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

Don Stewart :: What Are the Arguments That Evidence from the Plan of God Does Not Indicate That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased?

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What Are the Arguments That Evidence from the Plan of God Does Not Indicate That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased?

Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today? – Question 5

It is argued that miracles were not the norm for the Old Testament period and neither should they be expected to last during the entire New Testament era. They only occurred in clusters and only to confirm new revelation or confirm the ministry of certain prophets. This is according to the plan and purpose of God.

However this argument for the cessation of the gifts from the purpose and plan of God is not convincing to a number of people. They usually give the following reasons why this argument is rejected.

Miracles Occurred in Other Periods in Biblical History

First, other miracles occurred besides the ones during the so-called confirmation periods. Scripture is full of examples of God performing miraculous deeds in the lives of believers, including Gideon, Samson, Daniel, Jonah, and Joshua. To argue, as some do, that they are found only in clusters is not accurate. Miracles are found throughout the Old Testament period.

They Were Not Confirming Signs during the Period of Elijah and Elisha

In addition, it is difficult to put the miracles of Elijah and Elisha in the category of confirming signs. There was no new revelation when they performed their miracles. There was no written Scripture to confirm. The period in which they lived was no more pivotal than the time of Jeremiah and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Many of the Miracles Were Done in Private

There is another problem with this view. Most of the so-called confirming miracles at the time of Elijah and Elisha were done in private, out of view of most of the nation.

For example Elijah prayed to the Lord that He would raise a young boy back to life. We read about this in First Kings. The Bible says.

Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” (1 Kings 17:21-23 NIV).

How could this have been a sign to the nation?

There are other examples of private miracles in the ministry of these two men (They can be found in the following passages: 2 Kings 2:11-14, 19-22; 4:32-37; 5:14; 6:5-7; 13:21).

It is difficult to understand how these can be considered as confirming their calling when they were not done in public.

This Does Not Prove Anything about the New Testament Miracles

Even if it were true that the miracles only came in two clusters during the Old Testament period, it still does not mean that this would necessarily be the case with respect to the New Testament. God can work in any way that He desires. The key is to find out specifically what He says about New Testament miracles.

Therefore appeal to the Old Testament, and the way in which God worked during that age, is not the issue.

The Miracles of Paul Did Not Necessarily Cease

Some also question whether the miracles of Paul necessarily ceased at the end of his ministry. The Book of Acts, which is a history of crucial events in the early church, ends with Paul performing miracles on his way to Rome. His time in Rome is not discussed except to be summarized in a few short words.

Therefore we should be careful about drawing conclusions about whether or not he still had the capability to perform miracles. An argument from silence is not very strong.

What we do not have is any clear statement in Scripture of the inability of Paul, or any of the other apostles, to perform miracles because these sign gifts had ceased to be given any longer. Scripture is silent on this matter. Indeed, nothing is said about the sign gifts passing away as the apostles were passing from the scene.

Consequently, the argument from the plan of God for the cessation of the sign gifts is not convincing to everyone.

Summary – Question 5
What Are the Arguments That Evidence from the Plan of God Does Not Indicate That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased?

It has been argued that the plan of God with respect to miracles clearly demonstrate the cessation of the sign gifts. Miracles only appeared in three clusters in history: at the time of Moses, the time of Elijah and Elisha, and at the time of Jesus. Therefore, since they did not take place during the entire Old Testament period we should not assume that they should take place during the entire New Testament period. In other words, if they ceased with the apostles this would be consistent with what has occurred in the past.

However, it is argued that the idea that miracles were only done to confirm the Word is simply not true. Indeed, there is nothing in the overall plan of God that would cause us to believe that the sign gifts have stopped functioning.

To begin with, the miracles of Elijah and Elisha were not all public demonstrations of God’s power to confirm His Word. Many of the miracles were done in private. In addition, it is hard to argue that their time in history was more pivotal than any other period with respect to miracles. Therefore, it is not correct to call the miracles at that particular period “confirmatory signs.”

Furthermore, there were miracles which took place at many other times during Old Testament history. Indeed, miracles were found in the lives of such characters as Gideon, Daniel, and Jonah. Thus, they were not limited to only two periods in Old Testament times.

It is also likely that Paul’s miracles did not cease at the end of his life. Indeed, when we last we read of him in the Book of Acts, he is still performing miracles. His last two years in Rome is summarized by a few short statements. To say his ability to perform miraculous deeds does not necessarily fit the facts.

In addition, everyone agrees that there is no clear statement in Scripture that the gifts had been withdrawn as the apostles were dying out. Thus, the burden of proof is on those who claim certain gifts were no longer in use.

The key is to find out what God wants to do during the church age – not what He has done before. Since there is no clear word from God on the cessation of the gift of miracles, it is argued that they, along with the other sign gifts, must still exist.

What Are the Arguments That Evidence from the Plan of God Indicates the Sign Gifts Have Ceased? ← Prior Section
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