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Monthly Archives: November 2012

QUESTION : " WHAT ARE THE SEVEN DISPENSATIONS ? "

Answer: Dispensationalism is defined as a method of management used by God to carry out His will, work, and purposes toward mankind. There are generally considered to be seven dispensations, although some theologians believe there are nine. Depending on the viewpoint, dispensations can number as few as three or as many as thirty-seven. For the purposes of this article, we will limit ourselves to the seven basic dispensations found in Scripture. 

The first dispensation is called the Dispensation of Innocence. Found in Genesis 1:28-30and 2:15-17, this dispensation involves the period when Adam and Eve are in the Garden of Eden. The basis of the dispensation is obedience to God’s commands to (1) replenish the earth with children, (2) subdue the earth, (3) have dominion over the animals, (4) have a vegetable diet and not eat meat, (5) care for the garden, (6) abstain from eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, (7) the warning of punishment of physical and spiritual death for disobedience. This dispensation was a short-lived and was brought to an end by the temptation of Eve and Adam by Satan, which was part of the overall plan of God. 

The second dispensation is called the Dispensation of Conscience, and its duration was some 1,656 years from the time of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the garden until the flood (Genesis 3:8–8:22). This dispensation demonstrates what mankind will do if left to his own will and conscience which have been tainted by the inherited sin nature. The five major aspects of this dispensation are 1. a curse on the serpent, 2. a change in womanhood and childbearing, 3. a curse on nature, plants and animals—some became meat eaters, 4. man has to work and sweat to produce food because of the curse on the land, and 5. the promise of Christ as the seed who will bruise the serpent’s head (Satan). 

The third dispensation is the Dispensation of Human Government, beginning in Genesis 8. Now that people were born with an inherited sin nature, the world became evil and corrupt. God destroyed the world by a flood, saving just one family to start the human race over again. The worldwide flood destroyed all air-breathing and living animals, birds, and human beings. After they came out of the ark, God made promises to Noah and family as follows: 

1. God will not curse the earth again.
2. Noah and family are to replenish the earth with people.
3. They shall have dominion over the animal creation.
4. They are now allowed to eat meat.
5. The Law of capital punishment is now established.
6. There never will be another flood again.
7. The sign of God’s promise will be the rainbow. 

But the people did not scatter and fill the earth as God had commanded. Genesis 11:7-9says there was only one language and one people and the people decided to build a tower. The building of this tower and God’s dispersion of the people happened about 325 years after the flood. God decided it was time to go down and create different languages and make them move apart. Thus we see the development of different nations and different cultures that produced the different races. From this point on, there is still some direct contact with God individually but on a nationwide basis as well. Human governments now have become a reality. This dispensation does not end completely, but another dispensation starts with Abraham. Some of the terms of this dispensation are still in effect today.

The fourth dispensation, called the Dispensation of Promise, starts with the call of Abraham and includes the patriarchies and mostly ends with Moses and the exodus of the Jewish people out of Egypt, a period of some 430 years. This is God’s method of developing a great nation that He has chosen to be His people to whom He gave a special task to perform (Genesis 12:1Exodus 19:25). 

Some of the terms of the Abrahamic Covenant are

1. From Abraham would come a great nation that God would bless with natural and spiritual prosperity
2. God would make Abraham’s name great 
3. God would bless those that blessed Abraham’s descendants and curse those that curse him.
4. In Abraham shall all the families of the earth be blessed. This is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and His work of reconciliation.
5. The sign of the covenant is circumcision.
6. This covenant is confined to the Hebrew people and to the 12 tribes of Israel. 

The fifth dispensation is called the Dispensation of Law and starts with the Exodus and is set aside with Jesus Christ, a period of some 1,491 years. This dispensation is directed only toward the Jewish nation and will start up again during the Millennium with some modifications. This new nation is designed by God to have 12 tribes, one of which (the Levites) will be the priests of God’s laws given on Mt. Sinai. The law and guidelines are found in Exodus 19–23. God allowed man to govern himself under a commonwealth of laws and guidelines with a visible system of a temple worship directed by the priests. At this time, God spoke through the priests and prophets He had chosen to be His mouthpiece. A system of rituals and festivals was also devised to help the people stay true to God. This was to be a theocratic system, beginning with Moses, then Joshua, and the Judges, in which God would rule through those assigned to relate His will. Eventually, due to the people’s disobedience, the tribes end up being carried off into bondage.

The sixth dispensation is the Dispensation of Grace, represented by the New Covenant through Jesus Christ and His death on the Cross. This “Church Age” occurs between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel. It starts with the birth of Christ and ends with the Rapture of the church as revealed in 1 Thessalonians 4. This dispensation is worldwide and includes both Jews and the Gentiles. It is the divine plan of reconciliation by Christ to call people to repentance and become a part of the family of God who will spend eternity in the final state of the new heaven and earth with Him. This dispensation includes the work of the Holy Spirit indwelling believers (John 14:16-26) as the Comforter. The terms of this dispensation are simply expressed in John 3:16 and John 14:1-6. Jesus said you must be born again. This dispensation has been going on for over 2,000 years, and no one knows when it will end. We do know that it will end with the rapture of all born-again believers from the earth to go to heaven with Christ, followed by the judgments of God which will last for 7 years. During this time of judgment will be revealed the Antichrist, the false prophet, the mark of the beast, and an all-out war against the Jews and anyone who will not worship the idol the Antichrist sets up in the temple. During this time many people will come to Christ and be born again and many will die for their faith in Christ. This dispensation ends with the battle of Armageddon and the death of all non-believers.

The seventh dispensation is called the Millennial Kingdom of Christ and will last for 1,000 years as Christ comes to set up His throne on earth and rule as a visible presence. This becomes the fulfillment of the prophecy to the Jewish nation that He will return and be their Messiah and King. The only people allowed to enter the Kingdom are the born-again believers who were able to survive the seven years of tribulation. No unsaved person is allowed access into this kingdom. Satan is put into the bottomless pit but will be loosed after the 1,000 years to reorganize a great army and wage war against Christ and His followers. This period ends with the supernatural death of all non-believers, after which comes the final judgment of Christ on the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-14). The old world and earth are destroyed by fire and the New Heaven and New Earth of Revelation 21 and 22 will begin. This is the perfect age and the eternal state or heaven in which all believers will remain forever.

Recommended Resource: Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie.

 

QUESTION : " WHAT IS DISPENSATIONALISM ? "

Answer: Dispensationalism is a system of theology that has two primary distinctives. 1) A consistently literal interpretation of Scripture, especially Bible prophecy. 2) A distinction between Israel and the church in God’s program.

Dispensationalists claim that their principle of hermeneutics is that of literal interpretation, which means giving each word the meaning it would commonly have in everyday usage. Symbols, figures of speech and types are all interpreted plainly in this method, and this is in no way contrary to literal interpretation. Even symbols and figurative sayings have literal meanings behind them.

There are at least three reasons why this is the best way to view Scripture. First, philosophically, the purpose of language itself seems to require that we interpret it literally. Language was given by God for the purpose of being able to communicate with man. The second reason is biblical. Every prophecy about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament was fulfilled literally. Jesus’ birth, Jesus’ ministry, Jesus’ death, and Jesus’ resurrection all occurred exactly and literally as the Old Testament predicted. There is no non-literal fulfillment of these prophecies in the New Testament. This argues strongly for the literal method. If literal interpretation is not used in studying the Scriptures, there is no objective standard by which to understand the Bible. Each and every person would be able to interpret the Bible as he saw fit. Biblical interpretation would devolve into “what this passage says to me…” instead of “the Bible says…” Sadly, this is already the case in much of what is called biblical interpretation today.

Dispensational theology teaches that there are two distinct peoples of God: Israel and the church. Dispensationalists believe that salvation has always been by faith—in God in the Old Testament and specifically in God the Son in the New Testament. Dispensationalists hold that the church has not replaced Israel in God’s program and the Old Testament promises to Israel have not been transferred to the church. They believe that the promises God made to Israel (for land, many descendants, and blessings) in the Old Testament will be ultimately fulfilled in the 1000-year period spoken of in Revelation chapter 20. Dispensationalists believe that just as God is in this age focusing His attention on the church, He will again in the future focus His attention on Israel (Romans 9-11).

Using this system as a basis, dispensationalists understand the Bible to be organized into seven dispensations: Innocence (Genesis 1:1–3:7), conscience (Genesis 3:8–8:22), human government (Genesis 9:1–11:32), promise (Genesis 12:1Exodus 19:25), law (Exodus 20:1Acts 2:4), grace (Acts 2:4Revelation 20:3), and the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:4-6). Again, these dispensations are not paths to salvation, but manners in which God relates to man. Dispensationalism, as a system, results in a premillennial interpretation of Christ’s second coming and usually a pretribulational interpretation of the rapture. To summarize, dispensationalism is a theological system that emphasizes the literal interpretation of Bible prophecy, recognizes a clear distinction between Israel and the church, and organizes the Bible into the different dispensations it presents.

Recommended Resource: Dispensationalism by Charles Ryrie.

 

QUESTION : " WHAT IS THE LATTER RAIN MOVEMENT ? "

Answer: The Latter Rain Movement is an influence within Pentecostalism which teaches that the Lord is pouring out His Spirit again, as He did at Pentecost, and using believers to prepare the world for His Second Coming. The Latter Rain Movement is anti-dispensational and amillennial, and many leaders of the movement embrace aberrant teachings.

The term “latter rain” was first used early in the history of Pentecostalism, when David Wesley Myland wrote a book called Latter Rain Songs in 1907. Three years later, Myland wrote The Latter Rain Covenant, a defense of Pentecostalism in general.

The name comes from Joel 2:23, “Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for He hath given you the former rain moderately, and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month.” Pentecostals interpreted the “rain” in this verse as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The “latter rain” (the end-times outpouring) would be greater than the “former rain.” 

In 1948, a “revival” broke out in Saskatchewan, Canada, and the teachings of the Latter Rain movement were clarified. Those involved in the revival were convinced that they were on the verge of a new era, one in which the Holy Spirit would demonstrate His power in a greater way than the world had ever seen. Not even the age of the apostles, they said, had witnessed such a movement of the Holy Spirit.

Latter Rain teaching is characterized by a highly typological hermeneutic. That is, the Bible is interpreted in a symbolic, extremely stylized manner. An emphasis is placed on extra-biblical revelation, such as personal prophecies, experiences, and directives straight from God. Latter Rain doctrine includes the following beliefs:

– the gifts of the Spirit, including tongues, are received through the laying on of hands

– Christians can be demonized and require deliverance

– God has restored all the offices of ministry to the Church, including apostle and prophet

– divine healing can be administered through the laying on of hands

– praise and worship will usher God into our presence

– women have a full and equal ministry role in the Church

– denominational lines will be destroyed, and the Church will unify in the last days

– the “latter rain” will bring God’s work to completion; the Church will be victorious over the world and usher in Christ’s kingdom

Many “apostles” in the Latter Rain Movement also teach the doctrine of “the manifest sons of God.” This is a heretical doctrine which says that the Church will give rise to a special group of “overcomers” who will receive spiritual bodies, becoming immortal.

It is important to note that the Assemblies of God deemed the Latter Rain Movement to contain heresy from the very beginning. On April 20, 1949, the Assemblies of God officially denounced Latter Rain teaching, nearly splitting the denomination in the process. Other established Pentecostal groups have passed similar resolutions.

Today, the term “latter rain” is rarely used, but the theology of Latter Rain continues to exert an influence. Most branches of the Charismatic Movement adhere to Latter Rain teaching. Modern movements such as the Brownsville/Pensacola Revival, the Toronto Blessing, and the “holy laughter” phenomenon are a direct result Latter Rain theology.

Recommended Resource: Are Miraculous Gifts for Today – Four Views edited by Wayne Grudem.

 

QUESTION : " WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR LIVES TODAY ? "

Answer: Of all the gifts given to mankind by God, there is none greater than the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has many functions, roles, and activities. First, He does a work in the hearts of all people everywhere. Jesus told the disciples that He would send the Spirit into the world to “convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:7-11). Everyone has a “God consciousness,” whether or not they admit it. The Spirit applies the truths of God to minds of men to convince them by fair and sufficient arguments that they are sinners. Responding to that conviction brings men to salvation.

Once we are saved and belong to God, the Spirit takes up residence in our hearts forever, sealing us with the confirming, certifying, and assuring pledge of our eternal state as His children. Jesus said He would send the Spirit to us to be our Helper, Comforter, and Guide. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (John 14:16). The Greek word translated here “Counselor” means “one who is called alongside” and has the idea of someone who encourages and exhorts. The Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in the hearts of believers (Romans 8:91 Corinthians 6:19-2012:13). Jesus gave the Spirit as a “compensation” for His absence, to perform the functions toward us which He would have done if He had remained personally with us.

Among those functions is that of revealer of truth. The Spirit’s presence within us enables us to understand and interpret God’s Word. Jesus told His disciples that “when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). He reveals to our minds the whole counsel of God as it relates to worship, doctrine, and Christian living. He is the ultimate guide, going before, leading the way, removing obstructions, opening the understanding, and making all things plain and clear. He leads in the way we should go in all spiritual things. Without such a guide, we would be apt to fall into error. A crucial part of the truth He reveals is that Jesus is who He said He is (John 15:261 Corinthians 12:3). The Spirit convinces us of Christ’s deity and incarnation, His being the Messiah, His suffering and death, His resurrection and ascension, His exaltation at the right hand of God, and His role as the judge of all. He gives glory to Christ in all things (John 16:14).

Another one of the Holy Spirit’s roles is that of gift-giver. First Corinthians 12 describes the spiritual gifts given to believers in order that we may function as the body of Christ on earth. All these gifts, both great and small, are given by the Spirit so that we may be His ambassadors to the world, showing forth His grace and glorifying Him.

The Spirit also functions as fruit-producer in our lives. When He indwells us, He begins the work of harvesting His fruit in our lives—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). These are not works of our flesh, which is incapable of producing such fruit, but they are products of the Spirit’s presence in our lives.

The knowledge that the Holy Spirit of God has taken up residence in our lives, that He performs all these miraculous functions, that He dwells with us forever, and that He will never leave or forsake us is cause for great joy and comfort. Thank God for this precious gift—the Holy Spirit and His work in our lives!

Recommended Resource: The Holy Spirit by Charles Ryrie.

 

QUESTION : " WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF BIBLICAL SIGN GIFTS ? "

Answer: When we speak of the biblical sign gifts, we are referring to miracles like speaking in tongues, visions, healing, raising the dead, and prophesying. There is no question among believers whether or not they existed, for the Bible plainly describes them. Where disagreement arises among believers is their purpose, as well as the question of whether we should experience them today. Some say that these gifts are a sign of one’s salvation, while others say they are a sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and yet others say their purpose is to authenticate the message of the gospel. How can we know the truth? We must search the Scriptures to find God’s purpose statements about these things.

One of the earliest references to sign gifts in the Bible is found in Exodus 4, when Moses is being instructed by God about the impending deliverance from Egypt. Moses worried that the people would not believe that God sent him, so God gave him the signs of the rod becoming a snake and his hand becoming leprous. God said these signs were “that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you” (v. 5). If the people still did not believe, God told Moses to take water from the Nile and pour it on the ground, where it would turn to blood (v. 9). The purpose for the children of Israel was that they would believe God’s messenger.

God also gave Moses miraculous signs to show Pharaoh, in order that he would let the people go. In Exodus 7:3-5, God told Moses that He would multiply His signs and wonders in Egypt, so “the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” God wanted the Egyptian people to know that He was the one working to deliver the Israelites. In Exodus 10:7, Moses told Pharaoh that the final plague, which would kill the firstborn, was to show that God distinguished between the Egyptians and the Israelites. The signs and wonders confirmed God’s message to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, so they would know that Moses was sent by God.

When Elijah confronted the false prophets on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18), he prayed for God to miraculously send fire from heaven so the people would know “you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word….that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God” (v. 36-37). The miracles he and the other prophets performed were a confirmation that God had sent the prophets and that God was at work in Israel’s midst.

Joel was given a message of God’s judgment on Israel, and within that message was a prophecy of mercy and hope. When the judgment came as prophesied, and the people responded with repentance, God said that He would then remove the judgments and restore His blessing: “You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the LORD your God and there is none else. And my people shall never again be put to shame” (Joel 2:27). Immediately after that statement, God spoke about pouring His Spirit on the people, so they would prophesy, see visions, and see wonders happening. When the disciples began speaking in tongues on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21), Peter declared, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” What was the purpose? That the people would know the message brought by Peter and the others was God’s message.

Jesus’ ministry was accompanied by various signs and wonders. What was the purpose of His miracles? In John 10:37-38, Jesus was responding to the Jews who wanted to stone Him for blasphemy, and He said, “If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Just as in the Old Testament, the purpose of Jesus’ miracles was to confirm God’s hand on His Messenger.

When the Pharisees asked Jesus to show them a sign, Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:39-41). Jesus was very clear that the purpose of a sign was so people would acknowledge God’s message and respond accordingly. Likewise, in John 4:48, He told the nobleman, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The signs were a help to those who struggled to believe, but the message of salvation in Christ was the focus.

This message of salvation was outlined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:21-23: “It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” Signs have their purpose, but they are a means to a greater end—the salvation of souls through the preaching of the gospel. In 1 Corinthians 14:22, Paul states clearly that “tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers.” God used miraculous signs like speaking in tongues to convince unbelievers that the message of Christ was true, but as the rest of the context shows, the more important thing was the clear declaration of the gospel message.

One thing that is often overlooked in discussions about signs and miracles is the timing and placement of them in the Scriptures. Contrary to popular belief, people in Bible times did not see miracles all the time. In fact, the miracles of the Bible are generally grouped around special events in God’s dealing with mankind. Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and entrance into the Promised Land were accompanied by many miracles, but the miracles faded away soon afterward. During the late kingdom years, when God was about to place the people in exile, He allowed some of His prophets to do miracles. When Jesus came to live among us, He did miracles, and in the early ministry of the apostles, they did miracles, but outside of those times, we see very few miracles or signs in the Bible. The vast majority of people who lived in Bible times never saw signs and wonders with their own eyes. They had to live by faith in what God had already revealed to them.

In the early church, the signs and wonders were primarily centered on the first presentation of the gospel among various people groups. On the day of Pentecost, we read that there were “Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven” gathered in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5). It was to these Jews, who had been raised in other lands and spoke those foreign languages (v. 6-11), that the sign of tongues was first given. They acknowledged that they were hearing in their native tongues about the wonderful works of God, and Peter told them that the only appropriate response was to repent of their sins (v. 38). When the gospel was first presented among the Samaritans, Philip did signs and wonders (Acts 8:13).

Again, when Peter was sent to Cornelius, a Gentile, God gave a miraculous sign to confirm His work. “And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God” (Acts 10:45-46). When Peter was questioned by the other apostles, he gave this as evidence of God’s leading, and the others “glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life’” (Acts 11:18).

In every instance, the sign gifts were a confirmation of God’s message and messenger, in order that people might hear and believe. Once the message was confirmed, the signs faded away. We typically don’t need those signs to be repeated in our lives, but we do need to receive the same gospel message.

Recommended Resource: Are Miraculous Gifts for Today – Four Views edited by Wayne Grudem.

 

QUESTION : " WHAT IS BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT ? "

Answer: The concept of “blasphemy against the Spirit” is mentioned in Mark 3:22-30 andMatthew 12:22-32. The term blasphemy may be generally defined as “defiant irreverence.” The term can be applied to such sins as cursing God or willfully degrading things relating to God. It is also attributing some evil to God, or denying Him some good that we should attribute to Him. This case of blasphemy, however, is a specific one, called “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” in Matthew 12:31. In Matthew 12:31-32, the Pharisees, having witnessed irrefutable proof that Jesus was working miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit, claimed instead that the Lord was possessed by the demon “Beelzebub” (Matthew 12:24). Now notice that in Mark 3:30 Jesus is very specific about what they did to commit “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”

This blasphemy has to do with someone accusing Jesus Christ of being demon-possessed instead of Spirit-filled. As a result, this particular incidence of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be duplicated today. Jesus Christ is not on earth—He is seated at the right hand of God. No one can witness Jesus Christ performing a miracle and then attribute that power to Satan instead of the Spirit. The closest example today would be attributing the miracle of a redeemed person’s changed life to Satan’s power rather than to the effects of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 

The blasphemy of the Spirit today, which is the same as the unpardonable sin, is the state of continued unbelief. There is no pardon for a person who dies in unbelief. Continual rejection of the Holy Spirit’s promptings to trust in Jesus Christ is the unpardonable blasphemy against Him. Remember what is stated in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Further on in the same chapter is the verse “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him” (John 3:36). The only condition wherein someone would have no forgiveness is if he is not among the “whoever believes in Him,” for it is he who “rejects the Son.”

Recommended Resource: Hard Sayings of the Bible by Kaiser, Davids, Bruce, & Brauch.

 

QUESTION : " ARE MIRACULOUS GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT FOR TODAY ? "

Answer: First, it is important to recognize that this is not a question of whether God still performs miracles today. It would be foolish and unbiblical to claim God does not heal people, speak to people, and perform miraculous signs and wonders today. The question is whether the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, described primarily in 1 Corinthians 12–14, are still active in the church today. This is also not a question of can the Holy Spirit give someone a miraculous gift. The question is whether the Holy Spirit still dispenses the miraculous gifts today. Above all else, we entirely recognize that the Holy Spirit is free to dispense gifts according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:7-11).

In the book of Acts and the Epistles, the vast majority of miracles are performed by the apostles and their close associates. Paul gives us the reason why: “The things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance” (2 Corinthians 12:12). If every believer in Christ was equipped with the ability to perform signs, wonders, and miracles, then signs, wonders, and miracles could in no way be the identifying marks of an apostle. Acts 2:22 tells us that Jesus was “accredited” by “miracles, wonders, and signs.” Similarly, the apostles were “marked” as genuine messengers from God by the miracles they performed. Acts 14:3 describes the gospel message being “confirmed” by the miracles Paul and Barnabas performed.

Chapters 12–14 of 1 Corinthians deal primarily with the subject of the gifts of the Spirit. It seems from that text “ordinary” Christians were sometimes given miraculous gifts (12:8-10, 28-30). We are not told how commonplace this was. From what we learned above, that the apostles were “marked” by signs and wonders, it would seem that miraculous gifts being given to “ordinary” Christians was the exception, not the rule. Beside the apostles and their close associates, the New Testament nowhere specifically describes individuals exercising the miraculous gifts of the Spirit.

It is also important to realize that the early church did not have the completed Bible, as we do today (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, the gifts of prophecy, knowledge, wisdom, etc. were necessary in order for the early Christians to know what God would have them do. The gift of prophecy enabled believers to communicate new truth and revelation from God. Now that God’s revelation is complete in the Bible, the “revelatory” gifts are no longer needed, at least not in the same capacity as they were in the New Testament.

God miraculously heals people every day. God still speaks to us today, whether in an audible voice, in our minds, or through impressions and feelings. God still does amazing miracles, signs, and wonders and sometimes performs those miracles through a Christian. However, these things are not necessarily the miraculous gifts of the Spirit. The primary purpose of the miraculous gifts was to prove that the gospel was true and that the apostles were truly God’s messengers. The Bible does not say outright that the miraculous gifts have ceased, but it does lay the foundation for why they might no longer occur to the same extent as they did as recorded in the New Testament.

Recommended Resource: Are Miraculous Gifts for Today – Four Views edited by Wayne Grudem.