Is it possible to be confessional and a continuationist? I think so. My objective in this short post is to show you why I am both. I also want to appeal to charismatic folks to learn what it means to hold to a confession and for historic confessional folks to open up to continuationism.
What does it mean to be confessional? As I understand it, it first means to agree and ascribe to a historical confession of faith. Myself, and the elders of Christ Church, hold the 1689 2nd London Baptist Confession as our confessional standard. Apart from three minor points in three different chapters I take great joy in the doctrinal clarity and precision of our confession. So, if you were to ask me what I believe about God and the Bible I would be able to had you my Banner of Truth pocket Edition 1689 LBC and tell you to read it. If you were to read it, the first article of faith addressed is in chapter 1 and titled Of the Holy Scriptures. Before I write the next paragraph,and before you read it, I need to state clearly that I hold to every word of that chapter. Any continuationist that can not hold to that chapter in full should be suspect. So for clarity sake, let me affirm it again; I am confessional.
I am also a continuationist. And it is my conviction that this position is not at odds with my own confession. To do this, I want to look at one particular passage in the Bible and then to one experiential example (I know, I know. Just hear me out). My aim is not to do an entire biblical survey. Rather, I want to show you why I believe there is a difference between old and new testament prophecy. If you want scholarly and thoroughly written works on the subject I would encourage you to read Gordon Fee’s https://www.amazon.com/Gods-Empowering-Presence-Spirit-Letters/dp/0801046211 or Vern Poythress http://frame-poythress.org/modern-spiritual-gifts-as-analogous-to-apostolic-gifts-affirming-extraordinary-works-of-the-spirit-within-cessationist-theology/ . Also Wayne Grudem and John Piper have said much about this as did Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book Joy Unspeakable. But, as for me, Acts 21:9 will do.
Acts 21:9 “He (Phillip) had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.”
Was Luke correct? Should he have labeled the words of Phillip’s daughters prophecy? If so, then why do we not know what the daughters said? After all, as my cessationist friends argue, if prophecy is still in operation then the canon should still be open. Or, they say, prophecy was equal to preaching the word. But I have not met to many egalitarian cessationists;) For Luke apparently there was this thing called prophecy that is the type of prophecy that is less than canon. It is different. As I understand it, the prophecy that these four daughters were declaring was for a particular church, for a particular time, or for a particular person. This prophecy was not for all of God’s people in every church, across the whole globe. The bible, then, records for us a type of prophecy that is not is not to be included in the canon of scripture. We will never know what these prophecies were except that Luke calls it prophecy.
Another reason I am a continuationist comes from a common experience that is shared across denominational lines. It has to do with calling into the ministry. How does a man know he is called into ministry? Well, historically it has been categorized two-fold. First, there is the internal call. Second, there is an external affirmation of calling by the church. My question has to do with the first. For anyone who has ever got an internal call, what was that if not revelation? Is Paul the only one who can declare “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” Eph. 3:8? The Bible did not tell me to go into pastoral ministry. That was specific revelation that was given by God to me and then affirmed by others. How can you know God called you into ministry? For the continuationist that is not a problem.
I wanted to keep this short and hopefully sweet. To finish it off I would like to say; I could be wrong. I am hopeful that our church will be full of confessional people who are cessationists and confessional people who are continuationist.
I would love your feedback. Let me know what you think!