What Are the Sign-Gifts?
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are listed in Romans 12:6–8, 1 Corinthians 12:8–10, 28–30, and Ephesians 4:11. There are 21 different gifts: apostles, prophets, miracles, healings, distinguishing of spirits, prophecy, knowledge, tongues, interpretation of tongues, evangelists, pastors, teaching, exhortation, wisdom, faith, administration, ruling, service, helps, giving, and showing mercy. The gifts are of generally two types: (1) the natural or non-spectacular, and (2) the supernatural or miraculous gifts.
The sign-gifts are the miraculous gifts (cf, Mark 16:17–18). They are often called “signs and wonders” in Scripture (John 4:48, Acts 2:22, Rom 15:19, 2 Cor 12:12, Heb 2:4). There are two types of sign-gifts: (1) Work-signs (eg, healing, demon-casting, raising the dead, and the like), and (2) Word-signs (eg, prophecy, knowledge, and tongues). The Work-signs and Word-signs though distinguishable are inseparable. The demonstration of miracles is always accompanied by the revelation of the mysteries of the Gospel of Christ and of the Kingdom of God (Acts 3:1–26, 19:11, 20).
Are the Sign-Gifts Meant for Every Christian?
The sign-gifts were generally not bestowed on the ordinary Christian but on the Apostles who were special servants of God. The miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were known as apostolic signs. The Apostle Paul said, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Cor 12:12, Heb 2:4). The phrase “signs of an apostle” can be translated “signs belongingto an apostle.” These signs served as indicators. They pointed to the fact that the Apostles were uniquely ordained of God. These signs were specially bestowed upon the Apostles of Jesus Christ to authenticate their ministry of the Word. They were their badges of authority. The Apostles were special messengers of God for they infallibly preached and wrote God’s Word (1 Thess 2:13, 2 Pet 1:20–21, 2 Tim 3:16).
Are There Apostles Today?
God had only appointed 12 Apostles. In the New Testament, they were often identified as “The Twelve” (Mark 3:14, Acts 6:2 cf, Acts 1:20–26). It is a fixed number. While pastor-teachers today receive their appointment from God through man by the laying on of hands (1 Tim 4:14), Apostles receive their appointment directly from God alone (cf, Gal 1:1).
Since the Apostles were special ministers of God, there are seven reasons why we do not and cannot have them today: (1) The Church was founded upon the Apostles (Eph 2:19–20); (2) the Apostles had to be eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 9:1, 1 Cor 15:7–8, Acts 1:21–26); (3) the Apostles were chosen personally by Christ Himself (Matt 10:1–4); (4) the Apostles had absolute authority over the affairs of the Church (Acts 5:1–11, 19:13–17, 2 Cor 13:2–3, Gal 1:8, Jude 17); (5) the Apostles were infallible in their preaching (1 Thess 2:13), and in their writing (Eph 2:20, 2 Pet 1:20–21); (6) the Apostles were authenticated by miraculous signs and wonders (Mark 16:17–20 cf, Acts 2:43, 5:12, 14:3, 15:12, 19:11–12); and (7) the Apostles have an eternal and unique place of honour in God’s kingdom (Rev 21:14). Can anyone today have all the above qualifications? Obviously, none!
What Is the Meaning of Mark 16:17?
If the sign-gifts were meant only for the Apostles, then why did Jesus say that “these signs shall follow them that believe” (Mark 16:17)? Mark 16:17–18 does not teach that every believer would be able to cast out demons, speak with new tongues, heal the sick, take up snakes and drink poison without being harmed. Who were these “believers” that Jesus was talking to? The context clearly indicates that the “believers” were the Eleven—the Apostles (v14). Jesus chided them for being unbelieving. He then challenged them to believe His words. They were commanded to preach the gospel to every creature (v15). And as they do the work of evangelism, they will be given the power to do miracles (vv17–18). Verse 20 is the key to understanding verses 17–18: “And they (ie, the Apostles) went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” The signs were given to confirm or authenticate the ministry of the Apostles.
This fact is corroborated by the Acts of the Apostles: Acts 2:43 reads, “And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles;” Acts 4:33, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus;” and Acts 5:12, “And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people.” The Apostle Paul himself in defence of his apostleship wrote, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Cor 12:12 cf, Acts 14:3, 15:12, 19:11). These signs were specifically signs of an Apostle. And since there are no Apostles today, there are also no such signs today.
What Is the Gift of Miracles?
The gift of miracles is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10 as “the working of miracles” (cf, 1 Cor 12:28–29). The gift of miracles is God’s empowerment upon a person to perform extraordinary acts of wonder that go beyond the laws of nature and normal human experience. The Lord Jesus Christ possessed the power to perform miracles. Peter testified that Jesus was “a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you” (Acts 2:22). In the Gospels, we read of Jesus’ many miracles: His turning of water into wine (John 2:1–12), His calming of the storm on the Sea of Galilee (Matt 8:18, 23–27, Mark 4:35–41, Luke 8:22–25), His feeding of the 5,000 with five barley loaves and two fishes (Matt 14:15–21, Mark 6:35–44, Luke 9:12–17, John 6:3–14), His walking on water (Matt 14:22–33, Mark 6:45–52, John 6:15–21) etc.
The Apostles of Christ too had this supernatural ability to perform miracles. Paul himself said that the miracles were the authenticating marks of their apostleship: “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Cor 12:12). Jesus promised them the gift of miracles in His commission to them before His ascension: “They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them” (Mark 16:18). The Apostle Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake but suffered nothing from it (Acts 28:3–6). Besides this, Paul did many other miracles and wonders among the Gentiles (Acts 15:12).
Can Christians Perform Miracles Today?
Can Christians today perform the miracles that Jesus and the Apostles did? The Bible clearly tells us that the gift of miracles was strictly given to special servants of God for the purpose of authenticating their ministry. Miracles were not common events in the history of Israel and of the Church. God granted this gift of miracles only on three special occasions: In the days of (1) Moses and Joshua (c 1450–1390 BC), (2) Elijah and Elisha (c 860–800 BC), and (3) Christ and His Apostles (c 30–90 AD).
Miracles occurred during these exceptional days of Moses, of the prophets, and of Christ and the Apostles for the purpose of (1) introducing a period of divine revelation (the Old Testament was written in the time of Moses and of the Prophets, and the New Testament was written in the time of Christ and His Apostles), and (2) authenticating the messengers of divine revelation (read Exod 4:1–9 for Moses; 1 Kgs 17:23–24 for Elijah; John 10:24–25, Acts 2:22 for Christ; and 2 Cor 12:12 for the Apostles). God has ceased to reveal Himself in the same way He did in the biblical periods of the Old and New Testament. The Holy Scripture is complete, and none is to add to it (Rev 22:18). Since no more special messengers of divine revelation are sent out by God, it follows that there is no longer any need to authenticate them through miracles.
The gift of miracles has since been withdrawn. This is proven by the words of the early church fathers who testified to its absence. Chrysostom (4th century), for example, said, “Argue not because miracles do not happen now, that they did not happen then... In those times they were profitable, and now they are not... Of miraculous powers, not even a vestige is left.”
Does God Perform Miracles Today?
The God of the Bible is an all-powerful God. Can He intervene in the affairs of man and do something that is out of the ordinary? The answer, of course, is Yes. In times of crisis or danger, the Lord can deliver His people in a miraculous fashion (eg, Acts 12:1–19). In the realm of providence, God works miracles directly from heaven in answer to the prayers of His saints if it is His will (Matt 7:11, Jas 5:16–18). There are no more miracle-workers like the Prophets and Apostles. God is the only Miracle-Worker, and He can work a miracle if He so desires. JK
Are you wondering about the signs and wonders phenomenon that is so prevalent today?
Wonder no more! Read Pastor Jeffrey Khoo’s Charismatism Q&A: Biblical Answers to Frequently Asked Questions on the Charismatic Phenomenon (Singapore: FEBC Press, 2019).
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