Spiritual Gifts Today?

Session 2: The Best Arguments for Cessationism


The Best Arguments for Cessationism


  1. The NT Nowhere Teaches that all Gifts Will Continue
  • What about 1 Cor 13:8-12?
    • As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor 13:8-12)
    • Paul assumes that Jesus is likely going to return at any point—he does not have the concept of several thousands of years of waiting in mind.
    • It is possible the gifts of prophecy and tongues—likely brought up here because of the abuses surrounding these gifts in chs. 12-14—are incidental to Paul’s argument. The main point is that the partial knowledge—which the prophecy and tongues mediate--will one day be remedied. But prophecy and tongues are not the only mediums of partial knowledge—we experience this today, even though we have a complete canon of Scripture. Prophecy and tongues could cease prior to the 2nd coming without compromising Paul’s main point—limited knowledge will one day be fixed.
  • What about “the last days” of Joel from Acts 2:16-21?
    • The “last days” could be inaugurated by the manifestation of prophecy/tongues, but that does not mean that it will persist through the duration of the last days.
    • Just like the conclusion of the “last days” will be marked by “wonders in the heaven above”, but the entire scope of time will not be filled with “blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun…turned to darkness and the moon to blood.”


  1. There is Good Evidence that Some Gifts Cease
  • Why are we told so little about what some spiritual gifts are or how they function?
    • What are “words of knowledge” and “words of wisdom” (1 Cor 12:8)?
    • How is the spiritual gift of “faith” (1 Cor 12:9) different than saving faith?
    • How does one know if they possess the spiritual gift of interpreting tongues?
    • If gifts like healing, miracles, and exorcising demons were to be normative in the life of the church, why are we not given more detailed instructions on how one uses such gifts?
  • Why is there no mention of spiritual gifts—aside from the prophecy made about Timothy (1 Tim 1:18; 4:14)—in the manuals Paul writes for young pastors leading churches: the Pastoral Letters.
    • But what about the Lord’s Supper? That is only mentioned in 1 Cor 11 in all of Paul’s letters.
  • Perhaps God did not intend to provide more detail because He did not intend us to have the same experience of certain spiritual gifts that the early church did.

  1. The Gift of Apostleship Has Ceased
  • “Apostles” is a spiritual gift (1 Cor 12:28; Eph 4:8, 11)
  • What were the requirements of an apostle?
    • Someone who was an eyewitness to the resurrected Christ (1 Cor 9:1; 15:5-8; Acts 1:21-22).
    • Someone who was commissioned by Christ Himself (Luke 6:12-16; Acts 1:21-26; 9:1-19; Rom. 1:1).
    • Someone who manifested the miraculous “signs of an apostle” (2 Cor 12:2; Acts 2:43; Matt 10:1).
  • “Since no one today can meet the qualification of having seen the risen Christ with his own eyes, there are no apostles today,” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 941).
  • Paul seemed to allude to the fact that he was the final apostle: “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God,” (1 Cor 15:7-9).
  • We see no attempt to replace the apostles when they die (eg. Acts 12:1-2) the way that Judas is replaced in Acts 1:21-26.
  • In the Pastoral Letters (1, 2 Timothy, Titus), written towards the end of Paul’s life, he does not mention apostolic leadership in the church. Richard Gaffin explains, “Timothy, as much as anyone, is fairly seen as Paul’s direct, personal successor (cf. Phil 2:20-22), but Paul never calls him an apostle.” (Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? 48).


  1. The Church is Built on the Foundation of Apostles and Prophets
  • The church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” (Eph 2:20)
  • What do “apostles and prophets” do? They provide authoritative revelation (see Eph 3:3-6).
  • Remember: the early church does not have the New Testament, it is still being written! So God provided the church with special gifted individuals—apostles and prophets—to authoritatively declare God’s word to the church. This is the foundation, the “deposit” (1 Tim 6:20), the church is built on.
  • The very image of a foundation implies something laid once, and then consecutively built upon.
    • 1 Cor 3:10-11
  • If the gift of apostleship has ceased, and apostleship is linked with prophecy, then there is good reason to believe that prophecy likewise ceased.

  1. Translated Tongues is a Form of Prophecy
  • See Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor 14
  • If prophecy has ceased, then so has the public gift of interpreted tongues.
  • What about the private experience of tongues?
    • “For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God,” (1 Cor 14:2)
    • “But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God,” (1 Cor 14:28)
    • “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue,” (1 Cor 14:18-19)
    • “There is no stronger defense of the private use of tongues, and attempts to avoid this conclusion turn out on inspection to be remarkably flimsy. If Paul speaks in tongues more than all the Corinthians, yet in the church prefers to speak five intelligible words rather than ten thousand words in a tongue (which is a way of saying that under virtually no circumstance will he ever speak in tongues in church, without quite ruling out the possibility), then where does he speak them?...The only possible conclusion is that Paul exercised his remarkable tongues gift in private,” (D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit, 136).


  1. The Rarity and Purpose of Miracles
  • The working of miracles was rare in the Bible, clustered around three distinct periods of time: Moses and Joshua; Elijah and Elisha; Jesus and the Apostles. If these were rare in the Bible, why would we anticipate they would be common today?
  • The purpose of miracles: to attest to and identify the authority of a messenger from God.
    • “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” (John 3:2)
    • “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” 21 In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” (Luke 7:20-22)
    • “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me,” (John 10:25)
    • “Even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father,” (John 10:38)
    • “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know,” (Acts 2:22)
    • See also: John 2:11; 2:23; 3:2; 4:48; 4:54; 6:2; 6:14; 7:31; 9:16; 12:18


  1. The Dangers of Spiritual Abuse and Subjectivism
  • We should admit there are always dangers of spiritual leadership of any kind being abused.
  • Yet, there is a lopsided danger in charismatic circles where certain, Spirit-endowed leaders are given a quasi-divine level of authority—to disobey them, is to disobey God.
  • “From the point of view of the manipulated, of course, there is an inevitable transfer of biblical authority to that of the interpreter or "prophet." This must lead in time to a spiritual state not even perceived by the manipulated, in which allegiance has been so transferred to particularly loved human authorities that there is no possibility left for the Bible to perform its continuously needed reforming work.” (Carson, Showing the Spirit, 227)
  • When your basis for your theological convictions are based on subjective experience, God told me, I feel like it is right, you are your own authority.
  • “I was informed that a certain passage in Matthew meant such and such, because the Lord had revealed the meaning to the brother in question. Having recently studied that passage at some length, I perceived that the brother was relying on an extension of a faulty translation. I tried to suggest, as gently as possible, that the Greek original (of which the brother in question was entirely ignorant) could not be taken to support his interpretation. My rebuttal carried no weight: the Lord had told him what the passage meant, and that was the end of the matter so far as he was concerned. His wife reminded me that spiritual things are spiritually discerned— which I could only assume to be their polite way of telling me what they thought of my spiritual status. There was no trace of concern to weigh or test this alleged revelation. Fascinated, I played devil's advocate and said that I was equally convinced that my interpretation was correct, because the Lord had told me so. We drove on for many silent blocks while my colleague, a clergyman, wrestled with that one. He finally replied, "Well, I guess that means the Bible means different things to different people." Of course, he had no idea how he had just invaded the turf of the most liberal exponents of the new hermeneutic, and had abandoned not only the authority of Scripture but also the basis of all rational communication in favor of epistemological solipsism. From all such "revelations," dear Lord, deliver us.” (Carson, Showing the Spirit, 226-27)


J.I. Packer’s Evaluation of the Charismatic Movement

From Keep In Step with the Spirit


  1. Christ-centeredness
  2. Spirit-empowered living
  3. Emotion finding expression
  4. Prayerfulness
  5. Joyfulness
  6. Every member-ministry and involvement in worship and the church
  7. Missionary zeal
  8. Small-group ministry
  9. Fresh attitudes towards church structures
  10. Generous giving



  1. Elitism
  2. Sectarianism
  3. Emotionalism
  4. Anti-intellectualism
  5. Unhealthy preoccupation with subjective experience, “God told me…”
  6. Determining spiritual maturity by displays of spiritual gifts
  7. Super-supernaturalism
  8. Prosperity gospel
  9. Demon obsession
  10. Conformism