Somewhere over the centuries of church history, an idea was birthed that has a devastating impact on the advancement of the Kingdom of God. What’s that idea? The theological term is called ‘Cessationism’ which basically means that all of the supernatural elements that we see happening in the New Testament ceased after the death of the original apostles.
Actually, this worldview also proposes that the function of apostles and prophets also ceased when the original 12 apostles passed from the scene. Evidently, God did something very extreme and special only for those who walked with Jesus, while he was here on earth. And now, all of that is over and can only be remembered and celebrated through the stories of the scripture.
Why is this so tragic?
- First of all, it is not Biblical. No where in the Bible is there an indication that these things are now over. Jesus never taught that. Paul never taught that. In fact, Paul gives us instructions as to how to use ‘spiritual gifts’ and told us that we are to eagerly desire them. (1 Corinthians 14:1). Paul also teaches about the role of apostles and prophets as well.
- Second, it is short-sighted. God uses miracles to prove to people that Jesus is alive. We need the power of God in our world today more than ever.
- Third, it is defeatist. My opinion is that these kinds of beliefs grow up as a way to explain why so many christians live powerless lives.
- Fourth, it eliminates from the equation these two extremely important gifts to the church. Both the prophet and apostle are somehow to be no more.
If I was the devil and was making a strategic plan as to how to limit the church and its impact on the world – there could be no better strategy than to strip from the church the expectation of the power of God and the Ministry Gifts that help the church to experience more and breakthrough into more of what God has for them.
As you read this last paragraph, you might be shouting amen on the inside! You may totally agree that we need miracles! We need the power of God! We need the gifts of the spirit! You are in no way a cessationist when it comes to the power of God or the work of the Spirit of God.
And yet, one of the bleed-overs from this cessationist influence is the lack of understanding and/or emphasis on two of the five Ministry Gifts described in Ephesians 4. We believe in the ministry gift of the Teacher today. There is no controversy or lack of focus upon that gift.
We believe in the ministry gift of the Pastor today. In fact, we call just about everyone who has a ministry call, ‘Pastor’ because this is the gift and function most common and most appreciated in the church world right now. We even believe in and appreciate the ministry gift of the Evangelist. We understand how badly we need to win souls.
But what about the other two? There are some who believe that miracles are for today and that we should expect the power of God in our generation, who tend to think that the ministry of the apostle and prophet is somehow something reserved for Biblical times.
Again, this is devastatingly bad theology. It limits so much in how effective the church can be in the advancement of the Kingdom of God. We desperately need to BRING APOSTOLIC BACK in our world today.
In fact, this is one of the strategies that the devil uses. He does not want the body of Christ to be mobilized so he has proposed an idea that holds back the revolution of what can happen when these gifts do their work.