Did the gifts cease?
Conservative Christians, with much consternation, have come to the conclusion that the spiritual gifts ceased in the first century. There are several theories as to when, as bulleted below:
->They ceased when the first apostles died. There is really no scriptural justification for this, however, it is taught as fact. (there is no need to address this Biblically since they do not address them.)
->Sometime after Paul became the apostle to the gentiles, this is a doctrine to those who teach “Acts 9 dispensationalism” (although there are other vignettes of dispensationalism, I will focus on Act’s 9 dispensationalism here because most dispensational teaching use the same verse references to conclude the gifts ceased.)
->After the Bible was completed. This is based on one spurious verse that does not even mean what it is said to mean. I will address this verse in the body of this argument, really there is only an need to challenge the Acts 9 dispensationalism argument against the continuation of the gifts.)
Firstly, I want to give a brief historical reason for the opposition to the gifts. In the early 1900’s and after the Azusa Street revival, fundamentalists who had built their “Fundamentals of the Christian Faith” in response to the liberal theories of Biblical interpretation of the original languages, were concerned with some excesses and abuses of the gifts. Similar to what is happening today in some of the so-called revivals that are happening in various areas here in North America, Pensacola, Toronto, and Southern Florida, unbiblical excesses were rampant in some that came out of that revival. However, the recoiling into totally rejecting the Spiritual giftings was just as unbiblical as the excesses that caused the fundamentalists of that day-even to the coming down to today-was just as reprehensible.
Some of the loudest fundamentalist voices would make outrageous statements in regards to the gifts, some were still being taught when I attended a fundamentalist Independent Baptist Church. One example was, “If Jesus is still healing, why are not they going into the hospitals and emptying them?”
Of course, for those who so loved the Bible, and claim they know it better than anyone else, to make an unbiblical and unsupported statement like that was either purely rhetorical or was steeped in biblical ignorance, for JESUS DID NOT HEAL EVERYONE. In fact, he only healed ONE man at the pool of Bethesda.
I could go into the excesses and misinterpretations of some in the Gifts movement, but that is not in the scope of this argument.
With this light history in mind, I will now delve into why the Spiritual giftings have not ceased.
I will go into 3 areas of proof.
1.Biblical- I will list scripture that proves the giftings are for today, and in some cases show why the fundamentalist views on them have no bearing logically nor contextually.
2.Historical- I will show how differing giftings were associated throughout Christian history, focusing on different revivals.
3.Modern- I will show through those living today, how giftings have effected their lives.
Biblical evidence of gifts for today
I want to say this before I get started. The Holy Spirit is the producer of these gifts. Those who say that people who speak in tongues are demon possessed are seriously getting close to what Jesus warned the Pharisee’s about when they claimed he was casting our demons by the power of Beelzebub. That would be blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Paul stated in one of your proof-texts 1 Cor. 14
39Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.
Which of course is well after Acts 9 AND after the Holy Spirit chose Paul and Barnabas to be APOSTLES to the gentiles (some forget that Barnabas was also AN APOSTLE).
One of the verses that is glossed over by fundamentalists is Acts 19. Here we find some Christians who were converted under the preaching of Apollos. This was something that always bothered me even when I was a cessationist myself. It is an out of place artifact, something that just did not fit into my nice little fundamentalist box. It was not preached on, for it through a wrench in the works of cessationist fundamentalist dispensationalism. They were BAPTIZED INTO THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SPOKE IN TONGUES. It didn’t fit the predetermined idea, so it was glossed over.
The KEY verses for cessationists is 1 Corinthians 13:9&10:
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
The cessationist takes this to mean the closing of the cannon of scripture. This is very reaching to conclude , in fact there is no evidence for it to mean that, except for forcing a meaning to prove another point.
“For we know in part” has biblical evidence to mean now, today, and in part of the future. In fact contextually speaking Paul addresses the WHEN of what is perfect in verse 12.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
We are not currently face to face with Jesus, that will be a future time for us, when we will KNOW those secret things of God that we are not capable of handling today.
Tony Warren, a cessationist, shows this argument is not valid:
A question that is frequently asked by Christians is, “how are we to understand the passages of 1st Corinthians 13:8-13.” Theologians over the years have answered this query in many different ways. Some say that it means miracles ceased when the Bible was completed. The conclusion that miracles ceased at the close of Holy Canon I do not deny, but I do not believe that these verses prove that. These passages declare, “that which is in part” shall be done away with. This is identified by God as knowledge and prophecy (1st Corinthians 13:10). Thus, that which is perfect cannot refer to the written word being complete, because Holy Canon has been complete nearly 2000 years, yet we still have imperfect or “partial knowledge.” And that this “partial knowledge” would cease, is a requirement for that which is perfect to come. It would seem then impossible for these passages to mean that the perfect coming is the completion of the Bible. For we still have knowledge in part. We grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2nd Peter 3:18), but we do not yet have complete knowledge. Else we wouldn’t be continuing to grow in knowledge.
See whole of his argument at this web address: mountainretreatorg.net
Paul uses a lot of ink to address the proper use of the Spiritual giftings in 1 Corinthians. This would be wasted space for God to have Paul write about if in just a few years these gifts would cease. Then, like today those gifts were being abused and some were claiming to have the gift of tongues more than others. Yet he chose to argue that the Holy Spirit gives certain people some gifts, some he gives others, if everyone has the same gift, Paul likens that to all the body being a hand. It would be an odd person to just be a hand, in fact it would be a dead person for there would be no heart nor lungs to give the blood life. This is one of the areas I mean when I say the gifts were abused.
Throughout Acts, and well past Acts 9 we find SOME who receive the gift of tongues at their conversion when they receive the Infilling of the Holy Spirit, in Acts 19 we find those who were saved, but had not YET received the infilling of the Holy Spirit speak in tongues when the Holy Spirit filled them. This is A gift of the Holy Spirit to some. It is the one that seems to be more outward than say healing or prophesying as an evidence of this filling, so I think it is used as an example of the Holy Spirits filling believers with his power. Never do we find a person who is filled, who does not receive a gift. I know my Pentecostal brethern teach that all should receive the gift of tongues when the Holy Spirit fills (as opposed to the earnest gift of the Holy Spirit all receive at the moment of Salvation, there is a distinction between that and being filled with the Holy Spirit.) a person.
These tongues were UNKNOWN to those who received them, in fact Paul states they are unproductive to those who use them if there is no interpreter present. Some argue that these unknown tongues or languages are KNOWN languages of that day. In other words, they were HUMAN languages that were extant to the time. They base this on the Day of Pentecost message that Peter and the other disciples preached, and which those hearing heard in the list of languages that Acts 2: (I am using the NIV hear as it uses “languages” instead of “tongues” (I find it curious that the King James Only (Of which I am one) spend a lot of ink as to why this word is “language”, which of course it means mens languages as the context states it does, not all tongues are men’s, 1 Corinthians 13 has a proof texts that Angels have a language and men can speak it, though without understanding.) Here is the list of languages in Acts 2:
5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”
13Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”
NOTE WHAT THE HOLY SPIRIT SAY’S IN VERSE 6: When they heard this sound. NOT “when they heard this speaking”. The Holy Spirit calls it a “sound”, then HE, the Holy Spirit made all of them hear in their own native languages, what Peter was saying in Aramaic or Hebrew. The Holy Spirit gave them the gift of HEARING in tongues, you could say.
Some argue that Paul knew many languages, and this is what was being talked about, but that would be a logical non-sequitur and would be a pre-text, not in context to what Paul is addressing in 1 Corinthians. If a language is KNOWN, it cannot be at the same time UNKNOWN. In fact, Paul blows this idea out of the water by stating this:
1 Cor. 14:2For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him;
NO MAN, means NO ONE of ANY KNOWN LANGUAGE.
I was going to bring you a study of Gifts Throughout Church History, however, I have found that Mel Montgomery has done an excellent work on this subject that I cannot even touch. Please follow the link to Mel’s Study.
(I will continue with proof 3 later)