Cessationism defines the belief that the miraculous sign gifts of the New Testament era ended with the apostles. With regard to spiritual gifts in general, Cessationism recognizes two general categories of spiritual gifts, service and sign gifts. This affirms that the service gifts continue through the church age. Cessationism doesn't teach that spiritual gifts ended, but that the brethren able to do signs and wonders, those miraculous gifts are what ceased.
Why does it matter?
The 20th century saw the rise of the Pentecostal & Charismatic movements, both of which affirm to some degree that there are now, once again, apostles & prophets. The dangerous impact of this thinking is ultimately that revelation still takes place, which undermines the authority of scripture. It lends itself to practices that contradict scripture (such as women pastors, elders, and preachers). It also means that God is not finished speaking, so I need my bible and a prophet, or an apostle, or a word of wisdom or knowledge. It leads the individual to desire a mystical element as necessary to live the Christian life, as opposed to what scripture reveals. Ongoing revelation-
makes people subject to the apostles and prophets, and their whims-
makes people subject to expectations of healings, prosperity, and wealth-
makes people subject to feelings about something they believe is a "word" from God-
hinders the sufficiency of scripture, and in practice has brought in widespread practices that contradict scripture. This invariably elevates the new revelation above scripture, when they are contradictory.
leads to false views of sanctification and spirituality
frequently presents a false gospel, that is tied to prosperity and miracles, rather than a finished work on the Cross. Where a false gospel is not prominent, the false teachings hinder the true gospel message, much as Catholicism does with its sacraments and such crowding out the truth.
Should the reader wonder why we went from cessationism to ongoing revelation, and how they relate- these are both in the category of supernatural gifts, signs, and characteristics peculiar to the New Testament era. The whole package goes together, thus the linkage in this argument. Now, back to-
Biblical Cessationism- what the Bible itself teaches:
Since Scripture doesn’t specifically say miracles ended, we must look at the clues in the New Testament that illustrate the point:
Clue 1 - Hebrews 2:3-4 …how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us (apostles) by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and distributions of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
God authenticated the message of the apostles and prophets with signs and wonders- written late 60’s AD- past tense. The Hebrew writer implicitly tells us here, albeit indirectly, that the signs and wonders were a thing of the past, when Hebrews was written.
Clue 2 - Corinthians 12:12 …truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
If prophecy, healing, and knowledge were done by others than the apostles, it would not be something Paul would emphasize here- that would make no sense. He tells the Corinthians that such signs and wonders…were done by the apostles and obviously not others.
Clue 3 - Romans 1:11 ...for I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established.
The Roman church had no apostles, and in chapter 12 the gifts listed mention NO sign gifts, only service gifts.
Clue 4 - 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 …Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
Gifts of prophecy and knowledge are turned off when the perfect comes. Tongues cease/lapse/expire. In the NT the pattern of Tongues were used when apostles were in the company revealing the truth to a new group of unbelievers. (Jews/Gentiles). Tongues ceasing is also in the middle voice, they ceased by themselves.
Clue 5 - Galatians 5:22 ...but the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Nothing in this account of the fruit of the Spirit mentions signs & wonders. Walking in the Spirit, yes, but not miraculous gifts of signs and wonders. Spirituality isn't measured by such things.
Other Clues - Paul wrote to the Corinthians church in 56 AD- the last mention of tongues in the scripture. Paul wrote a treatise to the Romans in 57 AD, then to the Ephesians in 60 AD. Letters were written to Timothy and Titus and 67-68 AD about setting things in order in the churches. Peter wrote his circular letters to the churches. John wrote his epistles soon thereafter. No mention of signs, wonders, miraculous gifts anywhere therein. Then John’s writings were followed by 1800 years of church history with no sign gifts nor true miracles.
The miracles clustered around the Lord Jesus and the apostles. They clustered around Moses and the Exodus. They clustered around Elijah and Elisha.
When dealing with someone in error on this topic, remember the exhortation of Paul in 2 Timothy 2:24-25 …and a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth…