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Have miraculous gifts ceased or do they continue today?

Weekly Q&A

Have miraculous gifts ceased or do they continue today?
Posted on May 21, 2019  - By Godly John

Q: I would like to know the convictions of ‘But God’ when it comes to miraculous gifts. Is ‘But God’ cessationist or continuationist — and why?

The view of most contributors on this blog would be cessationist. However, the unfortunate problem with labels is that most people have an idea of what a label stands for rather than what the label was actually used to describe. Without getting too detailed, let’s think through this.

The argument by definition

Miraculous gifts are a specific set of gifts described in 1 Corinthians 12:1–14:40 and specifically as it relates to the phenomena of speaking in tongues, healing and prophecy. Let us first clarify what they looked like back then:

  1. Tongues were actual human languages that were spoken by someone who did not know the language prior to the experience. Acts 2:6, 8 and 11 specifically records the multitude on the Day of Pentecost as hearing the apostles speaking in their own tongues or in the languages to which they were born.
  2. Healing was by command with immediate and complete results. When Peter said ‘Rise up and walk’, the 40-year-old man who’d been lame since birth did just that (Acts 3:8, 4:22).
  3. Prophecy was the forth telling of inerrant revelation from God — not the hit-or-miss predictions of today.

These gifts were neither common nor always available for everyone in the early church (1 Corinthians 12:30). Paul even goes as far as to say, in 1 Corinthians 14:22, that the purpose of the gifts had specific audiences and that, when they were being used, they needed to meet specific criteria (1 Corinthians 14:27)! The reason why these gifts went powerfully to the Apostles and the early disciples was because it was a continuation of God’s method of affirming the message being conveyed by His messengers.

The purpose of these gifts in the New Testament was to powerfully display God’s affirmation of the Gospel preached by the Apostles

Since the end of apostolic age with the completion of the New Testament, we see the end of the need to continue to attest the Apostolic gospel, as it is now being attested to by the Holy Spirit through the New Testament.

The argument against a ‘new wave’ movement

So what about ‘miracle crusades’, and so-called phenomena of ‘speaking gibberish’, ‘holy laughter’, ‘slaying in the spirit’, amongst other things? When compared to how the Word of God defines miraculous gifts, none of the modern phenomena meets any of these criteria.

Some argue that the specific miraculous gifts we see in the New Testament were only meant for that time and that we are now experiencing a ‘new move’ of God. But such an argument fails the continuity test in terms of both doctrine (since no such thing is taught in Scripture) and that the age that we live in is no different than all the generations before.

So why did the Spirit choose only the last 100 years to supposedly bring about this phenomena again? Did all of the church in the last 1900 years since the Apostles miss out on something? Far from it. The Spirit of God has gifted God’s people in every generation and the gifts given today focus our attention on the Word of God where we find the Gospel.

It is worth noting that the Spirit used miraculous gifts in the early Church period to edify. Would that same Spirit dispense gifts today in such a confusing and contradictory way?

The effect of miraculous gifts in the early Church age was to bring glory to God — both for the believer and unbeliever who happened to witness it. This is not necessarily true of how these so-called gifts are being exercised today, which often have a greater emphasis on glorifying the performer in the name of the Spirit.

The emphasis of Scripture

Studying Scripture will show that it consistently underscores producing the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control — as true signs of the Spirit-led life. Even Paul shows us a “still more excellent way”, when he de-emphasises the value of miraculous gifts over love in 1 Corinthians 12:31-13:2.

None of this is to say that miracles do not happen today. Of course, God works as He wills, when He wills, and how He wills. But do we still have the gifts of inerrant prophecy, speaking in tongues and healing on command? That is the question. To which we say: we have the Word of God completely and the Spirit-enabled ability to know God truly and sufficiently.

Godly John

About Godly John

Raised in the Middle East, now living in Melbourne, Australia, Godly John is married with one son. A former agnostic, he is now involved in lay teaching ministries at his local church, and loves thinking about the intersection between reformed theology, philosophy, culture and ethics.



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