Cessationism is the belief held by some protestants that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophecy, do not occur in present day. The general thinking is that these gifts "ceased" at the completion of the canon, closing any new revelation.

What is the basis for this belief? I'm interested in Biblical, logical, empirical and historical arguments.


5 Answers 5


The argument for Cessationalism tends to be empirical rather than Biblical.

  1. While there is significant evidence for glossolalia in the NT writings (it is mentioned heavily), by the time of the Church Fathers (e.g., Clement and Polycarp) Polycarp)) and the Didache, the evidence is scant.

  2. During most of recorded church theology (everything from say, Origin, Jerome, etc... to the Azusa Street Revival in 1900, this gift seems to have largely bypassed written record.

  3. This is often excused/explained by the idea that the gift of prophecy and miracles was superceded by the written Word of God. Another idea is that the gifts were no longer being used for their intended purpose.

The presence of miracles in Jesus' testimony, for example, was clearly given "in order that you might believe" (see Mark 2:8, Matt 17:26) and not for show (e.g. Luke 11:28-32). In Acts 2, the tongues were given as a miracle to substantiate the authority of the Apostles (those who would be 'sent out'). But, as Paul indicates in 1 Cor 12, the showy gifts like tongues and prophecy were causing divisions amongst believers.

As mentioned by Software Monkey, Pentecostal churches explicitly reject Cessationism. The aforementioned Azusa Street Revival and the modern manifestations such as the Toronto Blessing are, for the Pentecostal movement, the evidence of their legitimacy. The term cessationism, of course, refers to the contrary position held by non-Pentecostals.

  • 3
    1900? Only if you conveniently ignore 70 years of Mormon history, with numerous recorded instances of the Gift of Tongues and other spiritual gifts in use. And Joseph Smith gave at least one sermon in which he discussed the contemporary usage of such gifts in other branches of Christianity, so it was by no means only a LDS thing.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Jan 11, 2012 at 17:17
  • 2
    CLARIFICATION: Whether or not the gifts were present before the Pentecostal Movement, the general perception of many to most most Cessationists is that they were not. Commented Mar 21, 2012 at 14:21
  • @MasonWheeler It's not exclusively a Christian thing either. To Seculars, they all look like the same thing.
    – user3961
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 20:11
  • @MasonWheeler Also, I think it goes back a further back than 70 years. The translation of the Book of Mormon the most well known example. Commented Jul 1, 2017 at 13:52

I do not think you can have discussion about cessationism without mentioning 1 Corinthians 13:

1 Corinthians 13:8-10

8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.

The question is, what Paul talking about? It seems that at some point in time, either in the past or in the future these gifts will not be taking place or would have stopped taking place. When will this happen? Paul gives the answer in verse 10, "...when completeness comes".

So the cessationist argument, using this as proof text, generally is centered around the meaning of 'completeness'. They would argue the completeness came at the end of the apostolic age.

Mark Driscoll gives a very thorough treatment of the text here, in which he comes to an anti-cessationist conclusion, but extremely thorough none-the-less, and worth a read.

  • 1
    I'm not down-voting because I believe you are representing what some cessationist's proffer as a biblical rationale and am thankful for the link provided, but I can't help but comment regarding "They would argue the completeness came at the end of the apostolic age" - surely there must be more to it than this??? Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 6:30
  • 2
    Good answer. It is true that these verses have been used a basis for cessationism. Even if you don't believe in tongues or prophesy in the present day, you would have to acknowledge that knowledge has not passed away. In fact, knowledge is increasing. The verses make it quite clear that all 3 will pass away when completeness comes.
    – hookenz
    Commented Aug 19, 2014 at 21:21
  • 1
    @Eric Jesus says to the church of Ephesus which represents the church of apostolic period, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent." Revelation 2:4 - 5. If Jesus says that the church was imperfect then the church could not have achieved "Completeness".
    – One Face
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 10:48

Tom Pennington provides a variety of arguments on this here. There are three arguments I found particularly compelling:

  1. The purpose of miracles is, biblically, to establish credibility for a spokesman who gives new revelation from God. Few charismatics today claim that they are giving new, infallible, divine revelation from God. But if they aren't, then it's unclear why miracles would be necessary
  2. The "gifts" practiced in contemporary charismatic churches are very different from the gifts practiced in the early New Testament church
  3. The "gift" of apostleship has ended, providing some positive proof that some gifts do cease (and, since the apostles were the ones who did the miracles, there's no reason to believe that miracles continue today)
  • 4
    3 isn't an argument, it's an assertion.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 22:49
  • 1
    This really depends on your definition of "apostleship," but Pennington lays out some pretty specific Biblical requirements for apostleship and then uses that to argue that apostles, under this definition, can no longer exist. Certainly, this is debatable, but it's warranted in the linked article.
    – Andrew Min
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 16:50
  • 1
    #1 is largely presumptive. I would say that the purpose of miracles is simply for God to manifest his love in a powerful way. People experiencing the love of God tangibly makes a great way for the Gospel. Miracles may not be "necessary" in a sense, but they are still really valuable.
    – Joel H.
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 18:36
  • Empty Arguments (1)The manifestation of supernatural gifts in the Bible were confirmatory to the Deity of Christ (Heb 2:4, Jn 20:30), not necessarily, the Bible canon. (2) The gifts exercised today are quite similar to the ones in Acts! Healings, tongues, prophecy, discernments, exorcisms... And (3) Even if the "Apostolic gift" is not for today, other people performed charismatic gifts! (Philip's daughters prophesied, e.g.)...And don't forget that it was emphatically stated that These gifts shall follow them that believe The exercise of them in the centuries later prove it.
    – ray grant
    Commented Jun 27, 2023 at 22:34

Why Cessationism is a Flawed Theology: Examining its Basis and Effects

The fundamental belief of Cessationism: Spiritual Gifts were temporary and are not currently given to Christians.

The claim that:

"Miraculous gifts (the gifts of the Holy Spirit) were provisional and gradually ceased following the Apostolic ages” - Counterfeit Miracles, book by B.B. Warfield (1918).

“So what do we mean by cessationism? We mean that the Spirit no longer sovereignly gives individual believers the miraculous spiritual gifts that are listed in the Scripture and that were present in the first century church. It is neither the Spirit’s plan, nor His normal pattern to distribute miraculous spiritual gifts to Christians and churches today as He did in the times of the Apostles. Those gifts ceased as normative with the apostles.” - A case for Cessationism, sermon by Tom Pennington (2013)

Cessationism is a Bad Theology that is not based on the Bible by its admission

Note: J.F. MacArthur, Jr. said: Why would God authenticate bad theology? (Charismatic Chaos, p.153). He infers that **Charismatic movements is bad theology of the devil, **because miraculous signs and wonders, the Divine authentication of the messenger, that occur in Charismatic churches are “counterfeit” and not of God.

1. Cessationism is Not based on Scriptural texts!

B.B. Warfield said:

"But whence can we hear this to have been the end the miracles of the Apostolic age were intended to serve? Certainly not from the New Testament. In it, not one word is ever dropped to this effect." - Counterfeit Miracles

J.F, MacArthur, Jr. said:

"Nothing in Scripture indicates that miracles of the apostolic age were meant to be continuous in subsequent ages." (This is an ironic expression meaning the opposite) - Charismatic Chaos book (1993)

In other words, both well-known, outspoken cessationists indicate that their beliefs were not based on solid Scriptural texts.

2. Based on the Historical Theology and Church History.

Cessationists argue that: There is no credible record of miracles in the church's history following Moses, Elijah and Elisha, and Jesus and the Apostles, which substantiates "miracles and spiritual gifts" gradually diminished and ceased.

The cessationists maintain that God still performs miracles and heals, etc. But what credible records do they have to prove this?

It should be noted that "no credible records" mean that cessationists reject all records of miracles from church history, including Eastern, Medieval Roman Catholic, and Reformation traditions, as "un-credible" because the sources or the cases are “unverified” or doubtful. Even Augustine was "unreliable" for his reports of the miracles. - Charismatic chaos.

3.Based on the "inductive reasoning" & Eisegesis, etc.

a. Purpose of miracles was to authenticate God's messengers- Jesus, and Apostles.

The authentication part is correct. If Jesus and Apostles needed that "authentication," how much more the succeeding generation of witnesses would needed the same authentication?

Jesus said:

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”-Acts 1:8.

Peter said:

“Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” - Acts 2:38–39.

b. However,the close of the Canon was the"perfect comes, and the partial will pass away" (1 Cor 13:8). Not a good Exegeses, but Eisegises!


  • Cessationism, as we know it, is a doctrine formulated within the Reformed tradition to counter the modern-day Pentecostal movements in the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches.

  • The cessationists is bad theology by Scriptural standard. It reject all historical records of "miracles" as unreliable, to support Cessationism. They assert that since there are no credible historical accounts, the "spiritual gifts" must be ceased. It is abhorrent that cessationists copy the secular dishonest “character assassination of witness” tactic to invalidate the witness’ statements.

  • I call upon the Church as a whole to take a stand against the harmful and limiting dogma of cessationism. Let us embrace the fullness of the Holy Spirit and reject the notion that miraculous gifts have ceased. Together, let us encourage and empower one another to walk in the power and gifts of the Spirit, for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom."

Effects of Cessationism:

  • It negates the Word of Jesus,in particular, in Acts 1:4-8,with their logic and presupposition.

  • Cessationism grieves the Holy Spirit; quenches "the move of the Spirit in power" in the church.

  • It denies the blessed Divine promised- "spiritual gifts" - made available to the last-day militant missionary Church and her members.

  • It hinders effectiveness of the evangelism efforts of preaching the gospel to every nation, to the end of the world, and impedes the time of Parousia.

Jesus' words - "You will be my witness to the end of the earth" - speaks loud and clear that "Spirit-power/gifts" is to continue until the Parousia, yet, Cessationism dare to says "Not so!"

  • Thanks for your contribution. We at C.SE prefer that quotes are sourced. I added them as an example for you. Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 22:11
  • Thank you, @GratefulDisciple!
    – Sam
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 15:15

What is the basis for Cessationism?

The supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit were first observed at Pentecost;

Acts 2:16-18: But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:

When Jesus gives the "great commission" to the eleven disciples, he describes the ability of believers to supernaturally heal others and be immune from harm from snakes and poison;

Mark 16:15-18: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

It is interesting to note from the Joel prophecy that it includes more than has actually happened so far;

Joel 2:27-32: And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.

Peter had every expectation that everything Joel said was about to be fulfilled. When Jesus began his ministry by quoting Isaiah, he stopped short.

Luke 4:17-20: And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.

Isaiah 61:1-6: The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified. And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations. And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.

It might seem that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are intended for the Kingdom. They were in evidence when the kingdom was immanent. (Paul was bitten by a snake and unharmed, Peter and Paul healed people including raising the dead, tongues were in use, and devils were being cast out)

There are three main views of spiritual gifts today.

  1. Spiritual gifts are fully functional and available to all Christians today.
  2. Spiritual gifts are only partially available today.
  3. Spiritual gifts have ceased functioning.

The biggest support for the view that spiritual gifts have ceased to function is empirical. The dead are not raised. Those who support full or partial gifts have to either cling to a distant report of some unverified incident or exaggerate the talent of a teacher or administrator as a "gift" from the Holy Spirit.

Prayers are answered. Healing does take place. The Holy Spirit does lead people to have the right words to say at the right time. However, supernatural gifts were not so subtle or transient as to be indiscernible from talents.

Peter said that the receiving of the Holy Spirit was told by Joel. Joel describes something very much related to Israel and can be considered Kingdom related. If one sees the offer of the Kingdom to Israel as withdrawn at the destruction of the temple or the diaspora, then one might see that the function of supernatural gifts would also be withdrawn.

When a faithful remnant is found in Israel (as described in Revelation), I would expect that the Kingdom would once again be immanent and that the gifts of the Holy Spirit would once again be poured out. I would also expect that the portions of Joel and Isaiah that were expected by Peter and truncated by Jesus would also come to pass.

You must log in to answer this question.