Parsing what a “sign-gift” is

This is the most common argument against continuationism: the miracles/super gifts were indexed to the apostles and they functioned to confirm the apostolic message.  It’s an impressive argument, but it fails completely. Consider (and I take my musings from Steve Hays).

See Steve’s larger discussions here.

1.  The gifts are always indexed to the Spirit, not to the Apostles.

2. A biblical miracle is not limited to simply confirming a message.

3. The miracles and confirmations referenced in Hebrews 1 were not to validate the apostles’ ministry.  It was to confirm the sufficiency of the New Covenant.  The readers never doubted that the Apostles were correct.

4. Acts 8:26ff; 10:9-13; 16:9-10; and 18:9-10 are prophetic revelations in a dream.  There is no understanding that this is a miracle confirming a message.  For whom are these signs?  They are private revelations, not public.

5. Acts 2:17ff explicitly says the signs are universal, not indexed to the Apostolate.

6. Miracles aren’t attributed to all the apostles nor are all who do miracles apostles.  The cessationist could respond that miracles are simply limited to the apostolic age.  But that’s ad hoc and arbitrary and precisely the thing that needs to be proven.  And without the “sign-gift” argument, which I am showing to be flawed, it can’t be proven.

7. James and Jude connect themselves with Jesus, not with the apostles (and I make no assumptions about their identity).

8. You can’t say the purpose of a sign-gift is to verify a prophecy or an apostle and simultaneously define prophecy and apostles as gifts.

8a.  If prophecy is a sign-gift, then it should be self-attesting.  Yet Paul commands us to evaluate a prophecy, which assumes it isn’t self-attesting.

9. If a Christian has a revelatory dream, is that a gift?  In what way?

9. If the cessationist view of sign-gifts is true, then they temporarily abandon the sufficiency of Scripture.  If the point of a gift is to confirm the apostolic message, then the message itself was inadequate.

10. Sign-gifts have to be public on anyone’s gloss.  This rules out dreams, visions, and most forms of prophecy (and much answered prayer), since those are usually private.

11. If the charismata aren’t limited to the apostles (as Warfield admits, Counterfeit Miracles 21), then it’s hard to see how they demarcate the apostolate.

12. We have no reason to think that Joel’s prophecy is temporary.  In biblical revelation, it is the old covenant that is temporary.  It doesn’t make sense to replace the temporary with the temporary.

13.  It isn’t true that the “power gifts” came from the laying on of hands (cf Acts 8).  Cornelius didn’t receive laying on of hands.  He simply heard the word.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s