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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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E. The Clear Statements of Scripture Regarding the Charismata Are Inimical to Cessationism

    Warfield also fails to perceive that the explicitly stated commands to fulfill the biblical conditions for the manifestation of the charismata (e.g., repentance, faith and prayer) contradict his unconditional, temporary connection of the charismata with the apostles and the introduction of their doctrine. He also fails to account for the many explicit biblical commands directly to seek, desire and employ the very charismata he claims have ceased. How can Warfield ignore these biblically explicit conditions and commands for the continuation of the charismata, if, as he insists, the Bible continues as the normative guide to the Church for her faith and praxis?

1. Commands to Faith and Prayer for the Appearance of the Charismata

    The New Testament repeatedly exhorts its readers that the appearance of God's charismatic power correlates with human response, specifically, in faith and prayer. This need not imply that these work magically, in some sense "forcing" God to act. But it is clear that anyone, quickened by the Spirit, is commanded, either by precept or example, to respond, for example, in faith and prayer to God's graces. Peter, in his Pentecost sermon urges, "Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." Repentance, aggressive turning from this present world to enter the kingdom of God and its charismatic blessings, is a strong theme in the teaching of Jesus (e.g., Mt 13:44-45; 10:7,8 Lk 9:1,2; cf. 10:9).

    In the synoptic gospels, almost all of the references to faith relate it to the power of God for physical needs, primarily healing. Jesus stresses the need for faith for miracles ("your faith has saved you": Mk 5:34 Mt 9:22 Lk 8:48, cf. 7:50; "made you whole": 17:19; Mk 10:52 Lk 18:42). The context shows similar connections in Mt 8:10 Lk 7:9, cf. Jn 4:46-54; Mk 2:5 Mt 9:2; Lk 5:20; Mt 15:28, cf. Jn. 11:40. Even for control over the elements Jesus commands faith (Mk 4:40 Mt 8:26 Lk 8:25); even to walk on the water (Mt 14:31), to uproot mountains and trees by faith (Mk 11:20-25; Mt 17:20-21; 21:20- 22; Lk 17:6, cf. I Cor 13:2). In fact, he says, "Everything is possible to those who have faith" (Mk 9:23)! Conversely, where there is unbelief Jesus does no miracles (Mk 6:5-6 Mt 13:58).

    This commitment is carried on in the apostolic church. The story of the healing of the lame man teaches explicitly that miracles do not derive from apostolic accreditation, but from the power of faith in the exalted Christ (in this case of the lame man, Acts 3:12, 16; cf. 4:9-12; see the similar teaching in 14:9). Paul commands his readers to "prophesy according to your faith" (Rom. 12:6; cf. 12:3; Eph. 4:7,16), and connects the faith of a local congregation, not accreditation of doctrine, with the working of miracles (Gal. 3:5). Cyril H. Powell, in The Biblical Concept of Power (London: Epworth Press, 1963), 185-85, cites a number of similar examples in Paul and concludes, "Paul has learned that pistis [faith] is the way to God's gifts [of power]." Scripture offers many other examples relating prayer and the appearance of miracles in the ministry of Jesus and the apostles, e.g., in the miracle of exorcism in Mk 9:28; similarly in Acts 4:30 prayer "to stretch out your [God's] hand to heal and perform miracles in the name of your holy servant Jesus"; 4:33, 8:15, 9:40; 28:8. See G.W.H. Lampe, "The Holy Spirit in the Writings of St. Luke," Studies in the Gospels, ed. D.E. Nineham (Oxford: Blackwell, 1952), 169. Paul continually prays for his converts that they might abound in "knowledge and all perception" or "all Spiritual wisdom and understanding" (including charismatic revelation), as well as "in all power" (dunamis--not excluding its most frequent NT meaning, "miracle"--Phil 1:9-10; Col 1:9-12). James makes the crucial point that the appearance of miracles is not a function of accrediting prophets, but of righteous, believing and fervent prayer (5:16-17). James points to Elijah as an example for his readers to follow, not a saint to be accredited with miracles. Why cannot this principle be applied to the New Testament worthies as well?

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