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Lowell Brueckner

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Combating Cessationist Theory


Is the doctrine of the cessation 
of spiritual gifts biblical?

The doctrine of cessation of supernatural gifts has become popular among many evangelicals these days. I could wish that I had the audience to effectively combat it, but at least, I will do what I can on my blogspots, Spanish and English, on Facebook, and through my radio broadcasts and live radio programs in Spanish. I believe that this doctrine is contributing heavily in guiding the church on the road to apostasy.  

Unfortunately, the doctrine of the gifts of the Spirit, as it is presented in the Bible, does not receive much help from those, who argue in its favor, but have very little personal experience in the exercise of these gifts (with the possible exception of speaking in tongues). They also have become accustomed to move within the realm of human possibilities in the day-by-day walk of life, as well as in the issues of the church. In meetings, everything is well-organized by men and follows traditional rituals in a totally predictable fashion. Of course, it does no good to vary the order of service, but what is sadly lacking is the direction of Christ, as the Head of the church. We see little evidence in practice of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 14:24-26.

Do we understand that, when we are expressing a desire to be a witness, in order to win people to Christ, we are speaking of the life of Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever, being manifested through us?  Jesus prayed to the Father: “As You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that you sent Me” (Jn.17:21).

The love that is seen through that life is not human love, but the same that is seen between the Father and the Son. I can't tell here the whole story of Jake DeShazer, but as a prisioner of war in a Japanese prison, he hated the Japanese. He was converted and, overnight, love took the place of hatred and, after returning from the war, he became a missionary to Japan. He said that the love of God is miraculous. His peace and His joy are to be seen through our lives. After our daughter was crippled in a car accident, her doctor asked me, "Explain this to me: When I told your daughter, she would never walk again, she smiled at me." I said, "Jesus lives in her. That's the peace of Christ." That's a miracle. And the joy of Christ is joy unspeakable and full of glory. It’s all supernatural!

Paul places the doctrine of the gifts of the Spirit in the context of the body of Christ, which is the church, in I Corinthians 12:12-31, and he continues in chapter 14. His concern is for the effective edification of the body of Christ through the proper use of the gifts of the Spirit. He does not sway from that same purpose in Ephesians 4:11-16. Therefore, if supernatural gifts have ceased, then serious consideration must be given, as to what has taken their place for the edification of the church. What further biblical provision, given to take their place, will provide for the continuation of its growth? If the Bible gives no other functions, apart from spiritual gifts, then they are absolutely necessary towards the proper development of Christ’s will through the church.  

At the beginning of 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses a single word, spirituals, to title the subject that we are studying. He is concerned that the Corinthians and, through the Holy Spirit, the church today should not be ignorant of these spirituals. The church is entirely a spiritual entity and cannot operate through human resources. Whatever can function, by means of human, natural principle and organization, cannot even be termed the church. It requires spiritual input, through people, who are led, not by the supposedly proper channels of training, nor by their own experience, but directly by the Holy Spirit.   

In verse 4, Paul first uses the term gifts. This is his theme throughout the chapter, mentioning them also in chapter 13, and correcting some misuse of gifts in chapter 14. The original Greek word for gifts is charisma, and from the Greek comes the title for the Charismatic Movement. It is sometimes called Neo-pentecostalism. As far as I am concerned, because of the sensational, strange and unbiblical demonstrations often associated with the movement, I tend to distance myself from the term. On the other hand, I want my heart to totally respond to Paul’s command in 12:31 and repeated in 14:1 to earnestly desire spiritual gifts.

While we are dealing with titles of movements, Perhaps it is not of prime importance, but I have always felt that the title, Pentecostal, is unfortunate. It is named after the Feast of Pentecost in the Old Testament, before it found its fulfillment in Acts, chapter 2. Do you know of a Christian movement titled after the Feast of Passover? No, we no longer participate in Old Testament shadows, of which the body is Christ (Heb.10:1). He is the fulfillment of the Passover, by means of His cross, and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of Pentecost. I want to strongly affirm that the gifts of the Spirit have not come to us through the Pentecostals or the Charismatics, but through the Word of God and they continue throughout the history of the church, before anything that happened in the 20th Century.

There are many areas of deception in the church, which should trouble us in these end times. Jesus put deception at the head of the list of last day events in Matthew 24. I have already referred to the ridiculously weird demonstrations, which have no precedent in the Bible. In Matthew 7:22, He warned of those who prophesied, cast out demons and did miracles, yet practiced lawlessness. The working of miracles in a ministry should never be seen as a sign of authenticity. Be advised! I am even more concerned about the popular teaching, even presented to children, in almost all evangelical churches about self-love and self-esteem.

However, my greatest fear concerns the fulfillment of Paul’s warning to Timothy, involving Christianity, which he states clearly as a sign of the last days. “In the last days {exceedingly fierce} (same Greek word as in Mt. 8:28, defining the Gadarene demoniacs) times will come, because men will be lovers of their own selves (Isn’t that precisely self-love and self-esteem?)... having a form of godliness, but denying the power (Gr. dunamis=supernatural power) thereof" (2 Ti.3:1, 2, 5).

“They shall cast out demons”, or if not, how are we to combat Satanic power

Native American cemeteries still exist (photo by my dad)
Because of my many years, ever since childhood, on the mission field, I have seen the reality of demonic power and manifestations. Evil spirits are not scared off, much less defeated, by doctrinal debates or clever and eloquent arguments, but only by the manifestation of a power, which is greater than theirs.

I see no evidence that the devil has relinquished any of his supernatural power. On the contrary, there is an increase of diabolical activity in many forms, even open worship in Satanic temples. Much has been said about Ouija boards, horoscopes, and Halloween. Witchcraft abounds around the world, witch doctors and medicine men perform amazing feats, and there are many documented cases of people, possessed by demons. At the same time that we observe the evil power of the devil manifested as never before, popular Bible teachers deny the need for supernatural power in the church, some not only preaching the cessation of spiritual gifts, but any form of the miraculous in general. Don’t you think, more than ever, we need the miraculous presence of God among us?

Canadian  native sweat lodges for exorcism (my dad's photo)
The powerless lives of modern Christians are defined by 2 Timothy 3:2 and are accompanied now by a doctrine to match… the doctrine of cessation of spiritual gifts. Many have fallen under this deception, but the fact that it is popular in the 20th and 21st Centuries, does not give it validity. The opinion of the masses favoring the Theory of Evolution proves nothing and neither does the adherence to powerless Christianity.

The erroneous doctrine of the cessation of spiritual gifts is not difficult to refute. In fact it is quite weak, based almost entirely of a misinterpretation of six verses in 1 Corinthians 13. It starts in verse 8 and continues to the end of the chapter. The argument claims that prophecies, tongues, and knowledge have ceased, because they were only necessary during the time of the apostles, before the New Testament, that is, the entire canon of Scripture, was completed.

Perfection awaits us in heaven, not in the canon

Click for larger letters
The great majority of commentaries, to which I refer, are from the 17th to the 19th Centuries. They are all by respected men of God from various backgrounds, such as Matthew Henry, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown, Albert Barnes, Adam Clarke, and others, None of them even hint that 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 have anything to do with the canon of Scripture. Rather they are seen, as it is especially indicated in verse 10, "When that which is perfect has come" and in verse 12, "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known", that they refer to heaven and the eternal state of a Christian.

Down through the centuries, when believers picked up their Bibles, that was the obvious conclusion to the text. I assure you that simple believers in the word of God, including you and I, would arrive at the same conclusion, as well, if no one taught us otherwise. It is typical of deception, that it needs something extra-biblical, in order to capture people in its claws. The proof is in the existence of millions of cultists, who have been swayed from the Scriptures by the teaching, including the literature, of their founders... Joseph Smith, Charles Russell, and Helen White, for example. I have often told them that they could have never come to such conclusions on their own.

The beloved, blind hymnwriter, Fanny Crosby, looked forward to a time, when her eyes would open in heaven, and she expressed it in her hymn, "And I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story saved by grace." The apostle John added, very similarly to the words in verse 12, "then I shall know just as I also am known", in 1 John 3:2, "We know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." No serious theologian sees John's statement as referring to the completion of the canon.

The great theologian and pastor, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, effectively and forcefully debunks the cessationists' arguments. A. W. Tozer, so universally read and respected, was by no means a cessationist, and neither are John Piper and Paul Washer, to name a couple men of our times.

Once the cessationist argument from 1 Corinthians 13 is destroyed, as it is so easily done, then the rest of its premises can be cast aside with little difficulty. That is because, simply, we are not dealing with a biblical doctrine, but the invention of well-known churchmen, who put intellect above the understanding of the heart. Their followers are impressed by their intelligence and their ability to express themselves, and thereby esteem these men over the clear teaching of the Holy Spirit.

To say that I have absolutely no respect for their position would be an understatement. There is nothing so clearly taught throughout the pages of Scripture than the supernatural essence of everything, Old Testament and New, which has to do with God. Personally, I will back up my understanding of Scripture by many crisis experiences on the mission field. Many a missionary has proven that the Book of Acts is just as real and active today, as it ever was. Those who sit in their comfortable offices and work out their theories, have never put them in the test tube of life-and-death experience.

Followers of men and sects

How do we explain the popularity of such a weak claim? Let me express it this way... Suppose I start my ministry fresh out of Bible School and seminary, and add some years of pastoral experience to it. I see little evidence of the supernatural and nothing of the gifts of the Spirit in my life and pastorate; nothing, actually, beyond my natural talents and abilities. Certainly there is nothing that compares to the Book of Acts.

Two choices are before me: 1) I can humbly confess that there is something lacking in my ministry (many have done this and received help from God), or 2) I can arrogantly conclude, that something has changed since Bible times and God no longer backs the preaching of His word with signs and wonders. Certainly, my doctrine cannot be questioned; it is the purest to be found (I write with tongue-in-cheek). My church ranks spiritually above everything else that I see around me. So, if the gifts of the Spirit were still available, God would certainly favor me and my people with them (Have you noticed that few church members can see that their particular choice of churches comes in second place to any other?).

Before I became a teenager, the Holy Spirit moved with power in the region where I lived with my parents. I remember that my father, who held a position in the Christian and Missionary Alliance testify, “We prayed fervently for months that God would manifest Himself among us, and we assumed that He would begin to move through us, also.” But it was not to be, because the Lord raised up some Mennonites, filled with the Spirit, to shake up Christians of many denominations and to save lost sinners in our area. God hates sectarianism and He will always denounce it!

So, because of our pride and unwillingness to face the fact of our powerless condition, the fancy footwork begins, trying to find a reason why we are not really walking in the power of the New Testament. I think this particularly characteristic is true, especially among the hyper-calvinistic, deterministic and fatalistic evangelicals. They can easily accept the lack of power, as the sovereign will of God. I've been around for decades of ministry, 56 years to be exact, and this is what I have found to be the case. Too many do not have an open heart to do anything, but argue their point. You waste your time, trying to point out Scripture that counters their logic. Pride fills the heart and honesty has taken flight! They will only wait for you to stop speaking, so they can start, or they may well interrupt you. So, I'm writing to people, who are hungry for God and the moving of His Spirit in these days.

To see such denominational or positional pride given its rightful place, you might want to look up the sermons of Dr. Bob Utley, a Baptist professor of the New Testament. Or just continue to cherry-pick your favorites, who entertain you and make you comfortable. In the long run, you will be the product of whom you choose to believe.


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