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.