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Edgar's Article on Cessationism (Spiritual Gifts) #39484
Wed Apr 30, 2008 8:33 PM
Wed Apr 30, 2008 8:33 PM
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John B Offline OP
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Hi,
I discovered this site by accident and was browsing it when I came across the following article:
The Cessation of the Sign Gifts by Prof. Thomas R. Edgar
I have grown up listening to the arguments he produced and remain totally unconvinced. So I joined in order to enter into some debate with him. I don’t know if he bothers reading what he wrote and what people say in reply, but I hope so.
I will not attempt to argue point by point the questions he raises against “sign” gifts.
I presume that he is a professor of Theology (I don’t know him other than through this article) so I want to query two statements he makes which are of a more theological bent:
The first is this:
“The only remaining possibility for giving credence to the modern charismatic claims would be to produce direct statements of Scripture that the apostolic phenomena will always be present in the church,…However, there is no specific biblical evidence such as this…”
He later says:
“No Bible verse specifically states that tongues, signs, and wonders will continue throughout the Church Age. “
It is these two statements I want to take to task.
Firstly some background:
It is a common part of the Apostle Paul’s writing style to open with a greeting and then a prayer. In these he often made reference to the issues he wanted to cover in more depth later on in the letter. Many commentators have noted this feature of Paul’s writings so I don’t feel the need to justify it. Edgar will no doubt be aware of it. Usually Paul found a positive way to commend his readers in these initial parts of his letters – especially if he was going to rebuke them later on.

Now in 1 Corinthians Paul does this. He is going to give a long discourse on the gifts (to use Edgar’s distinction) “sign gifts” in particular. (I personally disagree with this distinction but we won’t debate that). So in his opening remarks Paul commends them on their possession of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 1:7).

I have been in the situation where a church leader was so determined to put down a Charismatic or Pentecostal position that he denied that this verse was talking about the spiritual gifts of ch 12-14. But this was just churlishness on his part. Take an example:
Say I was a friend of yours and I regularly wrote you letters. So today I am writing you a letter. Firstly I give you some news, e.g. “Last Friday I went to the movies and I saw Titanic.” I may not say any more about that outing in the letter or what I thought of the movie. But later on in the letter (several pages later on) I write the following, “Oh by the way, when I was at the movies I ran into an old friend of yours….” And proceed to relate the encounter with an old mutual friend.
Now the natural assumption (and the correct one) is that I am referring to the time I went to the movies last Friday night. Without any other qualifying phrase that is the natural and correct assumption.
So the natural (and correct) assumption when Paul starts talking about spiritual gifts in 1 Cor 12 is that he is referring to the gifts he talked about in chapter 1.
In this it is not the responsibility of me to prove this point – it is the natural inference. Rather it falls on the shoulders of those who do not want to agree that Paul is talking about the same thing to justify their position. It would be interested to see how one could do this. My church leader just stated it as fact, but it seemed ridiculous to me at the time and it still does.
So what did Paul say about spiritual gifts in 1 Cor 1.
Another bit of background:
Let’s look at the address of the letter:
1COR 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,
and our brother Sosthenes,

1COR 1:2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ
Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on
the name of our Lord Jesus Christ- their Lord and ours:
( I am using the NIV simply because it is the version I have on computer and I am too lazy to type anything else out. I hope this is satisfactory. I personally believe all of the translators of all of the major versions have done a great job so I am not going to quibble about versions)
The letter is clearly addressed to:
(i) The church in Corinth.
(ii) And every other Christian who reads it. There seems to be no time limit on this. Of course we would not want to put a time limit on it, would we? If we begin to say “this was only for the early church” then we have just eliminated 1 Corinthians from our Bible and our preaching. I’m sure none of us would want to put ourselves in the position of saying that the great chapter on Love (1 Cor 13) – which is strategically placed in the middle of Paul’s discussion on spiritual gifts – is “only for the early church. So let’s not go down that road.
Then Paul begins his prayer. V7 is the verse that interests us in particular.
1COR 1:7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait
for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.


Now let us do a little exegesis. Remember I am assuming the translators have done a good job in rendering the meaning of the Greek into English, so we really have no need to be experts in Greek to see what it is saying. We just have to know how to read English.

(i) The Pronouns. Understanding the pronouns is vital to understanding the text. I’m sure you agree.

“you do not lack”
Who is the “you” here? Well the answer is in the address to the letter, “church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”

Sounds like it includes us doesn’t it? If it doesn’t then we are back into the argument I outlined above – how much of 1 Cor applies to us and how much doesn’t? Not a productive line of reasoning.

“as you eagerly wait” – the same “you” – the church in Corinth – and every other Christian.

“our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed”
The “our” here thus is Paul, Sosthenes, the Church of Corinth and every other Christian.

So what Paul says here, and pretty plainly to, is that “the church does not, will not, lack any spiritual gift of the type later described in 1 Cor 12-14 until the “revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Now in order to overcome the obvious problem this verse creates for the cessation theory some interpreters argue that this “revelation of our LJC” refers to the finishing of the NT canon.
But I am sure that Professor Edgar will be abundantly aware that this is not a tenable interpretation. In every case in the NT where this phrase (or parallels) is used it always refers to the second coming of Christ. That is why the book of the Revelation is called that. If it means something different here then it is a novelty and, as such, we would expect Paul to indicate he is using it in a different way to how he normally uses it. In other words we are back to my illustration about the movies. Without additional clarification we are compelled to assume the common meaning.

So this verse would seem to be a complete contradiction of Professor Edgar’s claim that: “No Bible verse specifically states that tongues, signs, and wonders will continue throughout the Church Age. “
How specific does God have to be?
If you don’t think this is specific enough then let’s go to another scripture that teaches the same thing:

1COR 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.

1COR 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

1COR 13:10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

1COR 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a
child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways
behind me.

1COR 13:12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall
see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am
fully known.

1COR 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the
greatest of these is love.

Now this is the passage most interpreters of this ilk use to justify the belief that certain of the gifts were intended to pass away (at the end of the apostolic age?).
But let’s see what it says. Remember Paul is unlikely to contradict here what he said in 1 Cor 1:7 so whatever interpretation we derive here needs to be in agreement with the plain statement of 1 Cor 1:7.
In this passage Paul compares and contrasts two times and states. It would be helpful for us to draw this up as a chart: (Sorry, the chart lines didn't come through when I clipped into the site so I hope you can follow the comparison
Now Then
Imperfect Perfect
Know in part, Prophecy in part Will know perfectly even as
we are known
Is like childhood Is like adulthood
We see as in a dirty mirror Face to face
We have gifts like tongues Such gifts will pass away

Probably the key phrase in this comparison is found in v12: “then we shall see face to face.”
This is clearly talking about a personal encounter – we, as people, will meet another person – and that meeting will be face to face.
The group I grew up with argued that the “perfect” referred to in v10 was the coming of the completed canon of scripture, and with that the gifts passed away. But how do we see “face to face” with a book? That interpretation is untenable. The only thing we see “face to face” is other people.
So this passage is a second clear confirmation that the (sign) gifts will endure in the life of the church until the Second Coming. The double witness of 1 Cor 1:7 and 1 Cor 13:8-13 should be enough to satisfy any Bible student.

Especially in the face of the fact that there is NO scripture that says they will cease at any earlier time.
Edgar himself admits this in his next sentence: “Nor is there a verse that specifically states they will cease at the end of the apostolic age. However, this does not mean that one cannot take a position on this issue”.

I agree, one can take a position on the issue, and one must, because of these reasons:
(1) The scripture does actually say when the gifts will pass away – as I have just demonstrated – and it will be at the Second Coming.
(2) If we take a position otherwise then we take a position that is contrary to scripture so we are willingly taking a stand that is a deception. If we teach that then we are willingly teaching deception to others.
(3) If we deny the reality of the experience of Charismatics and Pentecostals then we automatically consign them into a basket which we label “deceived fanatics” – when in actual fact it may be we who are deceived. They may, in fact, be onto something that we should all be on to.
(4) If the experience of Charismatics and Pentecostals is right, if they are experiencing the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then by denying that these things are the gifts of the Spirit we are, by implication, calling them demonic deceptions AND then, by nature of the fact, we are committing a great sin against the Holy Spirit.

MATT 12:31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men,
but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

MATT 12:32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be
forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be
forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

MATT 12:33 "Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad
and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.

These words of Jesus are in the context where certain Jews had said that Jesus’ actions were “of the Devil”. Jesus here counters this by claiming that his works were “by the Spirit of God”, but to call the works of the Holy Spirit the Devil’s works is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. In the context this has nothing to do with salvation but has everything to do with the demonstration of the Spiritual Gifts that Jesus routinely did.

A sombre thought.

I would hope Professor Edgar will respond to this.

John B.

Re: Edgar's Article on Cessationism (Spiritual Gifts) [Re: John B] #39485
Wed Apr 30, 2008 9:34 PM
Wed Apr 30, 2008 9:34 PM
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Robin Offline
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There are several articles besides Professor Edgar's on the subject. You can find a list of them here, including one of my own here. I'm sure that at least one of them will be helpful to you.

Re: Edgar's Article on Cessationism (Spiritual Gif [Re: Robin] #39486
Thu May 01, 2008 6:22 AM
Thu May 01, 2008 6:22 AM
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John B Offline OP
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Hi,
I am not about to enter into a detailed debate about the rights and wrongs of Pentecostalism. Such would be a waste of time as I have found in the past. I have scanned some of the other articles listed including your own. I have heard it all before and am not convinced. There are many assertions in your own paper that, if I was of a mind to, I could query. Assumptions about the nature of tongues and its use that are pretty limited interpretations of certain scriptures and also ignore other scriptures which expand the meaning of tongues, prophecy and so on.

However I have found it is pointless to debate these finer points of the doctrine until the main issue is clarified from scripture, and that is the question Prof Edgar raised: Are the gifts for today?

The reason for this is simple: If one does not believe that the (sign) gifts are for today then whatever we see today has to be a deception and not the real thing.
But if it can be established scripturally that it is at least possible that these gifts could be manifested today then the question changes and becomes "What should they look like? How would we recognise them if we saw them? What is the purpose/point of them? How do we get these gifts? How do we use them to edify the Body of Christ?"

My query of Prof Edgar's article was a scriptural contradiction of his claim that there was "no scripture that taught that the gifts should continue until the end of the church age." I posited two scriptures that clearly say otherwise. And it is fair enough that these scriptures be addressed, debated in open forum using standard methods of interpretation.

It is easy to take pot shots at Pentecostals and Charismatics - I do so myself - their doctrine is often shot full of holes on various things. But if, in taking pot shots at them, we fall into the same trap from a different side, namely we make unscriptural claims and hence end up teaching what amounts to false doctrine, then we are no better than them.

My query of Prof Edgar's paper remains. Unanswered, uncontested.

John B.

Re: Edgar's Article on Cessationism (Spiritual Gif [Re: John B] #39487
Thu May 01, 2008 4:16 PM
Thu May 01, 2008 4:16 PM
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Robin Offline
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Quote
John B said:
... I have found it is pointless to debate these finer points of the doctrine until the main issue is clarified from scripture, and that is the question Prof Edgar raised: Are the gifts for today?


The answer is yes and no:

Yes, the offices (gifted men that God has given to the churches; pastors, teachers, elders, administrators, helpers, etc) continue here on Earth as long as the Church itself does.

No, the manifestation gifts (signs authenticating the Apostles' message) discontinued when the Apostles died. The articles you so easily dismiss explain how and why in splendid detail and with far more than sufficient Scriptural support.

Quote
John B said:If one does not believe that the (sign) gifts are for today then whatever we see today has to be a deception and not the real thing.
But if it can be established scripturally that it is at least possible that these gifts could be manifested today then the question changes and becomes "What should they look like? How would we recognise them if we saw them? What is the purpose/point of them? How do we get these gifts? How do we use them to edify the Body of Christ?"


Since you have narrowed the term "gifts" down to sign gifts while curiously omitting the gifts listed in Romans 12:3-8 and Ephesians 4:10-12, then question is only "vain speculation."

I'll agree with you that Professor Edgar's argument from silence (there is no Scripture that says humans would visit the moon either - but that doesn't mean we didn't) is insufficient to prove cessation.

Quote
1COR 1:7 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.


We have no lack, nor did the Corinthian believers, because all things are summed up in Christ (Eph 1:10) and because we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). No one who has the Son lacks anything. Christ is the sum of all the Father's gifts, and He has set in the Church gifted men to bring His Church to full maturity. 1st Corinthians 1:7 is not a reference to signs, but to the wholeness of those who are in Christ.

Re: Edgar's Article on Cessationism (Spiritual Gif [Re: Robin] #39488
Thu May 01, 2008 10:59 PM
Thu May 01, 2008 10:59 PM
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John B Offline OP
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Hi,
Again I have a non answer.

The point I was making was that the two scriptures I quoted, 1 Cor 1:7 & 1 Cor 13:8-13, were not limited in their reference to a limited list of gifts. What they appear to say is that all of the gifts are available till the Second Coming. I only used pretty standard rules for interpreting scripture to arrive at this conclusion. Like I read what it said and did a little bit of simple analysis using rules of English grammar.
In the context of the letter of 1 Cor they must mean that the gifts listed in 1 Cor 12 will not pass away until the Second Coming, i.e. gifts like healing, tongues, interpretation, discernment of spirits, miracles, word of knowledge and word of wisdom - and also the offices mentioned later in 1 Cor 12 - apostle, prophet etc. These are, after all, the gifts Paul is talking about in the context of 1 Cor 12-14 where ch 13: 8-13 appears.

I always thought it was of imperative importance that we interpret things in the context that they are found. I have explained how 1 Cor 1:7 fits into the context of 1 Cor 12-14 already. I shouldn't have to justify that 1 Cor 13:8-13 actually exists in the context of 1 Cor 12-14 which is primarily talking about "manifestation gifts" - to use your terminology even though I disagree with it.

I made the point that I do not agree with the distinction between "sign gifts and "other " gifts.
Nor do I agree with the distinction between offices and manifestations.
Partly because, if the "offices" still continue then we should look at the list of "offices" in 1 Cor 12:28ff.
1COR 12:28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues.
1COR 12:29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?
1COR 12:30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

i.e. If the offices remain then we have Apostles, prophets, workers of miracles, healers, speakers in tongues.

When does Paul stop talking about an "office" here" Or does he? Is it after "teachers"? Or does the fact he talks about "healers" in the same mood indicate they are an "office". Who has the right to make the call here as to when he stops naming "offices" and starts naming "manifestations"?
Paul here does not seem to make this convenient distinction between "office" gifts and "manifestation" gifts. Where you get the distinction from I'm not sure - but it is not in scripture so I have to assume you have invented it for yourself. Maybe someone else invented it for you and you have uncritically adopted its usage, but my point remains - it is not a scriptural distinction.

This respondent says: "the manifestation gifts (signs authenticating the Apostles' message) discontinued when the Apostles died."

A very confident assertion indeed - but where is the scriptural proof for that? The point I was making is that this claim, and the similar one by Edgar, actually lacks scriptural warrant, so they are a matter of opinion. 1 Cor 1:7 and 1 Cor 13:8-13 would seem to contradict that claim totally.
After all 1 Cor 1 :7 does not read:
"so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift until the apostles die".
In my Bible it reads somewhat differently.

You also make the comment:
"the manifestation gifts (signs authenticating the Apostles' message)...."
Where does the Bible say these gifts were for this purpose?

I know all about Romans 15:18-19
ROM 15:18 I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done-
ROM 15:19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

But Paul does not say here, nor any Bible writer anywhere else, that this power demonstration was to be limited to the apostles ministry. In fact reading 1 Cor 12, where Paul himself says that different members of the body will be able to do these things, suggests that in no way did he see it as being limited to the super heroes.

In other words it is an assumption that the sign/manifestation gifts were for the validation of the apostles ministry - and for that alone.
I do not dispute that they were for the validation of the message being preached - where by apostles or by evangelists (e.g. Acts 6:8, Stephen) or any other ministry. What I dispute is the claim that:
(a) these gifts were for validation of the apostles ONLY (Stephen proves that wrong).
(B) they were ONLY for validation of the apostle's ministry (The fact that they are listed in 1 Cor 12, a list of gifts for ordinary church members proves this wrong.)
(c) That they were to pass away with the death of the apostles (1 Cor 1:7 & 13:8-13 prove this wrong).

There seems to me to be a case here of "blinkered seeing". Having discovered (rightly)that God validated the apostle's ministry by sign gifts then the assumption has been made (wrongly) that this was the ONLY reason for these gifts.

Could it not be that these gifts had other purposes in the mind of God, e.g. healing - people still get sick. Maybe God just has compassion on our suffering in this world and so has given a gift to the church to help alleviate that suffering. In other words these gifts could be based on some perceived need we have - perceived by God, not us.

Further you say:
"Since you have narrowed the term "gifts" down to sign gifts while curiously omitting the gifts listed in Romans 12:3-8 and Ephesians 4:10-12, then question is only "vain speculation.""

Let's be fair - I never limited the discussion down to "sign gifts" and, in the original context, the quote you have made does not mean that. The limitation of the discussion of which gifts passed away with the death of the apostles was not defined by me but by the Cessationists. My point is, and has always been, that I don't accept the distinction between "sign gifts" and any other sort of gifts.
I have this sort of dispute with Pentecostals also who like to make grandiose distinctions between "power gifts" "Ministry gifts" "Motivation gifts" and several other non scriptural distinctions that they regularly make. So I am not just getting at you about these distinctions. I just don't find them in scripture so I am not about to build a doctrine on them - a doctrine like Cessationism.

To misread my letter and then put my questions down to "vain speculation" is thus unfair to the extreme. I sounds a bit like an attempt to put me down and discredit the point of view I have put forward without actually addressing the two key scriptures in the argument I have put forward, viz 1 Cor 1:7, 1 Cor 13:8-13. I have asked some real questions about the meaning of two scriptures - and this is an important question as it is an issue in the church throughout the world. It does not deserve to be lightly dismissed.

And to lightly dismiss it is to imply that all those millions of people who do believe in and experience these gifts are all deceived - e.g. most of the church in the Third world is now Pentecostal. Are they all deceived? Or are they all really non Christians who have been sucked into a cult?
To dismiss as "deceived" millions of people around the world is a huge claim to infallibility - as much as the Pope. And all on the basis of an opinion which so far seems to have no scriptural validation - a point admitted by Edgar in his article.

You continue:
"We have no lack, nor did the Corinthian believers, because all things are summed up in Christ (Eph 1:10) and because we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10). No one who has the Son lacks anything. Christ is the sum of all the Father's gifts, and He has set in the Church gifted men to bring His Church to full maturity. 1st Corinthians 1:7 is not a reference to signs, but to the wholeness of those who are in Christ. "

I have already argued Paul's tendency, in his letters, to touch on the subjects he wants to bring correction on later in the letter in his opening greetings and prayers. To say, then, that this passage has no "reference to signs" (a word I disagree with anyway in this discussion) seems to me to be an attempt to sidestep the obvious implication of this verse - especially knowing Paul's normal writing technique. If it does refer to the gifts of 1 Cor 12-14 then the whole cessation argument is immediately lost - I can see why you would not want it to apply to those gifts.

But my argument does not rest on 1 Cor 1:7 alone - I also put forward 1 Cor 13:8-13 - which is right in the middle of the discussion on sign/manifestation gifts. Surely it must apply?
And if it comes up with the same meaning as 1 Cor 1:7 then maybe 1 Cor 1:7 applies also.

You say that 1 Cor 1:7 does not apply to the subject Paul later brings up in the letter in Ch 12-14. But you offer no convincing reason why it does not - you just try to deflect that scripture into some other meaning - ignoring the context of the letter it is found in.

My deep point is that Pentecostal doctrine has lots of holes in it - I used to enjoy debating with them while I was at university because they were so shallow in their understanding. I acknowledge their holes. But it does not help, if we want to correct them, if we use shady exegesis methods to argue the point. They can see through that just as we can see through their arguments.

A little more intellectual honesty, and honesty with the text of scripture, is called for here.

John B

Re: Edgar's Article on Cessationism (Spiritual Gif [Re: John B] #39489
Fri May 02, 2008 7:20 AM
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Robin Offline
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Another non-answer. Your question is based on invalid assumptions and has been answered - though not what you want to hear - in the several articles referred to.

I think it's easier to get in trouble when we keep reaching for new ways to express the arguments. And of course, we risk being accused of "shady" exegesis and intellectual dishonesty when we disagree. Which is why you won't find many people willing to fight these old battles all over again.

The distinction between sign gifts and office gifts is made by the Scripture itself, not by those trying to justify a position. While on one hand "all do not speak with tongues do they (1st Cor 12:30)," yet "I wish you all spoke in tongues, but more that you would prophesy (14:5)" and "when you assemble each one has ... a tongue, and interpretation (14:26)," if they refer to offices (functions) and signs as if they were one and the same, then the statements are contradictory.

I would argue that 14:26 is a reference to each one's known native language rather than some supernatural utterance (every one has their own language, understanding, and songs to offer), but there's obviously a distinction between "all are not prophets (12:29)" and "seek to prophesy (14:1)" or "all can prophesy one by one (14:31)."

In one instance he describes tongues in terms of a function (12:30), and in another as a sign (Paul's word, not mine) in verse 14:22 to unbelievers. Such as those in Acts 2 who heard the gospel in their own language (when was the last time you heard an unbeliever "interpret" one of those spontaneous manifestations of "tongues" in a church service?). Prophecy is described as a "body function" in 12:29 but as a sign for believers in 14:22.

Further: Paul describes his preference for prophecy (14:5) because of it's function to edify the whole assembly, but also because of its power to confront, expose, and convict an unbeliever (14:24-25) yet it is intended "for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe (14:22)." It is for use in the assembly, while tongues is discouraged in favor of prophecy in the assembly. I believe that this only makes sense in the light of Isaiah's prophecy (quoted in 1st Cor 14:21) and compares to Matthew 13:11-17 where Jesus describes how the truth was plainly told to, yet hidden from the non-elect. What appears to be a contradiction really is one - the truth is revealedto those "with ears to hear" but hidden from others to whom it is told. That describes Jesus' parables as well as the sign gifts.

If the charismata were still extant today they wouldn't look anything like what we see passed off as "gifts of the Spirit" in churches today. Yet office gifts remain to serve the King and administer His kingdom.

We still see "through a glass darkly," so therefore you want to conclude that the gifts must still be valid.

But "perfection" (completion, not sinlessness and incorruption) did come and was fully realized in the first century when God dealt with the single generation that rejected Christ and saw the end of the Old Covenant.

Now you will likely continue to assert that your question was not answered. I would assert that the question has been answered, but the answer was not what you wished to hear.

Re: Edgar's Article on Cessationism (Spiritual Gif [Re: Robin] #39490
Fri May 02, 2008 11:13 PM
Fri May 02, 2008 11:13 PM
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John B Offline OP
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New Zealand
Hi Robin,
Let me continue to engage with you because I think you are still avoiding the force of what I have said. But to engage
I will respond to parts of your letters:
I will number your points and respond to them immediately after.

(i) "The distinction between sign gifts and office gifts is made by the Scripture itself, not by those trying to justify a position."

It is not that I don't agree that there is a "offices" in the church and that these are determined by the gifts of the people who end up in the offices, e.g. pastor, teacher, etc.
I do agree that there are such offices and gifts determining them. I grew up in an "office-less" denomination and have long since come to see the fallacy of that approach.
Nor am I debating that some gifts are called "a sign" for one reason or the other - the reasons being unimportant in the context of this discussion.
What I am debating is that:
(i)They are "only a sign" and so when the necessity for that sign passed then they passed away also.
The scriptures seem to have a much wider view of the use of the gifts than "just a sign". The letter to Corinth list several gifts in Ch 12 - most of which are presumed to have "passed away" by the Cessationists - but only one of which is actually said to be a "sign" - tongues.
Prophecy, Healing, discernment of spirits and miracles are not there said to be "signs" though I suppose one could argue a case for that by inference from Romans 16. But prophecy, as you noted, is "for the believer"
To quote you:
"Prophecy is described as a "body function" in 12:29 but as a sign for believers in 14:22."

But in actual fact Paul does not say here that prophecy is a "sign for unbelievers" - the word "sign' does no appear a second time.
By implication it is not a "sign" because "signs" are for outsiders.
Yet the Cessationist argument demands that prophecy has also passed away. This position is derived from 1 Cor 13 where it says tongues and prophecy will cease and there seems to be no justification for applying a different time of ceasing for each.
To follow the Cessationist argument for a moment:
(i) Tongues and prophecy along with other things will cease.
(ii) This happenned, according to Cessationism, at the end of the first generation of the church.

Thus the meaning of "prophecy" here cannot mean "preaching" as some try to interpret it to mean as "prophecy" is going to pass away at the same time as "tongues".

Why should something that is "for believers" and "edifies, encourages and comforts believers" pass away at the end of the first century?

It becomes then, very poor exegesis to run through a list of gifts in 1 Cor 12 and pick and choose which ones are still with us and which ones are not. It sounds more like a matter of opinion.

(ii) Also I query the assertion that they were signs "ONLY for the Jews". This is the obvious implication of your statement:

"But "perfection" (completion, not sinlessness and incorruption) did come and was fully realized in the first century when God dealt with the single generation that rejected Christ and saw the end of the Old Covenant."

I know Paul says "Jews seek a sign", but the fact is everyone likes "signs" if by that one means "supernatural acts". The Greeks were just as sign conscious in this way.

If they were signs "ONLY for the Jew" then why did Paul bother to "fully preach the gospel... with signs... "throughout the Gentile world. (Rom 16)
It was simply not the case that there were Jews in each town, and Paul did not seem to limit his "sign" activity to only the Jews. Like in Malta he healed all the sick. There is no indication that this was only "the Jewish sick".

Another Question:
Why is "perfection" defined as when "God dealt with the single generation that rejected Christ and saw the end of the Old Covenant"?

Such a definition suits a Cessationist theory - but nowhere does the Bible say this. What the Bible says is that "when the perfect comes" these gifts shall cease we shall and see "face to face" (1 Cor 13).
What was the "face to face" seeing that occurred at the end of the 1st Century that necessitated the passing away of the gifts?
How did the end of the 1st Century bring us to a point where we "know fully"?
How did the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state bring about this "perfect knowledge" and "face to face" seeing?

These points remain very unclear to me as to why they should be so. There is no scriptural basis that says it is so, it is only a matter of your opinion (and, I am sure, the opinion of many others) but I don't have to agree with it if there is no scriptural support.


(2) "While on one hand "all do not speak with tongues do they (1st Cor 12:30)," yet "I wish you all spoke in tongues, but more that you would prophesy (14:5)" and "when you assemble each one has ... a tongue, and interpretation (14:26)," if they refer to offices (functions) and signs as if they were one and the same, then the statements are contradictory."

I'm not sure how this proves any cessationist point, but I do agree that there is a distinctions here:
You can have a gift but not be an "office holder" of that gift. e.g. there are many lay people who are excellent bible teachers and pastors and churches around the world are using them as home/small group leaders. But they are not the Pastor, or Minister, of the Church.
Similarly with any of the gifts mentioned here. In other words there are levels of operation of gifts in the church. you can have an apostolic gift and not be an apostle in the full sense of the word. A prophetic gift and not be a fully fledged prophet. Have a gift of healing that God uses in many small ways but not be a recognised Healer. There is here a clear distinction between someone who is just moving in the gifts a little and someone who is tried and tested in a gift and regularly comes up with the goods , hence can be said to have an "office" - even if it is not a room in the back of the church building.

A second thing this suggests is that, at a basic level, every Christian can use every gift listed here on occasion if God desires. We can all pray for the sick - and sometimes see someone healed - I have several times. But I wouldn't go
as far as to say I had a "gift of healing" or was "a Healer".
Everyone can be inspired by God to bring a prophetic word on occasion - in fact it happens to most of us a lot of the time and we don't recognise it is God prompting us - but that does not mean we have a gift of prophecy or are a "prophet".
I presume the same is true of all of the gifts mentioned.

I have spoken in tongues, interpreted a tongues message, moved a lot in many of the aspects of prophecy listed in this chapter, prayed for the sick and seen healings, discerned evil spirits on occasion -and less often - had the courage to cast them out, moved in word of knowledge and wisdom (no matter how you want to define them I have done it - and often) - even seen a few small miracles. But primarily I am a teacher and pastor.
Teaching and Pastoring are my gifts - the others I move in, on occasion, when God wants me to. But even teaching is not as natural gift to me. I became aware on day God was calling me to be a teacher in the church, then he gave me a small group to teach. Then I have to learn how to use th gift of teaching he gave me - I'm still learning!
I have also been used to help plant a couple of churches (the apostolic gift).
In fact out of the 27 (I think it is) gifts actually named in scripture I have been used by god on occasion in more than 21 of them. But I don't think I have 21 "gifts". I have just been open to God and when I looked in scripture I found that what I have done was move in a particular gift.

So I agree - there is a distinction here between basic gifts
and offices - but this does not justify the idea that the "non office" gifts have passed away. Such a justification has to be proven on other grounds.


(3) "I would argue that 14:26 is a reference to each one's known native language rather than some supernatural utterance (every one has their own language, understanding, and songs to offer),"

I understand why you would want to understand it that way - but it seems to me to violate the idea of interpreting in context. The rest of the references to "tongues" in 1 Cor 12-14 obviously refer to something else - to the gift of tongues. Of course you are welcome to hold a different view - but I find that there would be no justification for such a view other than your own opinion. In the context of the chapter it is to suddenly introduce another meaning to "tongue" without explanation and this seems to me to be an odd thing to do. I don't think you would get any followers on that one. Of course anyone who is desperate to prove Pentecostals wrong will probably agree with it, but it would still remain a very strange exegetical methodology.

Your interpretation seems doubly confusing to me as Paul has
already said about tongues in church that "no man understands him" and so he should "pray for the gift of interpretation" so they can. These statements would be meaningless if it simply meant "in your own language".


(iv) "But there's obviously a distinction between "all are not prophets (12:29)" and "seek to prophesy (14:1)" or "all can prophesy one by one (14:31)."
In one instance he describes tongues in terms of a function (12:30), and in another as a sign (Paul's word, not mine) in verse 14:22 to unbelievers. Such as those in Acts 2 who heard the gospel in their own language (when was the last time you heard an unbeliever "interpret" one of those spontaneous manifestations of "tongues" in a church service?). Prophecy is described as a "body function" in 12:29 but as a sign for believers in 14:22."

I have already discussed this above. In general I agree with your statements here though I would still be unhappy to use the word "sign" here with respect to prophecy.

(v) "Further: Paul describes his preference for prophecy (14:5) because of it's function to edify the whole assembly, but also because of its power to confront, expose, and convict an unbeliever (14:24-25) yet it is intended "for a sign, not to unbelievers, but to those who believe (14:22)." It is for use in the assembly, while tongues is discouraged in favor of prophecy in the assembly. I believe that this only makes sense in the light of Isaiah's prophecy (quoted in 1st Cor 14:21) and compares to Matthew 13:11-17 where Jesus describes how the truth was plainly told to, yet hidden from the non-elect. What appears to be a contradiction really is one - the truth is revealedto those "with ears to hear" but hidden from others to whom it is told. That describes Jesus' parables as well as the sign gifts."

Again, in general I cannot fault your argument here, and I have no wish to. The passage in Isaiah is full of possibilities but we don't need to go there.


(vi) "If the charismata were still extant today they wouldn't look anything like what we see passed off as "gifts of the Spirit" in churches today."

A very bold claim. But who says? You say! It is a matter of your personal opinion.
But the fact is that what the gifts actually "looked like" is not described in scripture anywhere - so we don't know if today's versions are the same or not. For sure, you cannot produce proof that today's versions are vastly different from what happenned in Corinth. You weren't there to see!

My own feeling on why we are not told what they looked like or how they "happenned" in a person is because if the Bible did describe one way it happenned we would get all legalistic and say, "This is the only way!"
And to describe a variety of ways would lead to the Bible being to vast to handle.
But the reality is that the Spirit moulds himself to the personality of the person he is ministering through and this is, in turn, governed by the culture the person lives in. We all agree with this when it comes to preaching and the ministry gifts, so there should be no problem extending the principle to other gifts.
In other words: Yes! "The gifts of the Spirit in NT times would have looked much different to what we see today" - but that would have been purely a cultural and personal difference of expression. We cannot say anything more than this. To argue that the manifestations today are not the same and so are not the real thing is a real step of faith - again a matter of opinion because it cannot be proven.

Again it ends up implying Charismatics/Pentecostals are deceived "big time" - but there is no proof for the implication.

(vii) "Now you will likely continue to assert that your question was not answered. I would assert that the question has been answered, but the answer was not what you wished to hear. "

You are so right. I will assert that my question has not been answered. But it is not simply because it is "not the answer I want to hear", it is because the arguments put forward so far do not stand scrutiny and do not have scriptural support.

And because I have put forward reasonable interpretations of scripture in my letters, using standard evangelical methodology, that have not actually been addressed. Your short comments at the end of your last letter on 1 Cor 13 don't actually answer the question: What do we see face to face now the perfect has come?

In your first post/response to me you said there were many articles available on the site. I know. You said they might "help" me.
The question is "help me what?"
I grew up in an anticharismatic church. The standard line was this:
(i) Tongues have ceased - with the death of the apostles.
(ii) Therefore any manifestation of tongues today is "of the Devil", i.e.the person is demon possessed.
The implication was then" "all Pentecostals/charismatics are demon possessed." This was the inevitable conclusion.
(iii) No Christian can be demon possessed.
The inevitable conclusion of this is that no Charismatic/Pentecostal can be a Christian.

Then I went to university and met thousands of charismatics/pentecostals - who loved God, had made a commitment to Christ just like I had, were keen on prayer and evangelism, having worship times, and so on - keener than I was in fact.

So I had to front the issue. These people were obviously not demon possessed and did not show signs of great deception or cultish activity. Just good regular Christian kids.

I used to go to the chapel library where we could sit and talk, and if there were charismatics there I would take an anti view. If there were antis there I would take a pro view. No one knew for sure where I stood - and still don't know - because they want to force me into one camp or the other. But I stand in the middle - I see there is truth on both sides and error on both sides.
I read widely books on both side of the debate - as well as other books on theology and doctrine of a more general nature - to try and help me reach a conclusion. So I have not been sucked into one side or the other.
I do not need help to understand the subject - I have a pretty good handle on it thank you. That is why I can skim a series of articles like on this site very quickly and know what is there. I really only have to identify something new in the debate to have to stop and think it out. The old arguments I know pretty well.
I do have degrees in theology too.
I don't need "help" to understand the correct exegetical methods or the historical-sociological and religious backgrounds to the question - I'm pretty well up on that too.
To try to "help" me is to be condescending - when what I am asking is real questions about a real subject that I think is being wrongly handled.

My point is that most of the arguments against the Pentecostals don't hold water and I don't think it is good for theological masters to be putting up shonky arguments - especially when there are better ones.

If you like I will gladly read your article on the subject and subject it to critical analysis. It's up to you.

John B

Re: Edgar's Article on Cessationism (Spiritual Gif [Re: John B] #39491
Sat May 03, 2008 7:17 AM
Sat May 03, 2008 7:17 AM
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Robin Offline
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Robin  Offline
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Joined: Jan 2002
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Quote
John B said:

(i)The scriptures seem to have a much wider view of the use of the gifts than "just a sign". The letter to Corinth list several gifts in Ch 12 - most of which are presumed to have "passed away" by the Cessationists - but only one of which is actually said to be a "sign" - tongues.


Yet even Charismatics call them "signs and wonders." All of the supernatural events in Scripture were signs - many were covenant signs for God's people, and some (far less) were for those outside the covenant community. All miracles were signs and all had a purpose even though the miracles themselves differ.

Quote
Prophecy, Healing, discernment of spirits and miracles are not there said to be "signs" though I suppose one could argue a case for that by inference from Romans 16. But prophecy, as you noted, is "a sign for believers (1st Cor 14:22)."

But in actual fact Paul does not say here that prophecy is a "sign for unbelievers" - the word "sign' does not appear a second time. By implication it is not a "sign" because "signs" are for outsiders.


An invalid assumption. The great majority of miracles were signs intended for and directed at the people of God and those doing His work. The Scripture is replete with covenant signs for His people - from the rainbow and the Sabbath, Gideon's fleece, the prophesying of King Saul, and the babe wrapped in cloths lying in a manger - to the signs described in 1st Corinthians 12-14 and at the end of the age. Also, the language of 1st Corinthians 14:22 necessarily requires that prophecy is a sign, because of the repeated "not this, but that" grammatical form.

Quote


Why should something that is "for believers" and "edifies, encourages and comforts believers" pass away at the end of the first century?

It becomes then, very poor exegesis to run through a list of gifts in 1 Cor 12 and pick and choose which ones are still with us and which ones are not. It sounds more like a matter of opinion.


The sign gift of prophecy - the one in which the thoughts and secrets of the "unlearned who enters" are supernaturally exposed - is not comparable to "preaching" the word of God. The closest thing we have to an office of prophet, however, are those who teach and exhort from God's word.

Quote

(ii) Also I query the assertion that they were signs "ONLY for the Jews". This is the obvious implication of your statement:

"But "perfection" (completion, not sinlessness and incorruption) did come and was fully realized in the first century when God dealt with the single generation that rejected Christ and saw the end of the Old Covenant."


Quite correct. Tongues was a covenant sign to a single generation of unbelieving Jews - the ones who rejected Christ and became the chief opponents of the gospel in the first century. I did much more than "imply" that in my article. I assert it as the basis for defining the sign gift of tongues/interpretation and it's purpose.

Quote

If they were signs "ONLY for the Jew" then why did Paul bother to "fully preach the gospel... with signs... "throughout the Gentile world. (Rom 16)?


I explained all of this in my article. Paul is the one who describes tongues as a sign of judgement against the Jews who followed Paul everywhere opposing the gospel. Paul applied that description (look at the passage Paul quoted - a doomsday prophecy of judgement upon unbelieving Israel) to the sign of tongues, but not to the sign of prophecy, which he describes as a sign to believing Christians. Two signs - meant for two different people groups. Paul's instructions had to do with the use of the sign meant for unbelievers among believers and vice versa.

Quote

Another Question:
Why is "perfection" defined as when "God dealt with the single generation that rejected Christ and saw the end of the Old Covenant"?


For two reasons:

Because the word perfection means completion, and
Because the signs purpose had been served when the events to which they pertained had been completed.

Quote

Such a definition suits a Cessationist theory - but nowhere does the Bible say this. What the Bible says is that "when the perfect comes" these gifts shall cease we shall and see "face to face" (1 Cor 13).


Changing the definition of the word "perfect" is not a valid argument, nor is misrepresenting your opponents' argument. Perfect, in the Bible, means "complete." And what is "fully known" is Jesus - the Substance of the shadow.

Quote

What was the "face to face" seeing that occurred at the end of the 1st Century that necessitated the passing away of the gifts? How did the end of the 1st Century bring us to a point where we "know fully"? How did the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish state bring about this "perfect knowledge" and "face to face" seeing?


By fulfilling the Olivet prophecy (Matthew 23-24). The signs persisted for a period of 40 years (one generation) from the ascension to the destruction of the Temple, putting a permanent end to animal sacrifice and bringing the Old Covenant to a close. By fulfilling all of the Old Covenant. The Substance replaced the Shadow when He disarmed and triumphed over the rulers and authorities (Colossians 2:15), freeing His people from the requirements of the Old Covenant (verse 16-17). God's eternal Plan - first shown in type and shadow and mystery, was now fully known to the Church because Christ has come and fulfilled all. Hebrews 1:1 says exactly that!

The word "revelation" implies a mystery disclosed. That mystery - now known - was Christ.

I can't respond point-by-point because my time is very limited, but most of the questions you're asking are addressed in the articles - from the purpose of the signs (both to believers and to unbelievers) to the historical fulfillment of the things they signified. The signs have ceased because the things they signified were fulfilled in the first century. There is no need to warn of a hurricane that has already passed and dissipated. The warnings cease when the storm has arrived. And they certainly don't continue hundreds of years after the storm has passed. That is the nutshell version of the Cessationist argument.

Re: Edgar's Article on Cessationism (Spiritual Gifts) [Re: John B] #39492
Mon May 05, 2008 9:00 AM
Mon May 05, 2008 9:00 AM
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grace2U Offline
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Devon, England
Hello John,
I hope you'll forgive me jumping in at the beginning of this thread, but I wanted to take issue with your very first post rather than coming in at the end of your very interesting discussion with Robin.

Perhaps I may list a few questions and/or suggestions for you:-

1. Is it not possible that the Corinthian church might be practising 'gifts' that were applicable for it at the the time, but would later be discontinued?

2. Can you think of any miraculous gifts or signs that were given to God's Old Covenant people at the very first but then discontinued? If you can, why should God not give similar miraculous gifts to His infant Church which would later be discontinued?

3. As I think Robin has pointed out, the word translated 'perfect' in 1Cor 13 (teleios) can also mean 'mature'as it does in 14:20. If we take that as the meaning in 13:10, it helps explain the meaning of v11. The Corintians were not to cling to the things that pertained to childhood, but to prepare themselves to the more challenging things of manhood.

4. It might be interesting to look at all the times that the Greek words charisma pneumatikon come up in Scripture and then see what the context is.

Blessings,

Steve Owen


Itinerant Preacher & Bible Teacher in Merrie England.
1689er.
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