Did the Gifts of the Spirit Cease?
The first thing that we have to figure out in dealing with the subject of spiritual gifts is the question “are spiritual gifts for today”. There are two streams of thought concerning this question. There are those that believe that spiritual gifts ended with the death of the last apostle. They believe that the spiritual gifts talked about in first Corinthians 12 are not for today but that they were part of ushering in the church age. This theological viewpoint is called cessationism coming from the fact that they believed the gifts ceased. They base this viewpoint on a passage in first Corinthians 13 verse eight where it says that prophecies will fail, tongues will cease, and knowledge will be done away with. They tie that verse with a belief that there are no recorded instances of spiritual gifts being used in history after the death of the apostles.
The other viewpoint concerning spiritual gifts is that there was no “age of apostles” but that there is only the “church age”. This viewpoint believes that at the ascension of Christ and the subsequent pouring out of the Holy Spirit ushered in what is called the church age. They believe that from that time until now we have been living in the church age. Because of this, they believe the spiritual gifts or not limited to just the apostles but were and are available to every believer. They do not believe that the gifts of the spirit died out with the last apostle but were used throughout history up until our modern era. They will wholeheartedly admit that there were times in history where the use of spiritual gifts waned but credit this to the spiritual condition of the church rather than believing it was God’s will that the gifts died out. Their answer to the question are spiritual gifts for today is a resounding yes.
The Scriptural And Historical Evidence Concerning Spiritual Gifts
So let’s take a look at the scripture used by both camps to prove their viewpoint and let’s take a look at the historical record to see whether or not spiritual gifts are for today.
The scriptural argument concerning spiritual gifts.
Let’s take a look at the passage in first Corinthians that talks about the end of spiritual gifts.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
As you can see the Bible clearly states that spiritual gifts will end. The question is not if they will end but when they will end. In verse 10 it states that the gifts will end when that which is perfect has come. The cessationist’s viewpoint is that this scripture is talking about the Bible. That since there are many places in the scriptures where talks about God’s word being perfect that when the New Testament was completed that there was no need for spiritual gifts any longer.
The other viewpoint to the scripture believes that although the bible is perfect and God’s word never fails, but this particular scripture is not talking about the Bible or the completion of the New Testament but instead is talking about the return of Christ. They believe this because of what is written in vs. 11 and 12 where it says that now we see dimly but then face to face, that now we know in part that then we shall know as we are already known. They contend that we still only see dimly, that we still only know in part, but that when Jesus returns it will be then that we see Him face to face, that we will see clearly, and we shall know Him the way he already knows us. I personally find this interpretation to be more accurate considering the context.
Go to page 2 to read the historical argument concerning spiritual gifts
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