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I'm aware of the existence of both cessationism and continuationism as extreme positions regarding the gifts of the Spirit. One affirms that all the gifts of the Spirit have ceased, whereas the other argues that all of them are still in effect. However, I was wondering if there are any Christians situated somewhere between these two extremes? Do "partial cessationists" exist? Are there notable examples? If so, what is the biblical basis for their "partial cessationism"?

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  • I can't name the denominations, but some believe in the continuation of all gifts except Apostle. They hold that to be an apostle, you must have seen the risen Christ. The Apostle Paul had a special call in this regard. After John died, no more apostles. Jan 7, 2021 at 15:42
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    @PaulChernoch - if Paul had a Christophany after Jesus' resurrection that made him an apostle, is there anything preventing God from granting Christophanies to other people? I'm asking from a theoretical point of view. Jan 7, 2021 at 15:47
  • That is the big question, isn't it? The Two Witnesses in Revelation may be examples of such people. Some definitions of apostle are amenable to such a possibility. Others are not. I have seen solid arguments on both sides and cannot decide. If the canon is closed and apostleship includes promulgation of universally binding, authoritative doctrine to be added to the Bible, then I would say no. If apostleship means orthodox preaching, church planting and authority over churches, then yes. Jan 7, 2021 at 15:56
  • @PaulChernoch - Now that you mention the canon, this reminds me of a related question I asked a few days ago: christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/80349/… Jan 7, 2021 at 16:03
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    Here is a well reasoned refutation by someone from Calvary Chapel: calvarychapel.com/posts/… Jan 7, 2021 at 16:09

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Actually the majority of Protestant Evangelicals hold this view that you describe - the view that is in the middle. This is because the view that all the gifts have ceased is patently absurd at every level, and if this were true- then there could not be pastors.

There is no mention anywhere that there is some special exception for pastors and evangelists.
The ones in the middle react to the abuse done by some who take verses about Languages/tongues out of context and in some Pentecostal churches, there can be

  • 10, 15, or 40 or more people, all praying in tongues at once and
  • with no interpretation- both explicitly violating Paul's teaching on use of tongues in the church.

Additionally the majority of Protestant denominations deny that this is the litmus test of being filled with the spirit- which some Charismatic groups teach.

These middle groups mostly teach that the gifts are alive and for believers today except for the "so-called sign or miraculous gifts", which are prophecy, (sometimes equated as "word of knowledge") tongues and healing. This is the teaching of most Baptist, Freewill Baptists, Nazarenes, Bible Methodists, and Church of God Holiness and many Independent.

As for scripture to support this view - there isn't any. The Evangelical Free Church of America is a great example of the balance of scripture and the purpose of the gifts Each church is autonomous and self governed. They teach that all the gifts are alive today and for all believers- but all for edifying (building up) the body of christ. When 99% of people speak the same language, its not practical or efficient to have someone stand up and teach in a foreign language. If someone has a prophetic word- or Word of Knowledge- they take it to the elders. When there There are foreign special guests, they have an interpreter, which sits beside them and interprets for them, and if it's a special guest speaker, then his sermon or testimony is interpreted for the entire body, because the majority doesn't speak Danish, or Korean, etc. Gifts of healing are alive and in use today but you don't order which gifts you want like a Spiritual Christmas list and it's not like a "magic switch or button." The Holy Spirit determines if and when someone is healed.
It's a very solid, biblically based and practical approach which places a lot of weight on the context - how and where is the gift being used. These gifts are used in the context of Growth groups or Home groups. Not in corporate worship. Prophecy is taught as not being "spooky" or seeing the future, but rather something that is revealed by the Holy Spirit, and should always be weighed/ tested against scripture so you don't have "God told me to divorce my wife" kind of thing.

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  • When you wrote above, “as for scripture to support this view, there isnt any” were you referring there to “partial cessationism”, or to cessationism?
    – Al Brown
    Jul 31, 2021 at 4:17
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Most churches base their position on the accidents of history or a reaction to the extremes of some adjacent (theologically speaking) group. In fact, most groups are partial cessationists, based entirely on their history.

For example, most react quite violently to any manifestation of the gift of prophecy and/or tongues, but quite happily accept gifts of administration, teachers and pastors, etc.

It only takes a moment's thought to realize that such a position is both unbiblical and inconsistent. Further, the belief even varies within denominations. The simple test is this - open 1 Cor 12 and read through the list of spiritual gifts and see which of these a person is comfortable accepting as still relevant.

In fact, Paul, speaking to the Corinthian church (as a whole) told them in 1 Cor 1:7 -

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.

Cessationism is inconsistent with this Scripture.

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  • The question is who holds it and what scripture do they use to support partial cessationism. I agree theyre wrong, but the first two answers dont answer. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NASB) “8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away with; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away with. 9 For we know in part and prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with.” We may disagree whether this and the other verses support them, but just declaring they have no basis is unfair and not an answer.
    – Al Brown
    Jul 31, 2021 at 4:27
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    @AlBrown - there is scriptural support for either cessationist or partial cessationist views.
    – Dottard
    Jul 31, 2021 at 6:20
  • Yeah I thought as much. I am not a cessationist at all btw hope my comment didn’t inadvertently imply that. For one thing, I cant imagine hearing some of these personal, sincere, genuine accounts of the experience of speaking in tongues, and discounting them all. The warmth and stuff and the whole thing sounds very consistent. But also just doesnt seem reasonable from the bible. I agree is overall inconsistent w scripture. just not utterly baseless Thanks
    – Al Brown
    Jul 31, 2021 at 23:53
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Are there any Christians who are partially cessationist with regard to the gifts of the Spirit?

By the outpouring of the holy spirit at Pentecost, Christians were granted such miraculous gifts as prophesying and the ability to speak in tongues they had not studied. The canonical letters of the apostles and disciples also contain inspired forecasts of the future; these warned of the coming apostasy, told the form it would take, warned of God’s judgment and the future execution thereof, and revealed doctrinal truths not before understood or amplified and clarified those already given. (Acts 20:29, 30; 1Cor 15:22-28, 51-57; 1Th 4:15-18; 2Th 2:3-12; 1Ti 4:1-3; 2Timothy 3:1-13; 4:3, 4; compare Jude 17-21.) The book of Revelation is filled with prophetic information enabling persons to be warned, so they can discern “the signs of the times” (Mt 16:3) and take urgent action.​—Rev. 1:1-3; 6:1-17; 12:7-17; 13:11-18; 17:1-12; 18:1-8.

However, in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he shows that the miraculous gifts, including that of inspired prophesying, were due to be done away with. (1Cor 13:2, 8-10) The evidence is that with the death of the apostles these gifts ceased to be transmitted and thereafter passed off the Christian scene, having served their purpose. By that time, of course, the Bible canon was complete.

For a time, these gifts were needed to show undeniably that God’s favor had shifted from the Jewish nation to the Christian congregation. (Hebrews 2:3, 4) But Paul shows that the congregation would eventually grow to adulthood,(1 Cor. 13:11) or reach maturity, and would no longer need those miraculous gifts.

1 Corinthians 13:2 (NASB)

2 If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NASB)

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of [a]prophecy, they will be done away with; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away with. 9 For we know in part and prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with.

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1 Corinthians 13:8-10, indicates that certain gifts will cease. Therefore, it seems evident from scripture that a "partial cessation" of gifts was foretold, and I believe it was foretold back in the Book of Daniel when it would take place. Daniel 9:24-26 Young's Literal Translation 24 `Seventy weeks are determined for thy people, and for thy holy city, to shut up the transgression, and to seal up sins, and to cover iniquity, and to bring in righteousness age-during, and to seal up vision and prophet, and to anoint the holy of holies. It is debatable when the 70 weeks ended or will end but I believe it ended when Stephen was stoned, a man full of the Holy Spirit, which amounted to blaspheming the Holy Spirit and Jesus said that that act would not be forgiven (the end of the chance to anoint Jesus as their king). However, abominations continued until a complete destruction in 70 AD and an end of vision and prophet.

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Yes, there are many positions in the middle. For example, the concentric continuationist view of the perpetuity of spiritual gifts would posit that the full range of spiritual gifts have not necessarily been present in every age of the church. That is to say, there are axial kerygmatic points in which God's interaction with humanity is likely to be evident along the lines of an answer to the prayer found in Acts 4:30, “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”



In this middle position, God's sovereignty in distributing spiritual gifts is subject to the hearing of faith, along with the pure receptivity of expectant prayer for the full range of the charisms. But ultimately the distribution of spiritual gifts is subject to whether a particular miracle, or answer to prayer, will help to advance the Kingdom of God or not.

Close, but slightly different is that of concentric cessationism. This position would have an additional argument that there is no Biblical basis to have an expectation or even desire for spiritual gifts, as the promises given for the Holy Spirit's gifts were fulfilled during the first century descriptions in the book of Acts.

Concentric cessationists would argue that the promises of spiritual gifts were mediated supplementary to the means of grace (i.e. hearing of faith in the Word of God) via the hands of the core canonical apostles in the first century. Absence their evidentiary presence, we can't be sure (i.e. authenticate) that spiritual gifts are around today.

The church should seek the Holy Spirit and His gifts where God has promised them, in the Word and sacraments. But the big question is whether the promise of the perpetuity of the full range of spiritual gifts is a general promise of Scripture or not. Concentric continuationists would argue that what God promised in the past, He continues to promise today unless He says otherwise.

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