(2 Cor. 12:12) Does this passage teach that the charismatic gifts were only for the apostles?

CLAIM: Paul writes, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles” (2 Cor. 12:12). Cessationist interpreters argue that signs and wonders were given to the apostles in order their unique ministry and message. However, the charismatic gifts are not for today, because this purpose is no longer necessary. Is this the case?

RESPONSE: There are two problems with this interpretation:

First, this verse doesn’t limit miracles to the purpose of authenticating the apostles’ message. In order for the Cessationist interpretation to go through, this passage would need to say that signs and wonders were only for the purpose of verifying an apostle. However, while 2 Corinthians 12:12 gives one reason for the signs and wonders of the apostles, it never states that this was the only reason.

Second, others, besides the apostles, performed signs and wonders. That is, many other believers performed signs like this. For instance, the 70 performed miracles (Lk. 10:9, 19-20). 120 people, who were not all apostles, spoke in tongues at Pentecost (Acts 1:15; 2:4). Stephen was “was performing great wonders and signs among the people” (Acts 6:8). Agabus wasn’t an apostle, but he made two correct future predictions (Acts 11:28; 21:10-11). The NT mentions both “prophets” (Acts 15:32) and “prophetesses” (Acts 21:9). Moreover, the epistles mention the charismatic gifts as being part of the Christian community (1 Cor. 12, 14; Rom. 12; 1 Thess. 5:19-20).

Cessationist Richard Gaffin writes, “Others exercise such gifts by virtue of the presence and activity of the apostles; they do so under an ‘apostolic umbrella,’ so to speak.”[1] That is, other believers could perform signs and wonders because the apostles were alive. However, if this is the case, then this would invalidate the central support of this passage from a Cessationist perspective. It demonstrates the fact that signs and wonders were not for the sole purpose of authenticating authority for the apostles—but for all Christians. But if this is the case, then this would nullify their reading of 2 Corinthians 12:12.

[1] Grudem, Wayne. Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?: 4 Views. Counterpoints: Bible and Theology. Zondervan. 2001. 39.