So let's begin our NEW SERIES of messages on The Biblical Sign Gifts
In our previous message, “The Timeline of the Apostle Paul's Ministry”, we put in chronological order the 13 letters written by the Holy Spirit by the hand of the Apostle Paul. And, having surveyed the 13 letters let's see what they tell us about the Biblical Sign Gifts
In this message we will look at...The Biblical Sign Gifts...When Did They Cease!
In the first six letters, all written during the period covered by the Book of Acts, we find that the sign gifts, including water baptism were operating in all these churches. All through the Book of Acts we read of tongues, the gift of prophecy, the gift of healing, etc. We read of, tongues and prophecy in Acts 19:6, the gift of prophecy in Acts 21:10-14, the gift of healing in Acts 19:11-12 and Acts:28:8-9, and so on. Correspondingly, in the "Acts Epistles" we read of the gifts operating in the churches that the Apostle Paul founded. In Galatians 3:5, 1 Thessalonians 5:20, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Corinthians 13, 1 Corinthians 14, 2 Corinthians 12:12, and Romans 12:6, in all of these we read about the gifts in operation right through to the end of the Book of Acts.
But, during this time in the Book of Acts, the RISEN Christ revealed to the Apostle Paul that the sign gifts were going to cease, as we read earlier in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. The gifts were all in operation all through the Book of Acts period and are mentioned in the letters written during that time, but, again, the LORD Jesus Christ had revealed that the sign gifts were going to cease at some time in the future.
HERE is where the gift of tongues ceased
Now we turn to the prison epistles, the four letters written shortly after the end of the Book of Acts, while the Apostle Paul was a prisoner in Rome, these are Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians. In them we find that there is not one word about tongues, or the gift of healing. Even where we might have expected the Apostle Paul to write of tongues in the passage about being "filled with the Spirit" in Ephesians 5:17, he has nothing to say about tongues. Then, concerning the gift of healing, we read of a co-worker of the Apostle Paul's, Epaphroditus, who fell seriously ill during this time, Philippians 2:25-30, and the Apostle Paul no longer had the gift of healing, and was no longer able to heal as he did only a few years earlier in Acts 28:9. The sign gifts were no longer operating at the time that Paul wrote the Prison Epistles.
So, we ask, can tongues be found in the Pastoral Epistles?
In the 3 Pastoral Epistles, as in the prison epistles, we do not read of tongues or the gift of healing operating at this time. We do read of prophecies that had BEEN made about Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:18, 1 Timothy 4:14, and 2 Timothy 1:6, but these were given years before. So far as we read in these three letters, we wouldn't even know that there had been a "gift of tongues."
And, again, in places where we would have expected the Apostle Paul to mention the sign gifts, he is silent. When Paul gives Timothy and Titus instructions regarding the choice of men to be elders in the churches, Paul says nothing about the desirability of these men having a gift such as prophecy, or healing, or other sign gifts (Titus 1:6-9, and 1 Tim. 3:1-10). The gifts of tongues, prophecy, etc., were no longer in operation by the time the Apostle Paul wrote the pastoral epistles.
It is clear that the gift of healing has ceased because, as in Philippians, Paul was no longer able to heal, even his co-workers. Timothy was suffering stomach problems and frequent infirmities (1 Timothy 5:23) and the Apostle Paul can't heal him, also, he doesn't recommend that he go to a healer in the church, doesn't send a prayer cloth or a bottle of anointing oil (remember the miracles of some 8 years earlier in Acts 19:11-12). Likewise in 2 Timothy 4:20, Paul has to leave behind his co-worker Trophimus who had fallen sick on the last journey. The Apostle Paul's gift of healing (Acts 28:9) was no longer operating in Philippians 2:27, 1 Timothy 5:23, and 2 Timothy 4:20.
What Have We Learned So Far
The sign gifts, water baptism, tongues, prophecy, the gift of healing, etc. were operating all through the Book of Acts, and these gifts are mentioned in the letters that the Apostle Paul wrote during the Acts period. But when we turn to the letters written AFTER the Book of Acts (the 4 Prison Epistles, and the 3 Pastoral Epistles), we find that the sign gifts either aren't mentioned at all or we see, as with the gift of healing, that they were no longer operating in the Apostle Paul's life. What he could do in Acts 28, he could no longer do in Philippians, or in 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy. He could heal all the sick on the island in Acts 28:9, but he couldn't heal any of his closest co-workers...Timothy, Epaphroditus, Trophimus…after the close of the Book of Acts.
Therefore, arranging the Apostle Paul's letters in the order that he wrote them allows us to see the pattern of truth that is found in the Word of God:
The sign gifts were operating in Acts, and in all of the Acts Epistles: Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, and Romans. Let’s take note again, in this time period, in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, the Apostle Paul tells us that Christ had revealed to him that these gifts would cease someday. THEY DID. In the letters written after the Book of Acts, the sign gifts had ceased, just as the RISEN Christ said that they would. The pattern could not be clearer, and the contrast could not be sharper between the earlier letters and the later letters, between the times when all the sign gifts were operating, and the time when all the sign gifts had ceased.
Therefore, we can now give a scriptural answer to the question that we started with: when did the sign gifts cease? The answer is that the sign gifts ceased at the end of the Book of Acts. There is no record in Scripture of any of the sign gifts operating in any of the letters that Paul wrote after the end of the Acts period, and it is clear that the gift of healing had ceased since the Apostle Paul could no longer heal even his closest co-workers after the close of the Book of Acts.
In Ephesians 1:13 the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul declares that men are saved and sealed by hearing and BELIEVING the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your Salvation. Therefore, here, now, is declared unto you the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your Salvation: "that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures" 1 Corinthians 15:3-4. BELIEVE today. The time is short.
So There You Have it!
Spread this message to everyone you know, far and wide.
Grace be to you and peace, from God: our Father, and The LORD Jesus Christ.
In The LORD Jesus Christ,
The Lion and Lamb Ministry
Pastor David Picos, D.D.
Minister and Ambassador for Christ in the Ministry of Reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20)