A Case for Cessationism

With all of this as a backdrop (see part 1 in this series), the question is reduced to this: Is God giving authoritative revelation on par with that which He has given in the past, much of which has been inscripturated, or is He not? If He is, then the church of Christ needs to take note and come into compliance with the modern prophecy movement, following its revelations as it would Scripture. But if the Lord is not revealing His inspired word today, then we need to reject the claims of the modern prophets and expose these supposed revelations for what they are. This means the position taken by most on prophecy—cautious but open—is untenable. The cautious but open crowd is skeptical of the claims coming from the prophetic movement and they are suspicious of the many “words from God” that so many evangelicals are claiming. Still they hesitate to embrace cessationism. They are concerned about limiting God or, as it was mentioned above, “putting God in a box.” To this let me make two replies:

  • It is okay to put God in a box if God, in fact, is the One who put Himself in that box. In other words, God can do anything He wants to do, but we expect God to do what He says He will do. If God has put Himself in the cessationist box we can embrace and proclaim it.
  • Taking the open but cautious view really does not hold up. Either God is speaking today apart from His Word or He is not. If He is speaking, how do we determine which of the multitude of messages people claim are from Him and which are bogus? If, with Grudem, we have eliminated the tests of Deuteronomy 13 and 18, how are we to evaluate all these revelations? How do we know to whom we should listen and whom we should ignore?

On such an important area as divine revelation it is indefensible to believe that God’s people cannot know with certainty whether such is taking place. Surely we should expect that the Scriptures themselves would lay out the guidelines for us to determine if divine, authoritative, inspired revelation is being given today. I believe it does and that we can be confident, from the witness of Scripture itself, that God has ceased speaking to mankind during this age apart from the Bible. Let’s take a quick look at what the Word has to say.

A cessationist view begins with a careful look at what God actually did in Scripture. We find, when we search carefully, that God was not speaking to everyone all the time. His revelation, even in biblical times, was rare and when He did speak it was always supernaturally with an audible voice, never through inner voices or impressions. The assumption held by many that God spoke to most of his children in biblical times is simply not true. The average believer in either Testament never received a personal word from God and even the majority of key players never heard the voice of God personally. When God did speak in Scripture it almost always dealt with the big picture of what He was doing in the outworking of His redemptive program or the life of His people in general. You will search in vain to find God instructing someone to take a job, purchase a number of donkeys, or buy a house—except as it related to the bigger issue of God’s dealings with His people. Beyond a few individuals, finding a non-prophetic person in Scripture who heard directly from God becomes a difficult task. The contention that God spoke to almost everyone all the time, leading, guiding and directing, simply does not stand the test of careful examination of the Scriptures. Even those to whom God spoke in the Old Testament, to only Noah, Abraham, Moses (considered to be a prophet), Jacob, Aaron, Joshua, David and Solomon, did He speak more than twice in their lifetimes?

But what about the New Testament? We find that most records of God speaking to individuals after Pentecost are found in the book of Acts. But even here we find only thirteen distinct times in which God spoke directly to individuals (two of these through angels): Acts 8:26-29; 9:4, 10; 10:3, 11-16; 12:7-8; 13:2-4; 16:6,9-10; 18:9; 21:4, 11; 22:17-21; 23:11. Eight of these occasions were to Paul or Peter, leaving a total of five other individuals or groups to whom God spoke directly in the first 30 years of church history.

The positive evidence

So far, we have examined what might be called negative evidence. That is, if we are looking for a pattern of how God spoke to individuals in scriptural times, that pattern reveals a scarcity of individual revelations. The Lord chose to speak primarily through His prophets and the apostles. Following that pattern we should expect the same today. Let’s now move to more positive evidence that the Lord has ceased speaking today apart from Scripture.

Beginning with Ephesians 2:20, we find that the church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” Since Christ is the cornerstone of the church, this verse has to be speaking of the witness concerning Christ that the apostles and prophets provided to the church. It is only to be expected that this witness would be passed along to the future generations of believers via the instrument of Scriptures that those men were inspired to write. As Ephesians 3:5 tells us, the “mystery of Christ” has been “made known to the sons of men through the revelation given to Christ’s holy apostles and prophets.” In the next chapter, Paul teaches that the Lord has provided gifted men to the church for its perfection or maturity. The apostles’ and prophets’ role in that process was laying the foundation of the church, as we have seen (Eph 2:20; 3:5). How? Through the teaching of New Testament truth, the apostles’ doctrine. The early church gathered together to devote “themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42), for it was the apostles who would provide New Testament revelation.

The book of Hebrews enhances our understanding by detailing two periods in human history in which the Lord has spoken to mankind. Hebrews 1:1 proclaims that the first period was “long ago to the fathers and prophets in many portions and in many ways.” This is an obvious reference to the revelations given during the times of the Old Testament. In verse two the author of Hebrews cites the second period of divine revelation by simply saying that “in these last days [God] has spoken through His Son.” But as we know Jesus Himself did not write down anything that He said. That was left to His followers and so, the author of Hebrews adds: “After it was first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard” (Heb 2:3) i.e. the apostles. This however raises a practical problem. How did the people know that the communication they were receiving from the apostles was true? After all, many individuals made claim to being an apostle during the first century. The Lord would authenticate His true apostles by giving them the ability to perform “signs and wonders, and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Heb 2:4). When the Corinthians challenged Paul’s apostleship and authority, he pointed them to the “signs of a true apostle… [which were] signs and wonders and miracles” (2 Cor 12:12), just as the author of Hebrews confirmed. The book of Acts verifies repeatedly that miraculous gifts were taking place through the apostles for this very reason (Acts 2.43; 5:12, 13; 9:38-41; 14:3, 8-9; 15:12; 19:11; 20:10; 28:8, 9). The only exceptions were Stephen (6:8), Philip (8:6-7) and possibly Barnabas (15:12), all very closely associated with the apostles. We find no examples of the average Christian in the New Testament either performing miracles or receiving authoritative revelation. Miracles were for the purpose of authenticating the office of the men who would lay the foundation of the church. Once the foundation of the church was in place, the role of the apostles was no longer needed. With the death of John, the last of the apostles, gifts authenticating the apostles were no longer necessary and they ceased.

But did that necessarily mean revelation ceased as well? I believe the evidence of Scripture would indicate that it did. We start with 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, which clearly tells us that the day comes when prophecy and supernatural knowledge will be done away, and tongues will cease. Specifically Paul writes that “when the perfect comes the partial will be done away.” All Bible believers are ultimately cessationists, for this passage is clear that revelatory knowledge will cease at some point (that point being when the perfect comes). Many believe that the “perfect” refers to the coming of Christ or the eternal kingdom. That is a possible interpretation but the context is contrasting partial knowledge and revelatory gifts with that which is perfect. The best explanation in such a context would be that the perfect (or complete) would be the completion of Scripture.

In other words, when the revelation for this dispensation as recorded in the New Testament is completed the need for partial words of knowledge and prophecies would cease. That is, because the final, full revelation of the Lord for this dispensation has arrived, there is no need for additional messages from God. This seems reasonable, but did it happen?

This understanding of the perfect in 1 Corinthians 13 is reinforced later in the New Testament by Peter, Jude, Paul and John. When the apostle Peter pens the inspired epistle we call Second Peter, he is desirous of reminding them of many things, especially that they “remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles” (3:2). Peter did not point his readers to new or fresh revelation but to the words spoken previously by the prophets and apostles. Jude offers similar understanding when in verse three he urges his readers to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” A message had been given, a foundation laid once for all that had to be defended. How did they know what that message was? In verse 17 Jude answers, “But you, beloved, ought to remember the words that were spoken beforehand by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The faith in verse three that was handed down to them, the faith that was to be defended and proclaimed, had been given to them by none other than the apostles.

As the apostle Paul writes virtually his last inspired words to his friend Timothy he points him to the Scriptures that are able to make the people of God “adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17). In light of this lofty claim for the God-breathed Scriptures, Paul gives Timothy a final charge “to preach the word…” (4:1-5). There is no hint in Paul’s charge that Timothy is to seek additional revelation, listen to the prophecies or words of knowledge of fellow believers or preach his own dreams or visions. He is to preach the Word handed down to the saints through the apostles. As the New Testament canon nears its close the divinely inspired authors unite in pointing their readers to the apostles as the inspired human source of New Testament truth.

The apostle John joins the chorus as he closes down the New Testament with a solemn warning against adding to or subtracting from this final revelation from God. He writes, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Rev 22:18-19). Since this is the last chapter in the last book of the last Testament it is only reasonable to deduce that from that point on any addition of any prophecy would be adding to Scripture. With the death of John shortly thereafter, the last of the apostles had faded from the scene and with him the final word of revelation for this age. In addition there is no indication either the twelve apostles or the New Testament prophets were ever replaced (Rev 21:14).

Conclusion

The witness emerging from the Scriptures themselves is that God has chosen to communicate with mankind throughout history in specific and unique ways. He has chosen certain men at certain times to be prophets and apostles to speak and record divine revelation (Heb 1:1-2; 2:3-4). When God’s revelation was complete for this age, the ministry of the prophets and apostles was finished and we would expect no further communication at this time. This expectation is verified through the statements found in the Bible itself. What we are seeing today is not new revelation from God but subjective experiences and, at times, deception.

[node:bio/gary-gilley body]

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate this pair of articles, and overall I think the arguments are strong.

Some problems here, though

Even those to whom God spoke in the Old Testament, to only Noah, Abraham, Moses (considered to be a prophet), Jacob, Aaron, Joshua, David and Solomon, did He speak more than twice in their lifetimes?

But what about the New Testament? We find that most records of God speaking to individuals after Pentecost are found in the book of Acts. But even here we find only thirteen distinct times in which God spoke directly to individuals... Eight of these occasions were to Paul or Peter, leaving a total of five other individuals or groups to whom God spoke directly in the first 30 years of church history.

On the first paragraph... it's clear by inference that God was speaking with Moses on a regular basis. They had a tent of meeting, after all. And I don't know why this list is so short. Every prophet who wrote "thus says the Lord" should be understood to have heard directly from God.

Similarly, on the NT list: it doesn't follow that if we have record of x number of occasions of God speaking directly, there were no others. In other words, absence of report does not equal absence of event.

Some will see this as defeating the argument, but it doesn't. What's still true--and a solid point--is that Scripture portrays God's direct interactions with people as special cases or as occurrences that were common only in special periods.

 

DanPhillips's picture

There are at least two typos, one minor and one major.

First, there shouldn't be a paragraph-break between "The assumption held by many that God spoke to most of" and "His children in biblical times is simply not true."

Second, can you possibly go to the source and straighten this out? — "The best explanation in such In other words, when the revelation for this dispensation as recorded in the New Testament is completed the need for partial words of knowledge and prophecies would cease." Something's clearly missing, and it's an important juncture.

 

Thanks!

 

 

 

Ed Vasicek's picture

I Corinthians 7:40 is an example of possible uncertainty:

 

Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

Based on the above article, Paul either has the Spirit of God on his side on this matter or he doesn't.

Biblical logic is different from western logic.  There is plenty of room for gray areas in Scripture. This drives the consistency police crazy, but when you look at the Word, gray areas abound.

IMO, the idea that the completed Scripture is what Paul had in mind by saying "the perfect" is completely unwarranted in the context and is a perfect example of agenda-driven interpretation.

I am not charismatic, but I think MacArthur's argument in The Charismatics, is stronger.  He looks at the context of "that which is perfect," adds that prophesy will be common in the Millennium, and concludes the "perfect" is the eternal state, much more natural and unstrained.

A better argument is that tongues were real earthly languages, we don't see that today (or if we do, rarely, or, as another suggested, in areas new to the Gospel), therefore OBSERVATION leads us to conclude that the gift is not freely given today, at least in the west.

Godly people are and always have been led by the Spirit, and that means more than just gaining insight from reading the Scriptures. And, if they are led by the Spirit, they can be led to call someone or pray for someone or speak to someone at the Spirit's urging. There are too many coincidences for me to deny this (e.g., being woken up in the middle of the night to pray for a situation when you haven't even had contact with a person for years, and then finding out they desperately needed prayer right at that time). Other times, however, there are false alarms.  We have the same dilemma when we pray -- are we praying in the Spirit and thus praying in God's will, or are our requests outside the will of of God?

When God gifts people with the gift of teaching, sometimes they teach false things.  It happens.  We need to adjust to what is, even if the package is messy. 

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Sorry about the typos. They are actually scan errors (or paste-from-scan errors) we didn't catch. Should be fixed shortly.

(OK, all better. Holler if you see any others)

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I don't agree that biblical logic is different from Western logic. In any case, if we take 1Cor.7.40 to be an expression of uncertainty about whether his assertion is from the Spirit, that's a different category of uncertainty than what is at issue in the prophecy debate.

The NT prophecy debate is over whether what is from the Spirit (prophecy) is infallible.

But it isn't necessary to see an expression of uncertainty in 1Cor.7:40. For example . . .

“And I think that I have the Spirit of God,” he means that in writing this also he is inspired by the Holy Spirit as were the other writers of Scripture.

Mare, W. H. (1976). 1 Corinthians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 10: Romans Through Galatians (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (237). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 

Another . . .

Paul’s statement I think that I also have the Spirit of God does not lessen but strengthen his point. With a touch of sarcasm he was saying that he, too, had access to the leading of the Holy Spirit—a claim apparently made both by the group that advocated celibacy only and by the group that advocated marriage only.

MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (186). Chicago: Moody Press.

The gift of teaching is quite different because it has never involved (OT or NT) a claim to coming directly from God as infallible word. The central difficulty of the "fallible NT prophecy" idea is that of successfully establishing why we should see NT prophecy as being different in definition from OT.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron said:

 

The NT prophecy debate is over whether what is from the Spirit (prophecy) is infallible.

Not from the Grudem perspective.  He says it is our discernment about what the Spirit is leading us to say is what is infallible, not the Spirit's promptings themselves.

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

So do you think the dreams of Jesus the Muslim people are having is just a hoax?  I don't.

"The Midrash Detective"

DanPhillips's picture

Is Biblical gravity different than Western gravity?

Ed Vasicek's picture

DanPhillips wrote:

Is Biblical gravity different than Western gravity?

 

Gravity is a heavy subject, but I sense the force of your argument.  However, Biblical logic is definitely different from Western logic, which ultimately finds its end in the engineer-type/consistency mentality.  In contrast, God says to stone adulterers, but forgives David. He says not to test him, but goes along with Gideon's fleece.

In Western logic, Proverbs 26:4-5 contradict one another:

 

4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him.

5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.

From Lois Tverberg, who accuses some of us of having the "God of Mr. Spock."  She writes:

 

Marvin Wilson writes, "The Hebrew knew he did not have the answers...He refused to over-systematize or force harmonization on the enigmas of God's truth or the puzzles of the univers...The Hebrew mind was willing to accept the truths taught on both sides of the paradox; it recognized that mystery and apparent contradictions are often signs of the divine."

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Aaron said:

The NT prophecy debate is over whether what is from the Spirit (prophecy) is infallible.

Not from the Grudem perspective.  He says it is our discernment about what the Spirit is leading us to say is what is [fallible], not the Spirit's promptings themselves.

It's an interesting idea, and I credit Grudem for putting his thinking cap on and not being lazy. But it doesn't really solve the problem. In the OT, a prophet's message was a binary situation. That is, either he was entirely correct in what he said 100% of the time, or he was to be judged to be a false prophet and executed. Real prophecy covered the entire process from receiving the message to delivering it to hearers/readers. If any discernment was required, it was assumed to be included in the prophetic act.

The question for the Grudem view: why would NT prophecy be inferior to OT prophecy?

On logic...

Logic doesn't preclude rhetorical or poetic devices. The two proverbs are a way of saying sometimes you should and sometimes you shouldn't. There's no special logic involved.

The Marvin Wilson quotation raises the issue of taking logic too far and not leaving unanswerable questions unanswered. It's not a different kind of logic but a question of using it well or using it poorly.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron, my brother, some good comments.  As far as Grudem's view, he makes a clear distinction between Old Testament and New Testament prophets.  On those points, I agree.

 

In the OT, the prophets were authoritative.  In the NT, the apostles are authoritative.

 

In the OT, being a prophet was a calling -- it was who they were.  In the NT, prophecy is typically presented as a spiritual gift, one given to many, many (most perhaps) Christians. I Corinthians 14:3-5 reads:

3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Paul later instructs prophets to speak one after another. I Corinthians 14:31 suggests the multiplicity of prophets. Consider how RARE authoritarian prophets were in the OT, and how common NT prophets (non-authoritarian) are. The difference might be between inspired thoughts (NTperhaps) and speaking the Word of God (OT).

For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged,

Note also that NT prophesy is about edification and encouragement, not the negative, confrontational stigma prophesy has been given by those who equate it with preaching that calls for revival.  I Corinthians 14:3 (cited above) uses words like upbuilding (edification), encouragement, and consolation.  Think about that.

It is a sign for believers (I Corinthians 14:22) yet God can use it to convict unbelievers (I Corinthians 14:24-25).

There is nothing like this "high percentage of prophesying" in the Old Testament.  There were a few "schools of prophets" in the Old Testament who may have approximated this; it is interesting that their prophecies have not been preserved, as opposed to the prophecies of Isaiah or Ezekiel.

I Samuel 10:5b-6, where Samuel is instructing the new King Saul, seems to be similar to what we see at Corinth:

And there, as soon as you come to the city, you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre before them, prophesying. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord will rush upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.

This was a different type of prophesying; these prophets, as far as we know, carried no authority.

With my MO (Midrash Obsession), I postulate Paul may have derived some of his teachings about gifts in Corinth from this passage, as well as the Joel passage Peter suggests was fulfilled in some way at Pentecost in Acts 2:15ff

For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
    and your young men shall see visions,
    and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
    and signs on the earth below,
    blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
    and the moon to blood,
    before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

Prophesying does not make one a prophet, anymore than teaching makes one a teaching elder.  So you might have three categories: believers who occasionally prophesied, recognized prophets, and authoritative elders.  It does get complex, but I think we do see these distinctions.

The New Testament use of prophet is a DEFLATED term when compared to the old, but although deflated, it is more commonly given.

I think a lot of sharing in the Body of Christ may include prophesying by a different name. This should not be confused, however, with speaking the Word of God.  I think when believers sense a leading to share something, that could be prophesy.  It could also be their own unassisted minds, which is why it cannot be authoritative.

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

pgerard's picture

I have always regarded myself as a cessationist, but there is an area that doesn't seem to be addressed in this series.  While I do not believe the gift of prophecy functions today, I do believe that the Lord leads me directly, internally today.  I have interacted with cessationists who argue that my stance cannot be aligned with cessationism.

But the Lord is my shepherd and my Shepherd leads me.  This leading is very personal; it rarely impacts what I say publicly, other than perhaps, "The Lord led me to preach on such and such a text today."   At times I sense that the Holy Spirit is leading me to do something (in line with His Word) that I would not normally think of doing myself.  In cases like that, the recommendations from Grudem seem appropriate in seeking determine whether to follow such leading.

I do not want to make my relationship with the Lord completely objective.  So if there is a subjective element to my relationship with the Lord, in what does that element consist?  Most cessationist theologies would admit that the Bible speaks of 'Illumination"; it seems to me that just as the Holy Spirit illumines the Word to me, He can also use the Word to lead me subjectively. 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

pgerard wrote:

I have always regarded myself as a cessationist, but there is an area that doesn't seem to be addressed in this series.  While I do not believe the gift of prophecy functions today, I do believe that the Lord leads me directly, internally today.  I have interacted with cessationists who argue that my stance cannot be aligned with cessationism.

But the Lord is my shepherd and my Shepherd leads me.  This leading is very personal; it rarely impacts what I say publicly, other than perhaps, "The Lord led me to preach on such and such a text today."   At times I sense that the Holy Spirit is leading me to do something (in line with His Word) that I would not normally think of doing myself.  In cases like that, the recommendations from Grudem seem appropriate in seeking determine whether to follow such leading.

I do not want to make my relationship with the Lord completely objective.  So if there is a subjective element to my relationship with the Lord, in what does that element consist?  Most cessationist theologies would admit that the Bible speaks of 'Illumination"; it seems to me that just as the Holy Spirit illumines the Word to me, He can also use the Word to lead me subjectively. 

Apples and oranges. Illumination is not subjective (and is often defined improperly). Therefore what you are describing is not the same as illumination and cannot be logically concluded by the reality of illumination. I contend that you cannot derive any subjective leading from scripture without reading into the text.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

pgerard's picture

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

I contend that you cannot derive any subjective leading from scripture without reading into the text.

Then I again ask the question: is there a subjective element to your relationship with the Lord?  If so, in what does that subjective element consist?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

No.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Ed Vasicek's picture

pgerard wrote:

I have always regarded myself as a cessationist, but there is an area that doesn't seem to be addressed in this series.  While I do not believe the gift of prophecy functions today, I do believe that the Lord leads me directly, internally today.  I have interacted with cessationists who argue that my stance cannot be aligned with cessationism.

But the Lord is my shepherd and my Shepherd leads me.  This leading is very personal; it rarely impacts what I say publicly, other than perhaps, "The Lord led me to preach on such and such a text today."   At times I sense that the Holy Spirit is leading me to do something (in line with His Word) that I would not normally think of doing myself.  In cases like that, the recommendations from Grudem seem appropriate in seeking determine whether to follow such leading.

I do not want to make my relationship with the Lord completely objective.  So if there is a subjective element to my relationship with the Lord, in what does that element consist?  Most cessationist theologies would admit that the Bible speaks of 'Illumination"; it seems to me that just as the Holy Spirit illumines the Word to me, He can also use the Word to lead me subjectively. 

 

I see it your way.  You are led, but not infallibly. There is a subjective element, and, probably, in at least some instance, you wonder whether the Spirit was actually leading you, and, conversely, sometimes you see evidence that he clearly was. Prophesy, in the NT version, according to Grudem, is being led to say something, but not infallibly.  

Being led by the Spirit -- meaning that you sense the Spirit leading to do something -- is new revelation.  It is just not revelation you can bank on, but revelation nonetheless.

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Guys,

Where do you see scriptural support for this fallible, subjective leading of the believer? You can't claim a feeling was from God and then shoehorn it back into the Bible. There has to be biblical support for the feeling being identified as from God. I don't see anyplace in scripture where this kind of leading is portrayed, where scripture instructs us to expect or even hope for it, or where were are directed how to interpret and use such feelings. God's leading is always given to us from scripture - alone.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Alex Guggenheim's picture

As to being "led by God". When one claims they are doing something because God led him so, they treat this as the defacto exception to the rule. That is to say for example, a Pastor might claim that on today God led him to teach this passage. This elevated or highlighted context is presented as exceptional rather than the constant or norm. The Bible is quite clear that we should assume a believer in acting in Christian expression is always led by the Spirit which is God' chosen person of influence in our lives as combined with Biblical principles.

Promptings are normal. The desire to do and say many spiritual and good things is what the Bible talks about being the fruit of the Spirit and manifestations of the new man.

However none of these are treated as revelatory or prophetic in any way, rather as the current or consequential direction of a Spirit led life.

You see a poor man with holes in his shoes and you are prompted to give him aid. This is not revelatory or prophetic, it is the tender mercies of God rising up in you seeing you are yielded to God' Spirit. Still, however, we must then apply Biblical principles to such matters and soundly respond to such spiritual current (not trying to go all mystical here rather using analogous language with the word current). It ought to be the exception that we are not led by the Spirit and the presumed norm which needs no special announcement that our words and deeds are from being led by God. And yes, I was led to write this, heh heh couldn't resist. Smile

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Allow me to further this illustration, if you will.

So in seeing a man who is apparently in need you, as a believer led by God's Spirit, are moved to meet a need you perceive. But upon interacting with this man you discover that his dilapidated shoes and possibly disheveled appearance are simply due to being due to those shoes being his most comfortable and him simply not caring about his appearance on this occasion and that, in fact, he makes over $100,000.00 a year and is just fine.

Are you to then conclude that you were not led by the Spirit?

No, you are to conclude that the Spirit's mercies moved you to be merciful and giving just as it should have been. And here is the critical point, the leading of the Spirit is not informative but directional or as I said in the above post, currency.

Therein lies why it is not prophetic or revelatory. Had it been such specifics as in the case of Paul being given directives with specifics of information such as in Acts 9:10-19

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

The nature of divine revelatory contexts is informative, unlike the context of the Christian led by the Spirit which is not informative but stimulative or current. It is motivational, not informative.

Which explains why when we do have promptings and later discover that there is no such need or our efforts need modification, it is not an error of the Spirit because, again, being led of the Spirit is not intended to be informative or revelatory.

The Spirit of God moves us but does not implant new information in our head, that must be discovered by us which is precisely why it is not categorically revelatory.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I Corinthians 14:31 reads:

 

For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.

 

I Thessalonians 5:20-21 reads:

 

 Do not despise prophecies,  but test everything; hold fast what is good.

 

This text says to not despise prophecies, but to test them.  If the NT prophets spoke infallibly and were authoritative, then THEY and THEIR prophecies should have been the authority by which everything else was judged.  IMO, agendas are in the way of giving the Scriptures a fair shake. 

 

Whether the gift of prophecy exists today is a matter of reasonable debate. But NT prophecy was different from the authoritative Old Testament prophets whose words have been preserved in Scripture. I have even argued that the type of prophecy practiced by the "school of the prophets" differed from the authoritarian prophets. This seems clear to me, but obviously not everyone shares my opinion.  I have argued above how COMMON the gift of prophecy was in the early church.  It's different, folks.

 

The majority of evangelicals believe that God can and does lead people apart from a direct Scripture (take this job, buy this house, call this person up, pray for that person). Occasionally the majority is right.

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

To add a little to what others have already said, the challenge for any kind of "new and different NT prophecy" view is to show that it really is new and different in the ways it needs to be to support the idea of fallible prophecy.

So far, the case for this doesn't seem to succeed. The fact that apostles had authority doesn't prove that prophets had none. The fact that NT prophecy is a gift of the Spirit does not prove that the OT prophet was not gifted by the Spirit (OT proph. is certainly closely identified with the Spirit in places--e.g. 2Sam.23.2). Further, it's not clear that the OT prophet's authority came from holding some kind of office as opposed to coming from what he said or wrote. Amos was a farmer called into prophetic work. For all we know, he went back to farming after delivering his message. In any case, do we really have any NT evidence that NT prophets were not authoritative when they spoke?

It's true that we have calls to test all things and approve the excellent (in a prophecy context - 1Thess. 5:20-21), but they had similar obligations in the OT era (Deut. 13:1-5, Deut. 18:21-22). There just wan't any distinction between messenger and message in the OT. So far, evidence seems to be lacking that there is such a distinction in the NT either. If a prophet's message isn't right, he isn't right.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

To add a little to what others have already said, the challenge for any kind of "new and different NT prophecy" view is to show that it really is new and different in the ways it needs to be to support the idea of fallible prophecy.

So far, the case for this doesn't seem to succeed. The fact that apostles had authority doesn't prove that prophets had none. The fact that NT prophecy is a gift of the Spirit does not prove that the OT prophet was not gifted by the Spirit (OT proph. is certainly closely identified with the Spirit in places--e.g. 2Sam.23.2). Further, it's not clear that the OT prophet's authority came from holding some kind of office as opposed to coming from what he said or wrote. Amos was a farmer called into prophetic work. For all we know, he went back to farming after delivering his message. In any case, do we really have any NT evidence that NT prophets were not authoritative when they spoke?

It's true that we have calls to test all things and approve the excellent (in a prophecy context - 1Thess. 5:20-21), but they had similar obligations in the OT era (Deut. 13:1-5, Deut. 18:21-22). There just wan't any distinction between messenger and message in the OT. So far, evidence seems to be lacking that there is such a distinction in the NT either. If a prophet's message isn't right, he isn't right.

 

So, Aaron, what do you make of the School of the Prophets in the OT, the admonition to weigh NT prophecies, and Paul's encouragement of all believers to prophesy?  If prophesying makes one a prophet, and if prophets are naturally authoritative, then is Paul urging all the Christians (including women) to become authorities (First apostles, then prophets, then evangelists....) even above men?

 

"The Midrash Detective"

pgerard's picture

I awake at 4:00 am and a missionary comes to mind.  The church I pastored 15 years ago supported him, but I haven't thought of him in as many years, but now I feel led to pray for him.  Is this just me?  Or is it the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart?  If it is the latter, what word would you use to describe this work?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

pgerard wrote:

I awake at 4:00 am and a missionary comes to mind.  The church I pastored 15 years ago supported him, but I haven't thought of him in as many years, but now I feel led to pray for him.  Is this just me?  Or is it the work of the Holy Spirit in my heart?  If it is the latter, what word would you use to describe this work?

Just you brother, and the compassionate heart God has been molding in you over the years.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Ed,

I have always understood prophesy to be more about proclaiming than foretelling. In the NT, I see two possibilities. One is the gift of prophesying being a revelatory gift during the transitional period that was rendered unnecessary with the completion of the canon, passing away with other transitional gifts like healing and tongues. The other possibility is that the NT prophet is simply the proclaimer of God's Word, His messenger. We are instructed to test the message against the Word for accuracy because the messenger could mess up his delivery of God's perfect message. This would essentially make the prophet = the preacher. I lean more to the former than the latter. Either way, I do not see biblical support to suggest God is communicating with men outside of the Bible or in any subjective manner in this age.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Prophecy is not "the leading of the Spirit", rather the function of exercising the gift of prophecy is to receive revelation and communicate it. Regardless of all other issues, the use of the context "led of the Spirit" is not synonymous to "the gift of prophecy being exercised".

God, through Paul, is rather explicit in 1 Corinthians 14 where this instruction is given:

29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

Prophecy is equated with and in fact specifically defined as "revelation". Revelation is specifically denoted as something not previously revealed by God. Prophecy is not a prompting, it is not a leading and it is not a "preaching boldly" of what has already been revealed. Those instructing others regarding what has been revealed are either a Teacher or an Evangelist. This made-up watered-down definition of prophet as a "proclaimer" comes from people unable to define and explain the office and its work and people willing to use rationalism instead of the Bible to define Biblical offices and gifts. No where is it presented as such in the Bible that a prophet can be understood to be something other than a prophet, one receiving revelation and more often a specific kind of revelation of future events.

Prophecy, here, is explicitly revealed to be understood as revelation.

It is categorically different that the more general "leading of the Spirit" which refers to yielding one's self to the influence/control of the Spirit's Godly direction at that moment.

In fact, one can exercise their spiritual gift(s) and not be yielded to the Spirit of God, just observe the Corinthian church which was filled with carnal believers who were inappropriately exercising their gifts because they were led about by the flesh.

Does it make a difference when we are yielded to God as to how our spiritual gifts minister? Yes, in that we are allowing ourselves to be matured thus we are more mature in such expressions. But the gifts, themselves, are still operating even in our worse state (again the Corinthian church).

So exercising spiritual gifts is not categorically being "led of the Spirit". They, our spiritual gifts, function in a de facto manner.

And prophecy is a specific gifting which is revelatory as the passage above reveals. It is the assumption in the passage and revealed so since it does not make effort to explain this fact to you, that to refer to prophecy in its function is to refer to one receiving revelation.

 

Ed Vasicek's picture

Alex said:

 

God, through Paul, is rather explicit in 1 Corinthians 14 where this instruction is given:

29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

Prophecy is equated with and in fact specifically defined as "revelation".

If prophecy is always revelation, then why does the first prophet have to shut up when the other guy has a revelation?  Is a new revelation better than a revelation in progress?

"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Paul answers that by saying "you can all prophesy by one". And in addressing that part of your question the assumed view of prophesy as revelation remains.

 

To me, the reason the first prophet has to be quiet when another prophet receives a revelation is that the first prophet has not received (at least the same kind of) revelation.  Therefore prophecy was broader that just divine revelations.

"The Midrash Detective"

Alex Guggenheim's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Alex Guggenheim wrote:
Paul answers that by saying "you can all prophesy by one". And in addressing that part of your question the assumed view of prophesy as revelation remains.

 

To me, the reason the first prophet has to be quiet when another prophet receives a revelation is that the first prophet has not received (at least the same kind of) revelation.  Therefore prophecy was broader that just divine revelations.

And that would be called eisegesis which is reading into a text that which is not there. Which is indeed your reasoning. Paul states emphatically why the other prophets are not to speak and you ignore this and then impose your own theory. That really is a violation of basic hermeneutics.

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