REVISITING THE SO-CALLED "SIGN" OR "MIRACLE" GIFTS (Part 6)
by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)
CHARLES SPURGEON is thought of to be a cessationist due to the lack of any explicit reference to the operation of the charisma in his theology, ministry, or from those who have written biographies on the man. However, let's take a look at some of his own words found in his own autobiography (Spurgeon, Charles. The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Vol. II, Curtis & Jennings, 1899, pp.226-27). From the pen of Charles Spurgeon: “While preaching I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, 'There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker, he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took ninepence, and there was fourpence profit out of it, his soul is sold to Satan for fourpence?'” He goes on to explain how his statement was true and found out after the man admitted it to a “city missionary.” Sounds eerily familiar to “prophecy” or a “word of knowledge.”
Spurgeon continues, “I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea if I was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description, that the persons has gone away and said to their friends, 'Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did...' …I have known many incidents in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit” (Ibid.).*
So, what does all of this information regarding church history mean? Does it prove miracle gifts are still active today? No. Does it prove they actually operated as these accounts and resources state? No. But is it evidence? Yes. It is evidence that is beneficial for the continuationists case, but not so much for cessationists.
Cessationists need to stop making the false claim that there is no record of the miracle, or sign, gifts operating in church history after the time of the apostles. If one is going to be a cessationist that's fine. There are plenty of strong arguments for which that case can be made. But to use this argument is inappropriate, inaccurate and blatantly false.
WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?
For me, all of this just brings me back around full circle. My answer to the question of whether or not the miracle gifts are operative in the church today is still “I don't know.” If someone were to ask if I were a cessationist or a continuationist, my short answer remains “I don't know.” But I'm not going to stop studying the issue.
It is not an essential, but it is important. There are a couple things that I know for sure. First, many continuationists, especially leaders and pastors in that camp, need to bridle their behavior and the behavior of those under their leadership. Barking, rolling on the ground, magical gold dust clouds, uncontrolled laughter, punching or kicking people, getting knocked over by breath or a white suit coat, and many other foolish actions are not biblical. These actions can in no way be supported by Scripture.
Second, many cessationists need to humble themselves in this area. Too many cessationists act superior and condescending toward those who believe differently than they do. They ridicule and demean even the most cautious, reverent, God fearing, intellectual continuationist leaders.
DO I RECOMMEND THE BOOK?
I'm going to close this out with the issue of whether or not I recommend this book. This question has already been asked of me several times. What do you think by the way I presented the information? Any guesses?
Well, in all honesty, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend this book. That is probably evident to most who took the time to actually read this and truly tried to see and understand where I am coming from. Perhaps it's not as evident to those who have preconceived ideas and were too busy thinking about how much you agreed or disagreed with something I said and how you would respond to it.
With that said, Storms is much more careful than many continuationists on how he practices these gifts and how he instructs his church to practice these gifts. If you are a continuationist and you don't waiver on that issue at all, if you are steadfast in your position, then I think this book could be of benefit in that it may help keep you and your church from the excesses that so often accompany continuatioinist actions.
What do you think? I'd like to hear from those of you who have made it this far. Do you have any information you'd like to add pro or anti either side of this coin? Any thoughts or ideas that might get me “off the fence” one way or the other? If so, please leave them in the comments.**
*Much of the information for this article was taken or adapted from: Storms, Sam. Practicing The Power, pp.244-266, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017.
**Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.