Ecclesiology 024: Spiritual Gifts 4

Ecclesiology 024: Spiritual Gifts 4
Hebrews 2:3-4 • Dr. Andy Woods • June 3, 2018 • Ecclesiology


Andy Woods

Ecclesiology 24

Spiritual Gifts 4

6-3-18     Lesson 23

Father, I thank You for this morning, I thank You for today, and thank You for the opportunity to fellowship with Your people and to study Your Word.  And I do ask, Father, that the Holy Spirit would be with us today as we fellowship, as we take communion together and as we study Your Word.  And we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen!

Do you still have a copy of this little Daniel test.  Does anybody need one?  [Someone says something, can’t hear]  Your online listeners have asked for it.  We can accommodate them, I think, probably not this very second.  But if you need this just put your hand up and we’ll get it to you.  And then if you need the test keep your hand up and Jim will hand you the test.  You say this is a weird church, they give out tests, what’s the matter with you guys.  Well, we spent 62 lessons going through Daniel so I was afraid some cobwebs developed in your minds, I know some developed in my mind.  And this little test is just a way, it’s not a stump you kind of test, it’s just a way to re-familiarize yourself with the Book of Daniel.  And since we’re leaving the Book of Daniel and moving into the Book of Revelation I wanted to give you this test and kind of go over it with you before the issue got stale and we got too far away from it.

There should be a page that says Match the Events With the Chapter They’re Found In.  You guys see that?  So let’s go through this.  So what you’re basically doing here is being tested on the different chapters of the book.  How many chapters are in Daniel, anybody remember?  Twelve.  And do you know the big idea of each chapter?  Number 1, The Times of the Gentiles Portrayed As a Giant Statue.  Does anybody remember what chapter that’s in?  Chapter 2.  So the answer would be B.  Number 2, Daniel refuses to eat the King’s food.  Anybody remember what chapter that’s in?  Chapter 1, so the answer would be A.  And that’s sort of a big deal because Daniel took a stand for God in His teens.  He was just 16 years old when he did that and so that sort of set the parameters for his whole life, a life without compromise.  So this is a message we need to send to our young people because they think, just like we used to think, that we can go out and sow a few wild oats and get right with God later.  But what you see with Daniel is he took a stand when he was young and that dictated the direction of his life when he was into his old age.

Number three, Media-Persia conquers Babylon, anybody remember what chapter that’s in?  Chapter 5, so the answer is E, that’s the big political C-change that happens in the book.  Number 4, the ram and the goat vision, that’s the vision of Persia and Greece.  Anybody remember the chapter that’s in?  Chapter 8, so the answer to that would be H.  Now hopefully you guys know about the Seventy Weeks Prophecy because we spent about seventy weeks in that prophecy.  That’s the same as seventy sevens and what chapter is that in?  Nine, so the answer would be I.

God humbles Nebuchadnezzar, He turned him into an insane man for seven years and that would be Daniel 4, so the answer is D.  And then remember chapters 2-7 is organized as a literary pattern called a chiasm, so the outer edges of the chiasm are 2 and 7.  So the times of the Gentiles are portrayed as a giant statue, Daniel2.  Then they’re portrayed as four ferocious beasts, what chapter is that in?  Seven, so the answer would be G.  And then the story of Daniel that most of us instinctively know from being little kids at Sunday School, Daniel in the lion’s den, what chapter is that in?  Chapter 6, so the answer is F.  Number nine, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and the fiery furnace, chapter 3 so that would be C.  The two resurrections, remember that?  Chapter 12, so the answer would be L.  And then there’s a section of the Book of Daniel that gives you all those prophecies about the intertestamental time period between the end of Malachi and the beginning of the New Testament, Matthew’s Gospel and where do we find all of those?  Daniel, chapter 11 so the answer is K.  And then the great spiritual warfare chapter, where the veil is pulled back and we can see spiritual warfare. Where does that happen?  Ten, so the answer would be J.  So the answers are real quick, B-A-E-H-I-D-G-F-C-L-K-J.

Then you flip the page over and you have section 2 and this is also matching.  And here you’re just matching a concept sort of with a name.  So the first question is: The non-inspired historical books that record historical events that took place in the intertestamental period, how do we know that Daniel’s prophecies were fulfilled during that time period?  Well, we have some books, anybody know the name of those books.  1 and 2 Maccabees which we as Protestants don’t accept as inspired but we believe that they do contain valid history in them, kind of like the writings of Josephus.  So the right answer would be D for number 1.

And then you’ve got two chapters that sort of line up with each other in the literary pattern called a chiasm, that both highlight civil disobedience.  Anybody know those two chapters?  The answer is T, chapters 3 and 6.  So apparently as a Christian it’s appropriate to tell the government no under certain circumstances.  So we’re to have to think about that, aren’t we, as believers, as the judicial system is sort of coming in and, you know, threatening conservative organizations and churches if they don’t… you know, marry same sex couples, so probably one of the first times in my lifetime as an American Daniel 3 and 6 we have to really think about, when is it appropriate to say no to the government?  So those chapters give us light on that.

When do the liberals date the Book of Daniel?  The second century, so the answer would be J.  And then you have these three names,  Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, now are those their real names?  No, those are their Babylonian names.  So when Nebuchadnezzar took these guys into captivity he basically said I own you and he gave them four different names.  And in the Bible when you name something it’s a mark of ownership.  That’s why Adam was allowed to name the various animals.  And so that’s a big deal that Nebuchadnezzar did there.  So the answer would be what?  M, the Babylonian names of our four heroes in the Book of Daniel.

Then you have the belly and thighs of bronze, remember the giant statue of Daniel 2. What empire was the belly and thighs of bronze be?   The empire of Greece, so the answer would be G.  Then you have Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

Number 6, an angel who interprets the vision in Daniel 8 and delivered the vision in chapter 9, who was that?  That’s our youth pastor, Gabriel… the angel Gabriel, sorry.

And that takes us to 7, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, that’s not their Babylonian names but their Hebrew names, so the answer would be A.  And by the way, we looked at the fact that all of those names in Hebrew reflect the glory of God in some way.  So they obviously had godly parents that mentored them and discipled them at home.

Now when do we, as conservatives date the Book of Daniel, number eight, which century?  The sixth century B.C. so the answer would be E.

And then we have the desecration of the temple during the intertestamental period.  Who did that?  It depends on which syllable gets the emphasis, I call it Antiochus Epiphanes, if you want to call him Antiochus that’s fine, or Epiphanies, that’s fine, or Epiphanius, whatever but he’s sort of a prototype of which coming figure?  The antichrist.  So what Solomon said, “What has been will be again.”

And then that takes us to ten, right, the chest and arms of silver and the giant statue of Daniel 2 represent which empire?  Medo-Persia so the answer would be B.

And then we have that phenomenal Jewish holiday that’s celebrated around the same time we celebrate Christmas commemorating the liberation and rededication of the temple from Antiochus’ rule.  And the answer would be what? Hanukkah.  So you might have Jewish friends and neighbors and wondering what it is they’re celebrating during Hanukkah and basically that’s what they’re celebrating, although a lot of them don’t know their history so they do it culturally.  But it’s neat to know that that holiday has a basis in the Bible.

And then you come to number twelve and you have the king who conquered Babylon.  Who was that King.  I call him Darius so the answer would be C.  That conquest takes place in Daniel 5 you’ll remember, that’s the famous handwriting on the wall chapter.

Then you have number thirteen, the legs of iron and the terrifying beast is which empire? Rome, so the correct answer would be S.

Number fourteen, the Babylonian king who was featured in Daniel chapters 1-4, who’s that?  Nebuchadnezzar and so the answer would be L.

The handwriting on the wall, what was written on that wall?  Mene mene tekel upharasin, which basically means weighed, weighed, numbered and divided.  And that’s what was written on the wall by a mysterious hand, the hand of God, showing Belteshazzar that his days were up because he had taken the holy vessels from the temple and used them as a drunken bash and once he did that it was over for him and he died that night and the empire of Babylon would cease to exist that night.  So the answer would be W for fifteen.

Number sixteen, Alexander the Great had four generals, that’s how his empire was divided, so that would be Cassander, Lysimachus, Ptolemy and Seleucus so the answer would be O.  And so Daniel saw in Daniel 8 Alexander’s empire divided into four and it’s just amazing how accurate Daniel’s prophecies were.

This takes us to number seventeen, he will desecrate the temple during the future tribulation period and that would be who? Antichrist, so the answer would be U.

And then a title that Jesus frequently claimed for Himself is the Son of Man, so that would be Q.  And that’s what’s going on in Daniel 7, when the Son of Man returns, that’s Jesus, and establishes His kingdom on the earth.

And then that takes us to number nineteen, the period when no Davidic king is on the throne and the empire, or the nation of Israel rather, is being trampled down by various Gentile powers. What do we call that time period?  The times of the Gentiles.  And so the answer to that would be R.  You’ll find Jesus Himself using that expression, “times of the Gentiles” in Luke 21:24.  [Luke 21:24, “and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”]

By the way, are the times of the Gentiles over?  No, we’re still in them right now.  It’s just God is working through the church in the midst of all of that but even though the Jews have been regathered to their land and Donald Trump has moved the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and all of that is very exciting to think about we shouldn’t think the times of the Gentiles are over.  The times of the Gentiles will go right on through the second advent at the end of the tribulation.

And then we have the first King of Greece, and who was that?  Alexander the Great, so the answer is V.  And that’s sort of a big deal because why is it that when you close the pages of the Old Testament, the Bible is written in Hebrew, and when you open the pages of the New Testament the Bible is written in Greek.  I mean, why the language change? Well, you can thank an individual for that named Alexander the Great who brought in the Greek language, probably about 300 years before the time of Christ.  And that’s a big deal because, as you may know, the Greek language is one of the fullest dialects known to man.  We have one word for love in English, I think there’s at least four words for love in Greek.  And so God was putting the right language in place, the deepest richest language, one of them, that we know of to record the revelation of His Son.  So God uses bad instruments for His purposes, isn’t that great!  So the answer to 20 is B.

Twenty one, the Babylonian king who saw the handwriting on the wall, who was that?  Belshazzar, so the answer is I, not to be confused with Belteshazzar who was Daniel’s Babylonian name.

And then you have number twenty-two, a preincarnate appearance of Christ, Jesus may have made a guest appearance in Daniel 3, as the angel of the Lord.  And there are many examples of this in the Old Testament where an angel of the Lord appears and it’s obvious it’s not just an ordinary angel because folks are worshipping the angel, as in John 5.  As we’re going to see today in the Book of Revelation a true angel will not receive worship.  So if Jesus makes these guest appearances what do we call those?  Theophanies or maybe Christophanies, Jesus before the manger.  And so the correct answer to 22 is N and that just leaves one more, right?

The head of gold in the statue represented who?  Babylon, so the answer is F.  So the answers are: D. T. J. M. G. P.A.E. H. B. K. C. S. L. W. O. U. Q. R. B. I. N. F.  Make sure you put your name on it and turn it in and we’ll have to decide if you’re going to stay a member of Sugar Land Bible Church…. NO, this is just for your own fun.  Having said all that, I hope you enjoyed that; was that helpful… okay, good.

Let’s take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Hebrews, chapter 2, verses 3-4, and we’re going to spend the rest of our Sunday School class this morning dealing with the doctrine of the church.  I think we’re on Lesson four on Ecclesiology.  Ecclesiology is the study of the church, what does the Bible reveal about the church.  [Hebrews 2:3, “how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, [4] God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”]

And so we’ve looked at many, many issues and we’re there on Roman numeral VII where we’re talking about the purposes of the church.  The church, as we have studied, has three purposes, to glorify God, to edify the saints and to fulfill the great commission.  How does the church edify the saints or build them up?  Through the perpetual teaching of the Word of God.  That’s one of the church’s very high callings.  And so this is why God, according to Ephesians 4, 2 Timothy 3, has put spiritual gifts into the church, to edify the saints or build them up.  So one of the purposes of the church is to teach the Bible in such a way that people can understand it, people can apply it to their lives and as that happens they are being prepared for their ministry.  So when I say “their ministry” you start to see that the church does not just have a minister but the church has within it ministers, all of us in some way, shape or form are called into the ministry to do something.  We have different walks, some do it fulltime, some do it part time, but we’re all called to the ministry.

And how do you know what your ministry is?  You know what your ministry is by the spiritual gift and/or gifts that God has given you.  So this gets into a subject called pneumatology, the doctrine of the Spirit, but I decided to cover this under ecclesiology since spiritual gifts are so important for the development and the growth and the maturity of the local church.  So we’re doing sort of an excursus, if you will on the doctrine of spiritual gifts.

So as we look at this we’re trying to ask and answer four questions.  Number one, what are some general observations about spiritual gifts?  And I believe I gave you nineteen basic observations about spiritual gifts.  And then I had to, and I hate to do it because whenever I do this it divides Christians, but I felt like it was something that had to be addressed, you get into the second question, are all the spiritual gifts for today.  So what we did as we looked at are all the spiritual gifts for today is we made some sort of preliminary thoughts about that and I tried to explain that this issue of are all the spiritual gifts for today, this is an important issue, I don’t mean to under sell its significance, but at the same time I don’t think this should be an issue that divides the body of Christ the way it has, because when you look at our charismatic brothers and sisters in Christ who believe that all of the gifts of the Spirit are for today, what you’ll discover is that they have the same beliefs we do probably on 99% of things.  So we need to sort of keep that in mind; there’s a lot more that brings  us together than what divides us

However, the issue of are all the gifts of the Spirit for today is significant because that sort of dictates what kind of church you’re going to have.  So if you wanted to go through your Bible and you wanted to figure out what sections of the Bible deal with the issues of spiritual gifts you just memorize the pneumonic device, 12/12/4/4, that stands for Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Peter 4, Ephesians 4 and that will take you to all the chapters in the Bible where the spiritual gifts are outlined.  And by my count there are about twenty-two spiritual gifts specifically mentioned in the Bible, six of which are disputed in terms of whether they are in practice today.  That’s the big elephant in the room because when you go through those chapters you’re going to see these, along with sixteen other gifts, these gifts.  You’re going to see the gift of apostle, prophet, worker of miracles, tongues, interpretation of tongues and the gift of healing.

Within the evangelical body of Christ there are two schools of thought on those six gifts.  You have what are called charismatics, sometimes they’re called continuationists, and their basic belief is that every single gift you see in the New Testament is fully operational today, including apostle and prophet and something called tongues and other things like that.  You have another school of thought called cessationists and I really don’t like the word cessation because it makes us sound like we don’t believe God is doing anything; I like the title selective cessationists; we believe in the Holy Spirit, we believe God is at work, however, those six gifts that I just mentioned are not in operation today.  So that’s the lines of demarcation.

And we’ve talked one of the things we do at our church is we don’t hide the doctrinal statement from people.  You go to a lot of churches today and you have to literally strangle someone to get a doctrinal statement.  We’re very up front about what we believe and what we teach.  We believe that you could become a member of our church and not agree with us on certain issues, however, when we teach we teach from an angle, a theological angle and the theological angle that we teach from is there were temporary spiritual gifts very active in the first century which are no longer in operation.  And we’ve read our position statement number seven where we talk about.  Does this sound familiar, we did this a couple of weeks ago didn’t we?

So one of the things you get accused of if you move in the direction of selective sensationalism is you get accused of being arbitrary.  I’ve been accused of that by people, oh, well, you just go through the Bible and you like that gift so you keep it, I mean, you like the gift of pastor-teacher because that’s the one you have so you get to keep that one, but the gift of prophet, you just put an X through it or a red line through it.  And so people think we go through the Bible and say that one stays, that one goes, that one stays, that one goes.  And it’s a lot more complicated than that.

And part of coming out correctly, I believe, on this issue of spiritual gifts is understanding the spiritual gifts are divided into four different categories.  The first category is the foundational gifts and what I mean by that is the gifts of apostle and prophet.  And when you go over to Ephesians 2:20 this is what the Apostle Paul says; “having been built” that is the church, “on the” what?  “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.”

So in a construction project how many times do you lay a foundation?  You lay it one time at the beginning and you build on that foundation.  So the foundation of the church was laid two thousand years ago through the apostles and prophets. Today the Lord is not relaying the foundation.  I believe as close as we’re getting to the end of the age it seems to me like the Lord is not even building walls any more but He’s putting on the roof.

So we believe that these two gifts, apostles and prophets, are foundational gifts.  Speaking about apostles just for a minute, we saw in Acts 1:21-25 that “apostle” has a technical definition.  It’s someone who has been a witness to the resurrection of Jesus and the earthly ministry of Christ.  [Acts 1:21-25, “Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us— [22] beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us—one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” [23] So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias. [24] And they prayed and said, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen [25] to occupy this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.”]

So when someone today tells me they are an apostle, as I like to say, give you your diet and exercise tips because you look really good for  your age because you ought to be about two thousand  years old by now.  And you’ll see that technical definition in Acts 1 where the disciples, the apostles, laid out a standard or a criteria, criterion, for replacing Judas who had committed suicide, with another apostle and they picked Matthias, not because Matthias won a popularity contest but he met the standard of an apostle.

And the Apostle Paul lays out the standard for an apostle when he says, “Am I not an apostle?  Have I not seen our Lord Jesus Christ?”  Paul, the apostle, is the abnormal one in the group because he was not there during the earthly ministry of Christ, as the others were but he was converted in a vision in Acts chapter 9.  And the Lord did appear to him, and you’ll notice what Paul says about that; he calls himself untimely born, born out of due season.  And then he uses the expression I’m the last one. So when you say Paul was converted because of a vision he had then the guy down the street that runs the gas station could say he’s an apostle too because he had a vision.  That doesn’t really work because Paul says he’s the last, so he was abnormally inducted in and  you’ll see his conversion in Acts 9.  After Paul there are no more apostles; he’s the last.

And then prophets also is a foundational gift that began to disappear because to get a book included in the New Testament it had to have been written either by an apostle or someone who knew an apostle.  So when you go through the twenty-seven New Testament books we have what you’ll see is every single one of them was written by one of the apostles, or it could be corroborated by somebody who knew one of the apostles.  For example, Mark was not one of the original apostles but Mark gives credence, is given credence through his relationship to Peter, etc.

So what does that mean?  It means if all the apostles are dead and gone you can’t have new books of the New Testament being written today.  And so in that sense the gift of prophecy, the ability to receive something from God that’s of such a high caliber that you would actually include it in the Bible, that gift is over.  Why?  Because the apostles are gone and if someone is writing new books of the Bible today how could the apostles now dead give credence to something that Joe Blow just wrote?  So if you follow my logic and the end of the spiritual gift of apostle then by definition the gift of prophecy has to cease as well.  So that would take care of the foundational gifts.  I mean, there’s obviously two gifts (the way we think) that can’t be in existence today because they are specifically called, in Ephesians 2:20, foundational gifts.  [Ephesians 2:20, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.”]

Now there is a second set of gifts called confirmatory gifts and those three gifts are workers of miracles, tongues and healing.  Now don’t  hit the panic button yet, even though I’m going to make the case that the gift of healing has past that is not to say that we don’t believe God heals today.  There’s a big difference between healing and healers.  When the spiritual gift of healing was in existence it was a gift given to a person where they could lay hands on somebody, and I’ll show you some examples of it in operation, and they were healed immediately, no questions asked.  The healing was of such a profound consequence that even the enemies of Christianity couldn’t deny it.

So does God work like that today?  Not really. What we do as elders is we lay hands on people, sometimes we anoint the head with oil if they’re sick, and we leave the healing in God’s hands.  If God is going to heal this person we ask that he will, that’s between them and the Lord.  It’s not something automatic, sometimes it’s not something even instantaneous, sometimes it’s gradual.  And sometimes God can even  use a physician and a hospital to fix somebody.  We pray for that all the time, you know, someone is going into a surgery, ‘Lord, we ask that You would guide the hands of the skilled doctor,” etc.  So don’t hit the panic button, we’re not saying God doesn’t heal today.  What we’re dealing with here is the gift of healing.

So there are three gifts, workers of miracles, tongues and healing that we would call confirmatory gifts.  One of the things to get clear on is this: miracles are not happening over and over and over again in the Bible.  We think they are because the Bible is very selective history.  It doesn’t tell you everything that happened in Bible history.  It highlights the high points, including times when God is doing miracles.  However, when you actually look at the Bible chronologically and look at the whole plan of redemptive history miracles actually are somewhat rare.  They don’t occur over and over again.  And they have a tendency to cluster around eras when God is doing something brand new.  Therefore, since God is doing something new how would the people know it was God?  For example, they had been under the Law for 1500 years and all of a sudden this guy named Jesus shows up and He offers the kingdom to the nation of Israel, how in the world would anybody know that this guy, Jesus, who’s doing something different, other than what the Jews had known for 1500 years, how would they know He’s authentic?  God testified to it through various signs and miracles.

So here are the six eras in the Bible where miracles cluster around those eras.  The first one is the time of Moses, lots of miracles during that time.  You don’t really have a lot of miracles going back to patriarchal days, although there are some.  But once you get to the Mosaic time period miracles really kick into high gear.  Why is that?  Because God is doing something totally new.  He’s offering the nation of Israel the Mosaic Law for starters.

Number two, you’ll see miracles cluster around the time period of Joshua, just after the time of Moses, one generation later.  Why is that?  Because God is doing something new, He is bringing the nation of Israel into the Promised Land.  And then after Joshua’s day miracles sort of disappear, you don’t see a lot of miracles taking place until the time period of Elijah and Elisha, suddenly miracles start to kick up into high gear again.  You’ve got floating axe heads and calling fire down from heaven and  you’ve got shutting up the heavens so that it won’t rain for three and a half years and miracles really start to kick in again.  Now why is that?  Because God is doing something new, He’s raising up a brand new office called the prophet, because we already have the office of King, right?  Who was the first king of the nation of Israel?  Saul, and then David and then Solomon then the kingdom is divided and you have northern kings and southern kings.  And so these kings would have a tendency to run off the rails, right?  And reject the Mosaic Covenant, reject the Mosaic Law, so the function of a prophet was to call the wayward king back to the Mosaic Law.

So how would anybody know that these prophets are of God?  Well, God testified to these prophets, particularly Elijah and Elisha where this ministry of prophet started with various signs and wonders.  And then after the time period of Elijah and Elisha miracles sort of disappeared again and they really don’t show up again until Jesus Christ… Jesus performs many, many miracles.  Now why is that?  Because something new is happening.  Jesus is offering the kingdom to the nation of Israel on a silver platter.

And then the next major era of Bible history where miracles really come into focus is not long after, through the apostles, Peter, Paul, James, all these guys, and they’re performing miracles left and right in the Book of Acts.  Now why are miracles clustering around that time period?  Because God is doing something new. What’s He starting?  A new man that we’re in today called the church.  And we believe that after the apostolic era ended these miracles sort of petered out; I’ll give you some examples where they petered out, even in Paul’s ministry.  And the next signs and wonders movement on the horizon is the tribulation period and the millennial kingdom.  You go into the Book of Revelation, which we’re starting on this morning, why are there so many miracles clustering around that time period?  Because once again God is doing something brand new; He is evicting Satan from this earth and he is establishing His own kingdom on the earth.

And one of the things that’s interesting is during that time period Satan is going to do his own miracle; he brings in a counterfeit signs and wonders movement.  2 Thessalonians 2:9 talks about it, the counterfeit signs and wonders. [2 Thessalonians 2:9, “that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders,”]

So this is sort of what has always disturbed me about so many Christians looking for a signs and wonders movement and their whole denominations that I could mention by name, I won’t mention them but their primary emphasis is on a signs and wonders movement, a coming signs and wonders movement.  And I’m always thinking well, the next signs and wonders movement that I know of is through the antichrist, through counterfeit signs and wonders.  So I mean, are these people getting ready for the antichrist without knowing it?  Anyway, that’s just something to think about.

But notice that in the Bible miracles cluster around certain eras. There’s not… you don’t have non-stop miracles taking place throughout biblical history.  And we believe in that pattern, following the apostles and the foundation of the age of the church miracles primarily, at least the ones we read about in Scripture, although God can heal today and does, and God is providential and interferes in the affairs of men, if that weren’t true why pray.  But miracles of the nature that we see in the New Testament sort of ceased and will not reestablish themselves until the events of the tribulation period and the millennial kingdom.

So that’s one of the main reasons why we are selective cessationists; we’re just looking at that pattern.  And I should say this, that even though miracles were very dominant in the days of Elijah and Elisha there were a lot of people that did not get healing during that time period.  And that’s what Luke 4:25-27 is about.   Jesus says, ““But I say to you in truth, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months, when a great famine came over all the land; [26] and yet Elijah was sent to none of them, but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.  [27] And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

So you’ll notice that this was at the height of miracles authenticating the office of prophet.  And we shouldn’t even overstate what was happening there, there were many people that were bypassed by the Lord in terms of a miracle.  So there were many widows that needed healing and God only focused on one widow.  See that?  This is at the height of miracles.  There were many lepers in Israel during the days of Elisha but God only focused on one leper, Naaman, and that’s Christ’s point.  Even at the height of miracles we shouldn’t think that there were miracles for everybody.  That’s overstating what the Bible actually teaches.

And this is why I had you open up to Hebrews 2:3-4.  So we’re forty-five minutes into this and we’re finally getting to the verse, okay!  Hebrews, the author says, “how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed” you should underline the word “confirmed” if you’re an underliner in  your Bible, “it was confirmed to us by those who heard, [4]  God also testifying” and  you should underline the word testifying, “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”

So what is being revealed here is a trajectory that goes from the Lord to those who heard.  Now who would “those who heard” be?  That would be the apostles, right?  So it goes from the Lord to “those who heard” and then the author of Hebrews says it came to us, now who would the “us” be?  It would be the generation of individuals that weren’t necessarily apostles that received apostolic teaching.

And as it traveled,  this new revelation, as it traveled from the apostles to us what did God do?  How would I ever know that information coming from the apostles to us, if you’re that generation, was true?  God confirmed it and testified to it through what?  Signs and wonders and miracles.  So that is a very important passage because it reveals why God, in many cases in the first century did miracles; the miracles had the primary emphasis of confirming and testifying the truth of what the apostles were passing on.

Now this verse, let me back up for a second, following this event, these events, we generally believe that miracles, the way they’re described in the first century, ceased.  But the verse that people will use is John 14:12.   If you’re in the charismatic environment there’s no doubt that at some point someone will bring up John 14:12.  John 14:12 Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.”  So your typical charismatic or Pentecostal will look at that verse and say well there it is, right there in the Bible, how can you say that miracles of Christ have ceased selectively when my Bible says I’m supposed to do greater works and greater miracles than Jesus Himself did?

Well, I would say this in response.  John 14:12 is really not talking about miracles; I think what it’s talking about is conversions and you look at the ministry of Jesus how many converts did Jesus really have?  How many disciples did He have?  You know, Jesus preached a sermon in John 6 and emptied the building, basically.  I mean, everybody just wanted to go home after the things he talked about were so offensive and He finally turns to His disciples and He says well, you don’t want to leave too do  you?  And I love Peter’s answer, where else are we going to go, You’re like the only show in town, You’re the only one that can do things like this.

And then Jesus says well that’s great that the twelve have followed Me but really it’s not twelve, it’s going to be eleven because one of you is a devil, and he’s referring there to who?  Judas!  So He really doesn’t have this throng of conversions and this throng of this huge crowd.  I mean what you see in the life of Christ is a lot of people gravitate towards Him for superficial reason.  I think some of them were authentically saved but when He began to talk about discipleship suddenly his group kind of disappeared.

Now compare that to the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost.  I mean, this is the guy that walked out on the water and sunk, this is the guy that betrayed the Lord three times.  This is the guy that Jesus said to Him “get behind Me Satan.”  He’s endued with the Holy Spirit.  He preaches one sermon on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, how many converts does he have?  Three thousand. Wow!  And beyond that… and by the way, look at how many converts we have today worldwide in Christianity?  We don’t have twelve, we have a global movement around the world called the church of Jesus Christ or the body of Christ and so in the sense of numerical conversions there’s no doubt that we are doing greater works than Christ.  Of course, we’re not doing these things through human power but through the Spirit’s enablement.

Beyond that, when you look at the ministry of Jesus Christ the whole ministry of Jesus Christ takes place within the confines of the nation of Israel, a very narrow strip of real estate.  You get into the Book of Acts and the church is going where?  Southern Galatia, Asia, Europe, ultimately to Rome, and here we are in the twenty-first century on a completely different continent.  That’s what He means by the greater works; He’s not talking about miracles, He’s talking about number 1 quantity of authentic conversions, and number 2 he’s talking about how His message, which during His life as confined to Israel, would go outside of the borders of Israel and all the way around the world.  And certainly this has happened in the last two thousand years.  So I don’t think John 14:12 necessarily means that we’re going to do miracles of a greater capacity than Christ did.  I think that’s a passage that’s ripped out of context by a lot of people.

So let’s take a look at some of these disputed gifts.  There are three that I would call sign gifts: workers of miracles, something called tongues, and I think “tongues” is a lousy translation, it ought to be called “languages.”  And then the gift of healing or healings.  What is signs and wonders?  What is workers or miracles?  Well, we’re told what that was about.  As the message traveled from the Lord to the apostles to the generation that heard the apostles the message was confirmed at the foundational stage of the church through various miracles and signs and wonders.  And so there were those in the first century that had the ability, under the power of the Holy Spirit, to perform signs and wonders.  And signs and wonders is a sign of who?  An apostle.

The signs and wonders that I’m talking about here that you find communicated in the pages of the New Testament is a sign gift, a confirmatory gift at the inauguration of God doing something brand new and that was a gift specifically given to an apostle.  Paul says so in 2 Corinthians 12:12.  “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance by signs and wonders and miracles.”  And Paul said those specific gifts of “wonders” and “signs” and “miracles” God gave to confirm the message of the apostles, including Paul’s ministry.  Otherwise how would you know back in the first century if what they were saying was true.  They were reversing course, they were offering something brand new that had never been offered.  So God authenticated it through a sign gift called “workers of miracles.”

[1 Corinthians 12:28, “And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.  [29] All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?”]

And you’ll  see in the Book of Acts when you look at signs and wonders you’ll see it always comes from an apostle.  It mentions apostles, it mentions wonders, that’s the spiritual gift we’re talking about.  And you see the word “signs” there in Acts 2:43?   “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.”  You see how “wonders” is connected with apostle as a sign gift?  You’ve got to connect all three words together.  You see the same thing in Acts 4:30, it says, “while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.’”  You see how “wonders” is connected to “signs” there?  So working wonders or miracles was a sign gift to authenticate the apostolic age and the foundation of the church.

You see the same thing in Acts 5:12, “At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord” that’s not speaking of an automobile by the way, “in Solomon’s portico.”  You see the pattern again in chapter 5, verse 12.  See the word “wonders”?  That’s what we’re dealing with here.  You see how it’s connected with the apostles?  And you see how it’s connected with the word “signs.”  In other words, God was allowing this gift to authenticate the message of the apostles.

You see the same thing in Acts 14:3-4, “Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and” what? “wonders be done by their hands. [4] But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles.”  So again you see the spiritual gift of working wonders and miracles connected with an apostles and it’s connected with the word “sign” indicating that this spiritual gift was validating or authenticating what the apostles were teaching and saying.

If this weren’t going on, why accept Paul’s ministry.  Paul is the guy that’s going to take the gospel all the way to Rome.  I mean, how would the people in Rome ever know that what Paul said was true?  Because it was authenticated through signs and wonders, Paul says, through me.  Romans 15:18-20.  [Romans 15:18-20, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, [19] in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. [20] And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation.”]

This is the spiritual gift of working miracles that was completely in place in the first century to authenticate as a sign gift or a confirmatory gift what the apostles were saying who were bringing forward brand new truth.  And by the way, when Paul did this there was no dispute what was happening.  Here’s a guy named Eutychus, Acts 20:7-10, Paul there, I think it’s in Troas, is giving a sermon.  He gets a little longwinded, he preaches all night long….  you guys should be grateful that Paul’s not your pastor, people get mad at me because we get out at 12:30, think if Paul was your pastor, you might never get out until the evening.

[Acts 20:7-10, “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight. [8] There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered together. [9] And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. ]

But some guy falls asleep, falls out of the window sill, survives, and what does this passage say, Acts 20:10, “But Paul went down and fell upon him, and after embracing him, he said, “Do not be troubled, for his life is in him.”’  In other words, Paul raised this guy from the dead, resuscitated him right then and there.  And that’s how this gift of healing typically functioned; it was something that was done spontaneously on the spot.

But one thing I want to show you and I can do this very quickly is look at the order of Paul’s letters.  The final books that he wrote are 1 Timothy, Titus and 2 Timothy.  According to 2 Timothy 4:6 he writes that book because his life is being poured out as a drink offering.  [2 Timothy 4:6, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.”]  And as you get into later Paul what you see is Paul seems to not have this ability any more to perform signs, wonders and miracles and healings, because he leaves certain people sick.

Look at what he says to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:23, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.”  I mean, why didn’t Paul just heal Timothy on the spot like he did Eutychus in Acts 20?  Well, the answer is the apostolic age is winding down.  God gave certain gifts and abilities to authenticate the apostolic age but even towards the end of the apostolic age God seems to be gradually pulling back the sign gift that Paul had exercised without doubt throughout his life and ministry.

And then you get to the very end of his ministry in 2 Timothy 4:20 and what does Paul say?  “Erastus remained at Corinth, but Trophimus I left” what? “sick at Miletus.”  What do you mean you left him sick, I mean, you healed Eutychus earlier and now you’re telling me at the end of your ministry you’re leaving someone sick?  See, what is happening is there’s a gradual withdrawal, there’s a gradual petering out of a certain sign gift called workers of miracles.  Why is it gradually petering out?  Because its purpose has been served.  The apostolic age has been authenticated.  The New Testament was coming into existence; the body of Christ was being formed.  The foundation had already been laid.  And since God has not been doing anything new, beyond that foundation for the last two thousand years, and since miracles cluster around time periods when God is doing something new we would sort of expect, wouldn’t we, for certain gifts to sort of peter out.

So what I’m trying to say is this: these gifts, at least the one we’re talking about here, signs and wonders, are really no longer needed to confirm the apostles.  Why is that?  Because we don’t have apostles today.  You say well how do you know that?  Because the standard for apostle was already laid out in Acts 1.  And if the gift of apostleship disappeared then so did the gift of prophecy, because a prophet was someone that received direct revelation from God and recorded God’s truth.    And every book of the New Testament under that gift was either written by an apostle or someone who knew an apostle.  And so since that’s the standard you can’t have new books of the Bible being written today, can you?  Because the apostles are all dead and there’s no one there to confirm what was written.

So with the gift of apostle that sees things so did the gift of prophecy, and with the gift of apostle sees things so did the sign gifts, working miracles, because a sign gift was given to authenticate something brand new.  And once the foundation is laid there’s nothing new that’s happening.  See that?  So what I’m sort of trying to give you is the logic for being a selective cessationist.  There’s more to it than saying we like this gift, we don’t like that gift.  You like this gift but you don’t like that gift.  There’s a logical reason as to why:  number one, foundational gifts would cease and number two, certain sign gifts would cease as well.

Now the next time we’re together, next week, we’ll be dealing with two more sign gifts, the gift of tongues, what is that exactly, and then the spiritual gift of healing, getting more specifically into the question does God heal today.  So I went a little over, I apologize for that, so I don’t have time for Q & A or the worship team will kill me and then you guys might have to resurrect me from the dead if that happens. So keep your questions in a notebook, we’ll be doing Q & A as the series progresses, so let’s pray.

Father, we’re thankful for this morning, thankful for Your truth, thankful for Your Word and I just ask that the Holy Spirit would be with us as we seek to rightly divide what You have revealed and we’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory.  We ask these things in Jesus name and God’s people said… Amen.