27 August 2008

Signs and Wonders

by Frank Turk

Now look: before the torches and the pitchforks come out on either side, read what I posted last time on this topic. If you don't, or if you ignore that I have said that, don't expect to receive a warm welcome and a cup of tea when you comment on this post.

Fair Warning? Ok.

Now, that said, I want to underscore broadly about 30 passages from the OT and the NT about the question of signs and wonders, and you can find the passages I am talking about here. The phrase "signs and wonders" turns up about 30 times in the ESV -- and it is used in two different ways.

In Psa 135:9 and Acts 2:22, for example, the phrase is used to indicate the supernatural and unmistakable work of God which God used to reveal himself. That is: it is closely associated with the act of special revelation -- as in the covenant at Sinai and the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, of the 30 uses listed, all but one uses the phrase to refer to the work of God making special revelation, using His power to make it clear that what was happening was His work.

The exception to that practice is in 2 Thes 2:
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
So in one instance "signs and wonders" are predicted by Paul to describe the work of the "lawless one" (the antichrist) in deceiving those who are perishing.

Which is fine, right? Who wouldn't agree with that? When the antichrist comes, he will deceive those who do not believe. But think about this a second: if those who do not believe are deceived by the antichrist's false signs and wonders, what about the believers?

Paul says this about them:
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.
This is important, so let's make sure we get this straight: the false signs and wonders will deceive those who are unbelievers not just in some intermediate way but in a final and eternal way. The supernatural deceptions of the devil will, in the final account, lead to destruction those who are unbelievers. But in the same way, those signs and wonders will not deceive the believers because, first and foremost, God has chosen to save them. But in chosing to save them, God has given them the truth in the Gospel by which they can discern the false signs and wonders from the revelatory signs and wonders.

And I am sure nobody reading this blog right now is offended by this. But some will take exception when I point out that one advocate of the continuation of signs has said this:
... I want to honor the uniqueness of the apostles—that they are once for all eyewitnesses and authoritative revelatory spokesmen of the living Christ. We have their final revelation in the New Testament and that remains now and always will remain our measuring rod for all doctrine and experience. But now the question is: Do we need to keep the gifts of healings and miracles away from ordinary church members because that was the only way the apostles could authenticate themselves? No. The miracle working power of the apostles was only PART of what authenticated their authority. If the only thing that set the apostles apart as authoritative and true was their signs and wonders, then false prophets could claim the same authority and truth, because Jesus and Paul both tell us that false prophets will do signs and wonders to lead people astray (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; cf. Revelation 13:14; 16:14; 19:20).
Now, I am willing to stipulate that these other passages also say that false signs and wonders will deceive some. What I am wondering is whether or not these passages say that false signs and wonders will deceive those who believe in Christ.

For example, does Mat 24:24 say that the elect -- the true Christian disciples, the one who is saved by Christ -- will be deceived? I think it says, as John Gill writes, "to deceive these [elect] finally and totally, is impossible, as is here suggested; not impossible, considering their own weakness, and the craftiness of deceivers, who, if left to themselves, and the power of such deception, and the working of Satan with all deceivableness of unrighteousness, might easily be seduced; but considering the purposes and promises of God concerning them, the provisions of his grace for them, the security of them in the hands of Christ, and their preservation by the mighty power of God, their final and total deception is not only difficult, but impossible."

So as we wade into the question, again, of what exactly we are talking about, let me point out that a significant flaw of one argument against the cessation of the gifts is that it has a misguided assessment of the purpose and power of divine "signs and wonders".







100 comments:

Johnny Dialectic said...

Looking forward to more....but I'm having a hard time understanding the argument of the one you quoted. If we go on his assumption that there are false signs that could deceive anyone (even the elect), how would the presence of "true" signs be any sort of answer? That, it seems to me, would sow even more confusion. A false teacher heals here, a true teacher heals there. How can we tell the difference?

Wouldn't it be a much better plan to stop all those sign gifts and leave us with the authoritative Word? Isn't this, perhaps, why God stopped them?

DJP said...

Most. Colorful. Post. Ever.

I particularly liked the green and red. Makes me feel all Christmasy.

< /Turklike comment >

Mesa Mike said...

But the Gospel is all about how we can get magical superpowers, isn't it?

Oh, uh...for God's glory, of course, not our own...

witness said...

When I see people deceived and following after those TBN type liars and false prophets (excuse the hard, but valid description) I literally weep. I regularly speak to people who have been fooled and live for the "annointing" that you can buy and I just weep.

But, the truth is there are those who will fall for it and the Bible is clear it won't be God's elect (Mat 24:24; John 10:28-30).

Please note the elect aren't any smarter, but God keeps them.

As much as I would like to push a button and see the TBN hucksters disappear, they have a purpose...

for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. ~1 Corinthians 11:!9(ESV)

So then, are there any true teachers performing signs and wonders?

Frank Turk said...

Witness:

That is a great question.

I expect to answer it eventually, but I am taking uncharacteristically-small steps here because some people think I am a strident person. I am being intentionally unstrident in this series of posts so that people will thing about this stuff a little more slowly and thoroughly this time.

Chad V. said...

Has anyone here ever actually seen a genuine miracle or sign? I don't mean things like "there was a man in our church who had cancer and the whole church prayed and later on he was cured".

God cures people and I do not doubt that God overrides his normal providence from time to time and cures some one who should have had a fatal illness, or should have died from a fatal wound but didn't. That's not at all what the bible means by a "sign". When the apostles performed signs, the dead were raised, the lame were made to walk etc. They personally laid hands on someone and they were immediately and totally cured. Has anyone ever actually witnessed a real sign that is of the same type as either Christ or the apostles performed?

And as Frank pointed out, there will be lying signs which will deceive many. If you had seen a sign, what was the message that came with the sign? If it was not the truth of the gospel the sign is false. Remember, there is real power in false religion.

For my part I believe the scriptures teach that the sign miracles have ceased. There was a point where even the apostle Paul could not heal any more (2 Tim 4:20). Johnny Dialectic makes a good point also, and the seeking after signs is something the scripture warns us against.

DJP said...

Has anyone here ever actually seen a genuine miracle or sign?

No... but I knew a guy once who heard this lady telling about hearing a friend who went to a church where someone told him about a missionary guest speaker who....

Stefan said...

I prefer to remain highly skeptical towards any claims of charism. We see the rampant charlatanry of those whose "ministries" revolve around putative miraculous gifts.

But miracles can happen, through a combination of prayer and intercession, the providence of God, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

As others have pointed out on this blog in the past, in the modern age, they seem to occur in places that are still very much mission fields, where such occurrences further God's kingdom—the Middle East (dreams leading non-believers to Christ) or Southeast Asia (miraculous healings after intercessory prayer), for example.

Or by God's providence, an evangelist has been led by the Holy Spirit to be in the right place at the right time to lead someone to Christ who was about to do something horribly wrong—hold up a store, or join a cult (two personal testimonies I have heard).

The operative difference seems to be that in such cases, the Holy Trinity is working out the redemptive plan of the Father in multitudinous ways, directly on the final recipient of His grace, and without the agency ("middleman," if you will) of someone who claims to have a particular special gift.

Stefan said...

Dan:

I know what you're saying. I am the least credulous person you can imagine. I spent my whole adult life, after all, in a position of guarded skepticism toward the God Who kept insisting on calling me.

But I have heard and read first-hand testimonies of believers, and heard first-hand testimonies of missionaries—as have many of us here, I'm sure. These are testimonies that give God the glory, and the common theme in all of them—come to think of it—is that the dreams, healings, etc. involved were instrumental to bringing someone (one specific person) to Christ.

northWord said...

"What I am wondering is whether or not these passages say that false signs and wonders will deceive those who believe in Christ.

I think it's possible for the elect to be caught off guard (deceived?) but only for a time. Not one sheep will be taken out of the Fathers Hand. We can't know another hearts' standing in Christ, so it's difficult to speculate some of these things.

I think part of the problem, or mis-direction is in the 'definition' of "signs and wonders" - maybe one mans' signs and wonders are another mans' daily mercies, or those occasional special graces He bestows on us every so often that in some way help us either tangibly or mindfully. Those are what I call signs, and wonders. My (our) own salvation is a "wonder" - a miracle.

I personally don't believe anybody should be standing in pulpit or anywhere for that matter "performing" "signs and wonders", as a matter of fact if I get cancer, or whatever, my thoughts (ought to be) not on my healing but how can/will God be gloryfied through this?
Maybe this sounds weird...but I find the thought of some major upheaval in my life exciting, because I know God is planning to do something special, somehow, somewhere. Bring it on I say :)



djp "No... but I knew a guy once who heard this lady telling about hearing a friend who went to a church where someone told him about a missionary guest speaker who....

lol Dan..now that has a familiar ring to it.

Tom Chantry said...

No... but I knew a guy once who heard this lady telling about hearing a friend who went to a church where someone told him about a missionary guest speaker who....

Yep, that's the ubiquitous trifecta:

1. Several Degrees of Separation (So I can't give you a name...)

2. Missionary (May we assume to a remote, tribal culture where no one else has ever gone?)

3. Guest Speaker (I wonder where he's preaching this week?)

Frank Turk said...

I'd like to address Chad's statement/rhetorical question here a second, via Acts 2 -- and someone from the other side might have a counter-example from someplace else in Scripture is the spirit leads them.

In Acts 2, a miracle happens. I mean: who would deny that? It says:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?"


Look: the first thing is that something -supernatural- happens. They start speaking in lanuages that the -spirit- gives them to speak in.

But the second thing that happens is even better -- because when the miracle actually happens people who have no stake in the event notice that something they can't explain has occured. These uneducated Galilleans are talking in every language on Earth -- how can that be?

So something happens and people can't explain it away.

But then here comes the good part:

But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: "Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel”.

That is: Peter stands up and tells them, "this is a fulfillment of prophecy!" And not only that, but he tells them why the prophecy was fulfilled. You can read the rest of Acts 2 to get that as you have time today.

But let's be serious: what happens in Acts 2 is that God does something only God can do, and does it in order to He's the one in charge. Put another way, God uses signs and wonders explicitly to prove that His word will not fail.

There is categorically no equivalent to this in modern charismatic practice. And that, my friends, is where the disjunction between my first post in this series and my ultimate point comes from.

Mesa Mike said...

> There is categorically no
> equivalent to this in modern
> charismatic practice.

Oh, OK.
But my pastor knows that God wants to heal everyone who is sick or crippled. He just doesn't know why, in his 30 years of ministry, that nothing of the sort has ever happened on his watch. But he's faithful, and continues "pressing in." He knows God will bring it about in His time.

So, Frank, you're probably just twisting scripture.

Rick Frueh said...

There is a difference between the "signs and wonders" ceasing due to unbelief, compromise, manipulation, merchandisement, and the overall untrustworthiness of today's church...AND...the Scriptures giving a plain and plausible teaching that did not have to be "contextualized" and nuanced to prove.

No one ever seeing something is not evidence of anything as it pertains to Scriptural truth.

witness said...

There are two points I feel people need to consider:

1. The claim of "signs and wonders" being produced, or any other charismata involved, must be compared to the message that accompanies it. This might seem to be a given, but many people go at it backwards and let the "signs and wonders" validate the message (seemingly any message) instead of the other way around. Quite frankly there is no one out there who is preaching the Gospel as it is presented in the Bible and producing "signs and wonders".

2. Who is getting the glory? I'm sorry, but the TBN folks are perfect examples of someone who clamors to be God. Everything they say and do elevates themselves and puts God (or attempts to) in the back seat. What really gets my goat is when they presume to think this "power" can be exercised, displayed, or even given at their beck and call. I have even seen the supposed display of God's power belittled by Benny Hinn by throwing snowball sized pieces of the Holy Spirit into crowds. Blasphemous!!!

Frank quoted Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit arrived and gave them utterance...

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. ~Acts 2:1-4(ESV)

Does it bother anyone else when the disciples here are always pictured as having little flames of fire on top of their heads? That isn't what happened.

Rick Frueh said...

In Acts 2 3000 sould were saved and yet an entire denomination (Pentecostalism) springs from the miracle of tongues and the souls become an aside. If God had continued to manifest Himself in the same way in Acts the church would relegate God's Word as an aside and in some quarters they actually do that.

Contouring your Christianity to a narrative will reveal some distinct problems.

kisanri said...

Their is probably more people being led astray and/or damaged by teachers who is "just" teaching whitout appeal to signs and wonders.

Nothing helpfull in this debate seems to follow from that!

DJP said...

FrankThere is categorically no equivalent to this in modern charismatic practice

Just thought it bore repeating.

You know, the part where he said, "There is categorically no equivalent to this in modern charismatic practice."

witness said...

kisanri said...
Their is probably more people being led astray and/or damaged by teachers who is "just" teaching whitout appeal to signs and wonders.

Nothing helpfull in this debate seems to follow from that!


So, kisanri because of your estimation of the number of people who are being led to hell by lying signs and wonders, we shold just let it go? Really?

This is how small it is from TBN:

TBN is now the world's largest Christian television network. Across America and around the world TBN is carried by TV stations and cable systems to millions of homes. As a matter of fact, TBN is featured on over 5,000 television stations, 33 satellites, the Internet and thousands of cable systems around the world. And the number continues to grow!

That equals millions of people all over the world. So there is nothing helpful about this discourse? How many people being led to hell by TBN and their like before you think we should reopen this thread?

Strong Tower said...

That is: Peter stands up and tells them, "this is a fulfillment of prophecy!" And not only that, but he tells them why the prophecy was fulfilled...God does something only God can do, and does it in order to He's the one in charge. Put another way, God uses signs and wonders explicitly to prove that His word will not fail.


Give that man a cupie doll.

The confirmation was unique to the prophecy, that is, the Word went first to which Peter points, and does what it was intended to do, Isaiah 55. This is along the lines of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. It confirmed what was already true of God's soveriegnty in Abraham's life. Just as we have elsewhere in Acts, there are those in the crowd who remain unconvinced and are hardened because of what they see, rather pharaohnic. Now, as Cent says if the signs harden some and confirm others, whether they are worked by true or false believers, then there is something beyond convincification in the wonders. They really point out, and only to believers, that God is faithful to his Word that has already saved them, Isaiah 44:22.

Does it bother anyone else when the disciples here are always pictured as having little flames of fire on top of their heads? No more than having Jesus being glorified before the Disciples or Thomas and the holes. It might be that the burning bush was really, and not just sorta a shiny thingy like in the Heston movie...the river sure looked like real blood to me...

It is just me... but what does it matter? Does it matter that Jesus was caught up like superman, or that the cloud enveloped him and he was taken up? Whether in the body or out, Paul said, I don't know, but that is really immaterial. The fact is something wonderful happened not humanly splanable. I kinda like the image of tongues of fire that divided above them as if it were the fire of God's anointing setting them apart as lampstands of his presence. I don't know, it is just me I guess I am just partial to pyro.

Chad V. said...

Frank

That's a great observation and I think you've interpreted the scripture accurately.

Let me add also that 1 Cor 12-13 Paul addresses the whole issue of signs and points out that Christian charity is to be desired above all else, he chides those who seek after signs. He also says in chapter 13 verses 8-11 that the signs will be done away with when the perfect comes. I believe that the perfect is the complete revelation of the word of God, the canon of scripture which we have. He concludes with the teaching that what will remain is faith, hope and love.

Many who believe in the continuation of gifts believe that this speaks of the eternal state, but this cannot be. We are told that what will remain when the gifts have ceased in faith, hope and love. Those three can only exist in the present state. In the eternal state we will only have love, faith and hope will no longer be needed.

The bible defines faith as the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen(Heb 11:1). In the eternal state we will have that which we hope for, our hope will be fulfilled and we will see our Savior as he is. Faith and hope by definition will not remain but rather only love. Therefore I believe that 1 Cor 13 speaks clearly of the present state.

Rick Frueh said...

"He also says in chapter 13 verses 8-11 that the signs will be done away with when the perfect comes. I believe that the perfect is the complete revelation of the word of God, the canon of scripture which we have."

Are there any Scriptures that substantiate your view? Paul seems to imply that we "know in part" and we "see through a glass darkly", but "then face to face". I am not sure how those verses alone, without other Scriptural revelations, can be made to say what you have said.

Paul seems to be saying that all the gifts constitute a part of the revelation, but that love should be above the gifts because it will not ever be done away with.

Stefan said...

Just to be clear, the events I'm talking about are more in line with Chad's or Northword's definitions—happenstance occurrences that seem to be the providential work of God—than the sort of "mighty hand and outstretched arm" miracles we read of in the Bible.

And I would not for a moment defend anyone who makes a profession of "healing" or "prophecy" or "tongues." Those who claim modern-day "manifestations" of these "gifts" seem to be more lupine than ovine.

kisanri said...

Dear Witness the 'that' in my last sentence was referring to the preceding sentence, not this whole discourse.

I don't think you should "let it go" at all.

Strong Tower said...

O Vine, you shalt be my pap and stay until your hand pluck me away.

lawrence said...

Chad v said

"Has anyone here ever seen a genuine miracle or sign?"

Yes. At least I thought so. But now I must admit that now I'm a little bit confused by your definition of a miracle. Someone who can't walk suddenly being able to walk IS a miracle, but someone getting shot fatally but not dying IS NOT a miracle (sorry for the double negative)? Interesting logic...someone who is blind one day and can see perfectly the next IS a miracle but someone who has a terminal illness one day and is completely healed the next IS NOT a miracle...can you help me out as to what the difference is? Or do you just mean that in order for something to be a "sign or wonder" there has to be a direct equivalent to it in Scripture?

philness said...

Frank,

Who said that green part?

DJP said...

Al Gore.

(Ba-dum bum)

lawrence said...

Also, chad v, although I disagree w/ your interpretation of 1 corinthians, I respect it, and lots of men smarter then me hold a different interpretation of it then what I do.

There's been a lot of debate on the Pyro's about that passage, and I don't really want to keep going back and forth on it, but one small point. You said Paul "chides the Corinthians for seeking after signs." Actually, it seems to me like Paul tells them to eagerly desire the Spiritual gifts, wants them all to speak in tongues, and tells them not to forbid the use of tongues, to name just a few.

Paul does seem to "chide" them for their arrogance in their use of the signs (the body analogy) but I'm not tracking w/ you on saying he chides them for seeking after them at all.

philness said...

DJP,

lol. Now that would indeed be a miracle.

Frank Turk said...

philness:

Google it and it'll come up. I'm not going after anyone here and I avoid naming a person because that segment of the blogosphere is offended when we say "[person's name] is wrong" rather than "I take exception with this interpretation".

So I'm not going there.

northWord said...

"who said the green part?"

I think it was this bad boy :)

philness said...

Frank,

Okay. Its just I'm having trouble digesting that green part.

Rick Frueh said...

"I avoid naming a person because that segment of the blogosphere is offended when we say "[person's name] is wrong"

That is a problem in and of itself. Not your graciousness, but a "segment" that is offended when their "leader" is disputed.

donsands said...

Good post. Good comments. And nice video of John "Bad' Piper.

Here's a quote from James M. Boice when he was dying of cancer to his beloved congregation.

"A
relevant question, I guess, when you pray is pray for what?
Should you pray for a miracle? Well, you're free to do that,
of course. My general impression is that the God who is
able to do miracles--and He certainly can--is also able to
keep you from getting the problem in the first place. So
although miracles do happen, they're rare by definition. A
miracle has to be an unusual thing. I think it's far more
profitable to pray for wisdom for the doctors. Doctors have
a great deal of experience, of course, in their expertise, but
they're not omniscient--they do make mistakes--and then
also for the effectiveness of the treatment. Sometimes it
does very well and sometimes not so well, and that's
certainly a legitimate thing to pray for. Above all, I would
say pray for the glory of God. If you think of God glorifying
Himself in history and you say, where in all of history has
God most glorified Himself? He did it at the cross of Jesus
Christ, and it wasn't by delivering Jesus from the cross,
though He could have. Jesus said, "Don't you think I could
call down from my Father ten legions of angels for my
defense?" But He didn't do that. And yet that¹s where God
is most glorified."

Frank Turk said...

Rick:

I don't think it's about their "leader". I think it's about an unhealthy, unbiblical, unhelpful obsession with the virtue "civility".

See: NOW the fur is gonna fly ...

Rick Frueh said...

Christian civility - a curious concept that probably will not catch on. :)

Rob Hughes said...

[i]Has anyone here ever actually seen a genuine miracle or sign?

No... but I knew a guy once who heard this lady telling about hearing a friend who went to a church where someone told him about a missionary guest speaker who....[/i]

Hey I know this post is all serious and stuff, and so it should be, but Dan, that is just too funny!!!

Pitbull78 said...

You mean to tell me Peter Popoff's healing spring water won't miraculously cause me to win the lottery all to the glory of God?

Pitbull78 said...
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Pitbull78 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DJP said...

Won't necessarily.

Pitbull78 said...

sorry everyone, i am new to this (leaving comments that is) and accidently posted my comment 3 times.

but i do want to say that i really appreciate phil, dan and frank for the time you all take to educate and edify.

DJP said...

No worries. Phil usually comments 5 or 6 times, then cries himself to sleep. Frank and I do clean-up. It's no problem.

Rick Frueh said...

The question is if signs and wonders are still available today, will God do them without any human conjuring them up? Why is it that what purports to be signs and wonders always comes through some man who spends much theatrics to call them into existence?

The prison doors flew open and Paul wasn't even believing they would or praying for that. Now that is an authentic prison ministry!!

northWord said...

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’" Mat 7:22
(lest we forget)
~

Rick - "leader"? heheheh. sigh. hmm, I can't decide if I'm more a Piper partisan or Mac snob. But seriously, I adore them both.

anyway,
I may have been included "that segment", but to be sure; I (for one) am not "offended" by Frank's assesment/disagreement of Piper's theological stance's. What I (mildly) took issue with was his calling-out of Piper as some sort of main playa in the Charismatic gang who neglected to fire the warning shots on Todd Bently, and not only that, that he did it knowingly - as if to take a wait-and-see-if-this-is-da-stuff approach before "commenting" on it. It was that summation that baffled me.

My take was that likely for Piper, Bentley was hardly worth mentioning.

I doubt he knew much about him until recently, even if he did know early on, I mean c'mon, TB was so over the top...Piper's target audience (or his "followers" if you will ;p
hardly needed to be informed/warned/whatever. As for the rest, well there info a-plenty to be had.

There's a palpable distinction between saying someone is "wrong" and simply disagreeing with them.
Just an observation.

witness said...

Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. ~Acts 2:12-15

I believe this passage shows where "signs and wonders" eventually and inevitably lead unbelievers and weak/immature Christians alike. People clamoring after the shadow of the person who is producing the miracle or even worshipping the tool through which God wields His power.

This is why the TBN folks make such a show of their miracle producing prowess so there is no confusion about who is producing their "signs and wonders" (tongue firmly in cheek).

As to Rick's question:

"The question is if signs and wonders are still available today, will God do them without any human conjuring them up?"

I ask, do we need them? I have seen God's awesome power in the salvation of an undeserving, wretched sinner such as I. Why do we need any more than that?

Michael said...

Chad wrote: "...I do not doubt that God overrides his normal providence from time to time and cures some one..."

This might just be an unintentional "slip of the fingers on the keyboard", but are you suggesting by this that God had one thing in mind, then changed His mind and did something else instead?

That seems somewhat "Un-Reformed", although you may mean something by the word "providence" other than God's expressed power sustaining and guiding human destiny.

Chad V. said...

Michael

Not at all, that in no way suggests that God changed his mind. Under God's normal providence a gun shot to the head is typically fatal, however there are times when a person survives such an injury as that should have killed him. So certainly God is the one who directs and ordains all things, but somethings don't occur as we would expect. Clearly it is by the grace of God that someone survives an otherwise fatal injury. We say "that's a miralce" and I suppose rightly so.

A sign miracle on the other hand is performed through a person, Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses etc. Both Paul and Elijah raised the dead. Paul healed, Christ gave sight to the blind, Moses parted the Red Sea and drew water from a rock etc. That is what the bible means by a sign or a sign miracle. Now, there is absolutely no one walking around healing the sick and raising the dead and giving sight to the blind.

Anyone who would argue that the gifts continue must also argue that the nature of the gifts have changed some what since no one at all is performing miracles as the Apostles did and there is no scriptural evidence at all to suggest that the gifts would ever change, only that they would cease.

Mr Wizzard said...

Chad V wrote:
He also says in chapter 13 verses 8-11 that the signs will be done away with when the perfect comes. I believe that the perfect is the complete revelation of the word of God, the canon of scripture which we have.

I believe MacArthur disagrees with you on this point. He reasons in his commentary that prophecy and knowledge will still be present in the future kingdom (Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17, Rev 11:3), so the perfect can't be the completion of scripture. I'm not saying they're active presently, but not discounted by 1 Cor 13:10. Languages, on the other hand, are not mentioned in the same fashion as persisting until the perfect.

Chad V. said...

rick frueh

The meaning of "the perfect" is difficult to nail down I admit, but there isn't any real evidence to suggest that the perfect is not the canon of scripture either. Especially if we interpret the passage from the understanding that Paul says that the signs will cease but only faith, hope and love will abide. Even if "the perfect" is something other than the canon of scripture then you are still left with the fact that the gifts will cease and only faith, hope and love will remain.

As I already pointed out faith and hope are things which we have only in the present temporal state. They are not necessary in the eternal state since we will finally have the object of our faith in all His fullness and our hope will be fulfilled. Therefore, what ever the perfect is, the gifts will have ceased and you can't ignore the fact that not even Paul could heal himself or any one else after a time.

NothingNewUnderTheSun said...

"The only person who is a worse liar than a faith healer is his patient." - Abraham Lincoln

Susan said...

Right before I read Witness's comment about those "TBN hucksters", I remembered something that a good friend of mine who decried Hinn's healing claims had asked rhetorically:

If Hinn is for real, why doesn't he go into hospitals, visit patients on their sickbeds and heal them there? Why does he make people pay to attend his healing sessions?

I agree with my friend. While I don't completely rule out the fact that sometimes people do experience God's wonders in healing, these wonders don't happen the way that Hinn (and other self-styled faith healers) claim they do. It's amazing how people can be so easily fooled....

NothingNewUnderTheSun said...

You don't have to go far if you're looking for magical signs and wonders from false teachers.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."-Arthur C. Clarke

Chad V. said...

mr wizzard

With all due respect to Dr. MacArthur and his faithfulness, as an amillenialist I don't agree with Dr. MacArthur's eschatology any how.

I don't have access to his commentaries at the moment so assuming that you've cited them accurately what Dr. MacArthur would be suggesting that the miracles of prophecy and will be present in the future kingdom, but not presently. Where does the scripture teach that they are only on hold until the kingdom age? Correct me if I'm wrong but I do not believe that Dr. MacArthur believes that they are presently being exercised.

To suggest that these gifts will return during the kingdom age suggests something else as well, that the Scripture is not the complete revelation of God but there is still more coming in the future. It would be a denial of Sola Scriptura wouldn't it? Or at least it suggests that the canon is not in fact closed. I do not believe that would be his intent but such a chain of reasoning leaves us with that conclusion.

Without trying to drive the discussion into another topic the idea of a a kingdom age, especially as it is taught by Dispensationalism would render much of the New Testament meaningless and new commands would be needed. For example, the book of Hebrews commands the Jewish Christians to stop performing the sacrifices since they are only a type and shadow of Christ who has already come an finished the redemption of His people. It warns that to go back to the types would be a rejection of Christ. Now if the sacrifices were to continue in a memorial sense as many Dispensational suggest then new commandments would be needed to override the teaching of the book of Hebrews on that point. So it would seem that Dr. MacArthur's eschatology some what forces him to the interpretation he gives.

I'm not an exegete as Dr. MacArthur is but it seems to me that the idea that the gifts are on hold presently and continue later is not arrived at by exegesis of the text but rather by the influence of his view of the kingdom. That's just me doing the best I can with the information I've been given.

I don't mean to put words into Dr. MacArthur's mouth and I have the utmost respect for him, I'm just commenting on what you have said regarding the citation of his commentary.

Mike Riccardi said...

"Faith healer"...

Those words make me cringe, because neither of them apply to the person they're supposedly describing.

A while ago, a young father of 3 in our church was out-of-the-blue diagnosed with stomach cancer. He had tried tons of things, including chemo/radiation, removal of his stomach, going to special cancer hospitals... the whole nine.

The whole time through this (I think it was about a 2-year battle... and a rough battle), he had been very outspoken about God being good and knowing what was best. It was nice, refreshing, convicting, and ministering to see his faith even in the face of such great suffering.

Then one day the church sent an email forwarded form him about how he had gone to this "faith healer" and how he was now healed. He could "feel" his platelet count rising. I read that and just dropped my head. Not because I thought I might be wrong about my cessationism, but because I knew I wasn't wrong, and for him to hold out faith that he was magically healed only held disaster, heartache, and confusion ahead for him and his family.

His next trip to the doctor showed that his platelet count, already next to nothing, not only had not risen, but had decreased even further. He blogged about the results, and among other things said something to the effect of, "What happened to me, then, in [city where the 'healing' took place]? What was the peace I felt? Who was this 'faith healer'?"

It was heartbreaking. He and his whole family believed that this faith healer was their way out of his life-threatening cancer, that would eventually take him from his wife and three young children (oldest in 2nd grade now). And all I could think about was what could be running through the 'faith healer's' mind, where she got off selling hope to naively hopeful and yet helpless people, and doing it in the name of God.

I'll be quite honest. It made me wanna knock her out. Maybe I should have asked Bentley to "kick her in the stomach." But Scripture quickly rebuked me, and reminded me that I'm a happy calvinist, and that God's vengeance would be much worse than mine, or Bentley's.

The story does have a happy ending though. That instant proved to be almost a turning point in this man's thinking about God. Just about right after that time, he became almost entirely unconcerned about whether he'd be healed, and almost entirely concerned about whether God was being glorified in the way he was suffering. You saw it. It stopped being about him and whether he would get healed, and started being about God and whether He'd get what He was worthy of from even such a tragedy. That ministered to me much more than anything else he'd ever said. In the hospice room, a couple of weeks before he died, he said with a whisper (that's all the strength he had at the time) that he'd gladly take his cancer again, since he knew God meant to glorify Himself in it.

That is faith.

That is healing.

To die is gain.

Rick Frueh said...

chad - I appreciate your position. But if the word perfect refers to the coming world, then the gifts still remain today. The divisions of the gifts are man made and we are left with all or nothing. It would seem curious that God would allow the gifts to cease when the Scriptures were complete, but include the description and operation of those gifts in the very Scriptures that usher in their ceasing.

Why give direction and correction about those gifts in at least two epistles if they mean nothing and are essentially historic? The 13th chapter of I Corinthians is meant to elevate love, not as a doctrinal teaching of cessationism.

One man's opinion without tears.

northWord said...

Donsands -what a testimony of faith this James Boiyce had! Of just letting God be God.

One thing that reminded me of is providence. Providence is what already is, done deal, while we scramble about down here trying to decide how to pray, for what to pray, what to look for, how to reconcile what seems like un-answered prayer...we look to man instead (or it is shoved in our faces) and see a "miracle" here or there, a "prophecy" come true and we want that for ourselves. Generally we are a spoiled, gotta-have-it-now people, I think that sometimes muddies the clearer, true vision.
~

When the apostles were given power to heal and perform miracles it was within the boundaries of the Holy Spirit to act and to will as God chose for His own purposes. They didn't have free-reign on whom they may wish to heal, as we know infirmities among some persisted. (Timothy - stomach; Paul-?)

God says He will have mercy on whom He wishes and harden whom He hardens, Rom 9:18 and there's Job, he didn't (by carnal thinking) "deserve" what he got but God used him to show what standard of faith is possible, and even expected of us. That was certainly a tough call for Job, but God knew he could handle it and He'd be glorified through it, he is still being glorified by it today.

I try to view things from the perspective of this: the only miracle that I'm impressed with happened at my own salvation, and anything else (like breathing) is a mercy.
~

What a story, Mike R.! I dropped my head when you did there, and smiled at the wonderful ending. It reminded me of Justin Peters' story, sort of. Your friend may benefit from checking out his website (if he hasn't already).
http://www.justinpeters.org/

Chad V. said...

mr wizzard
Might I suggest that the fact that Paul does not list prophecy and knowledge when he says that the signs will cease is no indication that they will continue. Paul often gave partial lists to represent the whole in his epistles. The fact that he was just referring to signs shows I believe that the few examples he gives refers to all of the sign gifts. He gives an abbreviated list of signs in liue of the complete and exhaustive list.

He dose this in 1 Cor 6 :9-10 when he says, "Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." Paul has not given an exhaustive list of sin and not every sin is listed, but surely Paul does not mean to exclude the sins he has not mentioned specifically.

Mr Wizzard said...

Chad V

Where do I begin?
I'll start with one major assumption. Just because MacArthur asserts that because in Joel, Acts, and Revelation it speaks of prophecy in the future kingdom (which in my opinion will be necessary as to fulfill said prophecy as an indication to believers at the appropriate time), it doesnt mean that it has to be active up until then. Just because scripture says something will happen at a certain time, doesnt mean it has to happen on any regular basis until then! Thats a point of exegesis; it doesnt infer on itself other than what it explicitly states.

Its not that these gifts will return (as if having been revoked) the way I see it more of reuse (having been out of use).

I believe the rest of your post stems from these assumptions.

You don't really need the rest of the commentary to look up Joel 2:28, Acts 2:17, and Revelation 11:3, just a mouse ;)

After previewing the above, I saw your additional comment to which I will respond here. The indication they will continue (remain?) until the perfect is in the language. I will not pretend to know greek here, so I will have to leave that up to the scrutiny of others, but from what I read, the language infers knowledge and prophecy will remain up until the point of the perfect, contrasted with languages which will have already ceased.

Pitbull78 said...

Speaking of Benny Hinn...
did anyone ever see the time Hinn slew this woman in the "Spirit" and as she fell down her skirt happened to come up pretty high. In a frantic panic, yet obviously remembering that she is supposed to be Spirit slain, you could see the women peek open her eyes ever so slightly, so that she could, as secretly as possible, pull her skirt back down to a respectable position.

Rick Frueh said...

"she is supposed to be Spirit slain, you could see the women peek open her eyes ever so slightly, so that she could, as secretly as possible, pull her skirt back down to a respectable position."

That was the gift of modesty.

candyinsierras said...

Now come on you guys. How can you say that God does not perform miracles? Just look at Jan Crouch. Gravity has not affected her body at all. She has no wrinkles, and no one can measure the width and length and depth and height of her hair. Wouldn't that qualify as a miracle?


BTW: I stay out of the cessationist/continualist conversation most of the time these days except for end of the schoolday stupid comments.

Chad V. said...

mr wizzard

Out of use? The only way that could possibly be a tenable position is if the gifts were available to us for our use but we simply neglected to use them. No, I believe that they are not available, they have been revoked and according to our discussion it would in your view have to be a temporary revocation until the coming of the kingdom age.

Since our since we disagree on our eschatology I do not think it wise for us to continue on this course lest we draw ourselves into a debate over Pre-trib/Premill vs. Amillenial eschatology since an agreement on eschatology is going to be necessary for us to see eye to eye on this point.

Mr Wizzard said...

Chad V

I still don't see why the gifts have to be "available to anyone" for them to be considered not revoked. Just because we don't see them used for XYZ years doesn't really mean they've been revoked, does it? I'd agree they're revoked if the Word says they're revoked. Our perceived timeline is insignificant when it comes to God's plan.

I guess what I'm getting at is, what would your position be of Joel 2:28, the refrain in Acts 2:17, and Revelation 11:3? Not to nag, but i've mentioned them several times, and you havent even addressed them. Rather than conjecture to our own 'ology about what we feel the way things should be, shouldn't we rather focus on the scripture?

Chad V. said...

mr wizzard

I didn't mean to ignore your references to those passages, it's just that if we go down that road it opens up a potentially enormous discussion. But if the Frank will permit it I'll comment on Rev 11:3.

A lot of this is going to be in how we view the book of Revelation. If you wish you can read more about the details of how we amiller's approach this in this article of mine here.

According to the interpretation of Rev 11:3 that you propose you assume that these two witnesses will be two actual people during the tribulation period. In fact it is the opinion of many who hold that view that these two witnesses will be Enoch and Elijah since they never died. That really isn't tenable for two reason, 1 the text never names the two witnesses and two not every one will die, even we amillers understand that when the Lord returns those who are alive at his coming will not die but rather be caught up to meet him in the air. There is no reason that Enoch and Elijah must suffer death if those who are alive at the Lord's return don't have to. So this would be the typical Pretrib interpretation citing the fact that you seek to interpret the bible literally. Well it is my contention that such an interpretation is in fact not accurate nor is it quite literal for the following reason.

In order to interpret something literally it must be interpreted according to it's normal grammatical and historical context accounting even for literary genre. For example, if we go some of the poetic passages we understand that since poetry is use allegory and simile and other devices will be heavy use and thus when we see that when the psalmist says "my soul pants for you" Ps 42:1 we understand that the author means to express the strong desire of his soul for God but not that our souls actually pant like a deer does when it is thirsty. We understand imagery and symbolism when we see it. On this I'm sure we are agreed.

Now, on to the Revelation. The book of Revelation is apocalyptic literature. That is an actual literary genre heavily in use even at the time of John. This literary genre relies heavily on symbolism and the book is full of it. None of us thinks after reading Revelation that Jesus has seven eyes. We understand that is symbolism. Likewise most of what is revealed in the book of Revelation is based heavily on symbolism in the Old Testament. If you click on the link I provided you'll see that I deal with this concept in a bit more detail and I think I even cite Rev 11:3 as an example.

So back to Old Testament symbolism. I think Rev 11:3 describes the credible testimony of the church as it proclaims the gospel under the persecutions of the present age. Think about this, what is the Old Testament test for credible testimony? The answer is two or more witnesses. Do you see the symbolism?

If you think that this is too fanciful then consider the passage about the dragon rising out of the sea. None of us believes that Godzilla is going to come up out of the ocean. We all know that that passage symbolizes something besides a big dragon.

So for what ever it's worth, that is my understanding of Rev 11:3.

If you are more curious about this might I suggest William Hendricksen's More than Conquerors. It is a good commentary on the book of Revelation from the Amill perspective.

Mr Wizzard said...

Chad V

First of all, thank you for your willingness to continue this discussion with me. I'm just looking to learn more and grow in my knowledge as I exercise my understanding.

I agree, of course, that literary devices are a part of language, and are used heavily throughout the Bible. I also contend, however, that we must use caution when comparing one area to another, as we know that different sections even within the same writings, paragraphs even, change their style in order to portray something different.

From your post, I gather that your interpretation of Revelation 11:3
And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.
is this:
I think Rev 11:3 describes the credible testimony of the church as it proclaims the gospel under the persecutions of the present age.

I'm usually pretty good at finding parallelisms, but this one is a stretch for me. Perhaps you could help me out and draw some lines to connect the dots? What words are you using to draw your interpretations? Are you reading some subtext I do not see? I see how you connect the Old Testament test for two prophecies to this passage, however I do not see that in your interpretation. Clearly I'm missing something! If John is talking about two churches, why mention the sackcloth? Why mention 42 months here if he meant it in such a generic fashion?

As for your link. I'll take a full look at it shortly, however a textual search didn't reveal any reference to this passage.

Any take on Joel 2:28 and its refrain in Acts 2:17 ?

Chad V. said...

mr wizzard

Not two churches, just the church as a whole during the present age. Two witnesses represent credible testimony or truth. Why sack cloth you ask. Sack cloth represents repentance and humility, that's why it applies to the church.

I think further discussion on this is definitely off topic I think we've pushed rule 3 to it's breaking point so I think we should refrain from anymore discussion on this topic. Our hosts have been most patient with us.

Chad V. said...

mr wizard

Since Joel 2:28 directly relates to the topic at hand I'll comment.

Joel 2:28 was fulfilled in Acts 2:17. Why go any further with it? I don't see how Joel 2:28 can be applied to the future kingdom age. Peter cites it to the events happening in his time. There is no reason to apply it to the future kingdom age.

Mr Wizzard said...

Indeed they have. I keep waiting for a smiting ;) I know Cent was trying to take this topic slow and steady, so we may have jumped the gun on that.

However, the core of this discussion is in fact cessation/continuation and how it is canonically supported, as it stems from the MacArthur commentary on 1 Cor 13:10.

If anyone else (including moderators) would like to step in and refute/silence our points of contention (or our discussion altogether), please feel free.

As for Joel 2:28 and Acts 2:17, the way I understood it was not that Acts 2 was fulfilling Joel 2:28, but it was still referring to the "end of days".

Chad V. said...

If we are really nice to Frank perhaps he will refrain from sending the Green Lantern to blow us back to the time of the Patriarchs with his power ring. :-)

Frank Turk said...

Yeah, I haven't even gotten to 1 Cor yet, and I haven't cited or borrowed from Dr. MacArthur's commentaries at all.

So far what I have said is that there is far more in common between the two views than there is disagreement, and that one leading proponent of the continualist view makes, in my opinion, one very significant error in evaluating a key claim of the cessationist position.

The question of what Paul is doing in 1 Cor 12-13-14 (btw, that's the scope of the question; narrowing only to 1 Cor 13 or 1 Cor 14 slices out gigantic portions of context) is on-topic, but has no direct bearing on the immediate question -- which is whether or not God establishes His word by "signs and wonders".

So you can talk about whatever it is you're talking about here until I close the comments down, but you're not talking about my post: you're talking about a different aspect of the argument for continualism which has no bearing on the point I am making here.

Mr Wizzard said...

So you can talk about whatever it is you're talking about here until I close the comments down, but you're not talking about my post: you're talking about a different aspect of the argument for continualism which has no bearing on the point I am making here.

For that I apologize. I was following the comments, and saw a post on 1 Cor 13:8-11 that confused me, so I looked it up and posted.

Humble apologies for getting ahead :)

blackreformingkid said...

I adopted full cessationism a year ago, because all the instances where I saw people doing "signs and wonders" were exclusively in situations where false doctrine was preached and the masses mislead.

I agree with johnny dialectic's conclusion: the sign gifts are meaningless for today as we now have the totality of God's Word

Chad V. said...

Frank

So the topic is supposed to be; "and that one leading proponent of the continualist view makes, in my opinion, one very significant error in evaluating a key claim of the cessationist position."

So I assume that this statement Do we need to keep the gifts of healings and miracles away from ordinary church members because that was the only way the apostles could authenticate themselves? No. The miracle working power of the apostles was only PART of what authenticated their authority. must be what you are referring to.

In that case, one fatal flaw in this statement is the assumption that we can actually keep the spiritual gifts from ordinary church members. If they were still in existence no one could actually keep someone from having them.

If you mean that the fatal flaw was that this person that the miracles was only part of the apostles authority then I would have to agree with this person and not with you. When Paul's authority was questioned he appealed to more than the fact that he performed signs so this person's statement here isn't entirely untrue.

Would you tell me what you think this fatal flaw is. I guess I'm not seeing it this morning, I'm still on my first cup of coffee.

David Sheldon said...

Might I suggest that when it comes to the issue of cessationism versus continuationism the first priority is not "spiritual" eyes but "physical" eyes. What has anyone actually SEEN since the apostles and the canon have been closed? Has anyone SEEN the same things that occurred in the same frequency and same intensity as what happened BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD through the Apostles? Answer: NO, a thousand times no. It is incredibly observable with our physical eyes. THE SPIRIT STOPPED DOING WHAT HE WAS DOING! HE HIMSELF STOPPED. No one forced Him, no one didn't believe or disbelieve. He simply did not attest in the same way. Period. It is observable in history because the Spirit working in post-Biblical history did not do the same things we SEE that He did in the Scripture. Blogs and Books, etc. all confirm through all the things shared this fact - even while we are discussing the issue!!! (Pay attention) Now, Lord, help me to have spiritual eyes to see what these text might mean without forgetting these observable FACTS! And help me be gracious with all my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus who might have set aside their physical eyes for some "spiritual" reason.

Mesa Mike said...

> Has anyone SEEN the same things
> that occurred ...
> through the Apostles?

I know that's a rhetorical question, but some people will answer YES.

After all, my neighbor's pastor knows someone who read on a website somewhere about the numerous "documented" healings and even resurrections that happened at Lakeland.

Or a missionary relating something similar happening in deepest darkest Africa.

Or whatever.

Rick Frueh said...

So many of the comments are "Since we do not see them today they must have ceased". Why is it that those who are unmoveably tethered to sola scriptura are willing to base this doctrine on visual evidence and notScripture? Based upon that reasoning a Buddhist with a changed life could mean he was saved if we base our view on visual evidence.

Todd Bentley's crowd were convinced by visula evidence as well. I still contend that in my opinion the Scriptures do not provide anything near clear and convincing teaching concerning cessionalism.

Chad V. said...

Rick Frueh

Not at all, I don't think any one is saying that and that wasn't the point that I initially raised. Most continualists insist that the signs are still for today, yet they've never really seen one. I've laid out my case for why they don't exist from scripture.

Frank has already rightly observed that nothing on the same order as what was done through either Christ or the Apostles has ever been observed in the present day. The signs they performed were visible, obvious and so dramatic and drastic and public that they could not be denied,even by Christ's opponents. By contrast what are claimed to be signs today are unverifiable and do not equal in any way shape or form the works that are told of in Scripture.

Pitbull78 said...

Todd Bentley's crowd saw no visual evidence of any miracles to be convinced. Pushing people over as they convulse or pretending to throw some hadouken Holy Spirit fireball into the audience is anything but visual evidence of the miraculous, and this hysteria should never be compared to rational and logical observations that there has not been one single credible real sign actually preformed since Christ and the Apostles. Furthermore, as others have mentioned, what purpose would a sign and wonder hold in our time era, since we know from Scripture that God used those signs to validate those whom through He was revealing His Word (Hebrews 2:3-4). Since the Word is now completed and has been once for all handed down to the Saints, we need then to be contending earnestly for the faith.

Pitbull78 said...

By the way, did anyone happen to catch my "Street Fighter" reference?
ya know...hadouken!
Ryu...anyone? anyone?

Chad V. said...

Pitbull 78

Exactomundo!!!!

And nope, I;m built too low to the ground, the Street Fighter reference went right over my head.

Stefan said...

The problem seems to be that cessationism (and I am a cessationist, with the proviso that God can do whatever He pleases, whenever He pleases) is based on empirical evidence.

I agree that the "sign gifts" ceased with the end of the Apostolic age, and this is based on empirical observation, since nowhere even in church history are the sorts of miracles attested to in the Gospels and Acts recorded as having happened any time after the first century. (But I assert that God has and does draw some of His lost sheep to Him through dreams, visions, strange "coincidences" and the like—always reinforced, however, by preaching and hearing of the Gospel. But we're not talking "signs and wonders" as such.)

BUT the texts used to back up our claim that the sign gifts have ceased are NOT black and white. If 1 Corinthians 13:10 and Hebrews 2:3-4 are the best we have to go on, that isn't much. In fact, between those two texts, Hebrews 2:3-4 is the stronger argument for cessation (thanks, pitbull78) than 1 Corinthians 13:10, the latter of which really comes down to how one defines "the perfect."

On the latter—without regard to the overall argument of whether the sign gifts have ceased or not—to my posttrib premill mind, a plain reading of 1 Corinthians 13 could suggest that Paul is referring to the coming Kingdom, or the new Heaven and new Earth. John Gill (who had a different eschatology, I believe) writes that Paul is referring to the General Resurrection. ...And while we can argue that prophecies and tongues have ceased, what about knowledge?

Chad V. said...

Stefan
Could you define knowledge as you see it in this context?

Stefan said...

Well, the thing is I don't know how to define it. I don't know what Paul meant by it.

If it is some kind of special, revelatory, prophetical knowledge, then we can argue that it, too, has already passed away.

If it is general knowledge of the Gospel, of the doctrines of Grace, of what Christ has done on the Cross, then it has plainly not passed away.

Chad V. said...

stefan

If your second definition is correct then that's just basic knowledge Christianity. That can't be what Paul means because he says that not all have all the gifts but the one gift all has is love. Now if knowledge were just a basic understanding of biblical doctrine then he can't mean that since all must have that be saved.

It must be your first definition and then I would argue that it has indeed ceased.

Chad V. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad V. said...

Uh, that should have read;

the gift that all have is love.

Stefan said...

Yes, that's very plausible. In fact, the Apostles seem to have received a gift from the Holy Spirit of some kind of special knowledge. Who among the great fathers of church history has ever been able to sum up basic Christian doctrine like Paul did, for example, or preach in the simple yet profound way Peter is recorded to have preached in the book of Acts?

By the way, if Dispensationalists believe that prophecy, etc. will reappear in the Millennial Kingdom—I don't know that they do, but I'm taking your word for it—I personally do not believe that.

Pitbull78 said...

If I am not mistaken, in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 when Paul says prophecy and knowledge "will be done away" with, the Greek literally means that prophecy and knowledge will be "superseded by something superior.”
Paul goes on to say that we “know in part” and “prophesy in part”, which I thought was a reference to men, that had the gifts of prophecy and knowledge, who would exhort and teach the Saints those things that were revealed to them by God Himself so as to edify the body. The need for this was substantial, because unlike us they did not have the completed Word of God to admonish every man and teach every man. Then in verse 10 Paul was saying a time will come where this practice of partial revelation will no longer be necessary because we will then have the complete or the perfect full revelation of God in His Word.
I know some say it is referring to the Church being glorified, or to Christ’s return, but I was under the impression that if it was in reference to the Church, the word “complete” or “perfect” would have been in the feminine form and if it were speaking of Christ’s return, then it would be in the masculine form.
What does Phil, Dan, or Frank think about that? Am I way off?

DJP said...

What Dan thinks about everything tonguely, in four parts, of which this is the first.

Pitbull78 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pitbull78 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pitbull78 said...

Furthermore, Hebrews 2:3-4 I think is pretty important because the writer of Hebrews says,



"how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with THEM, both by signs and wonders and by varioius miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will."(emphasis added by me)



The writer of Hebrews didn't say God testified with "us" both by signs and wonders, but with "them", so hopefully I am not reading into this something that isn't there, but I think that shows us that the only ones who were preforming signs and wonders were the Apostles.

Stefan said...

Pitbull78, I do think you're on to something in your last few comments.

When I first learned of the cessationist position, it made sense (not that I was ever a continuationist). But the scriptural foundation for it seemed to be lacking. I want there to be a solid biblical backing to say that the sort of "sign gifts" we see in the Apostolic age are no longer with us. Like I said in an earlier comment, Hebrews 2:3-4 seems to be more of a key to this than 1 Corinthians 13...or at least, if we're going to read 1 Cor 13 in a cessationist light, we need Hebrews 2:3-4 to help interpret it.

David Sheldon said...

R.F. said - "Why is it that those who are unmoveably tethered to sola scriptura are willing to base this doctrine on visual evidence and not Scripture?" With all due respect brother, we have not done one without the other. We have done both. Each confirm the other. The Spirit confirms the authority of the God-ordained vessels that first delivered His Word through the signs that followed. The signs confirm the authority of the WORDS of the vessels which are indeeded God's Word by attestation. The lack of attesting miracles in the post-apostolic era (and even during the later part of the apostles lives it would seem - to be observed in Scripture itself - i.e. it would seem the "signs" even stopped following them!) confirm the COMPLETENESS of the WORDS that those original vessels delivered. For anyone interested you may want to read a work by B.B. Warfield - "Counterfeit Miracles" He makes an interesting statement concerning these signs which I believe he answers. "Their function thus confined them to distinctively the Apostolic Church, and they necessarily passed away with it. Of this we may make sure on the ground both of principle and fact; that is to say both under the guidance of the New Testament teaching as to their origin and nature, and on the credit of the testimony of later ages as to their cessation." (Frank - Sorry I am getting off track here. Your plunge into "lying" signs and wonders will show us the Biblical pattern, I am quite confident, of those kinds of "signs." God knows we need this Biblical teaching since things may soon occur, by the authority of the very Word of God, that Christians are to be prepared for even as the world is not. This is why we must not be enamored with "signs" by themselves. Unfortunately, many have gone astray in our day and sit under false teaching with plenty of supposed "signs" - let alone what will befall the world when antichrist and the false prophet are on the scene and the world sees lying "real" signs.)

Chris Donato said...
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Chad V. said...

Pitbull 78

I would argue that the something superior is the word of God. The complete canon seems to be the best interpretation to me. Take for example the 119th psalm, it's constant refrain is that our hope is in the word of God. And besides, no matter what signs or wonders were done by anyone, if they did not speak according to scripture they were false. The word of God is superior even to signs and wonders.

Chris Donato said...

Just at first glance here, Frank, it may be that the portions of scripture proffered here (Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:14; 16:14; 19:20) might be a bit too (redemptive) historically situated to be of any use in making your case.

In other words, specific (first century?) events are being spoken of/written about, and therefore it may not be best to punt them over into our modern context. Of course, the principles discussed therein might apply, but…

Chris said...

Mike Riccardi,

That's an uplifting story about the cancer stricken man who concerned himself with the glory of God in the end. Unfortunately, I have known people I cared about hold out on false hope/misplaced faith all the way to the end. I visited a man in a hospital recently who eventually died.In the end he was confused because an "evangelist" had "claimed" and "prophesied over him" that he was healed and that he was going to rise up to be a preacher/evangelist too.