NO CONTINUATION OF PROPHETS TODAY
By: Victor T. Stephens
"People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it's served up."
~ George R.R. Martin
The next human rationale is that cessationists "put God in a box" by limiting what He can and cannot accomplish. However, the cessationists' stand does not suggest a seemingly placement of limitations on God's power. Of course, God is sovereign and all powerful. That is unquestionable. The question is not can God still impart truths through prophecy, but rather what has God chosen to do according to His sovereign divine will for the church. Let's use two comparative examples:
Is it possible for God to have created the heavens, the earth, and mankind in a microsecond? Is it also possible for God to save us exclusively by good works? Since God is infinite in power, the answer to these two questions is a resounding "Yes!" However, God's creation event took six days, not a microsecond. Moreover, salvation comes by active and continuous faith in Jesus Christ, not exclusively by good works. Therefore, to point out that God's creation process took six days and that God saves us by active and continuous faith in His Son does not "put God in a box". We simply acknowledge that God has various reasons behind His specific purposes. Thus, the issue of the temporary prophetic gift is associated with God's revealed purpose for the church rather than the His infinite capabilities.
Another critique by non-cessationists is that those who claim that the prophetic gifts have ceased is equivalent to suggesting that God doesn't perform miracles today. Let there be no misunderstanding, a person can be a cessationist and still believe God can perform miracles. There are occasions where God does work miracles today. Healing, for example, is a gift of God that is granted or withheld at His discretion. Believers may experience divine miracles based on their faith, or obedience, or God's sovereign choice. Therefore, the belief that the prophetic gifts have ceased is not an outright suggestion that God cannot perform miracles today. To reemphasize, it is important that we acknowledge that God has diverse motives behind His precise plans for the church.
A further challenge presented by non-cessationists is that the early church fathers supported continuation of the prophetic gifts. They have provided testimony from Eusebius, Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr that prophecy is a sign gift that is still operational.
Now, generally, when we speak about the early church fathers, we usually respond with a great degree of reverence. As a result, many people assume they were infallible. It may seem surprising to some, but if we closely study the doctrines of the early church fathers, we will discover that some of them taught erroneous doctrines.
For example, Eusebius taught that men were sinners by choice rather than by an inherited nature (from Adam). He stated:
"The Creator of all things has impressed a natural law upon the soul of every man, as an assistant and ally in his conduct, pointing out to him the right way by this law; but, by the free liberty with which he is endowed, making the choice of what is best worthy of praise and acceptance, because he has acted rightly, not by force, but from his own free-will, when he had it in his power to act otherwise, As, again, making him who chooses what is worst, deserving of blame and punishment, as having by his own motion neglected the natural law, and becoming the origin and fountain of wickedness, and misusing himself, not from any extraneous necessity, but from free will and judgment. The fault is in him who chooses, not in God. For God is has not made nature or the substance of the soul bad; for he who is good can make nothing but what is good. Everything is good which is according to nature. Every rational soul has naturally a good free-will, formed for the choice of what is good. But when a man acts wrongly, nature is not to be blamed; for what is wrong, takes place not according to nature, but contrary to nature, it being the work of choice, and not of nature."
(The Christian Examiner, Volume One, published by James Miller, 1824 Edition, page 66)
Contrary to Eusebius' doctrine, Romans 5:12 says:
"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned." (Romans 5:12)
Let's now consider Irenaeus. He stated:
"Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority ...." (The Ante Nicene Fathers, Volume 1, Book 3; Chapter 3)
Clearly, Irenaeus shares the sentiments of the Roman Catholic Church.
In reference to Eve and Mary, Irenaeus says:
"And if the former did disobey God, yet the latter was persuaded to be obedient to God, in order that the Virgin Mary might become the patroness (advocata) of the virgin Eve. And thus, as the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so is it rescued by a virgin; virginal disobedience having been balanced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience."
(The Ante Nicene Fathers, Volume 1, page 547, Book 5, Chapter 19)
Nowhere in Scripture do we find any evidence to support Irenaeus' statement. The Word of God never stated Mary was an advocate of Eve. The only advocate is Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5; 1 John 2:1). Moreover, Scripture does not say Eve was a virgin when she was deceived by Satan. Furthermore, the Word of God teaches that mankind did not fall via Eve, but rather through Adam (Romans 5:12-19). Lastly, mankind is not "rescued by a virgin" (Matt. 12:46). Salvation comes by no other except by Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Again, Irenaeus' teachings have more in common with the Roman Catholic Church than true biblical Christianity.
Now, concerning Justin Martyr, he had this to say about Christ's crucifixion:
"Therefore our suffering and crucified Christ was not cursed by the law, but made it manifest that He alone would save those who do not depart from His faith." (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 3)
Martyr's statement is in direct violation of Galatians 3:13:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole." (Gal. 3:13)
As we can see, the early church fathers were not irrefutable. It has been on account of personal reverence and assumed infallibility that we hear minimum reports concerning false teachings of some of the early church fathers. If people exercised discernment and forfeited their assumptions of the early church fathers, the fact that some of them taught falsely should come as no surprise. Let's remember Paul's words from Acts 20:29-30:
"I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them." (Acts 20:29-30)
In Galatians 1:8 Paul says:
"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:8)
Speaking of Paul, he was the most prolific writer of the New Testament. Nevertheless, in spite of his greatness, the Berean Christians "searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things (which Paul taught) were so" (Acts 17:11). The Bereans, who were considered of noble character, were praised by Paul on account that they judged his doctrines. Likewise, the doctrines of the early church fathers are not without an examination and critique.
Someone may say, "Well, God spoke to me in a dream; therefore, I must be a prophet." I believe it is safe to say that most believers can likely remember at least one time when they believed God spoke to them in a dream. Does that make them a prophet?
Firstly, let's bear in mind that God spoke to a number of people in the Bible who were not considered prophets. For example, in Genesis 20:3, God spoke to Abimelek:
But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, "You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman." (Gen. 20:3)
In Judges 7:13-14, God spoke to a Midianite soldier:
Gideon arrived just as a man was telling a friend his dream. "I had a dream", he was saying. "A round loaf of barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with such force that the tent overturned and collapsed." His friend responded, "This can be nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands." (Judges 7:13-14)
In Acts 10:1-8, God spoke to Cornelius:
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!" Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea." When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa. (Acts 10:1-8)
As we see from these three passages, just because God speaks to some people does not automatically authenticate them as prophets. There is a difference between God speaking to a person and God speaking to and through a person. A true prophet not only hears from God, but as pointed out previously, acts as an inspired spokesperson on His behalf ... serving as an intermediary with humanity.
Next, and secondly, experiential arguments should not be regarded equivalent to or exceeding the authority of Scripture. Many people attempt to interpret the Bible based upon their personal experiences when in fact they should judge their personal experiences by the Word of God. Therefore, we should be careful to accept as truth when someone declares to be a prophet today. Anytime a person's exegesis seems to be experience driven and we trust the fallible words of men rather than the perfect, infallible Word of God, we are engaging in supreme gullibility.
Thirdly, it is within the realm of possibility for miracles and prophecy to arise from sources other than God. For example, Acts 16:16-19 says:
"Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, 'These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.' She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, 'In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!' At that moment the spirit left her.'" (Acts 16:16-19)
Exodus 7:8-12 states:
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "When Pharaoh says to you, 'Perform a miracle', then say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh', and it will become a snake." So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron threw his staff down in front of Pharaoh and his officials, and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned wise men and sorcerers and the Egyptian magicians also did the same things by their secret arts: Each one threw down his staff and it became a snake." (Exodus 7:8-12)
These accounts of the female slave and Pharaoh's "wise men and sorcerers" could easily be interpreted as coming from God when in fact Satan can engage in such actions. This is why judging the Word of God by experiences can be dangerous.
Many people who believe the prophetic gift is valid today are incarcerated in a historical anachronism. They are failing to discern the distinction between the building up stage in church history from that which pertains to churches today. It is contradictory to allege that the Bible is complete while concurrently suggesting that revelatory prophetic gifts are still active. Employing proper hermeneutics as well as comprehending the various distinctive points in time where God dealt with the nation of Israel and the Church, it should be evident that the prophetic gift is no longer necessary and applicable in today's church age.
Any individual or church that subscribes to the idea that true prophets of God still exist in today's church age is teaching false doctrine. And those who claim to be prophets of God are either sincerely mistaken or outright false prophets. I hope this study has brought clarity to this controversial issue. I believe any objective person will become convicted by this fact once this issue is carefully studied in proper context ... as illustrated in this comprehensive article.
The Church should firmly adhere to what has already been revealed through the written Word of God alone. Believers should be cautious of those who tag themselves as "prophets" by their own words. While some may be sincerely misconceived, there are many who wear the title "Prophet" for money and self-glorification.
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (1 Tim. 4:3-4)
Beware! I pray that the Lord will lead you to His Truth. Remember; the Bereans "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11) And so should you.
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