The biblical sign gifts refer to the miraculous gifts in the New Testament, including speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues, healing, working miracles, and prophesying. These activities clearly existed in the New Testament period. But what was their purpose? This question is important to answer as it impacts how we determine whether such gifts continue to operate today.
What are biblical sign gifts? What was their purpose?
Jesus clearly performed many miracles that were recorded in the gospels. His followers likewise performed signs that authenticated that their power came from Jesus Christ. For example, on the Day of Pentecost, people from at least 15 different cultures heard the believers speak and could understand their words in their own language (Acts 2:4-13). Peter healed a man disabled from birth (Acts 3:1-8). Paul even brought a young man back from death (Acts 20:9-12).
The reasons for these sign gifts include the following: First, sign gifts confirmed the message was from God. When Peter spoke on the Day of Pentecost, the miracle of those speaking in tongues led to many people coming to faith in Christ (Acts 2:41).
Second, the sign gifts affirmed the messenger was from God. Just as Jesus authenticated His message by His signs, the apostles often worked miracles as a sign that their message was truly from God. A powerful example is found in Acts 19:11-12: "And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them." The result of these miracles was that, "the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily" (Acts 19:20).
An interesting observation regarding these miraculous sign gifts can also be made in terms of the time and placement of these events in the Bible. The biblical miracles are concentrated in three key time periods: the ministry of Moses and Aaron, the ministry of Elijah and Elisha, and the ministry of Jesus and the apostles. These three time periods represent the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel of Jesus (as proclaimed in the New Testament writings). These miracles were first expressed to witnesses, and were then recorded in writings.
Today, the written Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments form the evidence for our faith in Jesus Christ. While God continues to perform miracles, there is not the same need to provide miraculous sign gifts through particular spiritual leaders.
What spiritual gifts does the Bible mention? Can you give me a survey of the spiritual gifts?
Are the miraculous gifts of the Spirit still active?
The spiritual gift of prophecy – What is it?
The spiritual gift of healing – What is it?
What is the gift of speaking in tongues?
Truth about the Holy Spirit