So far in this study of cessationism (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), we have considered the what question and the when question. Per the what question, cessationists conclude that what took place in the New Testament (with regard to the miraculous gifts) is not happening in the church today—even if charismatics are using biblical terminology to refer to non-biblical practices.
Per the when question, cessationists conclude (on the basis of passages like Ephesians 2:20) that the miraculous and revelatory gifts were intended only for the foundational (apostolic) age of the church. Thus, they should not be expected to continue after the time of the apostles.
But this raises the why question: Why were these gifts given, such that they are no longer necessary after the foundation age ended?
At least three purposes are designated in Scripture.
Purpose 1: a sign.
The miraculous gifts were given as a sign by which God authenticated His messengers during a time of transition from Israel to the church. That purpose was no longer necessary once the transition was complete and the church was firmly established.
A primary purpose of the miracles and healings that Jesus performed was as a sign to authenticate his claims (cf. John 2:11, 23; 3:2; 4:54; 6:2, 14; 7:31; 10:37–38; 12:37; 20:30). As Peter told the Jews at Pentecost: “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22).
The disciples were given power by Christ to perform similar signs (cf. Matt. 10:1, 7; Mark 6:12–13; 16:20). The record of Acts depicts the apostles performing miracles and healings as signs that authenticated their message (cf. Acts 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 8:6, 13; 14:3; 15:12).
Extraordinary experiences were shared by ordinary, Gentile converts (like Cornelius in Acts 10). This was also a sign that God was working through the church. Thus, Paul can tell the Corinthians that their ability to speak in tongues was a sign to the unbelieving world (1 Cor. 14:22). He then quotes from Isaiah 28:11, indicating that it was specifically a sign of God’s judgment against unbelieving Israel. Read more about Miraculous Gifts: If They Ceased, Why?