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Guests Question, Bob Answers about...

Spiritual Gifts

"Could you explain to me your statement in 'The Birthday Gift' about the 'cessation doctrine.'"

The "cessation doctrine" is the belief / teaching that God doesn't do miracles or bestow spiritual gifts anymore; that He only did that in the first century. Therefore, according to the cessation doctrine, "miracles and spiritual gifts have ceased."

"I have appreciated and enjoyed Theophilus over the years, but now you have stepped off into the world of tongues. That leaves me out in left field gasping for air. I have far too much respect for the word of God to believe these things are even a 42nd cousin to the miracles and tongues we read about in the Bible. Leave the factious brethren behind, but for goodness sake don't leave God's truths for an emotional sled ride. Giving yourself over to emotionalism isn't going to answer the problem, Bob. Stick with the word or expect God to send a strong delusion to confirm you in your error."

Those who believe in spiritual gifts are often accused of building their theology on experience. However, those who think gifts ceased after the first century ultimately build their theology of the miraculous gifts on their lack of experience with them. Even their appeal to contemporary abuse is an argument based on negative experience with the gifts.

We always preach Christ, the one who was nailed to the cross. This is embarrassing to Jews and nonsense to people who are not Jews (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23). Apparently, that is the way speaking in tongues strikes those who think spiritual gifts ceased after the first century. But the cessation doctrine is no more biblical than those doctrines you have already rejected as a result of your studies.

Since you are open minded and willing to study and reason on matters that we differ on, let me suggest a book for you to read. It is "Surprised by the Power of the Spirit" by former Dallas Seminary professor Jack Deere, who once believed as I expect you do now concerning this subject. It is available on Sketch's Bookshelf.

"A friend alerted me to the strip 'The Perfect Myth' in which Theophilus discussed his new found beliefs in the supernatural with a rather naive friend he calls 'Sketch.' Though Sketch is more supportive of the truth, he is a little too ignorant of the truth to tell Theophilus what he needs to hear. The purpose of miracles ended when the Bible was completed."

If the primary function of miracles was to confirm Scripture, how would anyone judge the miracles of false prophets (Matthew 7:15-23), false Christs and their prophets (Matthew 24:21-24) or the Antichrist (2 Thessalonians 2:9)? Miracles are not a test of Scripture. It is just the opposite. Scripture tests miracles.

"1 Corinthians 13:8-13 says that miracles would cease when their purpose was fulfilled. Miracles were just a partial or temporary measure put in place until the New Testament was complete."

I believe you're mistaken. Please consider the following points made by Jack Deere in his book, "Surprised by the Power of the Spirit!" These are copied from my notes, so they may not be direct quotes.

First of all, nowhere in the immediate context of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 does Paul talk about Scripture or the collection of books that became Scripture.

Second, we cannot say that because we have the completed Bible today that we see Christ face to face, nor can we say that we know fully even as we are fully known. If your view were correct, we would have to say that the apostle Paul saw but a poor reflection as in a mirror, but we see face to face; the apostle Paul knew in part but we know fully, even as we are fully known. Although we have the completed Bible today, would anyone seriously argue that our knowledge and experience of God is superior to Paul's?

God gave gifts to strengthen and build up the church (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:26). Since edification is the primary purpose of spiritual gifts, how can anyone conclude that they have been taken away? If the gifts built up the church in the first century, why wouldn't they build up the church today?

The Bible's own statements about the purpose of spiritual gifts force us to conclude that they were meant to continue until the Lord returns. In 1 Corinthians 1:7 Paul suggests as much by connecting spiritual gifts to the return of Jesus. Here in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 he goes beyond mere suggestion, however, and plainly states that spiritual gifts will not be taken away until Jesus returns.

The statement, "Then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" in verse 12 can only refer to the Lord's return. The expression "face to face" refers to the time when we will see Jesus face to face (compare Genesis 32:30; Exodus 33:11; Numbers 14:14; Deuteronomy 5:4, 34:10; Judges 6:22; and Ezekiel 20:35). That time can only refer to His return, when every eye will see him (Revelation 1:7).

"Don't you think that if miracles did happen today they would be similar to the miracles described in the Bible? The dead would be raised. The deaf and dumb would be made to hear and speak with clarity."

In reality, things like that -- and other examples just as remarkable -- are indeed happening today. You just haven't experienced them yourself.

And that is the real reason you believe miracles have ceased. The doctrine of cessationism originated in experience -- a failure to see manifestations of the supernatural in one's own experience. But the fact that miracles are not a part of your own limited experience only proves that they are not a part of your own limited experience, not that they have ceased to exist.

No one has picked up the Bible, started reading, and then came to the conclusion that God is not doing signs and wonders anymore or that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have passed away. The doctrine of cessationism did not originate from a careful study of the Scriptures.

For more on this subject, read "Power From On High" by Edward Fudge.

"I realize that 'speaking in tongues' is a controversial subject and you probably have been getting a lot of mail on this issue. I personally believe it is a genuine gift, but have never experienced it. My question is, what are your thoughts on 1 Corinthians 14:5? Theophilus in your cartoons ('Releasing His Tongue to God', 'Praying With His Spirit', 'A New Song') has been speaking in tongues, but what good is it if it is not interpreted?"

In the cartoons Theophilus is not speaking in tongues to an assembly of other people. If he was, it certainly would not be of any benefit unless there was also an interpretation as 1 Corinthians 14:5 points out.

In the cartoons Theophilus is praying (speaking or singing) to God in tongues. You might call it a prayer language. What good is that? you ask. See 1 Corinthians 14:2: "For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit" (or "by the Spirit").

Also read Romans 8:26-27: "In the same way, the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." There have been times when I knew that I needed to pray, but did not know how to pray or what to pray for. So I prayed in tongues and let the Holy Spirit provide the words (in a language I did not know, but God knew). There have been other times when the Lord told me to speak to the congregation in tongues. When I obeyed, He always provided the interpretation and someone willing to speak it.

Contrary to the teaching of some today, however, not all Christians receive the gift of tongues. All Christians receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and then the Holy Spirit gives each one gifts according to the purpose that God has for each individual. See 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.

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