Putting a stop to Cessationism

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit has, and continues to be a subject of much controversy, mis-understanding and abuse. In a day when the Christian church needs to be all the God intends for her, Ray Borlase defends his corner.

First published 08/08/2011

Gifts of the SpiritEd preface: The following is an edited extract from an article entitled 'Cessationism Corrected' which appeared in 'The Watchman' magazine in 1999.

The article was written at a time of much controversy within the Christian church worldwide over a series of movements which started in North America. The author, Ray Borlase, defends his theology on the present-day availability and use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the face of what he also saw as excesses.


"Love never fails (or ceases); but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; If there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."
(1 Corinthians 13:8-10)

PAUL, in his writing to the church at Corinth, made it clear the day was coming when prophecy, tongues and knowledge would cease. The question is: has that day come?
The cessationist would say that it has; the charismatic would say that it has not. [The word charismatic comes from the Greek word meaning 'gift' and is especially linked in 1 Corinthians 12 to the gifts of the Spirit.]

Who is right - the cessationist or the charismatic?

Charismatic Chaos

Part of the difficulty has arisen because of the deception which has developed within the Charismatic Movement. Some would go as far as to say that the whole movement began in deception: others would say that the gifts of the Spirit had never fully been lost and were being restored again to the Church. We would take the latter view while at the same time being immensely concerned about the deceptions which have crept into the Charismatic Movement. It is one of the reasons why we have an article in most editions of The Watchman called 'Dangerous Deceptions'. We even have reservations about talking about Charismatic churches or the charismatic Movement because it puts undue weight on the gifts of the Spirit whereas the fruit of the Spirit is equally important. Indeed the Charismatic Movement has put undue emphasis on the Holy Spirit often to the neglect of the Father. Whereas the Holy Spirit was once the forgotten member of the Trinity, it is now God the Father who is overlooked.

The Cessationist Position

There are two main arguments which they employ. Firstly, they argue that signs and wonders were part of the apostolic ministry, and once the ministry of the apostles ceased, then the gifts ceased. Rightly they would con¬nect signs and wonders with the apostolic ministry for Paul writes: "The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles." (2 Corinthians 12:12) What is not so clear is whether signs and wonders were simply the function of apostles and whether in fact the ministry of an apostle did die out.
The basis for their understanding of an apostle must be questioned first of all. They refer to the situation in Acts 1:15-26 where Peter suggests that they should appoint a replacement for Judas among the twelve apostles. He states that the necessary qualification for an apostle was that the candidates should be "a witness with us of His resurrection." The cessationists argue that once those who had seen the Risen Lord had died, then the ministry of an apostle would disappear. They state that Paul comes into this category as he saw the Risen Lord on the road to Damascus, and he seems to give that as support for his apostleship.(1 Corinthians 15:3f)

Yet we have to examine their argument a little further. Is Peter right, in the first place, to appoint a replacement for Judas? They are told to wait in Jerusalem until they are "baptised with the Holy Spirit." Peter is never the most patient of men, and recommends the appointment of a successor to Judas as an apostle. Not being filled by the Holy Spirit, was he led by the Holy Spirit in this selection? Certainly they were not led by the Holy Spirit in choosing Judas's successor; they drew lots - most spiritual! The man they chose was Matthias - and we never hear of him again!

In any case, if we examine the criteria set out by Peter, it is not only that the person should be a witness of the resurrection, but have been with Jesus from the beginning. Based on Peter's criteria even Paul could not have become an apostle - and yet he was!

What is an Apostle?

We do not have the space to go into this matter in great detail, but the Greek word (apostolos) comes from the verb anoateaw meaning 'to send'. An apostle is one who is sent.

There seems to be four categories mentioned in the Scriptures:

a) Jesus is described in Hebrews 3:1 as 'the Apostle'. He was uniquely sent by God the Father.

b) There were the twelve apostles sent by Jesus (John 20:21)

c) There were other apostles sent by the Holy Spirit. Paul and Barnabas are described as apostles (Acts 14:14) who responded to the prompting of God by the Holy Spirit. "The Holy Spirit said, 'Separate for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.' .... So being sent out by the Holy Spirit..." (Acts 13:2,4) It would seem that Adronicus and Junias would come under this category as well. (Romans 16:7)

d) 'Apostolos' is sometimes translated in a less technical sense as a messenger instead of apostle as in 2 Corinthians 8:23 and Philippians 2:25.

Obviously the latter does not affect our understanding of an apostle, but we do need to understand that the Greek word is used in a less formal sense. What is clear, however, is that Paul certainly did not fit fully Peter's criteria, but it does not seem to matter to the Holy Spirit in sending out Paul and Barnabas as apostles.

Added to that, we see that Paul saw himself as a wise master builder who laid the foundation of the Church with Apollos building upon it. (1 Corinthians 3:10) In Ephesians 2.20 Paul states that the church in Ephesus has been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Clearly the work of apostles is foundational.
They act as mature missionaries (sent with a mission) laying the foundation of the Church with others later carrying on the work. In this they differ from evangelists who also preach the gospel, but apostles are giving clear instruction (teaching) for the saints to be established as the Body of Christ. Equally in Ephesians 4, there is no evidence that the work of apostles would come to an end. Inevitably there must always be those who establish churches in new areas as the gospel is taken further afield.

The main point that we are making is that the cessationists cannot prove that the role of an apostle died out. Their definition of an apostle is based on the criteria which Peter laid down, which is obviously false, as Paul could not possibly fit it for he was never involved in Christ's earthly ministry. We rather doubt whether Barnabas, Adronicus and Junias would fit that description either.

Signs and Wonders

A further objection must be raised in that it was not just the apostles who produced signs and wonders. Stephen performed great signs and wonders (Acts 6:8) and so did Philip (Acts 8:6). What is more, Mark's gospel makes it clear that believers (not just apostles) may be used to bring about signs and wonders. "These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover." (Mark 16:17,18)
The cessationists argue that when the apostles died out the signs ceased with them. Yet signs and wonders were never limited to the apostles only, so even if the apostles died out, the signs would not necessarily cease.

What is 'the perfect'?

We need now to examine the other argument of the cessationists. It is based on the words already quoted at the beginning of this article. Many of the Plymouth Brethren maintain that when 'the perfect' came, then the gifts would pass away. They maintain that 'the perfect' has come in the form of the Bible, so the "gifts of the Spirit" such as prophecy and tongues have come to an end. What does Paul have in mind when he writes: "when the perfect comes the partial will be done away."?

He has already stated that "we know in part" but he continues by saying, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known." The context makes it abundantly clear that at the moment we do need knowledge, but that knowledge is partial. The day will dawn when we know everything.
Even with the Scriptures our understanding is limited. We certainly do not know as God knows us, but when we reach Heaven, or when the Lord returns, then we shall have full understanding. That is when the perfect comes!

In any case, if these gifts were about to disappear (for Scripture was already being written) why does Paul take so much time writing about the gifts of the Spirit? (Chapters 12-14) Why does he encourage the Corinthian Church to desire earnestly spiritual gifts? (1 Corinthians 12:31 and 14:1) He shows that tongues, prophecy and knowledge will cease, unlike love, but only when we come to a position of perfect understanding.

The fact is that we have not reached perfection yet nor has God removed the gifts of the Spirit. Neither is it true that the apostles alone performed signs and wonders. Even if the role of apostles (mature missionaries, planting churches) has disappeared, which I doubt, it was believers who would perform signs and wonders which included casting out demons speaking in tongues and healing. If such signs and wonders as casting out demons have disappeared what is to happen to the demon possessed person?
After all, Jesus said that if He cast out demons by the Spirit of God then they were to know that the Kingdom of God had come amongst them. Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan. Are we no longer to rebuke evil spirits in the name of the Lord? Is God no longer able to give prophetic direction to His Church in sending out new missionaries or to warn of famine as happened in the Acts of the Apostles? Has the day of God's power come to an end? I can find no convincing evidence that God has caused the gifts of the Spirit to come to an end.

The Truth of the Matter

The cessationists position is built on straw. It does not bear close examination because their arguments are built on supposition not on a clear biblical basis. Brothers and sisters, "earnestly desire the gifts of the Spirit" - but please let them be genuinely of God, and let us especially test prophecy as we are told to do! Enough of the false, let us have the proper exercise of spiritual gifts for they have not ceased!

Ray Borlase

Ray BorlaseRay Borlase was Director of Intercessors for Britain over a period of many years and is currently 'standing in' in this role again, following the homecall of his successor Stuart Dool.
Ray is the pastor of Moreton Christian Assembly and also Chairman of Prayer for Israel.

Ed footnote:The main chapter on the gifts of the Holy Spirit is 1 Cor. 12, but see also Rom 12:3 - 8 and Eph. 4: 7 - 13.

Ray Borlase, 23/07/2013

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Editor 19/08/2011 19:29
"get a balance of different theological/doctrinal perspectives"

May do; but this is the starting point.
Martin Lisemore 19/08/2011 21:37
Begins to sound like a bull ring before a bull fight.

But please, in the combat which might follow, we're to bring glory to Jesus, not score points or enhance our own reputations.

Under that condition, I'm up for it!!!
Seumas, Tobermory (Guest) 21/08/2011 12:51
Looks like a worthless exercise to me

1) "Putting a stop to cessationism" Hardly an unbiased title is it? "Cessationism vs Continuing Gifts" would be more appropriate as a title. Dice loaded from the start. Hardly the way to establish truths.

2) Editors comment "May do" Hardly encouraging. Real hands-in-the-pockets, shrug of the shoulders stuff that! If it is that hard to find a cessationist pastor in what is the Highlands and Islands, then something is far wrong. "Will definitely find someone else to provide a balance opposite view" would be more encouraging.

3) Debates of this type are worthless. This debate has gone on for decades. Both sides will offer "scripture proofs" to bolster their unchangeable dogmas. Both will be "right". Its a bit like trying to argue "pre", "post" or "a-" millenialism. All viewpoints can be "proved" by scripture. All cannot be right. Just like other theological controversies. Calvinism/Arminianism for example. eg Wesley to Whitefield "your God is my Devil" Or the "real presence" as opposed to symbolism at the eucharist. After all Luther said he would "rather drink blood with papists than wine with Zwinglians"

Fact is there are as many theologies as there are theologians. If the bible were as clear, tidy and unambiguous as a lot of evangelicals CLAIM that it is, you wouldnt have these controversies. I believe that this has been pointed out before on this site.

4) The bias on this site is overwhelmingly charismatic anyway. There are very few contributors I have read who would appear to be cessationist.So I suspect it will end up as a bunch of charismatic fanboys all patting each other on the back. Go on prove me wrong. The site should be called "Charismaniacs Together"

5) Some of the greatest evangelical theologians in history have been and are cessationist. Maybe there is a good reason why?

6) On this site there are numerous articles attacking wayward movements in the church today - prosperity theologians, kundalini spirits, false prophets, dodgy faith healers (like Todd Bentley) and so on. The modern church is rife with these charlatans. Every single one, without exception is charismatic. Penny dropped yet?
Martin Lisemore 21/08/2011 15:00
Seumas, your 'facts' in point 6 don't stand up to much scrutiny. Cessationism has been with the institutional church since at least the days when Rome grabbed Christianity as a political and military tool removing at a stroke the Jewish foundation of the movement and gathering all power to itself. The God given Offices and Gifts were most inconvenient to Rome so they disappeared. Actually, I believe them to remain inconvenient in current churches.

Believe me, dodgy clerics, false teachers etc are not confined to the Charismatic movement, oh no. The Church of England, and it seems to me down here the C of S also, is led by them and has been for years. Well, they are daughters of Rome. 'Nuff said on that!

'The bias on this site is overwhelmingly charismatic ...' No.

Your penny dropping logic is also horribly flawed. There are, shall we say, a few dozen church goers who are up the wrong road. Ergo, all church goers are bad.

Again, 'nuff said!
Peter Carr 21/08/2011 20:19
"4) The bias on this site is overwhelmingly charismatic anyway.

6) On this site there are numerous articles attacking wayward movements in the church today - prosperity theologians, kundalini spirits, false prophets, dodgy faith healers (like Todd Bentley) and so on. The modern church is rife with these charlatans. Every single one, without exception is charismatic. Penny dropped yet?"

Seumas, your comments in serial 4 and 6 seem to contradict each other. In serial 4 you slam this site for being charismatic, yet in serial 6 you also slam this site for being against charismatics! You cannot have it both ways.

Seumas, Tobermory (Guest) 21/08/2011 21:34
Back to the fray...

Martin, I am not saying "all charismatic bad" "all cessationist good" but when we look at the worst excesses in the church today, the perpetrators are overwhemingly charismatic in their theology. It is almost as if pentecostalism / charismatic practices enable this to happen. The whole charismatic thing is heavily "feelings and emotions" based and as a consequence provides the platform for charlatans to exploit with cult-like behaviour.

But I agree, the situation in a lot of the more traditional churches is dire. There are people occupying pulpots who simply shouldnt be there.


Your point - yes it may seem contradictory but the point I was trying to make is that despite all the articles on this site showing the horrors and excesses of charismatic charlatans, there is still a desire to put up with it! Plus a failure to see that the emperor is utterly naked.

The problem is, for the charismatics, that the errors and heresies and cult like behaviour can be pointed out time and again, ad nauseum, but they end up saying things like "Ah, but that's not the genuine thing, thats counterfeit" "Thats abusing the gifts of the spirit"

Which is fair enough, but it starts to sound awfully like the "No True Scotsman" logical fallacy

To my mind, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like one, well, it probably IS a duck!

Theres even a very recent example of "yet another charismatic liar" on this very site. That Lance Lambert article where he claims to have a "word" from God about Britain. He makes the error of thinking that "Great" refers to erstwhile power rather than a mere adjective comparing it to Brittany (which is the correct historic reason as one poster pointed out)

In which case, if this is a "word from God" then God has got it wrong!

Of course the provenance of this "prophecy" may just be the voices in the head of this ego-tripping deluded self-publicist....

Plenty of these false prophets around. Unfortunately.

Martin Lisemore 21/08/2011 23:13
Seumas, I do sincerely thank you for coming back. It is so very easy to have a 'pop,' on a Christian forum and disappear.

You seem very angry, as I am, and that about similar things. If you've read historic posts here you'll know I came from many years in the High Church of England (smells and bells and robes) to Methodism, (no smells, no bells and no robes) through Pentecostalism to here, out on my own. I am extremely angry about the state of the church and the Church, and the way so many gullible souls are sucked into demonic things.

I have witnessed many movements in the churches, including the Charismatic renewal which almost sundered my first marriage and many other families, and Toronto, which I observed first hand and reported on. I have seen a bishop of the church of England, in full regalia, squat down and say he was laying an egg for Jesus. Sort of puts later developments in the shade. In Toronto I've seen people in demonic gyrations uttering words, supposedly in tongues, and then faint, and in one case have a heart attack. I could go on ...

None of the above says our Lord is not present in the genuine article, and I firmly believe we should not throw out the baby with the bath water. Seek ye the Lord, the Scripture says, and again, be like the Bereans ...

Seumas, I agree with all you say in reference to my post; but again I say, I have sought the Lord in all movements in the last 30 years, and found Him weeping on the sidelines quite often.

Because the majority are bad doesn't mean everyone is. Our God never leaves Himself without a witness. And I have had the extreme privilege of finding them, sometimes.

Seumas, I am a Pentecostal; I care not to follow any man, as Paul counselled against; neither do I follow a denomination. Many are in error, but read all my posts and find an error in terms of the Bible, and please do come back to me.

Again, I say, I am as angry as you are, and if you care to continue posting, we could well find we're angry about the same things!
Jenny 22/08/2011 13:34
Seumas, I'm a kneejerk Cessationist and when I see anyone claiming to speak in God's name it sets all the alarm bells ringing.

I'd be really interested to know how you think we should understand 1 Cor 14 v1-4,
"Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy...
...he that prophesieth edifieth the church".
I'm quite certain it's not meant to be a blanket encouragement to all the excesses of the charismatic movement, but I'm not sure either, just how it should be taken.

With regard to the title of "Great" Britain - I think objecting to it on the grounds mentioned is a bit of a semantic quibble.
For all I know the name did only arise to distinguish us geographically from Brittany (not that it seems as historically plausible as all that)) - but even if so, it's really neither here nor there.
It is a fact that Britain WAS "great", in every sense, and did great things in the world. Now it isn't, and the reason for that is spiritual decline.
Editor 22/08/2011 13:49
I don't want to 'interrupt the flow' but just to support the remark:
"With regard to the title of 'Great' Britain - I think objecting to it on the grounds mentioned is a bit of a semantic quibble."

Straining out gnats and swallowing camels (Matt 23:24) is the way in which Scripture describes 'nitpicking' - a marvellous device for avoiding the real issue(s).

As Curlew also, and rightly pointed out - Britain was indeed a 'great' nation in the sense that many countries have looked to Britain (rightly or wrongly) as offering a standard in so many areas of life. Of course we have fallen immeasurably since; but that is not the point.

But please feel free to continue the discussion as I will need to compile a list of questions.
Peter Carr 22/08/2011 14:46
"Seumas, I'm a kneejerk Cessationist and when I see anyone claiming to speak in God's name it sets all the alarm bells ringing."

What is the preachers job?

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