Reflections On Cessationism (The view that certain spiritual gifts have ceased)

I’m saddened by the confusion brought into the Church by the so-called Charismatic Movement. This is not intended to be a comprehensive treatise on the subject, but just a vehicle for setting out some comments I made in a Facebook discussion, with the hope that they may be helpful to someone who has experienced that confusion.

I won’t include the comments of others in the following (you probably can intuit them), but here are a few comments I made:


1. No one I know of says the gifts of the Spirit have ceased in general.

2. Many, however, including me, believe that the SIGN gifts have ceased.

Short reasons (as opposed to writing a book):

a. They were signs/wonders to authenticate the apostles in establishing the New Covenant — see Acts 14:3; 1 Cor 14:22; 2 Cor 12:12; Eph 2:20; Heb 2:3,4.

b. Comparing the true miraculous sign gifts of the Church of Acts with today’s nonsensical gibberish “tongues” and inaccurate “prophesy”, convinces me of the overt deception (including self-deception, sadly) of today’s supposed tongue-talkers and prophesiers.

c. What has been the result? A Trojan Horse brought into the Church to undermine the Scriptures, teaching that FURTHER revelation is needed, through these sign gifts. But all it has brought is confusion.

NUMBER TWO (In response to recommending D.A. Carson, a non-cessationist)

I’ve read Carson, Piper and Grudem [all non-cessationists whom I respect otherwise] on this subject and found them unsatisfying. Here’s why:

What they have proven exegetically, I believe, is that God COULD THEORETICALLY give someone the gift of tongues or prophecy today without violating the Bible.

But so what? The real question is this: IS HE DOING SO?

The answer, I believe, is as obvious as the pink elephant in the room — no.

And the problem with the nice-sounding argument that we must test today’s tongues and prophecies is that the Trojan Horse has swelled to an estimated 500,000,000 “charismatics” in the world today!

And by the time Diogenes and his lantern find an honest man (to use a comparison), and get through 400,000,000 of them, “testing” as he goes, and 400,000,000 of them are found to be phony, he still will swear that there might be a real one in the last 100,000,000!

And all 500,000,000 of them already swear that THEY are the real deal, shouting “shambala donna duego shabeeki”, or “Thus saith the Lord, ‘My people, and you are my people, seek me this day while I may be found, for dark days lie at your door, blah, blah, blah'” and call it tongues and prophecy.

Or to put it another way, I’m not a so-called cessationist because I think God could never theoretically give these sign gifts to anyone ever again — I’m a cessationist because it’s obvious to me that He is not doing so, and has not done so for many many years.

Sorta like He has “ceased” parting the Red Sea.

And though Carson and Grudem mean well, they are merely adding to the confusion.

NUMBER THREE (In response to the friendly accusation that I’m acting as if I’m omniscient on whether sign gifts have ceased)

I admit to a tiny bit of agnosticism on the subject, which is why I repeatedly use the term “theoretical”, but my agnosticism is on the level of theorizing that God might be parting the Red Sea, or at least the Jordan River, at this moment — though I’m pretty confident that tomorrow will show that He didn’t, just as I’m pretty confident that tomorrow will show that no biblical tongue talkers or prophets will cross my (or anyone else’s) path today.

I know these people.

I was heavily into it in the early ’80’s. I’ve met thousands personally, and witnessed tens of thousands second-hand. I’ve heard their “tongues” and heard their “prophecies” and witnessed their delusions as they laid hands on cerebral palsy patients and literally declared them healed while the victim of their delusion sat twisted in their wheel chairs — then brought guilt and shame on the victim because they didn’t have enough faith.

I’ve never met ONE who was not clearly self-deceived, or a blatant deceiver, or often both.

It’s tragic and confusing to the average person in the pew, who often feels superior because he is “Spirit-filled” (AKA tongue-talking) or feels a confused emptiness because he isn’t.

In the midst of the tragic stuff, there is occasionally humor. I’ll never forget the speaker at a Full Gospel Businessmen’s meeting in about 1982.

He declared from the podium, “I yoothed to have a thpeach impedimal, but God healed me.” Even the charismatic crowd had a hard time not chuckling. You could not tell that guy he still had a speech impediment.

And the Trojan Horse confusion marches on.

Proper Christian Mysticism

It is possible (maybe even likely) that as a Christian reading this article, you fall into one of two camps regarding Christian Mysticism:

Camp 1. You think it’s perfectly acceptable to seek God for “a word”, or “a revelation”, apart from the truth that He has revealed to us in the Bible, the Word of God.

You think that “new truth” can be derived about God, or regarding God’s will for your life, by means of meditation, or even “lightning bolt” revelation apart from the Word of God.

You think nothing of carelessly saying, “God told me this or that” (though you might instinctively hedge your bet by asking, “What do YOU think?”, because in your heart you know He didn’t really “speak” to you.)

You point to folks in the second mystical camp below and say, “They’re just nothing but doctrine! Don’t you know God speaks to us?!”


Camp 2. You despise the very idea of being a Christian Mystic. You think Christian Mysticism is dangerous, and you take the Sergeant Joe Friday (“Dragnet”) view of truth and the Bible: “Just the facts, ma’am.”

You think that the revealed truth of Scripture is strictly an intellectual pursuit, and the more knowledge of that Scripture, the better — automatically.

You point to folks in the first mystical camp who look like fools in their mystical excesses, and say, “Forget mysticism, gimme Theology!”

I Believe Both Camps Above Are Wrong

Before specifying “why”, let me say these things:

1. Many folks would not consider themselves in either camp, but frankly are admittedly confused by the issue.

2. Theology is great. Since Theology is basically the truth of God and His ways, we NEED theology, and lots of it. In fact, we can’t know God without Theology, also known as Doctrine. If you hear a Christian demeaning Doctrine, they know not what they do.

3. Theology is not enough. First, because it has to be CORRECT theology, that is, biblical. Second, because correct theology has a purpose beyond even itself. “Just the facts, ma’am” is inadequate when it comes to Scripture.

Let me show what I mean directly from the Bible itself with three verses from 1 John.

“…that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” – 1 John 1:3

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” – 1 John 1:6

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” – 1 John 1:7

Fellowship with Christ is Proper Christian Mysticism

Fellowship (from the Greek “koinonia”) with Christ is something which is alive and active, just like the Word of God itself. The Greek word is also translated “communion”, which gives some more flavor to this unseen spiritual reality.

As Christians, we can go well beyond knowing ABOUT Jesus Christ, to actually “communing” with Him.

But there are some principles for communing with Him, which we can derive from those passages in 1 John.

1. We need to walk in the light, not in darkness. That means we need the truth of the Scriptures! Without that truth, we simply cannot have real fellowship or communion with Him. This is where “Camp 1” is in serious error. Serious.

Peaceful, mindless “feelings” can be had by practitioners of demonic Eastern religions, or by drugs, or even by spinning around in a circle until dizzy. Obviously that is not communing with Christ.

Fellowship with Christ includes fellowship with the very Apostles themselves (1 John 1:3). How is that possible? Through their ghosts, or disembodied spirits? Of course not. It is through their WRITINGS, inspired by God. Through the WORD of God.

2. Communion implies “communication”, and so it makes perfect sense that as we LISTEN to God through His Word, that we also SPEAK to Him in prayer.

In that sense, fellowship with Christ may be capsulized as “the Word of God and prayer”. When we say, the Word of God, we imply other things: reading, studying, memorizing, meditating on, and hearing teaching on the Word of God.

Of course, once we’ve “hidden” the Word in our hearts and minds, we have the beautiful BONUS blessing of being able to commune with Christ at will, even when we don’t have our Bibles in front of us.

But make no mistake, it’s not fellowship or communion if we merely “empty our minds”, or think our own thoughts and call it communion. Every thought must be taken “captive to Christ”. In other words, be HIS thoughts, through HIS Word. Then we may interact in prayer — a great privilege, by the way — as we “boldly come before His throne”, cleansed by the blood of Christ.

3. One more thing. Seek Jesus Christ in the Scriptures. It is about Him. All roads lead to Him. Gaze on Him as you take in the Word of God.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 3:18

This is proper Christian Mysticism.

Camp 1, get back to the Word, please. Don’t look for “revelation” outside of it. That will only keep you in confusion. The completed Bible God has given us is “sufficient” for every thing for which we need a word from God.

Camp 2, don’t fear communing with the Lord, as though it were some Eastern weirdness. He is in you. We are “one spirit with Him” (1 Corinthians 6:17). Our union with Christ is a mystical thing. It goes beyond doctrine, though it never violates it.

“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.” – 1 Corinthians 13:14

Behold, He Makes All Things New

The First Sunrise of the New Year 2009

compiled by Michele Rayburn

Behold, He makes all things new…a New Covenant, a new creation in Christ, a new identity in Christ, a new spirit…

Psalm 40:3  He has put a *new* song in my mouth. Praise to our God; Many will see it and fear, And will trust in the Lord.

Psalm 96:1  Oh, sing to the Lord a *new* song! Sing to the Lord, all the earth.

Isaiah 42:9  Behold, the former things have come to pass, And *new* things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.

Isaiah 62:2  The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a *new* name, Which the mouth of the Lord will name.

Isaiah 65:17  “For behold, I create *new* heavens and a *new* earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.”

Jeremiah 31:31  “Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a *new* covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.”

Ezekiel 11:19  Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a *new* spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 18:31  Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a *new* heart and a *new* spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel?

Ezekiel 36:26  I will give you a *new* heart and put a *new* spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Matthew 26:28  For this is My blood of the *new* covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

Mark 14:24  And He said to them, “This is My blood of the *new* covenant, which is shed for many.”

Luke 22:20  Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the *new* covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

John 13:34  A *new* commandment that I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Romans 6:4  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in *newness* of life.

Romans 7:6  But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the *newness* of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

Romans 12:2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the *renewing* of your mind…

2 Corinthians 3:6  God…who also made us sufficient as ministers of the *new* covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

2 Corinthians 4:16  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being *renewed* day by day.

2 Corinthians 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a *new* creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become *new*.

Galatians 6:15  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a *new* creation.

Ephesians 2:14-15  For He Himself is our peace…having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one *new* man from the two, thus making peace…

Ephesians 4:22-24  …put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to deceitful lusts, and be *renewed* in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the *new* man which was created according to God, in righteousness and true holiness.

Colossians 3:9-10  …you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the *new* man who is *renewed* in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.

Titus 3:5  …according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and *renewing* of the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 8:8  “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a *new* covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…” (Jer.31:31)

Hebrews 8:13  In that He says, “A *new* covenant,” He has made the first obsolete.

Hebrews 9:15  He is the Mediator of the *new* covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

Hebrews 10:19-20  Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a *new* and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is His flesh…

Hebrews 12:22-24  But you have come…to Jesus the Mediator of the *new* covenant…

1 Peter 2:2  …as *newborn* babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby…

2 Peter 3:13  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for *new* heavens and a *new* earth in which righteousness dwells.

1 John 2:8  Again, a *new* commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.

2 John 1:5  And now I plead with you, lady, not as though I wrote a *new* commandment to you, but that which we have had from the beginning; that we love one another.

Revelation 2:17  And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a *new* name written which no one knows except him who receives it.

Revelation 3:12  And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the *New* Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God. And I will write on him My *new* name.

Revelation 14:3  And they sang as it were a *new* song before the throne…

Revelation 21:1  And I saw a *new* heaven and a *new* earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.

Revelation 21:2  Then I, John, saw the holy city, *New* Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Revelation 21:5  Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things *new*.”

Morning Has Broken – sung by Cat Stevens

Baby Jesus – 3 Reasons To Reject Him


1. Virgins don’t have babies.
I mean, the whole idea is absurd. Remember the birds and the bees? Remember biology? Remember, the egg has to be fertilized by the seed, then grows until birth? How could a virgin have a baby without any seed to fertilize the egg?
2. Gods don’t humble themselves.
There has never been a humble God in history. From the beginnings of man in Mesopotamia, Gods aren’t humble. Gods can’t be humble. After all they’re gods. They are above men, they rule over men, they squash men at will, they fight with men, they dominate men.
To humble themselves would be to show weakness, to show that they’re really not gods. No god ever humbled himself and no god ever will.
3. Gods don’t make friends.
This goes along with number two. Gods don’t make friends because that would be to humble themselves. And they sure don’t make friends with man. What do they even have in common? Nothing. Gods are gods and men are men, and never the twain shall meet. The very idea of having a god as a friend is like a man having an amoeba for a friend. Not going to happen.

I didn’t actually see it, but I read about an episode of the TV show Thirtysomething. I never watched the show because by the time I even heard of it I was already Forty-something.

But this episode was about the character Hope, who was a Christian, arguing with her Jewish husband, Michael, about the holidays.

“Why do you even bother with Hanukkah?” she asks. “Do you really believe a handful of Jews held off a huge army by using a bunch of lamps that miraculously wouldn’t run out of oil?”

Michael shoots back, “Oh, and Christmas makes more sense? Do you really believe an angel appeared to some teenage girl who then got pregnant without ever having had sex and traveled on horseback to Bethlehem where she spent the night in a barn and had a baby who turned out to be the Savior of the world?”

Well, do you believe it, friend? I do.

Well, it wasn’t a horse that Mary rode to Bethlehem, it was a donkey. But the character Michael got it pretty accurate, otherwise, didn’t he?

And it’s got to be one of the most ridiculous-sounding stories ever to be written, that the writer actually expects you to believe. We’re not talking about some fiction writer telling of Hobbits or Jabba the Hutt, and hoping we’ll pretend to believe it just long enough to enjoy the story. We’re talking about serious theological guys who tell the story of the birth of Jesus without batting an eye, and expect us to believe it as true, down to the last bit.

Well, what about our three reasons to reject this baby Jesus?

Let’s take them one at a time.

1. Virgins don’t have babies.

It’s true they usually don’t. But think with me for a minute. Suppose God wanted to send a Savior to pay for the sins of men by sacrificing Himself on a cross, dying to take our sins on Him so that He could give us the free gift of His righteousness, so that we would be saved from Hell, and have eternal life, everlasting life eventually with God in heaven.

Well, there’s one little problem with that. After Adam sinned in the Garden, sin, or the sinful nature, was forever passed on to everyone who ever lived since, and that sin was passed on, the Bible says, through the seed of man.

But a Savior for man would have to be sinless. A sinner can’t pay the sacrifice for another sinner. To satisfy or appease God’s just wrath against sin, the sacrifice must be perfect, sinless, not only without having committed any sins, but without even a sinful nature. In other words, righteous.

And the sacrifice that God the Father sent, was God the Son. The perfect candidate for sacrifice. Pure, righteous, sinless, and with no sin nature.

But that brings up another problem. How does God the Son get to earth to get this done. After all, since it was by a man that we fell or inherited our sinful nature, it must be a man who sheds His blood in our place for our forgiveness and salvation.

But if Jesus were born as a man in the normal way, then sin would pass on from His earthly dad, through his earthly dad’s seed. Got that? The sinful nature always passes on through the seed of the man.

So God did a miracle, a small miracle for Him really, but one with a huge impact on history. He implanted, miraculously a seed into Mary, which the Bible then calls “the seed of the woman” (see, not the seed of a man). This miraculous seed joined with Mary’s egg, and you know the rest. A sinless baby boy was born. Not only sinless in not ever committing a sin, but sinless in not even having a sinful nature, like the rest of us.

So not only did this virgin have a baby, but it couldn’t have been any other way, or the baby could not have been sinless.

2. Gods don’t humble themselves.

It’s true in human history, that those called gods in verbal stories and written literature never humble themselves. But let me say a couple things about that.

First, they are not really gods, of course. The Bible clearly says there is only one God. There is only one true God who is the Creator of the heavens and the earth, and everything that is in the earth. The Bible says that this one God is in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That’s what theologians have named the Trinity. But there is only one God.

And so all those so-called gods who never humbled themselves, are just made-up stories and superstitions of fictional gods, or in some cases, may be actual beings which we call fallen angels or demons. And anybody knows, no demon is going to humble himself.

But the true God of the Bible did humble Himself.

George Herbert, the poet and Anglican priest of the 1600’s put it poetically like this:

“The God of power, as he did ride
In his majestick robes of glorie
Resolv’d to light; and so one day
He did descend, undressing all the way.”

This “undressing all the way” is nothing more than the humbling of the mighty Creator of the universe. This Creator God who spread trillions of galaxies into space, and made the atoms and neutrons and electrons and quasars and army ants and the aardvarks who would eat them; this almighty, all-knowing, all-wise Jehovah God, because He so loved us, humbled Himself.

And came to earth, Emmanuel, God with us. Came to earth as the most helpless creature there is, a baby.

A real baby, by the way. Don’t believe the Christmas carol that says “no crying he makes”. I’m sure He cried alright. And he kicked and cooed, and drooled, and He couldn’t have lived more than a few hours if He wasn’t cared for.

But He grew, and because He was a real baby, He grew to be a real man. He was really God, too. But He set aside the glory and rights that He had as God. Could we dare say, “like a man becoming an amoeba”? Probably not. But it was the most astounding humbling that the world has ever seen.

And it had to be that way, but He didn’t have to do it. The Bible says He did it because He loves us. And He loves us because He chose to love us, before the creation of the world. How’s that for a mystery? He didn’t love us because we’re so lovable, He loved us because He is love, and He chose to love us.

The Bible says He so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have eternal life.

An explosion of glorious love as big as God, resulting in a baby away in a manger, no crib for his bed.

3. Gods don’t make friends.

Have you seen the bumper sticker, “The more I get to know people, the more I love my dog.”

It’s a sad point, really, but one that we can understand. People are fearfully and wonderfully made, the Bible says, but the same Bible says “Cursed is he who trusts in man.”

Or how about the cynical little verse, “To dwell above with saints we love, O that will be glory. But to dwell below with saints we know, well that’s a different story.”

What God in His right mind would want to be friends with us?

I would contend that the Bible teaches that God not only loved us when we weren’t lovable, but he chose to befriend us when we were his enemies.

Thankfully, Mary didn’t say to the angel, “Are you crazy?” O.K., she did say, “But I’ve never been with a man.” So she wasn’t gullible. But you know what she was? She was godly. And so she said, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

She wasn’t gullible and she wasn’t stupid. She had to have known instinctively what she was in for. The humiliation, the doubts even from loved ones, the shame for her betrothed, Joseph, the jeers and stares and tsk tsk’s. But she did what a godly girl should do. She said in effect, “Thy will be done.”

When we read what’s called the “Magnificat”, Mary’s beautiful words in Luke Chapter 1 which begin with, “My soul magnifies the Lord”, we see that her language is filled with the Psalms. This tells us that she was probably raised in a Bible-believing home. And this too was part of God’s wonderful plan.

Malcolm Muggeridge, commenting on our modern Roe v. Wade society wrote,

“It is, in point of fact, extremely improbable, under existing conditions, that Jesus would have been permitted to be born at all. Mary’s pregnancy, in poor circumstances, and with the father unknown, would have been an obvious case for an abortion; and her talk of having conceived as a result of the intervention of the Holy Ghost would have pointed to the need for psychiatric treatment, and made the case for terminating her pregnancy even stronger. Thus our generation, needing a Savior more, perhaps, than any that has ever existed, would be too humane to allow one to be born.”

But God worked it out, didn’t He?

With a baby in a manger, who was Himself God, yet man.

And the man grew in wisdom and stature, and He suffered beyond imagination as He shed His blood and died. And by shedding His blood and dying, and rising again from the dead, this man who is also God, became a friend to those who had been His enemies.

This is His Kingdom, the Kingdom of God, a Kingdom of friends of God.

Friends of God are those who have been born again. They are those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And they are those who have given up working and striving to earn God’s love and favor, but accepted the free gift of His love and forgiveness and salvation, by grace.

Jesus said, “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

As of this message, it’s close to Christmas. The day we celebrate the birth of Jesus. And once again, we are reminded of three wonderful things.

A virgin did have a baby.

And our God did humble Himself.

And the one true almighty God has made us His friends.

Happy Birthday Jesus…and thank you.

No Man Ever Spoke Like This Man!

One of my favorite little slices of the Bible occurs in John Chapter 7. It’s easy to miss a very interesting historical note that is quite striking when you see it.

In verse 32, it says, “…the Pharisees and the chief priests sent officers to take Him.” That is, they sent the Temple Guards (who acted as police in cases like this) to grab Jesus and bring him to them.

What’s interesting is that the Pharisees and the “chief priests” (often Sadducees) were not buddies. But in their shared hatred for Jesus, they together called for his capture.

But what is stunning is what happens when the Temple Guards return later!

Keep in mind, it was the job of the Temple Guards to obey. To do their jobs.

They had found Jesus, and apparently listened to him for awhile. Among the things he said to the crowd were those wonderful words, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (He said this concerning the Holy Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.)

Well, verses 45 and 46 pick up the end of this little excursion of the Temple Guards to capture Jesus:

“Then the officers  came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, ‘Why have you not brought Him?’

“The officers answered, ‘No man ever spoke like this Man!'”

That’s our Lord and Savior.