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.
Please recognize that whatever side you fall on, the issue is not necessary to salvation.
The two sides: Continuation and Cessation. Now, the case for Cessation.
It’s in there.
The New Testament makes it clear that the charismatic gifts of the early church were intended to help build the church. (Eph. 2:13-22) With Jesus as “the cornerstone,” the first generation of Christians was given apostles (“sent one” who was an eyewitness of Jesus) and prophets, who were called to build the church. Upon this foundation, Christians today are to build on the already-laid foundation; hence, there is no further need for apostles, prophets, or charismatic gifts that attested to their authority.
The temporary – and strictly apostolic – role of the charismatic gifts is affirmed in Hebrews 2:2-4; 2 Corinthians 12:12; Acts 14:3; Acts 2:2, 43; Acts 4:28-32; Acts 5:12; Acts 7:34-38. Evidence of the temporary nature of the gifts is found in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul tells the Corinthians that prophecies, tongues, and knowledge will come to an end. At the time of Paul’s letter, the foundation of the church was still being laid and the complete revelation of what we now have as the New Testament was still in process. So while they still needed the charismatic gifts, Paul reminded them that there would soon be a time when “the partial will come to an end.”
“It is an indisputable historical fact that the exercise of charismatic gifts significantly decreased shortly after the first century and eventually ceased altogether in the early church.” (Gregory Boyd) The reason? They were purporting to give new revelations and end-times prophecies. In the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries, what is prevalent are not genuine charismatic gifts but counterfeits. A group called Montanists tried to hang on to the gifts but was clearly heretical in its theology.
Few movements have divided churches in modern times as has the charismatic movement. (Boyd, Piper, Fee, Stott, Cole, Dunn, Ferguson)
Four basic considerations:
- The signs and wonders in the New Testament were not intended for all time. They were used to spread the gospel; they are wed to evangelism in Scripture. They were used by those who declared the message first, those who were to become the one foundation of the church. They no more apply to post-New Testament believers than do picking leaders by drawing straws (Acts 1:23-26) or healing people by sending out prayer clothes (Acts 19:11-12).
- If Continuationism is correct, then God is still speaking directly to his church through various people who have revelational gifts such as prophecy or words of knowledge. If that is true, we should adhere to their word as though it is the Word of God because their words have the same authority as the New Testament. This warrants another dangerous, yet fascinating, doctrinal question – Do you believe the canon is closed or not? (Revelation 22:18-19)
- If we commit ourselves to the Bible as the sole, divinely inspired Word of God, we shall never be laid astray.
- Emphasis on charismatic gifts of the Spirit rather than the fruit of the Spirit makes it easy to rely on subjective experiences, instead of engaging in discipleship that leads to the cultivation of the fruit of the Spirit.