John MacArthur is a cessationist, which means he believes that the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased with the apostles in the first century.
Some of these supernatural “charismatic” gifts are listed in 1 Cor 12–
1 Cor 12
4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person. 7 A demonstration of the Spirit is given to each person to produce what is beneficial: 8 to one is given a message of WISDOM through the Spirit, to another, a message of KNOWLEDGE by the same Spirit, 9 to another, faith by the same Spirit, to another, gifts of HEALING by the one Spirit, 10 to another, the performing of MIRACLES, to another, PROPHECY, to another, DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN SPIRITS, to another, different kinds of • LANGUAGES , to another, INTERPRETATION OF LANGUAGES. 11 But one and the same Spirit is active in all these, distributing to each person as He wills.
Of these 9 spiritual gifts, I think we could classify all with the exception of “faith” as supernatural or charismatic. The word for “grace” in the Greek is “charis” and the word for spiritual gifts is “charismata” (plural form). You can see that grace and spiritual gifts share a root. You can think of grace as THE primary, major gift and each of the the charismata are secondary, minor gifts. Or the BIG gift (grace) and the small gifts (spiritual gifts).
While MacArthur believes that these “charismatic” gifts have ceased with the first century apostles, Mark Driscoll, on the other hand, believes that these gifts have continued. Driscoll is therefore what is known as a continuationist.
I am a “cautious continuationist.” I believe that all 9 of the spiritual gifts mentioned in 1 Cor 12 have not ceased but instead have continued through the present. I am not about to say that all of my Pentecostal brothers and sisters are experiencing things that are not from the Holy Spirit. The only alternative explanation is to say that they are being influenced by Satan and I’m not about to throw every Pentecostal under the theological bus.
I use the same passage to defend the continuationist position as cessationists use to defend theirs–1 Cor 13.
1 Cor 13
8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for languages, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when the perfect comes, the partial will come to an end.
Cessationists believe that “the perfect” refers to the canon of Scripture. When the canon was closed, we had perfection and at that point, the supernatural ceased because they were no longer necessary.
I don’t believe this interpretation is accurate. The verses that follow help to shed some light.
1 Cor 13
12 For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.
Perfection came and we came face to face with it in the Person of Jesus Christ. When the perfect comes, or when Jesus comes (refers to the Second Coming), and we get to see him face to face, then, at that point, the spiritual gifts are no longer necessary. Why do we need prophets when we can ask Jesus directly?
This next part is only my speculation. If you look at redemption history in stages, the era of the early church was significant and it makes sense why the Holy Spirit would be present very visibly and powerfully because God had just birthed the church at a time of intense persecution. In addition, God didn’t want the church to merely survive. He needed the church to thrive so that the gospel message could begin to spread to the ends of the earth.
The modern day Pentecostal movement was birthed at Azusa Street in Los Angeles in 1906. Today, the most evangelistic and fastest growing movement within Christianity is Pentecostalism. It makes sense that the Spirit was very active during the coming of Christ, the birth of the church, and the spread of Christianity in the first century and now the Spirit is once again very active in preparation for Christ’s return as He wraps things up.
This explains why I am a continuationist. But I am also a CAUTIOUS continuationist. As MacArthur points out, there is a large segment of Pentecostals who are falling into false teaching such as the prosperity gospel or teaching that denies the Trinity. If we are not careful, exploring the realm of spiritual gifts can be like opening Pandora’s box.
Scripture has to be our final guideline. Gifts like “holy laughter” cannot be found in Scripture so I am very wary of those who practice such gifts. Also, if a church disobeys Scripture, this is another warning sign. For example, a church that encourages the speaking of tongues during the corporate Sunday gatherings is clearly disobeying 1 Cor 13-14. Believers should be free to exercise the gift of tongues all they want when they are alone. But when they are gathered, there should be order. Why? Because when we gather as believers, we cannot be thinking only about ourselves, how much I am experiencing God. We need to be thinking about others.
This is the point of 1 Cor 13. 1 Cor 12 is all about the gifts and 1 Cor 13 is the chapter about love. These two chapters need to go together. When I am speaking in tongues and having a sweet old time by myself and there is a non-Christian next to me who is freaking out, how am I loving this person? Or how does my speaking in tongues make the believer who can’t speak in tongues feel? In both cases, if I insist on my freedom to do what I want by exercising a particular spiritual gift like speaking in tongues for myself and for my own benefit, then I have forgotten the purpose of the gift. God gave us spiritual gifts for the common good, to serve and bless others and to build up the body of Christ. The church at Corinth lost sight of this truth and and they started chasing after spiritual gifts in a self-serving way. May we never forget why God has given gifts to His church.