Book Review of “Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views”, Sam Storms Response to Richard Gaffin Jr.

Posted: September 5, 2008 by Rick Hogaboam in Book Reviews, Pentecostal/Charismatic Interests
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Storms C S 1996. A Third Wave Response To Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. In Grudem W A (ed), Are Miraculous Gifts For Today? Four Views . Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 
Dr. Storms (1996:73), in his response to respected scholar Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, deals specifically with Gaffin’s contention that Pentecost should be viewed as the climax and culmination of Jesus’ ministry, and thus a once-for-all event:
Gaffin argues that Pentecost belongs to the once-for-all accomplishment of our redemption, not to its continuing application or the ongoing appropriation of its benefits…But this is misleading….Pentecost is not simply the final stage in Christ’s redemptive work; it is also the first stage of the Spirit’s empowering work in the church.
 
Storms (1996:74) roots his argument for Pentecost’s enduring application to Christians today in Peter’s quotation of Joel on Pentecost:
Peter says of Pentecost, “This is what” (Acts 2:16) Joel prophesied would transpire in the “latter days” – that period in redemptive history that we know to be the church age…in which the Spirit’s work of revelatory activity is democratized among God’s people. Nothing in Peter’s language suggests that he envisioned the experience and behavior of the 120 temporally restricted or unavailable to others. On the contrary, this “promise” of the gift of the Holy Spirit… “is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39)
 
Storms (1996:79-80) elsewhere responds to Gaffin’s assertion that the revelatory activity that accompanied Pentecost was foundational and temporary in nature:
The cessationist is asking us to believe that the long-awaited promise in Joel 2 of the unprecedented outpouring of the Holy Spirit on “all people” (Acts 2:17), with its resultant revelatory activity of dreams, visions, and prophecy, was exhaustively fulfilled in only a handful of individuals whose gifting functioned in an exclusively foundational, initiatory, and therefore temporary fashion! Does this theory adequately explain the text? The revelatory and charismatic experience of the Spirit, foretold by Joel and cited by Peter, can hardly be viewed as exhaustively fulfilled by a small minority of believers during a mere sixty-year span in only the first century of the church. it seems rather that Joel 2 and Acts 2 are together describing normative Christian experience for the entire Christian community in the whole of the new covenant age, called the “last days”.
 
Cessationists, whether they be in the mold of Gaffin, who is a covenantal theologian, or John MacArthur, who is dispensational in his leanings, limit the application of Joel in Pentecost. Gaffin contends that it was the culminating act of Jesus in purchasing our redemption and that the charismata were an extension of Jesus’ ministry to build a church through the Apostolic age. Some dispensationalists would actually go so far as to say that the fulfillment of Joel’s promise is seen in Pentecost as a preview of things to come in the “last days” with ethnic Israel.
I think that Storms is being more consistent in his hermeneutic by viewing Pentecost as the fulfillment of Joel     in the church, enduring for the “last days”, which was inaugurated when the Spirit was poured out and will consummate in Jesus’ second coming. All the promises in the Old Testament that point forward to the New Covenant speak of a glorious age within redemptive history. Many of such promises were pnuematological in nature, speaking of God’s Spirit working in a new and glorious fashion. It seems that cessationists gladly assert the enduring effects of all other New Covenant promises, but confine this one promise in Joel.
 
Peter’s hearkened to the promise of Joel as the very first exposition in his Pentecostal sermon. He didn’t say, “This fulfills and complete the promise spoken by Joel”; but rather declared that “this is what…” and proceeded to invite the thousands to also receive this same gift of the Spirit that had just been observed in the 120. Peter not only stopped there, but in his Apostolic hermeneutic also declared that this same gift was for all that the Lord would call.
 
Peter was clearly not a cessationist, or else he would have restricted the application of the Spirit’s gift in his preaching. For cessationists to declare that a necessary inference elsewhere should trump Peter’s clear hermeneutic on this matter and impose a restriction of the charismatic nature of the Spirit’s ministry should reconsider their conclusions. It is a serious thing to restrict the nature of fulfillment in the New Covenant of those things which God Himself promised he would do. I learned as a young Christian that you interpret the unclear in light of the clear…I also learned that you don’t rescind a precept unless Scripture itself does, or else an obvious inference makes such clear. On both such tests, I fail to embrace the cessationist argument.
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