Above the opposed positions were juxtaposed to bring about the greatest extent of contrasts; however, a lot of the proponents of either side are becoming closer and closer to the center. Many cessationists concede that not every gift or miracle has ceased. Also, many continuationists grant that even the gifts that have continued are not exactly what they were in the era of the Apostles. The scriptures alone define the precise solution to bridge the vast crevasse.

In his book Paul, The Spirit, and the People of God, Gordon Fee argues from the Pauline corpus the normative nature of the miraculous revelatory gifts.[1] He argues from Paul’s tone in mentioning the extraordinary gifts and also rejects the notion of them merely just being a validation or sign. He then lists Paul’s mentioning of prophecy in order of importance beginning with a passage at the end of 1 Thessalonians. Paul writes, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every evil” (1 Thess. 5:20-22). This is key to further understand revelatory gifts. This gift is not to be despised. Richard Gaffin increases the gift of illumination as to include what many continuationists like Wayne Grudem define as prophecy.[2] So on the one hand, the cessationist increases a non-spectacular doctrine to account for what the Lord brings spontaneously to the mind. On the other hand, continuations decrease spectacular gifts from being “thus sayeth the Lord” to something less in order to explain what the Lord spontaneously brings to mind. Therefore, major figures from either side are arguing for the same things from separate perspectives. This understanding is found in what Paul lists to the Thessalonians to close out his first epistle. He encourages them not to despise prophecy which would inevitably imply its continuance. He also encourages them to test everything indicating there is some standard by which to test them. This establishes the finality of revelation in the canon which would thereby be closed. If the rule were susceptible to change, there would be nothing by which to test other prophecies.

John Frame brings interesting perspective on 1 Corinthians 13 by putting it in the context of the Bible in its entirety. He argues that God uses extraordinary means to prepare his people for ordinary times.[3] He uses examples such as when God provided manna, but that ceased when His people entered into the promised land. He concludes, “we should not be surprised or unhappy that God has not provided more spectacular miracles in our own time. Miracles tend to set the stage for a time of “natural” existence.”[4] Regardless of what “perfect” in 1 Cor. 13:10 is argued to be, according to this framework, the spectacular is preparatory for the ordinary. In other words, God revealing himself to people through means of extraordinary gifts is not normative.

The Bible never conclusively rules out God showing himself by spectacular means such as dreams and visions. However, the Bible sets about specific parameter if these events should occur: (1) the revelation by means of dreams and visions must be alignment and not go beyond the revelation in the scriptures. (2) The revelation is not normative and believers should not continue to covet more and more of the spectacular.

The issue with this position form the continuationist side would be the fact that these dreams and visions are not normative. On the event of Pentecost, Peter clearly cites Joel 2 as it is being fulfilled, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…and your young man will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). Clearly dreams and visions come as a result of the Spirit being poured out on all flesh. Also “all” would note the universal nature of these events thereby demanding them to be normative.

However, the “all” does not indicate the universality of mankind due to the fact that not all men are saved (i.e. Matt. 25:31-46). It could indicate the extent of types of persons (young and old, male and female, servants and masters; as the text indicates). If that is the case, the argument for the normative nature is diminished. Even still, this is a spectacular event in redemptive history. There is no evidence throughout the rest of this narrative, or the following epistles that the dreams and visions become normative. Therefore, it is more likely to conclude this text is descriptive of the events surrounding the remarkable events in redemptive history.

On the other hand, the cessationist would rule out the possibility of these events occurring even with the parameters of no new revelation. Richard Gaffin argues systematically that the Apostles and Prophets are foundational to revelation of God’s redemptive historical work. And because these offices of revelation have ceased it is logical to conclude the gifts of revelation have also ceased.

These gifts of revelation have been attested in the scriptures to be given to people who were not Prophets or Apostles. For instance, when God gives the dream to Pharoah, he was no Prophet or Apostle. There would be a disjunction between believing the offices have ceased versus the gifts themselves ceasing. When Paul commands the Thessalonians to not despise prophesies, did they cease to obey that command after his death? But, implied in that command is that there is something greater than these fallible prophecies given by men not in the office of Prophet or Apostle: the Word of God.

God can still reveal himself to people in dreams and visions. Where this revelation is new is only because of that person’s ignorance of the already revealed Word (i.e. “new to them”). God would not (nor would He need to) reveal things about himself through dreams and visions that have not already been revealed in the scriptures. This would deny sola scriptura and the sufficiency of scripture. This revelation is also not normative nor should it be demanded of God for some type of validation. God operates in means as he pleases as the self-sufficient omnipotent being. He does so to accomplish whatever He pleases for His own glory.

[1] In this section, he specifically discusses prophecy; however dreams and visions can be analogous to such;
Gordon D. Fee, Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God, Reprint ed. (Grand Rapids, USA.: Baker Academic, 1996).

[2] Wayne Grudem et al., Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 120.

[3] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2002),264f.

[4] Ibid., 265.