Now THAT’s a Good Question!


Where are you on the ‘Strange Fire’ debate? Are you a cessationist or a continuationist?


This is a question (a really GOOD one!) asked recently on the survey many of you readers filled out for me over Christmas (thank you!).

If you’re not familiar with the ‘Strange Fire’ debate, no worries. You can read about it here, here,  here, or here. And that’s just a small portion of the tip of the ice berg of opinions on it!!!

In short, John MacArthur recently did a conference and wrote a book entitled Strange Fire. I have not read the book, nor listened to any of the talks from the conference. (Apparently, there has even – already – been a book written in response.)

THEREFORE – though this is a GREAT question – I am not a good one to ask.

If I understand it correctly, however, what the ‘debate’ boils down to is whether or not some of the miraculous ‘sign’ gifts of the Spirit (prophecy, tongues, healing, miracles, etc.) ceased when the New Testament was completed? In other words, do these gifts still exist today – or, have they ceased? If you are a cessationist – you believe they ceased with the writing of the New Testament. If you are a continuationist – you believe they continue through today.

John MacArthur (again – I HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK!) – from my limited knowledge – is a die hard cessationist. In other words, he believes the miraculous ‘sign’ gifts of the Spirit have ceased and no longer exist today.

Other scholars and pastors, such as Wayne Grudem, John Piper, CJ Mahaney, and Mark Driscoll, believe they still continue.

Needless to say – if you have made it this far down the post – the debate is endless. You can read all you want to by clicking here . Guys who are much smarter than I am and whom I have the utmost respect for disagree on the issue. But the question posed for the day is where I am on this whole deal? Do I believe the miraculous ‘sign’ gifts of the Spirit have ceased, or do I believe they continue?

I’ll put it plainly: I believe the potential exists for them to continue today. I am totally open to miraculous sign gifts being used by God to accomplish His purposes today. I have not personally seen them (practiced biblically) or experienced them. But I believe God can and does use them for His purposes if He chooses.

The ONLY use of miraculous gifts of the Spirit I have seen personally have been – in my opinion – badly abused by excessive charismatics. But I have heard and read of God doing incredible things – using miraculous ‘sign’ gifts of the Spirit – overseas to draw men and women to Himself.

Can these gifts be abused today? Sure they can. Excessive charismatics (in my opinion) have a tendency to abuse the miraculous gifts just like excessive Southern Baptist’s (in my opinion) have a tendency to reject excitement in their expression of worship. The pendulum seems to always be swinging.

But at the end of the day – based on my limited knowledge and understanding biblically and personally – I cannot at this point say God cannot or will not use miraculous sign gifts of the Spirit to accomplish His sovereign purposes and will. If He wants to do it for His glory and draw men and women to Himself through the gifts like He did in the NT – by all means – BRING ‘EM ON!

My advice? Prayerfully study 1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14. Get your theology and doctrine from the Bible. Pray for God’s perfect will to be done here and everywhere. Plead for Him to get the glory He deserves through your life from all nations. And leave it to Him to do what He chooses.


3 thoughts on “Now THAT’s a Good Question!

  1. Rodney Wimberly says:

    If one, or a church as a whole, is a cessationist then why pray at all? I mean if one truly believes such there is no need in praying for healing, direction, anything, He has told you everything you need in The Book, so in reality, once a cessationist receives Jesus, and how did that happen without a miracle of God, why go to church and pray?

    I am continually amazed how we pray for miracles of healing, finances, whatever, but believe the age of miracles is over and wonder why our prayers are not answered. When Moses saw the burning bush, he turned aside to see the miracle. He could have kept going in the direction he was headed and missed God completely, the choice was his. The same is true today, we can turn aside and witness His miracles and signs or we can continue down the same path not really expecting miracles and just as turning aside to be with God and witness His glory will change your life forever, not turning aside and continuing on the same path will produce the same results, nothing!

  2. Rodney Wimberly says:

    Pastor, after reading the links to the articles you provided, this passage hit a nerve, “… He wrote, “First, we have to admit that there’s a correct and an incorrect position on this issue. Somebody is right and somebody is wrong… . Second, we have to admit that how we view this issue substantially impacts the nature of the Christian life. It matters. It’s not an inconsequential idea. Someone worships God appropriately, someone doesn’t…” in other words, I am right and you are wrong and God, well He fits in there somewhere, but right now He must occupy second place while I prove my correctness and your in-correctness.

  3. Ralph Paisley says:

    Pastor, As a frozen – chosen Presbyterian, I really think your last paragraph should be part of every Christian believer. Than you for your insight.

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