Thursday, May 03, 2007

Twelve Great Reasons for Accepting the Cessation.

Dr. Sam Storms has published a post entitled The Case for Continuationism in two parts. I've used the first part (12 Bad Reasons for Being a Cessationist) as a template for my rather opposite thoughts on the matter. So about the Cessation?

1 It is Scriptural: 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 teaches quite clearly that three things 'prophecy', 'tongues' and 'knowledge' would cease. Clearly these three words are used with restricted meaning (nobody thinks that the cessation of tongues means an end to all use of language, for instance) and each would cease when its 'perfection' was given. The cessation indicates a threefold perfection given to the church now.

2 It is God-honouring: Since belief in the cessation entails acceptance of the perfection of those things that have displaced
'prophecy', 'tongues' and 'knowledge' in the life of the church, God who gave those perfections is honoured by acceptance of the cessation. Furthermore, since the root of belief in the cessation is in exegesis of the text, God is honoured by the removal of the temptation to say that he cannot do such things, is bound to do such and such things or even that he has bound himself not to act in such and such a particular way depending on how else we derive our cessationism / continuationism other than by exegesis.

3 It is logical: For example, when the perfection of the New Testament was complete, the collaboration and correction of the prophets was handed over to the pastors and teachers of New Testament truth and grace. This handover parallels the succession from apostles (the generation who knew Christ 'after the flesh') to the evangelists. Honour ought not be given to the church as having given us Scripture but the prophets within the churches were those who gave us the authentication that Scripture was Scripture
Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. [1 Corinthians 14:29]
so no prophets today means that the church cannot meddle with what is Scripture.

4 It is Christocentric: The destruction of the temple in AD 70 marked the end of the transfer of the focus of gospel witness from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth [Acts 1:8.] At first it must have seemed as though the temple could have been rebuildable but as hopes faded away with the obliteration of all records of the priesthood so 'tongues' as a sign of judgement on Jerusalem faded away also. The completion of the transference to the worship of the Father in spirit and in truth through Christ in every place is sealed with the putting away of 'tongues.'

5 It is accessible: If one accepts the cessation, the apostolic doctrine is no longer subject to getting lost in the meanderings and wilderness-swallowed rivers of the so-called apostolic succession. The eyewitness knowledge of the apostles (not just of the twelve but of 'all the apostles' [1 Corinthians 15:7]) has given way, not to the perfection of 'the eternal state ushered in at the second coming of Jesus Christ' but to the interim perfection of being
… absent from the body, … present with the Lord. [2 Corinthians 5:8]
and of knowing even as having been known.

6 It is certain: Although we no longer have the witness of the apostles, i.e. the ability to '
receive the testimony of men,' still:
… the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. [1 John 5:9-11]
We have also the written Word of God [1 John 5:12f.] and the answer to prayer [1 John 5:14f.] and having these three makes our faith even more certain than the apostolic experience was itself [1 Peter 1:18f.]

7 It is foundational: Jesus Christ as the chief cornerstone holds the eyewitness knowledge of the apostles and the confirmatory and ever-present witness of the prophets together and the cessation sets them all apart as a foundation for us to build on [Ephesians 2:19-22.] We can have no other foundation than Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 3:10f.]

8 It is egalitarian: Just as we all have access to God
For through [Christ] we … have access in one Spirit to the Father. [Ephesians 2:18]
so we can call preachers to bring the gospel to us, pay
double-honour to those who labour in the word and doctrine, dismiss those who do not adhere to the faith once delivered to the saints and never need feel that miracles are in the hands of 'special' people.

9 It is crucicentric: Just as the beginning of the epoch of Christ's first advent was marked by the appearance of an angel to Zechariah in the temple so the end of the epoch was marked by the cessation. The medium does not become the message and acceptance of the cessation helps focus on the cross as the centre of this significant cluster of divine activity among men.

10 It is historical: One cannot put a date on the cessation just as one cannot put exact dates on the completion of the canon, the destruction of the temple or the death of the last apostle but taking samples downstream from the source one finds neither churches functioning like the church at Corinth nor visitors to churches like Corinth with apostolic eyewitness knowledge of the life and resurrection of Christ. There was a cessation.

11 It is liberating: While one is free to listen to
continuationist preachers, read continuationist writers and worship with continuationist congregations and profit one need never feel the pressure to submit to abuse, to suffer in silence or to stay beyond reason just because the abusers, the vocal and the loyalty demanders illegitimately exert these pressures (which were never the intention of prophecy, tongues and knowledge in the first place anyway) doing so on the putative grounds of distinctions within the people of God that have ceased.

12 It is enabling: Acceptance of the Cessation helps to use the means of grace without fear of bringing false fire. One can raise ones hands in praise without feeling like the thin end of a wedge, one can dismiss the most melodious noise (as being not-knowing-the-words rather than as a vital message which agonisingly can't be understood) to concentrate on five words with understanding and one can counter 'The Lord has told me that you have to let me do this' with 'Strange that the Lord hasn't told me the same thing.'