Although you say that you can perceive no error in the reasoning, your language leaves some distance between you and this argument for cessationism. So I am uncertain if you agree with it, or if you are only asking me about it. For the sake of convenience, I will answer as if you are the one making the argument, so that when I say “you,” it might not mean you personally, but a cessationist who uses this objection.
Even if you disagree with the objection, I still hold you responsible for your inability to refute something this absurd, and for failing to even suggest any possible flaw in it. The fact that you have been trained in seminary makes you even more culpable. Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48). There is no excuse in failing to raise some of the points that I mention below. Like your cessationist professors, you neglect even the basics of your training, and you leave the burden to me to defend God’s power at work in his people. This is unacceptable. If you are convinced of cessationism, then make the case. If you are not convinced, then with all that training, at least make some effort to point out possible flaws in cessationism as you ask me about it.
My reply is not an attack on a straw man. You are the one who sent this argument to me. I draw attention to this because the argument is so stupid, and when I expose how stupid it is, I do not want you to use that lame excuse. Cessationists often complain about a straw man when they lose, and they always lose. Cessationists are STUPID, not misunderstood. They cannot imagine how they could lose so easily and decisively, and so they think they must be misunderstood. But we understand them clearly, and see that they are unbelieving and disobedient fools.
Although not every cessationist uses the same stupid arguments, all their arguments are stupid like this one, and they sometimes contradict one another. I can answer any cessationist argument, but I am answering the one sent to me. No cessationist should complain that this is not his argument. If it is not your argument, then it is not your argument. I have likely answered your own stupid argument elsewhere. Now I am answering the one sent to me, but still, it indeed entails some issues relevant to most cessationist arguments. What I say can be adapted to many cessationist arguments.
Let us summarize your points. The cessationist argument is based on the sufficiency of Scripture. You claim that a sufficient Bible should render prophecy unnecessary, and if a prophecy only repeats or applies what the Bible says, then it is not prophecy in the biblical sense, but only a reminder of what the Bible says. This is a familiar argument, and therefore I will not repeat all the details. You mention that the Bible says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). This is a significant passage for the doctrine, but your inference is false.
Paul was speaking to Timothy, not to you. Of course, it applies to all of us by extension. The principle applies to all of Scripture and anything that is Scripture, so it is correct to affirm it for our Christian Bible. However, Paul referred to whatever “Scripture” that Timothy had. You cannot make this identical to what you have now — you have more. You mention that Second Timothy is considered one of the later New Testament documents, but this is irrelevant. To use Paul’s statement this way in order to make the “Scripture” in this verse identical to the complete Christian Bible, this must not only be the final document, but it must be the final sentence in Scripture. Moreover, for the “Scripture” in this verse to be identical to what we have, Timothy must have had access to the Christian Bible in its complete form. Unless this was the case, it would be irrelevant even if this is the final sentence of the final document in the Bible. Timothy at least did not have access to Second Timothy while Paul was writing it! In fact, it is likely that Paul had in mind only what Timothy could access in his infancy, since the verse before says, “From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
My point is that the Scripture was already sufficient way before 2 Timothy 3:16-17, but since it was not finished, God continued to write. This is why the sufficiency and the finality of Scripture are two different doctrines. The Christian Bible is not only sufficient to equip us for every good work, but it is more than sufficient for this. Scripture was sufficient before it was complete. If the cessationist uses the sufficiency of Scripture to undermine the continuation of prophecy, he must first use the sufficiency of Scripture to undermine all the Scripture that was produced after Timothy’s infancy — this would include Second Timothy itself. Therefore, to use the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture against the continuation of prophecy is first a repudiation of Scripture. Before any debate about the continuation of anything, the argument would first prevent both the completion and the collection of Scripture. When you do that, from the Christian perspective, you are finished. It is over for you. You are anti-gospel. You are the counter-Christian heretic. Save yourself before you pretend to be a theologian and criticize other people.
By this point, we have already refuted the objection, with the bonus that the cessationist is charged with sin, heresy, a rejection of Scripture, and therefore a renunciation of the Christian faith. We are done, and we can stop here if we wish. But I will take this opportunity to discuss additional problems with the argument.
The way the cessationist formulates and applies the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture plunges him into all kinds of trouble. Have you even read the rest of Second Timothy? How about 2:21? It says, “If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” Do you see the problem? “Prepared to do any good work.” Does the cessationist even need the Bible? I can have some fun with this, but we still have a lot to cover, so we will talk about prophecy.
Have you read First Timothy? Paul wrote, “Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience” (1 Timothy 1:18) . And later he wrote, “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you” (1 Timothy 4:14) . Timothy had studied the Scripture many years before that point (2 Timothy 3:15), a Scripture that Paul declared sufficient (2 Timothy 3:16-17). If Timothy never received any prophecy, we would say that he could have lived without it, but he did receive. Prophecy was spoken to Timothy, and Paul told Timothy to use it, to fight the good fight with it. The apostle saw no conflict between this and the sufficiency of Scripture.
Then, you claim that if prophecy speaks only information that is in the Bible, then it would not be like the kind of prophecy in the early church, but it would be a mere reminder from the Holy Spirit. For now, let us proceed with this limitation, that prophecy will speak only what is in the Bible. Does that mean it cannot be like the kind described in the Bible, the kind experienced by the early disciples?
I know someone who started preaching when he was sixteen, right away to people who were thirty-five to seventy-five. He would teach about many topics from the Bible, and counsel these adults about anything from parenting, drug abuse, to sexual dysfunction, having never experienced these things. He had never been taught how to interpret the Bible, how to preach, or even how to make an outline. He learned, but God helped him begin. When he prepared a message, he would sometimes see a vision of the complete outline, and he would copy it down and use it. Sometimes he would see a vision of himself speaking in an upcoming service, and when the time came, he would just act out what he saw. Every time it was accurate and biblical. He started in ministry soon after his conversion, and so he still had not read the entire Bible. Sometimes when he was preaching or counseling, or answering hecklers, he would recite whole biblical passages that he had never read, because he would read them off from a vision as he spoke. The people thought he had memorized the passages, but sometimes that would be the first time he read them.
In one of his meetings, while the people started to arrive and waited for him, he was praying in another place in the building. Two people in the audience were talking to each other about a certain biblical topic, and one of them asked the other a series of questions. Then the preacher came out to speak. About ten minutes into his sermon, he suddenly stopped and turned to the two people. He looked at them and spent several minutes to address a different topic, and then returned to his sermon. It looked like a digression. Later, he was told that he answered the questions that the person asked his friend before the service, in the same order that he asked them. There were a number of other cases. In every case, the man said nothing that was not already in the Bible, but it was an evident manifestation of the prophetic, and it had the effect that prophecy ought to produce: “The secrets of his heart will be laid bare. So he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!'” (1 Corinthians 14:25). Therefore, even when prophecy is limited to the information in the Bible, it does not necessarily mean that it is a mere reminder of biblical teaching, but it can have the same striking effect as when Jesus said to Nathaniel, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48).
This is to show that the point betrays your spiritual ignorance (1 Corinthians 12:1), but the truth is that it also puts you in a lot of trouble. If prophecy that contains no information other than what is already in the Bible is not the kind of prophecy demonstrated in the Bible, then this can be turned against the Bible itself. Many propositions in the Bible repeat the same words or ideas contained in previous portions of the Bible. How many times could a person say “His mercy endures forever” before it stopped being prophetic (Psalm 118)? According to you, the second time was already different. When Jesus preached in Nazareth, he read from Isaiah 61 before he added, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” According to you, Luke 4:18-19 was not prophetic, but at best a Spirit-prompted reminder, but Luke 4:21 was prophetic, because it was new information. When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, he cited from Joel 2 and several other places. According to you, major portions of his sermon were not prophetic, but only Spirit-prompted reminders.
What about all the other times that Jesus quoted Scripture? What about all the other times that the apostles copied Scripture in their letters? According to you, only their expositions and other revelations were inspired, but their quotations of existing Scripture were not. If we also discard those parts where the Bible repeats its own ideas even if not the exact words, then the cessationist Bible becomes even thinner. For example, regardless of the words used, only the first time the Bible asserts the deity of Christ would be prophetic. All subsequent instances would be mere reminders. This means that the cessationist who uses this argument denies hundreds of portions of Scripture, relegating them to unnecessary reminders. On the other hand, I say that all the times that the Bible repeats its own words and ideas are inspired and prophetic.
The cessationist makes at least three attacks against Scripture in this one argument that supposedly defends Scripture. First, contrary to the Bible’s own claim, he declares that the Bible was never sufficient until completion. Second, because the Bible indeed declares itself sufficient before completion, but the cessationist claims that anything that is beyond sufficient is unnecessary, and not in the same class as biblical prophecy, he declares that all portions of Scripture produced after what Timothy had in his infancy are unnecessary and uninspired. Third, because he claims that prophecy that repeats the information contained in Scripture as in a different or lower class than the prophecy of Scripture, or even not prophecy at all, he declares that all portions of Scripture that repeat the words or ideas that were already contained in previous portions of Scripture are unnecessary and uninspired. Any one of these offenses, if made clear to a cessationist, and if he refuses to repent, is a sufficient basis for excommunication.
I asked if you have read First and Second Timothy, and it seems that you have not. But have you even read the verse you used? Let us read it again: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Oh, you are in so much trouble.
You use this to supposedly defend Scripture, but what good is it if you refuse to do what Scripture says? Paul said that Scripture is useful for teaching, not just so that you can argue that it is useful for teaching, but so that you would start teaching it. What good is it, if you declare that Scripture is useful for teaching, and then you turn around and teach atheism? He said that it is useful for training in righteousness, not just so that you can argue that it can serve this purpose, but so that you would start training in righteousness. What good is it, if you declare that Scripture is useful for training in righteousness, and then you turn around and train in murder and adultery? You would be like one who looks in a mirror. You see what you are like, and you see what you need to do. But the moment you turn around, you forget all about it, and you carry on with your own ideas and goals. This happens over and over again in your studies, conversations, and religious activities. You think you are spiritual and faithful to Scripture, just because you are constantly engaging the word of God, but you are not a doer of the word of God. You deceive yourself (James 1:22-25).
Scripture is sufficient “for every good work.” What are these good works? Do you even care? You never thought about this, huh? For this verse to put a stop to prophecy, it must exclude prophecy as a good work. However, Scripture explicitly declares prophecy as good. Acts 2 says that God’s Spirit is poured out, and as a result, this would produce visions, dreams, and prophecies in his people (v. 16-18). And Peter said that this same “gift of the Holy Spirit” — the Spirit that produces visions, dreams, and prophecies — would remain available for future generations, “for all whom the Lord our God will call” (v. 38-39). Paul instructed even the unstable Corinthians to desire spiritual gifts, and in their context, especially the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1). He added, “Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39). Scripture is sufficient to offer a basis for prophecy, and it is sufficient so that there is no excuse to avoid or forbid it.
The cessationist is in much more trouble than this. The argument opposes prophecy on the basis of the sufficiency of Scripture, but prophecy is not the only good work that the cessationist refuses to perform. What about healing the sick? I do not say praying about the sick, but healing them. The Bible does not tell us to pray about the sick, and then see what happens. The Bible tells us to heal the sick by God’s power, to pray for them so that they will receive healing, so that they will no longer be sick (James 5:15). Why do you care that the Scripture is sufficient for good works, if you refuse to perform the good works that it commands? Should you not be shamed by the doctrine of sufficiency, and too embarrassed to mention it, instead of using it to undermine others?
You refer to John 14:26, that the Spirit can remind us of what Scripture teaches. Now let the Spirit remind you of what Jesus said only several verses before this: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Jesus said that Christians will do the same works and greater works, and I have shown elsewhere that he referred to miracles (John 14:11). Scripture is sufficient to equip you to perform these works, but if the sufficiency of Scripture is only an idea to you, or only a tool for debate, or an excuse for unbelief, then what good is it? Man, it is wasted on you! What about Matthew 21:21? Jesus said that if you have faith, you can command even a mountain to move out of the way. Instead of arguing about it, why don’t you take that and help deliver someone from their oppression? It is wasted on you! The Bible says, “Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.” Why don’t you teach this to someone so that he can receive healing? It is sufficient to bring healing. But it is wasted on you!
You mention something about preaching the gospel on the basis that the Bible teaches it, but the Bible also teaches you to heal the sick and prophesy. But if you refuse to obey the Bible on these things, why do you need to obey it when it tells you to preach? To you, the Bible is sufficient, but not authoritative. You are not only selective about what you accept from the Bible, but selective about how you apply this doctrine of sufficiency. You use the sufficiency of Scripture, not as a basis for faith and instruction, but as leverage for argument, in order to defend and justify yourself. You disobedient and hypocritical swine! Why do you call him Lord, but refuse to do what he says (Luke 4:46)? The Bible calls this a sufficient basis for damnation, but even if we pretend that it is not, it is at least a sufficient basis for excommunication (Matthew 7:23).
If the Bible is sufficient, then do what it says. If the Bible is sufficient, then believe what it promises. If the Bible is sufficient, then you should not need someone like me to KICK you in order to make you believe and obey what it says. If the assumption is that, if the Bible is sufficient, then we do not need prophecy, even if the same Bible commands prophecy, then this can apply to other things that the Bible commands, and even more to things that the Bible does not command. It can apply to preaching, to ordination, to churches and denominations, creeds and councils, and to seminaries. You may say that these help me to follow the Bible, but if the Bible is sufficient, then I do not truly need these things, do I? If the sufficiency of the Bible still allows me to refuse what it commands – this is what you say – then how much more can I refuse what it does not command? How can you justify your creeds, denominations, and seminaries? If I can read the Bible, and it is sufficient, why do I need to listen to you preach? Why do you preach? Is it because the Bible tells you to “preach the word”? The Bible tells you to do a whole bunch of things that you refuse to do, that you reject even in principle, so what right do you have to tell me anything?
This is the heart of cessationism — unbelief and defiance. The Bible is a sufficient basis to condemn any cessationist person, refute any cessationist creed, disband any cessationist denomination, defrock any cessationist minister, and terminate any cessationist professor. If the cessationist wishes to use the sufficiency of Scripture to take one thing away from me, then I will use the same doctrine, the way he uses it, to take away everything from him. If you want to cancel out what the Bible teaches on prophecy, then I will cancel out your salvation. If you want to cancel out what the Bible teaches on healing, then I will cancel out your denomination. I can single-handedly destroy all his practices, all his doctrines, all his creeds, all his churches and denominations, all his seminaries — everything. All he is left with is cessationism – a doctrine of what God does not do for him and what he cannot do for God. With nothing but the Bible, I have sufficient authority to demand the repentance of any person or group, and if this is refused, to demand expulsion or dissolution. I have no power to coerce, but the Bible is sufficient, so when I make a biblical case, it is a case with sufficient weight, so that it is God’s word to them, and he will hold the people accountable when they disobey what I say from the Bible. This is how much I believe in the sufficiency of Scripture.
If you defend a Scripture that you refuse to obey, then Scripture is only a monument, a decoration. It is a symbol and a slogan, and not the word of God. Just as the cessationist has turned against Scripture, Scripture has turned against the cessationist. The sufficiency of Scripture is not a refuge for the apostate, but it is a reminder of his hatred of God. The cessationist argument based on the sufficiency of Scripture backfires against him, because it demonstrates the fact that he is selective about what he accepts from Scripture, that he has made up his mind apart from Scripture as to what he will believe and perform. The cessationist conspires with Satan and tries to turn Scripture against Scripture, and against God himself. The Pharisees claimed that they revered the Scripture, but when the word of God came as a person, it tested them and exposed them, and they killed him in the name of Scripture. What good is it, if you claim that you would go all over the world to preach the gospel on the basis of biblical command, but then you make the people twice the children of hell as you! Precisely because the Scripture is sufficient, I will uphold what it teaches and promises. I will conspire with Scripture against the cessationist.
We affirm again that we believe in the sufficiency of Scripture. The Bible is sufficient for defining and teaching doctrine, for correction, counseling, training, and equipping us for every good work. Therefore, in principle, it is not “necessary” for God to teach anyone doctrine or provide anyone direction by what we call supernatural revelation. If a person has perfect knowledge of Scripture and perfect obedience to Scripture, then in principle this person’s life would please God, and he would never commit sin. We agree that no one has perfect knowledge or perfect obedience, but the point is that Scripture is sufficient, so that there is no excuse for ignorance or disobedience. It is possible for a person to go through life and make his decisions based on the Bible alone. He might never receive a prophecy and still make the right decisions. In this sense, the Bible is sufficient and other things are unnecessary, but the fact that these things are unnecessary does not mean that they are wrong or that they have ceased.
To use another illustration, in principle, it is possible for a person to never become sick. One day when he is very old, he will fall asleep and his spirit will return to God. For him, healing is unnecessary, but this says nothing about whether healing is available, or whether it is right or wrong. Many people never received prophecy, but many people never accepted the Scripture that they claim to live by and to defend. When God reveals to us more than what is sufficient because of his grace, they even turn his grace against his grace, and use his doctrine to suppress his power. This is the damnable demonic legacy of cessationism.