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It's my understanding that Cessationists usually adhere to the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 as meaning that prophecy and other spiritual gifts have ceased because "completeness" or "the perfect" supposedly refers to the whole cannon of scripture, something that was settled a long time ago. Thus, there is no point in prophesying anymore --they argue-- as the Holy Spirit has already revealed all that there is to prophesy about in scripture. If we think about it, this line of reasoning logically entails that the Holy Spirit only inspires prophecies that end up in the final canon of scripture. Or in other words, Holy Spirit-inspired extra-biblical prophecies cannot exist (i.e. any true prophecy has to have been recorded in scripture). Yet, the Bible presents several counterexamples that contradict this conclusion:

1) Numbers 11:23-30 (NIV):

23 The Lord answered Moses, “Is the Lord’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true for you.”

24 So Moses went out and told the people what the Lord had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took some of the power of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied—but did not do so again.

26 However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp. 27 A young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.

28 Joshua son of Nun, who had been Moses’ aide since youth, spoke up and said, “Moses, my lord, stop them!”

29 But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the Lord’s people were prophets and that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” 30 Then Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp.

2) 1 Kings 18:13,14 (NIV):

13 Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord? I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!”

3) Acts 19:1-7 (NIV):

While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples 2 and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

3 So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”

“John’s baptism,” they replied.

4 Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. 7 There were about twelve men in all.

4) Acts 21:8,9 (NIV):

8 Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. 9 He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.

5) 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 (NIV):

14 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.

These 5 passages from scripture present clear examples of Holy Spirit-inspired prophecies whose contents were not included in the final biblical canon. We only know that there were some individuals who were prophesying stuff, but the contents of their prophecies remain a mystery.

If prophecies only make sense if they end up in the final biblical canon for us to read them and benefit from their contents, then how come these counterexamples exist? How do Cessationists explain them?

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    To which ex-canon prophecies are you referring? Who made them and were they fulfilled and when? – SLM Jan 3 at 4:55
  • @SLM What do you mean by "ex-canon"? And whatever you mean, how is it not answered by the 3 biblical quotes provided in the question? – Spirit Realm Investigator Jan 3 at 5:00
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Speaking as one who might be, myself, described as a 'Cessationist' I would say the question is attempting to deal with two very different things.

A prophecy such as the Apocalypse, which definitively (and apostolically) describes end-times and the coming of Christ (and which is part of the canon of scripture) is one thing.

A prophet (who is a member of a particular assembly) who speaks to the state of that particular church and who exhorts that congregation accordingly (as at Corinth) is another.

These are two very different things.

I would say that the first has ceased.

I would say that the second has not.

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  • Just to clarify things up: do you believe that 1 Corinthians 14:1 has ceased? – Spirit Realm Investigator Jan 3 at 4:32
  • So, in short, your answer to the question "do you believe that 1 Corinthians 14:1 has ceased" is "No, I don't believe so". Is this correct? – Spirit Realm Investigator Jan 3 at 4:52
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator There are two very distinct matters. The mention of the 'canon of scripture' has made that clear. I have carefully explained that one has ceased. And one has not. – Nigel J Jan 3 at 4:53
  • But 1 Cor 14:1 is clearly talking about the context that you seem to approve of: exhorting people in the church. So your answer to the question "do you believe that 1 Cor 14:1 has ceased (in the context of exhorting people in the church)?" is "No, I don't believe so", correct? – Spirit Realm Investigator Jan 3 at 4:58
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    @SpiritRealmInvestigator . . . . . especially prophecy (because tongues and miracles have ceased and prophecy has not). Yes. – Nigel J Jan 3 at 5:06

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