The Sign Gifts – highly regarded in Charismatic circles, its phenomenon is growing even in the Roman Catholic Church. Charismatic evangelicals and Catholics are holding hands together as a result in the unity of such gifts. However, are the sign gifts still in operation? Is God still working through them? Are the sign gifts we see today the same as in the Bible?
Topics in this study:
- What is a miracle?
- What is a sign defined in the context of miracle?
- What is a gift?
- Validation of the Apostles
- What purposes did these sign gifts serve?
- The beginning of the cessation of the sign gifts
- Can sign gifts be “bought” or attained by seed money or by having great faith?
- What sign gifts are NOT
- Are there apostles today?
- Are today’s sign gifts the same as in the Bible?
- In summary
- The greatest miracle and gift of all
What is a MIRACLE?
Webster 1828 defines ‘miracle’ in the following:
MIR’ACLE, noun [Latin miraculum, from miror, to wonder.]
- Literally, a wonder or wonderful thing; but appropriately,
- In theology, an event or effect contrary to the established constitution and course of things, or a deviation from the known laws of nature; a supernatural event. Miracles can be wrought only by Almighty power, as when Christ healed lepers, saying, ‘I will, be thou clean, ‘ or calmed the tempest, ‘Peace, be still.’They considered not the miracle of the loaves. Mark 6:52. A man approved of God by miracles and signs. Acts 2:22.
- Anciently, a spectacle or dramatic representation exhibiting the lives of the saints.
What is a SIGN defined in the context of MIRACLE?
According to Webster 1828:
- A token; something by which another thing is shown or represented; any visible thing, any motion, appearance or event which indicates the existence or approach of something else. Thus we speak of signs of fair weather or of a storm, and of external marks which are signs of a good constitution.
- A wonder; a miracle; a prodigy; a remarkable transaction, event or phenomenon. Through mighty signs and wonders. Romans 15:19. Luke 1:62
- Some visible transaction, event or appearance intended as proof or evidence of something else; hence; proof; evidence by sight. Show me asign that thou talkest with me. Judges 6:17.
Examples of miraculous signs and their purposes in the Old Testament (OT):
- Noah’s flood that submerged the entire world (Genesis 6-8)
To destroy wicked sinners from the face of the Earth while sparing Noah and his family, due to Noah’s close relationship with God.
- Sarah’s pregnancy in her old age (Genesis 18,21)
To authenticate God’s promise to Abraham that through him, He will form a great nation – Israel.
- Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19)
To pour judgement on the 2 cities for their homosexual sins.
- The 10 plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7-12)
To authenticate Moses as God’s chosen deliverer for Israel, reap judgement upon idolatrous Egypt, and to deliver Israel out of salvary from Egypt. Upon reading ancient Egyptian culture of their gods, it is also understood that these plagues were judgement upon these 10 gods.
- Pillar of cloud and fire (Exodus 13:21-22)
To lead and guide the newly liberated Israelites the way that they should go in both day and night.
- Parting of the Red Sea (Exodus 14)
To help the Israelites escape their Egyptian enemies, and bring judgement and death upon the Egyptian armies. To cause fear among the Israelites in order that they will believe upon God and his servant, Moses (vs 31).
- The fall of the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6)
Purpose: To destroy Israel’s enemies and give them the land of Canaan as inheritance.
- Samson’s strength (Judges 14-16)
To authenticate Samson as God’s chosen judge for Israel, and redeem Israel from its enemies.
- Fire from heaven upon the altar (1 Kings 18)
To authenticate the true God before an idolatrous, unbelieving Israel, and authenticate Elijah as His chosen prophet.
- Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
To authenticate God as the true God of worship, and rebuke the idolatrous King Nebuchadnezzar, and humble him. Also to authenticate Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as God’s chosen vessels before the Gentiles.
Examples of miraculous signs and their purposes in the early part of the New Testament (NT):
- Conception of Christ in the virgin Mary (Matthew 1:18-25)
To fulfill Old Testament Messianic prophesies of the upcoming Saviour and authenticate God’s promise of eternal salvation to all men (1 Chron 17:11-12, 2 Samuel 7:12-13, Psalm 2:7, Psalm 110:4, Isaiah 53, Matthew 1:22-23)
- Star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:9-10)
To guide the wise men to the location of the new-born Saviour.
- Christ turns water into wine (John 2)
To authenticate Christ as God in the flesh, for only God can do miracles, authenticate Christ as the prophesied Messiah among the Jews, and to provide for the wedding feast.
- Feeding of the 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21)
To authenticate Christ as God in the flesh, for only God can do miracles, authenticate Christ as the prophesied Messiah among the Jews, and to provide for the hungry people.
- Christ healing of the lepers (Luke 17:11-19)
To authenticate Christ as God in the flesh, for only God can do miracles, authenticate Christ as the prophesied Messiah among the Jews, and to show mercy.
- Sea storm calmed at Christ’s command (Mark 4:35-41)
To authenticate Christ as God in the flesh, for only God can do miracles, authenticate Christ as the prophesied Messiah among His Jewish disciples, and to save His disciples.
- Christ’s resurrection (Luke 24)
Victory over death, to authenticate and glorify Christ as the God and as Saviour for all nations, and confirm the OT scriptures regarding Him among His doubting disciples and Jews.
Miracles in the Bible served specific purposes relevant to that time according to God’s will in order to further His agenda. Despite Jesus’ multiple miracles in the NT that clearly authenticated the OT prophesies about Him and His Godhood (which is the key reason why He wrought many of these miracles – see also John 11:4), the pharisees and many others chose not to believe upon Him and His words, but rejected Him as Messiah and had Him crucified. As in the examples we see in both the OT and NT, miracles CANNOT change the hardened hearts of men:
Sam 6:2-9 – And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the Lord? Tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place. And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why His hand is not removed from you. Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. Wherefore then do ye harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: And take the ark of the Lord, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go. And see, if it goeth up by the way of His own coast to Bethshemesh, then He hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not His hand that smote us: it was a chance that happened to us.
Matthew 18:54-58 – And when He was come into his own country, He taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not His mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? And they were offended in Him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And He did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Mark 6:48-52 – And He saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night He cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. But when they saw Him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: For they all saw Him, and were troubled. And immediately He talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. And He went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.
John 10:36-39 – Say ye of Him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God? If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him. Therefore they sought again to take Him: but He escaped out of their hand
If people choose not to believe God’s Word, they will not believe His miracles either. Unbelief is not a signs-and-wonders problem, it is a heart problem, a heart that is soaked in sin.
Hebrews 3:7-19 – Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.
Ephesians 4:17-19 – This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
If people choose not to believe God’s Word, they will not believe His miracles either. This is reiterated by Jesus in the parable of Lazurus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31 , where in the last verse, Abraham said to the rich man that if his brethren would not believe the Moses and the prophets (that is, from the written Word), they would not be persuaded by one risen from the dead. In a coincidental scenario in John 11, Jesus raised a man of the same name, Lazurus from the dead. Yet we see in vs 46-53, how the Pharisees, who upon hearing the miracle from witnesses, plotted to kill Jesus instead of acknowledging Him as their prophesied Messiah.
Unbelief is not a signs-and-wonders problem, it is a heart problem, a heart that is soaked in sin.
Jeremiah 17:9 – The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
Proverbs 4:23 – Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
Matthew 13:13-15 – Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
AFTER the resurrection of Christ, we see the first mention of sign gifts being bestowed upon people during the time of Pentecost (Acts). It was also during the time the early church started.
What is a GIFT?
Defined by Websters Dictionary 1828 (based on 1611 KJV bible): “A present; any thing given or bestowed; any thing, the property of which is voluntarily transferred by one person to another without compensation; a donation. It is applicable to any thing movable or immovable. Some terms applicable within this definition
- The act of giving or conferring.
- The right or power of giving or bestowing.
- Power; faculty; some quality or endowment conferred by the author of our nature; as the gift of wit; the gift of ridicule.”
A gift in the Bible cannot be earned or practiced upon. Sign gifts were given by God to individuals according to as He wills. These gifts were given for a SIGN.
What were the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (1 Cor 12:4-31)?
- Interpretation of tongues
- Working of miracles
- Casting of devils
- Discerning of spirits
Validation of the Apostles
The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) claims that God has reinstated the use of prophets and apostles today, claiming new or extra-biblical revelation from God. These NAR apostles seat in the highest tier of the hierachy and are highly esteemed in the Charismatic circle. However, are there still apostles today? As we see in the Bible, there are strict criteria to validate the apostleship of a person:
- An apostle of Christ had actually seen the resurrected Christ
Acts 1:1-4 – The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me.
Acts 1: 22 – Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that He was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of His resurrection.
1 Corinthians 15:4-8 2 – And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
Acts 4:33 – And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
Acts 9:3-6 – And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
- An apostle’s message had to be validated with undeniable and verifiable miraculous sign gifts
These signs served as a confirmation of their message that they were of God.
Hebrews 2:3-4 – How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
Acts 2:43 – And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 4:16 – Saying, What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it.
Acts 4:29-33 – And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus. And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
Acts 5:12 – And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch.
Mark 16:20 – And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.
When Paul defended his apostleship, he reminded them of “the signs of an apostle” that were demonstrated by him:
2 Corinthians 12:11-12 – I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
- Christ is referred to as “the Apostle” in Hebrews 3:1
During Christ’s earthly ministry to Israel, His Messiah-ship and messages were validated by miraculous signs and wonders.
Hebrews 3:1 – Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;
John 20:30-31 – And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
Acts 2:22 – Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
- The apostles preached the truth with boldness and their words NEVER contradicted the Scriptures
Acts 2:14-16 – But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; (Peter refers to the book of Joel)
Acts 3:20-26 – And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you (taken from Deut 18:15). And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
Acts 4:4, 8-13 – Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand. […] Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
Acts 20:21-24 – Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
Romans 2:24 – For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written (Quote from Isaiah 52:5, Ezekiel 36:22-23).
1 Timothy 6:3-6 – If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
- All the apostles were men, not women
They even put strict criteria that women are not allowed authority in the church.
1 Timothy 2:12 – But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
1 Corinthians 14:34 – Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
1 Corinthians 11:3 – But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
( – But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
(For further study on the role of women in the Church, please read – Is a Woman truly forbidden to speak in Church?)
A TRUE Apostle must meet these criteria: They have seen the risen Christ visibly, they were men (never women), they wrought verifiable miracles, and their bold preaching NEVER contradict the Bible, but confirm it.
Examples of how God’s hand was on the Apostles and the early Church
- When the apostles preached of Christ’s resurrection and told Israel to repent and that Christ would return (Acts 3:18-20), it was a miraculous sign that saved their skin (Acts 4:16), and confirmed their words (Acts 4:29-30).
- When Peter preached Christ’s resurrection to Cornelius’ house, it was a miraculous sign that kept him out of hot water with his Jewish brethren. (Acts 11:17-18)
- God saved the apostle Paul and began to reveal to him truth that had been kept secret since the world began (Ephesians 3:8-9). Paul would need the signs of an apostle to validate this new message that he proclaimed. This new message involved the salvation of Gentiles apart from Israel, apart from the Mosaic Law, and apart from Israel’s rite of circumcision. Gentiles could be saved by grace through faith alone in the finished work of Jesus Christ. It was signs that confirmed and validated his Gentile message to the church at Jerusalem. (Acts 15:12-13)
- As God revealed more and more truth to Paul, there had to be a way to keep the churches up to speed on this new revelation during this transitional period. God used sign gifts to do this, such as the word of knowledge, word of wisdom, prophecy, tongues, etc. (Acts, 1 and 2 Corinthians)
- God wrought multiple signs and wonders through Stephen and gave him boldness to preach the gospel to the Jews (Acts 6:8-8:2)
- People in the church were given different supernatural gifts in order to communicate truth to their local assembly (1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:11-16).
What purposes did these sign gifts serve?
The sign gifts were given as a sign to Israel. The nation of Israel was born through the use of miraculous signs throughout the Bible. When Christ came to minister to Israel, He came with signs and wonders (Acts 2:22, Matthew 15:24). To sum it up:
- The sign gifts were signs to the Jews
1 Corinthians 14:22 – Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. (Paul clearly had Israel in mind because he quotes a prophecy concerning Israel from Isaiah 28:11-12. Tongues in this case was a sign to the unbelieving Jews)
1 Corinthians 1:22-24 – For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
- To authenticate that the risen Messiah is of God before the Jews
Acts 2:14-22 – But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem (Jews), be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
Acts 3:6-7 – Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
Acts 3:11-13 – And as the lame man which was healed held Peter and John, all the people ran together unto them in the porch that is called Solomon’s, greatly wondering. And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.
- To confirm the truth of God
Mark 16:17-20 – And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. (these happened at Pentecost)
- To edify the early Church
1 Cor 14:2 – Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.
Ephesians 4:11-16 – And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
- To proclaim the works of God and the Gospel
Acts 1:6-8 – When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Acts 2:6-11 – Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.7 And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
Romans 1:16-17 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Romans 15:17-19 – I have therefore whereof I may glory through Jesus Christ in those things which pertain to God. For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed, through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
Hebrews 2:3-4 – How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
NEVER were the gifts used for self-gain. These sign gifts were always for the glory of God, and in no way does man’s works play a part in gaining these gifts. It is purely based on God’s will on whom He chooses (1 Corinthians 12, see also 2 Peter 1:19-21).
The Corinthian church started right next door to the Jewish synagogue (Acts 18:5-7).
- As Israel observed these pagan Gentiles demonstrating their sign gifts, it was a testimony that God had left them and gone among the Gentiles. (Acts 18:1-6, Romans, Galatians)
- It was physical, visible evidence (which the Jews required) that God was now among the Gentiles and judgment was imminent if Israel did not repent. (Acts 18:1-6)
- As they saw their spiritual possessions now going to the Gentiles, it was to provoke them to jealousy that they might come to Christ and be saved. (Romans 11:11-14)
- This explains why such a carnal church as Corinth had the physical, visible evidence of God’s Holy Spirit at work through these miraculous sign gifts . It was to confirm the testimony of Christ to Israel next door (1 Cor 1:22, 14:22, Acts 18:7-8).
The beginning of the cessation of the sign gifts
This provoking ministry to Israel ended in Acts 28:25-28. After this declarative statement of judgment, we note several important things.
- Soon after this, Jerusalem was sacked and destroyed by the Roman emperor Titus in 70 A.D, as foretold by Christ (Matthew 24:1-2). The Jews were scattered among the nations.
- The Word of God is completed through Paul’s post-Acts books (Colossians 1:25) and John’s book of Revelation.
- Paul never mentions Israel again in any of his post-Acts books. There are no more verses like Romans 10:1. Paul refers to himself as the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1), and affirms that he is now the apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13).
- The sign gifts are never mentioned again in any of Paul’s post-Acts books. No mention of healings, miracles, tongues, etc. Paul was thrown to prison in Rome from where he wrote his letters to Timothy (2 Timothy), with no similar Philippian jail experience occurred of when he and others were miraculously released (Acts 16:16-40). Throughout 2 Timothy, Paul emphasised repeatedly keeping close to God’s Word and warning of false prophets, signs and wonders.
- There is evidence of the sign gifts ceasing in Paul’s post-Acts books. For example, no healing gifts were used to heal their sickness or infirmities (2 Timothy 4:20; 1 Timothy 5:23; Philippians 2:25-27; James 5:14-16) 2 Timothy 2:15 tells us to study God’s Word, again no miraculous word of knowledge dispensed.
- Since the apostles did not rely on the sign gifts to heal themselves, set themselves free from difficult situations, etc – they fully relied on God’s Word, His promises and His grace to carry them through tough situations (James 5:14-16, James 1, Romans 5:3-5, Galatians 6:9, Hebrews 12:1-15, 2 Cor 12:5-10). No mention of name-it-claim-it, using the “power of the spoken word” that many pushy and arrogant Word of Faith (WOF) teachers erroneously use, in stark contrast to the humble attitudes of the apostles’ total submission to God’s will, their unwavering faith and their unfaltering decision to spread the gospel in the midst of horrific persecution and tribulation.
- The apostles warned of counterfeit signs and wonders in the last days that will deceive many, as did Jesus warned too (Matthew 7:15, 7:21-24, 16,4, 24:24, 1 Timothy 4:1-8, 2 Timothy 3, 4:3-4, 1 John 4:1-6, Acts 17:11, 1 Timothy 6:3-5, 2 Peter 2:1-3, 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, Acts 20:27-31, Romans 16:17-18, Jude 1:4, Gal 3:1). They warned of deception arising to deceive the church and urged everyone to cling onto God’s Word and study the Scriptures, and not to judge by the appearance of miracles alone, as false prophets were always sprouting during their time and in ours. For true power lies in God’s Word alone (Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:10-18, 2 Tim 3:16-17, Gal 5, 1 Cor 12).
- All the apostles were martyred for their faith in unimaginable torture except for John. Non of them have reportedly use any of the sign gifts to free themselves from their situations. Stephen, who wrought many miracles, was stoned to death by hardened Jews who rejected the gospel (Acts 6:8-8:2). Even Paul who wrought many miracles, said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12: “ Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”
In the gospels and Acts when Israel was still there and still an issue, we see the demonstration of miraculous signs. Once Israel was set aside nationally, there was no longer a need for these sign gifts and the sign gifts ceased. Christian, you do not need a miraculous sign today. You have God’s completed Word, you are part of Christ’s body (where there is no Jew or Gentile – Gal 3:28), and you are complete in Christ. No where in the Bible are you told to seek a sign. In fact, Jesus said that a wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign.
Matthew 16:4 – A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
John 20:29 – Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed:- Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
Can sign gifts be “bought” or attained by seed money or by having great faith?
There is no mention in the Bible indicates that those who have more faith than others will receive sign gifts nor anyone sow seed money to receive such. In fact, bribing the Holy Spirit is abominable:
Acts 8:14-24 – Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.
Neither our hours of prayer, nor our religious works, nor going to church, nor ‘worshipping’ for hours in ambient music, etc., are justifications to tempt God or bribe Him to bestow us sign gifts (Matthew 4:7, James 1:13). Without faith (not sign gifts), it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11, Matthew 17:20).
What sign gifts are NOT:
- Sign gifts DOES NOT indicate that God plays favourites (Acts 10:34-35, Romans 2:11)
- They DO NOT determine our spiritual growth (Gal 5, Psalm 1:1-3, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Acts 17:11, 2 Timothy 2:15). We see in 1 and 2 Corinthians the abuse of the sign gifts among carnal Christians who lacked spiritual maturity (1 Cor 3).
- Sign gifts are only given to the saved, never to the unsaved.
- Although the saved gets the gifts, due to the plethora of false miracles, they are not the legitimate way to determine if someone has the Holy Spirit. We only receive the Holy Spirit once we believe upon the gospel (Eph 1:13, John 14:26).
- Not every believer were given the same gifts. Gifts are dispensed according to whom God wills (1 Cor 12).
- Sign gifts were to be done in order and not to be abused (1 Cor 14)
- Sign gifts did not rest permanently on the receiver, and God can cease them anytime (Read post-Acts books)
- The receiver cannot dispense the sign gift as and when at will without God’s interference at any time
- The receiver CANNOT be self-appointed. Only God does the appointing.
- Sign gifts are not used for show-off for self-glorification. They always glorify God and His Word (Acts 3:11-13)
- Sign gifts cannot be passed from one receiver to another via laying of hands, speaking over them etc. Only God can grant the gifts. (Acts 3:11-13, Acts 14:3)
- Sign gifts were never practiced by men to be ‘improved’. It is the power of God, not of men.
Are there apostles today?
All these sign gifts were necessary until all of God’s truth could be given, written down, and preserved in a Book. While the early church was taking shape, God was progressively revealing more and more truth. There was an instance where the apostles replaced Judas with Matthias to keep to the 12 in Acts 1:22-26. There is no biblical evidence of replacing all the apostles when they died. The apostles’ role was to lay the foundations of the church:
1 Corinthians 12:27-29 – Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?
Despite these miracles being wrought in the early church, there were already ministers of Satan that claimed to be the apostles of Christ who were “false apostles.”
2 Corinthians 11:13 – For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
Today, many men claim to be apostles, but they are not. How do we know this? To be an apostle, you had to have seen the resurrected Christ in person, literally and physically. God is the one who appoints apostles, yet many ‘apostles’ of today are self-appointed. They also do not meet the other requirements of the apostles (there are female ‘apostles’ today) and many of their miracles are questionable. No man knows Christ after the flesh today:
2 Corinthians 5:16 – Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
Christ is not appearing physically to people today. He does warn though that in the last days there will be a rise in false christs (Matthew 24:5, 24-26) and false prophets (Matthew 24:11) and that the next time He does appear physically before the whole world is at His second coming (Matthew 24:27-30).
Therefore, we know there are no apostles today. There is no longer the need for the apostolic sign gifts. They were given to reveal, communicate, and confirm truth. They have already build the foundations needed. We already have the complete revelation of God in the form of the Bible, which contains all truth and past, present and future prophecies that are to come. Miracles in the Bible were never intended for people to be entertained or overrule God’s Word; they authenticated God’s Word, and God’s Word authenticated them. God’s Word to the people is far more important than supernatural events and has always been the focus throughout the Bible. God is not dispensing new truth today. We have it all, and God’s Word is sufficient to furnish us unto all good works.
Matthew 24:35 – Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Today our job is not to pretend to be getting some new revelation from God, but to take God’s completed Word and proclaim it to others.
2 Timothy 2:2-4 – And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine.
Titus 1:9 – Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.
God gave to the apostles and early church miraculous signs, and we know why He did this, but there is no reason to be enamored with signs and wonders today. Be enamored with Christ and His Word.
Are today’s sign gifts the same as in the Bible?
Today’s sign gifts stray far from biblical boundaries. Many false teachers attribute the works of the Devil to the Holy Spirit, and vice versa. This is as good as blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Mark 3:22-30), which the Bible warns is unforgivable. ), which the Bible warns is unforgivable. (For further elaboration on this, please see our previous study – The Role, Power & Works of the Holy Spirit.)
This is NOT the same as saying that miracles cease today. God can still very much do miracles – He has redeemed countless souls from the power of Satan, has supernaturally answered countless prayers, has supernaturally supplied countless needs, has given supernatural strength, encouragement and wisdom to countless men and women in every conceivable situation and difficulty, has healed countless people in answer to prayer in accordance with James 5 and has miraculously established countless churches in the Devil’s own territory and many other things.
However, when we talk about the context of the sign gifts being used for the church today, we do not see this happening. As we have seen in this study, those sign gifts were made for a specific people (Jews) at a specific time (Pentecost) for specific purposes (to authenticate Jesus as their Messiah, provoke the Jews to jealousy so that they come to believe the gospel and to build the early church).
Today’s sign gifts are nothing more than deceptive miracles that are ecumenical with groups that promote false doctrines (see Eph 5:11-13, 1 Cor 5, 2 Cor 6:14-17), just as the Bible foretold would happen in the last days as many will fall away from the faith and give heed to seducing spirits and will usher in the Anti Christ (1 Tim 4, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). So much emphasis have been placed on signs and wonders that the God’s Word is put in the back seat. Yet, the apostle Paul who wrought many miracles stated that the greatest gift of all is charity and to chase after those rather than temporal sign gifts, which he said will be done away:
1 Corinthians 13 – Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
We are commanded to walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)
- Always conform to God’s Word
- Always come true
- Glorify God first & foremost
- Authenticate God as the only true God
- Authenticate God’s messengers
- Are only done by God and/or through His chosen people, but never done by men relying in their own strength alone
- Are totally based on God’s will alone
- Never override the authority of God’s Word but affirm it
- Doesn’t lose their effectiveness or permanance regardless
- Granted by God alone & on whom He choses
- Never join hands with heresy or people who contradict God’s Word
- Reveal the hardened hearts of men
God’s Word authenticates God’s miracles.
- Doesn’t always conform to God’s Word
- Not always accurate
- Appeal to fleshly, selfish desires
- Attention on the gifts than the gifter, �shift focus to false gods or false christs
- Dismiss God’s messengers, accusing them of being “heretic hunters”
- Can be done by men’s methods & vain imaginations, or by the Devil & his demons.
- Are based on men’s will & desires above God’s will
- Add, subtract or override God’s Word. Can be extra-biblical in nature
- Blame the receiver for not having �enough ‘faith’ when the miracles fail�
- Decided by people without checking� with God
- Are ecumenical despite doctrinal differences�
- Appeal to the hardened hearts of men
God’s Word dismisses deceptive miracles.
John 12:48 – He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
The GREATEST miracle and gift of all..
Salvation of a lost soul. Share the Gospel today.
Romans 1:16 – For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the POWER OF GOD unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Luke 15:10 – Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.