I think we’ve all been bitterly disappointed by false prophecies and ministries who have claimed to be prophetic. Words that didn’t come to pass, that were counted on. There is obviously something wrong with the prophetic ministry in general. To have so many words that fail to come to pass, would make us think that God must be weak and unable to fulfill what He has spoken. This doesn’t line up with the description of the God of scripture.
One of the mistakes that happens with prophecy is, people in their subconscious look for it. What I mean is, people are often trained in prophetic schools or seminars, how to prophesy. An atmosphere is created, usually through music, and then the person is told to speak forth the picture or word that first comes into their head. Its almost like a psycho-somatic response to the setting we are in.
We see this also in services when catchers go out and stand behind people being prayed for. The person who is being prayed for, sub-consciously has in his mind that he is supposed to fall down, or even worse, the Preacher feels a need to apply a heavier hand, for if the person doesn’t fall down, then it means that the Spirit didn’t move on that person today.
In response to all of this, the Cessationist rightfully points out the tom-foolery of much of these practices. I think even many Charismatics themselves are often grieved by this kind of practice, and long for a genuine, authentic move of the Holy Spirit, that glorifies Christ and exalts the word.
I would respectfully disagree with the hard line cessationist, that says God cant speak through dreams and visions anymore, but at the same time I would disagree with those who seek out special words, dreams, and visions. We are to major in the scriptures and not be distracted by these other pursuits. Scripture after all is God breathed, and is sufficient. I’m reminded of the stanza of an old hymn which goes,
“How firm a foundation ye Saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in His excellent word. What more can He say unto you He has said, to you who for Jesus to refuge have fled?”
I think church history itself bears witness, that there can be moments when God may speak to someone in a unique way. For example, I think of Augustine’s conversion in the garden, while he was under deep conviction. He heard the voice of children almost like a song, in Latin, Tolle lege , Tolle lege, Take up and read! take up and read! With that he found the scroll of the book of Romans and was converted when he read Romans 13:13-14,and the rest is history so to speak.
You will note however, the word Augustine heard drove him to the word, not away from it. One of the concerns of cessationist’s is that all these gifts and the seeking of special words distract people from the word of God, and causes people to get into error. On this I would agree. We are to jealously guard the faith that has been entrusted to us. The writings and teachings of Christ and the Apostles has been preserved for us in the Holy Scriptures, we cant add to it or take away.
What are we to do then with prophecy, or spiritual gifts, or those special times when a person may feel God has spoken to them in a unique way? I don’t think we should major in these things, or intentionally seek them out, this is when we get into error, and become distracted away from the scriptures. However I would respectfully part company with my hard-liner cessationist friends, who would debunk anyone who has had a unique moment with the Lord. Major in the word, make much of the scriptures, and if without seeking it, God gives a unique moment, thank Him for it, but continue in the word, then I don’t think we will wander far from the truth.