Cessationism, Revelation & Prophecy

From Voice, Nov/Dec 2012. Used by permission.

Despite the fact that the majority of conservative evangelical Christians since the Reformation have held to a cessationist position with regard to divine revelation, true cessationists are rapidly disappearing. In the articles and books I have written nothing has evoked as much criticism and anger as my position that God is speaking to His people today exclusively through Scripture. Due to the influence of a multitude of popular authors, theologians and conference speakers, cessationism is barely treading water, even within the most biblically solid churches and organizations.

As a matter of fact, among those who claim to be evangelicals there are five identifiable views prevalent today on the matter of revelation:


All miraculous gifts exist today, including the gift of prophecy. God speaks through prophets and to His people both audibly (through dreams, visions, words of knowledge), and inwardly (inaudibly in the mind or heart). Representatives of this position are Jack Deere, John Wimber, the Kansas City Prophets, the Assemblies of God and the Word of Faith movement. Charismatic author Tommy Tenney, in his popular book The God Chasers, writes,

God chasers…are not interested in camping out on some dusty truth known to everyone. They are after the fresh presence of the Almighty… A true God chaser is not happy with just past truth; he must have present truth. God chasers don’t want to just study the moldy pages of what God has done; they are anxious to see what God is doing.1

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What Is the Role of the Holy Spirit in Interpretation?

From Paraklesis, a resource of Baptist Bible Seminary (Fall, 2012). Used by permission.

We might better ask the question, “Does the Holy Spirit have a role in interpretation?” If the Holy Spirit does have a role, what is that role?

The purpose of this article is to propose first that the role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation is not to enable the reader to grasp the meaning of a text. We will look briefly at certain verses which supposedly teach this to see whether they actually do teach this.

This article then proposes that a role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation is actually post-interpretation. The role of the Holy Spirit is to enable the reader to make a correct evaluation of the meaning of a text so that he can welcome or accept that meaning. The Holy Spirit also assures the reader of the truth of Scripture. A role of the Holy Spirit also may be to enable the reader to relate the meaning which comes from interpretation to his life. The article looks briefly at texts which seem to support these proposals and this suggestion.

The Holy Spirit does not enable the reader to discover the (author’s intended) meaning of a passage. He does not teach the reader the meaning of a text. The Holy Spirit does not help the reader to comprehend Scripture.

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“Don’t Elevate Doctrine above the Holy Spirit.”

Driscoll vs. Calvin, Doctrine vs. the Spirit
“He proposes that ‘cessationism…[is ] a clever way of saying, we don’t need him [the Holy Spirit ] like we used to.’ One of the repercussions of cessationism, he says, is that ‘Christianity goes from a relationship we enjoy to a belief system we adhere to.’”

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The Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit

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One of the most characteristic and distinctive doctrines of the Christian faith is that of the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the personality of the Holy Spirit is of the highest importance from the standpoint of worship. If the Holy Spirit is a divine person, worthy to receive our adoration, our faith and our love, and we do not know and recognize Him as such, then we are robbing a divine Being of the adoration and love and confidence which are His due.

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The Holy Spirit and the Dove

Around Thanksgiving time we often refer to turkey as “the bird.” In African American churches, the “first lady” (the pastor’s wife) often serves fried chicken, “the Gospel bird,” for Sunday dinner.

Yet there is a bird that carries sacred overtones, namely a type of pigeon we refer to as a “dove.” God the Holy Spirit has chosen the dove as the symbol for His presence. This figure is first implied in the creation accounts when the Holy Spirit “hovered” over the waters (Gen. 1:2).

A few weeks ago, we were blessed by a baptismal service. While baptizing, I followed the command of Jesus and baptized our candidates “in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” We call this truth of one God in three persons the Trinity. Just as the word “Bible” is not found in the Bible but refers to a collection of all the inspired Scriptures, so the word “Trinity” is a composite of the Bible’s teachings about the nature of God.

As we look at the Holy Spirit in His dove-like representations, we need to remember that the Holy Spirit is a “He,” not an “It.” Like the Father and Son, He is an uncreated person (has always existed and is self-derived). He is God, and He is equal in attributes and glory to the Father and Son.

The idea of the word “holy” is “set apart, pure, distinct from creation.” Both the Old Testament word (ruach) and the New Testament word (pneuma) are sometimes translated as “spirit” or “wind” or “breath.” The translation depends on the context.

In several instances, a dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit. By why? As we examine the biblical background, we can see that the symbolic dove reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s qualities.

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