When gifts of the Holy Spirit are discussed, this question inevitably arises.
In submission to Scripture, our confession of faith affirms that although God made Himself known by miraculous signs and wonders in times past, “those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people” are now ceased.
Understanding the finality of Christ’s saving work helps us to embrace the Biblical truth of cessation. This is not a doctrine of puny man, trying to limit the God Who can do as He pleases. God can do as He pleases! However, God also has told His people that there are some things He will do – such as righteously justify sinners who repent and believe (Romans 3:26), as well as some things He will not do – such as clear the impenitent guilty (Exodus 34:7).
Nothing can be added to what Jesus has already accomplished, two millennia ago, for the salvation of His elect. His miraculous incarnation, baptism, sinless life, substitutionary death, burial, victorious resurrection, and heavenly session (sitting down at the Father’s right hand) is all that is necessary. He or she whose trust is in Christ alone will be saved.
Hence no words can be added to God’s testimony of Himself and His salvation. That divine testimony is the inspired, infallible, inerrant, and fully authoritative, holy Bible. Man does not live by bread alone. To have the Word of God is to have all that is necessary for life and godliness. It discloses all saving knowledge of God.
At Hebrews 2:4,5 we read, “…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?”
And Paul, defending his apostleship, wrote to the Corinthians “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.” (2 Corinthians 12:12)
So just as the miraculous signs which God gave Moses to perform authenticated his commission and his message, or as the miracles of Christ confirmed Him as the unique Son Who spoke the words of the Father, so the divine origin of the Gospel message and the divine appointment of those through whom it was proclaimed after Jesus ascended to heaven was authenticated by such signs. Their work is done, and the signs have ceased.
To the glory of the Father, all is finished: both the Son’s work of redemption, and the Holy Spirit’s revelation thereof by way of the precious Scriptures. “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.” (Psalm 119:89)
What about the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) with its sound of a mighty rushing wind, tongues of fired upon gathered Christians, and those Christians suddenly and miraculously being able to speak other languages (tongues)?
First of all Pentecost dazzlingly spotlights God’s response to all of mankind’s warfare, hatred, and strife. For the power of Pentecost is nothing less than the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which the apostle declares to be the “dynamite” power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). Consider another occurrence in the sacred record involving human language…
Genesis chapter 10 records what is known as the Table of Nations. In Genesis 11, where the events surrounding the Tower of Babel are documented, we learn how these original nations came into existence. It was then and there that God broke the back of an organized human rebellion against His just rule; a concerted attempt by proud, foolish sinners to dethrone God and deify man.
God accomplished this derision (cf. Psalm 2) by confusing mankind’s original, single language into many languages. He made it impossible for the formerly united tower builders to understand one another, and thereby scattered them. The speakers of the various new languages formed the various nations of mankind. (God does not tell us how many new languages He formed, and since this event, languages have continued to change, become extinct, and arise.)
What the Holy Spirit did at Pentecost displayed that the judgment of Babel was removed in Christ, as all curses and condemnations are abolished by God’s grace in Christ. The Kingdom of God was stunningly manifested through the gift of speech. The formation of one new humanity was shown to be underway…not a humanity fallen, corrupt, and sinful in Adam, but alive in Christ the last Adam! (1 Corinthians 15;45). Through the Prince of Peace and through Him alone, the nations learn to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. They once again commune with one another.
Like those early Galilean Christians on the day of Pentecost, Christians today call upon that Name above all names, the glorious name of the risen, ascended, and reigning Lord Jesus. Let us hear and obey anew His marching orders to His besieging army, His Church. Against that Church the defensive gates of hell cannot stand, anymore than that ancient tower of usurping wickedness withstood the power of God. Jesus said:
“…All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
This is the result He has promised, and will surely bring about in His time:
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ ” (Revelation 7:9,10
Previously published elsewhere, July A.D. 2012