Gaffin and Grudem on Eph 2:20: In Defense of Gaffin’s Cessationist Exegesis -- By: R. Fowler White

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 54:2 (Fall 1992)
Article: Gaffin and Grudem on Eph 2:20: In Defense of Gaffin’s Cessationist Exegesis
Author: R. Fowler White


Gaffin and Grudem on Eph 2:20:
In Defense of Gaffin’s Cessationist Exegesis

R. Fowler White

The question of whether the NT gift of prophecy continues in the life of the church today came again to the attention of the evangelical world as a recent cover story in a leading evangelical periodical spotlighted developments among advocates for the gift’s continuation.1 In the midst of that article, Wayne Grudem’s book, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, was singled out as a standard reference among many leaders of the current prophecy movement.2 The work covers a large number of issues, but arguably none is more important than the treatment of the two principal texts related to the question of prophecy’s duration, 1 Cor 13:10 and Eph 2:20. In a previous article,3 I compared Grudem’s exegesis of 1 Cor 13:10 with that of cessationist Richard Gaffin and urged acceptance of Gaffin’s contention that the question of the time of prophecy’s cessation is not answered in that text, but will have to be settled by appeal to other passages and considerations. In this article, I turn again to Gaffin and Grudem, this time evaluating their positions on Eph 2:20, the passage that is chief among those “other” texts bearing on the question of prophecy’s duration. This evaluation is warranted by the cruciality that the text has for each man’s views and by the attention that each man has given to the other’s exegesis of it.4 In addition, since Grudem’s recent thought on the

text moves beyond Gaffin’s earlier discussion, a fresh assessment of Grudem’s exegesis is in order. Our considerations begin with a review of Gaffin’s interpretation.

I. Gaffin on Eph 2:20

If we wish to understand Gaffin’s orientation to the interpretation of Eph 2:20, we must understand that for him this verse “ought to have a pivotal and governing role in seeking to understand other New Testament statements on prophecy.”5 This role results from the fact that Eph 2:20 is part of a section that stands back, takes a sweeping and comprehensive look at the whole church-house, and notes the place of prophecy in its construction. Prophecy’s place, of course, is ...

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