As the Lord Commanded Moses
By: Deji Yesufu
Sometimes I like to think that another word for theology is controversy. A simple synopsis of Church History will quickly reveal the many controversies that have pervaded Christianity over theological themes. Where men possess knowledge of God within a sinful heart, as we all have it, there is a pride that will almost never want us to stoop to another point of view on the person of God (theology) that is different from ours. I have experienced this many times and I want to share one of them in this piece.
In the Church I used to attend here in Ibadan, there was an avenue created one evening in the week for Bible Study teachers to meet and discuss a Bible passage and then prepare to teach people in Church on Sunday who attend the church’s Sunday School. I enjoyed this forum thoroughly and it afforded me the opportunity to regale my listeners with my theological point of view. I did not know that in all my speaking, my Cessationism was becoming apparent in my words and a few people were not happy about it. Then we began to study Exodus and this phrase kept coming up over and over: “… as the Lord command(ed) Moses…” Finally, I said the unthinkable: “Have we all ever considered this phrase closely? Is there anyone God is still commanding today? We must appreciate the fact of the weight of the ministry of Moses, its uniqueness, and the fact that everything God commanded Moses is today recorded for our learning. I believe that God is no longer speaking to people in the same manner he spoke to Moses. God’s word is sufficient.”
At this point, I will learn later, that the group had had enough. Someone needed to deal with the error of my thinking and the responsibility fell on the head of the group: an octogenarian, a retired engineer, and a man of God too. He told me that the group has listened to this position of mine and they are afraid I am transporting a foreign theology into the church. He said that the position of most people in the group was that God was still speaking to people today, whether he speaks to them in the same degree that he spoke to Moses is another matter. He rebuked me for my forwardness and inability to discern the fact that much older people in the group were uncomfortable with my theology. He requested that I be quieter and learn from the group. By the time he was done, you could hear a pin drop to the ground. I had a right to reply, but I waved it. I was confident of my position, and I did not think that debating an old man would be the way to impose my views on him or others. I took my rebuke silently even though I disagreed with him.
That incident happened a little before COVID. I have since left the church (I did not leave the church because of that issue). I remembered that encounter because I am presently reading the Pentateuch and again encountering that phrase “…as the Lord commanded Moses…” Does this phrase have any relevance for the Christian Church today? I believe so and I will be enumerating these reasons in the rest of the essay.
When Cessationists say “If you want to hear God speak, read the Bible. If you want to hear God speak clearly to you, read the Bible out loud”, many may be underestimating what we are asserting. The Bible is the very words of God. Scripture contains the sure words of heaven. If we need to base our lives on some objective truths, take the truths of the Bible and build your life on them. The Bible is inerrant: it contains no errors. The Bible is sufficient: it contains all the counsel of God that we need for life and godliness. The Bible possesses authority: God’s word commands. The words that God commanded Moses are still relevant to the world today some good 4,000 years after they were spoken. While we recognize that there has been a change of covenant in the person of Jesus Christ, there are clear-cut moral laws of God that remain unchanged. The words that God commanded Moses in Ten Commandments are still very relevant to all men today. If God is speaking anywhere else, the words that he commanded Moses are then not relevant for our day. If God has spoken through Moses, why will he need to reiterate himself through some other mediums today? When I read the Pentateuch today, I consider myself privileged. That the words of God were preserved through the millennia so I can read them and apply them. God commanded Moses yesterday – many of those commands are still relevant today. Amen.
Cessationists have been accused of holding to their position all in a bid to guard against errors. We are told that regardless of the position that we hold in theology, errors will still exist in the church. I will agree with this latter point, except to add that the Cessationists’ position will certainly help guard against errors – in the process reduce them. There is no way you and I will read the New Testament and even the old and not come across the numerous occasions scripture calls the faithful to guard against errors. One of our Lord’s last counsel to his disciples, and invariable to us, in Matthew 24 was that in the last days, false prophets will come and they will deceive many. The problem is not the presence of false prophets – the problem is the fact of the mass of people that will stand deceived. If guarding against deception is not a focal point in your religion, I do not know what kind of religion you are practising. If God has given Moses commands to follow and many of those commands are still relevant for New Testament saints, why seek out new and contradictory commands today?
The Cessationist position is not that God is no longer speaking to the Christian today. Our position is that God is speaking to the Christian in the Bible, alone. The question that usually follows this is this: So when Mr A approaches God with regards to either of the two women he wants to marry, how does he know which of them is the will of God? This is where illumination comes in. God’s command to Moses is “Thou shall not commit adultery”. How can this lead to the choice of a wife? It means that a heart steeped in the word of God will have discernment. The Holy Spirit will take all scripture and make it relevant to that situation. The young man will understand that in the multitude of counsel, there is safety (Proverbs 11:4). He will recognize the authority over a lady and walk through that authority to enter into a relationship with her (Numbers 30:3-8). He will operate his courtship with the highest moral ethics and any of the ladies who is lax in such morals cannot be a wife. He will judge her worldview and seek the necessary end of compatibility between himself and the girl. Time will define things and it will be clear who he ought to pursue a lifetime walk within marriage. The Holy Spirit illuminates scriptures for Christians and makes the commands that God gave Moses relevant to us today.
The bid to reject new revelations today is a gospel matter. When spirits begin to talk to people today, instructing them outside scriptures, those spirits begin to possess authority over people’s lives that scripture does not sanction. Soon enough, these spirits, demonic spirits, will twist scriptures to suit the flesh of men and the doctrines that will emerge will no longer be doctrines that pertain to salvation but doctrines of demons that will lead men ultimately to hell. A heart that is committed to scripture, that understands the authority that scripture wields, that realizes that the same God who commanded Moses also commanded Jesus, will listen to Christ and realize that in Jesus Christ is the salvation of all men. If we have ever wondered why there is a prevalence of false gospel in our day, look no further than the new revelations that pervade the churches. In the commands that God gave Moses, the children of Israel found salvation from their enemies. In the same way, in the command that Christ gave his Apostles, the churches find eternal salvation. The Cessationist/Continuationist debate is a salvific argument and some of us are committed to it because we wish to remind the churches of the gospel that was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
The man who rebuked me at the Bible fellowship remains a respected senior friend of mine. One day, I saw the old man walking the mean streets of Ibadan in the sun. I picked him up in my car and drove him to where he parked his car. He appreciated the gesture and I think understood that a theological disagreement need not degenerate into enmity. Continuationists and Cessationists remain brothers. They are both concerned with preserving the integrity of scriptures – they just seem to have differing methods on how to do it. God commanded Moses in the Bible. God is not commanding anyone today in such a literal sense. However, God does command us through Moses either through the clear words of God in the Bible (thou shall not kill, steal, etc.); or by the Spirit illuminating scriptures to us and making his words relevant to our time today.