The book of Acts includes several examples:

Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” Acts 8:29

While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.” Acts 10:19-20

The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings. These six brethren also went with me and we entered the man’s house.​ Acts 11:12

While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:2

6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. Acts 16:6-10

9 He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. 10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” Acts 21:9-11

In Luke 4:1 Jesus Himself is described as being led by the Holy Spirit:

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness. Luke 4:1

Do Cessationists believe that this is still happening today?

(*) Note that the messages need not be communicated via mechanical sound waves travelling through the air necessarily, they could be communicated telepathically, or by impressing the sounds directly into the disciple's mind (aka "hearing a voice in one's head"), etc. Whatever the means, the point is that the Holy Spirit was communicating clear, specific messages or instructions to the disciples in the book of Acts (and to Jesus in the Gospels). Do Cessationists believe that the Holy Spirit is still doing that today?


3 Answers 3


This is from an article in Tabletalk magazine, which is produced by Ligonier Ministries. It is written by Robert Rothwell and supposses to be the voice of Reformed Christianity on the topic of cessationism. There is much in the article describing the purpose of audible contact from the HS to the individual and why those purposes are expired.

We cessationists do not believe that the Spirit is unable to speak through prophets today, but only that He has chosen not to. We cessationists believe that the Spirit can and often does heal people in unexpected ways when we pray for them. We believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the sound exposition of His Word. We believe that He opens and closes doors for us and even arranges providential “coincidences” in our lives. In fact, I contend that traditional Reformed cessationism has a higher view of the Spirit’s power and freedom than traditional continuationism. This is because we confess that the Spirit must bring dead souls to life in order for us to believe; that He must do so without our asking, for in our spiritually dead state outside of Christ we will not ask for new life; and that He does so for only those whom He freely chooses and at the moment of His own choosing.

It appears as though, for the cessationist, communication of the Spirit to the individual believer is limited to "sound exposition of the Word" rather than a voice which tells us to "go here" or "do this".

*Note: I do not hold this position by doctrine nor by experience.


Strict cessationists do not believe that God works outside of the verbal propositional content of Scripture. They would hold to a view that God stimulates through Scripture the reasoning process to strive to make right choices in life.

As to a prior post, I'm not sure if Rothwell is being consistent with holding to a strict cessationist worldview. The usual cessationist argument is that the core apostles were needed to "authenticate" a miracle. But if he is claiming God is healing today, then he is working with a simple inductive testimonial authentication process. The whole theology of how to discern God's guidance is problematic for strict cessationists. Their epistemology is to demand greater certainty than what is realistic. If they held to the same standard of certainty in discerning inner vocational calls to go into full time church work, no one would dare do it. It would be presumptuous to say that, they as a believer, were led to study for the ministry.


Q. Do Cessationists believe that the Holy Spirit still speaks specific messages or instructions to Christians today?

A. Only during the offering.

You may take this as only humor, however as key aspect of the question is instructions to Christians, not through Christians, which thus can refers to the difference btwn "private revelation" versus "public revelation."

Cessationism flows from the SS position regarding the sufficiency of Scripture, "unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men" (The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1:6)

However, private revelation, such as the Spirit "speaking" to you to pray for a certain person or thing, or a giving you a Bible message to speak/preach, is not adding to Scripture (unless presented as that), nor that of teaching a doctrine or adding new public revelation as part of the express wholly God-inspired word of God (the 66 books of Scripture, which has long been established (due to its uniquely Heavenly qualities and attestation, as Biblical prophets of God were).

Now what prayerful man of faith would deny any leading of the Spirit such as expressed in impressions or inner thoughts?

Note that private revelation requires discernment (it is conscience responding to its "programing" or that of the conviction or the impressions of the Spirit, or is it even inwardly speaking as thru a special dream or thought?

One must be careful here, but to answer the question, as worded,

Do Cessationists believe that the Holy Spirit still speaks specific messages or instructions to Christians today? The answer is not necessarily so, but as worded, "speak specific messages or instructions through Christians today as apostles and prophets of the Bible did, the answer is no,

And I think only a remnant of Reformationists are not strict Cessationists. John Piper (whom I actually happening to be listening on our radio, unplanned, as I type this) carefully allow for prophets today, and work to distinguish this from the wholly God-inspired Scriptures, as being a fulfillment of them but not addition to its public revelation. aside from a few who do so with difficultly.,

And none would allow adding to Scripture.

I myself find no sound Biblical case for disallowing the Pentecostal gifts, though fabrications sadly abound (esp. as foretellers). Glory to God who giveth more grace.

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