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

Don Stewart :: What Are the Arguments from the Book of Acts That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased?

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What Are the Arguments from the Book of Acts That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased?

Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today? – Question 8

Some have argued that the Book of Acts gives added proof that the sign gifts were not necessary beyond the first century. They insist that sign gifts were only used to confirm the message about Jesus. They were used to demonstrate that He was the Messiah while the New Testament was in the process of being written. A number of points need to be made.

The Miraculous Signs Were to Show Jesus Was the Messiah

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter explained the purpose of the miraculous speaking in languages the apostles had not learned. He said this miracle testified of Jesus of Nazareth as the genuine Messiah. The Bible says the following occurred.

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say” (Acts 2:14 NRSV).

He then went on to give the following testimony to Jesus.

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know–this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it (Acts 2:22-24 ESV).

These specific signs were to Jews. They were to show them they had crucified their Messiah, Jesus.

No Signs Were Needed to Confirm the Old Testament

The Book of Acts reveals that the Old Testament Scriptures did not have to be authenticated by signs. Indeed, they were the final court of appeal for both Jews and Christians. For example, Peter quoted the Old Testament as follows.

Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything he tells you.’ Then Moses said, ‘Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from God’s and utterly destroyed.’ “Starting with Samuel, every prophet spoke about what is happening today” (Acts 3:22-24 NLT).

There was no need to appeal to any miraculous sign when the Old Testament was cited. Whenever the Old Testament was cited, everyone believed it as divinely authoritative. It did not have to be confirmed by some sign. This means that once the Word of God had been committed to writing, there was no longer any need for authentication. This is important to realize because of what took place with respect to the New Testament.

The Completed New Testament Would Not Have Needed Confirmation

Thus, the New Testament Scriptures, when completed, would need no further external confirmation. Since the miraculous gifts appear on the scene only during periods of prophecy, or new revelation, they are no longer necessary now that we have the written Scripture. With the completion of the New Testament, we see the cessation of the miraculous gifts.

The Signs Become Less Frequent as Time Went By

This is what we find in the Book of Acts. Indeed, the miraculous signs become less frequent as the Book of Acts draws to a close. This is consistent with the idea that spiritual gifts were dying out late in the ministry of the apostles. This is due, in part, with the message going out to the Gentiles instead of the Jews.

In sum, the winding down of miraculous signs fits well with what we find in the Book of Acts. As the New Testament was being completed, the sign gifts were fading. Once completed, the sign gifts disappeared completely.

Summary – Question 8
What Are the Arguments from the Book of Acts That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased?

The Book of Acts, it is argued, gives evidence that the sign gifts no longer function in the church. A number of reasons are given as to why this is believed. They are as follows.

First, it is clear that the signs were to confirm that Jesus was the Messiah that the Jews had been waiting for. In fact, Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, made this point to the crowd. He emphasized that the Jews had crucified their long-awaited Messiah. The miraculous sign of tongues on that day confirmed that truth.

Indeed, the fact that the disciples of Jesus could supernaturally speak in languages never before learned was an obvious miracle. Before there were any written documents about Jesus, God gave a number of miraculous signs to confirm His Word.

This, it is claimed, is consistent with the biblical evidence. Interestingly, the Old Testament needed no confirmation. Indeed, it had long–been accepted by Jews and Christians as the Word of God. This seems to demonstrate that once a book was recognized as God’s Word, no further confirmation was necessary.

This, it is said is what took place with the New Testament. As more and more New Testament books were written the sign gifts decreased in use. When the New Testament was completed the sign gifts ceased entirely.

This fits what we find in the Book of Acts. Indeed, the sign gifts become more infrequent as the church grew and expanded. At the end of the Book of Acts we find them existing no longer.

As stated, the main purpose was to confirm the Word in front of unbelieving Israel. Once that was accomplished, and the New Testament was completed, the need for signs vanished.

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