December 18, 2017

A Case for Cessationism (3)

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 TwoThis is Part ThreePart 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 moves on to a considering the question of continuing revelation in light of a complete canon.

Sign Gifts and Scripture

The issue whether the sign gifts continue or have ceased is closely tied to the question of continuing revelation. Is God giving us Scripture today? Are the sign gifts of the New Testament still in operation today? And is the prophetic gift of the Old Testament identical with the prophetic gift in the New Testament? These issues are connected because the New Testament seems to indicate that the sign gifts were apostolic and that they were specifically given to accredit the apostles as the channels through whom God gave the New Testament revelation.

This article argues that the sign gifts of the Spirit were temporary and are not operative today. Maranatha has held this position since its founding. The Fundamental Baptist Fellowship International also states this belief:

We believe that certain gifts, being miraculous in nature, were prevalent in the church in the first century. They were foundational and transi­tional. These gifts have ceased, being no longer needed because the Scriptures have been completed and the church has been divinely certified (Heb. 2:1–4; 1 Cor. 13:8–12; Eph. 2:20). We believe that speaking in tongues was never the common or necessary sign of the filling or baptism of the Spirit. We believe God, in accord with His own will, does hear and answer prayer for the sick and afflicted (1 Cor. 12:11, 30; 13:8; James 5:14–16).[1]

The purpose of this article is not polemical. In other words, we do not intend to examine and refute the claims of those who argue for some form of continuing revelation or the continuance of the sign gifts. Critiques have been written and detailed debates or discussions have also taken place in print. We intend to examine the biblical evidence that leads to the conclusion that Scripture is complete and that the sign gifts of the Spirit have ceased.

We confront an apparent problem when dealing with the issue of a completed revelation versus continuing revelation. Scripture is clear that God revealed himself progressively as he gave the Scripture. Hebrews 1:1, 2 explain that “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.”

Both the Old and New Testaments give clear instruction for discerning false prophets. The New Testament teaches that God gave signs and wonders to vindicate apostolic revelation. Scripture also teaches that God will again give supernatural revelation with miracles vindicating it (Joel 2:28). This will occur during the Tribulation. Rolland McCune affirms that, “As a matter of fact, the rapture initiates a whole new era of revelation; there will be widespread revelatory activity during the Tribulation and Millennium (Rev. 11:3; Joel 2:28).”[2]

As we approach this issue, we must answer a question: If there was supernatural revelation during the time God gave the Scriptures, and if there will be supernatural revelation during the time of the Tribulation, how do we know we are not receiving revelation today? This question will be answered in the following section.

God’s Self Revelation
The Old Testament Record

God created Adam and Eve, and he revealed his will to them. From the very beginning God spoke to Adam (Gen 2:16). From the early chapters of Genesis we can conclude that God created man, he created language, and that man was capable of understanding God’s message to him. God revealed himself and his will to Adam and Eve by word. The evidence seems to indicate that God communicated with Adam and Eve on a regular basis (Gen 3:8). Satan, however, questioned and denied God’s revelation to the human race (Gen 3:1, 4). He tempted Eve, Adam disobeyed God, and the human race was plunged into sin.

When God gave the Ten Commandments, he met Moses on Mount Sinai. We are told that “the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend” (Exod 33:11). In the forty days that Moses was in the mountain, “he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments” (Exod 34:28). Moses looked back on that momentous occasion and added another point that becomes important in the biblical development of this theme. “And he said, the Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them” (Deut 33:2).

David was used of the Holy Spirit to say: “The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as on Sinai, the holy place” (Ps 68:17).

The word translated “saints” in Deuteronomy and “holy” in Psalms is qōdeš. It is in the family of words for the holiness of God. This particular word is used of God’s holiness or of holy things or persons.[3] Thus the KJV translates the word as “saints” in Deuteronomy and as the “holy place” in Psalms. The word translated “angels” in Psalm 68:17 is ’elep. “The basic meaning is one thousand but it is often to be taken as a figurative term.”[4] The noun in the plural would thus be translated “thousands.”

Moses stated that God came down onto Sinai with his “holy ones,” and David reported that he came to Sinai with “thousands of thousands” which the KJV translates as “angels.” The reasonable conclusion to be drawn from Deuteronomy is that angels accompanied God when he met Moses. It is no wonder that the scene at Sinai was awesome.

The Spirit of God continues this theme in the New Testament. Stephen indicted the leaders of the Jewish council saying of Israel: “Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:53). Paul described the law saying “it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator” (Gal 3:19). It is essential to note that the author of Hebrews informs us that “the word spoken by angels was steadfast” (Heb 2:2).

Later, God taught the Israelites how he would communicate to them. He said he would speak through prophets. “And he said, Hear now my words: if there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream” (Num 12:6). He informed Israel that his revelation would come by visions and dreams. He later reiterated: “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). This is consistent with Hebrews 1:1–3. God spoke through the prophets until Jesus began God’s final revelation to mankind in the last days.

God warned Israel that false prophets would arise, and he set standards by which Israel could discern between true prophets and false prophets. The statement in Deut 6:4 becomes the basis for God’s standard in discerning false prophets. We will examine the critical passages in Deut 13 and 18 later in this article. In later Old Testament passages, false prophets were condemned because they claimed to speak for God when he had not spoken (Ezek 20:28). Throughout the Old Testament, Israel recognized that God spoke through the prophets (1 Sam 3:6, 19, 20). False prophets were exposed and rejected as were the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:39).

To be continued… [next installment due Tuesday, 2013.12.10]

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. “Confession of Faith,” Article III, Section 4. constitution. Accessed 1 May 2013. []
  2. Rolland D. McCune, “A Biblical Study of Tongues and Miracles” (Minneapolis: Central Baptist Theological Seminary, n.d.), 8. []
  3. William Lee Holladay, Ludwig Köhler and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 314. []
  4. Jack B. Scott, “109 ףלַאָ” in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer, Jr. and Bruce K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 1: 48. []

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