I See Miracles
You told me about cessationists who challenge you, saying, “How many healing miracles have you seen? How many prophecies have you seen?” We can answer that we have seen a number of them. We have not only seen miracles of healing and prophecy, but we have performed them by the power of God.
The first miracle of healing I witnessed was done by my own hands, the first time I preached. Before that day, I had read about the miracles in the Bible, and heard about the miracles experienced by other people, but I had never seen one. I believed the Bible’s promise that God would work miracles through me in the name of Jesus, so I went ahead and did it.
I am aware that God condemns bearing false witness, and I insist that I am telling the truth about this.
I See Damnation
The challenge reveals an alarming reality in the cessationists. How can they believe in the miracles that the Bible records if they cannot believe in the miracles that the Bible promises? This applies not only to the miracles, but to everything in the Bible. If they cannot believe biblical promises without first seeing them happen, then they cannot believe biblical records without having seen them happen. The inevitable conclusion is that they cannot believe in Jesus Christ, or the gospel. Therefore, they cannot be saved. They will remain in their sins, and they will burn in hell.
The challenge is self-damning. It could be an indication that they have never accepted the gospel in the first place. They have been pretending all along. Even if they are not damned by their cessationism as such, their cessationism suggests that they have always been damned. If they refuse to back off from their cessationism, then neither will we back off from the logical conclusion that they are reprobates. If they do not repent and retreat, then there is no need to discuss cessationism further, because they are unsaved. They need to believe the gospel, or they will burn in hell.
“Are you telling me that cessationists are unsaved?” No. THEY are telling you that they are unsaved, and they are forcing you to agree with them. In fact, although the challenge draws attention to their unbelief, we must assert the same point against the cessationists who have not issued the challenge. If they cannot believe the biblical promises, then how can they believe the biblical records? They cannot. There is no way around this. Logically, they cannot accept one and reject the other. If they wish to take the Spirit from us, we will take the Christ from them. If they want our miracles to cease, we will leave their souls to fry. This is the deal. This is what they are up against.
I See Contradiction
As you mentioned, you would receive such a challenge even from those who boast of the slogan “Scripture alone.” Of course, they are liars. If they hold to Scripture alone, then they would not demand evidence from experience before they would believe a doctrine from Scripture. If Scripture teaches the doctrine, then they ought to believe it even if no one else does. If Scripture refutes the doctrine, then experience is irrelevant. But they still argue from experience. As Jesus said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah” (Luke 11:29). It is ironic that cessationists have used this statement against the “charismatics.” The charismatics do not seek miracles so that they will believe, but they already believe, and expect to see miracles because they believe. In contrast, the cessationists refuse to believe the word of God, but they demand signs from the charismatics before they will believe. Thus Jesus’ rebuke applies to the cessationists, not to the charismatics. The cessationists are an evil generation, a wicked people. At the judgment, those who have had less access to the word of God but still believed in the gospel promises of miracles will stand up and condemn the cessationists (Luke 11:31-32).
The contradiction is even more glaring among the cessationists who claim to take Scripture as their first principle and deduce the rest of their worldview from it, rejecting things like sensation and intuition as sources of knowledge. Indeed, this is the only sound method of theology and philosophy, but they say one thing and do another. Their worldview is in reality a human system that imposes itself on Scripture and not a system that has been deduced from Scripture. They assume what is true or false, possible or impossible, from the start, apart from what Scripture really says. It is a personal philosophy that they use the Bible to sanction, that they hide under the Bible as if it came from the Bible. Given their claim about how their system is produced, this makes it one of the more hypocritical schools of thought compared to many others, even though many of its beliefs remain superior.
They often settle disputes by their creeds and theologians instead of Scripture. They make elaborate arguments from historic confessions and authorities, but fail to make their case from the Bible. Thus they damn themselves. If they truly deduce their beliefs from Scripture, then they would conclude that he who has faith can perform the same works and even greater works than those Jesus performed. If they truly deduce their beliefs from Scripture, then they would conclude that he who has the Spirit could receive visions, dreams, and prophecies, and could experience all kinds of signs and wonders. Even though the Bible teaches these things, they do not form these conclusions, because these things were rejected from the start when they approached Scripture with their philosophical method, entirely apart from what Scripture actually says. They claim to deduce truth from the Bible, but they have already decided what they could deduce from the Bible apart from what the Bible says. The truth is that they have no allegiance to Christ, but they wish to exploit his credibility to advance their own philosophy. Whether they are strict about an exclusive appeal to Scripture, cessationists damn themselves when they claim to uphold Scripture, and especially when they also appeal to experience.
I See Degradation
I have seen God’s promises in Scripture. If the cessationists consider the Scripture insufficient, but demand me to tell them what I have seen outside of Scripture, then I can tell them that I have also seen God fulfill these promises. I have seen miracles. I have ministered in healing and prophecy.
But I have seen other things as well. I have seen the cessationists. I have seen their unbelief, their arrogance, hypocrisy, and self-righteousness. I have seen their foolishness and incompetence, their spiritual corruption. I have seen people who need these things that God promises, but somehow remain smug that they do not have faith to receive them. I have seen the degrading existence that they live “before the face of God” — all they have are religious slogans.
I have seen the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ as it translates people from the authority of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son. And I have also seen those who carry the banner of Christ, but who live without its power because of their unbelief. It is a most pathetic and deplorable sight. And then they question us? These are the same people who wish to lecture us on theology, who wish to teach us a thing or two about life. NO THANKS.
I See Jesus
What have I seen? I have seen Jesus Christ in Scripture, and even now this glorious vision is before me. I see the Jesus who promises miracles: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do the same things that I have been doing, and he will do even greater things than these” (John 14:12). I see the Jesus who performs miracles: “I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13). The cessationists demand, “Scripture or no Scripture, let us see the miracles and we will believe.” Some of them will indeed see them in our ministry. But Jesus answers, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40). Indeed, we remind those who have experienced miracles that their trust and focus should always stay on the word of God, on the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is something that the cessationists have not learned, and that they refuse to do, to their own destruction.
I rejoice that we are free to follow the faith that Jesus Christ handed down to us. This is the gospel of same plus more, instead of the heresy of less or none. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith. We do not need to start with Jesus and then finish with some hack theologian. No one can hold our faith in bondage unless we allow it. Nevertheless, even though the cessationists are an evil generation, a wicked people, their unbelief reminds us of several important issues:
First, their unbelief reminds us that there is such a thing as a false profession of faith. A man can claim to believe all the right doctrines, until he comes to one that demands him to put action to this faith. He will beat his chest. He will boast about his historic orthodoxy. He will spit out slogans like “Scripture alone,” “Christ alone,” and “God is for all of life.” But then Scripture teaches a doctrine that, on top of all the talking, demands him to believe for something to happen, something humanly impossible, something in public. And he shrinks back. Then he lashes out at people who talk about it and who carry it out. How can we avoid the conclusion that his faith is fake? Cessationism is the excuse to profess faith in God without needing to possess faith in God. If the cessationists want us to assume that they have faith, then they should at least hide their unbelief from us, rather than being smug and pushy about it.
Second, their unbelief reminds us that we must continue to be doers of the word of God, and not hearers only. We need to be doers of the word, not just debaters of the word. Jesus spent more time teaching and healing the people than he did debating the Pharisees about teaching and healing the people. Since the Bible promises us miracles, healing, and prophecy, then we should perform miracles, healing, and prophecy. The ministry of miracles is not an optional appendage to the gospel that we can forever debate about but never act upon. We should do what the Bible says, and receive what the Bible says. These miracles should actually happen. Many people are more interested in debating the truth and nitpicking the truth than believing and obeying the truth. We can take a small amount of time to deal with them, but we must never become like them. The pharisaical road is a dead end.
Third, their unbelief reminds us that we must push the biblical doctrine of miracle ministry much more, even with all the resources we possess. We have been too mild in our rhetoric and our effort against cessationism. We have not attacked and condemned the cessationists enough, and we have not been harsh enough toward them. Many of us are still not perceiving the evil and danger in this satanic heresy. We ought to amend church policy to address the issue — someone who actively spreads unbelief in the congregation should be excommunicated. We have not been aggressive enough in pursuing the miracle agenda of Jesus Christ. Even those who practice a ministry of healing often confine themselves to churches and meetings, where they could count on “an atmosphere of faith.” Indeed, Jesus himself exercised a ministry of miracles that mostly benefited those who came to him in faith — it was not something he did just to prove himself — but he also performed in various situations. We can begin among those who have faith, but then the miracles should spill over to the streets, where they can be more visible and more widely reported.