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

Don Stewart :: What Are the Arguments from the New Testament That the Sign Gifts Have Not Ceased?

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What Are the Arguments from the New Testament That the Sign Gifts Have Not Ceased?

Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today? – Question 7

There is the point of view that says that certain verses in the New Testament make it clear that the sign gifts have now ceased. Thus, since the Scriptures make it clear that sign gifts are no longer given or needed, nobody should attempt to exercise them.

However, there are many who think that these passages do no such thing. Instead, they think that an objective look at the New Testament will show that the sign gifts are still operating. The argument that the New Testament nowhere teaches the cessation of the sign gifts is as follows.

1. Why Did Non-Apostles Have Sign Gifts?

First, if the sign gifts were given to confirm apostolic authority, then why did non-apostles have the sign gifts?

2. Stephen the Deacon Had the Sign Gifts

Indeed, we read of Stephen, a non-apostle, having these gifts. The Book of Acts gives the following testimony.

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people (Acts 6:8 NRSV).

Why was he given the gifts if they were supposed to confirm the authority of the apostles?

3. Philip the Evangelist Exercised Sign Gifts

We find that Philip, another non-apostle, also performed miraculous signs. The Bible records it in this manner.

And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did (Acts 8:6 NKJV).

Here again is another instance of a non-apostle performing signs.

4. The Church at Corinth Had Sign Gifts Taking Place

Furthermore, why were the sign gifts given at the church of Corinth, where no apostle lived? We read.

Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe (1 Corinthians 14:22 NKJV).

There were obviously signs going on at Corinth but it was certainly not to confirm the authority of any apostle.

Finally, the verse says that the signs had been performed among the unbelievers. It does not say that they ceased or that they were limited to the first generation of believers.

5. Why Must the Foundational Gifts Cease?

Ephesians 2:20 is used to support the lack of need for sign gifts. Paul spoke of the church in the following manner.

Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone (Ephesians 2:20 NASB).

There are many assumptions that one must make to come to this conclusion; but Scripture supports none of them.

First, it must be assumed that the apostles and prophets had only a temporary purpose. Second, it must be assumed that this purpose was the confirmation of God’s Word.

It also must be assumed that the gifts functioned with them and no one else. Each of these arguments lacks support.

6. Revelation 22:18 Is Not Relevant to This Issue

There is a verse in Revelation that is often cited as proof the sign gifts have ceased. It reads as follows. It says.

And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book (Revelation 22:18 NLT).

However, this verse says nothing about the duration of the sign gifts. Indeed, it is not what this verse is referring to.

Moreover, if this were taken literally, then the only book of the Bible that could be believed is the Book of Revelation! The verse cited says not to add or take away from the prophecies of this book–Revelation.

Thus, it would have to be the only book you could believe. To make this refer to the entire Bible is highly speculative.

Furthermore, it must be appreciated that sign gifts do not add to Scripture. They merely apply, interpret, witness and confirm Scripture. Consequently, this verse is not relevant to the issue of sign gifts.

7. Lack of Mention in New Testament Letters Is an Argument from Silence

The lack of mention of the sign gifts in the New Testament letters is an argument from silence. The Scripture nowhere makes a distinction between the sign gifts and the other gifts.

If the sign gifts as tongues were to soon cease, why did the Apostle Paul write to the Corinthians,

“Do not forbid to speak with tongues”(1 Corinthians 14:39b NKJV)?

Does this mean they were allowed to speak in tongues for the next ten years, or so until the New Testament was completed? In addition, the sign gifts were still functioning when Paul wrote to the Romans. Thus, their lack of mention in that particular letter was meaningless as far as determining, one way or the other, whether or not the miraculous gifts were still in use.

8. No Specific Passage Says These Gifts Will Cease after the Apostles Died

There is nothing in Scripture that specifically says any gift will cease operating before Jesus Christ returns. The Bible teaches that believers how to exercise, regulate and validate the gifts – it says nothing about certain ones being only temporary.

Summary – Question 7
What Are the Arguments from the New Testament That the Sign Gifts Have Not Ceased?

One of the arguments used for the cessation of certain gifts is that there are specific passages in the New Testament that supposedly infer the sign gifts have ceased. This has been disputed by others.

Indeed, there are those who believe the New Testament does not at all indicate the sign gifts have now ceased. The verses, which are appealed to demonstrate this idea, do no such thing.

For one thing, sign gifts were not limited to the apostles. Indeed, Stephen the deacon, Philip the evangelist, and the church at Corinth, which had no apostle, all exercised miraculous gifts. Thus, these gifts cannot be limited to the apostles only.

While the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2:20 that the church was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets he says nothing about the gifts ceasing. The idea that they ceased has to read into this verse.

John’s statement in Revelation 22:18 is also not relevant to the discussion. No one who believes in present-day Bible prophecy from an evangelical perspective accepts the idea that Scripture is being added to. Modern-day prophecies do not have the same authority as the infallible writings and preaching of the apostles.

The lack of mention of the sign gifts in the other New Testament letters which speak of spiritual gifts is an argument from silence. There could be a number of reasons as to why they were not mentioned.

Furthermore, miraculous signs were still functioning at the time Paul wrote to the Romans so lack of mention of the gift in his letter to this church is meaningless. Indeed, lack of mention could just as easily mean that there was no problem with these gifts in that church; they were following the rules.

Therefore, the reasons given from the New Testament to deny the sign gifts no longer exist do not convince a number of people.

What Are the Arguments from the New Testament That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased? ← Prior Section
What Are the Arguments from the Book of Acts That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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