Sign Gifts - Modern Error




We have seen in the identification and purpose of miraculous or sign gifts of the Spirit, these temporary gifts pasted from existence before the close of the First Century AD. Some may still be hesitant to dismiss the present existence of these gifts for various reasons. In this last segment I would like to cover some of these questions from a Biblical point of view. 

1) Sincerity: some of the most sincere and excited Christians in the world today are those found in the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements. In comparison to many non-charismatic churches, these churches give the impression that they are truly on fire for God and that God is actively at work in their midst. However, sincerity, excitement, and even unexplainable activities can be misleading. Let us note two important facts. 

a. Fact #1: Sincerity does not guarantee God’s approval. Jesus drove this home when He said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24 – NKJV). Jesus was clear that sincere worship if it is grounded in the truth of God’s Word will not be acceptable. For example, In 1 Kings 18, Elijah faced the 450 prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. All day long, the prophets of Baal worked fervently to get their god to respond. The following is a description of how far these prophets went in order to appease their god.

1 Kings 18:26-29, “So they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, "O Baal, hear us!" But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made. . . . So they cried aloud, and cut themselves, as was their custom, with knives and lances, until the blood gushed out on them. And when midday was past, they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice. But there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.” NKJV

Who could question the sincerity and fervency of these 450 prophets? But God was not the source of their worship therefore nothing happened. Elijah then says a simple prayer to God and God sends fire down from heaven and instantly devours the sacrifice, the altar, and all the water surrounding it. In comparison to the 450, there appeared little sincerity and fervency in Elijah’s appeal to God however God was with Him and God was the one who worked the miracle.

The same can be said of those who seek to practice charismatic gifts today. Since God’s Word tells us that these gifts have ceased, all the sincerity in the world is not going to alter what God has decreed nor will God find the practice of these gifts acceptable. God will not work miracles through them no matter how much they want Him to. The reason is simple. In all their sincerity, they have left out God’s truth and truth is a requirement to acceptable worship. 

b. Fact #2: works, miracles, and signs are no guarantee that they are the works of God. Just because some people seem to speak in tongues and claim to heal does not mean that God is the source of their activity. There may be other sources for their activity.

Let us remember that the first few plagues that God brought upon Egypt were reproduced by the magicians of Egypt. We know from Job 1 and 2 that Satan and his angels have great power and do mighty miracles that imitate God. Paul writes in 2 Thes. 2:9, that when the Antichrist comes, Satan will give him “all power, signs, and lying wonders” to deceive the world. Though Satan may be the source in some of these activities, there are other non-divine explanations for the “miracles” of the Charismatics. Magicians are able to do tricks that appear to be miracles. Many times we have been amazed by events or activities that loose their wondrous quality when we learn how they are done. For example, recently a toy manufacturer came out with a car that could run upside down on the ceiling with out a track or other means of support. I was truly amazed and puzzled at how this could be possible until I learned that the car had a mini vacuum that produced enough suction to keep it from falling. Suddenly the mystery was gone. 

Someone at this point may think that I am saying that those who practice Pentecostal or Charismatic gifts are magicians doing tricks. I am not necessarily saying that, however there are times when that is the case. The track record of those who claim the gift of faith healer is littered with deception and trickery in order to gain a following, money and fame. A few years ago a world famous faith healer would call out the name of someone in the audience he had not met and describe the specific illness they had. He claimed that the Holy Spirit was revealing to him that information and everyone saw it as a miracle from God. It wasn’t! Some skeptics came to his meetings with a radio receiver that could pick up various frequencies and they discovered that the healer’s wife, who had interviewed these individuals before the service, was feeding the information to her husband by way of a hidden wireless speaker in his ear. What appeared to be of God was really the deception of man. Sadly, though this man was exposed on national television, within a matter of a couple of years he was back to his old tricks and bringing in more money than before.

Many of the practices of the Charismatics can be explained by a study of psychological behavior. What most do not realize is that many of the practices of the Charismatic movement are brought about by heightening the senses of the individual to the point they enter almost a trance like experience. This technique is often used to teach people to speak in tongues. They use a hyped up music service and hyped up preaching to get their listeners on an emotional high. They then get the individual to start chanting the same words over and over until they seem to loose control of what they are saying. We do not see any of these techniques used in the NT church to enable the use of miraculous gifts. The Spirit gave it at salvation and the individual immediately began to use it. Acts 2 is a great example of this. The disciples were gathered together and the Spirit baptizes them into the body of Christ and immediately they speak in tongues.

This can also be illustrated by the fact that most of the Charismatics practices are also practiced by false religions of the world. Among all major world religions you can find speaking in tongues, healings, and miracles which are no different in their nature and expression than those practiced by the Charismatics and Pentecostals. This being the case we can draw only one of two conclusions. Either God is the source of current miraculous works and in doing so approves of false religions or the current “miraculous” works have another source other than God. I would say the later is the only possibility. Sadly, because some who “practice” these gifts today are from false Christian groups that do not hold to the gospel of Jesus Christ, it has led many in the Charismatics to bring these false groups under the umbrella of true Christianity. The have to accept them into the fold because they claim that only God can do their miracles works and so if false group does the same miraculous things, it must be the sign that they too are of God’s children regardless of their heretical beliefs. This has been a leading contributor to the ecumenical movement that has so devastated the evangelical church in America. 

2) History: If we are right in our understanding of the temporary nature of miraculous gifts then Church history should back us up on this point. A study of Church history shows that by the end of the First Century, all mention of the practice of the gifts of tongues, revelation, prophecy, knowledge, healing, and miracles ceases. Neither is there any mention of any one practicing them for the next 1800 years. If these miraculous gifts were intended for all generations of the Church, why then did God allow the church to abandon their practice for over 1800 years? If they were as important as the Charismatics and Pentecostals would imply, surely God would have moved his Saints to practice the gifts throughout this period. The fact He did not move His Saints to do so clearly indicates He had finished using these gifts almost 2000 years ago.

3) Scriptural Error: One fact that is common among the modern miraculous gifts movement is a lack of in depth study of the Word of God. The Charismatics seem to be willfully ignorant of God’s description, purpose, and rules concerning the use of these gifts. In speaking with some of the them I am amazed that they are willing to put personal experience and emotions on a higher plain of authority than the Bible. You do not like what a passage says, then you have a new revelation from God that supersedes the instructions of Scripture. Let me share a couple of examples of what I am talking about.

a. Error on the Baptism and the Filling of the Spirit. In Charismatic and Pentecostal circles, they teach that the Baptism of the Spirit happens as a second work of grace usually after salvation. They believe that when a person is baptized with the Spirit, he is also is filled with the Spirit and thus speaks in tongues as evidence that these events have transpired. Therefore if you have not spoken in tongues, you have not been baptized and filled with the Spirit and thus are in a sense a second class Christian.

They base this on the record of Acts 2 where those who were saved (disciples of Jesus) received the Baptism of the Spirit, were Filled with the Spirit and thus spoke in tongues. Since this happened at the beginning of the Church, they believe it is God’s intention for it to take place in every believer’s life. Therefore every believer is to speak in tongues. There are several problems with this view if we consider God’s Word.

#1: The baptism of the Spirit is when the Saint is baptized into the saving work of Jesus Christ and becomes a member of the Church. In other words, at the moment someone gets saved they are baptized into the Spirit. You can not be saved without being baptized into the Spirit.

1 Cor 12:13-14, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into* one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.” NKJV

It is important to note that Paul indicates here that the baptism of the Spirit takes place when we become a part of the body of Christ. What is also important to note is that in the same chapter, Paul indicates that not all believers are to speak in tongues.

1 Cor 12:8-11, “for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” NKJV

1 Cor 12:29-31, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” NKJV

Therefore we must conclude that speaking in tongues is not for all believers nor is it the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

#2: The filling of the Spirit is not a miraculous work of God. The Charismatic seek the filling of the Spirit and see it as the Holy Spirit coming upon them and bringing with Him miraculous works. The Bible, however, tells us that the filling of the Spirit is not a work of the Spirit but rather the work of the believer. Paul points this out in Eph. 5:18.

Eph 5:18-19, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,” NKJV

In this verse, Paul makes it clear that the filling of the Spirit is up to the willingness and action of the believer. Note that Paul commands the Saints to be filled with the Spirit. They are not to pray for it but do it. He describes it is like being filled with alcohol. A person who consumes alcohol voluntarily turns over control of his actions and thoughts to the will of the drink. In like matter, the filling of the Spirit is when believers turn over control of their thoughts and actions to the will of the Holy Spirit.

b. Error of the practice of gifts. All gifts were given by the Holy Spirit and were under the power of the individual who received it. He could chose when to use the gift and when not. Likewise, miraculous gifts had specific rules by which they were to be followed. (1 Cor. 14) Though some in the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements seek to practice the gifts according to God’s rules most do not. In their services, often many more than 3 individuals speak in tongues, at times simultaneously, and usually without an interpreter. All of this violates the rules Paul laid down. They respond that when the Holy Spirit moves upon them they have no control over the gift and yet Paul clearly says if they want to speak in tongues and there is no interpreter they are to remain silent. This speaks of control! Likewise, if someone has a prophecy and someone else wants to get up and speak, the first is to stop prophesying and give place to the second. One again control of the believer is in view here! Therefore the excuse that the Holy Spirit over powers them and they have no control is contrary to the teaching of Scripture.

c. Other Errors: Many others could be sited. That faith is necessary for healing. That it is God will for all believer’s to be healed. That believer’s have no business going to a doctor or hospital. That it is God’s will that all believers prosper financially and the list could go on and on. One of my favorites is the use of Heb. 13:8 where it says that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. They like to use this verse to say that since Jesus did miracles when he was on the earth and he never changes, than miracle gifts are still for today. The problem with this interpretation is, which Jesus is He the same as? The 30 years he did no miracles or the 3 years He did?

4) Practice of gifts: the practice of modern “sign” gifts does not measure up to the gifts as practiced in the gospels and in the NT Church. Tongues speakers today only speak gibberish not a human language unknown to them. Because they can not speak in a foreign language, they claim that the gibberish that comes from their mouth is the language of angels. Never is it ever said in the Scriptures that tongues speakers could ever speak in the tongues of angels. 1 Cor. 13:1 does mention speaking in the language of angels but Paul is using it as a hyperbole to illustrate how important love is in exercising our spiritual gifts. Faith healers are another area where the gifts fall far short of that practiced in the NT. Faith healers today screen those in their audience who might come forward for healing before the service. They do this so they might put the most severe cases in places where they can not make it to the front for healing. It has been documented that many who enter the arena on foot are given wheelchairs so that when they step out of them, it appears they have been healed. The fact that they screen out the worst conditions is evidence that faith healers can not heal all sickness. When have you seen a faith healer heal a quadriplegic? How about a man with no arm or leg? How about some one who was born with no eyes? How about the individual who is mentally retarded? If they can not heal these types of illness then they do not possess the gift of healing given by the Spirit in the NT. They are false teachers seeking to lead many astray and fleece the flock in the process.

I hope this study will be of help to all who read it. It has been my wish not to attack the Pentecostals or Charismatics for many of them are true believers. I have had as my goal to reveal the biblical truth about these miraculous gifts and their relevance in the present Church age.