A Global Response to Cessationist

Holy Spirit







With all the recent controversy and debate surrounding John MacArthur’s recent conference that he presented as “Strange Fire” there has been a swirling amount of theological discourse attempting to grapple the potential rift between those from the reformed tradition and charismatics. Understanding that there is historically nothing new to add to this debate other than the names of people involved have changed and old arguments have been rekindled. As one who is a full-fledged “continuationist” of the gifts of the Holy Spirit I was not inclined to once again enter into this debate remembering that the debate that took place in the seventies resulted in deep wounds between ecclesiastical leaders as well as specific church movements taking an adversarial posture toward one another questioning their theological veracity as it related to their perspective toward God and the Scripture.   I found it interesting when I received from one of my graduate Professors, Dr. Frank Macchia,[1] who participated in the “World Alliance of Reformed Churches and Pentecostals” what the final declaration was from this theological dialog.

Here is his post:

In the context of this hoopla over cessationism, it might be interesting to see how the issue of spiritual gifts was dealt with in the first round of international talks between the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Pentecostals (of which I was a participant). We agreed together that all of the gifts from the New Testament have value today, but that both global church families tended to favor different lists of gifts from the New Testament. In response, we affirmed that no single list of gifts is to be held up as all determinative for judging the quality of a church’s spirituality and that both sides must expand its horizons by embracing the value of the gifts cherished by the other side. Here’s the important paragraphs, a joint statement shared by both sides:

“The participants in this Dialogue affirm that the gifts of God to the Church are real, the Holy Spirit is the Giver of gifts to the Church, and the gifts are given to the Church to work together for the common good. Reformed as well as many Pentecostal churches acknowledge that their understanding of the Spirit’s gifts is broader than the classic list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10… As we, the Reformed and Pentecostal participants in this Dialogue, have reflected on the biblical texts and the life of the Church, we have been convinced that no single gift or set of gifts is normative for every believer, every congregation or every church in every time, or place. We share the conviction that gifts are not permanent possessions of believers or congregations, for the Spirit gives various gifts at different places as those gifts are needed. We also agree that no biblical listing of gifts is a template to be laid over the entire Church. On the one hand, we recognize that many Pentecostals limit the gifts of the Holy Spirit to those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. They do not value the charismatic nature of those mentioned elsewhere in the Bible (Cf. 1 Corinthians 12:27-30; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:10-11). On the other hand, many Reformed Christians recognize the theoretical possibility that the gifts mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 might somewhere be appropriately exercised, but normally they do not encourage or even sanction them to be exercised in their own services. In addition, there are those in both traditions who value one gift over the contribution of another, or who seem to limit the Holy Spirit’s sovereign distribution of gifts… It is our mutual conclusion that these positions are ultimately no less than concessions to the reality of our separated existence as Christian churches. We believe that those who embrace these positions, or elevate their status by giving voice to them in doctrinal or political statements, must be challenged to recognize their limitations. They need to be asked to broaden their understanding of the gifts, which the Holy Spirit desires to give to the Church. Only in so doing can they enter fully into the life of the Church as the body of Christ. Only in so doing can they participate in what it means to be a priesthood of all believers. Only in so doing can they experience the fullness of what Joel prophesied, and Peter proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost, that God’s Spirit would be poured out on all flesh, thereby equipping them to participate in God’s work in the world.” (#54-55, 57, Word and Word and Spirit, Church and World, The Final Report of the International Dialogue between
Representatives of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches And Some Classical Pentecostal Churches and Leaders 1996-2000).

(PS- there was not a cessationist among them)

I found this declaration on the Global front to be very interesting. It may be an indicator of several trends that need to be considered. For instance, the global trend of theological training globally especially in regions of the world such as Asia, South America, and Africa has resulted in the emergence of theologians who are not simply debating this issue from a Western North American predominantly Caucasian evangelical perspective that has embraced a more theological rationalist view point concerning their hermeneutical approach to Scripture. Whatever the cause and effect of the debate the Global perspective is not congruent with many who have embraced a “cessationist” perspective toward the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit.”


[1] Professor of Theology
Editor, PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies.

Areas of Specialization: Systematic Theology, Ecumenical Theology and Pentecostal Theology.

Education: B.A., Southern California College; M.A., Wheaton College Graduate School; M.Div., Union Theological Seminary (New York); D. Theol., University of Basel, Switzerland.

Dr. Macchia teaches courses in Theology and Church History in both the graduate and undergraduate programs. He is past president of the Society for Pentecostal Studies and was the Editor of PNEUMA: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies for more than a decade. He is a prolific writer having published a much anticipated book for Zondervan titled Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology  (2006).  His most recent books are entitled, Justified in the Spirit: Creation, Redemption, and the Triune God (Eerdmans, 2010), and The Trinity: Practically Speaking (Biblica, 2010). His recent publishing also includes a number of essays, most notably: “Pentecostal Eschatology,” in the Oxford Handbook of Eschatology, Jerry Walls, ed. (Oxford University Press, 2007); “The Spirit of God and the Spirit of Life: An Evangelical Response to Karl Barth’s Pneumatology,” in Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology: Convergences and Divergences, Sung Wook Chung, ed. (Baker Academic, 2006); “The Kingdom and the Power: Spirit Baptism in Pentecostal and Ecumenical Perspective.” in The Work of the Spirit: Pneumatology and Pentecostalism, Michael Welker, ed. (Eerdmans, 2006); and “Babel and the Tongues of Pentecost: Reversal or Fulfillment? A Theological Perspective,” in Speaking in Tongues: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, Mark Cartledge, ed. (Pater Noster, 2006). He is also a frequent lecturer, having traveled recently as a guest speaker to a wide spectrum of venues, including McCormick Theological Seminary, University of Southern California, MacMaster University, and Martin Luther University (Wittenberg, Germany).


About PastorAl

Al Soto has been married to his incredible wife Valerie for 30 years and they have five sons and one grandson. Al has been in Local Church Ministry for 35 years as both as a Lead Pastor, Associate Pastor, and for five years as a Regional Overseer for his denomination. He has a BA degree from LIFE Pacific College and is currently completing an MA in Leadership & Spiritual Formation from Vanguard University. He currently resides in Lincoln, CA where he is the new Lead Pastor for one of the Campus locations for Bayside Church. He continues to coach High School Football for the Lincoln Fighting Zebras for the Junior Varsity Program and is facilitating Leadership training and coaching as well as facilitating Spiritual Retreats. His hobbies include Golfing and Scuba Diving as well as he is a veracious reader. His Life Statement is “Real Success is Helping others to Succeed!”
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3 Responses to A Global Response to Cessationist

  1. Jennifer Alessio says:

    I agree with Dr. Frank Macchia’s post concerning the gifts of the spirit. It is good to keep in mind not to limit our view of the Holy Spirit and the gifts that He gives to believers. I am a firm believer that we should pray for the gifts of the spirit and the out pouring of the Holy Spirit in our lives. I also agree that we should not value some gifts higher than others. The Holy Spirit gives each of us different gifts as they are needed for the benefit of the church and our mission to spread the Gospel. In response to the cessationist point of view, I would encourage those who agree with tha point of view to be open minded and visit many different churches in their area. I believe that that they will find that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are very much at work and that God does not appear to be stopping them any time soon. The Bible does state that the gifts will all pass away when Jesus comes to make his Kingdom with us here on the new Earth. But, until them, I expect the gifts of the Spirit to remain.

  2. PastorAl says:

    Excellent Points Jennifer. I like your tie in with the Kingdom of God being made manifest.

  3. Tony Williams says:

    Thanks Al for the enriching insight to this long debate…

We are all here because we are not all there!