Cessationism: What Counts As Evidence?
Christians ought to desire everything that God has in store for them. It would be wrong to neglect any good and perfect gift that God has given. Consequently, if God has chosen to grant miraculous gifts to Christians today, then those gifts ought to be nurtured and prized. On the other hand, if God is not giving those gifts, then any putative demonstrations of the gifts ought to be disdained. Furthermore, if God is not giving the gifts, then the spiritual insight of those who defend them ought to be questioned, at least in this area.
In this debate, all parties agree that God has actually granted miraculous gifts in the past. In principle, God could continue to grant these gifts whenever He chooses. The question is not about what God can do, but about what God intends to do. Does God intend to continue granting miraculous gifts, or does He intend for them to cease?
How should this question be answered? What counts as evidence? The answer favored by cessationists is that God reveals His intentions in Scripture alone. The answer favored by most Charismatics is that the actual experience of miraculous gifts indicates whether God is still granting them. From the Charismatic point of view, if people are still receiving miraculous gifts, then God must still be granting them, and Scripture ought to be understood in the light of this fact. From the cessationist point of view, if Scripture itself does not authorize the continuation of miraculous gifts, then any putative claims to the gifts must be called into question.
In other words, the case for continuationism is often based at least partly upon experience. The fact that people actually do heal, prophesy, cast out demons, or speak in tongues is seen as indisputable proof that God is still giving the gifts. The logic that leads to this conclusion is straightforward: the gifts are being given, therefore God is giving them.
Cessationists respond to such experiences in several ways. They argue that the gifts as (putatively) practiced today are not necessarily identical to those practiced in the New Testament. They further point to the high proportion of forgery among those who claim to be practicing the gifts. They also insist that supernatural-appearing phenomena can stem from a number of causes, not all of which are truly divine.
The last objection is the most important. If true—that is, if miracles could be shown to be caused by something or someone other than God—then the argument from experience would be severely undermined. In fact, if miracles can come from non-divine sources, then miracles should never be seen as self-authenticating.
The hypothesis is that miracles can be caused by powers that do not come from God. Scripture itself provides the necessary information to be able to test this hypothesis. It reports multiple episodes in which miraculous phenomena are caused by powers other than God’s. In fact, the Bible even includes explicit warnings that miracles are not self-authenticating.
In the book of Exodus, Moses and Aaron were able to do miracles in the power of God. They cast down Aaron’s rod and it became a serpent (Ex. 7:8-13). They turned the waters of Egypt into blood (Ex. 7:20-25). They brought frogs up to cover the land of Egypt (Ex. 8:6-7). The magicians of Egypt were able to duplicate these deeds. The source of the magicians’ power is not specified, but their power was clearly not from God. Somehow they were able to produce the same miracles that Moses and Aaron did, but they accomplished them using some other power.
In the New Testament, Simon Magus was able to do unspecified miracles. According to the text, he was able to bewitch the people with sorcery (Acts 8:9-13). Since Luke attributes these miracles to sorcery, Simon was likely performing them through demonic power. Later, in Philippi, Paul and Silas also encountered miracles done through demonic power (Acts 16:16). Whether or not Simon was relying on demonic power, he clearly did not work his marvelous deeds in the power of God.
Writing prophetically, the apostle Paul foretold a future “man of sin” who will be able to work “power and signs and false wonders,” i.e., miracles that deceive people. Interestingly, the terms that are used for the miracles of the “man of sin” are the very terms that are used in the Gospels to describe the miracles of Christ. This “man of sin” is almost certainly the Antichrist. The text states exactly how he accomplishes his miracles: his coming is “after the working of Satan” (2 Thess. 2:9).
The above examples provide three biblical instances of individuals who did or will do miracles based upon some power other than God’s. These three are not unique to the text of Scripture. In fact, other examples go further in warning believers not to regard miracles as self-authenticating.
One has to do with biblical prophets. The task of prophets in both Testaments was to deliver the very words of God. Consequently, God’s people were given tests to discern who was a true prophet and who was a pretender. One test involved the ability to do miraculous things: if the prophet foretold the future and it did not happen as he said, then he was a false prophet (Deut. 18:22). The ability to do signs and wonders, however, was not a certain proof that one was a true prophet of God. A prophet also had to be tested by his message (Deut. 13:1-5). A prophet who delivered the wrong message was to be rejected, even if he could do signs and wonders. In this case, the miracle was genuine, but it did not come from God.
Even devotion to the name of Jesus is no guarantee that a miraculous gift is authentic. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talked about people who would prophesy, cast out demons, and do marvelous deeds in His name. But Jesus will accuse them of working iniquity. He will cast them from His presence saying, “I never knew you.” In other words, Jesus Himself will disavow any involvement with the prophecies, exorcisms, or miracles that they have worked (Matt. 7:21-23). These words of Jesus constitute a clear warning that miracles are never self-authenticating.
Even miracles that are done in the name of Jesus can be produced by some other power. It is not necessary to know what power that might be. It is enough to know that plenty of miracles come from some source other than God. Consequently, the experience of miracles should never be enough by itself to convince anyone that God is at work. The fact that people can display abilities that look like miraculous gifts does not mean that God is granting miraculous gifts. Whether God is still granting these gifts or not will have to be determined on the basis of biblical evidence, not on the basis of experience.
In the Hour of Trial
James Montgomery (1771–1854)In the hour of trial, Jesus, plead for me,
Lest by base denial I depart from Thee.
When Thou seest me waver, with a look recall,
Nor for fear or favor suffer me to fall.
With forbidden pleasures would this vain world charm,
Or its sordid treasures spread to work me harm,
Bring to my remembrance sad Gethsemane,
Or, in darker semblance, cross-crowned Calvary.
Should Thy mercy send me sorrow, toil and woe,
Or should pain attend me on my path below,
Grant that I may never fail Thy hand to see;
Grant that I may ever cast my care on Thee.
When my last hour cometh, fraught with strife and pain,
When my dust returneth to the dust again,
On Thy truth relying, through that mortal strife,
Jesus, take me, dying, to eternal life.
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
Seeds are small; babies are small; Gideon's army began fairly large but God would dwindle the size to 300 men going up against a multitude so large that they were described in unforgettable language. Judges 7, verse 12 reads as follows: "Now the Midianites and Amalekites, all the people of the East, were lying in the valley as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude." Why would the Lord use such small things? Let the Lord describe according to Judges 7:2. "And the LORD said to Gideon, "The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, 'My own hand has saved me.' "
Here is the point: God's glory is displayed when He takes the small group and does great exploits for His own glory. The small group is amazed at the power of God and not their own because they know it was not their own abilities. Israel could never say, 'My own hand has saved me' when they had only 300 hundred against a vast multitude. So too, it is not a large church with lots of pwerful music, ingenuity, fancy buildings and programs that has God put on display. "'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).
Jesus too did not have many disciples. Thousands forsook after Jesus gave them the hard truth of the gospel in John 6. He was left with only a few, a small group of men. But, from this small beginning God was still building His kingdom that the gates of hell would not overcome. This small rag tag band became the foundation stones of the New Temple called the church (Ephesians 2:20ff.).
The Lord seems pleased to use remnants, small things, foolish things to confound the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 1:27-29 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.).
So too, where there is a small band of committed soldiers of Christ, united together, willing to lay their lives down for each other then there is bound to be a small seed group which God is going to use for His glory.
Could that small group be called Grace Covenant Baptist?
Would you consider joining this small group with the hope of God's glory being put on display?
The Lord Jesus Christ be your trust and treasure to take away all your sin, all your coming death (see below), all the wrath of God
providing peace in the midst of trouble,
joy in the midst of sorrow,
life in the midst of death,
strength in the midst of weakness,
confidence in the midst of fear.
light in the midst of darkness and doubt - NOW,
THEN perfection forever,
reigning with your King, Jesus.
All this is never earned, never bought, never worked for -
you can not earn Heaven, eternity!
Christ gives eternal life, His righteousness, forgiveness of all your wretchedness - FREE;
because, He earned it for you
BY living a perfect life under the law - for you
and BY dying on the criminal cross bearing the curse of sin against your soul - for you -
assuming you desire Christ
to be your life, your forgiveness, your righteousness.
John 11:25-26 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
Romans 10:9-13 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved."
To the praise of His glory, to the praise of His glorious grace. All glory to God and His grace is the reason for our existence. Either God and His grace is our praise or we ourselves - which we are fooling ourselves anyway (as if we are ever out from under grace). We are created by grace, we exist by grace, we live and move and have our faculties and being by grace. Not one millisecond are we not dependent on the grace of the One who upholds the unverse (Col. 1:18-21). Though all receive creational grace, the grace of creation and existence, only receive salvific grace or saving grace.
Grace to sinners is our only hope: We were children of wrath, children of the devil, desiring nothing of God, lovers of darkness, resistant to the HS, were not capable of freeing ourselves from the shackles of our sin even if we wanted to, some having a zeal for God but not according to knowledge(Eph. 2; John 6:44; 3:19; Acts 7:51).
Even worse is works is antithetical to Grace. Works says that God owes us; Grace says that a sinner cannot pay God back.
Grace to you; otherwise, justice. You and I want grace not justice.
Study hard: Romans 4 and Gal. 3
Luke 17:10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
1 Peter 4:11 11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 4:7 7 For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
2 Corinthians 4:1 2 Corinthians 4:1 ¶ Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not;
1 Corinthians 15:10 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Ephesians 1:3-14 3 ¶ Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 ¶ In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
Going to church is NOT the same as being a believer in Christ, but a believer in Christ will maintain fellowship with God's people submitted to the preaching of the Word under godly elders who will feed him the gospel of God's grace found in Christ alone rather than his own works righteousness.
If you are not committed to a church, believe in Christ, be baptized, get connected with believers and submit yourself to the preaching of God's Word.
Come join our band of believers!
In reference to the new Gospel Transformation Study Bible that incorporates women commentators (see link), let the good, godly, very capable women expound Scripture with the explicit intent to teach the ladies and children. If men will read these women so be it (I too have benefited from woman teachers/commentators). But, let men and preachers etc. learn from them in private in their own homes with their own families.
We (all of us, I presume) are taking Paul's words in 1 Tim. 2:8-15 seriously and trying to apply the principle founded not upon some transient culture but upon the creation order. Paul has applied the creation order to women in the church as he did in 1 Cor. 11 with reference to prayer and head coverings. Men of the church at large will be reading the study Bible notes written and communicated by women to men of the church. These women, godly women at that, will be communicating with authority to a general audience about the meaning of the text, and it seems to me that for these women to do so is a breach of Paul's words. We are not talking about a separate book; we are talking about a Bible that will be taken to the public exposition of the Word. Those men who take this Bible will inevitably comparing the notes written with the preacher (a good practice I might add). Reading the notes of women commentators as if the women were virtually present in the public assembly seems to me awkward at best and not in accord with Paul's exhortation regardless of the male editors and books of the Bible not so theological weighty as others (which contradicts 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
A couple more questions on this topic:
1. Is it not striking that there is no book written by women (holy men, anthropoi, were moved by the Holy Spirit, 2 Pet. 1:21)? Is that not on purpose and in accord with the creative order?
2. Would it be different if one or more of the editors were women? Would it make a difference if the majority if not all of the commentators of the books of the new study Bible were women with no specified audience like a women's study Bible? If not, why?
To be clear, I am not speaking as a chauvinist nor do I want to denigrate the intellect and gifted women authors who have benefited the women and children of the church throughout the church age. But, I am appealing to what Scripture says and sees a potential slide to the left following the egalitarian spirit of our age.
Words are one thing even if they are from God's Word. Even God's Word can be repackaged in a way that is simply wrong. Satan used God's Words that were deceptive and not worthy of listening to because Satan repackaged them in a context that were not for the moment; God's Words were used as a trap for Jesus (Mat 4). Worship must not repackage God's Word, God's teaching in a way that is deceptive, fleshly, and so redundant that it becomes irritating. Worship must package God's Word, God's teaching that is best suitable for clear teaching and instruction ( Col. 3:16). We must make sure that the style, packaging of God's Words is appropriate, praise worthy, of good report, virtuous, pure, sensible, pleasing to the Spirit and not grievous (Phil 4:8; Eph. 4:29-30).
You can have the right words in the wrong package, in the wrong context, in the wrong surroundings. Pastor Chris and I teach and preach that forms of rock-n-roll is the wrong package, the wrong context in the wrong surroundings/channel for God's Word to God's people. God's Word needs to be delivered to God's people using the correct channel and form not mixed with fleshly, sensual, bombastic sounds. Just as the preacher needs to be a clean and appropriate channel of God's Word so too our music needs to be channeled/styled appropriately (cf. 1 Tim. 3:1-7 with Eph. 5:17-20). Though many disagree, this is what we believe is best for our people especially in our day where confusion abounds over music. Bless you.
What a blessing! What grace to see converts and baptisms in our midst at Grace Covenant Baptist Church! Please pray for these young men to live by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ taking up their cross and denying themselves. Please pray for others in to follow their example.
Two new converts will be baptized after our morning worship service. All are welcome to join us down at longwood park in Gainesville, Ga. We will be having our meal afterwards to celebrate. Please come at about 1pm. Please click HERE for directions.
The Widholm family has been with Grace for about six months and this past Sunday three of their members joined with our church family. What a blessing! What testimonies! What grace gifts to Grace Covenant Baptist Church! The Widholms are pictured on the left. Their testimonies are given below. We are all thankful for the Widholms making such a commitment to this little church. Please go to the Elders/Members page for more.
May it be that the Lord is beginning to answer my burden, our burden as a church:
Oh, satisfy us early with Your mercy, That we may rejoice and be glad all our days! 15 Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us, The years in which we have seen evil. 16 Let Your work appear to Your servants, And Your glory to their children. 17 And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands. (Psalm 90:14-17)