The Gifts of the Spirit
Pentecost cannot be thought of, since the great day recorded in Acts 2, apart from spiritual gifts. By spiritual gifts we mean not the gifts in grace bestowed to believers in all dispensations, but those miraculous gifts that were such a feature in the church during the period covered by the Acts. We can say, for we have demonstrated it, that the appeal to the Old Scriptures is a characteristic of the period covering Acts 1-28. And we can say with equal assurance that the hope of Israel which occurs in the first chapter persists unto the last chapter of the Acts.
We have but to turn to Acts 28:1-9 to see that the gifts specified in Mark 16:17-18 and which were an abundant possession of the church in Corinth, are a characteristic of the whole Acts period. Pentecostal gifts on the day of Pentecost were confined largely to the gift of tongues, enabling untaught men to speak the Word of God in the tongue in which their several hearers were born, with which must be coupled the gift of prophesying (Acts 2:1-11,17,18).
Unspecified "wonders and signs were done by the apostles" according to Acts 2:43, and the gift of miraculous healing is manifest in the healing of the lame man, as recorded in Acts 3. The rulers of the people, who were violently antagonistic to the apostles' witness, confessed "Indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest... we cannot deny it" (Acts 4:16). The apostles, after being threatened by the council and let go, prayed "And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak Thy word, by stretching forth Thine hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Thy holy child Jesus" (Acts 4:29,30). That prayer was followed bv a special visitation of the Holy Spirit, as noted in (Acts 4:31). Peter not only had the gift of healing, he caused both Ananias and Sapphira to be stricken with death, which dread miracle was followed once again by "signs and wonders" by the hands of the apostles (Acts 5:1-13).
And so the story unfolds. Stephen "full of faith and power, did great wonders miracles among the people" (Acts 6:8); Philip likewise did miracles which included the casting out of unclean spirits, and the healing of those taken with palsy and who were lame (Acts 8:5-7, and the gift of the Holy Ghost was conferred upon believers by the laying on of the hands of the apostles. A man named Aeneas, who had kept his bed for eight years sick of the palsy, was healed by Peter. He also raised to life a woman named Dorcas, who had died and had been laid out in her chamber (See Acts 9:32-41).
Enough has been brought forward to prove beyond dispute that the early church from Pentecost onwards was mightily endowed with supernatural gifts. Has any reader of this article spoken a foreign language without learning or effort? Has any reader healed a man lame from his birth? Has anv reader stricken a man with immediate death? Has any reader raised either a man or a woman from the dead? If not, can any believer honestly and before God believe that there has been no break in the dispensational character of God's dealings since the day of Pentecost?
These spiritual gifts, said Mark in his gospel, "SHALL follow them that believe" (Mark 16:17), so that any one claiming to belong to the Pentecostal church, and who has not these gifts, HAS NO EVIDENCE that he is a believer at all! We are not permitted to speak of spiritual gifts in such general terms that they cease to be specifically miraculous: "In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues: They shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17,18) "These signs" DID follow then, but they DO NOT follow now.
For this there can be but one of two reasons, either:
- The church has lost the power by reason of poverty of faith, or
- A new dispensation has come in, in which miraculous gifts have no place.
Seeing that the teaching of Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians is on the highest spiritual plane discoverable in the Scriptures, and that the Apostle Paul himself sends a prescription because of Timothy's "often infirmities" the charge of poverty of faith cannot be maintained.
One question, however, must still be put and answered. If Acts 28 be the dispensational frontier, we must expect these miraculous gifts to be in full exercise up to the end of the record. Let us therefore turn to Acts 28 with this in view. We learn from the opening verses, that a viper fastened on the hand of Paul, who shook the beast into the fire and felt no harm. That he ought to have "swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly" is evident from the attitude of the islanders (Acts 28:3-6). Here was one item specified in Mark 16 that persisted to the end of the Acts. This miracle led to another, and a case of dysentery (a bloody flux) was instantly healed (Acts 28:8).
No further proof is needed to demonstrate that Acts 28 is a dispensational frontier, except it be to note the complete absence of miracle in the Prison Epistles. A handkerchief or an apron brought from the body of the Apostle were sufficient to accomplish a miraculous cure in the Acts period (Acts 19:11,12), yet after the dispensational frontier is passed, this same apostle mourns that one valued fellow servant was sick unto death (Phil. 2:26). Another was left at Miletum sick (2 Tim. 4:20), and we note that Timothy was urged to take a little wine for his stomach's sake and his "often infirmities" (I Tim. 5:23). The signs of Mark 16:17-18 did not follow them that believed after Acts 28:28.
We believe any fair minded reader will already have received sufficient evidence to give serious thought regarding the claim that Acts 28 constitutes a dispensational frontier. We have, however, one further item of truth to bring forward to complete the weight of evidence, and that is the place that Israel occupies in the period of the Acts as compared with their place in the Prison Epistles.