On Johnny Mac’s blog, he’s been doing a series of articles explaining why the Bible really teaches that the Gifts ceased with the passing of the “Apostolic Age” even though there’s no independent Biblical reason to believe so.

Interesting read; it’s a lot like reading Calvinist stuff dealing with why Hebrews 6 doesn’t really say what it sure does seem to say. Or how “all” doesn’t always mean “all,” sometimes it means “all the elect“, the Holy Spirit just forgot to put that addendum in there – good thing us Calvinists are here to help Him out, there, eh?

Anyway…

John’s arguments have been… unconvincing. In essence, they boil down to “it seems to say this, but it really means this when you dig deep enough… after all, Scripture has perspicacity in all cases except when dealing with the Gifts…”

In the latest blogpost, we read this statement:

Throughout these posts we have leaned heavily on the work of Wayne Grudem (specifically, his Systematic Theology). This has been intentional for two reasons: (1) he makes excellent, biblically-sound arguments (and we appreciate everything he writes, even if we don’t always agree with his conclusions); and (2) he is a well-known and respected continuationist.

It is significant, in our opinion, that (as a continuationist) he argues so convincingly for the cessation of the apostolic office and the uniqueness of the apostolic age – since this is the very premise upon which the cessationist paradigm is built.

…yeah, ’bout that.

In a nutshell, the cessationist argument can be boiled down to: the Gifts were unique to the age of the Apostles, and since there are no Apostles anymore, there are no gifts.

…the problem with the argument is that you have to presuppose it’s major premise (the Gifts were unique to the age of the Apostles) to arrive at its conclusion (the Gifts have therefore ceased). This in logic is called “Begging the Question.” And it’s a formal fallacy.

Now, to be fair, the blogpost continues and says:

While the cessation of the apostolic gift/office does not ultimately prove the cessationist case, it does strengthen the overall position – especially in passages like 1 Corinthians 12:28–30, Ephesians 2:20 and 4:11, where apostleship is listed in direct connection with the other charismatic gifts and offices.

Leaving aside commentary on the verses that are cited to bolster the cessationist claim for a later time, I think it vital to key in on that first statement:

While the cessation of the apostolic gift/office does not ultimately prove the cessationist case…

No, it doesn’t. And the antecedent, “it does strengthen the overall position,” does not necessarily follow – unless you presuppose it.

Bottom line: the Gifts were given at the outpouring of the Spirit, and there are precisely zero strictly Scriptural reasons for believing that they were later revoked. Tying them to the “Apostolic Age” is an entirely esiegetical exercise. It is more reasonable (in my opinion) to tie the Gifts to the entire age of the Indwelling Spirit – the entire Church Age, in other words. The Gifts will cease to function – when the Spirit’s indwelling ministry ceases. At the close of the Church Age.

It’s also instructive to note that John has to go outside of Scripture to prove the discrete existence of an “Apostolic Age” as a distinct dispensation over against the incipient period of the current Church Age. Very, very interesting.

Ironically, the cessationist argument that the Gifts were given to establish the church undermines the sufficiency of Scripture. If the Gifts were needed to validate Scripture, then Scripture in and of itself is insufficient for faith. The continuationist position argues instead that Scripture – even the incomplete canon pre-A.D. 90 – is self-validating, and the Gifts were not for this purpose, but for the edification of the church (which continues to exist and continues to require and benefit from edification).

To me, that sounds like a stronger/better argument/position, but what do I know…

Anyway, the blog series on the Gifts there at Pulpit Magazine is a good read to be able to understand very good, if ultimately unconvincing, arguments for the cessationist position.

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