The Folly of Denying the Holy Spirit
Bojidar Marinov wrote a powerful and authoritative series of articles on the power of the Holy Spirit, His current activity in the hear and the now, and the total failure and coming collapse of the cessationism position.
Now,if you have been paying attention, you would already know that God has blessed the churches who back the continuing gifts of the Holy Spirit, including prophecy, healing, tongues, etc…
(Waves to the Charismatic and Pentecostal churches)
…even as He has cut off and left in sterility those withering churches who claim that the Holy Spirit no longer brings miraculous gifts to His people, like… just for example… the weak and tiny Presbyterian churches.
“If you don’t welcome the Holy Spirit in all of His Might, how can you expect to grow? Using scientifically-grounded propaganda and PR techniques? Do you seriously think that God will bless that?” — this blog writer
Repentance is always an option, people!
I have been asked many times to write this thesis, and I have always replied that it is very difficult for me to do it. Not because my position is not supported by the Bible; to the contrary, the Bible is full with support of what is called by some “continuationism,” that is, the view of the continuing validity of the spiritual gifts of 1 Cor. 12-14 in our present times. Not because my position is not supported by historical theology; to the contrary, cessationism as a systematic doctrine didn’t appear until long after the Enlightenment hit the church, in the second half of the 19th century. […] Not because my professed theological tradition—the theology of the Reformation—doesn’t support the view of the continuing validity and operation of the gifts today. To the contrary, Calvin very clearly rejects the nonsense and ingnorance of cessationism in his commentary on 1 Cor. 13, and a careful reading of 1 Cor. 12-14 shows that he expected specifically the gift of prophecy to be operational in the church today. The practice of the Reformers and their heirs is also on my side, given the multitude of prophecies and miracles performed by Reformed ministers from John Knox to Charles Spurgeon, and reported by many Reformed missionaries.
The reason for this task to be so difficult I expressed in a letter to a friend of mine as follows:
I will never be able to understand, Don, how grown up men can read what the plain text of Scripture and the Reformers say on this issue, beat themselves in the chest that they are “Reformed” and “sola scriptura,” and then turn around and argue vehemently for exactly the opposite to what Scripture and the Reformers say. This complete inability in so many churchian celebrities—like Wilson and MacArthur—to think clearly on such a simple Biblical issue is beyond my powers to explain or even comprehend. I can’t comprehend how an otherwise very meticulous theologian like Warfield can admit that “there isn’t a single word in Scripture” in support of his theory of the purpose of the gifts, and then in the next sentence claim that he is Biblical in his theory. I can’t comprehend how one can be so completely illogical as to claim to reject experientialism as a valid argument, and then use only experiential arguments to prove his point. I can’t comprehend how one can reject the possibility for any true prophets today (the very essence of cessationism) and then turn around and use an argument that presupposes the existence of true prophets today (Deut. 18). I can’t comprehend how one can criticize dispensationalism for dividing history into separate unrelated economies, and then turn around and use, in other areas, one of dispensationalism’s most established arguments. It seems to me that cessationism must be based on a complete black out of the brain. It is the most irrational and illogical doctrine in our Reformed churches today, and I can’t comprehend why people can’t see it. I mean, if it was some complex theological truth, like the Trinity, I can understand. But how is this possible when very simple, clear, direct Biblical texts are involved, and very simple, clear, direct teachings and practice of the Reformers are involved?
This is what makes it difficult for me to write an article on it. I just can’t comprehend why something so blatantly obviously Biblical like the spiritual gifts needs to be defended against something so blatantly irrational and illogical and un-Biblical like cessationism. I can’t shake off the thought that it needs not arguments but diagnosis.
But write this thesis I must, I know. Apparently, even the worst possible intellectual schizophrenia, when unopposed, can parade as “sanity.” Even the worst possible deistic rationalism and Enlightenment ideology, when unopposed, can parade as “Biblical theology.” And therefore opposition must be raised, sanity restored, and Biblical arguments pressed so that the enemies of the clear, pure truth of Scripture have no ground to spread their theories.
Nevertheless, this is not simply a treatise against cessationism. Cessationism is dying as a theory anyway, together with the two ideologies that gave it birth, the Enlightenment and Dispensationalism. The gradual decline of Presbyterianism—expressed both in the loss of covenant theology and the loss of cultural and missionary impetus—is obvious to all.
Let me just point out the near-total failure of the seminary to train successful pastors, with expanding congregations and increased faithfulness in his congregation and in society.
The Biblical model is apprenticeship, by the way, not seminary. Follow the Bible, the instructions of the Word of God, and succeed!
The rise of Charismatic churches and groups, and the “conversion” of so many formerly cessationist believers and whole churches to a Biblical view of the gifts is obvious. Even if we leave cessationism alone, it will die on its own accord, without outside help. Or, rather, it has been dead from the very beginning, not having any knowledge of the power of God (Mark 12:24).
Amen, and amen.
An attack against cessationism would be good, for it is a false ideology; but way more important is a positive restoration of the truly Biblical, covenantal, Reformed view of the gifts of the Spirit; one that is neither mystical nor rationalistic, but covenantal, related to the restoration of all things in the Gospel, and to the work of God in the Church and in the world. In the dying Presbyterian circles, both rationalism and mysticism (especially liturgical mysticism) are opposed to the work of the Spirit today; the view of that work is humanistic, focused on man and his ability to please God (liturgy) or to know God’s will through his own mental efforts (rationalism).
Just a bit more, on judging prophets (and especially Jonah):
[…] we still have to deal with the New Testament commandment concerning judging the prophets. Paul specifically says in the chapter that deals with prophecy in the greatest detail (and therefore the chapter avoided by cessationist “theologians” like the plague), 1 Cor. 14, that when prophets speak, the others must judge (v. 29). All this is happening in the church service. There is no mention of the church waiting for a future event to happen in order to judge. The others are judging right there, on the spot. Obviously, there is something very wrong with the cessationist’s view of prophecy, and with his use of Deut. 18 as an argument.
Not to mention that applied directly, the argument is not valid even in the Old Testament. For example, applied to Jonah, it would condemn Jonah to death. Jonah delivered a prophecy that had no conditions attached to it, and the prophecy didn’t come true. Cessationists try to avoid this problem by claiming that the prophecy actually came true in a different way, but the text is very clear:
When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it (Jonah 3:10).
Don’t you love how the clarity of the Word of God crushes the cessationist position underneath His heel? I definitely do!
The problem for cessationists, of course, is that if Jonah got a free pass, they should give such free pass to every Charismatic prophet, and cease babbling about Deut. 18. Obviously, there is a problem with their interpretation of Deut. 18.
In addition, another passage in the Law, Deut. 13:1-5, actually condemns to death a prophet whose prediction did come to pass! This places an additional burden on the cessationist argument: What if the prophecy did come to pass, but the prophet is still a false prophet? And how can we tell? Jonah is free of guilt, but a prophet who predicts correctly may be guilty. How is this possible? Cessationism has no answer.
It has no answer because from the very beginning the cessationist argument is anti-covenantal. It looks at the prophetic gift as if the only purpose of prophecy is to be clairvoyance, a crystal ball to peek into the future (hence the undue focus on Deut. 18); such view of prophecy is based on a basically pagan, metaphysical view of reality. A covenantal view of reality will look at every gift from God in a covenantal, that is, judicial way; it will therefore look at the gift of prophecy first and foremost as a tool for establishing the covenantal relationship of men to God, of drawing them near to God and making the conformed to the image of His Son.
Thus, New Testament prophecy has nothing to do with the cessationist’s essentially pagan expectations of claivoyance; it has to do, first and foremost, with the knowledge of God and His will.
No paganism in God’s Church!
God expects us to know His will… and uphold it!
And the specific purpose of prophecy is beautifully expressed by no other but John Calvin in his commentary on that very chapter which cessationists are avoiding like the plague, 1 Cor. 14:
Revelation and prophesying I put in one class, and I am of opinion that the latter is the administration of the former. I am of the same opinion as to knowledge and doctrine. What, therefore, any one has obtained by revelation, he dispenses by prophesying. Doctrine is the way of communicating knowledge. Thus a Prophet will be — one who interprets and administers revelation. This is rather in favor of the definition that I have given above, than at variance with it. For we have said that prophesying does not consist of a simple and bare interpretation of Scripture, but includes also knowledge for applying it to present use — which is obtained only by revelation, and the special inspiration of God.
This, of course, needs to be put in the context of Calvin’s view of cessationism from his commentary on the only chapter in the Bible that talks about the “cessation” of gifts and therefore gives the very name of that theory, 1 Cor. 13:
But when will that perfection come? It begins, indeed, at death, for then we put off, along with the body, many infirmities; but it will not be completely manifested until the day of judgment, as we shall hear presently. Hence we infer, that the whole of this discussion is ignorantly applied to the time that is intermediate. (Emphasis mine—B.M.)
Here are the conclusions from Calvin’s view:
1. Cessationism is “ignorant.” The “perfect” will come at death, and will be completely manifested only in the Day of Judgment.
2. Prophecy doesn’t compete with Scripture, as cessationists claim. It applies Scripture to present use.
3. Prophecy itself is not simply bare interpretation, as some cessationists claim (calling simple preaching “prophecy”). It is a supernatural gift.
4. Prophecy is revelation itself. And the fact that it is revelation doesn’t mean that it competes with the revelation of Scripture, as cessationists claim.
Thank you, John Calvin!
[…] a church that claims to be cessationist and is consistent, would excommunicate anyone who starts a public speech in the church with “Thus says the Lord.” After all, according to the theory (and contrary to Calvin and Reformed theology and practice), every “Thus says the Lord” is a challenge against the authority of Scripture, and no such challenge can be tolerated in any true church.
So the session should move and excommunicate the prophet.
But let’s stop for a moment and think what exactly is happening in the process of excommunication.
The man may be a false prophet, or he may be a true prophet. He may speak his own words, but he may speak the words of God. Either way, none of what he says has any judicial consequences for anyone in the church. New Testament prophecy, according to 1 Cor. 14:29, can and must be “judged” by the rest of the church. What if the theory is wrong? What if God actually can and does speak today through prophets in the way Calvin explains it? There is still a very real probability that the words uttered by that man are the words of God, in that special revelation of applying Scripture to present use. What if the excommunication is actually a rebellion against a man who does speak with authority from God, even if that authority is not mediated through an institutional church? Don’t we know quite a few examples in history when the institutional church was wrong and individuals who rebelled against it were right?
Well, the reply to these questions should be that the church elders are acting with authority from God. Or, are they? Are really speaking in the name of God?
If we are not guided by the Holy Spirit, acting and speaking today, how will we ever know who speaks for God, and who does not?
Since direct revelation in applying Scripture to life (as per Calvin) is forbidden, the session openly claims, through their theology, that everything they do as elders—including the excommunication of a prophet—is their human decisions, with little to no proof that they have the authority or the approval of God to act in His name. God’s Word doesn’t speak directly and specifically to the particular circumstances of the day, and God is banned from speaking directly to people today, therefore it is man’s word and man’s agenda that control the church.
Humanism has no place in the Body of Christ.
We are to follow the Will of God, and the Will of God is in the Scriptures, and in the Holy Spirit that Jesus placed in all of His followers, to guide and counsel us.
Do not silence the Holy Spirit!
Listen and Obey.
And therefore, it is man’s word and man’s agenda that control the judicial decisions of the church. Man, or a group of men, who openly say they have no direct connection nor knowledge of God’s will for the particular circumstances, make decisions as to who gets to participate in a family which, by definition, is not theirs, but God’s. And if God wants to bring a positive correction to their decision, He can’t do it directly, for by their own theory He can’t speak directly. They won’t listen to another prophet who says, “Thus says the Lord.” They will only listen, if at all, to another man who also claims to be guessing the will of God at best.
The only option that God has to correct the decision of that church, then, is to bring destruction to it.
Indeed, even if these elders claim to not hear directly from God nor speak God’s words (because prophecy has ceased), they still act as if they hear directly from God and speak God’s words (in excommunicating a person from God’s church). Rejecting direct authority from God in theory, they still assume it in practice. What is left for us to wonder about is, if these people are so serious about judgment against a false prophet, are they equally serious about judgment against false pastors? If a prophecy is Biblically correct but condemned because of a theory, how much greater condemnation will be there against pastors who openly say they were acting on their accord, because there is no way that they could hear directly from God?
The only objection to the above argument can be this: “The elders act with a delegated authority from God, as elders of the church, and therefore whatever they do, must be the will of God.”
There are many problems with this objection, especially the assumption that once a group of persons is declared to be a “session,” they are in no need of direct instruction from God for applying His Word to present use.
But the biggest problem is this: How do they know they are legitimate elders, with legitimate authority to make decisions for God and His Church? What is the mechanism that establishes that legitimate authority?
Since they are cessationists, one factor is excluded from the answer: God’s direct revelation.
The demonic core of pagans…
Since the Bible doesn’t mention their names specifically, another factor is excluded: Scriptural revelation.
…and a Satanic influence on far too many Christians…
Yes, their assumption of elder’s authority may not formally violate the Biblical requirements. But how do we know that these specific people, and not someone else, are supposed to be elders? How do we know that these specific people, and not the prophet they are excommunicating, are empowered to speak for God? We can’t know it.
…is that they want God to Just Shut Up.
Jesus Christ has been told by His Father to SPEAK…
And the Holy Spirit has been sent by the Father and the Son to SPEAK…
And the Voice that shaped Creation, that called it into being, will not be silenced by the will of man.
No matter how many degrees, or how many honours, or the level and number of ordinations, or the political or religious position, said men have.
All we know is that a group of people assembled together decided they are going to start a church and be its elders: by human decision. May be they felt they were called by God to be elders: a human feeling. May be they saw the need for having a church with elders in their community: human reasoning. May be they were recognized by another group of elders who are also cessationist and therefore do not speak for God not have any direct word from God: again, a human decision. No matter what process of establishing themselves as “church elders” these men have chosen, if they are consistent cessationists, they can only claim human authority, and nothing more than that. So, at the very best, in their encounter with a man who claims to be a prophet, we have man’s word vs. man’s word, or man’s agenda vs. man’s agenda.
Once again: humanism wearies me.
But my weariness and my judgement is not the one pastors need to worry about…
The only difference is that, by the nature of his testimony, the prophet may be really a prophet and may speak for God. No cessationist elder or session can truly say they derived their personal authority from God; if they say such a thing, they are declaring their cessationism a dead doctrine.
Thus, on the basis of cessationism, there can be no true church, no true authority, no true church discipline, and therefore no testimony to the world. It isn’t surprising that the emergence of cessationism as a systematic doctrine coincided with the decline of the influence of Reformed churches in the world today. If all we can offer is one man-made authority vs. another man-made authority, we are no better than the unregenerate out there.
This leads us to another covenantal purpose for the gifts, and specifically for the prophetic gift: legitimization of authority. Truly, in a sense the gifts are signs, as cessationists claim. But it is a false claim that prophecy in the New Testament was a sign for the authority of the word the Apostles were speaking. The Apostles were not expecting signs and wonders to prove them right; it was their authority in the church, not the truthfulness of their doctrine that needed legitimization. Such legitimization of authority was needed not only for the Apostles, it was needed for others as well, so the principle remains.
OK, so now we move on to Paul’s use of a prophecy (which was not inscripturated) to inform his authority to admonish Timothy…
The best example of such legitimization of authority are Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Tim. 1:18:
This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight. . . .
So why is Paul referring to prophecies if all he needs to do is to refer to his own already established authority of an Apostle, and give admonishment to Timothy based on that authority?
The answer is found in another place of Paul’s writings, Galatians 1:13—2:10. A careful reading of the passage shows that Paul contrasts revelation and authority that he received directly from God as superior to knowledge and acknowledgment he received from even the most distinguished among the Apostles. When he defends his authority of Apostle before the Galatians, he cares nothing for human endorsement; in fact he specifically says that when God revealed His Son directly to Paul, Paul did not “consult flesh and blood,” and in case it is still unclear what this means, he added, “nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me” (Gal. 1:16-17). It was apparently very important to Paul to emphasize the truth that authority directly confirmed by God in prophetic word supersedes authority confirmed or delegated by men, even if those men are the best of the Apostles. Neither was there any scriptural necessity for Paul to seek their endorsement; he says in the next chapter that he went to Jerusalem “by revelation,” and the Greek text specifically emphasizes this fact. Paul had worked before as an Apostle without having to ask for ordination and endorsement from men; he was appointed by God. It wasn’t until he had a revelation from God to go and present his case that he did go.
The principle, therefore, is this: prophecy legitimizes authority better than ordination by men does. That’s why Paul found it necessary to speak to Timothy about the prophecies that “went before” him. Not that Paul’s authority was insufficient; but that once God has spoken directly, Timothy had a higher legitimacy for his calling.
(Paul’s words also destroy another one of the cessationists arguments: the false appeal to the Wesminster Confession’s statement in 1:6, that since “the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary” is given in Scripture, therefore we don’t need prophecies anymore. Paul says the same thing to Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:16-17; that Scripture is good to make man “complete,” and yet, he still finds it necessary to remind Timothy of the prophecies that “went before” him. Apparently, as far as Timothy is concerned, the completeness offered by Scripture was not threatened by the prophecies concerning him.)
It’s time for the cessationists to cease fighting & restricting the Holy Spirit.
The Function and Purpose of Prophecy
OK, I really am getting close to just copy/pasting the entire post here, but what Marinov writes is just too important to pass by.
The folly of cessationism’s obsession with predictive prophecy and Deut. 18:20-22 is obvious also in Elijah’s complaint to God in 1 Ki. 19:10, 14:
I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
Here’s the greatest prophet in the Old Testament; the prophet whose name is the symbol for the prophetic ministry itself; the prophet who only had the privilege of all the prophets to be taken up in clouds, and later meet and talk to Jesus on the Mountain, together with Moses. If there’s a prophet who knows what the prophetic gift should be about, that would be Elijah; if there’s a prophet who knows what the focus and the function of prophetic ministry should be about, that is Elijah. And when he stands before God, Elijah is not concerned with the predictive aspect of his prophecies, but with the ethical sanctification of Israel. He has lost hope, his ministry seems to have been a failure. Why? Is it because of failed predictions? No, Elijah doesn’t have the childish view of prophecy and the foolish obsession with predictive prophecy modern cessationists have. He is a covenant theologian, he knows that the function of prophecy is the restoration of a people to the covenant, their obedience to the Law of God, and their establishment in the faith.
And indeed, of all the Old Testament prophets, there are very few that actually gave predictive prophecies, and even with those who did, a very small portion of their writings are predictive prophecies. What is the bulk of their prophecies concerned with?
Ethics and sanctification. Calling Israel back to the Law of God, and in fact, in support of the Theonomic interpretation of the Bible, calling all the nations back to the Law of God. From Moses’s ministry (called prophetic in Deut. 18:15), through David’s Psalms and Solomon’s Proverbs, through the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, through all the prophets from Isaiah to Malachia, the concern is always this: “How do we restore Israel in the Covenant? How do we make the people return to the Law and the Testimony (Is. 8:19-20)?”
If it takes Supernatural Action to save a man, to save the world, and if it is God’s desire to save that man and save the world, then Supernatural Action Will Be Taken!
To attempt to bar the Holy Spirit is to attempt to bar the Might of God.
Don’t be a fool.
Open the door to the Holy Spirit, and be blessed!
Or stand against the Holy Spirit… and be destroyed.
THE MIGHT OF GOD WILL NOT BE STOPPED.
This function of prophecy is not limited to the Old Testament. The last promise in the Old Testament concerning the New Covenant states the restoration of the prophetic ministry in the following terms (notice, Elijah is mentioned again):
Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse (Mal. 4:5-6).
The promise is not that the prophetic ministry would be restored as clairvoyance so that cessationists can babble about Deuteronomy 18 all day long, the promise is that it would be restored so that hearts would be restored! The Old Testament truth that “where there is no prophetic vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18) is taken seriously in the New Covenant.
Amen, and Amen.
God promises He won’t let His people perish in sin, and therefore He promises an abundance of prophetic visions (Joel 2-3, Acts 2).
Open your eyes, and see!
The New Covenant starts from sanctification in the heart (Jer. 31:33), and that sanctification in the heart is still a necessity today as it was before the Last Apostle died; therefore, to claim that prophecy has ceased is to miss a very important function of prophecy described in the Bible.
But do we see this function of prophecy really played out in the New Testament?
First, of course, we have the example of Jesus, Who “did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” Knowing “what is in man,” of course, is the first step to helping man with his sanctification. If sanctification begins in the heart, then the process of sanctification must start with a clear, thorough picture of the nature of man, and specifically of the man who is being counseled and helped with his sanctification. It is the promise of the New Covenant that the Law will be written in the hearts of men; there is some kind of inner change, inner transformation that needs to happen in man, in his view of God, himself, Law, judgment, and the future, for man to be sanctified. Calvin starts his Institutes with the claim that the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves is mutually connected; and that knowledge is not rationalistic/metaphysical, nor magical/liturgical, but ethical/judicial: The right knowledge of ourselves sets us against the standard of God’s Law, and finds us lacking, so that “Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led by the hand to find Him.”
This tells us what the function was of Jesus’s supernatural knowledge of “what is in man”: To help man be conformed to the ethical demands of the Law of God, in his very heart and nature. In confirmation, the very next encounter of Jesus is with Nicodemus, where the same issue is brought up: How does man attain a new, sanctified nature?
The argument that such supernatural knowledge was reserved only for Jesus doesn’t stand the test of Scripture. First, the Old Testament prophets had the gift of discerning the hearts of their listeners (see, for example, 2 Kings 5:25-26). Second, John the Baptist had the gift of discerning hearts (Luke 3:7-8). Third, the gift of supernatural knowledge and the gift of discerning spirits are mentioned among the spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 12:8-10. We also know of testimonies of gifts of discerning spirits and hearts in the lives of many of the heirs of the Reformation (Knox and Spurgeon, for example). It is clear that such discernment was given not to impress nor to entertain, but to help the listeners with their sanctification.
Your heart and mind and soul, your eyes and your ears, must be open to the guidance and the wisdom and the counsel and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is active, and acting today, at this very moment.
All these—special knowledge, discerning of spirits, edification, disclosing the secrets of the heart—point to this very important ethical function of the spiritual gifts: sanctification, conviction of sin, and changing the nature of man to be conformed to the requirements of the Law of God.
To the Law and the Testimony!
It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the modern church has failed in its attempts to produce disciples at the same scale as the early church, or as the churches of the Reformation.
Far too much Humanism.
Not enough Unrestrained Divine Authority.
Time for the Church to Get Right with God!
If individual and corporate counseling, discipleship, and training are divorced from the direct participation of the Holy Spirit, they will be inevitably built on humanistic foundation. We should expect either that man’s theories and psychologies enter the church, or that counseling and discipleship be based on what Calvin called “bare interpretation of Scripture,” that is, a de-personalized, general, academic presentation of the Law without specific applications to the sanctification of a person or institution.
A dead letter, rather than the Living Spirit of God.
Reminds me of a certain group that always challenged the authority of Jesus Christ…
A Christian counselor without the gift of knowledge or discerning spirits would be limited in his abilities to help start his listeners on the road to sanctification. And the issue of producing disciples has been returning with every generation of Christian ministries who have been unable to train their own intellectual and spiritual heirs. Human abilities can get you only so far. The rejection of the direct involvement of the Holy Spirit has its consequences.
Welcome the Holy Spirit… and Be Victorious!
And we didn’t even mention here the thoroughly Biblical issue of casting out demons. Cessationists seldom mention this aspect of the practices described in the New Testament; cessationism as a doctrine is not able to explain it nor to recognize it as an issue. If the gifts have ceased—and with them the discerning of spirits—does that mean that demons have ceased too? If they haven’t, what is the process of casting them out without the direct involvement of the Spirit? This alone may take another article to cover. But sanctification sometimes does require casting out demons; and the Bible is very clear that sin and perversion may be the result not just of a person’s sin, but of a person’s direct subjection to personal spiritual forces. (See the example of Mary Magdalene and other women in Luke 8:2.) How does modern counseling deal with such cases, where no sanctification is possible before spiritual deliverance is first administered?
It’s long past time that God’s chosen shepherds started casting out demons. The redemption of this world, of this society, of all the societies of living men, must start!
God’s Representatives Judge Aright, By the Power of the Holy Spirit
“I have appointed you a prophet to the nations,” God told Jeremiah (Jer. 1:5), and then continued explaining to him what exactly the task of a prophet to the nations is:
See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To pluck up and to break down,
To destroy and to overthrow,
To build and to plant (v. 10).
Of course, Jeremiah wasn’t given the political or military or economic power to bring those judgments upon the nations and the kingdoms. He didn’t need to. A prophet is God’s mouthpiece for pronouncing judgment. And that’s what Jeremiah was called to do, as a prophet: pronouncing judgment on Israel and on the nations outside Israel.
Put another way:
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.– Matthew 16:19
I wish that believing, faithful Christians would actually accept and use the authority God has placed in their hands.
After all, it didn’t take a prophetic genius to declare that if the West of 1850 refused to submit to God and repent of her evil, then God would smash the West. It would have been a simple application of Biblical Casuistry:
A people who rebels against God will be crushed by the Iron Rod of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
This is still true today, regarding the even more rebellious and utterly unrepentant people of the West: certainly the United States, but also even more accused nations like Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany… and on even to Australia and New Zealand.
If these nations insist on rebelling against God, they will most certainly be smashed, broken by the Rod of Christ.
This should be obvious by now.
But I recommend that you don’t hold your breath for the leading preachers of the spiritually dead-and-gone, government-owned churches of Europe, or the self-deluded, law-hating popular preachers of North America or Australasia, to point out the obvious.
“Saying the obvious might cause the Power Elite to punish us, and we can’t have that! So obviously, it’s critical that we respect the authority of Powerful Men than that of Almighty God.”
“Of course! After all, there is zero possibility that God will punish us! God is a forgiving and loving God – how could He ever punish people like us?”
“So what if we live in a culture that despises the Christian faith?”
“Look around – don’t we live in comfort and ease? That is obviously a sign of blessing!”
“And we all know that the Law and the Commandments means nothing today!”
“That is a certainty: all the best Biblical Scholars and University Professors agree on that point!”
“We worship a God of Love, after all!”
“Love and forgiveness, for all of our faults!”
“What’s really important that Powerful Men leave us alone. Who knows? If we bark enough about Climate Change and Tolerance, they might even toss us some doggy biscuits, and pat us on the head instead of kicking us!”
“Yeah — you know, just like they pet that Roman Bishop. Isn’t it great, when you have the favour of Powerful and Influential Men? When the media loves and respects you?”
“Must be nice, to have the world love you!”
“Just be sure to stay on message!”
“Far better to gain the favour of the world, than the praise of Christ!”
“Jesus predicted as much, in John 15:18-19!”
“Why call out THAT Name? Who knows if THAT Man ever existed in the first place!”
“Well… there have been many good men in history, not just Jesus.”
“We all know that all religions have their own way to the truth: why privilege any one Teacher?”
“That’s just selfish and discriminatory and narrow-minded! And we can’t have that!”
“All educated people know that the best pastors and priests don’t worry much about some unknowable God in the sky. They focus on what’s really important: the Needs of Men!”
“THAT should be OBVIOUS!”
“Of course, as society develops, certain adjustments have to be made, to stay in the Right Circles, and make Solid Connections with Important Men and Leading Professors.”
Some people can’t see the wrath of God, even when the skies have been pitch black for decades now, and most of the ‘invisible capital’ of society — mutual trust, respect for the law, generosity of spirit — has already been destroyed.
“But it doesn’t matter unless me and my friends are personally affected!”
“But never fear! We’ll just find out what the Best People want us to say today… and then say it!”
“I love being a Respected Spiritual Authority! It’s so… comfortable and pleasant!”
“Ah, this is the life! A few cooing words and the latest platitudes, minimal work hours, and a nice position for life!”
The enemies of God will be personally affected in the fullness of time. The only question is: will it be before or after they die?
Rest assured, those who despise God will do their level best to make sure that it’s after they die.
And the grim truth is…. God may well grant them their request.
As for evil societies…
Isaiah preached against the sins of Judah and Jerusalem, and it took over a century for the judgement to come to pass. If there is no repentance, it won’t take that long for judgement and disgrace to overtake the West.
Indeed, it can be argued that we are far closer to the end of the West than the beginning: after all, the West has been obviously dying since World War I, and the population growth rates have been falling a good while before that…
Now, back to Marinov’s discussion on the function of prophecy:
This function of prophecy wasn’t limited to Jeremiah. Moses as a prophet declared judgment on Egypt, and later on the nations who opposed Israel in their journey to the Promised Land. In fact, Moses pronounced judgment against his own people Israel when they rebelled against God. David and Solomon, both having prophetic gift from God, pronounced judgments against nations and individuals. Solomon’s greatest desire was not the economic blessings of the Law but the wisdom to judge (1 Kings 3:9). Elijah’s whole career as a prophet was devoted to pronouncing judgment, and sometimes even executing it himself (as on the prophets of Baal). The prophecy for the return of Elijah in Mal. 4 speaks of restoration of hearts, as we already saw, but it also ends with a pronunciation of judgment (v. 6). John the Baptist, the very fulfillment of that promise for the return of Elijah, was thrown in jail and then lost his head for pronouncing judgment against a ruler for his sin. Jonah’s prophecy was pronouncing judgment. And Revelation, that ultimate prophecy in the Bible, was not simply a predictive prophecy, it was a court verdict against Israel and against the Roman Empire.
The New Testament also gives us examples of prophetic judgment against individuals. The spiritual man judges all things, Paul declared (1 Cor. 2:15), in a chapter that starts with a judgment against the foolishness of the powerful of the day (v. 8). The verdict against Ananias and Sapphira was based on supernatural knowledge (Acts 5:4). Paul’s judgment against the evil spirit in the fortune-telling slave girl in Acts 16:18 was based on a supernatural gift of discerning the spirits, and may be also the gifts of faith and healing (see 1 Cor. 12:9). Peter’s knowledge of the inner motives of Simon the magician in Acts 8:23 couldn’t come from natural observations but from supernatural knowledge. And again, in the very Book of Prophecy, Revelation, seven churches are judged for blessing or for curse.
God judges men, and God judges nations.
Guided by and following the Holy Spirit, we are to do the same.
This lack of covenantal judgment leads, first, to the loss of cultural influence. John Knox was feared by the powerful of his day, and the reason for their fear was very specifically his sermons where he pronounced prophetic judgments on kings, queens, and bishops, and even whole nations. The cultural influence of the Reformation in Switzerland, The Netherlands, and Britain was based on that ability to apply covenantal judgments to specific circumstances, an ability that requires specific supernatural revelation (see Calvin above). Is it surprising, then, that the decline of the Reformed and Presbyterian influence in the West coincided with the rise of cessationism and its hostility to supernatural word of applying Scripture to present use (an originally Reformed doctrine)?
Neither is it surprising that the very trade mark of the Reformation, Covenant Theology, is now being abandoned by one “Reformed” seminary after another, one “Reformed” church after another. The process has become so widespread that some theologians and pastors are sounding the alarm already, though with little effect. Covenant Theology makes no sense without covenant sanctions. And there are no covenant sanctions unless the Spirit teaches the Church to declare them in history.
And the very essence of the Reformation—the “Christianization of all of life”—is then lost. “Reformed” today has lost its meaning; it is nothing more than theologically correct humanistic selfishness that makes God subservient to man’s need for salvation. Professors at Reformed seminaries are attacking the very concept of Christendom as the application of the Gospel truths to all of life. Limiting the Gospel to only personal salvation and may be a little moralism in the public life of a person is all that passes for “Reformed” today. This decline of Reformed theology shouldn’t be surprising either: Once the Holy Spirit is excluded from direct participation in the life of the church, in pronouncing judgment and sanctions, what follows is creeping humanism. And the last 100 years of Presbyterianism in the US have been an abundant testimony to that effect.
Sometimes, the obvious has to be spelt out.
Cessationism, in other words, with its Enlightenment humanism and hostility to the supernatural, eventually leads to dualism and death. Man has no purpose nor vision revealed to him by God (except in an abstract, impersonal way), and he must be on a quest to produce his own purpose and vision. In the end, God’s revelation becomes irrelevant not only to man’s past but to his future on earth as well.
Or, “How to do the atheist’s work for him, while wearing Christian garments.”
I have been asked by cessationists: “If the spiritual gifts are valid today, how come we have never seen a true prophet or true prophecy in our church?”
My answer has always been (besides the obvious question, “How do you know your church is a true church?”): “Based on your cessationist theory, how would you recognize if there were a true prophet or a true prophecy in your church? Could it be that there were, and you didn’t recognize them, blinded by your un-Biblical theology? Could it be that the Holy Spirit just didn’t bother to speak directly to you church, seeing that you have adopted a theology that conveniently leaves Him out?”
Cessationism has no answer to these questions. It is humanistic to the core. It based on a false and “ignorant” application of one verse only, 1 Cor. 13:8, to a time that is intermediate. No verse in the Bible supports cessationism in any form. All other arguments for cessationism are either rationalistic reasoning based on an imaginary limited purpose of the gifts (as in Warfield), or sensationalist complaints about certain practices in certain modern churches (“See what Benny Hinn is doing! Therefore, the gifts have ceased!”). The claim that a modern prophecy would be a challenge to the authority of Scripture is a false claim, as Calvin points out. The issue with the modern validity of the gifts is not “scriptural revelation vs. direct revelation,” as cessationists claim; it is God’s interpretation and application vs. man’s interpretation and application of God’s Word to present use. And on this issue, cessationism is very obviously on the humanistic side of the fence.
But contrary to the cessationists imaginations, the spiritual gifts have a covenantal purpose, and this covenantal purpose is clearly revealed in Scripture:
1. The gifts are given for knowledge and worship. Knowledge to apply the Word to present use; and worship to let the Spirit help us in our prayers and supplications to God.
2. The gifts are given to legitimize authority wherever God decides that it is necessary. This function is also expressed in confirming authority and sometimes even judging and rejecting human authority, when human authority has been established against God’s will, or when it has become contrary to God’s purposes.
3. The gifts are given for sanctification and establishment, to train and lead and edify the people of God to better conform to the ethical demands of the Law of God. They are specifically meant to reveal the secret desires of the hearts of men so that men can be effectively led to repentance and obedience.
4. The gifts are given to pronounce judgment, to declare God’s positive or negative sanctions in history, to specific individuals, institutions, or groups of people.
5. The gifts are given to give vision, purpose, and lay out strategy for action so that men have their eyes set on their future in history, and on the purpose of God for their individual lives and for their specific generation.
These functions of the gifts don’t have to be guessed or derived by rationalistic reasoning. They are clearly expressed in Scripture, and abundantly supported with examples in Scripture. The attempt to deny this covenantal purpose of the gifts and transfer it to a bare reading and human interpretation of Scripture will only lead to abstract, dry, lifeless theorizing about the Covenant, but never to the direct, specific, dynamic application of the Covenant of God to the specific circumstances of our day and our generation.
So therefore, before any cessationist starts babbling again about the cessation of gifts, he needs to prove that the need for the above functions of the gifts have ceased. Only then will he have a foundation for his theory. The problem is, once we assume that this covenantal purpose and the functions of the gifts have ceased, we won’t have Covenant Theology anymore, only humanistic reasoning that parades as Christianity.
It’s best to get off the dead Humanist road, that has already wiped out the West.
The conclusion, then, is obvious: The excesses in modern Charismatism can’t be fought against by a similarly un-Biblical excess in rejecting the gifts of the Spirit. These excesses only come to prove that we are in need of a systematic Biblical covenantal doctrine of the gifts of the Spirit which will restore their legitimate place in the churches today. Instead of whining about some Charismatic celebrity “pushing people in the spirit,” we need to do our homework which we have abandoned for over a century. The Reformed churches need to dump that humanistic doctrine of cessationism back where it belongs: in the dustbin of history, together with its parents, Dispensationalism and the Enlightenment.
And we need to start over again, going to the Bible to build a covenantal view of the spiritual gifts, one which would allow to restore an element of our faith, practice, and obedience to God, which we have ignored and abandoned for over a century: The gifts of the Holy Spirit.
It’s time to repent of our wicked, humanistic, intellectually arrogant ways, and humble ourselves before the Holy Spirit of God.