How is it fair to blame Pentecostal/charismatic Christians for misunderstanding cessationism when the only cessationists they know deny the abiding reality of so-called sign gifts of tongues, miracles, and prophecy more because they are afraid of the unusual than because of a well-developed, biblical argument?
“They worship that way because they don’t have the Holy Spirit.” I frequently heard that statement during my time as a Pentecostal/charismatic Christian years ago whenever we Pentecostals were talking about non-Pentecostal believers, particularly those who followed a formal liturgy. We believed that while non-Pentecostals were saved, they lacked the Holy Spirit’s anointing, as evident in their worship style that was outwardly less lively and more structured than ours. Our Pentecostal theology told us that the gifts of tongues and prophecy never ceased, so any group that did not practice these gifts and the typical outward liveliness associated with them lacked the Spirit, or at least the fullness of His presence. In our view, to believe that those gifts had ceased was to believe that the Holy Spirit is not working among His people. We were opposed to cessationism, the doctrine that the spiritual gifts that communicate or confirm divine revelation—particularly the gifts of tongues, miracles, and prophecy—ceased with the death of the last Apostle.
Honestly, much of the blame for connecting the cessationist position with disbelief in the ongoing presence and work of the Spirit lay squarely at my feet and the feet of my Pentecostal friends. We did not study cessationism in detail or talk with the position’s best representatives. Yet, the cessationists were not without fault. All of us knew cessationists who were cessationists merely by custom, not conviction. How is it fair to blame Pentecostal/charismatic Christians for misunderstanding cessationism when the only cessationists they know deny the abiding reality of so-called sign gifts of tongues, miracles, and prophecy more because they are afraid of the unusual than because of a well-developed, biblical argument?
It would take an entire book to present a full case for cessationism, but the essence of the position may be stated briefly. When God delivers new special revelation, He employs extraordinary methods such as prophecy and tongues to deliver that revelation and extraordinary signs such as miracles to confirm those whom we should receive (prophets and Apostles) as His inspired deliverers of that revelation. Consequently, when God is not delivering new special revelation, He does not use extraordinary methods and signs; rather, He works in and through the exposition of His special revelation (Scripture) by gifted teachers and duly appointed church elders.
A few biblical evidences for cessationism are worth noting. First, God’s people have gone centuries without a prophet at various times in history. For example, God did not speak to His people by prophets—at least by prophets as we normally conceive of them—from Abraham to Moses. Moreover, first-century Jews recognized that the Lord sent no prophets during the four centuries or so between Malachi and John the Baptist. Yet, God was at work in those eras even when there were no prophets.