By Charles Carrin
The False Theory of Cessationism
To absolve itself of power failure, the contemporary Church has invented an escape hatch called cessation theology. This pleasant-sounding expression declares that God has withdrawn the Holy Spirit’s miraculous power from the Church. It says the Church’s power is in a book—the Bible—and nowhere else. This doctrine also says if we have no power it is because God has removed it, that the fault is not ours. (Yet, astonishingly, the Lord did not cause Satan’s power to be removed at the same time ours supposedly was.)
Modern Christianity has convinced itself that Jesus provided two distinct Gospels and two distinct faiths—one for the First Century Church and one for the Church that followed after. Cessationists say the first Church was miraculously empowered while the second was not; the first had the baptismal gift of the Holy Spirit, while the second was merely given a book telling what the Holy Spirit had achieved in the past.
The modern Church lacks miraculous power because it has wrongly assumed that preaching the Gospel requires nothing more than the presentation of Bible facts. This is absolutely not so! Seminaries and Bible schools, as wonderful as they are, can only impart academic knowledge. Even those that acknowledge the need for spiritual gifts are powerless to provide them. These giftings come directly from Jesus as the baptizer in the Holy Spirit—or we do not get them at all (John 1:33).
A pastor can have numerous university degrees on his office wall and yet still may be disqualified from providing genuine New Testament ministry.
Apollos—Profile of Evangelical Preachers—Mighty in the Scriptures, Impotent in the Supernatural
The book of Acts gives us a working model of a conscientious, godly pastor who had excellent credentials for ministry but who preached a weak, ineffective Gospel: Apollos. This man served a small, struggling congregation in the city of Ephesus. Acts explains that Apollos was a Jewish convert, an eloquent man, mighty in Scripture, instructed in the way of the Lord and fervent in spirit, who taught accurately the things of the Lord but knew only the “baptism of John.” Simply put, Apollos knew nothing about the baptism in the Spirit, the anointing and the spiritual gifts.
He was ignorant because he had knowingly rejected the truth. In our day, pastors generally fall into two groups: (1) those who have never been taught and are innocently ignorant of spiritual empowering, and (2) those who willfully reject spiritual power and the gifts. For nearly thirty years I belonged to the latter group who knowingly rejected vital parts of Scripture.
While Apollos was away, Paul visited this church of twelve male disciples and immediately recognized the spiritual powerlessness. He asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They responded, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit” (Acts 19:2). Paul then taught them about the Holy Spirit’s empowering, and when he “laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (verse 6).
That event proved to be a cataclysmic change not only for Ephesus but for the entire Roman world. Under Apollos’ ministry, the church at Ephesus had accomplished nothing to awaken the city. It had demonstrated no Kingdom power, remained spiritually paralyzed, and except for the local synagogue its presence was virtually unknown. In this spiritual state, the congregation had no effective witness, made no impact on the people and was no threat to “powers, principalities, ruler of the darkness of this world.” Instead, a dark cloud of paganism gripped the land with unchallenged control. The Temple of Diana (or Artemis), already famous as the greatest of all the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, dominated the area. Then Ephesus experienced a “Kingdom of God” earthquake. Paul was not the power behind it, but he was the instrument of the truth that produced the shaking.
Much of modern evangelical Christianity parallels the ministry of Apollos. It is sincere and eloquent; accurately preaching Bible truth as far as it allows itself to believe. But its doctrine is measured by its own opinion, for it is afraid to measure its doctrine by Scripture. Traditional Christianity is dominated by the doctrine of dispensationalism, which claims the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit have passed away. Yet Jesus said no such change would occur:
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mat. 28:18-20)
Jesus fully expected the Church “at the end of the age” to believe and teach “all things” that He had commanded the original disciples.
A Sincere Pastor Who Was Mighty in the Scriptures But Failed
Earlier, I mentioned the church in Ephesus that Apollos served as pastor (Acts 18:24-28). Scripture outlines six qualities about this church and its leader. This passage may also describe your ministry. If so, accept the rebuke, surrender your ego and make the necessary change.
- Apollos was an eloquent man.
- He was mighty in Scripture.
- He was instructed in the way of the Lord.
- He was fervent in spirit.
- He taught accurately the things of the Lord.
- He knew only the “baptism of John” — nothing about the baptism in the Spirit.
These same features identify many great preachers in our day. In spite of Apollos’ qualification, his ministry was virtually a failure because he had not received the Holy Spirit’s power. When the apostle Paul visited the church at Ephesus, he provided the window through which the Spirit’s power roared. Other windows, including that of Apollos, were already present in Ephesus, but they had never been opened.
Compare your ministry to that of Apollos. Is your window open or closed? Are you operating in the power of the Holy Spirit? If not, why not? You need not remain like Apollos.
The Apostle Paul—Profile of a Preacher Mighty in the Scriptures and the Supernatural
In spite of paganism’s dark and ominous presence in Ephesus, Paul’s first mission in the city was not to attack it. His first mission was to impart the power of the Holy Spirit to the Church.
In the identical fashion that Ananias earlier laid hands on Paul in Damascus “that [he might] receive [his] sight and he filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17), Paul laid hands on the Ephesian believers, with the same hell-shattering results. After “the Holy Spirit came upon them,” the power of the Gospel blew the city of Ephesus apart (Acts 19:6).
Those Ephesian believers—there were twelve of them—became spiritual Herculeses who multiplied into a hundred, then five thousand, then tens of thousands. Thousands more were converted, the Church exploded in power, the Temple of Diana was ultimately emptied and destroyed, and the city of Ephesus changed into a Christian citadel known throughout the Roman world. Within two years Paul was gone, but for centuries the fire of the Ephesian revival blazed out of control.
What caused the revolutionary transformation? It was not Paul. Hear me carefully: It was the power of the Holy Spirit working through Paul. Apollos lacked the power because he and his little congregation knew nothing about the Holy Spirit’s baptism and gifts. In spite of this pastor’s other qualifications, his ministry remained impotent. Be aware of this important point of theology: The power working in Paul did not come to him on the Damascus road when he met Jesus—not at all. It came in the Damascus room, under the hand of Ananias, when Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). Meeting Jesus saved Paul for heaven. Meeting the Holy Spirit empowered him for Kingdom ministry. This was in perfect accord with the experience of the first disciples.
The Upper Room Experience of the First Disciples
On the day of His resurrection, Jesus appeared in the closed room where the disciples were assembled, breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22). I understand this to be the day they received the New Covenant birth. Jesus then instructed them to wait in the city of Jerusalem until they were “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” saying “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). This was the empowerment they received at Pentecost—empowering for ministry.
The First Baptist Church of Ephesus Receives the Baptism in the Holy Spirit
Identically, the believers in Ephesus were already born again when Paul arrived. They had had a “Damascus Road” encounter with Jesus. But not until Paul appeared and laid hands on them did they experience their “Damascus room” baptism in the Holy Spirit. That event anointed them with Kingdom power—and from that moment on, Ephesian paganism was doomed. One destiny awaited it: It would bow its knee to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
How About You—Will You Be An Apollos Or A Paul?
Is it possible that a man as qualified for ministry as Apollos could still lack the most essential factor of all—the empowerment of the Holy Spirit? Yes. It is just as likely that you—mighty as Apollos—could still have an impotent church, an ineffective ministry, failed and fruitless efforts, in spite of your training and ability. Thousands of congregations today, taught by modern-day Apolloses, are cowering under the shadow of Diana. If these churches had the empowering of the Holy Spirit, it would never be.
It matters not how eloquent you are, how mighty in the Scripture, how instructed in the ways of the Lord, how accurately you teach the things of God, how fervent you may be in spirit or how many degrees hand on your office wall—you are still spinning your theological wheels, accomplishing minimal results, until you have been filled with the Holy Spirit. You need His power! If you fail to get it, the fault is not God’s. He has freely provided it for you.
Your life, your home, your work, your ministry, can be transformed. No matter who you are, you can receive more of heaven’s inexhaustible supply. Jesus is the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit. Drop your opposition and receive all He has! The Word, the Spirit, and the Power are yours! Here is my concluding prayer for you:
God Almighty! We pray Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, in the life of the one now reading this book. Holy Spirit, cause this one’s heart to cry out for more of Your anointing, Your glory, Your power. Show this one that receiving You is as simple as drinking the water Jesus offered. Let him go with Jesus to the Jordan. This very moment, let him disappear beneath the water and rise again to behold the Dove of the Holy Spirit coming upon him.
Let this be your response:
Great Baptizer, I am coming
Yielding heart and soul to Thee,
Plunge me in the Spirit’s fullness,
Baptize in the cloud and sea.
Wash, anoint me, fill, empower!
Above the waters let me rise,
Singing in new tongues of angels
Change my earth to Paradise!
Editor’s Note: The following article is constructed from excerpts from the book, Word Spirit Power—What Happens When You Seek All God Has To Offer, written by R.T. Kendall, Jack Taylor, Charles Carrin (Chosen Books; 2012). The excerpts comprising this article were written by Charles Carrin, a contributor to this magazine.
Books by Charles Carrin — via AMAZON.COM
CHARLES CARRIN’S ministry spans the final half of the twentieth century. He was ordained in 1949 and in his youth traveled with men who preached in the 1800s. For the first twenty-seven years of his ministry, Charles was a hyper-Calvinist Baptist pastor and Presbyterian seminarian who denied the miraculous works of the Holy Spirit. Mid-way in his ministry that abruptly changed when personal crisis forced him to acknowledge Scriptures he had previously ignored. The truths he saw could potentially destroy his denominational ministry and at that point he had no hope that another, more wonderful ministry awaited him. As a result of his submitting to God in that crisis, Charles emerged with an amazing anointing of the Holy Spirit. Today, his ministry centers upon the visible demonstration of the Spirit and imparting of His gifts. He, R.T. Kendall, and Jack Taylor travel together holding Word-Spirit-Power Conferences. He travels as a guest minister, teaching believers how to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit. His ministry website is: CharlesCarrinMinistries.com.
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