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

Don Stewart :: What Are the Arguments from Experience for the Permanence of the Sign Gifts?

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What Are the Arguments from Experience for the Permanence of the Sign Gifts?

Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today? – Question 13

One argument against the permanence of certain gifts has to do with our own experience. It has been contended that what we see today clearly demonstrates that the sign gifts are no longer operating in the church. However, no everyone agrees with this conclusion.

A number of important points are usually made in responding to this particular objection about the continuance of spiritual gifts.

1. Not Everyone in the Early Church Demonstrated Miraculous Gifts

To begin with, it is argued that miraculous sign gifts may not occur frequently, but God can still produce them if He so desires. The situation as recorded in the Book of Acts is that miracles were the exception to the rule; they were not happening everywhere with every believer. Thus, while they may not be that numerous, they do still occur from time to time.

Often this takes place when the gospel is going to new mission fields. The Lord uses the miraculous to get the attention of the people to whom the gospel is being preached. This is what we find in the Book of Acts. As the good news of Christ was going out to the world, the miracles were confirming the truth of the message. There is no reason as to why this cannot happen today.

2. Spiritual Gifts Are Overemphasized by Some Believers

Without a doubt there are some Christians in the so-called “charismatic movement” who overemphasize spiritual gifts. This is clear to everyone. But their misuse or abuse of spiritual gifts has nothing to do with their authenticity. Something else will have to decide the issue apart from certain people abusing spiritual gifts. Therefore, we should never attempt to decide this issue based on how certain people act. This is not really the issue.

3. They Are Not Practiced Exclusively by Immature Believers

The practice of the spectacular spiritual gifts does not belong exclusively to immature, ignorant, believers. It is unfair to place all those who practice the sign gifts in this category. There are many learned, mature Christians who practice the so-called sign gifts as well as all of the other gifts. While this does not mean that these sign gifts are still operating it does mean that thoughtful Christians do believe they still exist.

4. Sign Gifts Do Not Always Cause Division

It is not true that the introduction of certain spectacular spiritual gifts will always cause division among believers. While it may be true in some cases, it is unfair to say that the practice of these gifts will, of necessity, divide a congregation. Division is caused by sin; not by sign gifts.

Indeed, there are many examples of congregations who practice these gifts according to the rules set down in the New Testament. Their church is not a divided church.

5. To Many People, Experience Shows They Do Exist

The argument from experience can cut both ways. While there are examples of people who have overemphasized certain spiritual gifts there are others who have not. In fact, there are many believers who practice spiritual gifts in a way that does not overemphasize them. They will testify by personal experience that the gifts are helpful in their Christian growth. Yet they do so with the proper balance.

6. Many Churches Who Practice These Gifts Experience Growth

It must also be noted that there has been an unprecedented number of Christians who have practiced the spectacular gifts in recent years. Many of the churches which allow all of the gifts of the Spirit to operate in their congregations experience real growth. This, it is argued, testifies to the validity of these gifts.

7. Argument from Experience Proves Nothing Either Way

The argument from experience proves nothing. Indeed, there are many who would testify that their experience teaches them that the sign gifts are still with the church. Experience does not determine doctrine. We should not conform our doctrine to our experience, but we should conform experience to Bible doctrine. The issue is not what we have personally experienced but rather what the Bible says. Those who believe that the sign gifts still exist do so because they believe that the Bible tells them so.

Summary – Question 13
What Are the Arguments from Experience for the Permanence of the Sign Gifts?

There are those who argue that personal experience is not a valid reason to reject the sign gifts as some have contended. They make a number of points.

While it is true that we do not see the same frequency of miraculous gifts as we did at the time of Christ and His apostles this does not mean the gift has been withdrawn. For one thing, the miracles of the apostles were the exception, not the rule. Miracles were done only when necessary to further the gospel message. The same holds true today. On occasion, when the Lord sees fit, He can give someone miraculous ability as He did with the first Christians. The fact that the claims of miracles may be overstated does not mean that God has completely withdrawn the gift.

Furthermore, that certain people do abuse the sign gifts does not prove, one way or the other, whether they still are functioning. Ridiculous behavior is not the final test. One could argue that Satan encourages the bizarre behavior to hide what the Lord is really doing. The test is what God’s Word says on the subject. We can add to this that there are many mature believers who believe that all of the gifts, including the miraculous ones, are still with the church today. The spiritual maturity of these people is beyond all dispute. Therefore, we should never equate the practice of sign gifts with the spiritually immature or ignorant.

There is also the fact that many churches who do practice the sign gifts see significant spiritual growth. In these cases, the sign gift does not hinder the growth of the church.

Ultimately, appealing to personal experience proves nothing. Again, the test is Scripture. What does it say? This is where the issue must be settled.

What Are the Arguments from Personal Experience That the Sign Gifts No Longer Operate? ← Prior Section
What Is the Case for Saying That All of the Original Spiritual Gifts Still Exist? Next Section →
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