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Enjoying God Blog


This is the second installment in a series of articles in which I respond, point by point, to the arguments made in the recent film, Cessationist.

One of the more bewildering arguments made in the film is that there is no mention of miraculous gifts in the NT after the latter half of 1 Corinthians. Yet again, another contributor to the film asserted that there is no reference to miraculous gifts in the pastoral epistles. What should we make of this?

In the first place, you should recognize this for what it is: an argument from silence. If we were to apply this notion to other things in Scripture, we would end up with disastrous consequences. Take but one example: the Lord’s Supper. The only place where it is explicitly mentioned is in 1 Corinthians 10-11. There is no reference to this ordinance subsequent to Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. Should we then conclude that the practice died out or that God has rescinded the command to partake of the elements of bread and wine? Of course not.

Second, nowhere in the NT are we told that the command in 1 Corinthians 12-14 to earnestly desire spiritual gifts no longer applies to Christians living subsequent to the writing of that letter. Paul was crystal clear in his first epistle to the church in Corinth and therefore felt no need to repeat himself in subsequent letters.

Third, most believe Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in the spring of either 53, 54, or 55. He wrote Romans most likely in late 56 or early 57. And he clearly mentions and encourages the use of the gift of prophecy in Romans 12:6-8. So again, it is simply incorrect to say that such miraculous gifts are not mentioned after the writing of 1 Corinthians.

Fourth, Paul refers to the gifts of apostleship and prophecy in Ephesians 4:11. Most scholars agree that Ephesians was written in 62 a.d. So we have yet again another piece of evidence that the cessationist claim that miraculous gifts are not mentioned subsequent to 1 Corinthians is simply and undeniably false.

Fifth, if certain gifts like prophecy and tongues and healing were not intended to exist in the church beyond the first two or three decades of its existence, why doesn’t Paul or Peter or John or Luke clearly say so? When Paul gave his exhortation in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 not to despise prophetic utterances, why didn’t he simply tell them not to worry about prophecy since it was soon to die out and never to be a problem to anyone again?

Sixth, yet another clear refutation of the cessationist argument is Paul’s exhortation to Timothy that he draw on the prophecies made about him to fight a good fight and keep a clear conscience before God (1 Tim. 1:18-19). Here in one of the pastoral epistles we have an explicit reference to a miraculous gift and the role it plays in the process of sanctification.

Seventh, the book of Hebrews was most likely written in the late 60’s, just before the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. I’ll return to Hebrews 2:3-4 in a subsequent article, but here I simply note that there is something our author doesn’t say that many have simply assumed he did: he nowhere says that the miracles which attested to or confirmed (or “validated”) the message were performed only by those who originally heard the Lord.

The word translated “bore witness” sounds as if it is in the past tense, as if to suggest that God used to do this, that in the past he formerly bore witness by signs and wonders, but that he no longer does so in the present day. But the participle translated “bore witness” is in the present tense in Greek. Although that doesn’t prove my point, it certainly makes room for it (both grammatically and theologically). It means that it is entirely within the realm of possibility that even in the time during which the recipients of this letter were living God was still bearing witness to the truth of the gospel through signs, wonders, miracles, and spiritual gifts. In other words, as William Lane has noted, our author’s language suggests “that the corroborative evidence was not confined to the initial act of preaching, but continued to be displayed within the life of the community” (Hebrews, 39). Cessationist Tom Schreiner acknowledges this possibility and says that “perhaps the miracles described here were also ongoing in the life of the readers” (Commentary on Hebrews, 83).

Eighth, what will one do with Revelation 11? Aside from those who identify as full preterists, everyone must acknowledge that the events described there occur subsequent to the first century. Some believe the events of Revelation 11 will transpire in the final days just before the return of Christ, while others (such as myself) believe this chapter portrays the ministry of the church throughout the course of the present church age. In either case, we read in Revelation 11 of extensive prophesying and the presence of miraculous signs and wonders.

You may recall that cessationists always insist that if prophecy is operative beyond the close of the biblical canon, it compromises or undermines the finality and sufficiency of the 66 books of the Bible. But clearly that is not the case, as we read in this chapter of the prophetic ministry of the “two witnesses”, together with the miracles that accompanied their work.

Ninth, and finally, once again I have to ask if my cessationist friends have closely read their Bibles. The argument in the film is that in the latter years of Paul’s ministry and beyond what he wrote in 1 Corinthians that miraculous gifts such as healing simply died out. If that were true, what will one do with the events described in Acts 28, toward the close of Paul’s life and ministry? There we read that Paul healed not only Publius but that when news of this spread “the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured” (Acts 28:9).

May I humbly make a request of my cessationist friends? I plead with you either to refute the preceding nine points that I’ve made, or never again, in public or private, appeal to the argument that was made in the film.

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



Howdy Sam,
One small correction suggested , on your Eight point, the Revelation 11 section, not just "FULL" Preterists, but also PARTIAL Preterists.

Having been alerted to your series by a friend of mine, I'm reading through these and have, naturally, many thoughts, but here it occurs to me that there is another side to all this "after Corinthians" that is not immediately apparent. Our New Testaments are laid out in a certain way, to wit: the story of Jesus and his life on earth, followed by the story of the early days and years of the church, followed by Paul's letters, themselves laid out in a certain order, followed by Hebrews, followed by other letters, and concluding with the Revelation. This your and all your readers know. But what many do not consider was "When were the books actually written." There are many opinions on what order Paul's letters were written, but one thing we know: his and the letters of Peter were written before about AD 67 when they were executed. So those were done, and by internal evidence, already being copied and circulated by that time. It was after, or very close to the death of Paul and Peter that the Gospel of Mark was written, followed by Matthew some years later, then Luke, then John. In theology, much is made of the false divergence of the the teachings of Peter and Paul. Everyone from Ridderbos to Bultmann have written about it. But the confounding variable is that the Gospels, containing the message of Jesus, were written down long after Paul's thinking was fully known in the church.

Also, then, with respect to this, "no mention of miracles after Corinthians," there is coming the entire arc of the Gospels which will be written decades later containing the record of many of the miracles of Jesus. Oh, and the Book of Acts. So miracles were being talked about after Corinthians was written. Quite a lot.

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