After surrendering my life to Christ at age 18, I spent an entire year as a cessationist. In case you’re not familiar with that term, cessationists believe that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are no longer available. No more speaking in tongues…no more prophetic inspiration…no more miracles of healing.
I once heard an old Pentecostal preacher mockingly say, “Cessationists believe that when the last of Jesus’ apostles died, the Holy Ghost died as well!” But his brutal assessment was clearly an exaggeration. Cessationists acknowledge that we still need the Holy Spirit’s fruit in our lives, we just don’t need His miraculous gifts and power.
During my first year as a Christian, I was surrounded by believers who embraced this point of view, so I did as well. Instead of being based on my own study of the Bible, I got my cessationist worldview from the people around me.
All over the world, millions of Christians are still cessationists today. To be honest, it’s hard to blame them. If everyone around you believes the supernatural gifts of the Spirit died out long ago, you probably will too. Hey, it’s hard to believe in miracles if you and your friends have never seen one.
Once a prominent charismatic Bible teacher shocked his audience at a large conference. “The supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased!” he declared. His listeners gasped, because this man had taught for decades on how believers today can experience signs, wonders, and miracles.
Finally, he continued, “Miracles have ceased if you believe they have ceased!” He was pointing out that experiencing God’s power is not automatic. It must be activated by faith. Rarely, if ever, does a miracle happen unless someone believes one of His promises. So it’s no wonder the American church sees so few miracles.
Changing My Mind
During my first year as a Christian, cessationism was a comfortable doctrine for me. I saw no evidence of the power of God, so it was easy to conclude that miracles simply weren’t happening in today’s world.
Cessationist Bible teachers told me the supernatural gifts of the Spirit were necessary for the early church to reach the world, but somehow weren’t needed anymore. Looking back, I see how ludicrous this was, yet at the time I figured that these Bible teachers certainly knew more than I did.
Unexpectedly, everything changed the day I met Bob Hahn. Jarring me out of my previous worldview, Bob enthusiastically told me about people in his church speaking in tongues, receiving prophetic words from the Holy Spirit, and supernaturally healing the sick. It was just like the book of Acts, he said.
I visited Bob’s church and saw this for myself. Testimonies abounded of the great things God was doing. This was a side of the church I had never experienced before, and it was very exciting.
In the following months and years, I took time to do a deeper study of what God’s Word said about this. I also explored the revival movements in church history and noticed that miracles seem far more commonplace in third world countries today. Soon I arrived at a firm conviction that cessationism is a well-meaning but erroneous doctrine – one that has seriously crippled much of the body of Christ.
If you’re still holding on to a cessationist viewpoint, I challenge you to reconsider. Is your doctrine truly based on the Bible, or merely on your personal experiences and the powerless Christians you see around you?
When Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, His message was accompanied by miraculous healings (Matthew 4:23-24). He said this same “gospel of the kingdom” would be powerfully proclaimed and exemplified right up until the time of His return (Matthew 24:14). It’s delusional to think we can fulfill the worldwide Great Commission any other way.
Yet, I Agonize
Despite everything I’ve written here, I have a confession to make: Sometimes I wish I was still a cessationist. This probably sounds surprising, so let me explain.
Although I’ve seen numerous miracles along the way, there have also been times of disappointment. Yes, I’ve seen people healed by God’s supernatural power, but I struggle to explain why some people aren’t healed. I’ve witnessed the Holy Spirit speaking beautiful words of knowledge or wisdom, but I also get befuddled when I can’t seem to hear from the Spirit at all.
This is agonizing. Sometimes it would be a lot easier to still be a cessationist. If I didn’t expect anything from God, I would never be disappointed!
You see, if I didn’t believe in the availability of supernatural healing, it wouldn’t trouble me so much when a friend doesn’t get healed. If I didn’t believe so strongly in receiving guidance from the Holy Spirit, I could just lean on my own wisdom based on studying the Scriptures.
Despite these frustrations, I still yearn to see the kind of supernatural church described in the Bible. For example, today I read the final chapter of the book of Acts and was struck by the amazing miracles that were still happening right to the end!
Paul and his companions had been shipwrecked on the island of Malta. When he heard that the father of one of the leading men on the island was sick with a fever and dysentery, Paul “laid his hands on him and healed him” (Acts 28:8). This might have been exciting enough, but the revival continued to spread: “The rest of those on the island who had diseases also came and were healed” (v. 9).
Let this sink in. Through Paul’s prayers, every sick person on the island was healed! Can you imagine the impact on your city if a similar revival broke out today? Do it again, Lord!
I hope you will join me in agonizing for more of God’s power – not for our own glory, but so the name of Jesus can be lifted higher. Like the early church, may we display not only the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, and peace – but also God’s miraculous signs, wonders, and miracles.
Teaching, leading, and being in a Charismatic group is much more challenging than being a Cessationist. In fact, there are few who practice the Power Gifts as enthusiastically as they did in the Jesus Movement. It is too difficult.
I lay out 4 ways God heals and fosters growth that help me deal with the Bible’s full teaching.
1. The Truth is often the primary source of healing/growth.
2. Fruit of the Spirit is essential in healing, especially of trauma.
3. Gifts are often important in healing.
4. Power is the normal way of thinking about healing but it is the rarest form.
When the Spirit is present, healing and freedom occur but usually slowly and unseen by observers.
Your writing amazes me.
I long for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Do we no longer believe for miracles? Where is the holy excitement of the charismatic movement of the seventies? Many have become believers, but few seek after doing the works that Jesus did. “These works that I do, you shall do also….and greater works than these shall you do.” Come Holy Spirit! We need to stir up the gifts within us and be bold and strong. This article inspired me to step out in faith and use the gifts of the spirit. We won’t see miracles unless we expect to see them. Believers need to be recharged with the spirit and set on fire again. Believe and receive.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject, Buchan. I( did not know there is a word to describe those who do not believe in supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit.)
I have some potential explanations for why not everyone is healed, and why God sometimes feels inaccessible.
Just yesterday morning, when I tried to have my daily session in God’s presence, it seemed the door was shut. I assessed my life in search of any sin that might be hindering the process, but everything seemed clear.
Then I thought of it, “It must be the devil’s presence that is the problem.” (I was currently volunteering at a counseling center for men. where I had spent the night, and I had noticed before that such facilities are sometimes infested with evil spirits…)
Immediately after I renounced the devil, I could access God’s presence as I normally do.
Might that be part of the problem in your experiences?
Also, does God not ask us to pray with the attitude of, “Your will be done.”? Maybe healing is not granted because that is not God’s will in that situation.
In my experiences, if my request was contrary to God’s will He was always faithful in telling me so and assuring me that it would be best in the end if my request were not granted, and He will be with me as I work through that inconvenience.
No, I do not claim to have it all figured out. I acknowledge that reality could be quite different than I tend to think.
(You can read some of my stories of being in God’s presence at: https://marcushurstauthor.com/2021/08/in-gods-presence/.
As always, I appreciate your writing. I’m excited to report, however, that my family and I are part of two growing ministries in Grove City, OH, where we are beginning to see exactly that – the gifts of the Holy Spirit moving in power – and, with them, the fruit of the Spirit also growing in believers’ lives! People are being saved, healed, delivered, and changed, not by our power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit. We spent last summer and fall worshipping, praying, and evangelizing on the streets of Grove City with people hungry for the presence of the Lord. We are spending the winter months training up new church and worship leaders who are ready to take the city, state, and nation for the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that the key to this is letting go. Too many church leaders are fearful and thus keep a tight rein on the gifts of the Spirit, or they reserve their use for a chosen few. We have allowed the Spirit free rein in our meetings – and, as a result, He moves freely. If you ever get a chance to return to the Columbus area, I’d love for you to come and see what the Lord is doing here! Blessings!!!
That’s great news!