Cessationism & Charismania: opposing poles of the Church spectrum
Who are we?
We are missionaries who are sent by the Lord Jesus to proclaim the kingdom of God to the billions of Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, idol-worshipers, and followers of witchcraft around the world. They constitute the majority of the world’s population, and are generally resistant to the gospel which they consider a very foreign, white man’s religion imported from the West from where their former colonial masters came.
Like the Jews of Jesus’ day, they demand miraculous signs.
John 4:48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
Greeks, on the other hand, look for wisdom. Today this refers to people whose background is western and can trace their culture to back to Greek civilization.
1 Corinthians 1:22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom…
We can understand that due in part to your enlightened and highly educated western background, you teach that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit—which are primarily for ministering to the Church—have ceased. Among these gifts of course are the gifts of healing for ministering to infirm believers. We understand that since the gifts of healing have ceased and are no longer in operation as they were in the early church, some infirm believers today will die from their diseases. And by the grace of God after they are released from their earthly tent they will experience complete healing in the Father’s House. Now although we might not agree that the gifts have ceased, we can understand this line of reasoning.
But for the sake of the gospel to those who never heard can you not give us a waiver from the requirement that we may no longer minister to the sick as the early disciples did—when we are preaching the kingdom of God on the difficult mission fields of the world? Unbelievers who die will ultimately face God’s righteous judgment according to their sins. Can you not make an exception and allow us missionaries to use the Lord’s power and authority over disease and demons to provide evidence to the gospel-resistant billions in the Third World that Jesus is in fact the Messiah, the only way to the Father?
Unless they see signs and wonders, the overwhelming majority of them will never believe.
You say that the supernatural gifts have ceased because the “perfect” or “completeness” (1 Corinthians 13:10) has come. Fine. But have we completed the preaching of the gospel to all creation? Have we completed the Great Commission by discipling all nations? Of course not; many are not yet even saved let alone discipled. Therefore the power and authority over disease and demons which the Lord entrusted to his disciples (Luke 9:1-2; Luke 10:1 & 9) specifically for proclaiming the kingdom of God to the lost are still in effect and have not ceased.
Some say that in the present dispensation we cannot do the works that Jesus did because his ministry was among the Jews only. They teach that what Jesus did in the gospels was only description and not a prescription for what we should be doing today when reaching out to gentiles. May the Lord Jesus have mercy on us when we stand before his Judgment Seat if we have presumed to be the final and absolute arbiter on which of his commands are still valid today and which are not, especially when the Great Commission is involved.
In Acts 28 after being shipwrecked at the island of Malta, Paul ministered to the islanders there who were not Jews, but gentiles. Many were healed. As a result they honored Paul and we assume believed on Jesus Christ whom Paul would certainly have preached to them.
Act 28:7 There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. 8 His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. 9 When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured.
One highly-respected leader from Moody teaches that only apostles can minister healing to the sick. But Ananias, whom the Lord used to open up Paul’s blind eyes in Acts 9:17 through the laying on his hands, was a lowly, unknown disciple. The deacon Philip was of course not an apostle, but according to Acts 8 the Lord nevertheless used him to perform many miraculous signs, resulting in many Samaritans turning to Jesus Christ and being baptized.
We see that in each of the above incidents, the miraculous healings were not a result of the use of the gifts of healing. Rather the healings took place as the disciples did precisely what Jesus did and taught them to do in the gospels—that is, laying hands on the sick and exercising power and authority over disease and demons. This was already being done in the gospels well before the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came bringing the gifts. And in line with the very purpose of this power and authority according to Luke 9:1, the miraculous healings confirmed the truth of the gospel of the kingdom of God to those involved—to newly-saved Saul, to the Samaritans, and to the islanders of Malta. They were clearly not manifestations of the gifts of healing which are to be used for ministering to believers and building up the body of Christ.
All of these instances in Acts show us that we should not cross the line by labeling as deceptive or heretical the use of power and authority over demons and disease to confirm that Jesus Christ is the Son of God to the billions of gospel-resistant peoples for whom Christianity is utterly foreign.
Let us not for the sake of this doctrine—devised in the West only within the last hundred years—be responsible for erecting an obstacle for these unreached people groups to enter the kingdom of God.
What about “blessed are those who have not seen…”?
John 20:29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Here Jesus has appeared visibly to his disciples following his resurrection. He tells them that they now believe only because they have seen him (“me”) with their own eyes. Then he goes on to say the much-quoted words, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
We would like to ask what is the understood object of the verb “seen” in this sentence. Following well-established rules of English grammar, we conclude that the object of “seen” must be understood to be “me” referring to the antecedent pronoun used earlier by the Lord in the first part of the verse.
Thus properly interpreted, Jesus is saying that blessed are those who have not seen me—the Risen Lord—and yet have believed. Jesus here is not referring to the miracles which he performed during his ministry on earth before his death and resurrection.
To further buttress this argument, John tells us in the very next verse:
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John assures us that he included Jesus’ miracles in his gospel so that readers could believe that Jesus is the Messiah. If it is pleasing to God that those reading of the miracles Jesus performed in the gospels can believe, why is God somehow less pleased when people actually witnessing miracles today believe in His Son?
Few indeed are those today who have actually seen the Risen Lord and then believed. Most of us have never seen him with our own eyes, and yet have believed on him. We are blessed!
To our cessationist friends
We ask you to bless us as we missionaries give up the American Dream along with everything we may possess and go into all the world to preach the gospel to all creation. Bless us and pray for us as we step foot on alien soil where unbelievable spiritual darkness reigns—the likes of which only now is clearly evident in groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Release us to proclaim the kingdom of God to the gospel-resistant accompanied by demonstrations of power and authority to prove that our God is the only true God in order that they may be saved. Allow us to obey the command of our Lord Jesus:
Luke 10:9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
And we will remain quiet when believers stricken with disease are told that the gifts of healing have ceased and therefore they cannot be helped in that way. After all, whether or not they are healed they are already saved. And that is the most important thing.