Cessasionist or Continualist?
In recent days we’ve heard a lot about whether a Christian should be a cessasionist or a continualist. I want to go on record and affirm that I am a passionate continualist.
I believe we ought to continue the pattern of simple, radical, life-style evangelism begun in the book of Acts. After all, it worked for the early church. How foolish of us to start anything without considering God’s pattern! Let us heed the Savior’s warnings and see that no man deceive us through human programs, methods, or cunning devices.
I believe we ought to continue bearing a humble, faithful, and consistent testimony to Christ, as the early believers did. Let moderns appeal to the sensational and spectacular; even the early church knew of signs and wonders. But the greatest work of the church has not been the spectacular but rather the faithful day-in and day-out living of normal everyday Christians.
I believe we ought to continue the pattern of church discipline as practiced by the early church and call out “play Christians” that only go through the motions thinking they are Christians but unaware they are only pretending. When the secular press begins to mock our inflated membership statistics, isn’t it time we did something about it?
I believe we ought to get out of our cozy churches and put Christ on display in the world’s darkness where we are needed. For the early Christians, the field was the world, and the corn of wheat had to die if it was to please God and bear fruit. Why, then, do we sit around debating theological puzzles when we ought to plant our lives in the ugly soil of the world?
I believe we ought to continue the emphasis of the New Testament upon every-member ministry, since we are all priests – every one of us – of the Most High God. We have our marching orders in black and white: each believer is a minister who is to follow the Master in “full-time” Christian service. No church in the New Testament had a single pastor who did all the work. If you have such a leader in your church, fire him – and then hire him back immediately as your CEO, “Chief Equipping Officer” (Eph. 4:12).
I believe we ought to continue the early church’s emphasis upon the lordship of Jesus Christ and put an end once and for all to the easy-believism that has despoiled our churches. “Putting Christ first” does not mean going to early service so that we can have the rest of the day off for golf. It means the absolute stewardship of our time, energy, abilities, and wealth.
I believe we ought to continue the early church’s rejection of blind patriotism. The only Christian nation the Bible knows is the blood-bought, born-again purchased people of God. Republicans and Democrats live to show forth the praises of their candidates, but God’s holy nation lives to show forth the praises of the One who has called them out of darkness into light.
I believe we ought to continue to fear (not just “respect”) God, even as the early church did. Our Lord is not the Big Buddy Upstairs. He does not exist for our gratification no matter how many times we pray the prayer of Jabez. We will look in vain in the New Testament for a frivolous approach to God by which sinners can jauntily saunter into His presence.
I believe we ought to follow the example of the apostle Paul and eschew the excellence of human oratory and any appeal to human wisdom. Nothing about the Gospel pleases this world – nothing! – and we are never so foolish as when we try to dress it up in the garish garments of this age.
Above all, I believe we ought to continue the example of the early church and reject position and power as the measuring sticks of success. Why should we seek prominent seats in the kingdom when our Lord promised us not seats but suffering? Obedience cost John the Baptist his head and Jonathan Edwards his pulpit. What has it cost us?
So I ask: Are you a cessationist or a continualist?
July 4, 2007
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.