Cessationism is a doctrine based on the idea that miracles and spiritual gifts such as prophecy and speaking in tongues ceased once men finished writing the Bible. False miracles and abuse of spiritual gifts within charismatic or pentecostal churches have fed into this idea. As a result, the charismatic church has gotten a bad rap. However, those who question the validity of a miracle or other spiritual gift have a good point. How does anybody know those things are real?
Jesus warns us in Matthew 7:15 to beware of false prophets, ravening wolves dressed like sheep.
“You’ll know them by their fruits,” he says.
How then shall we judge this teaching on cessationism?
Galatians 5:22 says that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is, first of all, love. According to I John 4:8, God is love. The one who doesn’t love doesn’t know God.
So then, does the idea that God no longer does miracles make you feel like God loves you? Does it thrill you to think that God would never speak to you through words or knowledge, wisdom or prophecy?
How about joy, the second fruit on the list? If you experienced a car wreck multiple injuries, would a miraculous healing from God be like poison to your soul? If so, then perhaps this teaching on cessationism is like a sheep to you.
As for the peace which surpasses understanding, that itself is like a miracle from God. But if God no longer does miracles, then how can one receive such awe-inspiring peace?
The idea that God still does miracles can be very encouraging. Yet most of us probably know the scripture where many who prophesied, cast out devils, and did miracles in Jesus’ name fail to enter the kingdom of heaven.
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 8:22-23)
Therefore we must take care to examine the fruit of any miracle, sign, wonder, prophecy or tongue. But hasn’t that always been the case?
Even in the old testament, we find more bad prophets than good ones. Take Ahab for example, the fleshly king who had four hundred false prophets prophesy success for him in God’s name (see I Kings chapter 22). One man, Micaiah, gave Ahab a true gift of prophecy, however. Ahab responded by throwing him in jail.
If Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah, had ignored Ahab and heeded that word, he wouldn’t have gone to battle with Ahab and nearly gotten himself killed like Ahab got himself killed. False prophecy in this case resulted in a fruit called “death.” Had Ahab heeded the true prophecy, it could have saved his life.
Perhaps things aren’t so different today when it comes to spiritual gifts, yet many adhere in some form to the doctrine of cessationism. The number of anti-charismatic sites on the web is astounding.
What does God’s Word say about that though?
“Now, concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.” I Corinthians 12:1
“Have all gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? but covet earnestly the best gifts.” I Corinthians 12:31
I Corinthians chapter 13 explains that love is the best and only way through which these wonderful spiritual gifts are designed to operate.
I Corinthians 8:3 tells us that “if any man love God, the same is known of him.”
So perhaps when Jesus speaks of miracle workers who never knew him, he’s not referring to their use of spiritual gifts such as casting out devils or prophecy. Perhaps it’s that they never truly loved him because they never really got to know him. If they prophesied truth, they didn’t do it in love. They might have cast out devils, but welcomed bigger devils into their homes. Judas is a prime example of a disciple who went out with all the rest to heal the sick and cast out devils (see Luke chapter 9, verse 2). He got involved in wonderful works, yet he had no true love for Jesus and in the end betrayed him.
Though many may operate in false gifts or prophesy out of their own minds, that doesn’t mean all spiritual gifts have ceased.
Spiritual counterfeits cause people to be disillusioned with spiritual gifts, however. But consider this: Satan is below God, not above him. He can’t counterfeit anything of God that isn’t real. When he couldn’t stop Jesus from casting out devils, he had men accuse Jesus of doing the devil’s work. Now, it seems, he may be using the doctrine of cessationism to accuse Jesus’ followers of the same thing.
I’m not saying we should accept every tongue or prophecy that comes our way, but we need to use discernment because for every four hundred false prophets there’s liable to be at least one true one. We shouldn’t let Satan scare us away from spiritual gifts that might still be for today.