Why cessationists are wrong about prophecy

Later today the Strange Fire conference hosted by John MacArthur begins. A few weeks back I expressed my concern about some of the publicity for this event seeming to accuse all charismatics of being blasphemers. This event also prompted Terry Virgo to share a video about how Lloyd-Jones encouraged him as a young charismatic.

I will be watching at least some of the event online. But one thing I am not expecting to hear is a novel or convincing argument from Scripture. I just want to state clearly today that I am a charismatic because I believe the Bible strongly supports the charismatic position. Over the years many have demonstrated that every objection the cessationists raise is simply invalid. As just one example of this, you can check out a relatively new blog I heard of recently.

Of course I do not expect every Christian to agree with my analysis of this issue. Indeed there is a broad spectrum of views on this matter in the church today. I just want us all to disagree as brothers. Like a writer from Charisma News yesterday, I hope and pray that MacArthur and co will moderate their tone later today. I’m also grateful that at least some who are not charismatics have also aired their concerns that charismatics not be tarred with one brush.

It was interesting then when I turned to the Bible today to discover that the next passage I was due to read in 1 Samuel 18-19 totally debunks one argument I hear often from some cessationists: namely that prophecy in the Bible is always inerrant, always authoritative, and should always be added to Scripture. The claim is that we are inconsistent as charismatics if we don’t staple modern prophecies into the back of our Bibles. This passage alone disproves that assertion.

First let me set the scene for an extraordinary event. We see David’s popularity and success increasing, because as we explored yesterday, The Lord was with him.

Meanwhile Saul, in what at first appears to be an attempt at “keeping your enemies closer” is intent on marrying one of his Daughters to David. David’s simple humility is seen in not seeking greatness for himself. But Saul has another agenda: providing a way for the Philistines to kill David. Whether he was aware of these plots or not, David simply obeys the requests of the king without similarly scheming. There is also a tender love story woven in which culminated in David’s wife risking her own life to save him from her father.

But the events in question surround Saul’s comical attempts to capture David. He sends three groups of soldiers and then finally himself. Each time the Spirit of God falls on those sent to capture David and they prophecy. This is far from the only time in the Bible that prophecies are not recorded and inscripturated.

20131016-094815.jpgIn Acts 2 Joel’s promise is repeated that in the last days the Spirit would be poured out on “all flesh” and as a result large numbers would prophesy. These words are not in the Bible, to say nothing of the odd state of affairs where if this passage was only fulfilled in NT times, we would be living in days after the last days!

There is of course much more we could say about prophecy, and indeed I have already written quite a few more posts on prophecy that might be of interest to you.

Please pray with me that there will be no return to the days of the 1960s and 1970s where there was great division and hostility in the church on this issue. As I said earlier, I really don’t expect everyone to agree with my own position. But I do urge us to see this issue in the same way as we do say water baptism. There is nothing wrong with holding strong views on such things, but our differences on ot definitely do not get to limit and define what is a Christian, or for that matter what an Evangelical is. Let’s disagree by all means, but we do so as Children of God, and the World is watching.

About Adrian Warnock

Adrian Warnock has been a blogger since April 2003, and part of the leadership team of Jubilee Church, London for more than ten years, serving alongside Tope Koleoso. Together they have written Hope Reborn - How to Become a Christian and Live for Jesus, published by Christian Focus.

Adrian is also the author of Raised With Christ - How The Resurrection Changes Everything, published by Crossway. Read more about Adrian Warnock or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

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  • Allen Ray Mickle Jr.

    Although, to be fair, cessationists would argue that all arguments made my charismatics are unconvincing, and feel that the weight of Scripture is on their side just as you believe contrary. And not all cessationists hold that prophecy must be inscripturated. Richard Gaffin for one, argues that way. My own professor from seminary, Bruce Compton, also argued this way.

  • http://www.joelarmy.com/ Darren Hibbs

    I pray that this kind of rhetoric from MacArthur actually leads many people to study the scriptures for themselves and find him wrong. I know that all the anti-charismatic teaching I had as a child eventually led me to study it out for myself where I found it clearly didn’t hold water.

    After I was convinced that God still spoke today, the only logical conclusion was to start asking Him to speak to me. He hasn’t disappointed.

  • BrendtWayneWaters

    “Please pray with me that there will be no return to the days of the 1960s and 1970s where there was great division and hostility in the church on this issue.”

    Sadly, I think you’re onto something there. We are all susceptible to nostalgia and white-washing the past, and this habit generally increases with the more laps around the sun that we accumulate. Could it be that MacArthur is longing for that era in time, and ignoring the “great division and hostility” that came with it?

    A less generous soul would suggest that he is fully aware of it, and just considers it the price of admission.

    A *very* less generous soul would suggest that he’s actually reveling in it.

    Which analysis is most accurate is left as an exercise for the reader (though a review of the promo videos might be useful).

  • Adrian Johnson

    When I was a cessationist I had a misconception about prophecy, which is probably why I never really gave it much thought, except I would have said God had finished speaking when He gave us the Bible. Now though, I’m after all that God has to give and am really thrilled when He uses me to encourage someone else.

  • Chris Welch

    As I said. You are dealing with the fruit rather than the tree. You are trying too late to cope with the radiation fallout, rather than intercepting the scientists before they had made the atom bombs.

  • Chris Welch

    Jonah was wrong about his prophecy too

  • Chris Welch

    If I am going to write such polemic comments I should
    expect that they will be deleted. It fully shows that once we are in a
    “train” there is no leaving it, and naysayers are just left at the
    stations and not allowed to board. You begin to see how deliberate our
    courses of action are over time. We can never say…”Oh I made one
    mistake Lord”. So many are sent in to try to get a change of path but it
    is deliberate repeated wilfulness that cause a generation to die in the
    wilderness, not the hard heart of God who keeps bringing correction if
    at last people may hear.The fruit of the rebellious charismatic
    generation totally surrounds them, and in the end it is the bad fruit
    that stifles and kills us off, it doesn’t even need to be an external
    force.

  • Donna Carlaw

    I like MacArthur in many ways, but I do think that his position on the Charismatic movement is quite extreme. It is difficult to understand, too, since at least in the past, MacArthur has had fairly warm relations with some prominent Charismatics. Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel comes to mind. I understand, too, that he had C.J. Mahaney preach at Grace. So, I don’t get it.

    I do think that Pentecostals and Charismatics are often guilty of excesses themselves, and that it is good to point out the errors – and there are many, actually. Just because the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit can be supported Biblically doesn’t mean that all Charismatics and Pentecostals are Biblical Some are indeed false teachers, leading the sheep away from the Gospel. The warning against false teachers and false prophets needs to be made. However, discernment is necessary. The heart is deceitful.

  • Peter

    It never ceases to amaze me how gullible some Christians can be. We are led to believe that prophecies from God can be half wrong or even 90% wrong and believers are to take them seriously and go running after what the so-called ‘prophets’ say! This would be an absolute disaster in their lives and it is! On another note; Charismatics get sick, need glasses, go deaf, need hospital treatment. Where are these miraculous gifts? The folk who are big into these sorts of things, in my experience,(46 years) ignore the real and spectacular works of the Holy Spirit in conversion, perseverance, discipline, duty, Christian common sense – to name just a few. John MacArthur has done the Church a real service, and I hope that many of my brothers and sisters will escape this Charismatic delusion.

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