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

Don Stewart :: Why Do Some Argue That the Purpose of the Sign Gifts Shows That They Have Not Ceased?

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Why Do Some Argue That the Purpose of the Sign Gifts Shows That They Have Not Ceased?

Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today? – Question 3

One of the key arguments of cessationists is that the miraculous sign gifts were specifically given for confirming the Word of God before it was committed to writing. Once the written Scripture was completed the need for these miraculous gifts ceased.

However, not all believers think that the sign gifts were only for the purpose of confirming the Word of God. Their response to this argument is as follows.

Are There Such Gifts as Sign Gifts?

To begin with, there is nothing specifically stated anywhere in Scripture that the purpose of the sign gifts were to confirm the Word of God. Everyone agrees on this point. Furthermore, there is not even a designation in Scripture of certain gifts as being sign gifts. They are never listed separately from the other gifts, and never spoken of as temporary gifts.

There Is No Agreement as to How Many Gifts Were Temporary

In addition, there is no agreement as to how many of the gift were temporary sign gifts. Some people include the gift of healing while others do not. There are some who believe the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge and the discernment of spirits were all sign gifts.

However, there are others who do not place these gifts in that category. Some cessationists also see the gift of prophecy as being temporary while others believe it is permanent. How can we tell what gifts are temporary if no one is certain as to which gifts we are talking about?

There Is No Distinction between Temporary Gifts and Gifts That Are Permanent

Furthermore, the Bible does not make a distinction between temporary gifts and those that will last during the entire church age. Nowhere does it specifically tell us that some gifts are only temporary while others are permanent.

Therefore, while the use of certain gifts may have been as signs to confirm the Word this does not mean this was their only purpose. The miracles were more than just signs to confirm the Word of God.

The Raising of Dorcas Was Not Meant to Be a Conformational Sign

For example, the raising of Dorcas, or Tabitha, (Acts 9:36–42) may have been for the purpose of restoring a key person to the community rather than as a sign to confirm the Word. While it is true that certain people believed in the Lord after she was brought back to life, this was not the stated purpose of her being raised but rather one of the results.

Indeed, there is nothing in the request to Peter to restore her to life that would indicate that this miracle was to be a sign to confirm the gospel. We read the following.

So Peter rose and went with them. And when he arrived, they took him to the upper room. All the widows stood beside him weeping and showing tunics and other garments that Dorcas made while she was with them (Acts 9:39 ESV).

This miracle was done for the purpose of restoring an important believer back to life. It was not a sign to confirm the good news of Christ.

The Miracles Were Not Limited to the Apostles

In addition, the sign gifts were not limited to the apostles. Others exhibited miraculous gifts. Indeed, we read of Stephen exercising these gifts.

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8 NASB).

Furthermore, we may ask the question as to why the sign gifts were given to the church at Corinth; a city where no apostle lived. Why did this church have miraculous signs? This shows that miracle-working gifts were not limited to the apostles.

The Healing Ministry Was to Be Ongoing

We know that the ministry of healing was to be an ongoing ministry in the church. James wrote about bringing the sick to be healed.

Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (James 5:14, 15 ESV).

The ministry of healing was to continue. There is no indication in Scripture that it was to be only temporary.

The Definition of Prophecy Is Too Limited

All Christians agree the Bible is now complete. However, some accuse the practitioners of the modern day gift of prophecy of adding to God’s Word. This, however, is not accurate.

Those who argue this way define prophecy in a very narrow sense, apart from its biblical meaning and purpose. Prophecy is not only adding new revelation, but can include other things. Paul wrote about the purpose of Bible prophecy.

But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3 NIV).

Here prophecy is defined as upbuilding, encouragement and consolation. There is nothing in this verse about new revelation or adding to Scripture. Therefore, the argument for cessation of the sign gifts from their purpose is not very convincing to many.

Summary – Question 3
Why Do Some Argue That the Purpose of the Sign Gifts Shows That They Have Not Ceased?

Some people argue that the purpose of the sign gifts demonstrates that they are no longer active in the church. Yet there are people who believe these gifts are still functioning. They give the following reply.

First, there is no such designation as “sign gifts” anywhere in the New Testament. Never do we find this description of any of the gifts.

Second, there is no agreement among cessationists as to how many gifts were temporary. While they all agree certain gifts no longer function in the church, there is no unanimity concerning what these gifts may be.

Third, no distinction is ever made between the temporary and permanent gifts. When the gifts are listed they are listed as spiritual gifts. They are not listed as temporary gifts and permanent gifts.

Fourth, some of the miracles recorded in the Book of Acts, such as the raising of Dorcas, were not for the purpose of confirming the gospel message. In this instance it was to bring a valuable member of the church back to life.

Fifth, miracles were not limited to the apostles. We find that Stephen, a non-apostle, was able to perform miracles.

In addition, these supernatural signs were given to believers in Corinth where no apostle lived. Thus, they were not limited to the apostles.

Sixth, the healing ministry was to be ongoing. James writes about bringing the sick to the elders of the church for prayer.

Seventh, the definition of the gift of prophecy is too limited. Indeed, Scripture itself does not define it as merely giving new revelation to the people or speaking forth infallible truth.

In sum, there are a number of reasons as to why some people reject the idea that the purpose of these so-called sign gifts shows they have now ceased. They are not convinced by the arguments given.

What Are the Arguments That the Purpose of the Sign Gifts Indicate They Have Ceased? ← Prior Section
What Are the Arguments That Evidence from the Plan of God Indicates the Sign Gifts Have Ceased? Next Section →
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