The fractal displayed here was created and designed by my friend Dr. James White. This is one of my favorite designs he has done. Notice the vibrant enticing colors and the nondescript design they make. A preemptive picture of insight for today's discussion.
Tongues, prophecy, healing, words of knowledge--words of wisdom, etc. do these spiritual gifts exist today or did they fade away with the passing of the apostolic era? This is part of the ongoing discussion floating around the blogosphere. Surprisingly, there have only been a few attempts at making a biblical argument presented from both sides of the aisle. The norm is verses will be mentioned, but only as a sparce, rare proof-texting compared to the bloviating done by most. Rabbit trails are in abundance with little conclusions given from the sure foundation and context of biblical truth.
I don't believe that "cessationism or non-cessationism (continuationism)?" is the right question. IMHO, it is a question of authority--biblical authority, not just do certain gifts exist or don't exist today. Both cessationists and continuationists alike seem to have this in common: neither can clearly prove their case from the confines of Scripture alone; both resort to stacking up theologues to see who has the higher pile of trusted names in order to "win" the debate; and both look to historical tradition, the practice of the early church fathers, or personal experience (or lack of it) in making their final determination. We must give proper perspective and balance when it comes to this issue--BUT, that balance must be derived and developed from the pages of Scripture and not pragmatics.
We must do our best to resist the temptation to argue from silence or personal bias. We must strive to bind our minds and hearts by the standard and truth of sola scriptura if we are to be a blessing to others and glorify God in this explosive topic. This is the nexus of it all: the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. It is the place we must begin and where we must end. For to abate this basic principle is to run to tradition, personal experience, historical practice, or sentimentalism.
John Wycliffe once wrote:
"The true Christian was intended by Christ to prove all things by the Word of God, all churches, all ministers, all teaching, all preaching, all doctrines, all sermons, all writings, all opinions, all practices. These are His marching orders. Prove all by the Word of God; measure all by the measure of the Bible; compare all with the standard of the Bible; weigh all in the balances of the Bible; examine all by the light of the Bible; test all in the crucible of the Bible. That which can abide the fire of the Bible, receive hold, believe, and obey. That which cannot abide the fire of the Bible, reject, refuse, repudiate, and cast away. This is the flag which He nailed to the mast. May it never be lowered!"
The challenge before us all in this discussion is to accurately bring that standard of rule and practice to this issue of the existence and employ of spiritual gifts.
The Foundation of Truth
Truth by definition is exclusive. When we declare the Scriptures to be the truth and Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, who is full of grace and truth, we are declaring that every other claim to "the truth" is false. Every other way to salvation is a dead end. Every other faith system asserting eternal life is a path leading to death.
No one ever lives greater than their view of God! And our view of God is formed by how He has revealed Himself in His Word. Therefore, if in our worship, we pervert His Word - we pervert the truth about God. If in our music, we distort His doctrine - we distort a right view of Him. If in our songs, we misrepresent the Scriptures - we misrepresent the Savior. And if in our ministries we twist His truth - we dishonor His character.
Here are some brief observations of 2 Peter 1:16-21 on the theme of "The More Sure Word." This is a foundational text for our discussion on spiritual gifts. May your hearts be encouraged and strengthened by these powerful words of the Apostle Peter.
2 Peter 1:16-21
General outline of chapter one of 2 Peter
1. The Certainty of the Savior: (1:1-4)
Key verses: 1:2-4, 16; 2:20; 3:2b, 9-10, 18; 1 Peter 4:11.
2. The Certainty of Their Salvation: (1:5-11)
Key verses: 1:8-10; 2:9; 3:9, 12-15a, 18 Compare 1 Peter 1:2, 3-5, 8-9, 18-21; 2:9-10, 24-25; 3:18, 5:10-11.
3. The Certainty of the Scriptures: (1:16-21)
"We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." 18We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
19And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." (ESV)
A. More sure than myths or fables (v.16a)
1:16. A Christian's faith does not rest on clever stories, myths or fables as did the doctrines of the false teachers (2 Peter 2). These legends, myths, and fictional tales were in direct contrast with the genuine trusted truths of God's Word. When Peter uses the phrase "cleverly invented stories", he is asserting that they were "invented" by human wisdom and motivated by personal interests--rather than by divine inspiration. There is an unfortunate permanence to the false sophistry of these invented stories (we see this in our day); what Lenski calls, "an abiding character of sophistication or spurious wisdom" (Cp. 2 Cor. 2:17; 2 Peter 2:1-3, 14f, 1 Tim. 4:1, 7; 2 Tim. 2:16; Titus 1:14).
"The apostle condemns both poetical fictions, and oratory eloquence; the sophistry of logic, the painting of rhetoric, and the meretricious figments of doggerel; when they shall stand in competition with divinity and presume of their own power to help a soul to Jesus Christ" (author unknown). Instead, true faith is founded on historical facts of truth rather than myth, fable, or cunningly invented tales.
And the Word is more sure...
B. More sure than apostolic eyewitness testimony or personal experience (v.16b-18)
1:17-18. Peter describes in these verses his eyewitness experience on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17) at which time he truly saw Christ's majesty. Literally, the Lord "unzipped His flesh" and revealed His real glory with the appearance of Moses and Elijah as well. The Greek word megaleiotetos, means: splendor, grandeur, sublimity - all that encompasses His true nature. The transfiguration was the highest manifestation of Christ's splendor while on earth; IOW, the Shekinah glory of God in Christ. This is the same meaning for what the Apostles had witnessed in John 1:14, "we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth." Peter as an apostle is claiming to have seen Christ in this pre-incarnate glory.
Notice the phrase, "The Majestic Glory..." speaking of the cloud of glory surrounding Christ. Peter not only saw the Lord standing with Moses and Elijah in His pre-incarnate glory, but he heard God the Father declare, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.." Peter's lofty language may stem from his burning desire to communicate the true majesty of the Savior which he, a member of the inner band of disciples, was uniquely privileged to see. Peter wanted his readers to look beyond Christ's first coming to the time when He will return with that same honor and glory He demonstrated on the sacred mountain. The voice that came from heaven, the voice of God the Father, spoke approvingly of the Son. This voice of the Father approving His Son was heard three times in Scripture: at His baptism (Matt. 3:16-17); the Transfiguration (Ibid. 17:5); and also during the Passion Week when certain Greeks wanted an interview with Him (John 12:20-28).
"This is my beloved Son" goes to the essence, nature and reference to the deity of Christ (Heb. 1:8; 1 John 2:22-23).
On this point, Peter's testimony of the Lord is no small announcement. When Christ redeemed us He had: fulfilled the Law; went beyond the veil; satisfied God's wrath; fulfilled all righteousness; exalted grace; took away the guilt and penalty of our sin; destroyed Satan's hold of death; abolished death and its sting; secured for us eternal life; brought us into intimacy and peace with God; and instituted a new covenant! Peter is communicating the reality of the risen Christ and His sufficiency in salvation (see 2 Peter 1:1-4).
But though Peter saw the Lord and heard the voice of the Father on the sacred mountain approving of His Son and confirming His nature as being God of very God - even over this extraordinary event,
And the Word is more sure...
C. More sure than worldly wisdom (v.19)
Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; (Rom. 2:14-15, Rom. 1:19-20, Ps. 19:1-3, Rom. 1:32, Rom. 2:1) yet they are not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, of His will, and God's redemptive plan for man through Christ in the covenant grace unto salvation. (1 Cor. 1:21, 1 Cor. 2:13-14)
1:19. "The word of the prophets . . . made more certain" is evidenced in the believer of Jesus Christ by five key things:
Obedience to the Word
1. We are to crave the Word (1 Peter 2:2); have a delight in, a longing for and a love of it (Ibid.); preach, admonish, exhort and teach its truth (2 Timothy 4:2); take it as our song (Psalm 119:54); hide it deep in our hearts (Ibid. 119:11); meditate upon it (Ibid. 1:2); obey it (John 14:15); proclaim it (Matthew 4:23); guard it (2 Timothy 1:13-14); hope in it (Romans 15:4); be sanctified by it (John 17:17); desire it more than all the world's delicacies and treasure it more than all the world's riches (Psalm 19:10); to be hearers and doers of it (James 1:22): contend for it (Jude 3); rightly divide it (2 Timothy 2:15); never add to it or take way from it (Revelation 22:18-19); for it is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean and true (Psalm 19:7-9).
Worship by the Word
2. The highest worship of God is the preaching of His Word (Luther). We cannot honor God more than listening to His Word with an obedient life. Our worship and praise songs that is saturated accurately with the truth of God's Word is worthy of worship to the Lord (Romans 10:14-17).
Submissiveness to the Word
3. There is only one inspired, infallible rule and authority for all matters of life and godliness and it is the sufficient, pure, perfect, inerrant Word of God. (Psalm 19:7-14; 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Honoring the Word
4. For God has even "exalted His Word above His name." (Psalm 138:2)
Sufficiency in the Word
5. God's Word is His ultimate revelation and is thoroughly accurate, comprehensive and exhaustive in all its parts, even as it speaks to theology proper (the doctrine of God), doctrine, ethics, religious practice, science, geography, history (redemptive and actual), or any other topic. (Psalm 12: 6; 119:160; John 17:17)
In an exhortation Peter told how to derive meaning from God's Word - "you do well" (Greek: Kalos which means noble, worthy, honorable-Acts 17:11, 2 Tim. 2:3) And we are "to pay attention to it" as "a light shining in the darkness." God's written Word has validity and authority. But for Peter, the splendor of his experience (with Christ at His transfiguration) faded as he spoke of the surety of the written revelation of the prophets.
John MacArthur says,
"Old Testament prophecy is a light compared with the darkness of a squalid room. God's prophetic Word is a Light ("an oil-burning lamp"; cf. Ps. 119:105; 1 John 1:5; John 3:19-21) shining in a dark place. Though the world is darkened by sin (cf. Isa. 9:2; Eph. 6:12), God's Word, pointing to the future, enlightens believers about His ways. But the day (Christ's return, Rom. 13:12) is coming. In the daytime, lamps are no longer needed. And a lamp is nothing compared with the Morning Star (used only here in the NT). Much as a lamp at night anticipates and is outshined by the bright morning star, so Old Testament prophecy looks ahead to the coming of Christ, "the bright Morning Star" (Rev. 22:16). Until He comes, believers are to let the Scriptures illumine their hearts (though the light which it brings on that great day will be greatly exceeded by the understanding which will be in their hearts)."
And the Word is more sure...
D. More sure than mysticism (v.20)
Scripture is not of any man's inclining or out of one's self; it is divine revelation, written by God; not by men! (CP. 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Psalm 19:7-9) John Calvin powerfully said, "They did not blab their inventions of their own accord or according to their own judgments." 1:20. This phrase from the Apostle Peter, "no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation", has been interpreted several ways:
(1) Scripture should be interpreted only in context, that is, a prophecy cannot stand alone without other prophecies to aid in its understanding.
(2) Scripture should not be interpreted according to one's own individual liking.
(3) Scripture cannot be correctly interpreted without the Holy Spirit.
(4) The prophecies did not originate with the prophets themselves. The Scriptures did not stem merely from the prophets themselves; their writings came from God. Verse 20, then, speaks not of interpretation, but of revelation, the source of the Scriptures.
The cause for pride is profound in ministry when serving the Lord. People often times give us praise for what only the Lord has done through us. As one Puritan has rightly said, "my life was but a pen to be used by the Lord; and what glory is due a pen?" The Apostles were used by God to pen the His Scriptures. Peter allows no room for self-credit of giving divine truth. No Scripture came about by the prophet's own means.. it was God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16). IOW, God didn't breath into man's words and made them divine; but He breathed out of man His own Word.
And the Word is more sure...
E. More sure than the will of men (v.21)
1:21. This verse also supports the view that Peter wrote in verse 20 about prophecies being born of God, not originating from the prophets themselves. "Prophecy came not from the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
As the authors of Scripture wrote their prophecies, they were impelled or born along by God's Spirit. What they wrote was inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16). "Born along" or "carried along" comes from the word pheromenoi. Luke used this word in referring to a sailing vessel carried along by the wind (Acts 27:15, 17). "The prophets raised their sails, so to speak and the Holy Spirit filled them and carried their craft along in the direction He wished." (MacArthur)
The Scriptures' human authors were controlled by the divine Author, the Holy Spirit. Yet they were consciously involved in the process; they were neither taking dictation nor writing in a state of ecstasy. No wonder believers have a word of prophecy which is certain. And no wonder a Christian's spiritual growth must depend on the Scriptures themselves for they are the very words of God.
I don't know anyone today who claims to have had miraculous encounters with God to have had an experience like Peter had on the Mount of Transfiguration. No one today has seen Christ accompanied by Moses and Elijah in His pre-incarnate glory; no one today has heard the voice of God the Father declare Christ to be His beloved Son and confirm Him as being in His very nature God of very God. Listen, no apostolic vision, eyewitness testimony, or experience can compare with the authority, veracity and sureness of God's revealed truth in His Word. No spiritual gift can compare to the inerrant, infallible, perfect Word of God. We must begin here beloved.
And the Word is more sure... than myths or fables; than apostolic eyewitness testimony or personal experience; than worldly wisdom; than mysticism; and more sure than the will of men. "And we do well to pay attention to it..."