would argue that these gifts and the miracles accompanying the gifts were only for the first century church, and that the miracles were designed to prove that God was working with the new body of believers, the church. I believe God was validating His presence in the church by these gifts, and that these miracles through the gifts authenticated that this is a work of God and not man. And, the miracles served as a powerful testimony of the church to unbelievers. We must remember that during the early church, there was no New Testament, so God used miracles to establish the church as being from God and as being of God, but God has not changed, therefore I believe He is still working through His children in various ways, using various miracles as a means to reach those who might not otherwise believe, and in answering prayer for His children to be healed or blessed, so are cessationists correct? Did these gifts, for the most part, cease after the apostles were gone? Are they no longer necessary since we now have the New Testament?

And to another gifts of healing.

Gifts of the Spirit

The Bible says that God has dispensed to every believer at least one gift, and possibly, more than one gift, and these gifts include the gift of miracles, faith, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, healing, prophecy, tongues (Grk: glṓssa for “language”), interpreting tongues (or languages), and the discerning of spirits. It should be noted that it is “God who empowers them all in everyone” (1 Cor 12:6), as we can do nothing apart from Christ (John 15:5), and it is God Who “arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” (1 Cor 12:18), so you can’t be taught to receive a gift or be taught how to perform a miracle. It is God Who dispenses these gifts and miracles, not men. Classes that teach you how to perform miracles or speak in tongues have no biblical basis at all. They ignore the fact that it is God Who gives the gifts as it pleases Him and not as it pleases us. We should not covet the gifts of others. The Apostle Paul wrote that “in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Cor 14:19), so no one gift should be elevated above another. It is far too easy to begin to worship the gifts rather than the Gift Giver, and we know that if the gifts draw attention away from Christ, it is not God’s will because they’re not being used for His glory. Otherwise, when “the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds” (1 Cor 14:23)? I hope you see my point. God gives the gifts, so we can’t be trained to learn them. Gifts are intended for the church’s benefit, as “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7), and not the good of the one. These gifts and any associated miracles should glorify God and never bring attention to the person. Otherwise, these gifts are being used for the wrong reason (pride), and if God has given them, He can certainly has every right to take them away.

Lessening Miracles

We notice a steep decline in miracles from near the middle to the end of the Book of Acts. It’s not as if the spiritual gifts completely disappeared in the early church, but there is a decided shift. For example, the mention of tongue speaking disappears and there’s more emphasis on teaching. There are no more people raised from the dead toward the end of the first century church, and that may be because the church then had the New Testament, even if not yet complete. Paul, James, and John’s epistles (letters) began to be circulated, as did the Apostle Peter’s, so now they had a large portion of the New Testament, or the Word of God, so the need for miracles was not as necessary because the church had already been established in various parts of Judea and Asia Minor. Today, there are “classical cessationists” who believe that “sign gifts” such as prophecy, healing, and speaking in tongues have ceased with the passing of the apostles and the completion of the canon of Scripture. Then there are “full cesssationists” who believe that the spiritual gifts and associated miracles served only as a launching pad for the church and are no longer necessary today and they ended with the apostolic age, however, I believe there is a balance to be found.

God can do whatsoever He pleases.

God is still working miracles and often uses the gifts of the Spirit to do them, but these gifts are always meant for the church’s benefit and not for the individuals benefit, and they always glorify God and never bring glory to the believer. God can still enable someone to speak in another person’s language. God can still use someone’s prayer of faith to have miraculous healing occur. And God can still use someone with the gift of discernment to keep heresy out of the church. God is God. He can do whatsoever He pleases, so if you believe that these gifts are still found in the Body of Christ, the church, or whether you believe they have stopped, we cannot limit God on what God wills to do, and He will move heaven and earth to reach one lost soul. He can use any means necessary, and sometimes does! Whether a person trusts in Christ due to seeing a miracle, or whether they’re saved while hearing about Christ in their own language from someone who doesn’t know that tongue. God will do whatever is necessary for someone to be saved. Most of the time it’s the Word of God spoken by a person of God with the Spirit of God that births the children of God, but it’s always for the glory of God, never the child of God.

Conclusion

I do believe God is still working miracles today and if He sees the need for someone to speak to another person in their own language, and that person sharing Christ doesn’t know the native tongue, then God can and sometimes does give them the supernatural ability to speak in another language or tongue, but it would be a language that the person knows and can understand (Acts 2:1-12), otherwise it would be useless. The same thing applies to the other gifts of the Spirit. If they don’t glorify God, and aren’t for the benefit of the church, then it is nothing more than a side-show, so let us hear the Lord when He says, “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8).

Here is some related reading for you: What are the Gifts of the Spirit? A Bible Study

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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