The subject of spiritual gifts is an ongoing topic in the church that often times generates more heat than light. The matter of the sign gifts, in particular, is especially controversial. Continuationists set forth arguments in favor of the sign gifts. And advocates of cessationism do the same, marshaling arguments in the opposite direction. It is not unusual for the two sides to polarize, leading brothers and sisters in Christ in opposite directions.
Thomas R. Schreiner’s book, Spiritual Gifts: What They Are & Why They Matter offers a different approach, which seeks to unify continuationists and cessationists. Alert readers will notice that Dr. Schreiner dedicates the book to three well-known continuationists: Wayne Grudem, John Piper, and Sam Storms. They are referred to as “Beloved friends and coworkers in the gospel of Christ.” So immediately, it is apparent that Schreiner has motives which are virtuous and seek to unify.
The author begins by noting the general strengths and weaknesses of the charismatic movement. This delicate task is done in a humble, tasteful manner. After establishing the pros and cons of the charismatic movement, Schreiner launches into a discussion that concerns the spiritual gifts. He defines these gifts and offers ten foundational truths that help establish their importance.
The sign gifts are discussed in general as Schreiner presents the nature and significance of the gift of tongues in particular. Additionally, the author familiarizes readers with some erroneous arguments for cessationism. But the book concludes with the central argument for cessationism. Schreiner writes, “The basis for cessationism is the claim that the church was ‘built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets’ (Eph. 2:20). This argument is developed and convincingly presented.
Whether readers agree or disagree with the presentation and conclusions of the author, all will appreciate his careful exegesis, humility, and desire to build bridges with brothers and sisters whose hearts yearn to please the Lord.