The Heresy of Cessationism


One of the most devastating doctrines being taught by some in the church is the idea that the gifts of the Spirit have ceased. We call this teaching a heresy because it departs from scripture and so divides the body of Christ and weakens it for ministry. The gifts are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 and consist of  a word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, distinguishing of spirits, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Paul tells us that the purpose of the gifts is "the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good." (12:7). In other words, the Holy Spirit, who was given to "guide you into all the truth "(John 16:13), manifests Himself in the lives of believers for "the common good." He is here to build up and strengthen the body of Christ, God's spiritual family on earth.

This is why the apostle says that prophecy, the ability to speak what God puts in our spirits, is for "edification and exhortation and consolation" and the building up [edification] of the church"  (1 Cor 14:3, 4). Prophecy is one of the gifts that the Holy Spirit provides to strengthen and build up the church. Prophecy is not just foretelling events but speaking what God has put in our hearts.  It is a way of allowing Christ to speak to us corporately as we gather. As we do so we build up one another with the Spirit's help. Each believer is active in equipping the others for their ministry to one another.

It is true that many Christians have abused some of these gifts thus causing some believers to reject or avoid them, but these gifts are still available to the church. You will not find in scripture any hint that they have been rescinded by God. They are for the church age. When this age is over we will no longer need these  gifts (1 Cor. 13: 9-12).  Without these manifestations of the Spirit in our lives, Christianity becomes a mere intellectual experience where theologians teach and we receive what they say. In scriptural church life, any person is welcome to share what is on their hearts and the others can process what is spoken in the light of the word and the leading of the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19-21; 1 Cor 14:26-32).