Response to "the polite cessationist"

First, thank you for your sincere response! I am going to respond back to you point by point. I appreciate also the comments of RB.

  1. How do you know this voice was from God? Is there not a philosophical-statistical possibility that this is from Satan or a demon that is trying to get this man’s thoughts away from Christ and his promises in the Word by glorying not in the person and work of Jesus Christ but rather in a subjective supernatural experience ? Surely you must logically see that there is somewhat of a chance philosophically speaking.
    • If we look at cold statistics, people do on occasion think God speaks to them. However, Mary had been dying for several months so for the voice to be accurate to within 2 minutes would be highly unlikely to be a co-incidence but not totally impossible.
    • Richard is not a charismatic and attends a cessationist church, so this makes him imagining it even more unlikely.
    • However, Jesus tells us to judge prophecy by the fruit. (Matt 7:15f) The fruit was that Richard:
      • has great joy and peace (fruits of the Spirit) as a result
      • has continued to give glory to God over the events
    • I am concerned that you place the Word in opposition to subjective experience as if we can have one or the other.
      • Jesus promised the Spirit as a comforter.
      • If our relationship with God has no subjective component, it is mere knowledge and we do not know Christ.
  2. Were there other person’s in the room who heard it?
    • It was not audible. Richard said “God spoke it to my heart”
    Thus to be PRECISE every time the Bible talks about the voice of the Lord is it not actually the voice of the Lord rather an Angel who is sent on God’s behalf to speak for Him.
    • What about when Jesus appeared to Ananias (Acts 9:10f) and Paul (Acts 18:8f)?
  3. If this was a true revelation from God then of what use is it to the church. How does it benefit the global church?
    • The prophetic words given in Acts 15:32 were for the purpose of “encouraging and strengthening” some individual brothers. If their words were relevant to the global church then God would have caused them to have been recorded in the Scriptures. Genuine New Testament prophecy sometimes had only a local purpose.
    • How does this make one more holy?
      • This is an excellent question and is the right one to ask. Richard has not stopped praising God for what he has done and giving him glory. He has also received peace through the events. These sound like fruits of the Spirit to me.
    • It sounds alike an attempt of Satan to create spiritual pride
      • I am sure that there is a great danger of gifts producing spiritual pride, but let us not forget that it is the spiritual gift of knowledge that Paul singles out in 1 Cor 11 as sometimes leading to being “puffed up” Yet of course that would not lead us to deny the value of spiritual knowledge!
      • the same logic would lead us to say that the gifting of a Bible scholar is a result of Satan’s work because it could lead to pride
  4. Blogging about a miracles or new revelation seems so anti-Pauline.
    • Luke (Paul’s associates) recorded large numbers of miracles in Acts. Given that this was with Paul’s approval, one could say that “writing to a large audience about miracles” is actually very Pauline!
    • I think it depends on the goal. If it brings glory to God then it is good.
    • When Peter had his vision concerning impure foods he doesn’t rush out and tell everyone rather he calls an apostolic council.
    • And then Luke repeats the whole episode in detail twice. It is interesting that the entire account of the vision should be repeated in Acts.
  5. Know one knows what a “word of knowledge” is when its used in the New Testament. It was given its current understanding due to charismatics and Pentecostals.
    • Agreed. It is a much mis-used term. After studying Paul’s use of gnosis, I take it to mean a gift of understanding spiritual truths
  6. The New testament puts the emphasis on the fruit of the spirit more so than the gifts of the spirit.
    • Absolutely, we are in 100% agreement on that.
    • the emphasis of the New Testament is not to expect or wait around for a miracle
      • note that Richard was not expecting a miracle, but God sovereignly intervened to give him one. We must allow God freedom to do that.
      • (Nevertheless I believe that you cannot separate the Kingdom of God from healing.)
  7. As noted by another post bragging about the supernatural creates a sense of division in the body of Christ. Those who are “spirit-filled” and just “regular-Christians”. As a young Christian I cried nights because I never received the baptism of the Holy Spirit as defined by friends. I felt so guilty. I felt ashamed.
    • It is very sad that you were treated like that. I would agree that the New Testament never divides Christians into two tiers. It is very destructive to identify a particular gift, such as speaking in tongues, as a divider. Such attitudes have caused much damage to people.
    • Nevertheless we are all urged to be continually filled with the Spirit. Genuine gifts of the Spirit (e.g. at Corinth) can nonetheless be misused as the basis for division, yet does not mean that the gifts were not genuine.
    And two years into my conversion praying every night I had a seizure and you know what happened... the church let me stay on the floor unconscious because they thought it was something the Holy Spirit was doing. Is that really what the Holy Spirit would demand? Is that what love demands?
    • It sounds like you have some had some bad experiences, and that is very sad.
  8. Even the cessationist patron saint B.B. Warfield would say that these events are NOT impossible rather they are improbable and we are not to focus on them... The Apostles and those Christians before the canon of scripture had special gifts for their time because they were not as blessed as to have the Completed put together Canon.
    • I am aware of that argument, However the problem is that it is not taught in the N.T.
    • The problem is that in the book of Acts the supernatural is completely intertwined with the preaching of the Gospel, from Peter and the crippled man through to Paul at Malta, and there is no indication that this would cease.
  9. God already said that to him in the Bible. If you read your Bible and put together a rather basic systematic theology knowing that her death was near and that when she died it was God’s time... that’s theology 101. There was no real new revelation.
    • One of the roles of the Spirit is a comforter. Richard was very comforted. God does not have to give totally new revelation every time he speaks. When the Father said to Jesus “this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”, Jesus already knew this, yet it was still an encouragement.
    • People here voices all the time who are not Christians.
      • And they did in N.T. times, but that did not invalidate God speaking then.
  10. How would you respond to the same guy if he told you God said that to him that AND that the Lord Jesus Christ would come back tomorrow? Would you give it credibility? I hope not.
    • I am sure you know my answer here! We are told to judge prophecy. I would declare it false if it contradicts the Scripture, which is the only totally authoritative revelation that we have. (But not the only revelation.)
  11. And all of Christianity until the radical reformation held to a form of cessationism.

I hope my response has been as polite as your comments. I would be interested in your thoughts.

Excellent response

Very well-put.

Grace-filled response

Andrew, I really appreciate the tone of your response. It really demonstrates grace and your desire to have a serious dialog regarding this issue. It serves as a good example to me and others to be sure.

Regarding the potential for spiritual pride

Jesus warned us about giving to the poor, praying, & fasting in a public way because we have such a tendency toward hypocrisy and, no doubt, spiritual pride (Matt 6:1ff). So, yes, Richard may have been susceptible to these things, but it would seem not to be the case based on the evidenced fruit. The fact is, it is entirely appropriate at times to make public our spiritual experiences and activities for the sake of encouraging or instructing another Christian and glorifying God.

An example that comes to mind (and we could think of countless others) is something Don Carson wrote about in his book A Call to Spiritual Reformation (which I've been reading through recently). He wrote about his practice of keeping a prayer journal. Now, in doing that, we might conclude that Carson's true motive is for us to think of him as super-spiritual or as a phenomenal prayer warrior, but that would be presumptuous and unfair, to say the least. The fact is, he told us to instruct us and encourage us his readers.

The same is no doubt true for Richard (again, as evidenced by his fruit). Richard wanted to encourage his hearers and testify that God is faithful. As Andrew pointed out, one of the Spirit's ministries to us today is as a comforter, and He was faithful in comforting Richard. For this, may our brother continue to give Him praise.