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).
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".