Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? - Radical

Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?

Are we leaving God’s capabilities for miracles in the past? Are they every bit as possible for the Church today? In this video, Pastor David Platt differentiates continuationism and cessationism, as beliefs of how miracles occur today. Pastor David Platt warns believers of the limitations we often put on the Spirit in the Church today.

  1. Cessationism vs. Continuationism
  2. Signs and Wonders in the Early Church
  3. Dangers of Placing Limitations on the Spirt

Watch the full message of “Secret Church 5: Exploring the Holy Spirit

Here’s where it gets interesting. Are miraculous gifts mentioned in the New Testament valid for use in the church today? Are miraculous gifts mentioned in the New Testament valid for use in the church today? Here’s what I mean by miraculous gifts. Some people call them miraculous gifts. Some people call them remarkable gifts, special gifts, sign gifts or charismatic gifts, which I definitely don’t like that last term because they’re all great gifts, but this would include signs and wonders, casting out demons, prophecy, tongues and healing, which we’re going to address.

The Two Views About Miraculous Gifts Today

There’s basically two views here. Now follow with me here. The first few is cessationism, and this is the view that miraculous gifts, prophecy, tongues, healings, signs and wonders ceased with the apostles and therefore are no longer applicable in the church today.

Here’s a quote from John MacArthur. “The four temporary sign gifts included miracles, healings, tongues, and interpretations of tongues.” These four sign gifts had a unique purpose to give the apostles credentials to let the people know that these men all spoke the truth of God, but once the word of God was inscripturated, the sign gifts were no longer needed and they ceased.

That make sense? That’s cessationism. It came and it’s really pointed to when scripture was closed, scripture was finished, these sign gifts were not necessary. When the apostles were gone these sign gifts were not necessary and they ceased.

Continuationism says miraculous gifts are available to all Christ followers and therefore active in the church today. This is more Pentecostal picture, charismatic, third wave kind of picture, and especially in Pentecostalism where tongues is a necessary sign that you have experienced baptism in the spirit. Let’s think about both these views. Cessationism. Cessationists would say, I try to sum it up in basically two thoughts, Cessationists would say Jesus and the apostles had a unique ministry that involved miraculous gifts. You look at Jesus accredited by God, Acts 2, by miracles, wonders, and signs. Everyone was filled with all, Acts 2:43, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people.

Are Miraculous Gifts for Today or Just the Apostles?

Paul and Barnabas spends considerable time speaking boldly for the Lord who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. Miraculous signs and wonders had been done among the Gentiles through Paul and Barnabas, so that’s unique to the apostles.

Second facet of that is miraculous gifts were given by God to authenticate apostleship. This is why we see signs and wonders miraculous gifts when it comes to the apostles because God is authenticating, in other words, validating what they’re saying. The things that Mark and apostle signs, wonders, and miracles were done among you with great perseverance. Look at the end of Hebrews 2:3-4. Listen to this. God has also testified to it by signs, wonders, and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

Now here’s the picture. Cessationists would say the apostles practiced these things and were accompanied by signs and wonders, these miraculous gifts, for a reason. It was validating their apostleship. But once they went off the scene and they weren’t necessary anymore and therefore they ceased. Continuationists would say, Jesus sends us out to carry on the ministry he began, and that includes miraculous gifts. As the Father has sent me, I’m sending you, he even told them in Luke 9 and 10, go and heal the sick, do healing. In John 14:12, he says, you’ll do even greater things than I have done.

Continuationists would also say miraculous gifts are evident among Christ’s followers who are not apostles in the New Testament. Stephen did great wonders of miraculous signs. The crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did.

Paul speaking of the Galatians in Galatians 3, does God give you a spirit and work miracles among you? I Corinthians 12, same kind of thing, gifts of healing, and he’s speaking to the church at Corinth. Which is it? Did they cease or not? Here’s the conclusions that I would draw from what scripture teaches. Number one, we must honor the unique authority of Christ, the New Testament apostles, and the Old Testament prophets. What I mean by that is there is something unique that is going on in the apostles for example.

Now the apostles were, remember apostles were, the apostles in the New Testament, sometimes you see it used generally to refer to those who were sent out in that sense. In some sense, every Christian is an apostle sent out, but most often the New Testament refers to the apostles as this group of men who are with Jesus, eyewitnesses to Jesus’ death and his resurrection, his disciples minus Judas, of course, Adam a Messiah, and then you’ve got Paul, these apostles.

There’s something unique that is going on there. No question. They devoted themselves, the apostles teaching, the apostles are the ones who are giving us the word that we have in our Bible. At the same time, we must honor the unfathomable ministry of the Spirit in the church today, and here’s what I mean by that. I believe we need to be wary of limiting activity of the spirit in areas where scripture does not limit activity of the spirit.

Do Not Limit The Holy Spirit

 We need to be wary, be cautious in limiting activity of the spirit in areas where scripture does not limit activity of the spirit. As I’ve traveled around the world, I’ve seen and heard testimonies of the spirit’s work in ways that I’d never seen or experienced here. Now, if scripture speaks directly to some of those things, then we follow scripture clearly. But if scripture does not speak directly to some of those things, I think we need to be careful to honor the ministry of the spirit in the church today. That leads to a few practical exploitations then.

How do you put those together? Number one, my encouragement is to seek spiritual gifts that most edify the body of Christ. That’s plain and simple. Scripture doesn’t tell us to seek miraculous gifts or non-miraculous gifts. It tells us to seek gifts that most edify the church. What’s most needed in the church? Seek those gifts. Second, take the gospel to the lost, especially to unreached peoples who have no special revelation.

I’m going to try to make this really quick. I think what we see in the New Testament, especially in the Book of Acts, is as the word of Christ, the gospel of Christ and the spirit of Christ is going into new places, that there is authentication that is happening there by signs and wonders, some miraculous things. When I look at what God is doing in the world today, and I see the gospel advancing to new places, particularly unreached places, that’s where we hear most about signs and wonders and these sorts of things.

I think that makes sense. I think there’s an authentication that may be going on there to the word as it’s going for the first time to new places, to unreached places. At the same time, once we have the word and the word is established and we’re saturated with the gospel, then I think the need for signs and wonders is less, and here’s why. I’d point to the rich man and Lazarus parable that Jesus tells when the rich man’s in hell and he says, “Go to my brothers and tell them that this is real.”

He tells them even if they saw somebody rise from the dead, it wouldn’t make any difference. They’ve got the word, they’ve got the prophets, and they’re ignoring it. They’ve turned a deaf ear to what they already have. This is why I don’t think it’s necessary for us to see all kinds of signs and wonders in the church today in our culture because we have got the word, and if we would believe this word, we would follow this word and trust this word, we would see the power of God at work.

We’ve neglected this word and certainly we don’t need to neglect this word and seek out signs and wonders instead. At the same time, we go to the lost, especially the unreached peoples who have no special revelation. And as we go, we do this, we trust the authority of his word. This word has authority to save. Go to the deepest, darkest tribe on this planet, farthest as possible from the gospel if there’s degrees of being far from the gospel, and this gospel is powerful enough to save. As you go ask God to attest to his word.

I’m not saying I know all that that means, but I am saying I think it’s good to go into an area that’s unreached. I’ll have the opportunity to be in India next week, week and a half. Go in there preaching the gospel, sharing the gospel and asking, it’s good to ask the Holy Spirit of God to show that this word is true in a way that brings honor to him and glory to Christ. That’s what I would encourage us to do.

The Holy Spirit Still Works

Third, and here’s where I really want to kind of bring it. Dave, did you say you’re a cessationist or continuationist there? Here’s what I would say. Number one, be open regarding the spirit of God. I would encourage us as a people to be open regarding the spirit of God and be generous when it comes to brothers and sisters around the world who talk about the work of the spirit. I’m not going to sit back and say miraculous gifts are not in use today, that they’ve ceased. I don’t think there’s enough scriptural evidence to say they definitely have ceased, which we’re going to talk about in just a second. At the same time, there’s an openness there, but there’s also, be open regarding the spirit of God, yet discerning according to the word of God.

Be Discerning About the Holy Spirit

The last thing I want to do is oppose something that the spirit of God is doing in his church today. At the same time, I do not want to attribute anything to the spirit that the word tells me not to attribute to the spirit. I think we need to be very cautious and discerning according to the word of God, to make sure that we are describing the work of the spirit and attributing the work of the spirit to that which is biblical as best as possible. Open, but discerning basically. I don’t in scripture see enough evidence that these gifts were definitely supposed to cease right then after the apostles. At the same time, I don’t see a lot of evidence that they are that important to continue on either, that they will definitely continue on until any other particular time. Instead, I think we need to be open, but cautious, discerning, according to the word.

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


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