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A Point-by-Point Response to the Film, “Cessationist” (Part One)


On September 22 of this year a full-length documentary film was released under the title, Cessationist. It features numerous individuals on both sides of the debate concerning the continuation or cessation of certain spiritual gifts described in Scripture. Given the fact that I am cited (and criticized) perhaps more frequently than any other charismatic/continuationist, it seems only fitting that I should respond to the film.

My response will be unavoidably lengthy, so it will be released in several installments.

I want to begin by making an appeal to the cessationists behind this film as well as those who appear in it. Please, hear me well. If you can find fault with any of the biblical interpretations that I present, notify me of them. If your criticisms are valid and substantive, I will repent openly on this blog and in public. But I would also ask that, if you cannot find fault with how I understand the biblical text, you will repent and forever cease to make use of such arguments in the defense of your position. With that understood, let’s begin.

Although it doesn’t appear at the beginning of the film, I want to bring clarity to one massive misstatement on the part of the producers of the documentary. I, together with Wayne Grudem, John Piper, and D. A. Carson, am referred to as one who takes an “open but cautious” approach to the issue of spiritual gifts today. That is completely and utterly false. I won’t speak for my three friends, but only on my own behalf. Merely to be “open” to miraculous gifts of the Spirit is far short of what the Bible commands. Paul clearly and repeatedly says something altogether different:

“But earnestly desire the higher gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31).

“Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:1).

“So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit [and Paul nowhere tells them or us that such eagerness if misguided, far less that it is sinful], strive to excel in building up the church” (1 Cor. 14:12).

“So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39).

So, no, I’m decidedly not open but cautious. I’m eager and hungry and desperate for all that the Spirit makes available to the people of God. Openness counts for very little, if anything at all. Earnest desire is God’s will for us all. And to suggest that I’m “cautious” about spiritual gifts is massively misguided. “Cautious” implies danger ahead. “Cautious” suggests that spiritual gifts are a threat and we need to be careful. But where do we find any such statement in Scripture? Nowhere. Spiritual gifts are a blessing from God and we are to earnestly and passionately and prayerfully to seek them.

In the film, a clip of me citing these texts is shown, after which I say, “If you are not earnestly desiring spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy, you are sinning.”

Dr. Sam Waldron responds to my statement in the only way a cessationist can. He reminds us all that every command in Scripture is set within its own context, and on occasion those contexts are unrepeatable and cannot be reproduced. He gives one example from Matthew 10. There Jesus told his disciples, “Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food” (Matt. 10:9-10). No one, says Waldron, is obligated to abide by this exhortation, and he’s perfectly correct in that. But why? The answer is obvious from the historical context in which it appeared and the immediate counsel of Jesus that his disciples “go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5b-6).

Our Lord’s command is explicitly tied to that stage in redemptive history when the offer of the kingdom was restricted to “the house of Israel” (v. 6b). But we know from other explicit texts of Scripture that at the close of his earthly ministry Jesus changed the strategy for his followers. It is in Matthew’s gospel that he commanded us all to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19), and not just among the people of Israel. The reason why we no longer obey the command of Matthew 10 is because of the command of Matthew 28 (and Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8).

But where in any context, be it 1 Corinthians or any other NT book, are we told that the command to “earnestly desire spiritual gifts, especially that we might prophesy” (1 Cor. 14:1, 39) has been rescinded? Where are we told that we are no longer under obligation to obey Paul’s words? The answer is, nowhere. If a cessationist can show me a text where it clearly says the gift of prophecy is no longer valid today, I’ll join ranks with them in releasing all Christians from any obligation to obey Paul’s mandate.

Waldron has one more thing to say about this command in 1 Cor. 14. He simply argues that the spiritual gift of prophecy is no longer being imparted to Christians by the Spirit (and he says this in the complete absence of any text that says so). In other words, he declares himself free to disobey the command because prophecy is no longer a gift valid for today. All I can say, in the words of the Church Lady from SNL, is “Well, now isn’t that convenient!” I apologize if my sarcasm strikes you the wrong way. I don’t intend to sound snarky, but seriously, how else can one justify disobeying a clear command of Scripture if not by simply saying what we are commanded to do is something God no longer does.

So, I remain committed to striving in the power of the Spirit to obeying what the Spirit inspired Paul to say. My definition of sin, as I suspect yours is as well, is willful disobedience to an explicit command of Scripture. And I don’t know how Paul could have been more explicit than he is in 1 Cor. 14:1,39, etc. So, I stand by my statement, “If you are not earnestly desiring spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy,” you are sinning.

To be continued . . . (like the gifts!)


Howdy Sam, So far so good. Great part 1. We all should obey Paul and desire to prophesy.
I look forward to your other parts. Especially on no tongues where there is no interpreter!!
The internet is filled with videos of screaming "idiots", with NO INTERPRETATION. It's like 1 Corinthians 14 has been removed in all Charismatic Bibles!
It seems awfully convenient (for Dr. Waldron) to disregard the commands to earnestly desire the gifts, on the basis of context, without actually *addressing* that context.

What IS the context of the instruction to earnestly desire the gifts? Instruction for how to keep proper order in the church. What else from among those instructions would Dr. Wlaldron say we're free to simply disregard because "context matters" and it "doesn't apply to us"? Should we ignore the definition of love in chapter 13, sandwiched right in the middle of this segment about gifts? Avoid pursuing love? Why do we still teach today that a man ought to examine himself to ensure he's partaking of the Lord's Supper in a worthy manner? After all, that instruction was set within a particular context -- a context which, it would seem, according to Waldron, is irrelevant to us today.
John Galt -- "can you list some of the prophets of God today. This should be simple given they've been given the gift of prophecy and can operate in it at will."

I doubt many people who testify to operating in the gift of prophecy would claim that they "can operate in it at will." All the gifts manifest "as the Spirit wills." In the case of prophecy, it is true that the speaker has control of the "off switch," so to speak. When one is speaking by the Spirit and a "revelation" comes to another (note, the revelation comes by the decision of the Spirit, not the prophet), the one speaking can and should choose to stop and let the one with the newer word speak.

I'm not saying this from any personal experience; it is, to me, the clearest sense of the text of 1 Cor. 14.
Well done Dr. Storms. Let's hope and pray these godly cessationists will one day very soon have their eyes opened to the truth and reality of the full gospel which is not in word only, but in the power of the Holy Spirit too. Unity between the two brethren should be very much desired and I fear this conference just divides believers rather than build up. I see no scriptural reference to justify some of the ugliest comments made about true godly men of God who live obeying the Lord and hearing His voice. May true repentance be awakened in their hearts. God bless you Dr. Storms as you continue to bring clarification to the Body.
Sam, I respectfully disagree with your position, but don't view yours (or mine) as sin. In a practical challenge to your rebuttal, can you list some of the prophets of God today. This should be simple given they've been given the gift of prophecy and can operate in it at will.
Dear Sam, greetings from Kurt Mahler. KKaren and I just returned from 16 days in Turkey in five locations assisting a Mongolian friend named Tsegi exploring a way to do a coffee business in Turkey. She plans develop a way for Malay, Indonesians, and Mongolians to make disciples there. “Where Ghengis Khan once destroyed, we will restore,” she says, along with other Mongolian believers who, in their own way, have a "back to Jerusalem" mentality with the eternal message.

Toward that end, we are visiting three of the seven ruins of the ancient cities that hosted the seven churches of Revelation. Today we explore Pergamum , and as part of the preparation we consulted your writings from years ago. Just wanted you to know that I remain very thankful for you.

I look forward to seeing you again sometime and catching up! Karen and I are based in the Arabian Peninsula and serve the Body of Christ internationally and cross denominationally in the prophetic office. Our elders ordained us and sent us to the nations a few years ago, after I served on staff at a church building out (by grace through weakness) the missions department, local cross-cultural missions, and an area called prayer-&-the-prophetic.

I hope sometime we can Zoom and catch up. I remain deeply grateful for you.

WhatsApp +971.58.582.8191
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P.S. I equip in the prophetic in a small, mustard-seed way as I build out content that will become a pdf and part of a discipleship app one day. If you'd like, I can send you a brief slide show of mustard-seed statements I use in that equipping. Along with this Eastern method is a Western, symmetrical, one-page outline.

I'm looking forward to the future installments on this topic. I noticed that G3 is going to do a Cessationist conference in a few days. Their ad for the conference says that they are going to "lovingly and carefully" answer the question of, "Are the Apostolic sign gifts in operation today?" They also say that they are going to enjoy "sound doctrinal preaching..." Seeing the listed speakers I have a hard time believing that that question will be "lovingly" answered. And someone could be tempted to sue them for false advertising when it comes to "sound doctrinal preaching" on this topic. If I had a dollar for every time I heard a Cessationist use the phrase "sound doctrine" when defending their position, I'd be wealthier than most WOF preachers!

Thank you for this post!
Very well articulated Dr.Storms. I have received so much teaching from the likes of Joseph Prince and Andrew Wommack and it grieves me when I see brothers criticize one another in the name of doctrinal purity. Yes, speak out against heresy but keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. You have done that.
PS: Just a heads up that your website certificate expired and most browsers are blocking your website. It was almost impossible to get on your website.
Well done Dr. Storms. When will your conversation with Jim Osman and Justin Peters come out? I was at G3 and sat in on Mr. Peters' presentation. I, as a continuationist, agreed with all of it. He picks low hanging fruit (Todd White, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Copeland) and then broad brushes it as a critique of Charismatics. It's confirmation bias for those who have been hurt by the word-of-faith movement. I for one always mention your name when in these discussions because you are a serious bible teacher who should be dealt with.
Praying for your ministry. You are a needed voice in the midst of this debate.
My definition of sin:
1. Unbelief in what God has said always resulting in
2. Disobedience to what God has commanded.
Well said, Sam.

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