We have argued that Scripture-quality revelation has ceased with the completion of the New Testament canon.1 Moreover, we’ve attempted to demonstrate that New Testament prophecy and tongues are forms of Scripture-quality special revelation.2 Consequently, Christians should not expect the revelatory gifts of tongues and prophecy today. This is the essence of the cessationist argument. Before we conclude our study, however, I’d like to respond to four objections that are commonly raised against the cessationist position (see below). Then will examine two or three passages to which those who advocate for the continuation of revelatory gifts frequently appeal.
The Bible commands the church neither to despise the prophetic utterance nor to forbid speaking in tongues, which is a form of prophecy (1 Thess. 5:20; 1 Cor. 14:39). Does not the abiding validity of these commands assume that tongues and prophecy will be an ongoing practice in the church?
Wayne Grudem’s argument for the continuation of New Testament prophecy and tongues today depends, in part, on a distinction he makes between OT canonical prophecy and NT congregational prophecy. In the case of the former, divine inspiration extends to the prophet’s words. Thus, the utterance is infallible and absolutely authoritative. But in the case of the latter, divine inspiration only extends to the prophet’s mind. Hence, the prophet’s words may or may not accurately capture the revelation imparted to the mind. As a result, NT prophecy is fallible and relatively authoritative.
To support this thesis, Grudem offers two main lines of argumentation: first, he highlights what he believes to be examples of fallible NT prophets. Second, he appeals to NT texts that call for the evaluation of NT prophecy as proof that such prophecy is less than fully inspired and divinely authoritative.1 This article will attempt to demonstrate that Grudem’s arguments are inconclusive and unconvincing.
Grudem’s examples of fallible NT prophets are inconclusive.
Let’s consider Grudem’s appeal to Acts 21:4. The verse, in its larger context, reads as follows:
From Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal, Vol 3, No. 2, Fall 2013. Reproduced with permission. This installment competes the survey of biblical evdence and concludes the study. Read the full series.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
We have already noted that these verses speak of God’s continuing revelation through the prophets. These two verses also point to the finality of God’s revelation in Christ.76 Jesus Christ is the culmination of God’s revelation. He is the fulfillment of God’s promises throughout the Old Testament. “The consummation of the revelatory process, the definitive revelation, took place when … the very Son of God came.”77 With Him, and what the apostles wrote about Him, God’s revelation is complete. Lenski explains this further:
The Charismatics draw the faulty conclusion that the present-day Charismatic manifestations are fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2:28-32.
The evidence is to the contrary. Joel prophesied that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit (prophecy, dreams, and visions, v. 28) would be accompanied by divine supernatural manifestations in the physical world (blood, fire, smoke, the sun darkened, the moon turned to blood, vv. 30, 32). In other words, God’s supernatural work in the earth will accompany and vindicate the supernatural manifestation of the Spirit in God’s people. This pattern was fulfilled at Pentecost. The wind and fire accompanied the gift of tongues (Acts 2:1–4). These divine manifestations in nature will also mark the prophetic occurrences of which Christ spoke and John prophesied. See Matthew 24:29, 30; Mark 13:24, 25; Luke 21:11, 25; and Revelation 6:12.
We conclude that if there is to be a valid fulfillment of Joel 2:28–32 today, it must combine the element of supernatural phenomena in the physical realm with the supernatural manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. Whether the Acts passage is a dual fulfillment of Joel, or whether it is an illustration of Joel’s prophecy as Feinberg argues, the Charismatics cannot demonstrate both these elements.
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; According to all that thou desiredst of the Lord thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the Lord said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; thou shalt not be afraid of him.
Jude’s affirmation that we have a completed revelation from God is a crucial issue in our day. Many religious groups base doctrine on what they claim is revelation added to Scripture. In the introduction we noted several of these claims.
Up to this point we have cited just one biblical passage to support the contention that the Bible is a completed revelation. Jude’s statement is forceful (Jude 3). John’s warning at the end of the Revelation and at the end of the canon of Scripture seems emphatic. Yet is there more? Can we really make a case for the position that God is not speaking to men today as He did when He gave His Word? When a cacophony of voices contends, for one reason or another, that God still reveals Himself, we must deal with this question. Christians deserve a certain, biblical, and reasonable explanation of the biblical teaching on this subject.
This survey is necessarily brief, but its purpose is to establish several points.
God has spoken to the human race and given us His Word. Biblical Christianity is a revealed religion.
False prophets, teachers, and apostles have been present at every turn, denying the truth of that Word and attempting to counterfeit it.
God’s people are called upon to discern between the true and false prophets and teachers and then to reject the false. God’s revealed word is the standard by which we are to affirm truth and reject error.
We must “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
Biblical history teaches us that we are called upon to live, proclaim, and minister God’s truth against the backdrop of false teaching. False teachers and their doctrine must be exposed.
We affirm our belief that the Bible is the Word of God, God’s revelation to mankind. We accept it as our only rule for faith and practice. We believe and embrace the doctrines revealed in Scripture.
We judge all doctrines and teachings by the standard of the Word.