October 21, 2017

A Case for Cessationism (6)

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 ThreePart FourPart FiveThis is Part SixPart Seven • Part 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 continued to consider that question, looking now to the New Testament Record. Part 5 turned to the question of a completed canon, firstly discussing the arguments of some against  a completed canon. Part 6 discusses the idea of completed revelation in accordance with the witness of Biblical writers.

Completed Revelation

Understanding God’s guidelines for distin­guishing true revelation from false will enable us to biblically evaluate the claims of those who say that God has revealed himself to them.

Jude

Jude’s epistle gives us strong evidence that we have a completed revelation from God.  Jude 3 states:

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

Jude emphasized an important truth in his statement about tē pistei (“the faith”). He wrote that it “wasonce delivered to the saints.” That statement indicates that God’s revelation is complete and we need expect no more. The word “once” and its place in the verse bear out our contention.

The word “once” in verse three is the Greek word hapax, which conveys the meaning of “once for all.” The Holy Spirit tells us through Jude that God revealed himself to us in Scripture (“the faith”), and he completed his revelation. Lenski explains,

“Once delivered” (effective aorist) means “once for all” (the classical meaning) and not merely “on one occasion.” . . .  To offer doctrines that are other than this faith is to offer falsehood, poison. To subtract from or add to this faith is to take away what Christ gave, or to supply what he did not give.[1]

By using this forceful word, Jude is telling us that no other revelation will be given.

Jude further emphasizes the fact of a completed revelation by the order in which he uses his words in the sentence. The word order in the Greek is emphatic.  Describing the faith, Jude calls it tē hapax paradotheisē tois hagiois pistei – literally “the once-for-all delivered to the saints faith.”[2] This places the primary emphasis in the sentence on the word “once” more than on “the faith.”

Jude is certainly not de-emphasizing “the faith.” It is the substance of God’s revelation, believed by Christians and recorded in Scripture. Jude’s main emphasis is that “the faith” is a “once for all” revelation. God gave it to us over a period of sixteen hundred years through forty human authors. New Testament Christians received the Old Testament as God’s revelation. They also recognized the writings of the apostles as Scripture (2 Pet 3:16). When John the Apostle wrote “Amen” (Rev 22:21), God’s revelation was completed. God has given us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3), and he has not changed his mind. He curses those who would add to or subtract from his revelation (Rev 22:18, 19). Many have attempted to deny, modify, or add to God’s Word by one means or another. Jude declares that New Testament Christianity rests on the foundation of a completed revelation from God. Biblical fundamentalism in the present day stands on the same foundation of a complete revelation from God.

John

The beloved apostle adds his warning, saying:

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Rev 22:18–19).

John’s warning at the end of the Revelation and at the end of the canon of Scripture seems emphatic. Yet is there more? Can we really make a case for the position that God is not speaking to men today as he did when he gave his Word? When a cacophony of voices contends, for one reason or another, that God still reveals himself, we must deal with this question. Christians deserve a certain, biblical, and reasonable explanation of the biblical teaching on this subject.

Deuteronomy 13:1–5 — The Theological Test

God warns Israel against a prophet who may arise among them. This prophet will come with a purported revelation received by prophecy or dream (v. 1). He will support his prophecy with a miracle. The miracle, according to verse two, may actually come to pass. The purpose of the prophet’s message is to seduce Israel to serve other gods: “Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them” (v. 2). Notice that according to verse three, the nation is to reject the prophet, even though he gives a claimed revelation and accredits it with a miracle! Part of God’s purpose in allowing this seducer to come is to prove his people’s love for him (v. 3).[3] The sensational and miraculous is not the sole vindication and authentication of a purported revelation.

In verse four God describes the standard by which all claimed prophecy must be judged. All supposed prophecy, to be genuine, must be consistent with (1) the character of God (“Ye shall walk after the Lord your God”) and (2) the already written Word of God (“his commandments, his voice”). These claims to additional revelation must also result in (3) the fear of God (“fear him”), (4) obedience to God (“obey his voice”), and (5) devotion to him (“and cleave unto him”). Any prophetic claim to genuineness must be consistent with what we know about the character of God as it is revealed in his Word. It must also promote obedience to and love for God. Any prophetic claim that does not “square” with the character of God and his revealed Word exposes itself as patently false.

Several times Scripture indicates that Satan’s activity motivates false prophecy. Deuteronomy 13:12, 13 seem to teach this fact. Passages like Matt 24:24; 2 Thes 2:9; Rev 13:11–14; 16:14 and 19:20 also support this idea. In fact, it seems that the false prophet of Revelation 13, who will appear during the Great Tribulation, fits the model of Deuteronomy 13:1–5. Stewart Custer, writing on Revelation 13:11–18 says:

What irony that this last false religious leader will try the same old trick to get mankind to worship a man rather than the true God! “And he will perform great signs, to even cause fire to come down out of heaven to the earth before men” (v. 13).  The Jews have a standing warning not to follow a prophet who performs miracles if he tries to lead them away from Jehovah God (Deut. 13:1–5).[4]

This biblical standard exposes current claims to prophecy as clearly false. We could cite many examples here, but one will suffice. Notice a statement by the popular Charismatic preacher Kenneth Copeland. He says:

It’s time for these things to happen, saith the Lord. It’s time for spiritual activity to increase. Oh, yes, demonic activity will increase along at the same time. But don’t let that disturb you. Don’t be disturbed when people accuse you of thinking you’re God. Don’t be disturbed when people accuse you of a fanatical way of life. Don’t be disturbed when people put you down and speak harshly and roughly of you. They spoke that way of Me, should they not speak that way of you? The more you get to be like Me, the more they’re going to think that way of you. They crucified me for claiming that I was God. But I didn’t claim I was God; I just claimed I walked with Him and that He was in Me. Hallelujah. That’s what you’re doing.[5]

Note that Copeland is guilty of heresy on two counts. First, he says that Jesus did not claim to be God. That statement is false when judged by the standard of John 5:18; 10:30 and 14:7, 9. Copeland robs Jesus of his deity. Second, Copeland elevates man to the level of Christ. We are, according to Copeland, making the same claims that Christ made. The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was made like men in his humanity (Heb. 2:14–17). He also sets Christ apart as unique and different from men in his deity (Heb. 7:26). In two sentences Copeland diminishes the deity of Christ and promotes the exaltation of man. Both statements radically differ from revealed Scripture. This twentieth-century prophet does not meet the biblical standard and must be rejected.

To be continued… [next installment due Friday, 2013.12.27]


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. R.C.H. Lenski, I and II Epistles of Peter, the Three Epistles of John, and the Epistle of Jude(Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1966), 611. []
  2. New Testament scholars call this the “first attributive position” where the adjective follows the article and precedes the noun. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 306. []
  3. Our first and greatest duty to God is to love him. See Deut 6:1–7; 10:12, 13; 30:6; Matt 22:37; Mark 12:29, 30; and Luke 10:27. []
  4. Stewart Custer, From Patmos to Paradise – A Commentary on Revelation (Greenville, SC: BJU Press, 2004), 152. []
  5. Kenneth Copeland, Believer’s Voice of Victory, February 1987, quoted in MacArthur, 57. Emphasis mine. []


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