Being strongly devoted to the Reformation idea of Sola Scriptura, I view Scripture as the absolute and ultimate authority on doctrinal issues, and thus, the most important aspect to the discussion at hand. I want to know what the Bible says the gifts of the Spirit are and what their purpose is, as well as when the Bible says they will or have ceased. And in looking at the what and the when of the charismatic spiritual gifts, the Church begins to divide. Sadly, this is not a debate between Christians and non-Christians, but one between Christian and Christian. And that grieves God’s heart. As such, we need to seek to place love and charity into this debate, but also remember that we place God’s Word and Truth at the heart of the debate. (So if you’ve just landed here, please read my previous posts that point us to Scripture first.)
As I’ve researched the spectrum, a great abuse of God’s Word is that many charismatics use spiritual gifts as a necessity to salvation. In the Continuationist camp, there are the groups which almost all consider heretical to some degree including Word of Faith people, such as Benny Hinn and the Oneness Pentecostals, that teach that speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation. Please recognize that whatever side you fall on, the issue is not necessary to salvation.
The two sides: Continuation and Cessation. First up, the case for Continuation.
It’s in there.
In the apostolic age, signs and wonders attended the witness of the early church. Healings, prophecies, speaking in tongues, exorcisms, and other “unusual” phenomena are mentioned in Acts. (“Unusual” even by the standards of the experience of New Testament Christians.)
What are we to make of the extraordinary examples in the Church’s history? The Bishop of Neo-Caesarea, Gregory Thaumaturgus, not only practiced exorcism and healing but caused stones to levitate at his command. Aren’t we to regard these as perfectly credible? Or are these to be treated skeptically, since the events were recorded a century after Gregory’s death? Is such reserve a sign that we have betrayed supernaturalism to the rationalism of the Enlightenment?
Four basic considerations:
1. The ‘brute fact’ of contemporary experience. There are an estimated 350 million people who identity themselves within this pentecostalist/charismatic group.
2. The New Testament does not state that any of the gifts of the Spirit would cease or be withdrawn; therefore, they continue and charismatic gifts should be pursued and practiced by believers.
3. In Acts 4, Peter and “the whole company” are filled again with the Holy Spirit; therefore, a second baptism of the Holy Spirit is supported.
4. The Bible insists that believers should “strive for spiritual gifts,” not “quench the Spirit,” not “despise the words of prophets,” “be eager to prophesy”, and not “forbid speaking in tongues.” (1 Thes. 5, 1 Cor. 14)