Monday, September 30, 2013

Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts — Argument 7

Ephesians 2:20—23 reads, “...God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”

If the Apostles and the prophets were the foundation of the Church, we err if we try and place them on the second or third floor of the house which they support.  So then, if you concede that the Apostolic office has ceased, then you must also accept that the office of prophet has ceased, because Paul places prophets alongside the Apostles as the foundation of the Church.

To respond to this argument it will be necessary to leave the immediate context in Ephesians 2, and consider the underlying grammar from another verse in chapter 4. Ephesians 4:11 reads, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” (NAS).  This passage is oft cited as providing a precedent for the ongoing 5-fold ministry of the Church — apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Not everyone agrees, however, that there are five distinct offices listed.  They argue instead for four church offices — apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor—teacher (that is, pastors who are teachers). This view is held because of a Greek grammatical construction called Article-Substantive-Kai-Substantive (TSKS).  This rule holds that when two nouns (or substantival participles or adjectives) are in concord with one another, being connected by a copulative καὶ (and), with the first noun being preceded by a definite article, and the second being anarthrous, then the two substantives are representative of the same group.

Hebrews 3:1, provides a simple example:
Jesus the apostle and high priest of our confession. 

Jesus, the (T-article) apostle (S-substantive) and (K-καὶ [and]) high priest (S-substantive) of our confession. 

Here, the English translation corresponds closely with the Greek — τὸν (T) ἀπόστολον (S) καὶ (K) ἀρχιερέα (S) τῆς ὁμολογίας ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν. 

The TSKS construction shows that the singular group identified as “Jesus” is identified by two constituent substantives, “ apostle” and “high priest.”  In this case, Jesus is both the apostle and high priest of our confession.
Looking back at Eph 4:11, one can see why most interpreters prefer 4 offices, over 5:
καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς (T) δὲ ποιμένας (S) καὶ (K) διδασκάλους (S)

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers (or pastor-teachers).

In sum, the TSKS construction in Eph 4:11 groups pastor and teacher together into one office.1
With that in mind, one may return to Eph 2:20 to consider its TSKS construction:
ἐποικοδομηθέντες ἐπὶ τῷ θεμελίῳ τῶν (T) ἀποστόλων (S) καὶ (K) προφητῶν (S) ὄντος ἀκρογωνιαίου αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

...having been built on the foundation of the (T) apostles (S) and (K) prophets (S), Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.
Therefore, Ephesians 2:20 may rightly be rendered:

"...having been built on the foundation of the Apostles-prophets (or, the Apostles who are also prophets), Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone."2
If this interpretation is accurate and the TSKS construction is consistently applied, how might it affect one’s understanding of what Paul is teaching?  It would mean that the Apostles were prophets, distinct in their role and office, but different from prophets like Agabus. And, while the foundation of the Church was laid upon the Apostles (who were prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah), it was not laid upon the prophets like Agabus, Philip’s daughters, and other congregational prophets. To suggest otherwise, is to elevate Philip’s daughters to a position of unquestionable authority within the Church, and to devalue the role and importance of the Twelve who occupied the Apostolic office.

Therefore, in response to this argument, Eph 2:20 does not prove that the office of prophet or that the gift of prophecy ceased with the death of the last Apostle.

A note on the above counter-argumentation: The responses provided to Arguments 1—7 do not prove that prophecy is still being given by the Spirit today, but they do prove that 2 Timothy 3:16—17, Hebrews 11:1—2, Revelation 22:18—19, Proverbs 30:6, 2 Peter 1:19, 1 Corinthians 13:8—10, and Ephesians 2:20—23 cannot be used as proofs that it has ceased; nor that it violates the sufficient revelation of the completed canon.

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<< Argument 6                                                                                                       Objection 1 >>

1 Commenting on Eph 4:11, John MacArthur writes, “This phrase is best understood in context as a single office of leadership in the church.  The Gr. word translated as ‘and’ can mean ‘in particular’ (see 1 Tim 5:17). The normal meaning of pastor is ‘shepherd,’ so the two functions together define the teaching shepherd.” —  John MacArthur, “The Second Epistle of Peter” in The John MacArthur Study Bible. (ed. John MacArthur; Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 1809.

2 Richard Gaffin commenting on this interpretation writes, “This is possible grammatically and the apostles do exercise prophetic functions (e.g. Rom. 11:25ff.; 1 Cor. 15:51ff.; 1 Thess. 4:15ff.; 1 Cor 14:6). Probably there is nothing that excludes this view. A combination of considerations, however, is decisively against it.” (Gaffin, Perspectives, 93-94). — Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 380. // Grudem answers Gaffin’s objections, The Gift of Prophecy, 341—345.
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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts — Argument 6

First Corinthians 13:8—10 reads, “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”  

If the Bible is perfect, being both infallible and inerrant, then the ‘perfect to come’ which Paul writes about here, must be the future completed canon of Scripture.

Rather than writing my own response to this objection, allow me to post something that I found helpful when considering the force of any single case being made for the identity of the ‘perfect to come’ — written by Nathan Busenitz over at Cripplegate

“ seems there are almost as many views of ‘the perfect’ among cessationist scholars as there are commentators who write about 1 Corinthians 13:8–13. Space in this article does not permit a full investigation into each of these, but rather a cursory explanation of the major positions.

The Different Views

(1) Some (such as F.F. Bruce) argue that love itself is the perfect. Thus when the fullness of love comes, the Corinthians will put away their childish desires.

(2) Some (such as B.B. Warfield) contend that the completed canon of Scripture is the perfect. Scripture is described as “perfect” in James 1:25, a text in which the same word for “mirror” (as in v. 12) is found (in James 1:23). Thus partial revelation is done away when the full revelation of Scripture comes.

(3) Some (such as Robert Thomas) contend that the mature church is the perfect. This view is primarily based on the illustration of verse 11 and on the close connection between this passage and Eph. 4:11–13. The exact timing of the church’s “maturity” is unknown, though it is closely associated with the completion of the canon, and the end of the apostolic era (cf. Eph. 2:20).

(4) Some (such as Thomas Edgar) see the believer’s entrance into the presence of Christ (at the moment of death) as the perfect. This view accounts for the personal aspect of Paul’s statement in verse 12. Paul personally experienced full knowledge when he entered Christ’s presence at his death (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8).

(5) Some (such as Richard Gaffin) see the return of Christ (and the end of this age) as the perfect. This is also the view of most continuationists. Thus, when Christ comes back (as delineated in chapter 15), the partial revelation we know now will be made complete.

(6) Some (such as John MacArthur) view the eternal state (in a general sense) as the perfect. This explanation interprets the neuter of to teleion as a reference to a general state of events and not a personal return of Christ. This view overlaps with both numbers 4 and 5 above in that, according to this view: ‘For Christians the eternal state begins either at death, when they go to be with the Lord, or at the rapture, when the Lord takes His own to be with Himself’ (John MacArthur, First Corinthians, p. 366).

Of these views, I personally find the last three more convincing than the first three. This is primarily due (I will confess) to the testimony of church history. Dr. Gary Shogren, after doing an in-depth study of some 169 patristic references to this passage, concludes that the church fathers overwhelmingly saw the perfect in terms of something beyond this life (most normally associating it with the return of Christ, or with seeing Christ in heaven). Even John Chrysostom (who was clearly a cessationist) saw it this way. While not authoritative, such historical evidence is difficult to dismiss.”

Return to first article in this series: Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts

<< Argument 5                                                                                                       Argument 7 >>

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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts — Argument 5

Second Peter 1:19 reads, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy.”  

Peter is contrasting, here, the miraculous manifestation of Jesus’ glorification, which he experienced at the Mount of Transfiguration (vv. 16—18), against “the more sure word of prophecy” — that is, against the Bible.  Peter writes, “We have a more sure word of prophecy...” to indicate that the written Word of Scripture is even more reliable than what he heard the Father say from Heaven about his Son, Jesus.  Therefore, we should eschew all subjective — so called — prophetic experiences and take heed to pay attention to the more sure Word of the Old and New Testaments.

First, those who insist that Peter is speaking about the Old and New Testaments when he writes, “We have a more sure word of prophecy” are committing the same anachronistic and logical fallacy that was committed in the first four arguments examined in this series.  If 2 Peter did not complete the canon then it is a logical and exegetical impossibility that Peter could be referring to the canon. As will be made clear, Peter is not writing about the New Testament — whether complete or in process — rather, he is pointing his audience back to the Old Testament1 which predicted the coming of Messiah. 

Second, Peter wrote this epistle at a time in history when cessationists and continuationist agree that extra-biblical revelation was being given. Therefore, if the “more sure word of prophecy” did not extinguish revelatory gifts then, how can this text be used to prove that they have ceased today?

Third, Paul is not contrasting his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration against holy Scripture — as though his personal experience should hold no sway in building confidence in what those scriptures contain.2 Quite the opposite, actually.  To shore up their position, cessationist must appeal to a minority opinion on the translation of “καὶ ἔχομεν βεβαιότερον τὸν προφητικὸν λόγον.”— “We have also a more sure word of prophecy.”  Their interpretation of the text works well if used alongside the King James Version, but if other translations are used, footnotes are required to “correct” the more appropriate translation.  John MacArthur writes, 

This [NKJV] translation could indicate that the eyewitness account of Christ’s majesty at the Transfiguration confirmed the Scriptures. However, the Gr. word order is crucial in that it does not say that. It says, “And we have more sure the prophetic word.” That original arrangement of the sentence supports the interpretation that Peter is ranking Scripture over experience.3

However, Dr. W. Hall Harris III replies,

The comparative adjective βεβαιότερον (bebaioteron) is the complement to the object τὸν προφητικὸν λόγον (ton propheœtikon logon). As such, the construction almost surely has the force “The prophetic word is (more certain/altogether certain) — and this is something that we all have...Some would categorically object to any experience functioning as a confirmation of the scriptures and hence would tend to give the adjective a comparative force. Yet the author labors to show that his gospel is trustworthy precisely because he was an eyewitness of this great event. Further, to say that the OT scriptures (the most likely meaning of “the prophetic word”) were more trustworthy an authority than an apostle’s own experience of Christ is both to misconstrue how prophecy took place in the OT (did not the prophets have visions or other experiences?) and to deny the final revelation of God in Christ (cf. Heb 1:2). [see endnote for extended commentary]4

And most translating committees agree:

NKJV — And so we have the prophetic word confirmed.

NIV — We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable.

NLT — Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets.

NAS — So we have the prophetic word made more sure.

NET — Moreover, we possess the prophetic word as an altogether reliable thing.

ISV — Therefore we regard the message of the prophets as confirmed beyond doubt.

In sum, Peter was not teaching that experience is to be abandoned, as though it presented no possible capacity to confirm truth (a contrast between Scripture and experience, or ranking the two is not in view).  Rather, he is writing to say that the Church can trust Jesus’ promise to return in power (v. 16) precisely because the promises of the Old Testament were confirmed by what Peter witnessed on the Mount of Transfiguration.  

The cessationist who uses this verse as a prooftext against continuationism must wrongly interpret a poor translation to prove his point.  This multiplies the error and the force of Peter’s consolation is utterly lost.  It causes him to say, 

We were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw him glorified and heard the voice of the Father from heaven. And though I write this letter to you as an inspired author, with full authority as Christ’s Apostle, don’t trust my experience, put your confidence in the more trustworthy — albeit unsubstantiated — text of the Old Testament.

Cessationists would do well to refrain from making a point with this text at the expense of its proper interpretation.  An otherwise sound hermeneutic is abandoned, and the necessity of having to appeal to an inferior translation exposes the bias in cessationist’s interpretation of this text. Those who push this understanding import cessationism where it does not belong and the Apostle’s message is obliterated in the process.  Therefore, both the minority translation of 2 Peter 1:19, which reads, “We have also a more sure word of prophecy,” and the cessationist’s argument where this translation is wrongly employed should be rejected.


1 “The ‘prophetic word’ refers not just to the OT major and minor prophets, but to the entire OT.” — John MacArthur, “The Second Epistle of Peter” in The John MacArthur Study Bible. (ed. John MacArthur; Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 1954. 
2 Cf. 1 Cor 15:3—8; 1 John 1:1—4  
3  MacArthur, “Second Peter,” 1954.  
4  “Many scholars prefer to read the construction as saying ‘we have the prophetic word made more sure,’ but such a nuance is unparalleled in object-complement constructions (when the construction has this force, ποιέω [poieoœ] is present [as in 2 Pet 1:10]). The meaning, as construed in the translation, is that the Bible (in this case, the OT) that these believers had in their hands was a thoroughly reliable guide. Whether it was more certain than was even Peter’s experience on the Mount of Transfiguration depends on whether the adjective should be taken as a true comparative (“more certain”) or as an elative (“very certain, altogether certain”). Some would categorically object to any experience functioning as a confirmation of the scriptures and hence would tend to give the adjective a comparative force. Yet the author labors to show that his gospel is trustworthy precisely because he was an eyewitness of this great event. Further, to say that the OT scriptures (the most likely meaning of “the prophetic word”) were more trustworthy an authority than an apostle’s own experience of Christ is both to misconstrue how prophecy took place in the OT (did not the prophets have visions or other experiences?) and to deny the final revelation of God in Christ (cf. Heb 1:2). In sum, since syntactically the meaning that ‘we have confirmed the prophetic word by our experience’ is improbable, and since contextually the meaning that ‘we have something that is a more reliable authority than experience, namely, the Bible’ is unlikely, we are left with the meaning ‘we have a very reliable authority, the Old Testament, as a witness to Christ’s return.’ No comparison is thus explicitly made. This fits both the context and normal syntax quite well. The introductory καὶ (kai) suggests that the author is adding to his argument. He makes the statement that Christ will return, and backs it up with two points: (1) Peter himself (as well as the other apostles) was an eyewitness to the Transfiguration, which is a precursor to the Parousia; and (2) the Gentile believers, who were not on the Mount of Transfiguration, nevertheless have the Old Testament, a wholly reliable authority that also promises the return of Christ.” — W. Hall Harris, ed., The NET Bible Notes (1st, Accordance electronic ed. Richardson: Biblical Studies Press, 2005), n.p.

Ceslas Spicq, in the Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (TLNT), explains, “in Mark 16:20—ton logon bebaiountos —the Lord does more than confirm the word of the apostles by the miracles that accompany him; he also authenticates and guarantees it. Inasmuch as the law of Moses was promulgated by angels, this ‘word’ is valid and authentically divine (logos bebaios, Heb 2:2). At the transfiguration, the appearance of Moses and Elijah evokes the messianic prophecies of the OT; these prophecies become more sure, their veracity is guaranteed by the transfiguration of Jesus (bebaioteron . . . logon, 2Pet 1:19).” — “PREFACE,” TLNT, n.p. 

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts — Argument 4

Proverbs 30:6 reads, “Do not add to [God’s] words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.”  

Therefore, since prophecy ceased after the death of the last Apostle, anyone who gives a prophecy today adds their words to God’s Word.  These false prophets will be reproved by God and be proven liars.

The premise of this argument is similar to that of the premise found in Argument 3 — the difference between the two lies with the latter argument's significant location in the canon. And that difference is a major one. Because the Proverb employed in this argument was written 1000 years before the warning passage found in Revelation 22, cessationists who use this text to make the argument cannot appeal to the closing of the canon to make their case. For that reason, this argument is far easier to dismantle.

The argument is dependent upon two assumptions:

1) All miraculous charismatic gifts ceased with the death of the last Apostle, and/or the closing of the canon.

2) The command “Do not add to His words” means “Do not prophesy.”

In response to the first assumption — Since continuationists do not share this assumption with cessationists, the argument fails to challenge the continuationist’s presupposition.  Therefore, the argument has no power to persuade.  Cessationists must first prove that the closed canon silenced God’s revelatory grace.

In response to the second assumption — The command and warning have nothing to do with prophecy.  In the preceding verse Agur writes, “Every word of God is tested” (Prov 30:5a NAS).  Tested, here, in the context means refined, as gold is purified by fire.1  In other words, there are no defects or flaws in what God has revealed and his word can be trusted.  That’s why Agur goes on to write, “...[God] is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” (Prov 30:5b NAS)  God can be trusted because the words of his pledge to protect his people are trustworthy and true!  This leads to the text in question, “Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.”  Given the meaning of verse 5, is it more likely that when Agur writes verse 6 that he is concerned with what God might reveal through prophets in the future, or that he is concerned with those who might tamper with the Scripture that already exists?  The latter, of course.  

Understood rightly, one sees that the spirit of Agur’s command is found to be most clearly violated in the practice of the Pharisees; who placed their oral tradition alongside the words of God, often supplanting his commands in the process,2 and placing a heavy burden upon the backs of the Jewish people.  And they were certainly reproved for it.3

The command and warning found in Prov 30:6 are, therefore, not applicable to NT prophecy, so long as those prophecies add no new doctrinal matter, nor mingle speculations or traditions with what has been revealed in holy Scripture.  And if this verse did not preclude prophecy from occurring in the first century church, how could it prevent it today?

Questions for further reflection:

Does Agur appear to be concerned that his own prophetic words are in violation of the very command he is issuing (cf. Deut 4:3; 12:32)?

If this verse were presented to Agabus or Philip’s four prophetess daughters, as an argument against their prophetic utterances, how might have they responded? 

If prophets in the New Testament spoke with scripture quality content and universally binding authority, why doesn’t the Bible contain all of their utterances?  There may have been hundreds, if not thousands of unnamed prophets distributed throughout the Empire in the first century, how are their un-inscripturated prophecies not a violation of the command found in Proverbs 30:6?  If those prophecies did not prove prophets to be liars in that day, how are prophets proven liars today?

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<< Argument 3                                                                                                       Argument 5 >>


1 Cf. Psa 12:6, 18:30; 2 Sam 22:31

2 Mark 7:8—9

3 Mark 7:1—13; Matt 12:34
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts — Argument 3

Revelation 22:18—19 reads, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book.”  

Therefore, anyone who purports to give a word of prophecy, in the Church today, adds new revelation to the Bible, and brings upon himself all the curses of the book.

When John penned these words in the epilogue to his book of the Revelation, and wrote about the “book of this prophecy,” was he writing about the completed canon of Scripture, or was he writing about the book he was then completing?  Since the NT canon was not yet assembled the most logical response to the question is, he was referring to the prophecy he was immediately closing.  Note the particularity of the clause “the book of this prophecy of this scroll...”1 If John were referring to the canon —
yet-to-be-assembled — one would expect to read “the book of this prophecy and all that has come before.”  Some might yet argue, however, that since John’s was the last book of the 66 to be written, the warning passage found within it, extends to the entire canon.2

 Even if that position were granted, and John was speaking of the entire canon, would his warning necessarily demand that all prophecy would cease after the canon was finally complete?

No, because “adds to...and takes away from” cannot be referring to prophecy.3

  To demonstrate this point two other texts will be considered where this same warning is given.4


Moses writes,

You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you... (Deut 4:2 NAS)


Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it. (Deut 12:32 NAS)

If the cessationist’s interpretation of Revelation 22 is consistently applied to Deuteronomy 4 and 12, and these warnings were given to prohibit all future prophesies in Israel, then the Church ought to limit the canon to the 5 books of Moses.5  Clearly, that’s an absurd position to take. These warnings did not prevent future prophecy — we have 62 more books in the canon, and many more unrecorded prophecies given through prophets in those remaining books.6

  So what was the point of the warnings?  They were given so that Israel would understand that they must not add to nor subtract from what God had already commanded.  In other words, “Do not tamper with God’s Law!”  Moses was not at all concerned about what God may add or reveal, by way of prophecy in the future.  In fact, he longed for the day when the LORD would put his Spirit upon his people, when all would be prophets.7 Moses principle concern then, was not that prophecy should henceforth cease, but that God’s people remain obedient to God’s Law alone.8

Similarly, John was not suggesting that prophecies would cease with the closing of Revelation.  He was merely echoing the words of Moses, warning his readers that no one must tamper with what was written in the book of his prophecy.  Perhaps, one might paraphrase John in this way, “You know what Moses said about Deuteronomy, that you should not add to nor take away from the commands of God?  I am saying that his command is enforced here as well.  This epistle is just as authoritative as what Moses taught you; it is as substantively Scripture as is the Torah.  So be warned, do not add nor subtract one jot nor one tittle from this prophecy, lest you be cursed with all the plagues found herein, and be damned.”

So then, if Moses’s warnings did not prevent prophecy from continuing on into the future of redemptive history, why should one expect that John’s words would? 

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<< Argument 2                                                                                                        Argument 4 >>


 1 Did John send 66 scrolls to the seven churches? This is so improbable that it is hardly worth consideration. Therefore, the most logical conclusion is that the antecedent of “the prophecy of this scroll...” is the prophecy John was completing, and not the 66 book compendium of the Christian canon.

2 Though I maintain that John was speaking specifically about the prophecy he was drawing to a close, I do agree with this position in principle. All those who would dare add to or take away from the words of Scripture will incur a curse.  My dispute with cessationists is over the meaning of “adds to...and takes away from” and whether they have to do with the NT gift of prophecy. 

3 “Do not add to...” Cessationists are quick to assume that prophecy is in view here, suggesting that it adds to God's Word, yet they do not mention how that understanding would be compatible with the latter clause, “take away from.” Even if a prophecy were given, which purported to abrogate a prior command of Scripture (thereby taking away from Scripture in one sense) the prophecy would still be an additional infallible word of revelation. So, if prophecy adds to the Bible, what supernatural gift takes away from it?

4 Cf. Prov 30:6; Jer 26:2; Gal 1:6—9

5 The Sadducees would be correct. The Prophets and the Writings should be rejected, and we must only obey Torah.

6 70 elders (Num 11:25—26); King Saul and the prophets (1 Sam 10:10—11; 19:20—21, 23—24); Philip’s four daughters (Acts 21:8—10).

7 Num 11:29

8 This was the error of the Pharisees (Mark 7:5—13)
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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts — Argument 2

Hebrew 1:1—2 reads, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” 

The author of Hebrews clearly says here, that God’s manner of speaking to the Fathers — through prophets, dreams, visions, symbols, and parables — was different from the way he speaks to us today, through his Son, in the New Testament.  Therefore, we should not expect prophecy to continue in the Church today
, as it was experienced in the first century church.

What did the author of Hebrews mean when he wrote, “ these last days He has spoken to us in His Son?”  Did he mean that God has spoken to us in his Son through the New Testament?  Did he mean that since we now have a greater prophet than Moses, in Jesus Christ, that we have no further need, in these last days, of any prophets speaking on behalf of God?  Or, did he mean to communicate that the person of Jesus, and his message of redemption, is the full disclosure of God?  Let’s consider these interpretations, in brief, one at a time.

1) Is “...spoken to us in his Son” equivalent with the completed New Testament?

No. While the revelation of the person of Jesus is certainly contained in the Apostolic tradition, as it is recorded in Scripture, a category error and anachronism are committed here, when cessationists attempt to make Hebrews 1:1—2 analogous with the completed New Testament.1

Since the New Testament was still being written, with the composition of Hebrews, during a time when everyone agrees that gift of prophecy was still in operation, it should be obvious why this interpretation of the text should be rejected.  If the canon was not closed with the completion of Hebrews, then “...spoken to us in His Son” cannot possibly be understood as the completed New Testament; this would have been far beyond the scope of the author’s interest (given the context) and his audience’s capacity to understand (given their location in time). 

2) Is it true, that since Jesus is God’s preeminent prophet, that the Church has no further need of prophets?

No. If this argument were true, then the spiritual gift of prophecy could have never been given to the Church. Why?  Because, if the argument is applied consistently, then the gift of prophecy would have become obsolete the moment Jesus' ministry began. Again, since prophets were clearly operating after God began “...speaking to us in his Son,”2 an argument for the cessation of prophecy based on this text makes no sense, whatsoever.

3) When the author of Hebrews wrote that God, “ these last days has spoken to us in his Son,” does he simply mean to point his readers to the superior revelation of the person of Jesus, and his message of redemption, over the inferior revelation of what had come before?

Yes.  Regarding this passage, John MacArthur writes, “In the past God gave revelation through His prophets, but in these times, beginning with the Messiah’s advent, God spoke the message of redemption through His Son.”3  In former times, God’s message was delivered through inferior revelatory means. This former revelation was not inferior because it was fallible or errant, it was inferior because it did not fully disclose everything that God would eventually reveal to humanity through the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the full disclosure of God; he is the Word of God made flesh; he is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his nature, who upholds all things by the word of His power; he is Immanuel, God living among his people, who speaks the very words of God, as God.  And, that is what the author of Hebrews wanted us to know.

In sum, these verses cannot be used as exegetical proof for the cessation of revelatory gifts beyond the age of the Apostles.  Again,

“...spoken to us in his Son” = Jesus and the message of his gospel, as the full disclosure of God.

“...spoken to us in his Son” ≠ the full disclosure of God, about Jesus and the message of his gospel, as it is recorded for us in the written record of the New Testament.

Therefore, if prophecy functioned in the New Testament church — who did not yet have a completed canon, but who did have the full revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ — then prophecy may continue to function in the Church, in the latter part of these last days. 

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John MacArthur, ““Is God Still Revealing Truth?”” Grace To You, p.12 [cited 25 Sept. 2013]. Online:

2 Cf. Matt 17:15; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35

3 John MacArthur, “The Epistle to the Hebrews” in The John MacArthur Study Bible. (ed. John MacArthur; Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997), 1897.
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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts — Argument 1

Second Timothy 3:16—17 reads, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

If the inspired Scriptures are profitable for every good work, as Paul tells Timothy, then there is no longer any need for God to speak outside of them. Since we now have the scriptures, in their entirety, they and they alone are all that is needed to make one wise for salvation and righteous living.

This objection only appears to have force if one ignores the anachronism involved.  Verses 14 and 15 will make this plain. “You [Timothy], however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 3:14—15 NAS).  With context in mind, one simply needs to ask, “To what holy writings was Paul referring?” or, more directly, “To what scriptures did Timothy have access, as a child?”  Whatever scriptures Timothy might have had, it certainly would not have included anything from the New Testament — which, ironically enough, was being written, in part, directly to him through Paul in this epistle.  What scriptures, then, were they?  The Hebrew scriptures, of course.  And which scriptures did Paul tell Timothy were profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work?  The Old Testament.  Therefore, if the Old Testament was sufficient to accomplish all these things in the first century church, and it did not render extra-biblical prophecy unnecessary, then neither can it render prophecy unnecessary for the church today. 

In short, Paul was not writing to Timothy about a canon that did not yet exist.  He was writing about the sufficiency of the scriptures which did.  And if prophecy existed at the time when Paul was writing the New Testament, it does not necessarily follow that prophecy would cease once the New Testament was complete.  At least, not on the basis of 2 Timothy 3:16—17, it wouldn't.

Return to first article in this series: Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts  

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Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts

A fruitful debate is one where both parties engaged in dispute rightly understand and accurately represent the position of the person with whom they disagree. My desire for this series of responses to common cessationist arguments and objections are, 1) to provide cessationists with a succinct response to arguments made against miraculous and revelatory charismatic continuation; 2) to provide continuationists with a pool of apologetic answers to these arguments and objections; and, 3) to accurately represent the continuationist position for those who are attempting to honestly and objectively weigh the evidence provided. It is my hope that these answers will advance the dialogue between cessationists and continuationists, by preempting arguments which do not pose an actual challenge to the presuppositions of continuationist theology, and by providing an occasion for cessationist counter-responses which actually do. 

Over the next three weeks, I will be publishing a daily response to the arguments and objections that I have had to contend with since becoming a continuationist, seven years ago. They are hard fought responses, the fruit of many hours of study and meditation; I pray that my labor will be of service to you.

Arguments against Continuationism from Scripture:

Argument 1 — 2 Timothy 3:16—17
Argument 2 — Hebrews 1:1—2
Argument 3 — Revelation 22:18—19
Argument 4 — Proverbs 30:6
Argument 5 — 2 Peter 1:19
Argument 6 — 1 Corinthians 13:8—10
Argument 7 — Ephesians 2:20—23

Common Objections against Continuationism:

Objection 1 — Modern day prophecy is incompatible with the Reformational doctrine of sola Scriptura; it undermines the Bible’s authority and sufficiency. 

Objection 2
If a person claims to have received a prophecy from God today, then they need to issue an addendum to the Church, and have every person who owns a Bible staple their new prophecy to the back of Revelation.
Objection 3
Fallible prophecy is an oxymoron. An infallible God cannot deliver fallible revelation.

Objection 4 — Tongues were given by the Spirit for the proclamation of the gospel, in actual languages.  Therefore, those who purport to exercise tongues as a private prayer language demonstrate both their ignorance of Paul’s teaching and the invalidity of their experience.

Objection 5 — If continuationism were true, there would be no argument about it among Christians.

Objection 6 — Church History is a witness to the veracity of cessationism.

Objection 7 — If you concede that the office of Apostle has ceased, then you are a cessationist.

Objection 8 — Teaching that God still gives prophetic revelation is dangerous because it encourages people to look for revelation outside of the Bible.

Objection 9 — Since prophecies are messages based upon the interpretation of subjective experiences, there is no way anyone can know whether a prophetic message has genuinely come from God. Therefore, avoid making much of your experiences and stick with the objective words of Scripture.

Objection 10 — Charismatics wrongly interpret the Bible to accommodate their experience.

Objection 11 — If prophecies repeat the Word of God, then they are unnecessary. If prophecies contradict the Word of God, then they are heresy. If they add to the Word of God, then they point to Scripture’s inadequacy and insufficiency.

Objection 12 — Deuteronomy 18 warns us that if a prophet speaks a word presumptuously in God’s name announcing something they were not commanded to speak, and the thing that they say does not come to pass, then that prophet shall die. According to these verses, it’s one strike and you’re out. So then, if you insist on bringing a prophecy in the church today, you’d better be 100 percent correct.

My responses to this list of arguments and objections is subject to modification, addition, and retraction based upon the responses, teaching, and correction I may receive. I welcome your interaction! I simply ask that you deliver your comments in the same spirit of charity that was present as I was constructing these responses.
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Friday, September 13, 2013

The Spirits Never Loved Us

Watch this video of the Hewa people and ask yourself how different their culture is from our own.

Our view of the world is significantly more developed in the industrialized West, so our response to threats appears to us, to be more rational and more civilized than the Hewa's. But our reaction to superstition and to perceived threats from others are little different. Kill the thing that keeps you from indulging your base desires. Justify your existence by attacking the thing that threatens your heart's idols. We may not go so far as to run anyone through with a spear, but we certainly waste no time assassinating our neighbor's character, or bullying those with whom we have a disagreement.

The reaction is the same, but so too is the Solution. True freedom is only found in the identity of a God who loves you.
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