A REFUTATION OF CESSATION THEOLOGY
Despite the absence of any explicit biblical support for cessation of spiritual gifts, one faction of the church disputes their validity today. And if any biblical passages are quoted in support of cessation, the explanations are often unconvincing to the ardent student of the word. As a Christian, my understanding is that the teachings of the church should be based on the word of God, not cooked up ideologies. What complicates matters is that both the proponents and opponents of spiritual gifts use the Bible in their defense. For example, John MacArthur, a leading modern cessation theologian, asserts that those who claim that the gift of tongues never ceased "put themselves in a heretical tradition." Such a strong declaration goes to show just how intense the debate on spiritual gifts has developed. Going by the definition of heresy, it means that all those who still affirm the validity of spiritual gifts and miracles are nothing but liars, nonconformists, or simply contrary to church dogma.
MacArthur doesn't hide his feelings about his opponents. In Charismatic Chaos, he writes unapologetically, charismatics and Pentecostals have "very poor hermeneutics principles". The question at hand therefore is, between cessationists and non-cessationists, who falls more on the side of heresy? Who could be missing the point? Sufficient scriptural evidence exists to show that spiritual gifts, including tongues, are not outdated. A good question to MacArthur and all cessation theologians is: What if you are wrong?
In the first part of this essay, I will list a number of reasons given by proponents of the cessation of spiritual gifts today. With each supporting statement for cessation, I will respond with a rebuttal using the same scripture. This is to examine the scriptures and allow them to speak for themselves and help us establish the right understanding on this topic. Making conclusions based merely on rational reflection and hearsay can be very dangerous, especially when it involves matters of faith. Every believer has a responsibility to search out the scriptures, examine God's word, and ensure that their theological foundation is built on correct interpretation and appropriate application of biblical truth. More often than not, many people let quote unquote scholars dictate what the Bible means and never get to dig into the scriptures for themselves. In the end, people face the risk of embracing teachings that sound good but lead them down the wrong path.
I wish I could just wink at cessation proposals and pretend that everything is fine and dandy. But I am afraid I can't. I can't just snub this debate because denying the validity of gifts and miracles is an assault on the credibility of Christ's promises to the church and a direct insult to the third person of the Holy Trinity who is as active today as he was 2000 years ago. The following section will briefly highlight some common cessation claims, followed by my rebuttal to each claim.
Cessation Theology Claims and my Rebuttal
The Bible teaches that miracles would cease when their purpose is fulfilled (1
I will touch on a couple of things cessationists bring out in 1 Corinthians 13 in their support.
1. Love is the most excellent way
Who would question that? Most certainly, love is more excellent than anything! But what was the apostle trying to say? First, I must admit that Paul could not have put 1 Corinthians 13 in a better place. It acts as a bridge between the classifications and significance of spiritual gifts (chapter 12) and the operations of spiritual gifts (chapter 14). Secondly, suffice it to say that great caution must be exercised in interpreting 1 Corinthians 13 to avoid taking it out of context. We can draw one overarching theme from this passage: Love is primary to all human deeds and spiritual manifestations (1 Cor. 13:1-3). This premise puts the use of spiritual gifts in proper perspective. Paul makes it clear that love must be the under-root that motivates all human deeds, including the use of spiritual gifts. Snubbing spiritual gifts or doing good deeds is not implied in any portion of the chapter of love (stated above), or else it would contradict the teachings of scriptures.
In 1 Corinthians 14:1, Paul charges believers to follow the way of love and "desire" (not despise) spiritual gifts, especially prophecy. In the same chapter, verse 39 to be precise, the apostle again makes the appeal, "Be eager to prophecy and forbid not to speak in tongues." He doesn't stop there! In 1 Timothy 6:18, he asks those who are rich in the present age to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share. In Ephesians 2:10, all believers are reminded that they are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which were prepared beforehand as their way of life. Just because love is the most excellent way does not mean we have to just sit back and not do anything good (including desiring spiritual gifts.) There is a saying worthy of note that I heard many times in seminary: The essence of love is the ability to give.
1 Corinthians 13 reminds us that a person can do a good deed and not love at all. However, it is impossible to possess love and lack the desire to perform good deeds that benefit and build others. What is established in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 is the significance and supremacy of love. In other words, Corinthian Christians were cautioned against over-rating spiritual gifts and good works, which are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. God is more concerned about the state of the heart, the condition in which good deeds are executed than in the deeds themselves. Therefore, good deeds become meaningless if they are not motivated by love. Yes, love is the most excellent way, but good works and spiritual gifts are still essential. They have their place. Love never opposes good deeds. Actually, it promotes them.
2. Love is permanent, gifts are partial and have ceased
"Love is permanent. Prophecies, tongues and knowledge will cease" (1 Cor. 13:8). Some use this as ground for disregarding spiritual gifts today. According to my cessation friends, these verses were more like a prophecy of what has now happened happen to spiritual gifts. They place the cessation time around the end of the apostolic era. John MacArthur argues, "I am convinced by history, theology, and the Bible that tongues ceased in the apostolic age. And when it happened, they terminated altogether." Hence, tongues and other gifts were simply transitory. Here is the further reasoning behind this analysis: "Remember the gifts were needed because people did not have the written word. In fact the gifts were needed to give men the written word. When the scriptures were complete, direct revelation was no longer needed, so it ceased."One thing I agree with this view is that this passage was prophetic in the sense that it was foretelling future events. Nevertheless, I find their reasoning to be wanting of substance. For one thing, the gifts were never given to just give the written word. If this was the case, how do we explain the first written word-the Old Testament-which was written before the gifts of Acts? Therefore, claiming that spiritual gifts were given in order to give the written word is unscriptural.
Paul clearly explained why spiritual gifts were given: "A spiritual gift is given to each of us so that we can help each other" (1 Cor. 12:7). To say that spiritual gifts became useless after the written word would mean that it is no longer necessary for Christians to help each other. Needless to say, either Christians are now perfect and in need of nothing or Christians are of all people the most insane, or disillusioned to say the least.
More cessation reasoning: "Prophecy, knowledge, and other gifts are partial and have since become useless (1 Cor. 13:9-12). Since "that which is perfect (complete)" is contrasted to "that which is in part", we conclude "that which is perfect" must refer to the complete revelation of all truth," Cessationists argue. In this case, the "partial things" (spiritual gifts) have passed away already. Is this really what Paul meant to say? The good thing is that we can all agree that the "partial" refers to spiritual gifts and pretty much every earthly experience. What we do not agree on is their duration. I think examining the scriptures for the true meaning of the perfect will help determine the correct extent of the gifts. Paul uses two illustrations to make his point by comparing childhood to adulthood and looking in a mirror versus face to face. Both illustrations contrast the limitedness of earthly wisdom and knowledge to the limitlessness of love.
The question again is, "when does this perfection come into effect?" Defining perfection would be helpful. The Greek word used in this passage (above) is teleios, which signifies something being brought to completion, or fully developed. Used by different authors in the Bible, the following are some of the most common original definitions (associated with teleios) found in Thomas Green's Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament: (1)Fully developed-James 1: 4; (2) fully realized, thorough-1 John 4:18; (3) Complete, entire, as opposed to what is partial and limited-1 Cor. 13:10; (4)Full grown, of ripe age-1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 4:13; Heb. 5:14; (5) Fully accomplished in Christian enlightenment-1 Cor. 2:6; Phi. 3:15; Col. 1:28; (6) Perfect in some point of character, without shortcoming in respect of a certain standard-Matt. 5:48; 19:21; Col. 4:12; James 1:4; 3:2; (7) Perfect, consummate-Rom. 12:2; James 1:17, 25; (8) Comprised of higher excellence and efficiency-Heb. 9:11.
Once again, let us pay particular attention to Paul's language in 1 Corinthians 13 verse 10. He refers to the period after the partial things will have come to pass as the "time of completion or perfection". If someone, anyone could tell me at which point on this earth could we ever realize this perfection-a time when we can be fully developed, being fully accomplished in Christian enlightenment, and fully realized in some point of character, without any shortcomings, I would be the happiest. All the definitions above ought to ring the bell on the time when this perfection shall start. It clearly points to the time of eternal brightness in heaven, not here on earth.
If you are still in doubt, perhaps the words of Jesus may help us understand the nature of the Christian life on this earth. Please consider his words in John 16:33: "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." Something I am gleaning from these words is that there is and will never be anything perfect about this earthly life. Why would Jesus fore-warn his followers to take heart in tribulations if Christians could achieve perfection on earth? 1 John 3:2 sheds more light on when this perfection will be fully realized: "Beloved, we are children of God now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is." At least John the writer knew something; what do you know about your future state? Both 1 Corinthians 13:9-12 and 1 John 3:2 have nothing to do with the completion of the written word in time past, but the second revelation or coming of Christ the Living Word, when we shall see him as he is and be like him at his revelation. The definite time for the cessation of the imperfect can be determined by letting scripture interpret scripture, a general rule of scriptural interpretation. It's at his appearing!
One more thing to think about before we leave 1 Corinthians 13! When it comes to the triad of the Christian life mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:13-faith, hope, love-we are told that love supersedes the other virtues. Since we are giving up on gifts because love is greater than the gifts, should we also give up on faith and hope because love is also greater than them. There is no need to have faith. Hope is useless. Let us just keep on loving. Would that even be realistic? Common sense tells us "no"; doesn't it? Then why do we pick and choose what to believe even when the truth is laid out vividly? That said, as long as we are on this earth, the church needs faith, hope, and spiritual gifts, all anchored in the love of God.
There is no means by which people today can receive these gifts (Eph.4:3-6)
Cessation supporters love this verse! What exactly does this text say? Paul was
addressing the Ephesian believers about the unity in the body of Christ that is facilitated by the Spirit. He then proceeded to list the essential factors that hold up the Catholic Church of Christ, namely, one body (of Christ) and one Spirit, one hope, one Lord (Christ), one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all. How can we say there is no means by which people today can receive these gifts when the Spirit is still part of the list? To whom do the scriptures attribute as the dispenser of spiritual gifts? Is it not the same Spirit? Did Christ not say he would send the comforter after his departure? Did the comforter not come? If he did come, at what point in the biblical narratives did he leave and take the gifts with him?
Just because Paul refers to "one baptism" does not necessarily erase the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is still accessible to all seekers. It would be repetitious for Paul to include the baptism of the Spirit on this list because all gifts and benefits of the Spirit fall under the latter's jurisdiction. Under "one Spirit," we have all the spiritual gifts and benefits. Unfortunately, Paul is often misquoted as implying that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is no longer possible because of the "one baptism" factor. That means all those who claim to have the baptism of the Spirit or spiritual gifts are phonies. They are not real and should be disregarded at all costs. Clearly, at least scripturally, the means to receiving the gifts and all the benefits of the Spirit are still available. The Spirit is still very much active today, if not even more active given that we are in the last days. Did Joel not prophecy about the prophecies and visions being manifested in the last days? (Joel 2:28). The last time I checked, we are still in the last days, in fact, much closer than the early church to the second coming of Christ. The time is even riper for the church to utilize Spiritual Gifts.
Spiritual gifts are no longer needed because they have fulfilled their purpose
The cessationist argument here is that miracles were to confirm that Jesus was the Messiah and end right after. First of all, let's set some things straight. John 20:29-31 refers specifically to the pre-ascension signs displayed by Jesus, which were just too numerous for the Bible to contain. God chose, through the authors of the gospels, only those accounts which he saw fit to authenticate the prophesied "Messiah-ship" in Jesus. These miracles are separate from the post-Pentecost miracles of the early church. The golden rule of scriptural interpretation says, "When the plain sense of scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths indicate clearly otherwise."
To say that spiritual gifts have already fulfilled their purpose and thus no longer needed is not only distorted but inconsistent with the reason they were given to the church in the first place. By accepting that, to me, it sounds like the church has already been perfected. Once again, I suppose we might as well send the preachers, teachers, evangelists, prophets, and apostles home. No one should be reminded about the dangers of falling into sin. The sick in the church or those with damaged emotions might as well be told to suck it up because they have missed this so called "perfection". Who needs healing now? Sorry, we do not need it. Why should we be building up a church that is already perfected? If this is what our Christian life comes down to, it makes everything meaningless, doesn't it? No wonder some unbelievers avoid joining the church because of inconsistent reasoning by some in Christ's body.
No modern events have the characteristics of Bible events (Matthew 7:15; 2; Corinthians 11:13-15; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1)
The opponents of spiritual gifts claim that no modern events share the same characteristics as the events in the Bible. They throw together various scriptures that foretell the coming of false prophets who would infiltrate the church. Other titles ascribed to these individuals include false apostles, deceitful workers, and ministers of Satan. I agree with Cessationists, the presence of these figures in our day and time makes it too hard to believe any miracle. I also agree that the presence of false prophets gives people the creeps about spiritual gifts in general. "Beware of false prophets, false apostles, deceitful workers, and ministers of Satan," we hear this all the time. I don't disagree, but we must not forget that false prophets existed in New Testament times as well. Obviously, we will not use "false prophets" as the basis for discrediting the miracles of Paul and Peter. But we are using them as one of the reasons for disgracing post-apostolic miracles for no valid reason. Scripturally, when it comes to spiritual gifts, we have an admonition in 1 John 4:1 to "try the spirits whether they are of God," but not to "discredit every spirit because it can't be from God." Maybe the issue of false prophets may not be your main concern after all.
Disbelieving spiritual gifts merely because they are more or less visible in your life or assembly is elevating experience over the written word of God. Last year, In October 2013, Charisma News, an online Christian site published a thought-provoking article "John MacArthur, Cessation Theology, and Trainspotting for Cave Dwellers." In it, the author, Mark Rutland challenged cessation proponents to show him where in the Bible it is clearly stated that the gifts would stop this side of heaven. He borrows imagery from Irvine Welsh's dark Scottish novel Trainspotting to drive home a point. In Trainspotting, there is a bum living in an abandoned train station waiting to see a train, something which would never happen. Rutland maintains, "Trains still run elsewhere in Scotland. Just not there." He then argues, "Just because trains don't run past your house doesn't mean there is no such thing as trains." He couldn't have said it any better.
Most people are fond of making excuses. Some won't indulge the idea of embracing Christianity just because "there are hypocrites in church." What about the non-hypocrites? What say ye? You may not see genuine Christianity where you live, but trust me, it exists elsewhere. The fact that hypocrisy exists gives us hope that its alternative is equally possible.
Further, Rutland shares his personal experience with village people in the Peruvian rain forest. The Peruvian dwellers had only seen an airplane far high in the sky. Their American visitor was shocked by what he heard in a conversation that ensued after a plane flew over the forest. When Rutlands shared that he had travelled to Peru via similar means of transportation, most villagers questioned his veracity. The village headman was the only exception. His words astounded Rutlands. "I have never seen an airplane except up there in the sky. I cannot imagine what something like that looks like on the ground. They look very small to me in the sky, but birds look smaller to me in the sky...Why should we doubt him? He got here somehow. I hope someday to see an airplane on the ground. Until then I will just wait," He said. Tada! Who said hut-dwellers can't be profound! I wish most "civilized" people shared this village chief's perspective on airplanes in their spiritual matters. You may have never seen what we call "miracles" or "spiritual gifts," but surely, like trains in Trainspotting, spiritual gifts and miracles happen elsewhere.
Don't be like the bum abiding in an abandoned train station where no train travels. It is useless staying there. Maybe, if you are looking for trains (spiritual gifts), what you need is a shift in perspective, from the cave dwellers' to the Peruvian village headman's. Staying where you are may not be useful. Mark Rutland determines, "Denouncing all who dare to believe the validity of spiritual gifts in this and every age is a cave-dweller's point of view: Because I have never seen a train, there are no trains." It's high time to get out of the cave and hang out with people who believe in miracles in this age.
Thus, it is quite certain that biblically, the support for cessation is none existent. In fact, though seemingly minimal at times, the Holy Spirit left his fingerprints in the post apostolic era. Deny it if you like, but his (the Spirit's) DNA is all over for all everyone to see. At this point, we will take a walk through church history and examine the traces of genuine manifestations of the Spirit's gifts and miracles beyond the apostles. Reformation period will be a significant place to start.
Investigating Spiritual Gifts in the Post-Apostolic Church
The events surrounding the reformation era displayed the power of the Holy Spirit who was at work in those who took the risk to search the scriptures and find the truth for themselves. Prior to reformation, scriptural reading and interpretation was left in the hands of the papacy and its clerics. That meant that both the knowledge and ignorance of the church top dogs trickled down to the general membership. As such, there was very little or no room for personal expression. During the Dark Ages, the church was in an apostate state, to say the least. The prescribed indulgences could not quench the souls who were thirsty for genuine salvific peace and rest. Beginning at priests themselves such as Luther all the way to the regular church-goer in the pews of Middle Ages churches, it was evident that there was a missing link in the rituals of the Roman Catholic Church. It wasn't after his encounter with Romans 1:17-"the just shall live by faith"- that Luther found the joy he so strongly sought. From then on, his transformed heart yearned for more truth. The deeper he dag into the Bible, the stronger and bolder his faith became. His efforts sparked the protestant reformation that spread across Europe like wild fire from Germany to France, Switzerland, Spain, Scotland etc.
With the reformation came the freedom of spiritual expression. None of the break-away churches were held under the pangs of Catholic doctrines that pretty much sucked the spirit out of the church. Bibles could now reach the hands of the commoners, thanks to Guttenberg's printing press. Reports of spiritual experiences started hitting the airwaves. Unlike during the Dark Ages, the power of the Holy Spirit was now evidenced through his chosen vessels. Though there is no extensive record of the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifesting during this time, it does not imply that miracles never happened. The following excerpt taken from the Enrichment Journal of the Assemblies of God sheds more light on the work of the Holy Spirit in the 16th century:
A.J. Gordon, in his book, The Ministry of Healing, quotes Luther: "How often has it happened and still does, that devils have been driven out in the name of Christ, also by calling on his name and prayer that the sick have been healed?" To illustrate Luther's belief in divine deliverance, Gordon observes further that healings did occur when Luther prayed for the sick and for the possessed: "In 1541, when Myconius lay speechless in the final stages of consumption, Luther prayed and he was restored to health. Melancthon lay near death of a fever, face sunken and eyes glassy, knowing no one. But Luther sought God and he [Melancthon] began to mend from that hour. 'I should have been a dead man,' said Melancthon, 'had I not been recalled from death itself by the coming of Luther.' " [Regarding Luther's deliverance ministry, A.J. Gordon continues] "When called to deal with a demon-possessed girl, Luther laid hands on her, quoting 'the works I do shall he do also,'[John 14:12] and prayed for her, whereupon she completely recovered.
The German reformation pioneer was not alone. Other notable contemporaries of Luther included Ulrich Zwingli of Zurich and John Calvin of Geneva, Switzerland. Both men were very influential leaders of great movements in their respective cities, and they were not afraid of death threats from Rome. Zwingli was killed on the battlefield in a militant war between Catholics and Protestants. Isn't it interesting to see what people can do to one another all in the name of Christ?
John Calvin's salvation and reformation experiences were influenced in part by Luther's writings and the French Huguenots, respectively. Tradition has it that the latter had spiritual experiences similar to those recorded in the book of Acts. Due to their defiant stance on Roman Catholic practices, most of them were burnt on the stake by the hand of the Roman Catholic machine. St. Bartholomew's Day, 1572, was a very dark day in the history of the reformation. Unsuspecting Huguenots had gone to Paris to celebrate a festive occasion. Caught unawares, most of them could not find a way of escape from a planned Catholic ambush. Eight thousands (8, 000) of them perished on that fateful day.
The St. Bartholomew's Day massacre was the origin of the now famous Cevennes prophets, to which John Wesley later referred. God strengthened these survivors with Pentecostal experiences by the Holy Spirit, the heavenly "Comforter" Jesus had promised His believers. In his text, The Life and Letters of St. Paul, author David Smith observes that during this time of severe persecution in 1685, as the Huguenots earnestly sought the Lord for consolation "the spiritual gifts of the Apostolic Church reappeared — miracles of healing, prophecy, and talking in tongues. By 1689, Pentecostal experiences were quite common among the Huguenots of the Cevennes.
Moving on, let's shift our focus to another significant era in the history of the church
The Great Awakening Experiences
The Great Awakening era witnessed many divine visitations of God. The slumbering Christians were once again quickened and set ablaze during the revivals. Hardened sinners were convicted by the Holy Spirit and led to repentance. Jonathan Edwards of Northampton, England was one of the greatest revivalists of that time (especially beginning in the spring and summer following 1735). Colin Wittaker, author of Great Revivals, sums up Edward's revivals like this:
During the months when the revival was at its height, numbers of his hearers were under such conviction and in such distress that they cried out and wept loudly. Some were so overcome that they fell down, others seemed to faint. Visions and dreams and other manifestations occurred during the years of the 'Great Awakening'. Many of these manifestations were genuine and Edwards was reluctant to interfere when he found that many of those affected proved to be lastingly changed. Some excesses occurred and others less wise and mature than Edwards made too much of them and concentrated on the physical phenomena rather than on the spiritual realities.
Spiritual manifestations were more prevalent in Wesley's revivals than his counterpart Whitefield. However, the latter's services were just as charged by the presence and power of God. In Wesley's own words, "They dropped on every side as thunderstruck." Clearly, this was genuine proof that the power of God's Spirit was just as present in the revivalists as he was in the apostles.
Nevertheless, physical manifestations and powerful moves of God did not escape criticism. Some considered it hysteria or merely sickness. They could not understand or accept that when one is really under the power of God, anything was bound to happen. I will emphasize here that spiritual manifestations or gifts are not in themselves a sign of maturity. There are many tongue talking and prophesying believers out there that could use a lesson or two in wisdom, common sense, integrity, patience, and the like. And yes, some tongues and gifts are not godly either. However, my main point here is that not all spiritual manifestations are hysteria; please do not be mistaken.
A happy feature of the Ulster Revival (Ireland, 1859-my emphasis) was the work among children. Some adults called these physical manifestations-prostrations, swooning, strong shaking, trembling and wqeconvulsed weeping-'sickness'. But a young boy who was deeply convicted of his need of the Savior said to his father, 'Don't call this taking ill, as if it were sickness, it is just the soul taking the Christ.' Whilst another boy said, 'There has been sickness many a time in this country but it never sent people to their prayers.'
Indeed, there is a reason why Jesus said "unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3, NRSV). Quoting Psalm 8:2, Jesus also said "out of the mouth of Babes and nursing infants, you have perfected praise" (Matthew 21:16) (NKJV). Why did Jesus give so much credit to children in this way? The truth is, children might seem weak and unlikely instruments of God in the eyes of man, but Jesus thinks differently about them. They tend to be more sincere in their faith and do not seek to reason out every single spiritual experience before they can validate it as authentic. Adults tend to fall more on the side of reason and experience, even when scripture says one thing or God is involved in something, they can willingly reason their way out and deny its validity. Just because you do not feel good about something does not mean that it is not genuine. Feelings are not always a reflection of reality. This is what has led many to question the validity of spiritual gifts in our contemporary society; it's our feelings, not necessarily God's truth. His word sheds one light about this subject, and certain "scholars" shed another. Come on! Let's stick with the text, people! So, there we go again! The Holy Spirit's finger prints were all over the Great Awakening. But he didn't end there.
After the European reformations and the American Great Awakening, it was not long before waves of revival could be felt in other parts of the world. Countries in the East such as India and those in the South Western part of the earth like Chile also had a share of the revival power felt by their friends in Europe. Various miracles, signs, and wonders of the Holy Spirit were clearly seen. The Chilean revival was inspired in part by news of the outpouring of God's Spirit in the Country of India. In early 1909, a wife of a Methodist Episcopal, American Pastor Willis C. Hoover based in Chile received news from a missionary friend located in India where God's outpouring at a girls school was accompanied by apostolic era type of manifestations such as conviction, tongues, and visions. The news prompted the Hoovers and their congregation to begin to seek God for a similar experience. Before long, unusual things started to happen.
Many Chilean believers were renewed under the Hoovers, and sinners were convicted and brought to repentance by the power of God. Those of pagan origins gave up their practices as the conviction of the Spirit of God gripped the hearts of the residents of Valparaiso, a city whose residents were known for reckless living. Consequently, many were added to church. "The congregation had grown to nine hundred (from one hundred and fifty) and the blessing was spreading to other congregations, but they now began to encounter bitter opposition over various manifestations, especially tongues, healing, prophecies, prostrations and visions."
Regrettably, since the majority of the local denominational Annual Conference could not stomach the new wave of manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit, they spewed the pastor out of Chile and sent him home. Why? If people really believe in the Holy Spirit and allow him to do the impossible, there is no telling what he might do, Acts 2 can be repeated, the church can grow, and unusual things are likely to happen. In the words of the then estranged Methodist pastor behind the Chilean revival, Hoover said, "I believe that the true secret of this whole thing is that we really and truly believe in the Holy Spirit-we really trust Him-we really honour him-we really obey Him-we really give Him free rein-we really believe that the promise in Acts 1:4-5 and Joel 2:28-29 is for us." One may wonder whether those who choose to oppose the validity of the gifts and miracles of the post apostolic era really believe in, trust, honor, obey, and are willing to allow the Spirit to have free rein. Could this be the root issue? What else shall we say then? One thing is sure; the Holy Spirit did not go on an indefinite sabbatical after the apostles.
African revivals are not to be underestimated. Will we also assume that all the manifestations of the Spirit there are "strange fires" and not really the gifts of the Spirit in operation? A glimpse into some African statistics might shed more light. "The rate of Christian growth in Africa since 1910 has been twice that of population growth, according to David Barrett." A renowned Christian missionary, author, and researcher of world Christian trends, Barrett first produced the World Christian Encyclopedia before other researchers joined the editorial team in the second edition. He died in 2011. "His published research continues to influence both Christian missionary efforts and secular understanding of religious adherence." Barrett's observations are still true today. In fact, his observations were shared by other researchers.
Another Christian research pioneer weighed in on the conditions that surprisingly seem to spark spiritual explosions in certain places such as Africa. "Patrick Johnstone, author of the unique "Operation World", believes there is a link between persecution and revival, 'The Holy Spirit seems to have anticipated in many places where persecution will come and has prepared His people for that by revival." This surveillance was true of many countries in East and Central Africa such as Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, and the former Zaire. In Zaire for instance, the country was war-torn for several years and thousands were either left destitute or dead. Merciless rebel leaders hunted fellow humans in cold blood like they would hunt African Gazelles. It was in such troublous moments that when the church was pushed to pray and fast fervently, great revivals took place. One rebel from Congo was quoted to have said, "The more we kill these Christians, the more they multiply. They have got a power we haven't got." Bingo! This must have definitely caught the rebels by surprise. Unmistakably, the Holy Spirit was at work, and God's people became an unstoppable force amidst difficult times.
In the words of a Congolese pastor who shared an amazing outpouring of the Spirit during the war, "The pastors of our district had been praying because of the bloodshed and persecution. As we were praying the Spirit descended on us in a wonderful way and his gifts operated among us. He told us many things in prophecy which have all come true." What can we say to all this? Shall we ignore all the evidence completely? The test of true prophecy is whether it actually comes to pass. The birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ were all a fulfillment of prophetic revelations given by prophets several centuries earlier. There is no doubt that what the African Christians experienced during these revivals were genuine movements of the Holy Spirit. In fact, Africa is now in the forefront of world evangelism.
In the early days, many western missionaries were flocking to Africa to evangelize the "lost". Nowadays, things have shifted. Rising numbers of African missionaries are being sent to help revive the West. According to Gordon Cornwell's Center for the Study of Global Christianity, two African countries, namely, Nigeria and South Africa are among the top ten surprising countries missionaries are sent from.
World evangelism research reports aside, I am a living witness to the power of God in the beloved continent. I am African, I lived most of my life in Africa, and I saw God's power at work with my own eyes. Powerful things happened during evangelistic outreaches facilitated by the church I attended. People were touched and lives were changed. Prophecies and messages of wisdom and in tongues were given, and things came to pass. The Spirit is still at work there, even much greater than when I left Africa ten years ago. For the sake of those who are skeptical, I must admit that in the midst of such spiritual manifestations, false prophets are also likely to be prevalent, just like in Apostolic and Old Testament Days. So what? Remember Mark Rutland's "John MacArthur, Cessation Theology, and Trainspotting for Cave Dwellers" I touched on earlier? True prophets exist Africa. And yes, in this day and age!
In summary, I would like to highlight three things. First, cessation trumpeters' scriptural supports are mistaken. In fact, the same scriptures they use seem to be their own undoing. No single scripture indicates a cessation of spiritual gifts in this age either directly or indirectly. The facts are there for all to see. Secondly, the Holy Spirit smeared so much DNA all over the historical church that even the least skilled investigator can easily detect. If they deny all post-apostolic miracles and spiritual gifts as valid, where is their proof? Please read history with an open mind; don't stay in the cave. Third, scripture trumps any kind of experience or education, not the other way around. If the only reason you deny something is because you have never seen or experienced it yourself, you need to think again. I dare any cessation proponent to sincerely seek God and ask Him for an outpouring of His Spirit. I dare them to just put aside every negative feeling for once and allow God to have free reign. God said, "If you then, being evil, are able to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" (Luke 11:13). Just think about it, how much more?
Biblical Research Studies Group. "The Golden Rule of Interpretation." Accessed December 29,
Gospel Way. "Part IV: The Duration of Spiritual Gifts." Accessed December 23, 2013.
Green, Thomas. A Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970.
Kanaga, Lynn. D. "The Ministry of the Holy Spirit in Church History." Assemblies of God
Enrichment Journal: accessed January 2, 2014.
MacArthur, John. Charismatic Chaos. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
Rutland, Mark. "John MacArthur, Cessation Theology, and Trainspotting for Cave Dwellers."
Charisma News, October 24, 2013. Accessed December 30, 2013.
Steffan, Melissa. "The Surprising Countries Most Missionaries Are Sent From and Go To."
Christianity Today, July 25, 2013. Accessed January 17, 2014.
Whittaker, Collins. Great Revivals. Hants: Marshalls Paperbacks, 1984.
 John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 287.
 Ibid., 101.
 Ibid., 282.
"Part IV: The Duration of Spiritual Gifts," Gospel Way, accessed December 23, 2013,
 Thomas Green, Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970.), 185-186.
"The Golden Rule of Interpretation," Biblical Research Studies Group, Accessed December 29, 2013,
 Mark Rutland, "John MacArthur, Cessation theology, and Trainspotting for Cave Dwellers," Charisma News,
October 24, 2013, accessed December 30, 2013, http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/41499-john-macarthur-cessation-theology-and-trainspotting-for-cave-dwellers.html.
 Lynn D. Kanaga, "The Ministry of the Holy Spirit in Church History," Assemblies of God Enrichment Journal: accessed January 2, 2014, http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/201103/201103_000_Holy_Sp.cfm.
 Collins Whittaker, Great Revivals (Hants: Marshalls Paperbacks, 1984), 27.
 Ibid., 51.
 Ibid., 79.
 Ibid., 105.
 Ibid., 105-106.
 Ibid., 114.
 "In Memoriam: David B. Barrett," Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Accessed January 16, 2014,
 Whitaker, Great Revivals, 114.
 Ibid., 117.
 Melissa Steffan, "The Surprising Countries Most Missionaries Are Sent From and Go To," Christianity Today, July 25, 2013, accessed January 17, 2013, http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2013/july/missionaries-countries-sent-received-csgc-gordon-conwell.html