Saturday, January 2, 2010

Have supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongues, miracles, healings) ceased? A rebuttal

Some Christian denominations like the Baptists and Brethren and prominent anti-charismatics like Hank Hanegraaf and John MacArthur believe that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer valid and have ceased. They are known as Cessationists.
(for example see page 21-22 of Uplook magazine August 2008 issue
However, there is no biblical foundation for this doctrine. In fact, this doctrine means disregarding large parts of the Bible.
Some of the points below are from my personal studying.

1) They use the argument that tongues was mentioned in Acts in only three places, and so it was not widespread in the church.

Rebuttal: Using absence of mention as a proof of lack of occurrence is a logical fallacy.
There are 3 instances in Acts where tongues are recorded.
Jerusalem (Acts 2),  Caesarea (Acts 10:46), Ephesus (Acts 19:6).
 Yet it is not mentioned in the respective letters to the believers in Jerusalem or Jews - Hebrews, James nor Ephesus - Ephesians.
However tongues certainly did exist in Corinth from the letter to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 12-14).
Yet in Acts 18:11, when Paul passed lived in Corinth for 1.5 years, there is no mention of tongues in any of the evangelism there.
Furthermore, Paul said that "I speak in tongues more than any of you" (1 Corinthians 14:18). However in the description of his conversion experience in Acts 9:17-31 or later, there is no mention that he spoke in tongues.

2)  Cessationists say that miracles, and healings were mentioned fewer and fewer times after Pentecost. They also point to illnesses mentioned by Paul who wrote to Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach ailments, left Trophimus a believer sick at Miletus. They also point to Paul's mention of a 'thorn in the flesh' and claim it is a physical illness.
The Kingdom of Heaven is being established here on earth. That is why we pray, "Your kingdom come".
Only when Jesus walked on earth, did miracles and healings happen 100% - because Jesus is God.
So the kingdom of heaven on earth is inconsistent with advances and setbacks being made all the time. When Jesus returns again, it will be 100% consistent. This is per the doctrine of the Vineyard church which I agree with.
Furthermore, throughout church history, miracles, healings and other gifts have been recorded.

3) 1 Corinthians 14:39 clearly commands, "Do not forbid speaking in tongues". Amazingly, we never hear cessationists quote this verse!

4) They quote 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 "whether there be tongues, they shall cease. For we know in part and prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears" or in the KJV, "we shall see clearly".  They say that when the Bible was completed, then the need for gifts of the Spirit ceased.

If "when perfection comes" meant the Bible, then why are we debating this issue and others? The correct interpretation would be obvious to all - 'we would see clearly' as one. As a Jewish unbeliever sarcastically said to me, "Christianity has split up into 3000 different religions".
It is clear from an honest and plain reading of 1 Corinthians 13, that tongues and all gifts will pass away only when we are in heaven.
In fact, the last book of the Bible, Revelation, is itself a vision which records supernatural events including miracles and visions that will happen in the future.

5) They state that there is no use for tongues.

Rebuttal: My pastor Mark Warner says the Bible clearly says that tongues edify the spirit."One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself " (I Cor 14:4). He goes on to say that since 14:1 says, "Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy", one can also desire the gift of speaking in tongues.

There is less clarity in the Bible on whether allowed tongues are only 'earthly' tongues like Spanish, Tagalog, and German. However, as pastor Warner says, Corinthians 12-14 mentions two kinds of tongues - one in public with interpretation, and one a private 'prayer language', without interpretation. I am undecided on this. 

Further reading: Dallas Theological Seminary professor Jack Deere, "Surprised by the Spirit".

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