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

Don Stewart :: What Are the Arguments from Church History That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased?

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What Are the Arguments from Church History That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased?

Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today? – Question 10

One of the most-often voiced objections to the modern-day usage of the sign gifts is an argument from history. The cessationists argue that once the apostles died those sign gifts died with them. The following historical arguments are given against the sign gifts continuing in the church.

There Is No Evidence That the Sign Gifts Were Used after the Apostles

There is no evidence that the sign gifts survived the apostles. The testimony of church history is that the sign gifts ceased with the death of the apostles. The second generation of Christians did not practice these gifts. It is claimed that this is clearly documented.

A Number of Early Christians Leaders Spoke Out against the Sign Gifts

Some early church leaders plainly asserted that the gifts were no longer practiced in their time. Indeed, early church leaders such as John Chrysostom, Theodore, and Augustine said the sign gifts were not being exercised in the church at their time.

Those Who Practiced the Gifts Were from Fringe Groups

In addition, those who did practice the gifts were from heretical or cultic groups. Any exercise of the sign gifts was by fringe groups. These include such groups as Montanists, the Shakers, and the followers of Edward Irving. The mainline church did not exercise the sign gifts.

The Mainline Church Has Never Officially Accepted the Continuation of Certain Gifts

The church has never officially emphasized and substantiated the use of the gifts. They have been absent from the church throughout its history. Although the church may have drifted away from its original spirituality there always has been a true remnant in every generation. God has revealed Himself fully to these people.

However we do not find the same outward miraculous signs being performed with these genuine believers as was true in the days of the apostles. The reason as to why is due to the purpose of God in the apostolic age. At that time there were special miracles needed to authenticate God’s prophets and their message.

It Is Only Recently That Large Numbers of Christians Have Practiced the Sign Gifts

The sign gifts were not in use in the church from the time of the apostles until relatively recently in church history. Are we to believe that for some 1,700 years the church was without these necessary gifts? This does not make sense.

Therefore, the totality of the evidence seems to teach that the sign gifts had a limited purpose and consequently ceased early in the history of the church. Indeed, there is no evidence that these gifts were used continuously throughout church history.

Summary – Question 10
What Are the Arguments from Church History That the Sign Gifts Have Ceased?

The history of the church supposedly indicates the sign gifts have ceased. A number of points are usually made along this line. They include the following.

To begin with, we find that these particular gifts were not in use among believers after the death of the last of the apostles. The evidence for this is clear; the second generation of Christians did not exercise these gifts. Neither did other believers after that time. History tells us they completely ceased to be used.

Furthermore, there were a number of prominent early Christians who actually spoke out against the continued use of the gifts. Again, there is no evidence these gifts were still operating.

Those who did practice the gifts were from heretical groups – the mainline church throughout the ages has not accepted these gifts as continuing.

There is something else which must be stressed. Each generation has had its only godly remnant of people who truly followed the Lord. Even when the visible organized church was not honoring the Lord there were always Christians who were doing God’s will. Among these godly people we do not find the sign gifts. Therefore, we cannot attribute their non-use to the lack of spirituality among believers.

Finally, it is only relatively recently in the history of the church that large numbers of Christians have again practiced the sign gifts. Why has this happened if the Lord has been giving them to His church for the last two thousand years?

These facts, it is argued, give positive proof that the sign gifts have ceased.

What Are the Arguments from the Book of Acts That the Sign Gifts Have Not Ceased? ← Prior Section
What Are the Arguments from Church History That the Sign Gifts Have Not Ceased? Next Section →
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