Brothers and sisters, we read of accounts in the New Testament of miracles being performed. The blind were given sight, the deaf were given the ability to hear, the lame made to walk, lepers were cleansed, and people were even raised from the dead. We also read accounts of people speaking in other languages (tongues). Do men still possess these miraculous gifts, or did they cease at a particular point in time? As always, let us look to holy scripture for our answers.
“According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things.” – Micah 7:15
This prophesy from the Old Testament tells us of a time when marvelous works would be performed “according to” the days that the children of Israel were coming out of the land of Egypt (forty years). In other words, Micah foretold that marvelous things (great signs and wonders) would be done by the Lord’s hand for a period of forty years.
When we read the New Testament record, we see the period of great wonders beginning with Jesus our Lord performing miracles at the beginning of his ministry (at approximately 30 years of age). Those miracles continued during the Lord’s 3.5 year ministry, as well as with his apostles and those on whom the apostles laid their hands. The miracles ceased after the forty year period, as Micah had prophesied. By no accident, the end of the forty year period coincides with the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
Why did the miracles cease? Why were they necessary?
“And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen.” – Mark 16:20
The apostles were sent forth to preach the gospel, and miraculous signs occurred. We notice in the text referenced above that Mark gives us the reason for the signs: to confirm the word. This is of vital importance to understand. At the time the apostles were preaching, they had the Old Testament only. The New Testament was still being written. Peter couldn’t say, “Ephesians, Chapter One says…” John couldn’t say, “Over in Colossians 4, Paul wrote…”. God confirmed that the sermons those men were preaching were true by granting special powers to them.
Once the New Testament was finished, scripture being complete, there was no further need for signs in order to confirm the word preached. In our present day, if the word preached harmonizes with the word written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and it agrees with holy scripture, then we have multiple witnesses agreeing with what was preached. There is no need for signs. God stopped granting those gifts in the first century A.D.
We also notice that scripture says, “the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom…” – I Corinthians 1:22. Signs were for the day in which the gospel was primarily sent to the Jews. After the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, in our predominantly Gentile churches, we confirm preaching by checking it against scripture.
Notice Acts 17:11: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” This teaches us that we are to study scripture to see if what is being preached is correct. We check the preacher not by whether he performs miracles but by whether what he says matches scripture.
Before we close, let us briefly look at the subject of “other tongues”. The word “tongue” in scripture often simply means “language”. When we speak of “another tongue”, we are referring to another language.
To understand the gift of other tongues that was once given, we must carefully read scripture. We notice that Acts 2:5 states, “And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.” We have a gathering under consideration which includes people of many different languages/nationalities.
Scripture goes on to state that as men began to preach, “every man heard them speak in his own language.” – Acts 2:6. This is a critical point.
We continue reading: “And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilæans? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?” – Acts 2:7-8
Of great concern in studying this gift of other tongues is to understand that those in the congregation each heard the preaching in their own language. They were not observing men acting out of their minds and speaking gibberish, as is true of some in our modern day who claim to have the gift of other tongues. What was of utmost importance was not the gift itself but that the preaching was understood.
The reason for the miraculous gifts given to men in the past was *the preaching of the gospel*. The gospel of Jesus Christ is to be the central theme of our worship. The Apostle Paul makes this same point in I Corinthians 12. May the gospel and preaching of the cross continue to be the primary reason we gather together as a church body.