REVISITING THE SO-CALLED "SIGN" OR "MIRACLE" GIFTS (Part 5)

by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)

Okay, on to number twelve. I think this one is important and I think it's one cessationists use when they shouldn't. How they present it displays ignorance of church history or such a complete bias they ignore church history or somehow justify explaining it away. So, in Storms own words, the “good” reason here is, “the testimony throughout most of church history concerning the operation of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit.” In direct opposition to what many, if not most, cessationists argue, these gifts (or at least the recording of them) did not stop or vanish from early church history and life after the death of the apostles. Let's take a look (if you want thorough documentation and more depth on this I point you to Kydd, Ronald A.N., Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church, Peabody, Mass: Hendrickson Publishers, 1984).


JUSTIN MARTYR (100-165), he bragged “that the prophetic gifts remain with us” (Dialog with Trypha, 82).

IRENAEUS (120-200), “...many of the brethren who have foreknowledge of the future, visions, and prophetic utterances...others, by laying on hands, heal the sick and restore them to health” (Against Heresies, 2:32, 4).

“...members of the church who have prophetic gifts, and...speak with all kinds of tongues, and bring men's secret thoughts to light for their own good, and expound the mysteries of God” (Against Heresies, 5:6, 1).

“It is impossible to enumerate the charisms which throughout the world the church has received from God” (Against Heresies, 2:32, 4). was p

EUSEBIUS came to the conclusion that these gifts were still active at least throughout the life of Irenaeus (Ecclesiastical History, 5:7, 6).

APOLLINARIUS is quoted by Eusebius as having said, “the prophetic gifts must continue in the church until the final coming, as the apostle insists” (Ecclesiastical History, 5:16, 7).

EPIPHANIUS, “the charism of prophecy is not inoperative in the church. Quite the opposite... The holy church of God welcomes the same charisms as the Montanists, but ours are real charisms, authenticated for the church by the Holy Spirit” (Panarion, 48).

“The work of Theodotus (late second century) is preserved for us in Clement of Alexandria's Excerpta ex Theodoto. In 24:1 we read: 'The Valentinians say that the excellent Spirit which each of the prophets had for his ministry was poured out upon all those of the church. Therefore the signs of the Spirit, healings, and prophecies, are being performed by the church'” (Storms, p.256).

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA spoke directly about the exercise of the gifts in his time listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 (d. 215; The Instructor, iv.21, ANF, 2:434).

ORIGEN (d. 254) recognizes the operation of the gifts during his life but describes them as not as extensive as in the New Testament, but they were still active and contained power: “And there are still preserved among Christians traces of that Holy Spirit which appeared in the form of a dove. They expel evil spirits, and perform many cures, and foresee certain events, according to the will of the Logos” (Against Celsus, i.46, ANF, 4:415).

NOVATION has left these words for us, “...this is he who appoints prophets...directs tongues, brings into power and conditions of health, carries on extraordinary works, furnishes discernment of spirits,...brings together and arranges all other gifts there are of the charismata and by reason of this makes the Church of God everywhere perfect in everything and complete” (Treatise Concerning the Trinity (ca. 245), 29, 10).

CYPRIAN, BISHOP OF CARTHAGE (248-258) frequently wrote and spoke about the gift of prophecy and visions given from the Holy Spirit (The Epistles of Cyprian, vii.3-6, ANF, 5:286-87; vii.7, ANF, 5:287; lxviii.9-10, ANF, 5:375; iv.4, ANF, 5:290).

GREGORY THAUMATURGUS (213-270) is recorded as having operated in several of the miracle gifts often accompanied by signs and wonders.

CYRIL OF JERUSALEM (d. 386) frequently wrote about the gifts in his time, “For He the Holy Spirit employs the tongue of one man for wisdom; the soul of another He enlightens by Prophecy, to another He give the power to drive away devils, to another he gives to interpret the divine Scriptures” (Catechetical Lectures, xvi.12, NPF 2nd Series, 7:118).

BASIL OF CAESAREA (born 330) frequently spoke about prophecy and healing being active in his time. He mentions “word of wisdom” and “gifts of healing” as necessary for the common good of the church (The Longer Rules, vii).

“Spiritual leaders in the church, such as bishops or presbyters, says Basil, possess the gift of discernment of spirits, healing, and foreseeing the future... (The Longer Rule, xxxiv, xxxv, xlii, lv)” (Storms, p.259).

GREGORY OF NYSSA (born 336), younger brother of Basil, says this in reference to Paul's words in chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians, “Even if someone receives the other gifts which the Spirit furnishes (I mean the tongues of angels and prophecy and knowledge and the grace of healing), but has never been entirely cleansed of the troubling passions within him through the charity of the Spirit, he is in danger of failing” (The Life of St. Macrina, FC: 58:175).

GREGORY OF NAZIANZEN (born 330), gives comprehensive descriptions of physical healing of both his mother and father along with visions that accompanied them (On the Death of His Father, xxviii-xxix, NPF 2nd Series 7:263-64; xxxi, NPF 2nd Series 7:264).

HILARY OF POITIERS (356) talks about “gifts of healing” and “working of miracles” being done through “the power of God” also “prophecy” and “discerning of spirits.” He comments on the importance of “speaking in tongues” with the “interpretation of tongues” (On the Trinity, viii.30), NPF 2nd Series 9:146).

AUGUSTINE (354-430) was a fairly staunch cessationist early on in his life (tongues in particular), but later he changed his position. You see in his writings that he recanted his denial of miracle gifts. In fact, he documents 70 cases of healing right in his own diocese during just a two-year time period (City of God, Book XXII, chs. 8-10).

While it is true that in his Retractions, which he wrote at the end of his life and ministry (ca. 426-27), he states that tongues and the more dramatic miracles like people being healed by “the mere shadow of Christ's preachers as they pass by” have stopped functioning. He goes on to state, “But what I said should not be understood as though no miracles should be believed to be performed nowadays in Christ's name. For me myself, when I was writing this very book, knew a blind man who had been given his sight...I knew of some other miracles as well; so many of them occur even in these times that we would be unable either to be aware of all of them or to number those of which we are aware.”

Some more who are recorded as having miraculous gifts operating during their ministries: “Pachomius (287-346) and John of Egypt (d. 394); Leo the Great (400-461; who served as bishop of Rome from 440 until 461); Genevieve of Paris (422-500); Gregory the Great (540-604); Gregory of Tours (538-594); Aidan, bishop of Lindisfarne (d. 651) and his successor Cuthbert (d. 687; both of who served as missionaries in Britain); the Venerable Bede (673-735; his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, written in 731, contains numerous accounts of miraculous gifts in operation); Bernard of Clairvaus (1090-1153); Bernard's treatise on the Life and Death of Saint Malachy the Irishmen (1094-1148); Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173); Anthony of Padua (1195-1231); Bonaventure (1217-1274); Francis of Assisi (1182-1226; documented in Bonaventure's Life of St. Francis); Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274); together with virtually all of the medieval mystics, among whom are several women: Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), Gertrude of Helfta (1256-1301), St. Clare of Montefalco (d. 1308), Bergitta of Sweden (1302-1373), Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Julian of Norwich (1342-1416), Margery Kempe (1373-1433); Dominican preacher Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419); and Theresa of Avila (1515-1582)” (Storms, p.261-62).

I can hear it right now. Some of you are objecting to this last paragraph because all of them are Roman Catholics. Let's remember though that during this time in history that's pretty much all there were. Apart from a few splinter groups and sects, there was virtually no exercise of Christianity beyond the Church of Rome (the formal split of Eastern Orthodoxy didn't even take place until about 1054).

IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA (1491-1556) who founded the Jesuits and wrote Spiritual Exercises.

COUNT VON ZINZENDORF (1700-1760), as well as other leaders, within the Moravians.

JANSENISTS in the first half of the eighteenth century.

FRENCH HUGUENOTS in the second half of the eighteenth century.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791) defended the continuation of tongues beyond the time of the apostles.

GEORGE FOX (1624-1691), founder of the Quaker church.

GEORGE WISHART (1513-1546), John Knox's mentor; JOHN KNOX (1514-1572); JOHN WELSH (1570-1622); ROBERT BRUCE (1554-1631); and ALEXANDER PEDEN (1626-1686) all have comprehensive documentation which provides evidence for their exercise of the gift of prophecy (I personally don't recommend Jack Deere as an author, but the resources where this documentation can be found is recorded in his book Surprised by the Voice of God, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, pp.64-93).

SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600-1661), one of the main people responsible for the development of the Westminster Confession of Faith, is known to have believed the operation of the gifts were still active in his time.

(cont...)

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