Continuationism is a Christian theological belief that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have continued to this present age, specifically the sign gifts such as tongues and prophecy. Continuationism is the opposite of Cessationism.



The belief that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit are still distributed today, are still in use, and are still needed in the church is known as continuationism. The same Holy Spirit that inhabited the Apostle Paul and gifted him with supernatural abilities was present during Old Testament times and also endowed such abilities upon those God specifically chose to accomplish His works in New Testament times. Continuists believe this same Spirit still moves and works in the contemporary church.

The Gifts of the Spirit

Though Christians may possess skills in hermeneutics, they are taught and learned from a particular viewpoint or denominational doctrine. Drawing from Paul's writings in the Scriptures and those of contemporary Bible scholars, here is a list of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit taken from M. J. Erickson's Christian Theology (Erickson):

Romans 12:6-8 Prophecy Service Teaching Exhortation Liberality Giving Aid Acts of Mercy

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 Wisdom Knowledge Faith Healing Working of Miracles Prophecy Ability to Distinguish Spirits Various Tongues Interpretation of Tongues

Ephesians 4:11 Apostles Prophets Evangelists Pastors and Teachers

1 Peter 4:11 Speaking Service

There are a total of eighteen gifts listed, but according to some scholars there are actually a total of twenty. In his book, The Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts, W. McRae says: "In 1 Cor. 7:7 Paul seems to suggest that celibacy is a gift from God and in the context of 1 Peter 4:11, verse 9 seems to indicate that hospitality is also a gift." (McRae). Paul tells us in 1 Cor. 12:7, 11 that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good of the church and distributed as the Spirit determines. Clearly, Christians cannot choose their gifts or decide which gifts would be bestowed upon anyone else. Christians are to use these special abilities to strengthen and build up the church so as to glorify God. Theologian M.J. Erickson states; "They are for the edification of the whole body, not merely for the enjoyment or enrichment of the individual members possessing them." (Erickson) In Scripture, Paul gave some specific instructions for one particular gift. The gift of tongues, or glossolalia, is one of the miraculous gifts and probably the most controversial in today's church. Of all the gifts listed in the New Testament, Paul saw fit to give more detailed directions regarding the gift of tongues. He instructed the Corinthian church; "If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and God" (1 Cor. 14:27-28).

The Opposing Views

There are two main views regarding each of the gifts of the Holy Spirit: cessationism and continuationism. Paul may suggest that the gifts he mentions in 1 Cor. 13:8-12 including tongues, prophecy and knowledge; were temporary. In his book, Are Miraculous Gifts for Today; W. Grudem explains that the cessation view is "based upon the idea that the first-century church and only the first-century church experienced the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit for the purpose of confirming the message of the Gospel in absence of the completed New Testament". (Grudem) According to this view, when the New Testament was completed, the supernatural; or miraculous gifts, had no more use in the church; so they ceased. The other gifts, such as: administration, teaching, acts of service, and exhortation are among the gifts that are still distributed. Continuists hold that this view poses a couple of issues right away. The Bible does not teach that it alone strengthens the church without the active presence of the supernatural or miraculous gifts. Jesus said that the church would need the Spirit to remind us of his words (Jn. 14:26) and when the Spirit was given, he brought these gifts (Ax. 2:4, 19:6). Both sides agree, however, that the purpose of the gifts is to strengthen the church (1Cor.14:26), and that the Bible trains and equips the church (2Tim.3:16-17).

Does the New Testament Replace the Gifts of the Spirit?

Paul laid hands on Timothy to impart a gift of the Spirit and encouraged him to use the gift God gave him (2 Tim. 1:6). Paul was in essence, Timothy's teacher and like a father to him (1Cor 4:17; Ph 2:22; 1Tim 1:2, 18; 2 Tim 1:2). He took him from his home to train him up and commission him to be a leader of the church. Paul taught Timothy the same teachings contained in the letters he wrote to the other churches (1Cor 4:17). Timothy, already knowing most of what the New Testament would contain, still had a supernatural gift imparted to him. The New Testament did not take the place of the supernatural manifestation of the Holy Spirit and he still experienced its gifting. Timothy was already a Christian believer (2Tim.1:5) and did not need proof that the message was from God but needed a powerful gift in order to accomplish what the Lord wanted him to do. One cannot assume Timothy would have been able to carry out his commission without it. For the same reasons, miraculous gifts can occur in the absence of the New Testament in any particular language. Paul told Timothy that he needed to activate this extra strength and supernatural ability (2Tim. 1:6-8).

Different Interpretations of Scripture and the Completion of the New Testament Canon

There are opposing interpretations when reading the Scriptures on the subject of spiritual gifts. Christians holding either view on this subject can read the same Scripture and draw completely different ideas from it. There are varied interpretations of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 where Paul writes "But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears". One of the problems with interpreting this passage as suggesting cessationism is the implication that the gifts listed here are imperfect. This would in turn imply the works of the Spirit as being imperfect. The word "perfection" here has been taken to mean the completion of the New Testament, according to the cessation view. The word for "perfect" used in this passage is the Greek word teleio; which means "complete" or "mature". "Paul uses the term in the specific context of charismatic conduct, and we must therefore look for its meaning in light of that special discussion." (McRay) It is also used within the context of the other verses stating that which was incomplete, or immature; will be complete, or mature. This word for "perfect" has been used elsewhere in Scripture referring to a person's spiritual completeness or maturity (Mt.19:21; 1Cor.2:6; 1Cor.14:20; Heb.5:14).

John MacArthur, in his Commentary on 1 Corinthians, recognizes that the "perfect" cannot be the Canon of Scripture: "... that idea would have been meaningless to the Corinthians. Nowhere in this letter does he mention or allude to such a scriptural completion. The Corinthian believers would have taken Paul's meaning in the plainest and simplest way: as a reference to spiritual and moral perfection…By process of elimination, the only possibility for the perfect is the eternal heavenly state of believers." (MacArthur) It is possible that Scripture is understood but also being taken out of context. In Paul: His Life and Teachings, J. McRay points out; "If Bible readers do not simply look for other usages of the term in Pauline material but, more important, for usages in context similar to the one in this chapter; they can be confident in assigning the word the meaning that best suits the author's intentions." (McRay) Continuists say that Paul does not use this passage to refer to the completeness of the New Testament. "While they do not deny that some prophecies and glossolalic utterances may have become part of the New Testament canon, the New Testament does not restrict utterance gifts (or any of the gifts) to canonical function." (Grudem). The purpose of the gifts is to edify and strengthen the church. The gifts were used to testify to God's message (Heb. 2:4), but not take the place of the New Testament. The gift of glossolalia is for speaking to God (1 Cor. 14:2). "There is no indication anywhere that this edifying function of the utterance gifts was intended to cease when the New Testament canon was complete, for utterance gifts (or any of the gifts) do not equal canon." (Grudem) Therefore, continuists find no evidence that the Holy Spirit would ever cease to bestow these gifts on the church.

Continuists also believe that the Scriptures alone do not enable Christians to reach perfection and that such a state would be when they are in their glorified bodies in heaven. The completed canon does not give to them perfect or complete knowledge since only God can possess that.

Were the Gifts Temporary?

Referring to I Corinthians 13, some cessationists as well as continuists say that "when perfection comes" (v.10) refers to the second coming of Christ. But the word teleio (Greek for "perfect") was never used as a name for Jesus. The continuists' explanation of this passage would be that Paul was analogically referring to the spiritual gifts ceasing (in comparison to immaturity ceasing) when Christians are spiritually mature, having reached perfection. He is not saying the gifts will cease before the perfect comes, but when Christians reach that perfect state. Paul does not say in any of his writings that certain gifts are temporary. Though they will cease when Christians are made perfect (no longer needing the gifts) love will never cease. Paul actually commands the church to desire the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 14:1) as they continue to have them until Jesus returns (1Cor.1:7-8). If these gifts were temporary, he would have instructed the church to know when or how certain gifts would die out, but instead he emphasizes their importance.

Some cessationists would go as far as saying that utilizing such gifts today is actually "demonic activity" (Cottrell). Paul would have warned Christians of the cessation so as not to allow satan to work among them in this way, for he often warned the church regarding satanic activity. To say that demons still speak is accepting a current supernatural activity of demons. The Bible does not indicate that the Holy Spirit would cease to manifest Himself in supernatural occurrences while the demons carry on doing so. The Holy Spirit has not changed, nor have the activities of evil spirits. However, human access or supply of the Spirit of God has indeed changed since He came (Jn. 16:7). These miraculous gifts of the Spirit did not come until after Pentecost. It is not stated by Paul or anyone else in the Scriptures that the Spirit was going to cease his distribution any time after that. A Christian cannot believe in the physical manifestations and supernatural occurrences of evil spirits and deny those of the Holy Spirit.

Reasons for Continuation

"Only supernatural gifts would suffice for warfare against a supernatural foe"; says J. Oswald Sanders in his book, The Holy Spirit and His Gifts (Sanders). According to the continuation view, one cannot say that God does not presently use signs and wonders. A significant amount of Paul's teachings is about the use of supernatural gifts. There would not be such specific instruction in the New Testament about something that would not have anything to do with today's church. In the Old Testament, there are hundreds of laws and instructions. The animal sacrifices that were offered by the priests had to be without blemish and done in specific ways. Animal sacrifices are not offered today, but the instructions are still present in Scripture. This is for today's Christians to know how important sacrifice was and how the laws themselves stood for the holy standard of God. The Law was given before Jesus had come and he clearly stated that he had come to fulfill it (Mt. 5:17). The gift of the Spirit had not yet been given until after Jesus returned to heaven (Jn. 16:7). Paul's instructions regarding the utterance gifts was for the church to desire them (1Cor. 12:31; 14:1, 39). This and the 1Cor. 13:10 passage mean that Jesus' return and the church's glorification (perfection) will fulfill the gifts of the Spirit (needed due to imperfection), just as Jesus' first coming (his sacrifice being perfect) fulfilled the Law (the imperfect). Continuists believe that Paul wrote lasting instructions about the use of gifts in the church for worship, teaching, and fellowship until the day the Lord comes (1Cor.1:7-8).

The Doctrine of Continuationism

God used the gifts of the Spirit to testify to His message (Heb 2:3-4). His message has not changed. Although Christians have the complete Bible now, the concept of using all of the gifts to testify to the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains sound. The words Paul used referring to the supernatural gifts of the Spirit were charismata and pneumatika, translated as "spiritual gifts" and conceived to be "detached entities or abilities distinct from Christ and distributed by the Spirit" (Fowler). For Paul, all Christians are charismatic; endowed with special gifts to build up others. "Paul regarded all the communities of believers in Christ as charismatic communities, and did not give the slightest indication that he knew of charismatic and non-charismatic churches"; according to C. Keener in his book, Three Crucial Questions about the Holy Spirit (Keener). Theologian Dr. John Piper in his message titled Signs and Wonders Then and Now says: "On the one hand, we ought to honor the uniqueness of Jesus and the apostles. On the other hand we ought to be open to the real possibility that this too might be a unique moment in history, and in this moment it may well be God's purpose to pour out his Spirit in unprecedented revival—revival of love to Christ and zeal for worship and compassion for lost people and a missionary thrust with signs and wonders." (Piper)

The Holy Spirit does not weaken or redefine Himself over time. God has demonstrated the opposite by increasing its presence. The way people have been allowed to experience and access it has increased since the Old Testament times. It is people that can cause the decrease (1Thes. 5:19). The essence of the God of the Bible has always been portrayed as a multi-faceted entity causing growth and progression. He is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He sends angels and His Word, the Bible. They all work together and in different ways. Through them God moves, speaks, prays, feels and thinks. "The Spirit of the living Lord Jesus is desirous of expressing Himself in diverse functional ministry within His Body, the Church, expressing therein His character of love and drawing His people together in cooperative unity." (Fowler). He also created human beings to be multi-expressive in all things, especially think with free will. But in order for Christians to accomplish what He wants them to do, they need power. Christians need the kind of power and supernatural abilities that only the Spirit gives. Paul laid hands on people, imparting the gifts of the Spirit; though cessationists believe that the "laying on of hands no longer imparts gifts since the gifts ceased with the apostles" (Cottrell). Paul laid hands on Timothy and imparted a gift that would not disappear after Paul died. Timothy was already a believer (2Tim.1:5) and did not need proof that the message was from God but needed a powerful gift in order to accomplish what the Lord wanted him to do.

Continuationism asserts that the Spirit still gives gifts so that the church may be strengthened and accomplish what God wants it to do today. Salvation, however, is not contingent upon the issue of the continuation or the cessation of the miraculous gifts. But this issue divides the church today as interpretations of the Scriptures will continue to differ.

But even if signs and wonders can't save the soul, they can, if God pleases, shatter the shell of disinterest; they can shatter the shell of cynicism; they can shatter the shell of false religion. Like every other good witness to the word of grace, they can help the fallen heart to fix its gaze on the gospel where the soul-saving, self-authenticating glory of the Lord shines. (Piper)

Arguments for

Prophecies and Tongues will cease when Jesus returns

"Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known." (1 Corinthians 13:8-12 ESV)

Paul tells us that the gift of speaking in tongues will cease when "the perfect comes", when he "shall know fully" even as he has "been fully known". Cessationists interpret that time as the time when all of the scriptures is written, but Paul's readers could not have understood Paul that way; they have no concept of a N.T. canon (to be recognized half a millennium later). They could not have understood Paul to mean that at the completion of scripture, all prophecies and tongues and knowledge will pass away. In fact, Paul expects that all the gifts are operational when Jesus comes back, he says so in the same epistle...

"I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor.1:4-8 ESV)

...therefore he could not have meant that passage that way since he cannot instruct something he does not believe (or know about).

Furthermore Paul is using himself as an example when he says that "he" shall know just as "he" has been fully known, and that hardly seems to be a fitting description of the time when he would be dead. His readers would very more likely interpret that time to be when Jesus returns, just as cessationists would have no problem interpreting 1 John 3:2...

"Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." (ESV) refer to the time when we meet Jesus face to face at his return.

Some cessationists who agree with the logic above, on the other hand interpret the different description for tongues "will cease" as oppose to prophecy and knowledge "will pass away", to mean that the gift of tongues will cease earlier than prophecy and knowledge. That is, prophecy and knowledge would pass away when Jesus returns, but the gift of tongues would cease earlier. But that is irrelevant, because what is important is the context and the context of the entire chapter shows that Paul is referring to one event in the future not two...

"...When I was a child, I spoke [gift of tongues] like a child, I thought [knowledge/prophecy] like a child, I reasoned [knowledge/prophecy] like a child. When I became a man [one event], I gave up childish ways [tongues, knowledge, prophecy]" (v.11)

And besides, Paul already says in the same book that he expects all the gift to be present at Jesus' return (see 1 Cor.1:4-8 above), so he can't mean that tongues will cease earlier than Jesus' return.

If knowledge, prophecy, tongues will pass away/ cease when Jesus returns, then it follows that they are still available today.

Jesus promises power to complete the Great Commission

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you , and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8)

The "you" in the verse could not have referred to the early church alone, as the early church did not become Jesus' witnesses to the end of the earth (all peoples).

"when the Holy Spirit has come upon you" does not refer to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in all believers (Ephesians 1:13) as disciples Jesus was talking to were already genuine believers (John 15:15-16, John 13:8-11) and already had the Holy Spirit (John 20:22, John 3:3).

In other words, they were not waiting for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (which they had), they were not even waiting for the power of the Holy Spirit on certain individuals (which was already at worked in the O.T. Prophets and the Apostles). But they were waiting for thus outpouring of the Holy Spirit in power over the whole Church. And this is exactly what happened at Pentecost.

"And they were all (not just the apostles) filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4 ESV, comments added)

Therefore "you will receive power" in Acts 1:8 is a promise by Jesus available and needed by the Church today to complete the great commission.

"And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13 ESV)
(Note that those who ask are children, in fact only children can ask.)
"Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:7-8 ESV)
(Note again that the coming of the Helper is different from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which they already have. And if the purpose of the Helper is only to inspire the N.T. to a few N.T. writers, how could that possibly be an advantage over having Jesus, the LIVING WORD present ?)
"Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith" (Gal.3:5 ESV)
(Note that you is referring to the Galatian church not specific apostles.)

Outpouring of Spiritual Gifts is characteristic of the New Covenant age

"But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
"And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.'"
(Acts 2:14-21 ESV)

Peter says what happened at Pentecost was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Joel 2:28-32a. Peter interprets "in the last days" to be their current time, and since we are in the "last days" this is still being fulfilled today, and it will continue to be fulfilled until Jesus returns ("before the day of the Lord comes").

Cessationists would argue though that verse 19-20a...

"... And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood...."

...was not fulfilled at Pentecost, and therefore it was only a taste of the fulfillment and not permanent, and it will be completely fulfilled in the millennium/future. This interpretation though has problems in reconciling a cessationist interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12where they say spiritual gifts have ceased because they are no longer needed, now they say spiritual gifts would be available in the future. In contrast a continuationist interpretation has more consistency:

  1. Promise of the [outpouring of the] Holy Spirit fulfilled at Pentecost (Acts 2:15).
  2. Is available to the church as they witness to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).
  3. Jesus' return is associated with the completion of the great commission (Matthew 24:14).
  4. Spiritual gifts will cease at Jesus return (1 Corinthians 13:8-12) because of perfect resurrection bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-53) and intimate fellowship with Jesus(1 John 3:2).

Cessationist view goes against direct biblical teaching

"So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order." (1 Cor.14:39 ESV)
"Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thess. 5:19-22 ESV)
"For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith;" (Rom.12:4-6 ESV)
"Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." (1 Cor.14:1 ESV)
"And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts." (1 Cor.12:28-31 ESV)
"for the gifts [charismata] and the calling of God are irrevocable" (Rom 11:29 KJV).[1]

Cessationists argue that these passages applied only to the early Church and not to the Church today (especially on the basis of Eph.2:20). This view, however, violates the evangelical view of the inspiration of the bible and the accepted view of the canon of scripture which says that the various biblical authors were superintended by God in such a way so that what they wrote to their immediate readers were also God's very own words for us today.

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim.3:16-17 ESV)

While proper interpretation is always an issue, it is an argument in itself why God would include those verses above in His Word to us today if He knew that none of them actually speaks to us today, certainly not in a way that is "profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness". In fact they would outright confuse us today if those spiritual gifts have already ceased, especially "do not forbid speaking in tongues" and "do not despise prophecies".

Some cessationists would argue that the gifts referred above are mis-understood by continuationists. For example, "prophecy" would be said to describe something other than a revelation from God; specifically, "prophecy" is applying/preaching God's words to a situation (or preaching with conviction), and that is to be done using the Bible.

Continuationists would argue though that N.T. understanding of prophecy is not preaching or applying from scriptures but a revelation from God (but is not necessarily scripture as not all prophecies by all genuine prophets was included in scripture). For example...

"Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, 'Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?'" (Matt.26:67-68)
"Jesus said to her, 'Go, call your husband, and come here.' The woman answered him, 'I have no husband.' Jesus said to her, 'You are right in saying, "I have no husband"; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.' The woman said to him, 'Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.'" (John 4:16-19)

In both cases, there was no preaching (or expected preaching), they understood prophecy as a supernatural revelation not preaching from scripture.

In the same way, Cessationists also argue that "speaking in tongues" refers to human languages only...

"And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs--we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God." (Acts 2:4-11 NASB)

(which they do not forbid) and does not include what cessationist call ecstatic speaking (which they do forbid). However, Luke here is not making a theological statement about which tongues are valid but simply narrating the people groups who heard them. Had some Christians spoken in angelic languages, it is not expected that Luke should include "angels" among the people groups who heard. Continuatinists argue that Cessationist are making this passage teach something it is not intending to teach (prooftexting); Luke was not teaching his reader to reject tongues of angels... he was certainly not teaching that persons who speak angelic languages are to be excommunicated, accused of committing apostasy, being possessed by demons or anything like that.

Continuationist argue that Paul does speak of angelic languages as part of the gift of tongues...

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love... " (1 Cor.13:1a ESV)

And N.T. methods for testing the genuineness of spiritual experiences can confirm that a person who speaks in tongues today really does have that gift from the Holy Spirit...

"Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor.12:3 ESV)

And it should also be noted that those who spoke in tongues in Acts 2 were not articulating/preaching the gospel to those who heard (as cessationists argue as the purpose of the gift of tongues), but the Pentecost Christians were speaking mighty works of God in tongues, Peter still needed to preach the gospel. This is consistent with modern experience of the gift of tongues; whenever they are interpreted they tend to be only phrases or sentences of praises to God, rarely (if ever) whole articulate sermons. Modern experience of the gift of tongues is also consistent with other descriptions of it in the Bible...

"For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church." (1 Corinthians 14:2-4 ESV)

Persons who speak in tongues are edified in the Spirit, abound emotionally in the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal.5:22) and have a sense of communication with God though they do not understand what they are saying.

"Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say "Amen" to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up." (1 Corinthians 14:13-17 ESV)

Notice the descriptions of Paul regarding a person who speaks in tongues without the gift of interpretation; such a person prays with his spirit but is unfruitful in his mind, sings praise in his spirit, give thanks in his spirit (which the apostle approves) - all of these are consistent with the modern experience of the gift of tongues.

Satan does not help those who work against him

"Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, "Can this be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, "It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons." Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?" (Matt.12:22-26 ESV)
"John said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us." (Mark 9:38-40 ESV)
"Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:3 ESV)
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God." (1 John 4:1-3 ESV)
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits." (Matt.7:15-19 ESV)

Satan does not give spiritual gifts to help the Church.

No Christian who performs miracles then preaches the gospel is doing it by Satan's power.

A person who speak with the gift of tongues then immediately says in his heart "Jesus is Lord!" is not operating in Satan's power, in fact he can only do it in the power of the Holy Spirit.

On the contrary, the Bible warns not to sin against the Holy Spirit by accusing such people to be operating by demonic spirits...

"Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." (Matt.12:31-32 ESV - the continuation of Matthew 12 verse above)

... the Pharisees witnessed the mighty working of the Holy Spirit and fully understood it, yet they accused the Holy Spirit to be an evil spirit ("prince of demons" - Matt.12:24). That's why Jesus said they blasphemed the Holy Spirit and would never be forgiven (as oppose to blaspheming him in which case they could be forgiven).

Cessationist interpretation of Ephesians 2:20 is not a strong argument [2]

"Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit." (Eph.2:11-22 ESV)

Here, Paul is saying that the Ephesian gentiles were once separated from salvation being gentiles, but Christ broke the dividing wall between Jews and Gentiles, and that they (the gentiles) became fellow citizens with the Jews in the household of God, being secure because they were built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ the foundation. They (gentiles) are joined together (with Jews) in one holy temple, being continually built together.

Nowhere here is Paul discussing with the Ephesians whether or not supernatural gifts will cease. Cessationist approach Eph.2:20 with the question "Will apostles and prophets cease ?" (which is called an Eisegesis or proof texting). But the text itself is not about that question, the text is about the equality of the Gentiles with Jews as far as salvation is concerned because they (Jews and gentiles) are built on the same foundation. One could easily approach the text with the question "Are apostles and prophets important in the church today?" and come up with the conclusion that churches should be led by apostles and prophets because they are "foundational"... but that doesn't prove anything because the text is not about that issue.

A central point of Ephesians 2:20 is that the "foundation" of apostles and prophets is not a dead artifact of church history, but rather is "a pattern to be replicated" in the church as long as it is connected with the "chief cornerstone" Jesus Christ. This issue is discussed in considerable detail in Ruthven, "Ephesians 2:20 and the 'Foundational Gifts'".[3]

Arguments against

Argument on the basis of a complete inspired Word of God (Bible)

"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:19-20 ESV)
"Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3 ESV)

Apostles and prophets were only foundational and thus temporary. Thus there would come a time in the history of the church when they would cease as the foundation is fully laid, the foundation being the N.T. scriptures (completing the Bible)...

"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19 ESV)

The problem with this passage from the book of Revelation is that it strictly refers to this prophecy of this book, not every other book, nor every other prophecy in the Bible. What do we do then with the multitudes of translations that add supplementary words and even whole sentences some times, as they are drawing from different Bible manuscripts. Even when 2 different translations deal with the same codex or manuscripts, they still end up having added words. ... Since the Bible is already complete, all inspired revelations have ceased. And along with it all, gifts that could produce such revelations. Thus the gift of apostleship, prophecy, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, tongues and interpretation of tongues; have all necessarily ceased.

Some cessationists also add to the list miraculous gifts, arguing that miracles were only needed to confirm genuine revelations...

"The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works." (2 Cor.12:12 ESV)

... so that there are no gifts of miracle-workings are given by God to Christians although they believe that God can perform miracles. In other words, if someone prays and a miracle happens, it is not because that person has the gift of miracles but because God sovereignly chose to perform one.

The Bible warns against false prophets

"I [God] will raise up for them [Israel] a prophet like you [Moses] from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?'—when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him." (Deut.18:18-22 ESV, comments in brackets added)
"As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes to pass, then it will be known that the Lord has truly sent the prophet." (Jer.28:9 ESV)

Cessationists argue that no one who claims to prophesy today is 100% accurate, therefore they really are not really prophets/ have the gift of prophecy. Some cessationists (but not all) would go to the logical conclusion of that argument to say that those who claim to prophesy today are necessarily false prophets, and therefore people should not follow them.

"For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect." (Mark 13:22 ESV)

This form of absolute argument is also used by cessationists with regard to other gifts; that is, someone who claims to have the gift of healing (1 Cor. 12:9) must always be able to heal 100% of the time and instantaneously (not over a period of time), someone who claims to have the gift of miracles (1 Cor. 12:10) must always be able to perform one (and not fail when attempting one), otherwise they are not really genuine gifts.

See also


  1. ^ This last passage (from its context) is alluding to Isaiah 59:21 "And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the LORD: my Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouths of your children, or out of the mouths of your children's children, says the LORD, from now on and forever." This "new covenant" promise of the Spirit of prophecy is also cited as the central, concluding point of Peter's Pentecost sermon--the keynote address of Christianity--as the essence of the Christian experience: Acts 2:38-39 "Peter said to them, 'Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.'" See the discussion in Jon Ruthven, "'This Is My Covenant with Them': Isaiah 59.19-21 as the Programmatic Prophecy of the New Covenant in the Acts of the Apostles (Part I)" Journal of Pentecostal Theology 17 (2008) 32–47. "Part II" JPT 17 (2008) 219-37. These articles appear as Appendix IV ("The Essence of the New Covenant: The Continuing Prophetic Spirit") in the revised version of On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles
  2. ^ Ephesians 2:20 and the 'Foundational Gifts'
  3. ^ Journal of Pentecostal Theology 10:2 (Apr 2002), 28-43.

Further reading

Cottrell, Jack. The Faith Once for All: Bible Doctrine for Today. College Press, 2002.

Erickson, M. J. Christian Theology. Baker Books, 1983.

Fowler, James. Charismata: Rethinking the So-Called Spiritual Gifts. 1999. April 2010 <>.

Grudem, Wayne. Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Zondervan, 1996.

Keener, Craig. Three Crucial Questions About the Holy Spirit. Baker Books, 1996.

MacArthur, John. Commentary on I Corinthians. Moody Press, 1984.

McRae, William. The Dynamics of Spiritual Gifts. Zondervan, 1976.

McRay, John. Paul: His Life and Teachings. Baker Academic, 2003.

Piper, John. Are Signs and Wonders for Today? 25 Feb 1990. April 2010 <>.

Sanders, J. Oswald. The Holy Spirit and His Gifts. Zondervan, 1970.

Interactive Positions

Wayne Grudem (ed.) Are Miraculous Gifts for Today: Four Views. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996 (Richard M. Gaffin, Jr., R.L.Saucy, C.Samuel Storms, Douglas A.Oss).

Advocates of Continuationism

Jon Ruthven, On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Post-Biblical Miracles. Revised Edition. Deo Press, 2008. (Often identified as the definitive study, it examines the historical, philosophical and exegetical issues, focusing on Warfield.)

Gary Greig and Kevin Springer (eds.) The Kingdom and the Power: Are Healing and the Spiritual Gifts Used By Jesus and the Early Church Meant for the Church Today? Ventura, CA: Gospel Light, 1993 (thorough and practical, especially the comprehensive summary of popular cessationist arguments by Wayne Grudem, Ch. 2).

Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993, and Surprised by the Voice of God Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996. Influential works by a former professor at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Studies on Miracles in History

Bouyer, Louis. "Some Charismatic Manifestations in the History of the Church". Perspectives on Charismatic Renewal. Edited by Edward O'Connor. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975.

Bentivegna, Joseph, SJ. "The Witness of St. Augustine on the Action of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the Praxis of Charismata in His Time". Studia Patristica 22 (1989): 188-201.

Campbell, Theodore C. "Charismata in the Christian Communities of the Second Century". Wesleyan Theological Journal 17 (Fall 1982): 7-25.

Campbell, Theodore C. "John Wesley and Conyers Middleton on Divine Intervention in History". Church History 55 (March 1986): 39-49.

Campbell, Theodore C. "The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the Theology of Athanasius". Scottish Journal of Theology 27 (November 1974): 408-443.

Campenhausen, H. von. Ecclesiastical Authority and Spiritual Power in the Church of the First Four Centuries. Translated by J. A. Baker. London: A. and C. Black, 1969.

Carroll, R. Leonard. "Glossolalia: Apostles to the Reformation". In The Glossolalia Phenomenon. Edited by Wade H. Horton. Cleveland, TN: Pathway, 1966. pp. 69–94.

Congar, Yves M. J. I Believe in the Holy Spirit. 3 vols. New York: Seabury, "Excursus A: The Sufficiency of Scripture according to the Fathers and Medieval Theologians" and "Excursus B: The Permanence of 'Revelatio' and 'Inspiratio' in the Church”. In his Tradition and Traditions: An Historical and Theological Essay. Translated by M. Naseby and Th. Rainborough. New York: Macmillan, 1967. Pp. 107 37.

Davison, James Edwin. "Spiritual Gifts in the Roman Church: 1 Clement, Hermas and Justin Martyr". Ph.D. dissertation, University of Iowa, 1981.

DiOrio, Ralph A. Signs and Wonders: Firsthand Experiences of Healing. New York: Doubleday, 1987.

Dixon, Larry E. "Have the 'Jewels of the Church' Been Found Again? The Irving Darby Debate on Miraculous Gifts". Evangelical Journal 5 (Spring 1987): 78 92.

Dollar, George W. "Church History and the Tongues Movement". Bibliotheca Sacra 120 (October -December 1963): 309-11.

Elbert, Paul. "Calvin and Spiritual Gifts". Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 22 (Spring 1979): 235 256.

Foubister, D. Ron. "Healing in the Liturgy of the Post Apostolic Church". Studia Biblica et Theologica 9 (October 1979): 141 55.

Franklin, Lloyd David, "The spiritual gifts in Tertullian". Ph.D. dissertation, Saint Louis University, 1989.

Frost, Evelyn. Christian Healing: A Consideration of the Place of Spiritual Healing in the Church of Today in the Light of the Doctrine and Practice of the Ante Nicene Church. London: A. R. Mowbray, 1954.

Greer, Rowan A. The Fear of Freedom: A Study of Miracles in the Roman Imperial Church. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1989.

Harnett, Anne Marie, "The Role of the Holy Spirit in Constitutive and Ongoing Revelation according to Yves Congar". Ph.D. dissertation, The Catholic University of America, 1989.

Harris, Ralph W. Spoken by the Spirit: Documented Accounts of "Other Tongues" from Arabic to Zulu. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1973.

Hebert, Albert J. Raised from the Dead: True Stories of 400 Resurrection Miracles. Rockford, IL: TAN Publications, 1986.

Hinson, E. Glenn. "A Brief History of Glossolalia". In Glossolalia: Tongue Speaking in Biblical, Historical and Psychological Perspective. Edited by Frank Stagg, E. Glenn Hinson, and Wayne E. Oates. Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1967.

Hinson, E. Glenn. "The Significance of Glossolalia in the History of Christianity". In Speaking in Tongues, Let's Talk about It. Edited by Watson E. Mills. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1973.

Hunter, Harold. "Tongues speech: A Patristic Analysis". Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 23 (June 1980): 124 137.

Hvidt, Neil C. Christian Prophecy: The Post-Biblical Tradition. Oxford/New York: Oxford Univ. Pr., 2007.

Kelsey, Morton. Healing and Christianity in Ancient Thought and Modern Times. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.

Kelsey, Morton. Tongue Speaking: The History and Meaning of Charismatic Experience. NY: Crossroad, 1981.

Kester, Leigh Aaron, "The Charismata in Crisis: The Gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Reformation Church of England". Ph.D. dissertation, Miami University, 1990.

Kydd, Ronald. Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1984. Based on his "Charismata to A.D. 320: A Study in the Overt Pneumatic Experience of the Early Church". Ph.D. dissertation, St. Andrews University, 1973.

Leivestad, R. "Das Dogma von der prophetenlosen Zeit". New Testament Studies 19 (April 1973): 288 99.

Mullin, R. B. Miracles and the Modern Religious Imagination. (New Haven, Conn., USA: Yale Univ. Pr., 1996).

Pont, Gabriel. Les dons de l'Esprit Saint dans la pensée de saint Augustin. Sierre: Editions Chateau Ravire, 1974.

Robbins, Steven Charles, "Charismata, Revelation, and the Authority of Scripture: A Theological, Philosophical, and Exegetical Study of the Implications of 1 Corinthians 12:8, 10". Ph.D. dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary, School of Theology, 1999.

Robeck, Cecil M., Jr. "The Role and Function of Prophetic Gifts for the Church at Carthage, A.D. 202–258". Ph.D. dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary, 1985.

Robeck, Cecil M., Jr. Pagan Christian Conflict over Miracle in the Second Century. Cambridge, MA: The Philadelphia Patristic Foundation, Ltd., 1983.

Robeck, Cecil M., Jr., ed. Charismatic Experiences in History. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1985.

Rogers, Cleon L, Jr. "The Gift of Tongues in the Post Apostolic Church (A.D. 100–400)". Bibliotheca Sacra 122 (April June 1965): 134 43.

Schlingensiepen, H. Die Wunder des Neuen Testamentes. Wege und Abwege ihrer Deutung in der alten Kirche bis zur Mitte des fünften Jarhunderts. Beträge zur Förderung christlicher Theologie 2e Reihe. 28 Band. Gütersloh: C. Bertelsmann, 1933.

Stephanou, Eusebius A. "The Charismata in the Early Church Fathers". The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 21 (Summer 1976): 125 46.

Wagner, C. Peter, editor. Signs and Wonders Today. Expanded edition. Altamonte Springs, FL: Creation House, 1987.

Walker, D. P. "The Cessation of Miracles". In Hermeticism and the Renaissance: Intellectual History and the Occult in Early Modern Europe. Edited by Ingrid Merkel and Allen G. Debus. Washington, DC: Folger Books, 1988. pp. 111–124.

Ward, Benedicta. Miracles and the Medieval Mind: Theory, Record, and Event, 100 1215. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.

Warfield, B.B. Counterfeit Miracles. NY: Charles Scribners Sons, 1918.

Watkin Jones, Howard. The Holy Spirit in the Medieval Church. London: Epworth, 1922.

Watkin Jones, Howard. The Holy Spirit from Arminius to Wesley. London: Epworth, 1929.

Weinel, Heinrich. Die Wirkungen des Geistes und der Geister in nachapostolischen Zeitalter bis auf Irenäus. Tübingen: Druck von H. Lampp, 1898.

Wendland, Johannes. Miracles and Christianity. E.t., H. R. Mackintosh. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1911.

Wenham, David. "Miracles Then and Now". Themelios 12 (September 1986): 1-4.

Wetmore, Robert Kingston. "The Theology of Spiritual Gifts in Luther and Calvin a Comparison". Concordia Seminary: ThD dissertation, 1992.

Williams, George and Waldvogel, Edith. "A History of Speaking in Tongues and Related Gifts".“” The Charismatic Movement. Edited by Michael P. Hamilton. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975.

External links

Dr. Sam Storms (

Assemblies of God (

Jon Ruthven

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