Lately there’s a phrase that is getting thrown around in the world to describe Christians who believe in God but live like He doesn’t exist: Practical Atheism. There are books and blog posts written frequently that warn about the foolishness of practical atheism.
Living like there is no God when you believe that He exists is dangerous. But practical atheism has a dangerous younger brother most people forget about- practical cessationism.
If you don’t know, cessationism is the idea that the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are displayed by the believers in the book of Acts ended when the last of the apostles died. Practical cessationists believe that God still does the kind of thing he did in the book of Acts, they just don’t live like God wants them to be involved.
In the almost twenty years since I’ve been a Christian, much of the body of Christ has come around to the idea that Jesus still speaks and heals. They’ll even acknowledge that He does miracles. But when you talk to many of these believers, even Pentecostals and charismatics, you get the idea that while they acknowledge God does these things, they don’t expect to be involved.
This is sad.
It’s sad because the church is supposed to be full of the power of the Holy Spirit. God gave us the gifts of the Spirit to demonstrate Christ’s reality to the lost and build up the church.
But it’s even more sad because it’s ignoring one of the commands Paul gave to the Corinthians: “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy,” (1 Corinthians 14:1).
These gifts of the Spirit that Jesus gives the church (see 1 Corinthians 12:8-11) are to be desired, not just acknowledged. And from time to time, they need to be stirred up (2 Timothy 1:6). But when we desire them, seek after them, and simultaneously keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, amazing things happen.
Jesus gets glorified. The lost see the power of Jesus in real life. The church is built up.
So my encouragement to you today is this- don’t be a practical cessationist. If you’ve never sought the gifts of the Spirit, ask Jesus what that looks like for your life. If you have and you’ve let the gifts He’s given you lie dormant, begin to stir them up.
Are you a practical cessationist? How can you take the next step into experiencing the fullness of the Holy Spirit? Let me know in the comment section.
Photo Credit: Pentecost 10 ~ The Holy Spirit by Waiting on the Word
13 responses to “Practical Cessationism”
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Well said Travis. We need to live like we do actually have the Holy Spirit inside us and working through us.
Dave, as always, thanks for the encouragement. We need to keep pressing on until we have the fullness of what Jesus paid the price for!
The Case against Anti-Cessationism
While we certainly want to exercise caution to not blaspheme the Holy Spirit by saying that His works are not of God (Matthew 12:31-31), at the same time we are called as Biblical believers to be “Casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of God (2 Corinthians 10:5). When a prisoner is taken captive, they are disarmed and interrogated.
So, let’s take this thought captive of anti-cessationism of the “the idea that the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are displayed by the believers in the book of Acts (did not) end … when the last of the apostles died” (Kolder, “Practical Cessationism,” January 26, 2015). This belief would seem to flow from the training that you had at International House of Prayer (IHOP) which has in its Statement of Faith the following:
“We also believe that signs and wonders, as well as all the gifts of the Spirit described in the New Testament, are operative today and are designed to testify to the presence of the kingdom and to empower and edify the Church to fulfill its calling and mission. (Mt. 3:11; Jn. 1:12–13; 3:1–15; Acts 4:29–30; Rom. 8:9; 12:3–8; 1 Cor. 12:12–13; 2 Cor. 1:21–22; Gal. 3:1–5; Eph. 1:13–14; 5:18)” [http://www.ihopkc.org/about/statement-of-faith/; retrieved 2/1/2015].
We observe that the IHOP Statement distinguishes between “signs and wonders” and “all the gifts of the Spirit,” but it joins them together with the phrase “as well as…”, thus seeming to equivocate them.
Therefore, the clarification first needs to be made is if you are indeed referring to the gifts of the Holy Spirit (as delineated by I Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11; Rom. 12:4-8) or the above belief by IHOP that “signs and wonders …. are operative today.” Inquiring minds want to know.
My training at IHOP doesn’t really have anything to do with my beliefs. I believe the Bible. It has plenty to say about the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit: That it continued, that it’s supposed to be operating in the life of the believer, and that God is a good Father who can be trusted to give us good gifts.
Hope that helps
It is confusing when you say your training at IHOP “doesn’t really have anything to do with (your) beliefs” when you refer multiple times in your blog to IHOP, you posted a video of Mike Bickle on August 14, 2011 calling it “an important message from Mike,” and you identify yourself with “apostolic Christianity,” a doctrine purported by Bickle and affiliated with IHOP.
But to the point. The Biblical definition of an “apostle” is delineated in 2 Corinthians 12:12: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” This defines an “apostle” as one who has done signs, wonders and mighty deeds. If you are espousing that apostles can exist today, then by this definition it would infer that you DO believe “signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” occur today, rather than these ceased after the death of the first century apostles, who included Paul.
So, do you agree with the IHOP Statement of Faith in believing that “…signs and wonders, …, are operative today” [http://www.ihopkc.org/about/statement-of-faith/]?
Hey Doug. I’m not sure that these types of dialogues are helpful in an online, message board type format. I wouldn’t make this offer to everyone who reads the blog [I just don’t have the time], but since I know you personally, if you’d like you can email me at PursuingGlory@Gmail.com. If you do, I will send you my phone number and we can carve out thirty minutes to talk.
Travis, it is evident you are uncomfortable indicating if IHOP is the source of this belief, but since you are advocating this teaching publically against “cessationism … the idea that the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are displayed by the believers in the book of Acts ended when the last of the apostles died,” it only seems fair to question it publically in the forum of thought. It is nothing against you personally as you are likeable and decent. But, I certainly have a problem with advocating that “signs and wonders” are still operational today (which is why I was trying to clarify if you are advocating this), and I do question the teaching that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still operational.
For example, what do we do with 1 Corinthians 13:8 where Paul wrote that “…whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether they shall cease; whether they be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish”? These words would seem to make the point for cessationism.
Likewise, if signs and wonders “are operative today,” why did they begin to decline or even cease in the New Testament? In Acts 19:11-12, it is written that: “And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.” But, later Paul wrote his beloved son in the faith Timothy in I Timothy 5:23, “Drink no longer wine, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine other infirmities.” Now, at that time wine was considered as a medicine. Why didn’t Paul just send him a handkerchief or an apron from his body to heal him? It would seem that something that changed in his healing powers.
So, if you are willing, how would you address these points?
Doug- My replys have nothing to do with what I do or don’t want to admit to. I know you want a debate in an online format. Frankly, godly, mature men don’t do that.
Jesus commands us that if we have an issue we need to work out between the two of us, then we are supposed to go to one another and work the situation out between (just) the two of us. This is the pattern I follow with the brothers and sisters I’m in relationship with and among the churches that I serve. (Matthew 18 and Galatians 6 serve as my basis for this pattern.)
If you’d like to talk in as close a manner as we can to what Jesus describes…I’ll be glad to talk. Until then, I’m afraid I’m going to have disengage from this conversation.
This is really good. I needed to reminded that we need to keep asking for the better things of God and be on the lookout for when, where and HOW He wants to move.
Aroea, thanks. We all need that. The gifts have to be stirred intentionally by us sometimes. I hope Germany is treating you well.
Hi, I believe I’m a practical cessationist and this is what i mean when i say I’m one: what was is not was l what is. Paul says that the gifts will cease, we do not know when but i think it has because plainly the manifestations of the gifts nowadays aren’t as it was in scriptures. But when i do witness the manifestations of some biblical gift, I’ll give God glory.