August 24, 2017

A Case for Cessationism (4)

Fred Moritz

This article first appeared in the Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal. You may also find it here. We republish on Proclaim & Defend with permission.

The article will appear here in parts for easier reading. This will require an alteration of footnote numbering – for citation, refer to the longer article linked above.

Part OnePart Two Part ThreeThis is Part FourPart FivePart SixPart SevenPart EightPart Nine

Part 1 surveyed Claims for Continuing Revelation as taught by Cults, Roman Catholics, Charismatics and Peter Ruckman. Part 2 continued by surveying the views of Sovereign Grace, John Piper, Wayne Grudem and D. A. Carson. Part 3 moved on to a considering the question of continuing revelation in light of the doctrine of inspiration, firstly looking at the Old Testament Record. Part 4 continues to consider that question, looking now to the New Testament Record.

The New Testament Record

In the New Testament, God spoke to his people through the apostles. The apostles functioned in at least four important ways. First, they were men who must have been with Christ during his earthly ministry from his baptism until he ascended to heaven. They were called to be eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 1:21, 22). Second, Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would supernaturally remind them of his teachings (John 14:25, 26). The early church relied on the apostles’ doctrine for its authority until Scripture was completed (Acts 2:42). Third, the apostles were the human instruments through which God gave us the New Testament. They and the early churches recognized that God was speaking through them (1 Cor 2:10–13; 1 Tim 5:17 with Deut 25:4 and Luke 10:7). Paul asserted this apostolic authority to validate his teaching and writing to the Thessalonians (2 Thes 2:15). Peter considered the writings of the apostles to be on an equal plane with the writings of the Old Testament prophets (2 Pet 3:2), and then he taught that Paul’s writings were Scripture (2 Pet 3:16). The writer of Hebrews declared that Christ was the climax of God’s revelation (Heb 1:1–3). He then stated that salvation “at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him” (Heb 2:3). We conclude that Christ and the apostles were the messengers by which God gave the New Testament (Heb 2:1–4). It seems that this is the reason Paul affirms to the Ephesian church that local churches “are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph 2:20). Fourth, these men were the first generation of church-planting missionaries who spread across the known world with the Gospel. As the apostle of the Gentiles, Paul could say of his apostolic ministry, “I magnify mine office” (Rom 11:13). It is clear that God used them to communicate his revelation to us and that they were conscious of their place as the channels through which that revelation came.

The New Testament speaks of a body of truth that God revealed and that was commonly held by believers. Very often New Testament authors use the term “the faith” to describe that common doctrinal agreement. Scripture “prescribes” the faith for us. By that term we mean that it lays down the rule, sets down the regulations, or stipulates the biblical truths that make up “the faith.” We may illustrate this by a doctor prescribing a medication. The prescription identifies the medicine and the strength of the dosage. It instructs the patient how often to take it and how to take it (with food, etc.). In the same way the New Testament describes our Christian belief system. This “faith” is more than a reference to the saving trust we place in Christ for our salvation. It refers to the entire body of Christian truth as revealed in Holy Scripture.

Jude speaks of “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). “Jude’s definition of New Testament Christianity begins with an affirmation that God has revealed his Word to men.”[1] We cannot describe the faith without insisting on a biblical doctrine of Scripture.

A proper understanding of the Gospel is a crucial part of “the faith.” Paul exhorts the Philippians: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:27) [emphasis mine]. It is important to note that a lifestyle compatible with the Gospel is a part of “the faith of the gospel” in this verse. Those who do not provide for those of their households have denied the faith and are worse than unbelievers (1 Tim 5:8).

When Paul and Barnabas discipled the new believers in Turkey, they exhorted them “to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). “The faith” includes the full body of Christian teaching concerning doctrine, godly living, and even suffering.

“The faith” must include sound doctrine. Paul warned Timothy of those who would depart from “the faith” (1 Tim 4:1). This includes embracing deceit and doctrine that is demonic in origin. False doctrine is a departure from “the faith.” He then told Timothy that to lead his people away from error and into truth would mark him as “a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of (the) faith and of good doctrine” (1 Tim 4:6). A full body of good doctrine comprises “the faith.” He exhorted Timothy to “fight the good fight of (the) faith” (1 Tim 6:12). He used the same language to say “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).

Scripture clearly has a broader outlook than just the Gospel, as precious as that is. In 1 Corinthians Paul described a series of teachings that he promulgated in all the churches where he ministered. These teachings included:

Faith in Christ (1:2)

His apostolic teaching (4:17; 11:2)

Biblical revelation about marriage (7:17)

Peace in the churches (11:16)

Common practice concerning sign gifts (14:33–38)

Instructions about giving (16:1)

After all this, the apostle exhorts the Corinthians to “stand fast in the faith” (1 Cor 16:13). He clearly intended that fidelity to the faith included the Gospel, but it entailed much more, the full body of truth God revealed through him and the other apostles.

This revealed faith must be fought for (1 Tim 6:12; 2 Tim 4:7–8; Jude 3). Christ and New Testament authors gave repeated warnings about false christs, false apostles, and false teachers (Matt 7:15; 24:4, 5, 11, 24; Acts 20:29, 30; 2 Cor 11:13; 2 Tim 3; 2 Pet 2:1; 3:1–5; 1 John 2:22–23; 4:1; 2 John 7; Jude 4–19). They described their false doctrine, their motives, and their ungodliness.

Synopsis

This survey is necessarily brief, but its purpose is to establish several points. God has spoken to the human race and given us his Word. Biblical Christianity is a revealed religion. False prophets, teachers, and apostles have been present at every turn, denying the truth of that Word and attempting to counterfeit it. God’s people are called upon to discern between the true and false prophets and teachers and then to reject the false. God’s revealed Word is the standard by which we are to affirm truth and reject error. We must “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). Biblical history teaches us that we are called upon to live, proclaim, and minister God’s truth against the backdrop of false teaching. False teachers and their doctrine must be exposed.

We affirm our belief that the Bible is the Word of God, God’s revelation to mankind. We accept it as our only rule for faith and practice. We believe and embrace the doctrines revealed in Scripture. We judge all doctrines and teachings by the standard of the Word.

To be continued… [next installment due Monday, 2013.12.16]


Dr. Moritz is a professor at Maranatha Baptist Seminary. For more on this topic, see Fred Moritz, Contending for the Faith (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2000), 35–63.

  1. Moritz, 27. []


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