Does the Bible teach definitively that the charismatic gifts have ceased? Can their cessation be proved? This booklet shows that the ceasing of revelatory and sign-gifts in the time of the apostles is clearly derived from the Word of God. Here are the six main reasons why we may be sure that apostles, prophets and their unique authenticating signs fulfilled their purpose in Bible times.
Some say that the cessation of the gifts cannot be conclusively proved from Scripture. We believe, however, that the ceasing of revelatory and sign-gifts in the time of the apostles is very plainly taught in God’s Word, so plainly, in fact, that the opposite view has only seriously appeared in the last 100 years or so.
The term cessationism comes from the great 17th-century confessions of faith, such as the Westminster and Baptist confessions. These both use the same word. Speaking about how God has revealed his will and committed it to the Scriptures, the confessions say, ‘former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased’. This word does not actually come from the Bible, but the doctrine does. Not only has revelation been completed and ceased, but so have the signs that revelation is in progress.
Here is a brief summary of six biblical proofs that the revelatory gifts have ceased (visions, words of knowledge, words of wisdom, and prophecies), and also the sign-gifts have ceased (healings and speaking in tongues). God still heals, of course, but in answer to prayer, and not through the hands of a gifted healer.
Not since the apostles
The first proof for the ending of revelatory and sign-gifts is that healings and wonders could only be done by apostles, and were their special authenticating signs. This is proved in 2 Corinthians 12.12 where Paul says: ‘Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.’
There were some people in the church at Corinth who challenged Paul’s apostleship. To defend himself he draws attention to his gift of healing and of working other miraculous signs, stating that only the apostles could do such things. An apostle was someone who had accompanied the Lord, seen him after his resurrection, and been personally commissioned by him. As a special witness of the resurrection he was given power to heal. He was also a person who would be shown ‘all truth’ by the Holy Spirit (John 14.26 and 16.13), and would either write or endorse inspired Scripture. Believers would need to know who the true apostles were in order to respect their unique authority. They would know them by their healings and other signs. People who did not belong to the band of apostles (which included just two named non-apostles) could not do these things. If they had been able to do them, then no one would have been certain who were true apostles.
In Acts 2.43 and 5.12 it is again made clear that all the miracles were performed ‘by the hands of the apostles’. This was exclusively their sign. Also, in Hebrews 2.3-4 the healing gifts are firmly linked only to the apostles – ‘How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?’
Paul was an apostle by virtue of having seen the risen Lord, and having been directly commissioned by him. His lack of training by Christ was made good by his receiving special and unique revelations. He states that he was ‘one born out of due time’ (1 Corinthians 15.8), indicating that he was the only apostle outside the original band and therefore the last apostle. (Modern claims to apostleship do not match the biblical qualifications and are improper and wrong.)
When people say that the ceasing of sign-gifts cannot be proved from Scripture, they forget that the book of Acts says specifically that healings and other wonders were exclusive to the apostles, who have now passed away. When the churches had grown and multiplied Peter went to Lydda, and then Joppa, famously healing Æneas and raising Dorcas from the dead. Entire communities were astonished, because none of the other believers in such places could do these things. When a lad fell out of a window in Troas, there was only one person present who could raise him up, and that was Paul.
The charismatic idea that healings were performed by numerous Christians is simply not to be found in the New Testament. Only the apostles are recorded as having healed, together with just two of the men ordained by them as deacons, who clearly worked very closely with them, and may be regarded as their special representatives, namely Stephen and Philip. It is possible, but by no means certain, that Barnabas also healed while he worked alongside the apostle Paul. The only time someone outside this group performed a healing was when the Lord told Ananias to heal Paul. There is no other healing apart from these in the early church.
The Pentecostal-charismatic idea that healings took place constantly by Christians at large is not taught in the Bible. Thus the infallible record of Scripture shows the entire charismatic approach to healing to be a mistake based on a myth. The record proves that the healings and mighty deeds were restricted to a class of people who have passed away.