Monday, January 19, 2009

25 reasons the sign gifts have ceased

Are "sign gifts" like tongues, prophecy, miracles, and healing still available for Christians today? If not, then how do we explain when miracles still seem to occur?

Here are 25 reasons my theology professor, Dr. Craigen, gives that the sign gifts have ceased. There is some overlap here, and some arguments are stronger than other, but there's a tremendous amount of weight when seeing all these reasons together:
  1. The apostles and prophets were at the 'foundation stage' of the church (Eph. 2:20).
  2. Signs and wonders were clustered around the apostolic ministry (2 Cor. 12:12).
  3. The sign gifts confirmed new revelation (Jn. 14:11).
  4. The closed canon of Scripture (Rev. 22:18-19) calls into question if supernatural confirmation is still needed.
  5. Even the Apostle Paul and others seemed to experience a 'fade-out' of miracles (e.g., Phil. 2:27).
  6. The church is never exhorted to copy the signs and wonders of Christ and the apostles.
  7. A new healing paradigm is given in James 5:14-20 for the local church.
  8. Working miracles "at will" passed off the scene.
  9. A focus on God's providence in church and individual lives.
  10. History shows only three periods of significant miracles: Moses, Elijah/Enoch, and Jesus/Apostles.
  11. The Word of God is fully sufficient without further confirmation.
  12. The preaching of the Word draws forth reaction/response (John 6).
  13. Rejoicing at salvation was considered better than casting out demons (Lk. 10:17-20).
  14. The preaching of the truth is cognitively/rationally grasped.
  15. The New Testament miraculous gifts were conferred upon the disciples of Jesus.
  16. Pentecost was unique (an abundance of miracles would minimize this watershed event).
  17. No apostles today means there was no conferral of miracles beyond the original twelve.
  18. False messiahs and false signs and wonders can and will arise (Mt. 24:24).
  19. The use of Jesus' name falsely can and will occur (Mt. 7:15-23).
  20. The idea of being 'slain in the Spirit' is a type of activity never attested in Scripture.
  21. If miracles become the norm, then they are no longer miracles.
  22. Prophecy and tongues went out when the 'mature church' came online (1 Cor. 13:8-13).
  23. Joel 2 and Acts 2 relate the Day of the Lord and the Millennial Kingdom, so it was partially fulfilled at Day of Pentecost.
  24. The Word of God does what raising the dead cannot do (Lk. 16:19-31).
  25. The Gospel has power in itself to save without signs and wonders (Rom. 1:16-17).
Photo credit: hickory hardscrabble

5 comments:

  1. Dude

    Great post and great points. My brother is in a charismatic church and I've tried to explain this sort of thing to him. He always falls back on some rather faulty exegesis.

    Thanks a lot
    joe

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  2. Interesting

    "then how do we explain when miracles still seem to occur?"

    I missed the answer to that.

    Are you saying God does not do miracles anymore? (not SIGNS, miracles)?

    Thanks,
    david

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  3. Thanks, Joe, for your comment and encouragement. This is a tough issue, and it's often hard to reason with someone who is already immersed in the movement. Keep speaking the truth in love!

    David, great question. First, let me clarify I'm not saying miracles never occur today. God still works supernaturally sometimes in answer to our prayers. Plus, I believe every conversion is a miracle from God!

    But we should not expect miracles to be the norm. What I do believe has ceased is the gift of miracles (cf. 1 Cor. 12:10). Those who claim to have the gift of miracles today, or who believe there's such a thing as "healing services," quite likely belong to #17 or #18:

    #17 False messiahs and false signs and wonders can and will arise (Mt. 24:24).
    #18 The use of Jesus' name falsely can and will occur (Mt. 7:15-23). the question.

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  4. Stephen,

    I'm not sure miracles ever were the "norm." Seems of greater interest is the original meaning of a "gift" of "miracles."

    A miracle has to go against the law of nature to be a miracle -- so they certainly can't be the norm.

    I'm not sure God does things exactly the same over and over. For intsance, Moses parted the sea once. Later Joshua did it, and then Elijah. But these were all miracles for a time and a purpose. Any miracle happening today would be for the specific purpose to in some way bring God glory. (I'm thinking outloud)

    But a "gift or miracles"... I guess that's what Benny Hinn claims. Seems to give more glory to the person "performing" the miracle than to God the true miracle worker, doesn't it?

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  5. Robert Thomas, in his book Understanding Spiritual Gifts, says it much better than I could:

    "The exclusive purpose of the gift [of miracles] was to provide authentication for God's spokesmen and their message. No document was available as a standard for measuring the truthfulness or authority of what they said. The gift provided a special means for attracting the attention of listeners, giving them a basis for trusting the message, and thereby expediting the spread of the gospel during the days of the church's beginning. Once God's inspired revelation to the church was complete, such confirmatory gifts had no further purpose to fill."

    He continues, "The termination of the gift to the body of Christ does not rule out God's providential purpose in accomplishing miracles since that time. Miracles have happened and continue to happen since the completion of the NT. Yet, God has not been pleased to use miracle workers the way He did while He was in process of revealing new covenant truth. The age of miracles continues, but the age of miracle workers has ceased." (p. 185)

    This explanation is from a staunch cessationist. Please note: those of us who believe the sign gifts have ceased are not saying that miracles have ceased entirely.

    Thanks for bringing up this point, David!

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