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Jon Ruthven

This paper was written by Jon Ruthven.

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Jon Ruthven is a Professor of Systematic Theology at Regent University School of Divinity, Virginia Beach, Virginia.


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Articles > Charismatic Theology > On the Cessation of Charismata

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    The New Testament expressly ties the presence of the charismata to the exalted Lordship of Jesus. During his earthly ministry, Jesus promises the Spirit to "those who believe in him" only after he was exalted: "Up to that time the Spirit had not yet been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified" (Jn 7:39). Similarly, the Paraclete cannot come until Jesus has gone to the Father (16:7,17). The "greater -works" of those who believe in him can be performed only because Jesus goes to his Father (14:12). Peter continues the same theme in Acts: "Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit, and has poured out what you now see and hear" (2:33). The same Jesus whom God has made "both Lord and Christ" now, on the basis of repentance and baptism, will bestow the gift of the Holy Spirit to all (2:36b,38-39). Against this brief sketch of the place of charismata in biblical theology, which was largely available in the scholarship of his day, Warfield never made a reply.

    Finally, Warfield the exegete, beyond his failure to engage the theological issues above, failed even to acquaint himself with the brief, but significant passages of Scripture which in and of themselves taught the continuation of the charismata. It is because Warfield is first and foremost the biblicist, and because he claims to have structured his whole polemic on "two legs," an investigation into history and scripture, that his omission is so glaring and so disappointing.

D. New Testament Passages Reiterating the Pattern of Continuing Charismata during the Time of Christ's Present Exaltation until the End of the Age

    The following are a series of paraphrases of Scriptures which restate the role of the charismata in the eschatological framework outlined above: the charismata continue during this age to minister toward the (as yet unrealized) goal of complete maturity of the church. Again, expressed biblically, the divine "Spirit" is presented in Scripture as associated primarily and essentially performing charismatic operations. The exegetical support for these interpretive paraphrases have been worked out in the dissertation.

1. I Corinthians 1:4-8 "I always thank God for you because of God's grace (including the whole range of charismata) because in every way you have been enriched in him--in every kind of speech (including prophecy) and in every kind of knowledge (including the gift of revealed knowledge). You are doing this now exactly as (kathos) the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you (that is, charismatically, by the apostles and or evangelists who first demonstrated articulated the gospel to you)--with the result that you do not now lack an,; spiritual gift during the time you are awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. (The Lord) will also (not merely when the gospel first came to you, or even only now, but will) continue to confirm/ strengthen you (in the same way as you are now experiencing the charismata until the time you are 'awaiting' the end) until the end, so that (via the strengthening and purifying charismata which generates growth and progressive maturity) you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."

2. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 "Love never ends: it continues on into the age to come. But wherever the charismatic operations of prophecies, tongues speaking or revealed knowledge occur, they will be ended. Like childhood, they all represent an incomplete, yet necessary stage of God's eternal plan.

But when will these three (representative) gifts, i.e., the charismata generally, cease? The eschatological principle is this: when the complete (end) arrives, at that precise point, the incomplete will be ended. Specifically, when Christ returns at the end of this present age, then, and not a moment before, the charismata--gifts of prophecy, tongues and revealed knowledge here offered as examples--which are incomplete compared to the ultimate heavenly realities they only now indicate, will all come to an end, having served their temporary purpose.

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