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?
Return to first article in this series: Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts
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1 Cf. Psa 12:6, 18:30; 2 Sam 22:31↩
2 Mark 7:8—9↩
3 Mark 7:1—13; Matt 12:34↩