Yesterday I came across something that caused me to think about my position on Spiritual Gifts. Spiritual Gifts are the abilities that God has given to every Christian in order to instruct or improve the church. There are several lists of these gifts in the Bible and the major ones can be found in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11. Within those lists are what we term as "miraculous gifts." These gifts include: prophecy, healing, miracles, speaking in tongues and interpreting tongues. When it comes to these gifts there are two basic schools of thought. The first position is that of Cessationism which means that these gifts were only around while the Apostles were alive. After the Apostles died the gifts ceased to exist. The second position is that of Continuationsim which means that these gifts continue to exist in the same way that they did in the days of the Apostles.
In my blog post yesterday I shared how 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 has mistakenly been used to support the view of Cessationism. The reason that I brought up the 1 Corinthians 13 passage is that my earliest memories of discussing the validity of the miraculous gifts had centered around this passage. I have personally heard it used as an argument against the present day existence of the miraculous gifts. And–truth be told–I have used it myself. But if the passage is a bad argument for Cessationism does that mean that Continuationism is correct? No; just because a particular supporting argument is proven to be wrong doesn't mean the premise is wrong. For example just consider the "globe argument."
The globe argument starts with the initial premise is that the earth is a sphere. In order to support the premise the globe argument cites the fact that globes–which depict the earth–are spheres. Therefore–the argument goes–because globes are spheres and they depict the earth then the existence of spherical globes prove that the earth must also be a sphere. Of course we can easily see that just because globes are spheres doesn't mean that the earth must be a sphere. Would cubical globes prove that the earth is a cube? The supporting argument is wrong but that doesn't mean that the earth is not a sphere.
One of the key differences between Cessationism and Continuationism is whether or not the miraculous gifts continue exist in the same way that they existed in the day of the Apostles.
Basing theology only on experience or observation can be both tricky and dangerous. Experiences and observations can easily be misleading or misinterpreted. Experiences can also be a very rare or even a singular in occurrence–sort of like the Cubs winning a World Series–and cannot be interpreted as a pattern of any sort. But in the case of the miraculous gifts we must rely on what we observe and experience to be our guide. Do we see these gifts being practiced today in the same way that they were practiced in the early church?
It is my assertion that we do not.
In Acts 2 we read of the Apostles being able to speak in foreign languages that they had not learned through the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 3 we read how Peter and John healed a lame man that was instantaneously able to walk again. In Acts 5 we read how Peter was able to give a true prophecy regarding Ananias and Sapphira. Also in Acts 5 we read how Peter was able to heal multitudes of sick people. In Acts 20 we read how Paul was able to raise Eutychus from the dead (after he had bored him to death with his preaching...but I digress).
We don't see these gifts being practiced in these ways today which means–at least from our experience and observations–that they have ceased to exist in the same way as they did for the Apostles. This doesn't mean that God doesn't still use miracles. What it does mean is that no one can truly claim to have one of these miraculous gifts unless they are practicing these gifts in the same way that we see them existing in the Bible.
I might not be a firm Cessationist but I am very skeptical of Continuationism.