On the 15th August 2020, I had the privilege to engage in a formal, recorded debate with Oje Giwa-Amu on the above topic; I opposed the motion that the power gifts as described in the bible continue with us today while Oje on the other side, affirmed they do.
One would think the truth about such a thing should be immediately obvious and not warrant an all-out debate. As it stands, the matter is complicated by issues such as marked differences in how scripture is read and interpreted, belief or rejection of scripture as being sufficient, the purpose of the gift of miracles or healing, and disagreement of what constitutes a miracle or power gift.
In this article series, I will attempt to restate and flesh out my main points and arguments as well as responses to some issues and accusations from Oje and other Continuationists in the wake of the debate.
My prayer is that the Lord will open our eyes and hearts to his truth, help us repent from making ourselves willing tools in the propagation of Satan’s deceptive and distractionary agenda by our endorsement and involvement in the exercise of supposed spiritual gifts and power- which, in the light of the bible, prove to be substandard or outright counterfeits which cannot be attributed to the Holy Spirit but to the flesh or at worst, the efforts of Satan and his minions.
What Cessationism does not mean?
A good place to start this series is to first address the issue of what Cessationism is not about and get it out of the way. I’ll do this in three headers as originally shared by Nathan Busenitz on The Cripplegate.
No Miracles or Supernatural occurrences
The title “Cessationism” is an admittedly negative one and is often misunderstood to mean saying that God cannot or no longer works miracles or supernatural occurrences since Bible times.
That is not what Cessationism means.
Cessationists believe in the Sovereignty of God. In this context, this means He can do whatever he wants, however, and whenever (Ps 115:3). No one can put him in a box.
A quote from Dr. John MacArthur helps put this in proper perspective:
Miracles in the Bible [primarily] occurred in three major periods of time. The time of Moses and Joshua, the time of Elijah and Elisha, and the time of Christ and the apostles. . . . And it is during those three brief periods of time and those alone that miracles proliferated; that miracles were the norm; that miracles were in abundance. Now God can interject Himself into the human stream supernaturally anytime He wants. We’re not limiting Him. We’re simply saying that He has chosen to limit Himself to a great degree to those three periods of time.https://www.gty.org/library/sermons-library/1368_Is-This-the-Age-of-Miracles
So, the question is not: Can God still do miracles? Instead, the question is “are the miraculous gifts of the New Testament still in operation in the church today – just like it was in the days of the early Church?
I contend the answer is a very clear NO. The case for this will be made in this article series.
Cessationism is not an attack on the Person or Work of the Holy Spirit
On the contrary, it defends the matchless worth of His true workings against the proliferation of redefined, substandard, cheapened, watered-down substitutes and counterfeits that do not measure up to the biblical standard of what a miracle is, or who a true, God-empowered miracle worker, Apostle or Prophet is.
It recognizes and upholds the “specialness” and uniqueness of the Spirit’s works in times past and emphasizes the purpose for those outbursts of divine power in the History of God’s dealings with Man.
Some advocates of Continuationism freely admit that the “sign gifts” or officeholders we have in operation today do not meet up with the biblical standards – that they are not the same. We happily agree with this.
Where we do not agree with these Continuationists, is where they claim these “lesser” sign or revelatory gifts are from the same Spirit. Again, I maintain a clear NO.
During the cross-examination I had asked Oje to name any Apostle or Prophet within the past 2000 years who matches the biblical ones. He could not. When pressed further, he gave the name of one Howard Pittman but quickly mentioned he did not operate at the same level as the biblical ones. But that precisely is the point – anyone who is not an Apostle or Prophet at the same level as the biblical holders of this office is simply not an Apostle or Prophet from God, period.
God never fields substandard Apostles and Prophets because he never has to. It costs him absolutely nothing to replicate what he did in the first Century Church – absolutely nothing! He is God omnipotent! He is never constrained to lower his standards for any reason whatsoever. In fact, this is precisely what makes it easy to differentiate between the acts of God and counterfeits.
A good example of this is the ongoing subset of this debate over the sign gift of languages or “tongues” as most people prefer to call it, in keeping with the King James rendition. The Bible clearly describes this as intelligible human languages which the speakers had never learned but by a miracle, are instantly able to speak in, declaring the works of God, such that the native speakers of these languages heard and understood them perfectly well (Acts 2:4-11). What we have at virtually every turn today is people speaking ecstatic gibberish as the gift of languages. They are not the same thing.
One is a truly miraculous ability given by God in an instant. The other is a pathetic counterfeit.
Cessationism is not dependent on one’s interpretation of “the perfect” 1 Corinthians 13:10
There are at least six different views as to what this means; all of which different Cessationists hold to while still being Cessationists. So a person’s interpretation of what Paul meant here by “the perfect” does not preclude holding to a Cessationist viewpoint regarding the power gifts. Nathan Busenitz speaks more about this in his earlier referenced article.
With these addressed, I believe we can begin going over the arguments now.
*This is the first of a riveting nine-part series, come again!