What is cessationism? What do cessationists believe? Is cessationism biblical?
Cessationism is the theological belief that the sign gifts of the New Testament period have ceased to function. While cessationists believe God still performs miracles today, they teach that God does not specifically equip individual Christians to perform miraculous signs.
The biblical evidence most often used to support this view is 1 Corinthians 13:8-10: "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." It is clear from this passage that certain gifts will cease at some point. Cessationists believe the miraculous gifts ceased with the end of the apostolic age and the completion of New Testament revelation.
Is this view biblical? To answer, it is accurate to say cessationism is based on a biblical worldview. However, many debate whether cessationism is the best interpretation of the Bible's information regarding spiritual gifts. Non-cessationists suggest that the phrase "when the perfect comes" in 1 Corinthians 13:10 refers to the return of Christ. If so, then all spiritual gifts could potentially remain active until this still-future time.
Some cessationists also argue based on extra-biblical information. For example, since the second-generation church and beyond generally did not mention speaking in tongues and other sign gifts, then it is concluded that those gifts ceased to function. In addition, others suggest that the lack of genuine miracle workers or those who supernaturally speak in other languages today proves such gifts no longer operate in today's world.
While cessationism is a biblical view, it is often disputed because there are other ways to interpret the available information. In addition to one's understanding of 1 Corinthians 13:10, the extra-biblical evidence neither confirms nor disproves cessationism.
In the end, the issue of whether sign gifts can function today is controversial due to the fact that the biblical information regarding their usage is not explicitly stated. While the sign gifts may no longer operate today, God does continue to perform miracles in ways that lead some people to believe these gifts continue to operate. Others view the many unhealthy extremes surrounding those connected with sign gifts as evidence that such gifts no longer have a genuine role.
However, as the apostle Paul wrote, regardless of one's interpretation of cessationism, "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13). Christians are to be known for their love for one another (John 13:34-35), and for their light shown to others: "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
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