Is the gift of prophecy given to the church in our present day? Was the gift of prophecy reserved for the apostolic era of church history? What must we say about the numerous accounts of modern-day prophecies that people continue to share. Some are formally given in a corporate worship gatherings and some happen in the break room at work. According to B.B. Warfield, the age of the miraculous gifts has passed. He writes:
The theologians of the post-Reformation era, a very clear-headed body of men, taught with great distinctness that the charismata ceased with the Apostolic age. 
Several years ago, Beth Moore told a story about how God often speaks to her in visions. According to Moore, God placed this picture in her head while she was sitting out on her back porch. She stated that it was as if she was raised up and could see the world as Jesus does. Does God continue to speak to people by giving prophecies for them to share with the church? What important questions must be considered?
Is the Gift of Modern Prophecy Compatible with Sola Scriptura?
At the heart of the Reformation was the principle of sola Scriptura. The Reformers lived and died upon the fact that the Word of God was all that was necessary to communicate the binding and necessary elements of the faith. They rejected the claims of the Roman Catholic Church’s authority and elevated the necessity of Scripture as the sole basis of truth. Anything else was a counterfeit and was rejected. This struck at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church and became a sharp sword that would be used on the battlefield of the Protestant Reformation.
Today, we have cults who knock on our doors and try to slide pamphlets and booklets over the top of sacred Scripture. In other words, if a cult group comes to your door, they will often appear to have a high regard for God’s Word, but not far into the conversation they will start to point you in the direction of some other literature written by their cult group’s organization. This is an ancient gimmick, one employed by Satan himself in the Garden of Eden as he cast shadows upon God’s Word asking Eve—”Did God really say” (Gen. 3:1)?
Within the charismatic movement, or as some choose to be labeled—the continuationist movement, the gift of prophecy is embraced as an ongoing normative gift given to the church of Jesus Christ. Does the gift of prophecy square with the teachings of sola Scriptura? As the Roman Catholic Church fought for control of God’s Word in church history, is the modern charismatic movement seeking to capture the greater stake in who actually has more of God’s revelation? In fact, you could expect that Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen would both reject any notion of sola Scriptura, but today we find many Reformed Christians who claim to be continuationists. Therefore, does a continuationist model invalidate the central principle of the Reformation?
As a cessationist, I do not find true theological consistency between the continuationist position and historic position of the Reformers. If God’s Word is to be accompanied by modern-day revelations that are communicated by modern-day prophets—sola Scriptura is replaced with a multiplicity of words from God. No longer is God’s Word sufficient because it comes in a plurality of ways—written and verbal.
Is God’s Word Authoritative and Less Authoritative?
When an ancient herald would be commissioned out into a town to deliver the message of the king, he would be received with honor and respect. In fact, when the message of the herald was delivered to the people, the message was embraced with the same authority as if the king himself had been standing there to deliver the message. When we read the Bible, we read the authoritative Word of God. The authority of God’s Word is clearly articulated by Paul to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16-4:5. Peter picks up this same tone as he writes:
Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21).
Wayne Grudem, a gifted scholar who holds to the continuationist positions writes:
Furthermore, aside from the question of current practice or belief, I have argued extensively elsewhere that ordinary congregational prophecy in New Testament churches did not have the authority of Scripture. It was not spoken in words that were the very words of God, but rather in merely human words. And because it has this lesser authority, there is no reason to think that it will not continue in the church until Christ returns. It does not threaten or compete with Scripture in authority but is subject to Scripture, as well as to the mature judgment of the congregation. 
When we read the Bible, are we led to believe that what Paul said to the church at Corinth regarding church discipline is less authoritative than what Jesus said in Matthew 18? Is what Paul said about justification by faith alone in Christ alone in Ephesians less authoritative than what James said about faith and works? The point is clear—all of God’s Word is authoritative. Therefore, the position that suggests that verbal prophecies are less binding than what we find in Scripture seems to contain logical and theological fallacies. Why would God communicate lesser authoritative words to modern prophets than He did to ancient prophets?
Tom Schreiner provides a helpful consideration as he writes:
The burden of proof is on those who say prophecy in the NT is of a different nature than prophecy in the OT. Prophets in the OT were only considered prophets of God if they were infallible (Deut. 18:15-22), and the same is almost certainly true in the NT. 
It seems abundantly clear that God’s Word is the final and sure authoritative revelation given to us by the Holy Spirit. It can be validated, trusted, followed, and remains our sole source of divine truth.
Is God’s Word Inerrant and Errant?
In 2011, the entire world was put on notice that the world was coming to an abrupt end. At least, that was the message from Harold Camping and his dedicated followers—many of whom sold their homes and spent their “final days” warning the world. In 2007, Pat Robertson delivered a message of doom by saying, “The Lord didn’t say nuclear but I do believe it will be something like that, that it will be a mass-killing, possibly millions of people, major cities injured. There will be some very serious terrorist attacks. The evil people will come after this country and there’s a possibility not a possibility, a definite certainty that chaos is going to rule.” Still today, a man named Horacio Villegas is predicting the end of the world, by a nuclear event, will take place on May 13th, 2017.
Do any of these men speak for God? How do we know if a self-proclaimed prophet is speaking for God? The verification is based on the outcome of their prophecy. In fact, that is the only basis of verification. While some people within the charismatic movement dismiss people as Harold Camping and other radicals as false prophets, some people still hold to the idea that true modern prophets can make errant prophecies by accident. All prophets are known by their fruit. Therefore, the idea of an errant prophet who actually speaks for God is beyond the realm of what it means to be a true prophet of God.
Long before the Word of God was complete, God instituted a means to protect His Word from corruption. According to Deuteronomy 18:20-22, if anyone came speaking for God and did not speak the truth, they were to be executed. In short, the death penalty was the punishment for all false prophets. This was God’s way of protecting His Word. According to Ezekiel 12:25, everything the LORD speaks actually comes to pass.
In the New Testament, we don’t have a single place where a prophet erred. Some accuse Agabus of error, but if you read Paul’s explanation of his arrest in Acts 28:17, you will see that he never accused Agabus of any error whatsoever. In fact, it seems that he was connecting the dots to what had been prophesied by Agabus. All throughout the New Testament, the message of the prophets was to be received as truth. The idea of an errant prophet delivering an errant word doesn’t seem to align itself with the overall picture of God’s inerrant Word (Ez. 12:25; 2 Tim. 3:16-4:5).
As we consider the Word of God and the work of the prophets, it’s apparent that their work has been completed and their office is no longer a gift to the church. Since the completed canon is now on hand and properly assembled—all such prophetic statements are no longer necessary.
While I have friends who hold to the continuationist position, I simply cannot validate the position with Scripture. I recognize that not everyone who holds to the position of a continuationist model should be immediately dismissed as a follower of Benny Hinn as well. Anything that challenges the sufficiency of Scripture by adding to it or providing additional information is, in my opinion, a dangerous thing. A robust cessationist position regarding prophecy is not to diminish the work and value of the Holy Spirit. Remember, John Calvin was known as “the theologian of the Holy Spirit.”
- Benjamin B. Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918), 6.
- Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004), 1039–1040.
- Thomas Schreiner, “Why I Am a Cessationist” (Published online: The Gospel Coalition, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/why-i-am-a-cessationist), [accessed: 4-25-17].
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