Note — The name of the conversation partner has been changed to a totally random name I pulled out of a hat. Also, a tip of the hat goes to Joe Bloggs for providing some of the exegetical work. Thanks Joe.
Where can you point out in scripture that these Signs and Wonders gifts – such as speaking in tongues, prophecy, etc. – are no longer given by Holy Spirit?
Thank you for writing. Of course the standard Reformed position held from the Reformation forwards is called “Cessationism.” Cessationism teaches that the Charismatic gifts have ceased and that the no further special Revelation is to be expected
Before we turn to the question proper let us make a few opening observations about Pentecostalism with its desire to look for further Revelation (commonly referred to as continuation-ism).
1.) What happens in continuation-ism is that the authority of Scripture is diluted. When you raise signs and wonders (SAW) to a level of authority alongside Scripture the sum effect is to lower and dilute the authority of Scripture. Now instead of looking to Scripture for God’s mind and instruction people also look beyond and outside of God’s word to “dreams and visions” and “words of knowledge,” or a “word from the Lord.” Hence, God’s inscripturated word is diluted. This desire for additional special revelation is seen in what you have recently written,
<blockquote>”I will have to pray and wait for a supernatural revelation, for relying on my mind to use such a tremendous resource (of God’s supernatural power) would be the stupidest thing I could do as a Christian.”</blockquote>
<blockquote>”All knowledge comes through revelation, and therefore the application of the Word to present use will need supernatural revelation.”
“All knowledge comes through revelation, and therefore the application of the Word to present use will need supernatural revelation.”
“Since the Bible contains the canonical covenantal principles, but not the specific application for present use for every man in every circumstance, revelation is needed.”</blockquote>
This insisting on continued revelation on your part takes us off of God’s inscripturated word, and throws us back on intuition and mysticism masquerading as “revelation,” Human mysticism and intuition become authorities alongside Scripture.
2.) In keeping with that when one raises SAW to equal authority of Scripture one has, in essence, denied Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). It is no longer Scripture alone that is the authority but rather it is Scripture plus signs and wonders. Of course this is to deny the very heart of the Reformation and to proclaim that one is no longer “Reformed.”
3.) Speaking of the denial of the Reformed faith, Pentecostalism, with its desire for signs and wonders (SAW) is by definition Arminian since the Reformed faith, by definition, rejects continuation-ism. Lesser theologies and their adherents (Arminianism and Arminians) which support SAW are, in principle, denying the finished work for Christ. This is so because signs and wonders, as God’s Revelation, always served the purpose in Scripture of validating and confirming Christ’s redemptive work. As such when signs and wonders are pursued independent of their attachment, in Scripture to Christ’s finished work, what is being communicated is a dissatisfaction with the finished work of Christ in favor or a theology of glory. Arminianism is the only school of thought which can permit ongoing revelation because Arminianism has a limited view of God’s sovereignty, in that if God was sovereign then He would not need extra-Biblical methods of revealing the salvific works of Christ once the full relevation of His
atoning works were made manifest and inscripturated.
4.) Pentecostalism has an unfortunate tendency of denying the Reformed principle of “the priesthood of all believers” creating instead a two tiered Christianity, where the front tier is occupied by the “second blessing Christians” while the second tier is occupied by those poor questionable folks who just are not real Spirit-filled Christians because they don’t do glossolalia.
5.) Pentecostalism finally reduces to a mystical subjectivism. Without the objective word anything and everything become potential for SAW. With the advent of the “Toronto Blessing,” the “Brownsville Revival” and “The Kansas City Prophets” we have seen SAW including “Laughing in the Spirit,” “Hitting in the Spirit,” “Kicking in the Spirit,” “Mooing in the Spirit,” and, my favorite, “Crowing like a Rooster in the Spirit.” All of these have been advocated as SAW. Now, Bojidar, it may be the case that you would find those antics to be silly but since there is absolutely zero standard in order to regulate SAW anything can be said to be a SAW from God. Once Pentecostals like you advocate for SAW then only the subjectivism of any given Pentecostal limits the SAW.
6.) We would add here the fact that those who have been duly called, set apart, and ordained to expound the Scriptures (as opposed to every believers duty and understand them in a common-sense manner), have stated that the miraculous ceased with the inscripturation of Scripture; such exegetes include Augustine, Luther, Calvin, the Westminster theologians, Owen, Voetius, Chas. & A.A. Hodge, Edwards, Godet, Shedd, Warfield, Kuyper, Hughes, and Lee.
Now turning to the question we started with let us explore the Scripture on the subject of why revelation has ceased.
1.) Hebrews 1:1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.
God has spoken His completed message in Christ. The incarnation of the Lord Christ is the final revelation of the Father and as such further signs and wonders are to be considered “anti-Revelation.”
There are no further special revelational messages because nothing else is to be said. With the Scriptures God’s speaking in verbal propositional form has ceased. To allow for further special Revelation is to teach that Christ was NOT God’s final Revelational Word. Your insistence on more special revelation Bojidar communicates a dissatisfaction with Christ as God’s final word.
2.) “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” – Hebrews 2:1-4
In this passage we see that those ‘signs and wonders’ were a thing of the past. Therefore, even by the time of the donation of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the sign gifts had ceased. To understand the first few verses of Hebrews 2, you must understand the Greek verb ‘aorist’ past tense – that is the very point. The aorist tense means that it is done and dust, never to be continued. That is why signs and wonders have ceased; because they were ‘bearing’ witness to the start of the Lord’s preaching of the Gospel. The word translated ‘bearing’ is key in this passage to understanding the use of signs and wonders. The author of Hebrews is saying that they have served their purpose and are not to be repeated. Why? Because now the full revelation of Christ has been given (cf. Hebrews 1 in #1 above).
3.) “Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” – 1 Corinthians 13:8-10
Consider that Scripture here teaches that SAW and tongues would come to an end. The foretelling (prophesy) comes to an end. The tongues (glossolalia) comes to an end, the knowledge (“word from the Lord, ” “word of wisdom,” “word of knowledge”) comes to an end.
I know Bojidar that you and the Pentecostals will say that that which is ‘perfect’ has not yet come and so I am misinterpreting the passage. Of course that is just an assertion on your part and against the clear teaching of Scripture, (i.e., Hebrews and Revelation, and Daniel), that that which is ‘perfect’ is in fact Scripture itself as it is the full and clear revelation of Jesus Christ. I would add here that the duly called exegetes who rightly divided God’s Word, have taught that the ‘perfect’ in I Corinthians 13 refers to the Scripture as to that which is the “perfect which is to come.” This list includes men like, Edwards, Dabney, Jamieson, Fausset, Brown, Pink, Reymond, Unger, Du Toit, Gaffin, Judisch, and Budgen. Really, the Pentecostal reading is the innovative and novel reading.
4.) Daniel 9:24f — Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thine holy city, to finish the wickedness, and to seal up the sins, and to reconcile the iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.
We see here that the ‘vision and prophecy’ was to be sealed up by the time Jerusalem was destroyed. This happened in 70 A.D. Now when we read Daniel 9 in light of I Corinthians 14:4-6 (also written prior to AD 70) we see that because Paul makes ‘tongues’ a subset of ‘prophecy,’ that tongues have ceased with the fall of Jerusalem.
“He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?” – 1 Corinthians 14:4-6
So, if tongues is a lesser subset of prophesy, per the inspired Apostle, and if prophesying has been sealed in 70 AD per Daniel then if what Daniel is speaking of has come to pass then prophesying and SAW is sealed up and is no more.
5.) Acts 2:16 But this is that, which was spoken by the Prophet Joel,
Note that Peter says that the signs and wonders (SAW) happening on Pentecost is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. There is no indication in anything that Peter says that this unique event is to continue. To expect a continued pouring out of the Spirit on new believers such as what we find on the day of Pentecost would be like expecting repeated crucifixions and resurrections of Christ for each new believer. All are unique one time events that satisfy the expectations of Redemptive History.
Of course this does not deny that the believers are filled with the Spirit for as Paul teaches in I Corinthians 12
13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews, or Grecians, whether we be bond, or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
So, even though new believers do not receive a repeated 1st century Pentecost they always receive Christ by a spirit authored and spirit filled union with Christ. All believers are filled with the Spirit and do no wait for a subsequent filling of the Spirit after being united to Christ.
6.) Acts 2: 22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words, JESUS of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you with great works, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
Note here Bojidar, that once again, as in Hebrews 2, that the SAW are uniquely connected with the ministry of the Lord Christ. SAW were God’s approval on the ministry of Christ. Note also the aorist verbs here demonstrating that all this is past. Christ was approved by God via SAW.
7.) Proverbs 30:6 Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.
SAW and tongues and prophesy add to God’s words. Now, typically Pentecostals, like yourself Bojidar, will insist that they are not adding to God’s word and that anything that is arrived at via SAW and tongues and prophesy must be 100% consistent with the inscripturated word.
However, if SAW doesn’t say anything different than what Scripture says and is in full agreement w/ Scritpure than SAW and tongues and foretelling (prophesy) are not needed since we already have that which they are 100% consistent with. If God has spoken in such a way that anything other that is said, via extra scriptural Revelation, has to agree with what God has said then SAW is a redundancy and so not needed.
SAW would, at the very least then, be superfluous.
Anticipating and Answering and Objection
One of my old Pentecostal bible study notes comments on Acts 2:39 by saying that Peter explicitly promises what happened to the Apostles to occur over and over again. It offers,
39 For the promise is made unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.
<blockquote>“The promise of the baptism in the Holy Spirit was not just for those present on the day of Pentecost, but for all who would believe in Christ throughout this age: “for you” – Peter’s audience; “your children” – the next generation; “for all who are far off” – the third and subsequent generations. (1) The baptism in the Spirit with its accompanying power was not a once-for-all occurrence in the church’s history. It did not cease with Pentecost, nor with the close of the apostolic age. (2) It is the birthright of every Christian to seek, expect and experience the same baptism in the Spirit that was promised and given to the NT Christians.”</blockquote>
These notes are in error. Joel’s prophecy cited by Peter, is in fact given in Acts 2:17-21. However, by verse 39, Peter has moved on from talking about Joel’s prophecy. From there Peter has discussed Jesus and David. After that Peter finishes a section of what and the people had then responded by crying out: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”. Peter then responds and says: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” And then Peter, following on from that statement says: “For 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.”
The promise Peter says is for them and their children, and to all that are afar off is not the promise of what Joel prophesied clear back in vs. 17-21, pertaining to the sign gifts, but rather the promise that Peter speaks of is remission of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost Himself. He does not state anywhere in this passage that ‘signs and wonders’ were the continuing gift of the Holy Spirit on all new believers. The idea that Peter in Acts 2:39 is referring to SAW is an assertion you and your fellow Pentecostals make, but it is not in the text. The Holy Ghost Himself in greater measure than in the Older Testament was the ‘gift’ spoken off by Peter, and part of the ‘promise’ – the other part of the promise was the remission of sins.
So Bojidar, I hope that this helps you see where from Scripture we conclude that SAW and continuation-ism is not biblical.