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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today?

Don Stewart :: What Are the Arguments That the Purpose of the Sign Gifts Indicate They Have Ceased?

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What Are the Arguments That the Purpose of the Sign Gifts Indicate They Have Ceased?

Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today? – Question 2

There is the argument that the very purpose of the sign gifts is a clear indication that they were meant to be temporary in the church and thus have now ceased to be given by God. They include the following.

The Sign Gifts Were Meant to Confirm the Word of God

It is contended that the purpose of the sign gifts was to confirm the Word of God in a special way. These particular gifts were foundational gifts to the Christian church. Before the New Testament had been committed to writing, these signs served as supernatural confirmation of God’s Word. People would know that these messengers were from the Lord because of the miraculous gifts they possessed.

Once the New Testament was completed, the sign gifts were no longer necessary. Upon the death of the apostles, these miraculous gifts ceased to be exercised any longer.

Apostleship Shows That Some Gifts Were Only Temporary

One of the arguments used is for the withdrawal of the sign gifts is the gift of apostleship. The qualifications of an apostle are clearly stated in the first chapter of the Book of Acts. We read the following.

So now we must choose another man to take Judas's place. It must be someone who has been with us all the time that we were with the Lord Jesus- from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us into heaven. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.” So they nominated two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. (Acts 1:21-23 NLT)

Whoever was to take the place of Judas Iscariot among the apostles had to possess certain credential. Among these is being with Jesus from the very beginning of His ministry as well as being an eyewitness to His resurrection.

The Apostle Paul argued that he had the signs of an apostle. We read his claim in his letter to the Corinthians.

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? (1 Corinthians 9:1 NASB)

Since nobody today can meet these particular qualifications, the gift of apostle has ceased. Indeed, when the last of the apostles died, those who had personally seen the risen Christ, so did this gift.

Furthermore, since the Bible does not teach any type of apostolic succession this gift is no longer available to the church.

There Are No Longer New Testament Prophets

If the gift of apostle is no longer available or necessary in the church, then it is possible that other gifts are not necessary. The Bible says that along with the apostles, the church was built on the foundation of the prophets. Paul wrote.

We are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. (Ephesians 2:20 NLT)

The office of prophet is no longer necessary because the New Testament has been completed. God is no longer giving divine revelation. The New Testament prophet was the person who spoke forth God’s truth while the Scriptures were being written.

Since we have a completed Scripture, there is no longer any use for this particular gift.

The Gift of Tongues Was a Sign to Unbelieving Israel

There is evidence that another gift, speaking in tongues was also meant only to be a temporary gift. The Bible says that the gift of tongues was only a sign to the nation of Israel. Paul wrote.

So you see that speaking in tongues is a sign, not for believers, but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for the benefit of believers, not unbelievers. (1 Corinthians 14:22 NLT)

The state of Israel did not exist after A.D. 70. While the nation did exist, it existed in exile. There was no state of Israel after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. The city and temple were destroyed and the people who had not been killed were deported. If God stopped dealing with Israel in A.D. 70, then the gift of tongues is no longer necessary.

If the gift of tongues no longer exists, then the gift of interpretation of tongues must also have ceased.

The New Testament Is Completed: No More Revelation Is Necessary

Thus, if the purpose of the sign gifts were to confirm the Word of God before the New Testament was completed, then they are no longer necessary for today.

These factors have convinced many that the purpose of the sign gifts gives evidence that have now ceased.

Summary – Question 2
What Are the Arguments That the Purpose of the Sign Gifts Indicate They Have Now Ceased?

There are a number of arguments given as to why certain spiritual gifts, the sign gifts, have ceased. One of these arguments is that the purpose of these gifts shows they are no longer necessary. The reasoning is as follows.

It is argued that they were originally given to confirm the Word before the New Testament was written. Once the New Testament was composed, the sign gifts were no longer necessary. The written Word of God is alone sufficient.

There is also evidence that four spiritual gifts have been withdrawn. The evidence is as follows.

Those who had the gift, or office, of apostle had to be an eyewitness of Jesus’ resurrection. Obviously no one today can fulfill that requirement. Consequently, this particular gift is no longer functioning in the church.

The gift of prophecy was also foundational to the church. Indeed, the prophets are the people who spoke forth the truth of God’s Word before the New Testament was committed to writing. Once the Scriptures were complete there was no longer any use for their gift.

Speaking in tongues was stated by the Apostle Paul to be a sign to unbelieving Israel. The state of Israel, as a functioning entity, ceased to exist in A.D. 70. Therefore, with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and of the temple, as well as the deportation of the people, the sign of tongues to Israel was no longer necessary.

If the gift of speaking in tongues no longer exists as a legitimate spiritual gift, then certainly the gift of interpretation of tongues does not exist.

Therefore, when all the evidence is considered two facts become clear.

First, there is the fact that the purpose of these sign gifts was to confirm God’s Word before the New Testament was written.

Second, is the fact that at least four spiritual gifts, apostle, prophecy, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues, are no longer functioning in the church.

Together, these two facts provide clear and convincing evidence that certain spiritual gifts are no longer necessary in the church.

This sums up the arguments given for the cessation of certain spiritual gifts from the very purpose of these gifts.

What Arguments Have Been Given for the Cessation of the Sign Gifts? ← Prior Section
Why Do Some Argue That the Purpose of the Sign Gifts Shows That They Have Not Ceased? Next Section →
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