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

Don Stewart :: What Are the Arguments from Personal Experience That the Sign Gifts No Longer Operate?

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What Are the Arguments from Personal Experience That the Sign Gifts No Longer Operate?

Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today? – Question 12

Probably the most frequent argument mentioned against the continuation of sign gifts is from personal experience. This comes in various forms. A number of people who argue against the sign gifts still existing have stories about how these gifts are divisive and unhelpful to churches. In addition, they also ask some very direct questions to those who claim miracles are still taking place. Questions, which they believe cannot be answered.

Does our present-day experience show us that the miraculous gifts no longer function in the church? The following issues are often raised.

1. Why Are They Not More Visible?

This first question is primary. If the miraculous sign gifts still exist, then why do we not see them being exercised today? Why are there no supernatural healings, people being raised from the dead, or the blind receiving sight? If the sign gifts are indeed being exercised, we should expect to see them used and authenticated. The fact that they are not independently verified demonstrates they no longer exist.

This is in complete contrast to the miracles of Jesus and His followers. We discover that there was never any doubt about whether Jesus or His apostles performed miracles. Indeed, the miracles of Jesus were never denied by the people living at that time! Nobody could deny what had taken place. Compare this to present-day claims of the miraculous. Nobody can verify them! The contrast is obvious.

2. The Exercise of Sign Gifts Causes Division

Some people argue that the divisive nature of the gifts demonstrates that they are not from God. Often we find that when people come into a church and exercise sign gifts they cause divisions within that group. Dividing the body of Christ is not the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote about the need for order within the church.

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace, as in all the other churches (1 Corinthians 14:33 NLT).

Since the introduction of the sign gifts into a congregation usually causes division it is claimed that this is an indication that these gifts are not from the Lord.

3. Sign Gifts Are Practiced by the Spiritually Immature

Some argue that those who exercise the sign gifts show a lack of spiritual maturity. They are basically ignorant of what the totality of the Word of God has to say on the subject of spiritual gifts. It is claimed that a number of people operate on their emotion, not upon the clear Word of God. In other words, they are untaught with respect to the truths of God’s Word concerning spiritual gifts. Once properly taught, they will see that certain spiritual gifts have indeed been withdrawn.

4. Some Have a Superiority Complex Who Practice the Spectacular Gifts

Those who practice some of the more miraculous gifts have been accused of having a spiritual superiority complex. They believe that they are correct in this matter and thus they will not listen to instruction. Instead of building up the body of Christ they are dividing it.

This usually happens because they have had some personal experience which has convinced them about the truth of the matter. Thus, their minds are made up about this issue and no amount of logic or reasoning will change what they think.

5. God Still Does Miracles Apart from the Miraculous Gifts

Something else needs to be made clear. Those who argue that God has withdrawn the miraculous sign gifts do not deny that God still does miracles. Indeed, God still does heal miraculously and still performs miracles when it is His will. There are still miracles – there are no miracle workers. There are still healings – there are no healers. By denying that some of the more spectacular gifts of the Holy Spirit are not around, is not a denial of the supernatural.

In sum, personal experience testifies that we do not see the same types of miracles today as was seen in the days of Jesus and His apostles. This must be accounted for. The simplest answer is that the special gifts which were given to certain people to perform these miracles have been withdrawn. Miracles yes, miracle workers, no.

Summary – Question 12
What Are the Argument from Personal Experience That the Sign Gifts No Longer Operate?

Present-day personal experience is often used as an argument against the continuation of the sign gifts in our day and age. There are a number of points that are usually raised.

First, there is no real evidence that the more spectacular gifts such as miracles and healing still operate. If they did there should be evidence to substantiate this. However we find none. What a contrast this is to the miracles of Jesus and His disciples. Indeed, we find that even their harshest critics could not deny their miracles. In fact, they were never denied. The question which always arose was where their power came from. They were never questioned as to whether they could actually perform miracles. It was obvious that they did.

Thus, the lack of clear testimony to modern-day miracles is a sign that they no longer exist in the same manner as they did at the time of Jesus.

In addition, it is contended that the practice of miraculous gifts today only causes divisions and confusion. They are not edifying to the church but rather are dividing the church. Since God is not the author of confusion He is certainly not the author of what is taking place.

Some, but not all, argue that it is only the spiritually immature that attempt to advocate sign gifts. We find those who do not have a sufficient knowledge of God’s Word attempting to do the miraculous. At the same time, these people are unaware of some of the basic truths of the faith.

We also find many who profess to have these gifts showing a spiritual superiority complex. Indeed, they are not teachable in this area. Usually they have had some experience which has convinced them that they are correct on this question of spiritual gifts. No amount of reasoning nor evidence will change their minds.

Finally, this position of arguing that the sign-gifts have been withdrawn does not deny modern-day miracles. God does still heal people and perform miracles when is fits with His purpose. Nobody is denying this.

However, God does it without individuals who have the gift of healing, speaking in tongues, or the gift of miracles. Indeed, the Lord does it when and where He desires.

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