The Charismatic Gifts Debate

There are two basic views when it comes to the charismatic gifts debate. One of these views is the cessationist view, which basically claims that charismatic gifts such as prophecy, speaking in tongues, and healing among other things ceased to happen after the New Testament. On the opposite side of the spectrum there is the continuationist view, which claims that such gifts have continued all the way until today and that Christians are still able to perform such gifts in their lives. Using Scripture and experience, it has become more than obvious to me that the continuationist view is the correct view to take on this subject.

It is seen throughout the entire Bible that when the Holy Spirit shows up, gifts, as well as signs and wonders, come with Him on regular occasions. Numbers 11 is proof of this. In this story, Moses gathers most of the seventy elders of Israel around the tent of the tabernacle where the Holy Spirit showed up. Verse 25 says, “Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do it again.” It is important to note that this does not mean that Christian prophecy will end. This particular moment of prophecy was different which The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out well. “All that was necessary was for their ministry to be publicly authenticated so the whole community could see that they possessed the same spiritual qualifications and authority as Moses himself.”

The Holy Spirit dates back all the way to the story of creation and it is obvious that He dwells in Christ in the New Testament (as shown through His gifts, miracles, and signs and wonders). We as Christians believe fully that Christ made the Spirit available to everyone who believes in Him so we should expect the Spirit to live as He always has. The Spirit was going to be so helpful that it would actually be more of an advantage that Jesus left so the Spirit could come as stated in John 16:7. The Willmington’s Bible Handbook points out that, “This does not mean that the Holy Spirit had no ministry in the world up to that time but that his ministry would now expand and intensify.” So if Christ is giving us the same Spirit He has, we should expect that this meant the Spirit was capable of doing and being much more than a super-conscience (as many cessationists have made Him out to be). And it is evidenced in Acts 2 that He does do much more since as soon as He enters Christians for the first time, they start speaking in tongues.

Jesus has become the avenue in which we receive the Spirit and He expects to see the outpouring of great works because of it. In John 14:12 He says “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” This is not a small statement to make as the very last verse of John states that “there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.” These verses are evidence that Christians are expected to do things even beyond what Jesus did. Matthew Henry’s Commentary made a great point on this subject. “In the kingdom of nature they should work greater miracles. No miracle is little, but some to our apprehension seem greater than others. Christ had healed with the hem of his garment, but Peter with his shadow, Paul by the handkerchief that had touched him.” Obviously Christians cannot do these things by themselves, but they need the Holy Spirit to do so.

My experience has made all of these verses real to me. It is one thing to say the Spirit is capable of doing these things, but it is a completely different thing to actually see it happen. For most of my life I was grown as a cessationist and I did not question it because I had yet to see the Spirit do anything. But after catching people slain in the Spirit, seeing healings happen, hearing tongues spoken, and hearing story after story of what the Spirit is doing, I cannot ignore that there are charismatic gifts today. For this reason, it is my opinion that the cessationist view has become a view of arrogance rather than an educated outlook on the Holy Spirit, because I am obviously seeing Him at work around me through charismatic gifts.

Because of my experience, I have no objection whatsoever to the continuationist view, and see all of the cessationist arguments as incredibly weak. Therefore, the only objection to charismatic gifts today that I can see, is really more of a question than an argument: How can we know that it is God doing these things today and not the perceptions of our own emotions or demonic forces?

There are several ways to answer this question, one of the first being that Christians need to learn how to discern what is and is not from God, and do so with other Christians. We can also look at the fruit of the situation to see if God was really present in what happened. But I think the best way to find out is for one to experience it himself. When a person sees someone healed (or perhaps is the person being healed) it will become much more obvious that God still does these things. Or if someone is prophesied over they just might fall to their face and worship God, declaring that God is there (1 Cor. 14:25). Most of the charismatic gifts that Christians practice are Biblical and until a cessationist tries to experience it, they will have a hard time understanding or believing it, which is not only their loss, but also the Holy Spirit’s.

Bibliography

Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (1:227). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Willmington, H. L. (1997). Willmington’s Bible handbook (619). Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers.

Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Jn 14:12). Peabody: Hendrickson.

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