Throwing the Baby out with the Baptismal Bathwater: Cessationism (Part 1)

I believe that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit as taught about in 1 Corinthians 12 operate in and among the Christian people today, both for the purposes of evangelism and to edify the body. I believe there is no sufficiently explicit biblical precedent to reject this premise. Additionally, I believe godly individual and groups of people experience these gifts today, all to the glory of God. I am therefore a Continuationist, or, a Charismatic.

However, some people like John Macarthur actually teach that the gifts of the Spirit have ceased since the Apostles died. They no longer operate today. One main argument in favor of this notion is not scriptural but experiential: it just seems that in the case of these alleged gifts in church bodies, what is termed “the Spirit of God” is often an excuse for a disorderly madness. Yet one of the major signs of the Spirit of God is a spirit of order in the church (2 Timothy 1:7).

There is legitimacy to this argument to an extent. There just does seem to be many abuses. But as Michael Brown has pointed out, Charismatic leaders have historically been the first and foremost to point out such abuses, and address them in their own congregations.

Could Macarthur and people like him — the Cessationists — be throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

Take another issue Macarthur argues against: Paedobaptism. Let’s grant for sake of argument that Paedobaptism is a useless church ritual that is ultimately harmful to faith and the body of Christ. (This is not my present opinion). Do we therefore throw out baptism altogether? Of course not. We become — as Macarthur is — Credobaptists. We institute an ordinance of baptism that is in keeping with the revelation of inspired scripture.

Take, then, the charismatic gifts. If we see the (alleged) gifts being used in such a way that is not in keeping with the institution and instruction of inspired scripture, do we therefore throw out gifts altogether? Not at all! Rather, we become godly, Bible-believing Charismatics who use the gifts in the right way — for evangelism and edification of the body, all in a godly order, and with care.

It seems to me that Macarthur and others who follow his Cessationist doctrine have thrown the baby out with the bathwater. But if they’re wrong, they’re depriving the Christian people of a powerful spiritual tool to use against Satan and for the Kingdom of Light.

All good things can be perverted and used for evil. But the right response is reform our thinking concerning that thing, and bring it back to the Bible, not getting rid of that thing altogether.

Next time, we shall talk about why so many Christians don’t experience the operation of the Charismatic gifts of the Spirit.

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