I am not a cessationist. This means I believe that the types of spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 are available to the church today. However, we often have a problem about what to do with gifts like prophecy, visions and dreams. These are revelatory gifts but we believe that Scripture is God’s full and sufficient revelation.
So, cessationists argue that because we have God’s complete revelation, that we don’t need gifts like prophecy, visions and dreams anymore. Using those types of gifts will undermine the position and authority of Scripture. We will be adding to it. Those who believe in the continuation of those gifts respond by saying “No, we do not. We always place the other gifts under the authority of Scripture.” The problem is that in practice
– We can end up treating Scripture as a kind of reference book like a dictionary. We go to it and try and find something to support our revelation
– In practice, people become more attracted to and more attentive to the seemingly spectacular and much more emotionally immediate gift.
I have previously suggested that I think the problem is a question of categories. We place some of the things we observe into the “Special Revelation” category. We put our dreams, pictures and words in competition or at least in tension with Scripture.
However, what happens if we place them in the General Revelation category? Well I think a couple of things happen.
– We begin to learn a bit more about human nature and the place for what we might call sanctified empathy, emotional intelligence and gut instinct.
– We recognise that God uses a range of gifts. God is also giving us the gift of words of wisdom through the church treasurer, the trustee, the project manager who understands risk etc.
– We learn to read these things through the lens of Scripture -so that we see the whole world and everything that happens through new eyes rather than simply treating Scripture as the reference book.
I want to add a further though in. I’ve been thinking a little about meditation this week. At Sunday Night Church last week, one of the people there said that it was important that we use our time when awake to be reading and studying Scripture but of course we cannot do this all the time, for example when we are asleep. But then we came to the verse in Psalm 1 where the Psalmist talks about meditating on the Law of the Lord, day and night.
This got me thinking. I’ve also observed in the past that there were Christians (John Wesley is a great example) who were so soaked and versed in Scripture that it couldn’t help but come out in their writing. Words and phrases from Scripture littered their writing and no doubt their conversation. What happens when we really take time to read, study, memorise, meditate and reflect on Scripture? Won’t it begin to shape our minds? Won’t we begin to see it coming out in our conversations and shaping our thinking? As we go to sleep at night and our minds begin to repair and re-organise, will it be a surprise if our dreams are shaped by Scripture too. Won’t God be speaking to us in our dreams.
I wonder if this isn’t a better way forward, where we have people who are constantly in tune with God through his Word rather than waiting for the occasional spectacular revelation?