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Debunking the Myths: How Continuationists Misrepresent Cessationism

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Criticism of the doctrine of cessationism is hardly a novel phenomenon coming from the charismatic wing of professing Christendom. Yet in recent years, a concerning shift has become increasingly evident. Hostility towards this doctrine has intensified, crossing the line into personal attacks on people who hold to cessationism, and most often by people who misrepresent what cessationists actually believe and teach. Here’s just one recent example that I saw on social media earlier today.

This aggressiveness has moved far beyond merely a matter of spirited debate and it reflects a deeper issue that has plagued the Church for centuries. Interestingly, the vast majority of theological heresies that have infiltrated Christian doctrine over the ages have come through the conduit of continuationism. From Montanism in the early church—a movement that claimed new revelation through ecstatic prophecies—to the modern prosperity gospel that often relies on so-called “new revelations” to justify its teachings, the pattern is hard to ignore.

These movements, while seemingly distinct, share a common thread. They rely on the continuationist belief in modern-day “prophecy”, or extra-biblical revelation, which is often packaged as miraculous gifts of the Spirit. At the heart of these heresies is the precarious belief that people can continue to receive direct, divine revelation apart from Scripture. This opens the floodgates for any number of distortions and deviations since it subverts the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. The idea that God is speaking new truths outside of His completed revelation creates an unstable foundation, prone to the illusions of fallible human interpretation. This is no piddling matter, it strikes at the very core of biblical Christian orthodoxy.

Such a landscape provides fertile ground for the escalating attacks on cessationism, which ultimately aim to undermine the foundational truth that God has spoken definitively and completely through His Word. It’s against this backdrop that the crescendo of attacks against cessationism should concern any biblically-minded Christian. The bottom line is this: if you want to debate the merits of cessationism, at least make an attempt to represent cessationism properly. Otherwise, you’re merely a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, clamoring about that which you do not know or understand. The next sections will delve deeper into the cessationist doctrine, its biblical foundation, and why this theological position is not only warranted but essential for preserving the integrity of Christian belief.

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Cessationism—a term that sparks intense debates within the Christian community, often misunderstood and misconstrued. Yet, this doctrine deserves a fair examination, especially against the sweeping accusations that cessationists are skeptics of God’s ongoing work. This notion couldn’t be further from the truth.

Cessationism is the theological position that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing, ceased with the closing of the New Testament Canon and the death of the last apostle. But it needs to be understood that the cessation of these sign gifts does not equate to a cessation of God’s active involvement in the lives of His people.

One of the most profound misunderstandings is the charge that cessationists “put God in a box,” claiming that He no longer heals or performs miracles. This is a gross misrepresentation. God, in His omnipotence and sovereignty, is free to act in whatever manner He chooses. The difference lies not in God’s capability but in the methods He has chosen to employ to carry out His divine purposes.

When we explore the Scriptures, it becomes evident that the apostolic sign gifts had a unique and specific purpose—to validate the apostles as messengers of God during a time when the New Testament Scriptures had not yet been completed. For example, Paul’s apostolic authority was confirmed through “signs, wonders and miracles” (2 Corinthians 12:12). These miracles were not for show and were not even primarily for the purpose of the temporal results they brought forth. They were to authenticate the message of the gospel and the messenger, to prove that he spoke with divine authority.

Today, with the Canon of Scripture complete, we have the final, authoritative revelation of God. Hebrews 1:1-2 makes it abundantly clear that “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son” (emphasis mine). Today, we have no need for further affirmation as the Bible testifies that it is sufficient for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

The end of the sign gifts doesn’t spell the end of God’s miraculous work and to accuse cessationists of believing this is a fabricated distortion of the doctrine. God does indeed continue to heal people and intervene in the daily lives of Creation through his sovereign providence. But let’s not forget the most astonishing miracle of all, the regeneration of a human soul. This is where the Holy Spirit is most powerfully active today, illuminating minds to understand God’s Word, convicting hearts of sin, and sealing believers for the day of redemption—a truly miraculous work of God that, interestingly, seems to be missing in much of the charismatic movement.

Being a cessationist doesn’t mean we have limited God. On the contrary, we acknowledge His boundless power while understanding that His primary means of acting in this age is through His Word and the inward work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His people. It’s not that God can’t, it’s that God has chosen a different way—one that aligns perfectly with His sovereign will and His revealed Word.

The charge that cessationists limit God’s activity is not only unfounded but reflects a lack of understanding of both God’s sovereignty and the purpose of the apostolic sign gifts as laid out in Scripture. We are not skeptics of God’s miraculous power—we are firm believers in the enduring, transformative power of His Word and Spirit. And that’s a truth worth standing on, unapologetically. So if you’re going to attack us, at least do so with a proper understanding of our beliefs.


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