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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 Not Ceased?

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What Are the Arguments from the Book of Acts That the Sign Gifts Have Not Ceased?

Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today? – Question 9

Cessationists, those who believe certain miraculous gifts no longer operate in the church, argue that the Book of Acts gives evidence to this. They argue that signs were needed to authenticate the message of Jesus before the unbelieving Jews who rejected Him as the Messiah.

However, the Jews needed no signs to authenticate the Old Testament Scripture. The signs showed that the message of Jesus was like the Old Testament – divinely given. Once this became apparent the need for the signs was gone and the signs were withdrawn. The Book of Acts chronicles this occurring.

The Argument from the Book of Acts Is Not Conclusive

For many, the argument for the cessation of the gifts from the Book of Acts is not conclusive. The following reasons are usually given.

They Assume That Sign Gifts Were Only to Confirm the Word

Those who argue this way assume what they should be proving. To assume that the gifts were the confirmation of the Word of God, and had no other purpose, does not fit the facts. The description of the use of certain of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14 shows that they had a purpose beyond confirming the Word. While confirmation of the message of Jesus Christ was indeed one of the reasons for the gifts, it is not necessarily the only reason.

They Do Not Occur Only during New Times of Revelation

Miraculous signs did not only appear during times of new revelation for the purpose of confirming the written Word. Many biblical examples can be cited where God performed miracles without adding new revelation. Therefore, miracles were not merely for the purpose of adding new revelation to previous revelation.

What Makes the Written Word More Believable?

Why, it may be asked, would certain gifts become unnecessary when the Word was committed to writing? Is there something about the written Word that makes it more believable than the spoken word? In the New Testament, the spoken word is given more importance than the written word. We read the following in the second letter of John.

Having many things to write to you, I did not wish to do so with paper and ink; but I hope to come to you and speak face to face, that our joy may be full (2 John 1:12 NKJV).

The New Living Translation puts it this way.

Well, I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to say it in a letter. For I hope to visit you soon and to talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete (2 John 12 NLT).

The first generation of Christians preferred the living testimony to the written Word. Indeed, they would much rather have had someone tell them what they had heard and seen of Jesus rather than to read what that person wrote.

While the written Word is a permanent testimony to what God has done, the living witnesses were considered more valuable when they were still alive.

Signs Were Also Given to Gentiles

If the signs were merely to convince the Jews that Jesus was the Messiah, then why do we find them given to Gentiles? There are a number of occasions in which the Book of Acts records the believers performing miraculous signs to Gentiles, not Jews.

Thus, the argument from the Book of Acts that the sign gifts no longer exist is inconclusive to those who hold the non-cessationist position with respect to spiritual gifts.

Summary – Question 9
What Are the Arguments from the Book of Acts That the Sign Gifts Have Not Ceased?

While some contend that evidence from the Book of Acts shows that the sign gifts have ceased to function, others disagree. A number of points are usually made.

Among other things, they argue that the purpose of the gifts was not merely to confirm the spoken Word. Miracles, such as the ones recorded in Acts, do not always occur in times of new revelation. Indeed, many examples can be given of miracles occurring without God revealing anything new.

There is also the issue of authority of the written Word against the spoken Word. The first believers preferred the spoken word to the written Word – they would rather hear the testimony of those who saw and heard Jesus. Thus, when these apostles proclaimed what they saw and heard, it would carry greater authority than someone merely reading their words of what Jesus said and did.

If the signs were mainly to convince Jews that Jesus was the Messiah, then why were they performed before Gentiles? A number of miracles in Acts were directed at Gentiles, not Jews. Why did this occur if the signs were mainly to Jews?

Each of these points shows that the miraculous signs recorded in the Book of Acts do not do what some people claim; demonstrate the sign gifts have ceased.

What Are the Arguments from the Book of Acts That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased? ← Prior Section
What Are the Arguments from Church History That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased? Next Section →
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