Cessationists teach us that in the present dispensation of the New Testament Church, miracles have ceased along with the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 8, Scripture records an interesting encounter between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness.
Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Messiah there. When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed, they all paid close attention to what he said. For with shrieks, impure spirits came out of many, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was great joy in that city. Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is rightly called the Great Power of God.” They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his sorcery. But when they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. (Acts 8:5-13)
The miraculous power of God at work through the disciple Philip (who it should be pointed out was not an apostle) clearly outdid the supernatural power of sorcery at work in Simon. As a result many Samaritans stopped following Simon and instead believed in Jesus Christ, undergoing water baptism. We might want to note that the Samaritans were not considered Jews (and in fact were despised by them), yet God still provided miraculous signs for them. We also note here with interest that God was actually using Philip to perform the signs: “When the crowds heard Philip and saw the signs he performed…”
But now in not a few circles of the Church it is taught that the miraculous power of God is no longer available for us to perform miraculous signs when sharing the gospel to the lost as our fellow disciple Philip did in Acts. (Some would consider any argument to the contrary nearly heretical.) But did the enemy decide to play fair and keep the playing field level by similarly withholding the power of witchcraft from witchdoctors and the like? The answer is clearly no. The result of this cessationist teaching is the emasculation of our evangelism in regions where witchcraft and idolatry are rampant—areas like Samaria in the time of Philip. For the most part with few exceptions, the evangelical Church no longer preaches the gospel in such regions as Philip did. We do not know how to confront witchcraft and defeat it as did Philip with God’s far superior power. And so vast swaths of the globe are still under the power of darkness and unreached with the gospel.
If there a reason why the Lord would see fit to withhold the power that was at work through Philip in Samaria? Why should he strip us of the very weapon that we need to make disciples of all nations—especially gospel-resistant ones like Samaria—and fulfill the Great Commission as commanded by Jesus Christ before he ascended on high?
There is no reason for it found in Scripture. It would behoove the Church to re-visit the teaching of cessationism for the sake of the gospel to the nations.
We understand that the extreme teachings and practices involved in “charismania”, added to Warfield’s cessationist theology, can motivate cessationists. But our position should not be in response to the extremes practiced elsewhere in the Church. Rather it should be based strongly on Scripture—Sola scriptura—which does not provide direct support for cessationism as it also does not for the practices of charismania. This teaching, birthed only about a hundred years ago in the West, must also lean in part on church history not included in Scripture.
In the eyes of this missionary, we should not make the mistake of “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”