The reaction of someone who has grown up in a typical evangelical church to our ministry The Elijah Challenge is usually: “Oh…they’re charismatic.”
Let us lay this notion to rest once and for all. We are NOT charismatic. But without a doubt there will continue to be misunderstanding among Christians of what we are and do.
Are we therefore cessationist? No. (So what are you then?)
It actually happens that there is an area in between the two polar opposites which is quite scriptural and pleasing to God—and can even be acceptable to both.
Let’s first define each end of the spectrum in this particular issue.
Cessationists believe that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased; ergo the term “cessationism.”
1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
Generally, the logic behind cessationism is that since the Church has the authoritative Scriptures—the Holy Bible inspired by God—to teach and lead her, the supernatural gifts are no longer necessary and therefore have ceased.
However, charismatics definitely believe in the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The term charismatic is derived from the Greek word charismata which means “gifts.” Charismatic believers operate in the gifts to encourage and build up other members of the body of Christ. The gifts are for the common good of the body.
1 Corinthians 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
For the “common good” of what?
1 Corinthians 14:12 …. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
The gifts are primarily for the common good of the church. Therefore charismatic believers will operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit during meetings in order build up the church which consists of the body of believers. This will include the supernatural “gift of healing.”
Where does The Elijah Challenge fit in?
Notice first of all that both the charismatic tradition and the cessationist tradition deal with the gifts of the Holy Spirt. Cessationists say that they have ceased. Charismatic say they have not ceased. The Elijah Challenge, however, does not attempt to address the matter of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whether or not they have ceased.
Instead we address a far more important matter—preaching the gospel of the kingdom in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. We address the Great Commission.
Matthew 24:14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Matthew 28:19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
This paramount command from the Lord to his disciples just before he ascended to heaven involves preaching the gospel to all nations before the Second Coming of the Messiah. It does not involve ministry to believers, but rather preaching the gospel to those who never heard.
Therefore in The Elijah Challenge we do not address the matter of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are in fact for ministry to believers to build up the church. Our calling rather is to train disciples to fulfill the Great Commission through the preaching of the gospel to all nations.
Now how did Jesus teach his disciples to preach the gospel?
Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. …. 6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.
Luke 10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ …17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”
As they preached the gospel to the lost the disciples were to drive out demons and to heal the sick. How were they to heal the sick? They were to use the power and authority over demons and diseases which Jesus entrusted to them. In Acts the disciples continued to use this power and authority very effectively as they preached the gospel to the gentiles. The miraculous healings through them brought multitudes of gentiles in the Mediterranean world to confess Jesus as the Messiah. Cessationists say that sometime after the close of Acts the miracles ceased. Therefore God decided that the unreached masses outside the region of the Mediterranean were not to be given the benefit of the evidence of the miracles to open their hearts to Jesus Christ?
John 14:11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing…
The promise of Jesus Christ in verse 12 above that believers will be doing the works he did has not ceased. Accordingly, the Elijah Challenge is called to train the Lord’s disciples how to heal the sick miraculously as Jesus commanded as evidence to the lost—especially those resistant to the gospel—that he is one with the Father, the very Son of God.
We do not teach or focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit which are for ministry to believers in the Church. Therefore we are not charismatic.
But neither are we cessationist. We do not dare say that the gifts have ceased. But it is an area of controversy that we need not step into since it has nothing to do with our calling. To involve ourselves in the debate about gifts will be an unnecessary distraction from our calling of equipping the Church to fulfill the Great Commission during these Last Days—training both charismatic believers as well as non-charismatic evangelical believers.
Should we continue to waste our precious time and energy arguing and dividing the body of Christ over the issue of gifts for the benefit of the Church—when there are billions of precious souls who have never heard the gospel even once?