Have Gifts of Miracles and Predictive Prophecy Ceased in the Modern Age

Our men’s Bible study last night, (studying 1 Corinthians 14) a discussion came up about the issue of whether predictive prophecy and miracles still occur today or whether they’ve ceased. I did some research, trying to remember how I’d come to my view (which is that they have ceased).   I found the article that presents biblical a case for cessationism:

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http://www.gotquestions.org/cessationism.html

Question: “Is cessationism biblical?”

Answer: Cessationism is the view that the “miracle gifts” of tongues and healing have ceased—that the end of the apostolic age brought about a cessation of the miracles associated with that age. Most cessationists believe that, while God can and still does perform miracles today, the Holy Spirit no longer uses individuals to perform miraculous signs.

The biblical record shows that miracles occurred during particular periods for the specific purpose of authenticating a new message from God. Moses was enabled to perform miracles to authenticate his ministry before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:1-8). Elijah was given miracles to authenticate his ministry before Ahab (1 Kings 17:1; 18:24). The apostles were given miracles to authenticate their ministry before Israel (Acts 4:10, 16).

Jesus’ ministry was also marked by miracles, which the Apostle John calls “signs” (John 2:11). John’s point is that the miracles were proofs of the authenticity of Jesus’ message.

After Jesus’ resurrection, as the Church was being established and the New Testament was being written, the apostles demonstrated “signs” such as tongues and the power to heal. “Tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not” (1 Corinthians 14:22, a verse that plainly says the gift was never intended to edify the church).

The Apostle Paul predicted that the gift of tongues would cease (1 Corinthians 13:8). Here are six proofs that it has already ceased:

1) The apostles, through whom tongues came, were unique in the history of the church. Once their ministry was accomplished, the need for authenticating signs ceased to exist.

2) The miracle (or sign) gifts are only mentioned in the earliest epistles, such as 1 Corinthians. Later books, such as Ephesians and Romans, contain detailed passages on the gifts of the Spirit, but the miracle gifts are not mentioned, although Romans does mention the gift of prophecy. The Greek word translated “prophecy” means “speaking forth” and does not necessarily include prediction of the future.

3) The gift of tongues was a sign to unbelieving Israel that God’s salvation was now available to other nations. See 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 and Isaiah 28:11-12.

4) Tongues was an inferior gift to prophecy (preaching). Preaching the Word of God edifies believers, whereas tongues does not. Believers are told to seek prophesying over speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:1-3).

5) History indicates that tongues did cease. Tongues are not mentioned at all by the Post-Apostolic Fathers. Other writers such as Justin Martyr, Origen, Chrysostom, and Augustine considered tongues something that happened only in the earliest days of the Church.

6) Current observation confirms that the miracle of tongues has ceased. If the gift were still available today, there would be no need for missionaries to attend language school. Missionaries would be able to travel to any country and speak any language fluently, just as the apostles were able to speak in Acts 2. As for the miracle gift of healing, we see in Scripture that healing was associated with the ministry of Jesus and the apostles (Luke 9:1-2). And we see that as the era of the apostles drew to a close, healing, like tongues, became less frequent. The Apostle Paul, who raised Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:9-12), did not heal Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-27), Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20), Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23), or even himself (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). The reasons for Paul’s “failures to heal” are 1) the gift was never intended to make every Christian well, but to authenticate apostleship; and 2) the authority of the apostles had been sufficiently proved, making further miracles unnecessary.

The reasons stated above are evidence for cessationism. According to 1 Corinthians 13:13-14:1, we would do well to “pursue love,” the greatest gift of all. If we are to desire gifts, we should desire to speak forth the Word of God, that all may be edified.

Recommended Resources: Are Miraculous Gifts for Today – Four Views edited by Wayne Grudem and Logos Bible Software.

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Additionally, I was reading in the John MacArthur commentary on 1 Corinthians.  On page 390, MacArthur says

Like that of apostles, and unlike that of pastors and teachers, however, the unique office of prophet ceased to exist while the church was still very young.  Judging from Paul’s pastoral epistles (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus), prophets ceased to function in the church even before the end of the apostolic age.  In those letters he makes considerable mention of church leadership – elders, deacons, deaconesses, and bishops – but makes no mention of prophets.  Along with apostles, prophets were a part of the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20), and are the first office to have disappeared from the New Testament church.  But when Paul wrote this letter to Corinth, prophets were still very central to the work of that church.  In fact, nowhere in this letter is there a mention of a pastor, elder, or overseer.  The prophets seem to have been the key leaders in the early days of the church (cf. Acts 13:1).  Because this was obviously the case in Corinth, Paul was compelled to give some principles for the prophets to follow.

So, I think there is a compelling case to be made that individuals performing miracles and predictive prophecy has ceased.  I think we have to be very careful in this area.  It can lead to heresies, especially if people are claiming to receive new revelation from God.  My view (and the orthodox view) is that the cannon of Scripture is closed.

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