Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. - 1Corinthians 12: 1 (NIV)
Yet we remain uninformed as the Body of Christ. We remain sharply divided when we should not. If we were to be honest with ourselves there are areas of doctrine which are simply unclear. It is not the fault of God, it is the fault of man. Two people can view the exact same passage and draw two different conclusions. The truth of God is always absolute but man's interpretations can always be imperfect. We strive to have clean rules for hermeneutics but at the end of the day sometimes we must learn to disagree without being disagreeable. As long as it a side doctrine issue that does not infringe upon salvation. I think that most people who are not false teachers genuinely love God's Word. Core doctrine cannot be altered but side doctrine we may just have to agree to disagree and unite behind Christ to bring as many people to the foot of the cross as possible before He returns. For example there are different opinions as to when the rapture of the saints will occur. One might be pre-trib and another post-trib but that should not be a line of division. Someone is wrong but it will not affect anyone's salvation.
So we come to the most divisive issue amongst believers today it seems - the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Respected Pastor, John McArthur recently held an entire conference to denounce Charismatic preaching and went as far to call it demonic. This elicited a response from Pentecostal circles and the war was on. The reality is that both sides have their points and both sides have Scriptural support so to claim omniscience in this area is simply arrogant. I understand the desire to be cessationist, I really do. The abuses within Charismatic circles are well detailed and extensive. The vast majority of false teaching these days resides squarely in the house of Charismania. The most egregious types that twist and pervert the Gospel and deceive people every day are found in Charismania. In our rush however to discard the sullied Charismatic bathwater let us not throw out the Holy Spirit that lives within us.
One of the best arguments for continuationism is the sheer volume of Scripture in the New Testament devoted to explaining the gifts. It defies logic to think that in every other area of the Bible we have specificity relevant through today but when it comes to this subject, God was only speaking about the apostolic age. In fact, one of the most used and correct arguments to defend against the cultural relevance arguments from the world is to say that God is the same yesterday, today and forever. That argument cannot become yesterday...and through the Apostolic age. I don't think cessationists have thought that logically through. In order for their position to be true - God changed upon the death of the Apostle John even though there is no indication of that anywhere in Scripture. Not only that but let's continue to be logical here. The Book of 1Corinthians for example (which contains writings about the gifts) was written around 57 AD and the Council of Nicaea, which determined the canon of Scripture was in 325 AD, 270 years later and 230 years after the end of the apostolic age. Since we all agree theologically that the canon of Scripture was written under divine inspiration, why would the Holy Spirit inspire Paul to write about something that had only 28 years of remaining relevance and would be completely irrelevant at the time it would become Scripture? That does not sound like the omniscient God we all know and serve. Why would God ensure that it was included at the Council of Nicaea if He knew it contained obsolete theology that we should not follow? No, logic must dictate that since God selected the canon of Scripture, it is all relevant and not subject to cultural or time related arguments. It is literally a Rob Bell argument, thinking that something doesn't apply for today that once did apply.
Now, once we conclude that the gifts must be subject to continuation we must also conclude that they are being misused today. They are misunderstood today. They are being mis-taught today. That is where our collaborative focus should be, on correcting false teaching; gift by gift if we must. Before we go there however it is important to differentiate between offices and gifts. During the apostolic age we still had apostles and prophets. But the Bible makes it clear they were foundational:
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. - Ephesians 2: 19-22 (ESV)
The Bible makes clear that in order to be an apostle, you must have been witness to the resurrected Christ, thus the office is closed today even though there are many charlatans who want you to believe they are apostles. Who gave them that authority? The answer is they gave it to themselves. False teachers like the New Apostolic Reformation claim divine revelation for their "apostleship", so that few feel like they can question it. I however have no problem questioning it because it goes against Scripture and God would never violate His own Word. The other office false teachers like to usurp is that of prophet. Prophet is a little more difficult because there is clear Scriptural evidence that at least the term prophet was continued to be used. Acts 21: 10-11 tells about Agabus the Prophet. 1Corinthians 14 has several references to prophets including how many should speak in an organized service. Once again, it makes zero sense to believe the Holy Spirit inspired this writing in 57 AD, knowing it would only be relevant for 28 years. In our quest to find middle ground I would hope all can agree that if someone needs to tell you they are a prophet, my guess is they are not. They might move in the gift of prophecy but Jesus Christ is the last Prophet we needed. The Bible is His revealed will to us and it says nothing can be added unto it. So then, what is the point of having a prophetic gift? I can admit that I may not be entirely sure but we cannot avoid Scripture: