A Response to Sam Storms

Today, it’s a common thing to hear people claiming to hear messages from God. The “God told me” language is a cancer within the body of Christ that must be rooted out. This language is published in books, repeated in powerful stories by conference speakers, and is embraced as normative practices in many local churches and evangelical circles.

At the 2023 G3 National Conference, the Cessationist documentary was publicly released. G3 Ministries directly partnered with the producers of the film to provide a resource for the church that explains the doctrine of cessationism along with the history of the continuationist movement.

After the release of the film, Dr. Sam Storms, Pastor Emeritus of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma released a series of articles as a challenge to the producers and men who appeared in the film. In this article, I would like to respond to Sam Storms on the subject of modern day contemporary prophecy. According to Dr. Storms, anyone who does not earnestly desire the gift of prophecy is sinning.

The faulty foundation of modern day prophecy should be viewed as a danger to God’s people. While I have personally benefited from Dr. Storms’ ministry through the years, his recent statements about prophecy and defense of false teachers has given me great concern. What I say in this article is not intended as a character attack on Dr. Storms, but instead an unashamed response to his bold assertions regarding the continuation of prophecy in our day.

Prophecy Defined

The Bible contains several different types of genre. One of the most prominent genres in the Scriptures is prophecy. In the Old Testament, a number of books chronicle the message that was delivered by God through his spokesmen to God’s people. Those books are organized into two main groups known as the major and minor prophets. The designation of major and minor is based on the length of the text rather than the significance of the prophetic figure.

The prophet was raised up by God as his spokesman who would declare “Thus says the LORD.” In fact, that phrase, more accurately translated in the Legacy Standard Bible as “Thus says Yahweh” appears a grand total of 464 times in the Old Testament. 1

The prophet is called a man of God (1 Samuel 2:27), a servant and messenger of the Lord (Isaiah 42:19), a seer (Isaiah 30:10), a man of the Spirit (Hosea 9:7), and a watchman for the people of God according to Ezekiel 3:17. In short, God would speak directly to the prophet who would in turn speak directly to the people of God. The prophet represented God to the people.

The purpose of prophecy was to deliver God’s message to his people. This pattern began after the fall (Genesis 3) and continued through the New Testament. The gift of prophecy was never viewed in Scripture as a casual gift. In an article titled, “No. The Spiritual Gift of Prophecy is not the same as Preaching” Sam Storms defined prophecy as, “speaking forth in merely human words something the Holy Spirit has sovereignly and often spontaneously revealed to a believer.” The problem with that definition is that it makes the gift of prophecy far too casual and allows for a distinction to be made between the prophecy of the Old Testament and the prophecy of the New Testament.

As the light dawned in God’s redemptive plan and Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb, a great prophet was also conceived by Elizabeth and Zachariah. John the Baptist served as a powerful prophet and Forerunner who announced the coming of the Messiah (Matt 3:1-3; John 1:29). Jesus referenced John the Baptist as the greatest man born of a woman (Matt 11:11). He stood between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and pointed people to Jesus.

Jesus came as God in human flesh—the God man. To use the language from the historic Nicene Creed, Jesus is “the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made.” As predicted by Moses, he is the great prophet who came and must be obeyed (Deut 18:15). Jesus is the Prophet greater than Moses (Heb 3:1-6). All of the prophets of the Old Testament were pointing to Christ who came as the great Prophet, Priest, and eternal King—the Savior of the world. Like the prophets of old, Jesus delivered the message of God to the people. Hebrews begins with these words:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.2

After Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension—God continued to communicate through chosen vessels to his people. During the era of the early Church the canon was still open. Although Jesus was the pinnacle of the prophetic age, the baton was now passed to the apostles who came in the power of the Holy Spirit during the early Church and were used to preach and teach God’s truth to God’s people as they were accompanied by miracles, signs, and wonders.

As a cessationist, I’m quite aware of the fact that no Bible verse can be supplied that states “all of the apostolic gifts will cease.” Just as the doctrine of the Trinity is supplied through progressive revelation, so is the doctrine of cessationism. As we read the Scriptures, progressive revelation makes it known that some gifts do cease because they were given for a specific time period and purpose in redemptive history. The office of the prophet has ceased and the gift of the apostle is no longer given to the church in our day, as Paul clearly stated that he was the last of the apostles (1 Cor 15:8).

From progressive revelation, the cessation of these gifts associated with the prophet and the apostles is clear by the close of the biblical canon and further validated throughout church history. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul stated that the church “is built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Eph 2:20) and we have everything that is necessary for life and godliness until the return of King Jesus.

The Canon Is Closed

Over the course of a 1,500 year period, the Holy Spirit caused forty different men to write sixty six unique books that make up what is known as the biblical canon of Scripture. This canon of Scripture consists of a corpus of books that are divine in nature, authoritative, and completely sufficient.3

During the earthly ministry of Christ, he chose specific men who were identified as his apostles. These men were given specific responsibilities that were distinct from the common disciple of Jesus. An apostle (ἀπόστολος) was a messenger or official delegate who was personally chosen and sent out by Jesus Christ. In ancient days, they would reference cargo ships as apostolic ships. These apostolic boats were dispatched from one port with cargo to be delivered to a different port across a body of water where the cargo would be offloaded. 

The word apostle was employed by Jesus for those men chosen and sent out with the gospel message to be preached (Mark 3:14).  In a technical sense, an apostle was one who was clearly chosen and commissioned by Christ and a witness of his bodily resurrection. God used these men to testify of his Son and to point out that he is the Christ of God, to confront the legalistic religion of the Jewish people, and to proclaim the good news to the Gentiles.4

 In the work of preaching and church planting, God gifted these men and some of their close associates with gifts known as miraculous gifts or better described as apostolic gifts due to their association with the apostles.

These gifts included tongues, healing, and prophecy. As it pertained to the gifts of tongues and prophecy, those gifts were revelatory in nature as they were used to deliver the message of God to the people. Any serious study of 1 Corinthians 14 will reveal that those gifts were to be used for the building up and edification of the church. In fact, four times in 1 Corinthians 14, we find the language of “building up” the church mentioned by Paul.

Such revelatory gifts were necessary because the biblical canon was not yet complete, but today we are not living in an age of an open canon and we are not anticipating any new or fresh words from God. Once the gift of the apostle ceased, the revelatory and miraculous gifts associated with them likewise ceased. There was no passing of the baton as we see from the ministry of the prophets to the ministry of the apostles. Since we now have a completed canon of Scripture we should not be looking for any new books to be added or divine words to be spoken directly to men apart from the pages of Scripture.

According to the 1689 London Baptist Confession, in chapter one, “Of the Holy Scriptures” and paragraph one, the following statement is set forth at the beginning of the Confession: “The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience.” Although there was a time given when men heard direct revelation from God, that age has now ceased. We are now directed to the complete and final Word of God in holy Scripture.

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