George could feel his face growing red and hot. He was embarrassed—utterly stymied and tongue-tied. His excited story about his recent filling with the Spirit and his healing was met with a long, Bible-based refutation by his pastor and friend.
“George,” he concluded, “the Bible says these experiences of yours cannot be valid. True miracles no longer occur today because God gave them only to establish New Testament doctrine. You can’t go against the teaching of God’s Word just because of your experiences and feelings.” The pastor continues, “‘Ordinary’ spiritual gifts like evangelism, hospitality and teaching, of course, continue, but the ‘miraculous’ gifts have ceased.”
George certainly did not need to be discouraged, however. These days, even among conservative Evangelical scholars, the tide is definitely turning against his pastor-friend’s “cessationism.” Cessationism is a doctrine, mostly found in Protestant fundamentalism, that spiritual gifts (the “charismata,” such as listed in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10, 28) existed only to prove the validity of New Testament doctrine or accredit the apostles. This teaching also says that that the “miraculous” or “extraordinary” gifts died with the apostles, or with the writing of the last New Testament book sometime in the first century.
George needed a kind of pocket guide, like this article, for him to answer his friend’s overwhelming, Biblical-sounding arguments. This article will very briefly summarize an enormous Biblical case that can be made for spiritual gifts continuing today. The second part will examine the most common “cessationist” arguments George, and you, would likely hear.
The Case for Continuing Spiritual Gifts
Before we begin, let us look at the central problem with the “cessationist” argument, above. It claims that because spiritual gifts can be used as proof of doctrine, then the gifts must cease when the need for that proof is fulfilled (that is, when the New Testament was written). Should a medical doctor use that same logic? When he uses your heartbeat to prove you are alive, does this mean your heart must cease beating simply because he just removed his stethoscope and no longer needed proof? It is highly doubtful that the New Testament ever intended spiritual gifts to be used as proof, but even if it did, the New Testament itself shows many other, clearly-stated and necessary functions for spiritual gifts, which, by the same logic, should demand their continuation!
Let us now review some passages of Scripture that makes this case.
1. Romans 11:29 makes a universal statement about the continuation of the “charismata.”
“The gifts [charismata] and calling of God are irrevocable [not called back].” Cessationism precisely contradicts this verse. Cessationists may object, though, that this verse applies only to the offer of salvation to the Jews and not to the gifts of the Spirit.