Christianity 201

September 21, 2013

Where Cessationists Part Company With The Gospel

Cessationism is the belief that after the apostolic age, the supernatural gifts of the Spirit ceased to operate.  This article is from the blog Internet Monk a few days ago where it appeared as Reconsider Jesus — The Sent Out:

The following is an excerpt from Michael Spencer’s upcoming book: Reconsider Jesus – A fresh look at Jesus from the Gospel of Mark.  This week we are looking at a part of Michael Spencer’s writing and speaking on Mark 6. I accidentally skipped ahead and will be returning to Mark 5 next week.  The material being covered today is on a subject that is important to both my co-editor, Scott Lencke,  and myself:  That is, Spiritual gifts, and their existence today.  In this passage Michael Spencer gives us a taste of some of his own thinking on the matter.  I am hoping that Scott will be able to join us for the discussion in the comments.  Are your views similar?  Quite different?  At Internet Monk a civil discussion is always welcome in the comments.  If you have been thinking at all that you would be interested in purchasing Michael Spencer’s book when it is available, please drop us a note at michaelspencersnewbook@gmail.com.  The more we get expressions of interest, the more attention we will get from publishers.


Mark 6:7-13

Mark 6:7-13. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits. 8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

…It is very significant for me that Jesus empowers his disciples with his own authority, and specifically gives them power over “unclean spirits.” Jesus’ first miracle, according to Mark, was an exorcism, and the battle with the forces of darkness is never far from Mark’s focus. But this passage must be considered in the subject of whether spiritual gifts and ministries continue today, or did they cease when the “apostolic age” came to an end? This issue is the source of a major split among evangelicals and has been a major issue in my own life and ministry. Without getting on a personal soapbox, I can say that issues such as “Are tongues for today?”, “Does God heal today?” and “Should Christians cast out demons today?” have occupied hours and days of my own study and consideration. Is the Bible actually that confusing on these issues? I really don’t think so. In fact, the cessationist position (that all these gifts and experiences ceased with the apostles) may be well intentioned, but it has robbed the church of what Jesus clearly intended to give to his followers.

In the simple words, “he gave them power,” Mark communicates that Jesus intended for his followers to walk in all the power he ministered in and he intended to share his authority with his followers for the purpose of compassionate Kingdom ministry to the oppressed. When cessationists make the apostles into a special group honored by Jesus above other Christians by giving them power and authority, they go well beyond what scripture teaches. It is true that the apostles are mentioned in passages such as Revelation 21:14 and Ephesians 2:20 -”…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone”- in a way that gives them importance within the body of Christ, but these scriptures point to the faithful testimony of the apostles as witnesses of Jesus and the conveyers of the Gospel. Certainly, the New Testament is “Apostolic” in the sense of being written within the circle of the apostles and upon their teaching. Paul mentions the “signs of an apostle” in 2 Corinthians 12:12, but where is the sense that these were exclusive to the apostles or would cease? Paul himself refutes such an idea in I Corinthians 12:4-11, where the manifestation of the Spirit is clearly given to all the body of Christ, as the Lord himself desires. In fact, how does the idea of supernatural ministry being the exclusive domain of the apostles square with I Corinthians 12:28, where miracles and healings are intentionally placed after the ministry of apostles?

Every cessationist I know is frightened by the excesses of the Charismatic/Pentecostal/Third Wave movements. Certainly we ought to be concerned with excess, for it is the work of the devil, discrediting the real. But we ought to be more concerned about a kind of theology that tells the church supernatural means are not available to encounter the powers of evil and the results of sin. Cessationism is the primary culprit in turning the church towards secular and worldly means of doing everything from church growth to pastoral counseling. In some seminaries, secular psychology is accepted with little question, despite its corrupt worldview and self-defining methodology. In many churches, laying on of hands for the sick, anointing with oil or praying against the demonic would get the pastor fired or the church split. Yet, here we have Jesus entrusting his own power and authority to twelve disciples who would hardly be impressive today for their spiritual maturity or wisdom. They simply have faith and are, therefore, empowered for ministry. May God quickly send the day when this will not need to be explained…

April 28, 2012

A Veteran Pastor Shares Biblical Insights

Lots of scripture today!  I thought it would be fitting to share some excerpts from the blog Murray’s Musings. Murray and his wife Nancy are friends of our family, and for the past few weeks Murray has been excerpting some notes that his father-in-law, Rev. Morley G. Clarke, wrote to share with his men’s group.  On learning today that Morley had passed away yesterday,  I thought I would include seven samples of the 21 “Moments With Morley” here at C201; you may choose to read one, several or all.

Murray’s introduction:

It amazes me (but it really shouldn’t) to realize that as Dad was writing these thoughts as he was battling the last stages of cancer and during the early stages a year earlier had lost a daughter to suicide as a result of a chemical depression.  Morley truly knows of suffering, but he also knows of the comfort that only faith in Jesus Christ can bring to the situation.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Morley’s Comments

The first verse put suffering it its proper context.  God does not provide a way around suffering but does give His faithful promise to provide His sustaining presence as we walk through it together.


Acts 3:1-10

 1 One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. 2 Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. 4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” 5 So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. 8 He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. 9 When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Morley’s Comment

This is the day that Peter realized that his Lord had bestowed upon him the spiritual gift of healing but he was sufficiently wise and humble enough to disclaim all credit for the miracle.  He made it clear that Jesus, working through him, was the one who had performed the loving miracle.

Someone has said that a person can truly do a lot of good if they are unconcerned with who gets the credit.


Acts 2:1-4

 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues[a] as the Spirit enabled them.

Morley’s Comments

Here is the fantastic fulfillment of the promise given by the living Christ in Luke 24.  During those wonderful three years Jesus walked beside his disciples.  Now He will walk within them.  They will be filled with His Holy Spirit.  That took place on the Day of Pentecost when the Lord poured the Holy Spirit into the hearts of His 129 followers, and the church and the Body of Christ was born with great rejoicing.


Ephesians 3:14-21

 14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Morley’s Comments

As I see it, this is the finest prayer in the Bible, although it might well be argued that the Lord’s Prayer in John 17 has equal claim.

The amazing description of praise in verses 14 to 21 is one of the most beautiful and inspiring that I have ever encountered.


Rev 3:20

20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

Morley’s Comments

Jesus never forces himself upon us, but He does make His presence known, pleading with humanity to open their hearts that they might come in, hearing such blessings as joy, hope and peace.

This door opens from the inside!


John 1:29-34

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”

32 Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. 33 I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

Morley’s Comments

This is John’s record of Jesus’ double baptism.  First, how he was baptized by John with water and secondly, how he was baptized by His Father with the Holy Spirit and with power.  From there he went forth on His mission of preaching, teaching and healing, enabled by the Holy Spirit of God – to enable us to fulfill our mission, to put into action our ministry of using our spiritual gifts.

We too, need that in filling available and it is available to us.  Indeed, Paul issues a command.  “Be filled with the Holy Spirit” on the day of Pentecost as described by Luke in Acts 2:1-4.  The church should celebrate Pentecost with no less fervor than we do Christmas and Easter.


Paul’s note:

Murray posted this as a final “Moment” over two weeks ago. It seems so fitting to be reading this today…

Revelation 22:1-5

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Morley’s Comments

What a beautiful image, filled with a portrayal of Heaven.  When a minister stands at the grave of a Christian, how wonderful it is that he has a sure word from God, a word of comfort, a word of hope!

Thanks be to God!!!


Read the entire series of Moments With Morley – click here.