Thursday, June 05, 2008

CESSASIONISM OR NON-CESSASIONISM: IS THAT EVEN THE QUESTION?'s more about "what is your final authority"

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.

The More Sure Word
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."

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..."


littlegal_66 said...

Yes!! Thank you soooooo, soooooo much for addressing this topic, especially in "installments." I'm just tickled pink. (I've been eager for more input from you on the issue for quite some time). Well done, Campi.

Bottom line thus far--the Word of God is the FINAL authority on everything-even on (or should I say, "particularly on") "words of knowledge," prophecies, visions, and other such "giftings"--I love it!! Such a basic premise (foundational), but folks try to make it so complex.

(Here's how Campi has handled a "word from the Lord" from an individual without biblical sureity in a past instance). :-)

Think it's time for me to pop in the "Abandoned to God" CD & soak up the lyrics to "Here I Stand" once again. (Yes, that's to be taken as a listening suggestion to everyone, especially on this topic. ;-) I recommend you click on over to and give it a listen if you don't happen to have a copy of the CD).

Steve--I'm anxiously awaiting the second installment!


Puritan Belief said...

Great ending...

"And the Word is more sure..."

Another great contrast is just look how important the name Jesus is throughout the new testament. There is no higher name, miracles are done in this name. We cry out on this name for salvation. Yet listen to the Psalmist.

"for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name."Psalm 138:2

What then will become of those who say but Christianity is all about how you live. Look I prophecy great things, pray for the sick, speak in tongues...

How true is the warning in revelation if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues

RevyRev said...

Asserting the supremacy of Scripture is an important starting point for the debate. But it does not end the debate.

We must recognize that, although the blog world doesn't represent it, there are complicated biblical arguments concerning cessationism and continuationism.

I'm talking about more conservative and biblical representatives of continuationists like Gruedem and Piper. Not the arguments of Pop-Evangelicals.

The question IS does the New Testament assume a continuation of such gifts UNDER SCRIPTURE. I want to stand with all Christians who are against any teaching of men that assert anything above or besides Scripture. But the question still remains: Does the NT teach that prophesy as described in the NT is under Scripture. And if it is, and not strictly apostolic, then what should we believe Scripture teaches about these gifts as they relate to Christians today?

That is the debate, as I understand it. On both sides of this debate neither intends nor attempts to undermine Scripture. So where should we go? We need people to dig into the complicated biblical text and make their case. And we need to be discerning bereans. It may be secondary doctrine, but it is not irrelevant.

Cleopas said...

Hi Steve,

I like your advice. We need a much better understanding of what the spiritual gifts are supposed to be like, before we try to defend whether or not our modern notions match them. Well done.

SJ Camp said...

Rev's Doxography said: The question IS does the New Testament assume a continuation of such gifts UNDER SCRIPTURE.

I fully agree. We must begin with Scripture and we must end with Scripture. The existence of some spiritual gifts and the ceasing of others; or the continuation of all spiritual gifts, must be proved clearly from the Word of God if we are going to be true to Sola Scriptura.

And, if careful study should demonstrate not a definitive clear biblical view, then we must use wisdom and show the nature of the gifts, how they were used biblically and during apostolic reign so that there is a biblical plumbline to measure the practice of any gift being used today.

It is the state of current evangelicalism to make a case by proof-texting God's Word, rather than by faithfully expositing God's Word or defaulting to historic context only when it suits our theological prejudices.

Thank you for all your posts so far...

Andy's Treasures said...

Right on Steve-O!!! The Word is, was, and will always be the final auhority. I also particularly enjoyed the quote from John Wycliffe.


Jabbok said...

Well, it was a good sermon but it doesn't address the point that both camps claim they are relying on "A More Sure Word" to defend their positions.
I'm interested in this discussion because of the multitude of Baptists, in particular, and everyone else in general, who claim to be led of God in their everyday affairs by some feeling or intuition that is seperate from the Word of God.

donsands said...

Great quote by John Wycliffe!!!!
Pretty cool photo!
The Word of God! The Truth! The Bible! The Holy Scriptures! The Old and New Teastaments!
Thank you Father for entrusting your precious gift to us, your people, we are unworthy for such a sacred treasure, but we pray You would give us the courage to stand firm in our love for your most holy Word. Amen.

Your a blessing to the Church Steve. Keep on.

Timotheos said...

Thanks, Steve.

The Word must be our authority. It is an eerie sense of deja vu that the question today of the Word as our final authority is of the same that was fought for nearly a hundred years ago. Except, now the ones doing the fighting both disregard the Word to suit their own ends.

2Tal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John said...

I've noticed that when it comes to cessasionism or non-cessasionism far too many people rely upon their experience. They say things like, "Well, this is what happened to me..." I love the line--you cannot let your experience dictate your exposition--exposition must dictate experience.
I've made serveral trips to Africa in the last few years and we have observed God doing many amazing things that our doctors just couldn't explain outside of a move of God, but the presence of "miracles" shouldn't make us all run down to Florida and join the latest "revival." This morning I read 2 Thess 2:9, "The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders."
I've learned that God is not going to be shoved into my Baptist box, but He is going to be true to His revelation of Himself in His Word.
Gifts are not for my edification--they are for the glory of GOd and for building up my brothers and sisters so I've learned to ask, "Who's getting the glory here?" Is this man centered or glory centered?

I'll shut up now, but thanks Puff Campi for a great post!

andy said...

Hi i have two points

Quote "Bottom line thus far--the Word of God is the FINAL authority on everything"

Why did Jude use the book of Enoch as his final authority ?

Secondly on Gifts which i believe in, with reservation

Acts 2:39For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call.

Isn't that a promise to us all,of what they had just experianced?

andy said...

PS i would recommend M L Jones books on the Baptisiam of the Holy Spirit "Joy Unspeakable"

Terry Rayburn said...

Hi Steve,

Your post is an excellent Bible study in the authority of the Word of God.

The problem, however, with many Charismatics, even of the wackiest variety, is that they will *agree* that the Word of God is the final authority, and then go off into the land of Oz with all kinds of things, saying something like, "Well, it doesn't contradict the Word!"

1. For example, say someone in a church service blabs, "Shandala mumbo bala pa nanda." And another "interprets" with, "My children, I am the most high God, and I command you this day to honor Me. Hug your brother and sister now, and give an extra $20 in the offering today."

There is no particular contradiction with the Word of God, so who is to "correct" the two nuts? They might heartily agree that the Word is the final authority.

2. Or suppose a Pastor tells the story of a dead woman who is put in a tomb in the Middle East. And her two small children are put in the tomb with her because they won't stop crying. And two weeks later, the tomb is opened and the two little children tell of a man with holes in his hands waking up their mother daily from the dead to feed them chocolates to keep them alive. And the Pastor tells the congregation to give Jesus a hand clap for such a wondrous miracle.

How to you correct such a Pastor, since his story doesn't contradict the final authority of the Word, as he would point out?

3. Finally, what if someone "prophesies" that my Aunt Bessie is going to die a horrible death at the hands of robbers? I can't "disprove" his prophecy until Aunt Bessie dies by being hit by a bus.

Or less gruesome, "The Lord is telling me that 70 of you are going to give $1000 tonight!"

4. I used to hold your view that one couldn't prove cessationism from Scripture, but I no longer hold that view. I think when the "true" sign gifts are biblically examined, we see that they are no longer in existence. Still you can't persuade someone, even biblically, who won't be persuaded.

It's not enought to simply say that the Word is the *final* authority. It is the closed canon of the only revelation of God, IMHO. In other words, it is not only *authoritative*, but *sufficient*.

That's not to say that God, through His Spirit, cannot still guide us in mysterious ways (I'm about as mystic as, say, Tozer), but that guidance is not to be confused with sign gifts used and abused by a church gone mad.

" mislead, if possible, even the elect" - Matt. 24:24


theoldadam said...

The Word and sacrament. That is how God comes to us.

We can't trust anything else.
St. Paul tells us that "the devil can come all dressed up as an angel of light."

That is why I believe the Lord instituted baptism and Holy communion for His Church. So that we might have some tangible assurance that comes from outside of ourselves and our own feelings, or experiences. Those things are great and they may be true, but they can't be trusted like the living word of God come down to us from Heaven.

Thanks much!

- Steve Martin

GUNNY said...

"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."

I think that's the key, especially for a sola Scripturian like my bad self.

Scripture not only informs, but trumps any other conflicting information, including personal experience.

Brian said...

I thank Steve for setting the context of this debate within the confines of Scripture - anyone who debates this based on their own personal experiences or feelings has simply abandoned God's revelation.

I would like to make a note to Jabbok: the Bible never says that our "feelings" or "feeling led" to do something means anything. If I "feel led" to walk around the house 4 times, it doesn't mean anything, because in the Bible God does not operate by giving certain feelings to his people. It's a shame that language is in such frequent use today.

Deb_B said...

Thanks to Campi for today's blog post.

I've always pondered the following question in light of the contextual, accumulative evidences of Scripture - How many foundations can/does a building have? Only one.

(There is an analogous point here, so kindly bear with my virtual verbosity.)

Even in swampy south Louisiana where I was born and raised, we sink a variety of suitable materials to stabilize the ground. However, we do so only to prepare the underlying ground for the laying of a single foundation, which is of course to be subsequently built upon. So even in the swampy deep south, only a single foundation is laid for a building of any kind.

The primary corner stone for any building's foundation is laid perfectly plumb. You get the "chief corner stone" improperly laid and out of whack, so goes the whole building. (Thanks to my beloved, who is possessed with the mind of structural engineer, for his wisdom and insight, both spiritually and regarding foundations/structures.)

That "foundation" laid, so to speak, onward to Scripture...

"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit." [Eph 2:19-22]

I'm not a Koine Greek scholar, so I have to rely on study aids. Some of you who are, do let me know if I've mistaken the underlying intent of the Greek root here, which is taken from the NAS Greek Lexicon:

"To finish the structure of which the foundation has already been laid, to give constant increase in Christian knowledge and in a life conformed thereto."

I understand this, in light of the contextual evidences of Scripture, to indicate the already laid, firm foundation of the Church consists of the fore-running OT Prophets and the NT teachings of the Apostles, whereupon Our Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son, is the "corner [stone]", the perfect plumb against which all things are measured. To wit:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. ... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." [John 1:1-3, 14]

This is just a short form, as it were ... there is so much more throughout Scripture and I could cite additional passages and go on, but I'll leave it here for now.

To me, the firm foundation of the Church is settled with the perfect "plumb", our Chief Cornerstone, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Prophets and Apostles. (Of course a building's corner stone is more than just a plumb - it better be strong enough to support the weight of the structure, etc. The analogy could continue on.)

Thank you again, Steve, for providing this blog comment section.


Deb_B said...

Re: feelings-dependent faith

A feelings dependent/based faith scares me, personally speaking. My feelings are such fickle, fleeting and undependable things - nay, even worse, I find my feelings all too often even contrary to the things of God as revealed in the contextual, accumulative evidences of Scripture.

More often than not I oft feel like taking into account "a[ll] wrong[s] suffered" (whether real or perceived on my end - 1 Corin.13). So, if in such instances I RE-acted out of my fickle, oft deceiving feelings, I'd act in my miserable, sinful "old man"/flesh instead of walking by God, the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Sometimes my feelings are so strong and contrary to the things of God I find all I can do is cry out to Him to enable me to walk aright by the indwelling Holy Spirit - "Lord, grant Thy command, command what Thy wilt." [Confessions of St. Augustine, Chap. XXIX.40].

I am ashamed to confess that often the "good I would, I do not, the evil I would not, that I do", simply because I felt like it, God deliver me from my wretched, sinful old man through Jesus Christ our Lord!

My feelings are far too often utterly deceiving, fickle and fleeting that I dare not base my faith on how I feel (or, conversely, don't feel) at a given point in time.

God is, thankfully, everlasting, the Alpha and Omega, the same yesterday, today, forever, age without end. Amen.

Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.


The Seeking Disciple said...

Amen!!!! The Bible is our final authority. We must stand firm on the Word of God and reject every teaching, experience, etc. that does not line up with the Scriptures. Further, no matter what experiences we may have in our lives with Jesus we must hold firm to the Word and make that our sure foundation.

Great post Steve and I pray that the Church will stand firm! I have been getting attacked quite strongly lately on my blog for holding to inerrancy. Emergents have been bombing my inbox with attacks on inerrancy and saying that the Bible is not to be worshiped as evangelicals do but we must worship Jesus only. How sad that they have no authority to test their Jesus by.

Rick said...

The Bible is the authority, but the fact is that it leaves much open in the area of spiritual gifts. Where it leaves open, experience must come into the consideration. I do not mean that experience has the final say, but it can be a measuring tool in the way that Jonathan Edwards proscribed: if the experience edifies, and results in a greater love to God and a greater hatred to sin, (not contradicting anything else in Scripture), it cannot be wrong.

Edwards was wrong in his interpretation of "when the perfect comes". But he is a steady guide in the manner of judging "surprising works of the Spirit".

Mr. Rayburn's post has examples of wacky business, but such things should not close people off to genuine charismata. There will always be counterfeits. But those who have no room for the gifts shut themselves into a corner, and though they may be complete in Christ, they may perhaps miss out on some extraordinary manifestations of the presence of God.

Terry Rayburn said...

Hi Rick,

You wrote, "Mr. Rayburn's post has examples of wacky business, but such things should not close people off to genuine charismata."

1. Why do you call what I cited as "wacky"? Can you prove from Scripture that it's wacky?

2. How would you distinguish it from "genuine charismata"?

3. What would be an example of "genuine charismata"?

I hope you see my point, yet my questions are genuine.

Charismatics today are either utterly neutered (by not giving their "gifts" any "authority", for example, "prayer language" type stuff), and speak only *theoretically* about sign gifts, or they are [how else can we say it?] "wacky".

I search in vain for an example that is 1) discernably real, and 2) biblical.

Again, I believe God is sovereign and there is nothing too hard for Him, but how do you distinguish a real "sign gift" from the phony nonsense that is *rampant* in the church? I contend you can't, because the "real" isn't there.


Detoured By Travel said...

Terry -

Blessings on you my brother. May our God who is the author of light illuminate your heart as you continue to seek Him through His Word.

I frankly don't agree with you, and given the sinful state of man (and some of the self-named elect), I can understand your skeptiscm. But let's be clear -- I also don't agree with those who prey upon believers with "words of knowledge" and "manifestations." But as I have often said here, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen 18:25)

I do believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is real, I do believe that it was intended for "all those who are far off." I have received it. I operate in it. I pray that I will allow the Holy Spirit to work in whatever way He wishes. When in doubt, I will seek to line my life's direction up with the Word of God in light of eternity. Like a golfer seeking that perfect path to sink a long putt, I am pressing toward lining my life up up daily with His Word with the sole purpose of glorifying God and leading others toward a saving relationship with Him -- while at the same time aiming my own heart towards the goal of pleasing Him on that Day.

Love to all here who serve our Lord with all their minds, soul, and strength.

Michele Rayburn said...

Speaking of tongues, so to speak!, I was just over at James White's website, and he mentioned a Todd Bentley and gave the link to The Dividing Line where he plays some audio of Bentley. James says of him:

"...Todd Bentley, the wild-eyed purveyor of 'revival' down in Florida. If this stuff doesn't shock you, well, nothing will. Sad, incredible stuff. See...theology matters!" (see "And The Phones Go Wild")

I then noticed a comment on another of Steve's blog posts by a girl named "r". I looked at her website and she had two videos of this Todd Bentley...the same thing James had in audio.

I also realized that I, too, had just recently saved an article about Todd Bentley and his "angel" Emma.

Well, I finally watched the video over at "r's" website and it was shocking as James had said.

What you'll hear from Todd Bentley is how "God tells him" to assault people, all presumably under the power of the Holy Spirit...kicking a woman in the face, punching, choking, and hitting people so that one man even lost his tooth, assaulting a Pastor...and all this in order to "heal" them.

I had mentioned before how tongues and prophecies have quietly crept into all the churches because the Charismatics are playing down those "gifts" during the Sunday morning services so as to be accepted by, and into, all denominations.

But now, as a result, Charismatics are not just being accepted, but non-Charismatics are being indoctrinated into the Charismatic Movement. They are learning to accept their false teachings, whether or not they themselves actually practice their false "gifts".

It reminds me of politics, as I watch the two major parties blend to become one in order to "end the division" and in order to "get along", when the purpose of the two parties is to display their very distinct and differing ideologies about what is right and true. There cannot be two "rights" and two "truths" if they oppose each other. And so it is with Bible truth.

If you listen to Todd Bentley and hear the terrible things he says in the name of God, the reason I point this video out is to show how one error leads to another and then to another.

If you believe in the tongues and prophecies going on in the churches today, then tomorrow you may believe in the signs and wonders, and the next day you may believe in "holy laughter" and "holy barking", and the next day you may follow people like Todd Bentley, who says that God tells him to brutalize people in order to "heal" them. And you may find yourself following "another Jesus".

As James White said, "Theology matters". And the one thing these false Movements have in common is that theology *doesn't* matter to them, and so neither does Truth, and therein lies the problem.

Todd Bentley is associated with mostly Charismatics that go from bad to worse...Bob Jones of the Kansas City Prophets, Dominionist Mike Bickle of IHOP (International House of Prayer), C. Peter Wagner and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), and Rick Joyner of Morning Star Ministries, to name only a few.

I'll have to disagree with Rick when he says:

"if the experience edifies, and results in a greater love to God and a greater hatred to sin, (not contradicting anything else in Scripture), it cannot be wrong."

I would say that if "the experience edifies..." etc. but does not lead us to The Truth, but instead leads us into error, then it cannot be right.

Jesus said, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit AND truth". (John 4:24)

And it is not "the experience" that edifies us, giving us a greater love for God. It is the Lord Jesus Christ Who edifies us, by living His life in us and through us, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Proverbs 14:12 says, "There is a way which seems right to man, but its end is the way of death."

It's The Truth that matters, Jesus Christ Himself, not "the experience".

Rick said...

Hi Terry-

I'll try to answer your questions...

>1. Why do you call what I cited as "wacky"? Can you prove from Scripture that it's wacky?

Just using common sense. I know not everyone has it, (so why is it called common?) and the church isn't immune to nonsense at times, though it takes different forms depending on each denomination/congregation.

>2. How would you distinguish it from "genuine charismata"?

I would use the criteria I mentioned from Edwards. Or, say, if a prophecy was specific and turned out to be true (vs the "you are my child" stuff etc.)

>3. What would be an example of "genuine charismata"?

Speaking in tongues in the order that Paul instructed. Or giving a specific word that clearly ministers to someone (vs.manipulate).

>Charismatics today are either utterly neutered (by not giving their "gifts" any "authority", for example, "prayer language" type stuff)

Tongues is an issue that Scripture has left somewhat open. I find at least 3 different examples of tongues- a sign in Acts 2; a prayer language in 1 Cor.14:2,4,16,17; a prophetic utterance in the assembly that requires order and interpretation (the rest of 1 Cor.14).

How do you distinguish a the real from the 'wacky'? Scripture is not so explicit on this. Thus I take it to be a matter of faith. No sign or gift must be solely relied on. It must be considered in the balance of a pursuit for holiness and love, and must end in a greater esteem and worship of Jesus Christ.

Debbie said...

Steve said:

“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.”

In this short paragraph, you hit on a majority of the most important considerations for any discussion on this “explosive topic”. Thank you, Steve, for taking the time to frame it in this way. I would only add one more - – that to “…abate this basic principle” (which you outlined above) is also to run to fear –- fear of what I do not experientially understand or fear of the invalidation of what I have come to understand experientially. Neither one is rooted in the sure foundation of Scripture. And when we operate from a posture of fear, we no longer do so in love (I John 4) and this cannot be Christ-honoring. Therein lies a part of the problem with injecting experience (from either side) into the discussion.

I’ve been blessed with wonderful acquaintances from both sides of this debate. They each walk confidently in their faith because they walk by the “authority and sufficiency of Scripture” rather than by the measure of their experience. The first produces conviction without arrogance; the latter is often marked by a defensive condescension. Those I respect on both sides are quick to confess there is never an experience so trustworthy as to ever take supremacy over the revealed truth of God’s Word through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

I see there is already another new post and I’m anxious to read this work by Packer/Owen. I can tell that I’m going to be up late this evening seeing you couldn’t find a way to say all this in 22 words or less ;-). I just wanted to take a moment to say how important the observations you’ve made here really are to a productive conversation, and in particular the study from II Peter.


Strong Tower said...


me thinks you speak in tongues you cannot interpret?

"For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful."

Paul explains at length that it is foolish to speak, corporately or privately in a tongue that is not interpreted. In other words, there is no, zero, zip, edification unless the mind is made fruitful by knowledge. So, either one must pray and interpret, or pray and another interpret or the whole exercise if futile, and as Paul says infantile: "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." Children speak jibberish and words that they have no comprehension of because they are children. And unless someone takes them aside an instructs them in the proper way to speak and its meaning they will never grow-up.

Quite contrary to the claim that private prayer languages are widely distributed, I have yet to meet, and being former Pentacostal/Charismatic, never met, anyone who could interpret. The day I do will be the day that I will have to find another so that all things are confirmed in the mouths of two or three. And, I will test them independantly so that no undue influence will interfere with discernment.

Lastly, you make this statement: "Thus I take it to be a matter of faith." Thus I take it you think of faith the same way the world thinks of it- that faith is what we do not know. That is not biblical faith. Faith is subtance, sureness, soundness of mind, concrete knowledge of facts. It is not faith to say that faith is what we are not sure of as Hebrews 11 says, faith is sure and certain. We don't just "take things in faith." We are instead to prove everything. For there are indeed many voices in this world but they are not all of God. And, if anyone speaks he is to speak as an oracle of God. It is wrong, therefore, to speak/pray and not know what you are saying. Then, if you speak or pray in a tongue, you'd best be getting to someone who can interpret it for it is a sin to remain darkened in your understanding.

Terry Rayburn said...


Your answers regarding how to distinguish real "sign" gifts from phony "sign" gifts are just further evidence that one really can't distinguish them, because YOUR "common sense" will be different than someone else's "common sense".

It's interesting that your immediate heart response to the examples I gave you was that you agreed that they were wacky and counterfeit.

However, these so-called "wacky" examples I gave you were actual real examples which the folks who spoke them truly believed were "genuine charismata" and not counterfeit (or at least truly claimed to believe such).

To put it another way, distinguishing real "sign" gifts in the early church (before they were supplanted by the written Canon) was pretty easy, because the "sign" gifts were obvious supernatural miracles, hence the term "sign" or the phrase "signs and wonders".

Nowdays, anyone can say they have any "sign" gift, and no one can say they're right or wrong, because the standard is no longer the scriptural "Wow! This is a wondrous miracle!"

Instead it's a lazy, "Well, I guess it's real, I'm not sure, what do you think?"
"I don't think it's real, but I'm not sure either. Let's ask Pastor."

The signs and wonders were given by God to authenticate His Word revealed by the Apostles and Prophets upon whom the Church was founded (Eph. 2:20), until the complete written Word was recognized by the Church at large.

Follow this progression:

"Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was BEARING WITNESS to the word of His grace, granting SIGNS and WONDERS to be done by their hands." -Acts 14:3

"Therefore tongues are for a SIGN, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe." 1 Cor. 14:22

"Truly the SIGNS of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in SIGNS and WONDERS and mighty deeds." - 2 Cor. 12:12

"having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone," - Eph. 2:20

"how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was CONFIRMED to us by those who heard him, God also bearing witness both with SIGNS and WONDERS, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will?" - Heb. 2:3,4

Thus we see that the "sign" gifts were indeed "signs" which God gave to authenticate or give credence to those who gave His spoken revelation, until such time as His Word was recorded and recognized by the Church.

KarensFaith said...

This was great! The thing I am seeing more and more from certain teachers and preachers is the emphasis on themselves and not on the Word of God! They "steal" God's glory for themselves. I have been to services where the emphasis is on the fact that you have to have the gift of tongues and if you don't, well, you are not a true Christian. I have been told that I am going to hell because I can't speak in tongues. Sigh...where is that in Scripture, please? Of course, they never can show me that.

Great quote by John Wycliffe, btw.

I am trying to find a church to go to, we just recently moved to a new town and all I am finding mostly is Freewill Baptist churches and no thanks, been down that road and don't wanna go there again. We went to one of these churches for a few months and all that was ever taught was that you can lose your salvation if you do this or don't do that and half of the Sunday school teachers didn't even know some of the books of the Bible...I don't mean memorizing it, I mean, they never knew the book was in the Bible! How can you teach God's Word if you don't read it, or know it? One teacher kept pronouncing Elisha as Aleesha and kept calling him a her and yes I pointed this out and of course I was wrong. Sigh...again.

I loved the ending here-
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..."

I fully agree!

Michele Rayburn said...
Speaking of tongues, so to speak!, I was just over at James White's website, and he mentioned a Todd Bentley and gave the link to The Dividing Line where he plays some audio of Bentley. James says of him:

"...Todd Bentley, the wild-eyed purveyor of 'revival' down in Florida. If this stuff doesn't shock you, well, nothing will. Sad, incredible stuff. See...theology matters!" (see "And The Phones Go Wild")

Go to YouTube and look him up. He makes my hair stand on end! What hurts the most is seeing the little children being taken up to him. All the deception going on with this guy and they are buying every bit of it. I stumbled upon this guy just a few days ago and WOW! When he was talking about beating people up because God told him to, the audience would just laugh. They thought it was hilarious! I was appalled! It has been suggested that his "angel Emma" is actually Emma-O, who is a demonic being. Truly scary stuff if you don't know the Word of God to be sure! It just goes to show that people are not reading God's Word anymore, obviously, and are so easily deceived.

Sorry if I babbled too much...this blogging thing is new to me. But I think I like it! :0)


PuritanReformed said...


just wondering, are you going to write on this issue? Personally, I'm still having difficulty finding the uninterrupted time needed to continue on this series.

prophetic said...

wow! I so appreciate this. thank you.

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