Thank you for your note, but since you don’t care what the regular folk think; never care about us until you want our money; and only serve the interests of your biggest donors; go get funds from them. You serve them, not us. They can pay you. They can support you.
Please don’t contact me again until you’re actively engaged in advocating for America’s citizens instead of America’s corporations.
Many respectable theologians believe all the gifts of the Holy Spirit still operate today. In other words, good teachers promote the sign-gifts: speaking in tongues, healing, and prophetic utterances.
However, do they really believe that the New Testament gifts continue on the same level as they did in the first century? At the Shepherds’ Conference, Nathan Busenitz explains that many otherwise sound theologians are, in reality, closet cessationists… that the miraculous gifts of the early church are not repeatable today.
(To watch the 29 minute message, please click here.)
Opening with Daniel chapter three, I shared the biblical story of three Jewish men — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego — who were thrown in a fiery furnace by an evil tyrant because they refused to bow down a worship a false god.
Sharing some lessons from the Holocaust, I shared several true stories of the real heroes — Jewish and Christian — who inspired the novel, The Auschwitz Escape.
Then, noting that “darkness is falling” in Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and around the world, I also urged these students to love God and love their neighbors and stand boldly and courageously for Jesus Christ and…
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The final argument John Piper made on his podcast in support of the continuation of fallible prophecy has to do with the identity and timing of “the perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:8–12. Here’s what he said:
The future in view here, I think, is manifestly when Christ comes. When the perfect comes, in the time of adulthood when he’s not speaking like a child anymore, the time of seeing face to face, not in a mirror anymore, but rather knowing fully even as I have been fully known. That’s not any time in this age. That’s the end of the age, when we will know fully even as we have been fully known.
So that’s when the gift of prophecy stops. So, this text is a pretty clear argument, I think, that the gift of prophecy and tongues will continue until Jesus comes back. And it seems to me that the reason they pass away, it says, is precisely because they’re imperfect. They’re not Scripture-level authority, because verse 9 says, ek merous prophēteuomen—that’s the Greek—we prophesy ek merous, we prophesy in part, just like a little child, trying to reason, and think, and talk, and when he grows up and becomes a man, in the age to come, he won’t need that kind of help anymore.
That summary reflects what has become a very common interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8–12. Because of its popularity, many are not aware that it rests upon unfounded assumptions and is entirely at odds with the respected exegetes both of church history and today. But by focusing on what Paul actually said, I believe we can clear away the confusion that continuationists have inserted into this text.
What is “the perfect”?
The word translated “perfect” is from téleios, and is used to describe something that is morally perfect, full grown and mature, or complete. The different nuances of téleios have given rise to various interpretations of what “the perfect” refers to: F.F. Bruce said “the perfect” is love itself; B.B. Warfield, the completed canon of Scripture; Robert Thomas, the mature church; Richard Gaffin, the return of Christ; and Thomas Edgar, the individual believer’s entrance into heavenly glory.
Significantly, though they disagree on the referent of “the perfect,” each one of those respected New Testament scholars is a committed cessationist. Clearly—and contrary to the assertions of so many continuationists—the cessationist case does not stand or fall with 1 Corinthians 13:8–12. As New Testament scholar Anthony Thistleton says, “Few or none of the serious ‘cessationist’ arguments depends on a specific exegesis of 1 Cor. 13:8–11. . . . These verses should not be used as a polemic for either side in this debate.” Even continuationist scholar D.A. Carson admits that Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13 do not “necessarily mean that a charismatic gift could not have been withdrawn earlier than the parousia.”
That said, I believe the best way to understand the timing of “the perfect” is closer to John Piper’s view. Here’s what I wrote in Strange Fire:
Of the possible interpretations, the believer’s entrance into the Lord’s presence best fits Paul’s use of “perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10. This makes sense of Paul’s later statement in verse 12 about believers seeing Christ “face to face” and possessing full knowledge—descriptions that cannot be realized this side of glory.
So just as cessationists can disagree among themselves about what “the perfect” is and still be cessationists, John Piper and I can agree on when “the perfect” comes and yet still disagree about when the miraculous gifts cease.
This demonstrates that a conscientious student of Scripture—whether cessationist or continuationist—should not look to 1 Corinthians 13:8–12 as a trump card in this discussion, imagining that a simple quotation of the passage should make it obvious that his view is the right one. This text has to be carefully handled to make the author’s intention plain (2 Tim. 2:15). In the remainder of this post, I hope to do that by asking two crucial questions of this text.
What (exactly) is lacking in New Testament prophecy?
The contrast in 1 Corinthians 13 is not between the imperfect/fallible and the perfect/infallible, but rather between the partial and complete. Paul clearly said, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away” (ESV, vv. 9–10, emphasis added).
But Piper takes “perfect” to mean “infallible” and “in part” to mean “fallible.” Here’s what he said while quoting verses 9–10 (his comments are noted in italics):
For now we know in part and we prophesy in part—that’s a very crucial statement: ‘We prophesy in part’; but when the perfect comes—as though the prophecies were not that [i.e., not perfect]—the partial will pass away.
Don’t miss the interpretive conclusion Piper has insinuated there (it’s especially clear in the audio). He sees the contrast between “we prophesy in part” and “but when the perfect comes” as suggesting a qualitative difference between the gift of prophecy practiced among the Corinthians and whatever is going on at the time of the perfect. To him, that means the New Testament gift of prophecy must not be perfect—that is, it must not be infallible.
But there is absolutely no justification for that. Prophesying “in part” doesn’t mean prophesying fallibly or inaccurately; it means that the prophecies do not provide the kind of exhaustive knowledge believers will possess when they enter Christ’s presence. The same can be said of Old Testament prophecy: It was infallible, but it was also “in part” because it did not provide the complete fulfillment of God’s revelation found in the New Testament. Even the two Testaments together do not provide the exhaustive knowledge believers will enjoy in glory, which is precisely Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 13:8–12.
Therefore, we should not understand “in part” to mean “fallible” but rather “partial” or “nonexhaustive.” And we should not understand “perfect” to mean “infallible” but rather “complete.” Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 13:9–10 is to be understood this way: We know in part and we prophesy in part; but when that which is complete comes, that which is partial will be done away. What was lacking in New Testament prophecy was completeness (a quantitative issue) not accuracy (a qualitative issue). The qualitative perfection of New Testament prophecy was never in question—until the modern challenges of the charismatic movement.
What (exactly) will pass away?
After Piper argues that the timing of “the perfect” is the end of the age when we see Christ (which I agree with), he then draws the conclusion, “So that’s when the gift of prophecy stops.” And that’s where my agreement stops. Verse 8 does not say the gift of prophecy—singular—will pass away; it says prophecies—plural—will pass away. The cessation Paul speaks of does not have to do with the gift of prophecy, but prophecies, which are the result or the product of the gift of prophecy.
Here’s how Sam Waldron explains it:
The emphasis, therefore, is not on the gift of prophecy itself, but on the various revelations or prophecies given through the gift. Thus, verse eight emphasizes not the gift of prophecy, but the contents of prophecy—the prophecies plural given through the gift of prophecy. The emphasis, then, of the preceding context is not on the gifts of tongues and prophecy. It is clearly on the knowledge—the partial knowledge—associated with those gifts.
Now, lest you think Waldron is guilty of making too fine a distinction, take a moment to reflect more deeply on verses 9 and 10.
John Piper believes “the partial” in verse 10 is a qualitative statement referring to the gift of fallible prophecy. He would have us read the passage this way: For we know fallibly and we prophesy fallibly; but when the perfect comes, the fallible gifts will be done away. But in order to maintain Paul’s parallel between “the partial” and “the perfect,” Piper’s interpretation would force us to conclude that “the perfect” refers to a gift. Here’s how that sounds: For we know fallibly and we prophesy fallibly; but when the perfect, infallible gifts of prophecy and knowledge come, the fallible gifts will be done away.
So, are we to expect to receive perfect, infallible gifts of prophecy and knowledge when we see Christ face to face? No indeed. Piper has already told us “the perfect” is not a gift at all but “is manifestly when Christ comes.” This internal inconsistency should make the error obvious. On the one hand, the parallelism shows the contrast between “the partial,” which is fallible, and “the perfect,” which is infallible. But that parallelism is ignored in the next instance to maintain that “the perfect” is not an infallible gift, but the completeness of knowledge believers enjoy when face to face with Christ. You can’t have it both ways.
So Waldron is correct. “The partial” does not refer to the gift of prophecy itself but rather to the partial (and, at the same time, infallible) knowledge that results from the exercise of this gift. This partial knowledge is contrasted not with a perfect gift of knowledge but with the perfect, comprehensive knowledge believers will enjoy when they come face to face with Christ. With that in view, you can back away from the details of the text to discover the point. Paul is not trying to teach the Corinthians when the gifts will cease but that there will come an end to the knowledge conveyed through those gifts. As I wrote in Strange Fire:
It is important to note that Paul’s purpose in this chapter was not to identify how long the spiritual gifts would continue into later centuries of church history, as that would have been essentially meaningless to the original readers of this letter. Rather, he was making a point that specifically pertained to his first-century audience: when you Corinthian believers enter the glorified perfection of eternity in heaven, the spiritual gifts you now prize so highly will no longer be necessary (since the partial revelation they provide will be made complete). But love has eternal value, so pursue love because it is superior to any gift (v. 13).
Thomas Edgar agrees:
If, as seems apparent in the passage, the teleion refers to the individual’s presence with the Lord, this passage does not refer to some prophetic point in history. These factors mean that this passage does not teach when the gifts will cease or how long they will last. It serves to remind the Corinthians of the abiding nature of love in contrast to the gifts, which by their inherent nature are only temporal, only for this life.
So, although it is often used as a slam-dunk text to support continuationism, 1 Corinthians 13 teaches nothing directly about when the gifts cease. Paul is once again correcting the Corinthian believers—the knowledge they so highly prized, which came as a result of prophetic gifts, would one day be outshined by the enduring character of love. Rather than trying to show up one another with ostentatious displays of their giftedness, they should focus their energy on loving one another.
This was the third post dealing with the texts John Piper used to support fallible prophecy (1 Thess. 5:19-21; 1 Cor. 11:4–5; 1 Cor. 13:8–12). None of the continuationist interpretations of these passages compels us to abandon the doctrine of cessationism. What I’ve provided doesn’t break any new ground. It is nothing more than the historic position of the church, which is faithful to the biblical view of prophecy.
I hope Christians will see that the support for fallible prophecy and the continuation of the miraculous gifts is exegetically suspect and does not hold up to biblical scrutiny. And I hope they will challenge anyone who attempts to diminish and degrade the full power of God’s prophetic word by redefining it according to continuationist presuppositions.
There is no virtue in allowing error to continue unabated and unchecked. Confronting and correcting it is often unpleasant for all involved, but it is the loving thing to do. I’ll have more to say about the pastoral duty to confront and correct error, as a matter of sincere Christian love, in my next post.
 Ask Pastor John, episode 215, 6:04–7:19.
 Ask Pastor John, episode 215, 5:31–5:46.
 Ask Pastor John, episode 215, 6:34–6:38.
 See also Thomas Edgar, Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit, p. 245: “The prophecies and knowledge in this passage are not the gifts themselves, as most interpreters seem to assume, but the content associated with the gifts. There are several reasons for understanding the passage in this way. The gifts are not partial, nor will there be a day when the partial gifts will be replaced by complete gifts.”
 Thomas Edgar, Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit, p. 246; cf. Sam Waldron, To Be Continued?, p. 64: “The conclusion must be that Paul is teaching the doing away of partial knowledge in favor of perfect knowledge in verse 10. He says nothing about when the gifts of prophecy and tongues pass away. He only refers to the passing of the present and partial knowledge that was conveyed through those gifts. He leaves open the question of the time of the passing of the gifts of prophecy and tongues. This passage is, therefore, not conclusive for the continuation of the gift of prophecy. That issue must be decided on other grounds.”
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This is the first of a two-part message broadcast over the radio several years ago. Each part is about 30 minutes. While there are nits that can be picked regarding a few things he says, this man is on target and the church needs to hear this message.
|Exhibit 1: IHOP is an international youth movement|
Herescope has been running an article series about the International House of Prayer (IHOP) movement and its endtime teachings. In the previous articles we examined how IHOP’s Mike Bickle has been preparing his group to become an elite “Bride.” Bickle’s IHOP movement is founded upon his “Bridal Paradigm.” This is his unique allegorical interpretation of the Song of Solomon that is used as an eschatological roadmap.
This IHOP Bride is taught that she can become “mature” by practicing “100-Fold Obedience.” In the current IHOP teaching, an endtime “mature” Bride is juxtaposed against the rest of Christian believers who, Bickle asserts, are merely the “daughters of Jerusalem,” i.e., less mature than this perfected Bride. She believes she will play a a pivotal endtime role to walk out (or pray in) the judgments in the book of Revelation. She must exhibit “100-Fold Obedience.” What does Bickle mean when he uses this term? How does this relate to the rest of his teachings?
Given Bickle’s recent acceptance into the mainstream evangelical world via leaders such as Francis Chan, it behooves us to examine Bickle’s beliefs. This isn’t easy to do because Bickle has invented his own unique terminology. He appears to be teaching retooled Latter Rain/Manifest Sons of God doctrines to a new generation of youth. In this section of our article series we will examine his old teachings and compare them with what he is teaching now.
Are you thinking of going to college? If so, please consider that decision very carefully. You probably have lots of people telling you that an “education” is the key to your future and that you will never be able to get a “good job” unless you go to college. And it is true that those that go to college do earn more on average than those that do not. However, there is also a downside. At most U.S. colleges, the quality of the education that you will receive is a joke, the goal of most colleges is to extract as much money from you and your parents as they possibly can, and there is a very good chance that there will not be a “good job” waiting for you once you graduate. And unless you have someone that is willing to pay your tuition bills, you will probably be facing a lifetime of crippling student loan debt payments once you get out into the real world. So is college a waste of time and money? In the end, it really pays to listen to both sides of the debate. (Read More….)
A disturbing study guide entitled “Zionism Unsettled” has been published by an arm of the Presbyterian Church (USA), or PCUSA. The publication is filled with distorted facts and a historical narrative so extreme that some Jewish groups are calling it “hate speech.”
It vilifies Israel and Zionism while ignoring Palestinian terrorism, calls for the annihilation of the Jewish state, and absconds Arab leaders of their culpability in the plight of the Palestinian people. The study guide proves that the PCUSA has aligned itself with the most radical of positions by equating Zionism with racism, comparing it to centuries of Christian anti-Semitism and calling for a rethinking of the Holocaust to include the plight of the Palestinians.
There is much we don’t know about God’s timing for end-time events simply because we won’t know until they happen. We have what the Bible says and we take that information and use that as a lens by which we view current events through, which is known as ‘exegesis’.
The reverse of this tries to fit current events into the pages of the Bible, which is known as eisegesis. In other words, they are assuming a correlation and implying that xyz must mean this passage, because of abc. That is what we should avoid at all cost from doing. What we do know, is that God’s word is sure, and it will come to pass on God’s time.
This expectation of the ‘Blessed Hope’ has in the last century, become a very sensitive subject amongst many a church. Many churches don’t teach it, because they feel as though it is too ‘divisive’ a topic. Still others don’t teach it because it undermines their church-expansion programs here on earth. Overarching both of these is the ever increasing attack on Dispensationalism and Pre-Tribulationism, which insists upon a consistent, literal interpretation of the Bible.
Long ago, pastors, priests, teachers, and theologians realized a convenient trick that if you don’t understand something, or it doesn’t fit your agenda, you can simply make it allegorical, or spiritual, and relegate it to the “pie in the sky” section of their mental filing cabinets. Out of sight, out of mind. Right?
Nevertheless, in these waning moments of human history, a small minority continue to watch and anticipate the Lord’s return. Like that handful of faithfuls who anticipated Christ’s first coming (they knew because they took the Old Testament prophets seriously), so are those today, whose group is aging and becoming smaller in number.
Alongside the true watchman on the wall, like the tare mixed in with the wheat, are those professional speculators who spend their time forging ministries in the conspiratorial. I’m sure you or I could list off about 5-10 of these shysters just off the tops of our collective heads.
Eschatology is not about license plates, dreams and visions, counting every third letter in the Bible, or trying to fit Nibiru into the Bible. We have to go with what we know, and then, use Scripture to interpret what we see in the here and now…not the other way around.
My intent here is to go with what we actually know and what we can know with a high degree of certainty. Some of these events are yet future, but we can simply look around today and see things are unfolding exactly, as God’s word said it would and follow those to their logical and scriptural conclusions.
“To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting Him to public disgrace”—Hebrews 6:6
The United Nations, Western governments, media, universities, and talking heads everywhere insist that Palestinians are suffering tremendous abuses from the state of Israel. Conversely, the greatest human rights tragedy of our time—radical Muslim persecution of Christians, including in Palestinian controlled areas—is devotedly ignored.
by Mike Ratliff
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4 ESV)
Compromise is a term the world system likes. In fact, the world system as we know it in our time runs on rails greased by compromise. Even though the U.S. Constitution protects the right of free speech to its citizens, the political correctness movement is doing all it can to squelch or smother the expression of “opinion” that is contrary to what it deems as inoffensive. It appears that the right of the easily offended is more protected than the right of those who speak the truth and live by it. All flavors of liberal Christianity, for example, teach that it is wrong to preach the complete Gospel of our Lord Jesus…
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