Episode 40: Does God Still Speak in Dreams and Visions? Spiritual Gifts + Cessationism vs. Continuationism. (Part 2)
Today’s passages include Job 8, which introduces us to Bildad the Shuhite, who is a better friend to Job at the beginning of his speech than Eliphaz. Mark 12 features Jesus’ in-your-face to the Pharisees and Scribes parable about a vineyard owner who’s violent tenants won’t listen to Him. And we will close with Romans 12, which is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. First Paul challenges us to not conform to the world around us, but rather to be transformed into a new creature with a renewed mind. Paul also discusses the gifts of the Spirit in this passage, which is a big part of our focus today.
In Romans 12, we learn that Christians actually belong to each other. This is quite a challenging thought in individualistic Western countries, but it fits perfectly with Paul’s use of the “body” metaphor to describe the church. We further learn that God has given each Christian different/various gifts of the Spirit, and whatever your gift is, you “MUST” use it! The use of and operation in spiritual gifts is NOT an option for Christians (see also 1 Peter 4:10-11). This is a command – Christians who are gifted in exhortation MUST exhort; those gifted in showing mercy MUST do so cheerfully; and those gifted in teaching MUST teach! These gifts are a privilege and a joy – but they are not optional. Far too often churches have turned into a theater like atmosphere where people go to watch the performers and entertainers on stage – this is not the pattern of the Bible. In the past, something similar happened – churchgoers went and watched the priest/pastor/reverend/bishop/officiant/rector/whatever preach and perform the sacraments, but they barely joined in. The church is not to be a place where we go and watch, but a people that gather together and minister to each other in the power of the Spirit!
Shout out to Margaret Agnew of Northern Ireland who has left a very encouraging and kind review on iTunes. She writes, “I am listening to these daily Bible readings in Northern Ireland and Christ has given me a great number of blessings from hearing the Bible passages every day. I originally found Chase through a much earlier podcast he did called The Gospel friends. Would highly recommend this podcast to anyone who wants daily sound bite readings to study and think about. Peace in Christ to you Chase. Margaret Agnew.” Thank you, dear Margaret. What a delight and encouragement it is to get a nice review like that, and especially one from Northern Ireland – a place I want to visit with my whole heart! Look up Mark’s Mess podcast with Mark Adams, when you have a chance. It is delightful and features a fellow Northern Ireland International Liver (along with his daughters.) If you liked Gospel Friends, I’m sure you’d love that pod.
Today we continue our discussion of dreams and visions with Joseph – a mighty man of God who interpreted dreams and received messages from God in dreams. As we read through Genesis 42, ponder with me whether or not God has ceased interacting with His people in this way.
Today’s question – does God still speak in dreams and visions – is a subset of a much, much bigger question, and that question is this: Does God still empower and interact with people the way He did during the New Testament, or are we in a post-New Testament era? Does God still empower people with miraculous gifts like healing, tongues, prophecy and words of knowledge, or have those gifts ceased? Does God still speak by prophecy, dreams and visions, or does He now ONLY and EXCLUSIVELY speak by the Bible? These are BIG questions, and we will return to them again and again over the year as we read through the Bible. To give a very basic and high level overview, there are two major ways to answer the questions above, and many nuances of position between those two ways. The cessationist view believes that the answer to most or all of the above questions would be in the negative. No, God does not speak through dreams, visions or prophecy today, but only through His Word. No, God does not give the gifts of tongues, healing, prophecy, miracles, etc, today because those gifts were exclusively given to authenticate the Bible as the Word of God, and we no longer need those gifts today. On the the other end of the spectrum are the charismatics and Pentecostals, which believe the answer to all of the questions asked are a resounding yes – God still does give those gifts, and in some cases, certain groups believe that God goes BEYOND what is seen in the New Testament in terms of empowering such gifts. In between those two poles are views like soft-cessationism, which believes that most (but possibly not all) miraculous gifts have ceased under most circumstances, but this view allows that God is sovereign and might sometimes, in some places, still empower such gifts and still send messages via prophecy, dreams or visions. The continuationist viewpoint is more cautious than most charismatic and Pentecostal viewpoints, and seeks to balance a respect for primary authority of the Word of God with an openness to miraculous gifts.
I myself am a continuationist, along with such scholars and pastors as John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Sam Storms, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, D.A. Carson, Matt Chandler, and many others. There are charismatic people that I have a great deal of respect for, and some of my ministry heroes, like Charles Spurgeon, are closer to the cessationist camp. I am a continuationist not primarily because of my spiritual experiences, but primarily because I am convinced that the Word of God points us in a direction that assumes (and even commands) the practice of all of the spiritual gifts listed in the Bible.
I am going to summarize the cessationist viewpoint in a few short sentences, but do know that this is too short and too shallow to be fair, exactly, but this is a short podcast that can’t go into the depths that a 300-400 page Thomas Schreiner or Richard Gaffin book can. There are several cessationist arguments, but two major ones are this: 1 Corinthians 13 notes that tongues and prophecy (and also things like dreams and visions, presumably) will cease “when the perfect comes.” (1 Corinthians 13:10) Many cessationists believe that Paul is referring to the completion of the New Testament canon in this passage, so that the gist of what he is saying is that prophecy, tongues, and things like that will cease when the Bible is complete. Continuationists, however, believe that Paul is not at all referring to the completion of the New Testament canon, but rather to the return of Jesus and His beginning of eternity. Here is the passage – pay special attention to verse 12. With the completion of the New Testament are Christians now in a place where they ‘fully know’ moreso than Paul did? Does Paul see in a foggy mirror then, but Christians today (because we have a completed New Testament canon) now see clearly – face to face?? I don’t believe so, and therefore I don’t believe that 1 Corinthians 13 is talking about the completion of the Bible canon, because vs 12 quite clearly rules that out to me.
Love never ends.1 Corinthians 13:8-13
But as for prophecies,
they will come to an end;
as for languages, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will come to an end.
9 For we know in part,
and we prophesy in part.
10 But when the perfect comes,
the partial will come to an end.
11 When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man,
I put aside childish things.
12 For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror,
but then face to face.
Now I know in part,
but then I will know fully,
as I am fully known.
13 Now these three remain:
faith, hope, and love.
But the greatest of these is love.
The second major cessationist argument is based on passages like Ephesians 2:20 and Hebrews 1:1-2, and states that gifts and offices like prophets and apostles were for the foundation of the church, and not for the continuance of the church.
So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as the cornerstone.Ephesians 2:19-20
Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. 2 In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him.Hebrews 1:1-2
Do the passages above clearly teach that tongues, prophecy, dreams, visions, miracles, healing and more have ceased? I don’t believe so, but they are generally the go-to passages for the cessationist argument, and I honestly do not believe that they make a powerful case – from the Bible – that the gifts have ceased or will ceased, especially when they are compared with Bible passages that seem more clear and obvious in their meaning:
39 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in other languages. 40 But everything must be done decently and in order.1 Corinthians 14:39-40
Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy.1 Corinthians 14:1
Consider this question: Is the cessationist case clear enough from Scripture that Christians should disregard clear biblical commands like 1 Corinthians 14:1 and 1 Corinthians 14:39-40? I don’t believe so. If it was, I believe that it would be the only case where one New Testament Scripture would nullify or cancel another New Testament Scripture.
Tomorrow we will continue this discussion, so stay tuned!