Continuationism And Cessationism In The Debate

Introduction

The argument about continuationism and cessationism is one of the greatest debates in theology today. Continuationism is the belief that some gifted of the holy spirits ended with the death of the last apostles. This depicts that it is still present. On the other hand, cessationism argues that come gifts of the Holy Spirit such as healing stopped with the death of the apostles (McDougall 2003). This argument has been sustained for decades and it is likely that it will be concluded any time soon. However, one main controversy of the dispute is the definition of spiritual gifts and this explains why there are different views concerning them. For instance, people who perceive the gift of prophecy as a revelation might argue that it ceased with the death of the apostles. This is contradiction people who argue that prophecy is the singling out of believers in a way that makes them be better ambassadors of Christ can argue that the gifts are still present (Stitzinger 2003). While the argument does not affect the major pillars of faith in Christianity, they affect how Christians discern the work of the Holy Spirit in the missional context as shown in the essay.

Comparison of Cessationist and Continuationist Theologies

According to continuationist, all the gifts of the Holy Spirit explained in Acts still exist even after the canon of the bible was closed. In their opinion, the spiritual gifts are still present the Pentecostal day and currently there are many spiritual gifts that the church has as mentioned in the scriptures (Nel 2016). They explain that according to Acts 1 when Jesus left his disciples he promised them the Holy Spirit who gave them many gifts that empowered them to work for God even better (van Alten 2017). The spiritual gifts are found in several verses such as Romans 12:6-8 and continuationists believe that the gifts exist even today. They further explain that the gifts vary from person to person but they are all used for the service of the Lord.

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In their opinion, there is no evidence in the bible that shows that the gifts are no longer relevant and in operation. They also argue that the biblical opinion on spiritual gifts is relevant today just like it was relevant at the time it was written. With that in mind, they argue that the burden of proof lies with those opposing their view. While this view has created a rift between the continuationists and the cessationists, they both believe in 1st Corinthians 1 which states that “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.."

On the other hand, cessationists argue that some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit stopped at the end of the apostolic age and also brought an end to the miracles that were associated with that day. They argue that even though God can still perform miracles, the Holy Spirit does not use individuals to perform miracle signs (Bratcher 2014). The quote the Bible arguing that miracles commenced at particular times with purpose of understanding s new message from God. For instance, in the Old Testament, Moses was able to perform miracles in front of Pharaoh so that he could prove the miracles are from God. Likewise, Elijah was able to perform miracles before Ahab so that he could perform that the person who sent him was the most powerful. In the New Testament, Jesus worked with miracles, something that was known as "signs" by his apostles. They were used to prove the authenticity of Jesus' message.

When comparing the case between cessationists and continuationists, there are major differences that have threatened to cause a rift in the church. One of the major differences in their understanding of the scripture. Cessationists use 1st Corinthians 13: 8-9 to show that the gifts of the Holy Spirit stopped when the bible was completed (McDougall 2003). In their opinion, they argue that the need for miraculous works ended as soon as the gospel was established through the believers. On the other hand, the continuationists believe that the scripture explains that the gifts will stop with the second coming of Jesus Christ, as he will no longer need to work through signs but he will be therefore everyone to see him. Cessationists use 2nd Corinthians 12:12, to show that astonishing gifts of the Holy Spirit such as, miracles and speaking in tongues were only available to the twelve apostles so that their authority can be differentiated from the people who were not apostles (McDougall 2003). However, continuationists explain that the bible has shown counts of people who were not apostles performing miracles and healings such as Phillip and Stephen (Asamoah 2013). The book of Acts also proves that the gifts of prophecy and tongues were spread among those people who were possessed by the Holy Spirit.

Another notable difference between the two sides is their opinion on signs. Cessationists argue that signs gifts were given to show that God had given special gifts to the apostles as a way to validate their apostleship. However, in 2nd Corinthians Paul shows the true signs of apostleship which included endurance through persecution, care for the Christians, faithfully preaching the gospel and suffering because of opposition. Continuationists argue that the "signs" miraculous gifts are valid even today and they include interpretation of tongues, healing and casting out demons (Stitzinger 2003). They further explain that when the New Testament refers to the signs, it talks about the mystical gifts that are bestowed upon any person by God to accomplish his purpose.

The two also disagree on prophecy in contemporary society. Ironically, Continuationists agree with cessationists that there will be no more revelations that will be given to Christians after the canon of the bible. Continuationists, however, argue that there is nothing in the bible that argue that God is no longer communicating with people through prophecy. In their opinion, the gift of prophecy consists of proclaiming the truth of God's word and even use some examples of evangelists in contemporary society.

The argument about speaking in tongues have also created a rift between the cessationists and the continuationists. In the current church, there has been a lot of abuse of the gift and this has led the cessationists to believe that it is not necessary and it is not active. They also argue that if it is still a legitimate gift many missionaries would have been saved years of studying different languages. Even though continuationists agree that some of what is thought to be a spirit's inspired gift is an emotion-fuelled exaggeration they argue that the devil and the fallen human beings had always forged God's miraculous works and still do even today. However, even though there is counterfeit, it does not contradict the genuine gifts. They give an example of the Bible in Acts: 16:16 showing that Paul and Silas were harassed by a girl who was posted by evil spirit although she had the gift of prophecy. However, even though some of her gifts were from the devil, this did not make Silas and Paul settle that all prophetic gifts were from the devil and this should also be applied to the church even today (Asamoah 2013). They further explain that the confusion in the topic can be because there are two kinds of tongues spoken in Acts and in Corinthians (McDougall 2003). In Acts, the apostles were given a gift to take the language of those people who were in attendance and this increased the speed at which the gospel was spread in the region (van Alten 2017). In Corinthians Paul seems to be addressing a different kind of tongues which is mainly to worship God. Continuationists support this view by quoting Acts 10:45–46 which explains that after Cornelius received the Holy Spirit, he began worshiping God in tongues and no foreigner was present that he or she needed to hear the gospel in another language (McDougall 2003).That argument was used to explain that the first version of speaking in tongues ended when the gospel spread but the second version which is used to worship God is still present in churches today.

Another argument that is brought about by cessationists is the argument of silence. They note that only the early letters of Paul confined mentioned the miraculous gifts. In later letters such as in Ephesians, he did not mention them and this could be an argument that the gifts had died out after the church had been firmly established. This is however considered to be a logical fallacy by continuationists who argue that if this was true, then the fact that Jesus did not verbally oppose same sex relations would mean that he approved it. This is however not true as many other passages in the Bible condemn it. There have been many scholars supporting either side of the view. Continuationists argue that the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts 2 and him still continue with the work even today (Asamoah 2013). On the other hand, cessationists argue that the inspired word of God is all that is needed by Christians to live as Christ commanded us to live (Bratcher 2014). However, although there are opposite views the Church has not been divided by the opinions as both cessationists and Continuationists use their arguments to spread the word of God which is the main purpose.

How Continuationism Helps My Faith-Community to Discern the Work of the Spirit in Its

Our faith community strongly believe in continuations and have used it to explain the work of the Holy Spirit in the church in the missional context of our church. We believe that there are many gifts given by God to man but the gift of the Holy Spirit was the three greatest and that it is still active even today. There are many ways through which the Holy Spirit has impacted our church through his roles and activities. Notably, Holy Spirit works in every person's heart as Jesus explained to his disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit everywhere so that he could bring righteousness to the world and guide all the people in their activities. Contemporary the spirit has been guiding men to understand the truths of God and to understand the ways in which they have offended God. When people respond to the call of the Holy Spirit, they receive salvation, and this is the key mission of our church.

Every human being has to conquer their earthly desires so that they can understand and experience the workings of God in their lives and that they can influence other people positively. This is impossible without the anointing of the Holy Spirit who is still at work in our hearts today. A Christian leader needs to provide the pastoral career to the people, to give sermons to conquer spiritual attacks, something that cannot be achieved without the Holy Spirit. One needs the guidance of the Holy Spirit as it is stated in 1 Corinthians. 1:26 that the spirit will call you to faith in Jesus Christ and prepare you for a given task. In the missional context of our church, there are usually many issues experienced. The resistance in the world is usually too hard that someone might feel like giving up on spreading the word of God to people who do not even acknowledge God in their lives. However, the Holy Spirit continues to comfort us and to guide us by flooding our hearts with light and forgiving us confidence to face opposition with courage since he called us to be witnesses of Christ.

Non-believers usually look for "strong" arguments and at times it is hard to justify our stance because they are usually set out to break the work we have been doing and their conviction is at times so big that it surpasses our convictions to bring them to Christ. However, the Holy Spirit has been guiding us and helping us to stay firm even when things seem to make no sense in church (Siwinda 2017). As stated in Acts 13:2 the Holy Spirit set Barnabas and Saul apart so that they could do the work he has called them to do. Additionally, in Acts 8: 26-40, the Holy Spirit led Phillip to an Ethiopian eunuch and helped him to understand the Old Testament. We believe that our conscious is protected by the Holy Spirit, and this way, h usually guide us to make decisions that are fitting for the salvation of our souls and those souls that he wants us to reach out to. Additionally, when faced with opposition, it is the Holy Spirit that guides us to seek counsel from the Bible in a way that we will give full answers to those that are challenging our beliefs.

The Holy Spirit has also been empowering our church as far as the missional context is concerned. He has been enabling us to do what he called us to do especially in preaching the holy word to non-believers. Focusing on the scriptures of how the Holy Spirit enabled the apostles and other announced people to speak to people who are not from their language, we believe that whatever we need to do for the salvation of souls, the Holy Spirit has empowered us to that (Siwinda 2017). As he empowered Joshua, David, early apostles and Jesus Christ himself, he continues to work in our hearts and our minds in a way that we can understand his purpose and our work in the salvation. This includes the empowering of our natural abilities and improving them for a particular task, For instance, some people are usually very shy in real life but when they wake up top preach the word of God, they are filled with courage and persistence that it is hard to recognize them anymore. Such brothers and sisters have been set aside for the empowerment of the church and through the Holy Spirit, they have been able to communicate God's message to masses (Asamoah 2013). Additionally, some of the people in our church are considered ordinary and unlearned but they have the best convictions ever when defending Christianity and the workings of God in our lives. This is just as in Acts 4:13 where Peter and John who have be3come some of the most influential men in the church's history were considered unlearned and ordinary yet God was able to manifest through them.

In our society, there have been many people who have been opposing the gospels, some from simple ignorance others because of other faiths and others because of scientific theories that "explain the occurrence of everything in the world". Preaching the word of God to such people is hard as all we have is the bible and God's working in our lives which non-believers are ready to dismiss as pure coincidence. However, through the Holy Spirit and his work in our lives we are able to argue with such people until they find reason in our thought and even if they are not converted, they are able to understand that we serve a powerful God.

Another way through which the Holy Spirit is still working in our church is by empowering our evangelistic efforts. Unlike other kingdoms, the kingdom of heaven is not made through military powers and political engagements and treaties. It is founded by proclaiming the gospel to the people who need it most. Sadly, those people who need to most be the first ones to oppose it and even to prosecute those people who believe in it. This can be discouraging for any missionary but through the Holy Spirit, we are able to see the greater good in our suffering and what we are supposed to do so that we can pull more people to the kingdom of God. There are many verses in the gospel that explain that the holy spirit will empower us and our evangelistic efforts and this is encouraging enough for us to continue with the work that we have been called to do.

The work of the gifts of the holy spirits in our lives cannot be underestimated. In our mission context war have comprehended that the gifts offered to us are not for our own benefits but for the good of the church as explained by 1 Corinthians 12:7. Through the gifts, we are supposed to serve other people and ensure that they are comfortable in their lives not only for the kingdom of heaven but also for leading their daily lives. This is achieved in the church as many people come for counselling when they feel that their lives are not going on as planned. The church also participates in charitable courses and this has enabled it to reach out to more people. There are many gifts in our church and we have learned to respect to each other those with gifts and those without work for the greater good of the kingdom of heaven and this has increased unity in our church.

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Conclusion

In Christianity, there have been many views among believers and sometimes the views are usually contradicting and threaten to create a rift in the church. However, the good thing is that the differences enable different Christian to reach out to the world in different ways. One of the major debates held by Christians is that one about continuationism and cessationism. Cessationists argue that the gifts of the holy spirit ended with the last apostles and therefore the word of God alone is sufficient for the church until the second coming of Christ. On the other hand, continuationism argues that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are still present in the church and they are used to preach the gospel. In our church, we believe in continuationism because we consider the gifts and the presence of the holy spirit to be among us and that is why we are able to reach out to non-believers and able to justify Christianity to non-believers.

References List

  • Asamoah, M.K., 2013. The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Pentecost/Charismatic believer. Retrieved from:
  • Bratcher, N., 2014. Understanding the Mystery: Weighing Cessationist and Continuationist Debate of Prophecy in the Pauline Epistles. Retrieved from:
  • McDougall, D.G., 2003. Cessationism in 1 Cor 13: 8-12. The Master's Seminary Journal, 14(2), pp.177-213. Retrieved from:
  • Nel, M., 2016. The notion of the Holy Spirit as Paraclete from a Pentecostal perspective. In die Skriflig, 50(1), pp.1-8. Retrieved from:
  • Siwinda, J.C., 2017. The Holy Spirit, the church and daily life: a theological search for an integrated pneumatology in the light of Chewa views of the spirit (Doctoral dissertation, Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch University). Retrieved from:
  • Stitzinger, J.F., 2003. Spiritual gifts: Definitions and kinds. The Master’s Seminary Journal, 14(2), pp.143-176. Retrieved from:
  • Van Alten, H.H., 2017. John Calvin on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in his commentary on Acts. Koers, 82(2), pp.1-13. Retrieved from:

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