Experiential Calvinism and the Charismatic Gifts

The issue of whether or not the extraordinary spiritual gifts are for today has caused much debate and conflicting opinions in the body of Christ. There are biblically based groups who say that if you do speak in tongues, then you are under demonic control and are not saved. On the other hand, there are groups who say that if you do not speak in tongues, then you are not saved. Both sides use scripture to support their position. As far as the Reformed camp goes, the position is that the gifts died with the apostles as the Bible was completed. As a Calvinist, and after examining the biblical evidence for cessationism, I do not believe that the extraordinary spiritual gifts have ceased. Therefore, I call myself an "Experiential Calvinist." As an experiential Calvinist, I seek the Holy Spirit, His filling, and I am open to God using me and others in extraordinary ways.

If you are Reformed, you might be slapping your forehead right now and saying something like, "How could he possibly believe that?" I do because I have examined the scriptures and am convinced by what I read. The following paper, in part, is what I have discovered.

Please understand that even though I am convinced that I am right, I am also convinced that I could be wrong. I can only speak for what I believe and why I believe it. If you disagree, then that is quite alright. As Romans 14 says, we are not to pass judgment on our brother's (and sister's) debatable issues. And the spiritual gifts is definitely a debatable issue.

For simplicity's sake, I will state a standard objection to the perpetuity of the spiritual gifts, and then I will give what I believe is a basic but sufficient refutation for that argument. All the verses quoted are listed in full at the end of this paper.

Argument 1:

 Since we have the Bible, we do not need spiritual gifts. 1 Cor. 13:8-10 is usually quoted as scriptural support for the position.

The only place in Scripture that explicitly states when gifts will cease is 1 Cor. 13:8-13. In part, it reads, "When the perfect comes the imperfect shall be done away with." Some vigorously maintain that the "perfect" is the completed Bible and, therefore, the extraordinary gifts are no longer needed. If someone wants to believe that, fine. But I do not think these verses can be used to support cessationism. This is why.

Verse 12 says, "...then we shall see face to face." The word "then" refers back to the phrase "when the perfect comes." Since the only infallible interpreter of Scripture is Scripture, a quick examination of the way God uses the term "face to face" should help us understand this passage better.

The phrase is used throughout the Bible and usually means an encounter with a person. When God uses it in reference to Himself, it means a visual, personal encounter with Him (Gen. 32:30; Ex. 33:11; Num. 12:8; Duet. 5:4; and Jer. 32:4). Likewise in the New Testament. There it is also used in speaking of personal encounters (2 Cor. 10:1; 2 John 12; 3 John 14, etc.). "When the perfect comes...then we shall see face to face" seems, most logically, to refer to a personal encounter; at least, that seems to be how God uses the phrase.

If the position is taken that the "perfect" is the completed Bible, how then do we encounter God in the same manner as the phrase suggests: an encounter with a person? Seeing Christ face to face, occurs when He returns.

Another "then" is mentioned in verse 12: "then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." The word "then" again refers back to the phrase "when the perfect comes." Again, we need to look at how the Bible uses words, this time, the word "know." Scripture says that eternal life is to know God (John 17:3). Only the believer is known by Jesus (John 10:27; Gal. 4:8-9; Rom. 8:29). The unbeliever is not known by Jesus (Matt. 7:21-23). No where in the Bible does it say that an unbeliever is known by God. This is a salvific knowing; that is, it is a kind of knowing that God does of His people. He knows them, and they are saved. The unbelievers are not known and are, therefore, not saved.

It would seem most consistent with scripture to say that "...as I am fully known" would refer to a salvation relationship between Jesus and the Christian. At the return of Christ we (the ones known) shall know fully; we shall see face to face the One who is our Savior.

Also, we don't "know" Jesus through the Scripture; we know about Him from the Scripture (John 5:39). Instead, we know Him by personal encounter (John 1:12; 1 Cor. 1:9) through the Holy Spirit's indwelling. We don't know fully right now, even though we have the Bible, because we still are corrupted by our sin nature. In our fallen state we can only see Christ through sin-clouded eyes. We see a reflection of Christ in the Word. When Jesus returns the reflection of the truth will pass to clear understanding (the way childish thoughts give way to mature ones) when we receive our resurrected bodies, no longer have to battle sinful flesh, and can see Him face to face because "we shall be like Him" (1 John 3:2).. "Then we shall know fully."

The context of 1 Cor. 13:8-13 seems, to me, to show that the spiritual gifts will cease when Jesus returns. Interestingly, 1 Cor. 1:7 may be consulted here. It says, "so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ." The Greek word here for "revealed" is apokalupsis. It means the apocalypse, the return of Jesus. In both this verse and 1 Cor. 13:8-13 the gifts, which aren't differentiated as to which kind they are, are connected to the return of Christ, not the completion of the Bible.

Argument 2

Present-day tongues are a further revelation and must then be equal to Scripture and should be included in the Bible. But since the Bible is not to be added to, the gift of tongues (and, therefore, the rest of the spiritual gifts) must no longer be valid.

This is a faulty argument because the Scripture itself recognizes inspired revelation that is not to be added to the Bible: "What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church" (1 Cor. 14:26). Here, in the Corinthian church, revelations were given that were not made part of the Bible. This shows that there were, for a lack of a better word, "different" kinds of revelation: one from the prophets and apostles meant for canonization and another through the Spirit to be used in the church for edification-not canonization. So, in my opinion, for someone to maintain that revelation today is a threat to the Canon does not consider 1 Cor. 14:26, is not applying scripture properly here and is illogical.

Argument 3

There is such misuse of the gifts that they couldn't possibly be real.

First of all, misuse of the gifts implies their existence. They couldn't be misused if they did not exist. The only real position to be taken here would be that the use of the gifts really is no use but is only fakery and self-deception.

First, it cannot be denied that the gifts are misused. I have heard manifestations of tongues, interpretations of tongues, and prophecy that, in my opinion, were not genuine. But I do not discredit the gifts based upon those experiences any more than I would say the spiritual gifts are alive because I saw them used well and accurately. The final authority is the word of God. Experience does not make doctrine; the Bible does.

Second, it is not a sick child that needs discipline and correction, it is the active, energetic, exploring child that needs to be guided. This was so with the Corinthian church. They were using the gifts greatly but improperly and needed to be corrected.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13

1 Corinthians 13:8–13, "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

Regarding "Face to Face"

  • Genesis 32:30, "So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
  • Exodus 33:11, "The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent."
  • Numbers 12:8, "With him, I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?"
  • Deuteronomy 5:4, "The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain."
  • Jeremiah 32:4, "Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hands of the Babylonians but will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon, and will speak with him face to face and see him with his own eyes."
  • 2 Corinthians 10:1, "By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you - I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away!"
  • 2 John 12, "I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete."
  • 3 John 14, "I hope to see you soon, and we will talk face to face. Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name."

Regarding "Know"

  • John 10:27, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me."
  • Galatians 4:8-9, "Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God - or rather are known by God - how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish tto be enslaved by them all over again?"
  • Romans 8:29, "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son..."
  • Matthew 7:21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’"

This paper was written in response to an examination at Westminster Theological Seminary, where I obtained my M.Div. The occasion was generated by my receiving a call to a local pastorate. When it was discovered I believed in the spiritual gifts, I was examined and, eventually, refused the pastorate because I believed in the perpetuity of the gifts. In response to the examiner's requests, I read the following cessationist material. Perhaps this bibliography will help you make a decision for yourself.

The Final Word
by O. Palmer Robertson Perspectives on Pentecost, by Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. Charismatic Chaos, by John MacArthur. The articles, Has the Charismatic Age Ceased, by Donald MacLeod; The Charismatic Movement: Spectrum of Theological Opinion and Attitude, by Pastor Dave Eby; Can we Do Miracles Today? by Erroll Hulse; A Summary of Robert L. Dabney on 'Spurious Religious Excitements, by Daniel E. Wray; The Miraculous Gifts of the Holy Spirit-Have They Ceased?, by Roland S. Barnes; The Cessation of Extraordinary Gifts: Historical Evidence, by Geoffrey Thomas; and Scripture Verses the Spiritual Gifts?", by Elliot Miller at Christian Research Institute. The pamphlet, Crucial Issues Regarding Tongues, by Kenneth L. Gentry Jr. A Pastoral Letter Concerning the Experience of the Holy Spirit in the Church Today, adopted by the Second General Assembly of the PCA.

To be fair, I also read the non-cessationist book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit, by Jack Deere which proved to be most enlightening.

Following is a point of illustration.

If the cessationist argument is true then it seems to negate parts of the Bible; namely, parts where spiritual gifts for the church are listed and exemplified. I have reproduced 1 Cor. 12,13, and 14 and "crossed out," by making the text bold , those portions that are no longer applicable from a cessationist point of view. The specific verses may be debatable, but I think the point is made.

1 Corinthians 12:1-31

"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. 12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way."


1 Corinthians 13:1-13

"If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

1 Corinthians 14:1-40

"Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. 4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. 6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching? 7 Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp? 8 For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 9 So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. 11 If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me. 12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church. 13 Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. 16 Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the “Amen” at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified. 18 I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; 19 however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME,” says the Lord. 22 So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe. 23 Therefore if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you. 26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; 28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. 30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; 33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. 34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. 36 Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? 37 If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. 38 But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner."


I would be very interested in hearing your comments on this paper. Please E-mail at the address below.





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Copyright by Matthew J. Slick, B.A., M. Div., 2022
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