and the Charismatic Gifts
The issue of the whether or not the extraordinary
spiritual gifts are for today has caused much debate and opinion in the body of Christ.
There are biblically based groups who say that if you do speak in tongues, then you are
under demonic control and are not saved. On the other hand, there are groups who say that
if you do not speak in tongues then you are not saved. Both sides use scripture to support
their position. As far as the Reformed camp goes, the position is that the gifts died with
the apostles as the Bible was completed. As a Calvinist, and after examining the biblical
evidence for cessationism, I do not believe that the extraordinary spiritual gifts have
ceased. Therefore, I call myself an "Experiential Calvinist." As an experiential
Calvinist, I seek the Holy Spirit, His filling, and I am open to God using me and others
in extraordinary ways.
If you are Reformed, you might be slapping your forehead
right now and saying something like, "How could he possibly believe that?". I do
because I have examined the scriptures and am convinced by what I read. The following
paper, in part, is what I have discovered.
Please understand, that even though I am convinced that I
am right, I am also convinced that I could be wrong. I can only speak for what I believe
and why I believe it. If you disagree then that is quite alright. As Romans 14 says, we
are not to pass judgment on our brother's (and sister's) debatable issues. And the
spiritual gifts is definitely a debatable issue.
For simplicity sake, I will state a standard objection to
the perpetuity of the spiritual gifts and then I will give what I believe is a basic but
sufficient refutation for that argument. All the verses quoted are listed in full at the
end of this paper.
Since we have the Bible we do not need spiritual gifts. 1 Cor. 13:8-10 is usually quoted as scriptural support for the position.
The only place in Scripture that explicitly states when
gifts will cease is 1 Cor. 13:8-13. In part it reads, "When the perfect comes the
imperfect shall be done away with." Some vigorously maintain that the
"perfect" is the completed Bible and, therefore, the extraordinary gifts are no
longer needed. If someone wants to believe that, fine. But I do not think these verses can
be used to support cessationism. This is why.
Verse 12 says, "...then we shall see face to
face." The word "then" refers back to the phrase "when the perfect
comes." Since the only infallible interpreter of Scripture is Scripture, a quick
examination of the way God uses the term "face to face" should help us
understand this passage better.
The phrase is used throughout the Bible and always means an
encounter with a person. When God uses it in reference to Himself, it means a visual,
personal encounter with Him (Gen. 32:30; Ex. 33:11; Num. 12:8; Duet. 5:4; and Jer. 32:4).
Likewise in the New Testament. There it is also used in speaking of personal encounter (2
Cor. 10:1; 2 John 12; 3 John 14, etc.). "When the perfect comes...then we shall see
face to face" seems, most logically, to refer a personal encounter; at least, that
seems to be how God uses the phrase.
If the position is take that the "perfect" is the
completed Bible, how then do we encounter God in the same manner as the phrase suggests:
an encounter with a person. Seeing Christ face to face occurs when He returns.
Another "then" is mentioned in verse 12:
"then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." The word "then"
again refers back to the phrase "when the perfect comes." Again, we need to look
at how the Bible uses words, this time, the word "know." Scripture says that
eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). Only the believer is known by Jesus (John 10:27;
Gal. 4:8-9; Rom. 8:29). The unbeliever is not known by Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23). No where in
the Bible does it say that an unbeliever is known by God. This is a salvific knowing; that
is, it is a kind of knowing that God does of His people. He knows them and they are saved.
The unbelievers are not known and are, therefore, not saved.
It would seem most consistent with scripture to say that
"...as I am fully known" would refer to a salvation relationship between Jesus
and the Christian. At the return of Christ we (the ones known) shall know fully; we shall
see face to face the One who is our Savior.
Also, we don't "know" Jesus through the
Scripture; we know about Him from the Scripture (John 5:39). Instead, we know Him by
personal encounter (John 1:12; 1 Cor. 1:9) through the Holy Spirit's indwelling. We don't
know fully right now, even though we have the Bible, because we still are corrupted by our
sin nature. In our fallen state we can only see Christ through sin-clouded eyes. We see a
reflection of Christ in the Word. When Jesus returns the reflection of the truth will pass
to clear understanding (the way childish thoughts give way to mature ones) when we receive
our resurrected bodies, no longer have to battle sinful flesh, and can see Him face to
face because "we shall be like Him" (1 John 3:2).. "Then we shall know
The context of 1 Cor. 13:8-13 seems, to me, to show that
the spiritual gifts will cease when Jesus returns. Interestingly, 1 Cor. 1:7 may be
consulted here. It says, "Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly
wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed." (NIV) The Greek word here for
"revealed" is apokalupsis. It means the apocalypse, the return of Jesus. In both
this verse and 1 Cor. 13:8-13 the gifts, which aren't differentiated as to which kind they
are, are connected to the return of Christ, not the completion of the Bible.
Present day tongues are further revelation and must then be
equal to Scripture and should be included in the Bible. But since the Bible is not to be
added to, the gift of tongues (and therefore, the rest of the spiritual gifts) must no
longer be valid.
This is a faulty argument because the Scripture itself
recognizes inspired revelation that is not to be added to the Bible: "What then shall
we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a
revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening
of the church" (1 Cor. 14:26). Here, in the Corinthian church, revelations were given
that were not made part of the Bible. This shows that there were, for a lack of a better
word, "different" kinds of revelation: one from the prophets and apostles meant
for canonization and another through the Spirit to be used in the church for
edification--not canonization. So, in my opinion, for someone to maintain that revelation
today is a threat to the Canon does not consider 1 Cor. 14:26, is not applying scripture
properly here, and is being illogical.
There is such misuse of the gifts that they couldn't
possibly be real.
First of all, misuse of the gifts implies their existence.
They couldn't be misused if they did not exist. The only real position to be taken here
would be that the use of the gifts really is no use, but is only fakery and
First, it cannot be denied that the gifts are misused. I
have heard manifestations of tongues, interpretations of tongues, and prophecy that, in my
opinion, were not genuine. But I do not discredit the gifts based upon those experiences
anymore than I would say the spiritual gifts are alive because I saw them used well and
accurately. The final authority is the word of God. Experience does not make doctrine, the
Second, it is not a sick child that needs discipline and
correction, it is the active, energetic, exploring child that needs to be guided. This was
so with the Corinthian church. They were using the gifts greatly but improperly and needed
to be corrected.
1 Corinthians 13:8-13
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are
tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in
part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I
was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When
I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a
mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even
as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of
these is love.
Regarding "Face to
Genesis 32:30 - "So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying,
"It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
Exodus 33:11 - "The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks
with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun
did not leave the tent."
Numbers 12:8 - "With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles;
he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant
Deuteronomy 5:4 - "The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on
Jeremiah 32:4 - "Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hands of
the Babylonians but will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon, and will speak
with him face to face and see him with his own eyes."
2 Corinthians 10:1 - "By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to
you -- I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold"
2 John 12 - "I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper
and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may
3 John 14 - "I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace
to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name."
John 10:27 - "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and
they follow me."
Galatians 4:8-9 - "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to
those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God -- or rather are known by God
-- how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish
to be enslaved by them all over again?"
Romans 8:29 - "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed
to the likeness of his Son..."
Matthew 7:21-23 - "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter
the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many
will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your
name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, `I never
knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
Note: This paper was written in response to an
examination at Westminster Theological Seminary where I obtained my M.Div. The occasion
was generated by my receiving a call to a local pastorate. When it was discovered I
believed in the spiritual gifts, I was examined and, eventually, refused the pastorate
because I beleived in the perpetuity of the gifts. In response to the examiners requests I
read the following cessationist material. Perhaps this bibliography will help you make a
decision for yourself.
The Final Word by O. Palmer Robertson Perspectives on
Pentecost, by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. Charismatic Chaos, by John MacArthur. The
articles, Has the Charismatic Age Ceased, by Donald MacLeod; The Charismatic
Movement: Spectrum of Theological Opinion and Attitude, by Pastor Dave Eby; Can we
Do Miracles Today? by Erroll Hulse; A Summary of Robert L. Dabney on 'Spurious
Religious Excitements, by Daniel E. Wray; The Miraculous Gifts of the Holy
Spirit--Have They Ceased?, by Roland S. Barnes; The Cessation of Extraordinary
Gifts: Historical Evidence, by Geoffrey Thomas; and Scripture Verses the Spiritual
Gifts?", by Elliot Miller at Christian Research Institute. The pamphlet, Crucial
Issues Regarding Tongues, by Kenneth L. Gentry Jr. A Pastoral Letter Concerning the
Experience of the Holy Spirit in the Church Today, adopted by the Second General Assembly
of the PCA.
To be fair, I also read the non-cessationist book Surprised by
the Power of the Spirit, by Jack Deere which proved to be most enlightening.
Following is a point of illustration.
If the cessationist argument is true then it
seems to negate parts of the Bible; namely, parts where spiritual gifts for the church are
listed and exemplified. I have reproduced 1 Cor. 12,13, and 14 and "crossed
out," by making the text
bold , those portions that are no
longer applicable from a cessationist point of view. The specific verses may be debatable,
but I think the point is made.
1 Corinthians 12:1-31
1Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2You
know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to
mute idols. 3Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of
God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord,"
except by the Holy Spirit. 4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same
Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There
are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. 7Now
to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8
one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of
knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to
another gifts of healing by that one Spirit 10to another miraculous powers, to
another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in
different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All
these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he
12The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its
parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13For we were all
baptized by one Spirit into one body -- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free -- and we
were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14Now the body is not made up of one
part but of many. 15If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong
to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16And
if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,"
it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17If the whole body
were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where
would the sense of smell be? 18But in fact God has arranged the parts in the
body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 19If they were all one
part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21The
eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the
feet, "I don't need you!" 22On the contrary, those parts of the body
that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23and the parts that we think are
less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are
treated with special modesty, 24while our presentable parts need no special
treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the
parts that lacked it, 25so that there should be no division in the body, but
that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26If one part suffers,
every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27Now
you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the
church God has appointed first of all apostles,
third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing,
those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those
speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are
all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have
gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But
eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 13:1-13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not
love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of
prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a
faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess
to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
5It is not
rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always
trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails. But where there are
prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is
knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I
thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways
behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to
face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 14:1-40
1Follow the way of love
and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the
gift of prophecy. 2For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.
Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3But everyone who
prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort.
speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.
like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who
prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the
church may be edified. 6Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good
will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of
instruction? 7Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as
the flute or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a
distinction in the notes? 8Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get
ready for battle? 9So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your
tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.
10Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without
meaning. 11If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner
to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me. 12So it is with you. Since you are eager to
have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. 13 For
this reason anyone who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret what he says.
14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
15So what shall I
do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my
spirit, but I will also sing with my mind. 16If you are praising God with
your spirit, how can one who finds himself among those who do not understand say
"Amen" to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying?
may be giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified. 18I thank God that I
speak in tongues more than all of you. 19But in the church I would rather speak five
intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
21In the Law it is written: "Through men of strange tongues and through the lips of
foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me,"
says the Lord. 22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for
unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. 23So if the whole
church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or
some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
24But if an
unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he
will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and will be judged by all, 25and the secrets
of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming,
"God is really among you!" 26What then shall we say, brothers? When
you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation,
a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the
strengthening of the church. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two, or at the
most three, should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28If there is no
interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God.
29Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said.
30And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.
31For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged.
32The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets.
is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints,
should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in
submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask
their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
36Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?
anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge
that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. 38If he ignores this, he himself will
be ignored. 39Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid
speaking in tongues. 40But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly
I would be very interested in hearing your comments on this
paper. Please E-mail at the address below.
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Copyright by Matthew J. Slick, B.A., M. Div., 1998-2006
I welcome your comments via E-mail at email@example.com