What about Prophecy and Tongues Today?

By Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. - Posted at OPC.org/New Horizons:

The Westminster Confession of Faith, insisting that Scripture is sufficient in our day, holds that "those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people" have "now ceased" (1.1). We who adhere to that doctrine are thus often called "cessationists." That label carries a lot of baggage. By itself, it's negative. In current debates about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, it suggests what one is against. At the outset, then, we need to correct certain misconceptions about "cessationism."

We do not assert that God's Spirit is no longer actively working in dynamic and dramatic ways. We earnestly believe that he is. What, for instance, can be more powerful and impressive—even miraculous!—than the 180-degree reversal that occurs when the Spirit transforms those dead in their sins into those alive for good works? This involves nothing less than a work of resurrection, of (re-)creation (Eph. 2:1-10). This is awesome indeed!

Nor do we believe that all spiritual gifts have ceased and are no longer present in the church. At issue is the cessation of a limited number of such gifts. The continuation of the large remainder is not in dispute.

People sometimes tell me, "You're putting the Holy Spirit in a box." At least two responses come to mind. First, I do take this charge to heart. It is by no means an imaginary danger that we might unduly limit our expectations of the Spirit's work by our theologizing. We must always remember the incalculability factor that Jesus notes in John 3:8 (the Spirit is like an unpredictable wind). Any sound doctrine of the Spirit's work will be content with an unaccounted-for remainder, an area of mystery.

Secondly, however, as I will try to show, the Holy Spirit himself, "speaking in the Scripture" (Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.10), puts his activity "in a box," if you will—a box of his own sovereign making. The Bible knows nothing of a pure whimsy of the Spirit. The Spirit is indeed the Spirit of ardor, but he is also, and no less, the Spirit of order (1 Cor. 14:33, 40). It's striking that Scripture particularly stresses order in a discussion of spiritual gifts! A perennial challenge to the church is to seek this ordered ardor—or, if you prefer, this ardor-infused order of the Spirit.

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