Sign Gifts - Other Gifts




We are exploring the relevance of the “sign” or “miraculous” gifts of the Spirit to see if they are still being practiced today. To accomplish this goal, we turn to the only source of authority on this matter; the 66 books of God’s Word, the Bible. Since God is the One who gives and empowers these gifts, God is the only One who can determine how and when these gifts are to be used. Paul reminds us that there will be many who will seek to deceive us into following false teaching concerning the works and ways of God (2 Cor. 11:13-15; 1 Tim. 2:1-4). This seems to be particularly true when it comes to the matter of the sign/miraculous gifts of the Spirit. I found that too often people’s opinions, experiences, and emotions seem to take precedence over the clear directives that God has given regarding spiritual gifts. Therefore our authority in all these matters must be limited to the Word of God and that alone!

It should be noted that it is not my intent in this section of our study to determine the purpose or duration of these gifts. My goal is simply to identify the gifts and give a general description of how they were used in New Testament times. We will deal with purpose and duration at a later time. In this segment we will be looking at the other sign gifts which many say they practice today. (1 Cor. 12:9).

1) Knowledge (1 Cor. 12:8; 13:8; 14:6): Of all the sign gifts, the gift of knowledge receives little attention even though it is associated with the gifts of prophecy and tongues (1 Cor. 13:8). The word “knowledge” comes from the Greek word “gnoses” which means to perceive or to understand knowledge. It is important to note that perception or understanding involves more than pure knowledge. Knowledge is simply the recognition of facts or bits of information and nothing more. Understanding, on the other hand, involves an appreciation of the facts and their benefit in practical application. For example, knowledge tells me that there is a formula known as E=MC2, however it does not tell me its significance or its value. A scientist, on the other hand, understands the value of the formula and is able to use it to determine such things as the speed of light and its effect on time. The gift of knowledge, therefore, went beyond the recognition of what God had revealed by enabling the believer to understand its value and its practical application to the Church. 

The early Church was reliant upon gifts such as prophecy, revelation, and the teaching of the Apostles to gain needed directives as to how to function as the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 14:6). The revelation at times was difficult to understand making it almost impossible to apply. Peter makes reference to this problem when he writes,

2 Peter 3:15-16, “As also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” NKJV

A full or complete understanding of this revelation would not be made available to all local churches until the whole of the New Testament was completed, compiled, and distributed. Since the Churches did not have the option of waiting until they had a complete NT, God gave them the gift of knowledge to assist them in the understanding and application of the partial revelation they had already received. For example, if someone had a question as to whether a certain practice, say eating meat offered to idols, was forbidden, the gift of knowledge would provide an answer based on what God had already revealed. 

It should be kept in mind, that like prophecy, this gift was a temporary one (1 Cor. 13:8-10). Paul wrote that in the early church they “knew” in part and “prophesied” in part but when that which gave complete knowledge and revelation had come, these gifts would pass away. The completed form of that knowledge and revelation would find its fulfillment in the completion of the NT Scriptures. Paul indicated this in 2 Tim. 3:16-17.

2 Tim 3:16-4:1, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” NKJV

Paul’s point is that the Bible, composed of its 66 books, would provide all the knowledge and information necessary to complete the walk of the Christian and to equip him for every good work. No additional knowledge and revelation would be necessary. Therefore, we must draw the conclusion that the gift of knowledge was a temporary gift that passed from existence with the competition of the New Testament writings.

2) Miracles (1 Cor. 12:10, 28-29): The gift of miracles is referred to by the Greek word “dunami” from which we get the English word “dynamite,” meaning to have great power or strength to do extraordinary things. The gift therefore gives the believer the ability to do or accomplish things that are humanly impossible. Though we know that some in the church had the ability to do miracles (1 Cor. 12:10; Gal. 3:5) yet for the most part we are not told what these miracles were with the exception of the following references in Acts. 

A) Miracles of healing and casting out of demons (Acts 3:1-10 with 4:16, 22; 5:12-16; 8:6-8; 19:11-12). 

B) Miracles and signs (Acts 8:13) and wonders (Acts 15:12)

C) Miracles of resurrection from the dead (Acts 10:36-43; 20:7-12)

D) Miracle of the blinding of a sorcerer (Acts 13:6-12)

E) Miracle of not being effected by the poison of a snake bite (Acts 28:1-10)

Many of the miracles in Acts are associated with healings and yet we know that the gift of healing was separate from the gift of miracles. A couple of explanations can be given for this. First of all, the Greek word for miracle is used 119 times in the New Testament. Only 16 times is it translated miracle. The other 103 times it is translated “power or mighty work.” When healings are being described in Acts, possibly the word should be translated “power or mighty work” rather than miracle thus separating the gift of miracles from the gift of healing. Secondly, some of the references of miracle are used by unbelievers to describe the extraordinary healings done by the apostles. In this case these healings would appear to be miracles when in reality they are the product of the gift of healing.

One last thing must be covered concerning the gift of miracles. We should not make the mistake of equating the miracles of God with the gift of miracles. The gift of miracles was the God given ability to perform extraordinary deeds at the discretion of the believer. The miracles of God are those direct acts of God that defy the laws of nature. This distinction can be found in the words of the book of Hebrews. 

Heb 2:3-4, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” NKJV

In this passage, the writer draws a clear distinction between the various miracles of God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I make this distinction at this point because the gift of miracles was limited to the First Century Church however the miracles of God continue to this present day. Therefore, do I believe people have the gift of miracles today? No. Do I believe that God still does miracles? Yes. I have personally seen God do some extraordinary things that were humanly impossible. However, let us remember, God never promised us that we would see miracles to all the challenges of life. God only works miracles when they suit His purposes.

3) Snake Handling (Mark 16:18): there is no mention of snake handling as a gift nor is there mention of the gift of drinking deadly poison. Some over the last 100 years have adopted the practice of handling poisonous snakes as a part of their regular worship. They claim this is a gift of the Spirit and is to be practiced today. The only reference to this practice is a questionable portion of Scripture found in Mark 16:18. It should be noted that this passage never claims that snake handling would be a gift but only indicates that if someone is bitten with a snake or drinks poison by accident they will not be harmed. We have such an account with the Apostle Paul when he is bitten by a poisonous snake when gathering wood and is not harmed (Acts 28:1-10). These miracles are called “signs” (17) and as such passed from existence at the end of the First Century AD as we see in a later study.

4) Prayer Cloths (Acts 19:11-12): there is no mention of this being a spiritual gift. In fact, the context indicates that this practice was done only through the Apostle Paul. The context therefore indicates that these miracles were never intended nor practiced by any other Saint other than Paul Prayer cloths, holy water, and other items that individuals say will heal you or make you prosper have no basis in the Scriptures and thus have no miraculous power. Likewise, when Paul did this miracle there was no requirement of money in order to receive these cloths unlike the current practice today.

5) Slaying in the Spirit: there is no reference to this practice anywhere in the Scripture. When studying the greatest miracle worker ever, Jesus Christ, there is not even an allusion to such a practice. This clearly has its origins in the figment of someone’s imagination and is never the work or God.

6) Holy Laughter: this is a phenomenon started at a supposed moving of the Holy Spirit in the Airport in Toronto, Canada back around the late1980s or early 1990s. It involves a person loosing control of his body, mind, and emotions as he falls into a continual state of laughter that lasts at times for hours. As in the case of slaying in the Spirit, there is no foundation for this in the Scripture therefore is not of God.

7) Prosperity and wealth: there are many today who are teaching that God wants us to be financially prosperous. This too is not supported anywhere in the Scriptures. In fact there are many passages which indicate that for most believers the opposite will be true.

James 2:5-7, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” NKJV

James 5:1-6, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.” NKJV

Phil 4:11-13, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” NKJV

1 Tim 6:8-10, “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” NKJV

The Bible must be our final authority when it comes to the gifts of the Spirit. Those who claim to practice the sign or miraculous gifts of the Spirit must follow what the Scriptures say about these gifts and their use. As we have seen, many of the so called “gifts” being promoted today are not found in the Scriptures. It is sad but true that all too often money and personal experiences seem to be the driving force behind them.