Are the Gifts of the Spirit Still Available Today?

Paul writes earlier in 1 Corinthians 1:22 that the "Jews look for signs but the Greeks seek wisdom." If one was to "become a Jew to win a Jew," then signs would be called for. If one were to "become a Greek to win Greeks, then wisdom would be the order of the day.

From this it would seem "signs" are provided by God during the transition from the old wine bota to the new one -- that is primary for the Jews. The further removed the Christian Church came from the Jews -- some speculate by the mid-second century (c150 AD) -- the less the need for "signs" and the more for "wisdom."

Eusebius makes a comment on the use of satanic inspired gifts about the middle to late second century: "In his unbridled ambition to reach the top laid himself open to the adversary, was filled with spiritual excitement and suddenly fell into a kind of trance and unnatural ecstasy. He raved, and began to chatter and talk nonsense, prophesying in a way that conflicted with the practice of the Church handed down generation by generation from the beginning. ... Some were annoyed, regarding him as possessed, a demoniac in the grip of a spirit of error." Eusebius continues to record a following: " ... women whom he filled with the sham spirit, so that they chattered crazily." And continuing a bit further: "But the pseudo-prophet speaks in a state of unnatural ecstasy. ... He begins with voluntary ignorance and ends in involuntary psychosis." (Pages 218ff)

In 1 Corinthians 13:1, 2, 8-12 Paul writes: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels ... and if I have the gift of prophesying and am acquainted with all the sacred secrets and all knowledge ... whether there are [gifts of] prophesying, they will be done away with; whether there are [the gift of] tongues, they will cease; whether there is [the gift of] knowledge, it will be done away with. For we have partial knowledge and we prophesy partially; but when that which is complete [Greek = teleion = UBS: the completion; DIA: the perfect thing] arrives, that which is partial will be done away with. When I was a babe, I used to speak as a babe, to think as a babe, to reason as a babe; but now that I have become a man [gained maturity], I have done away with the [traits] of a babe. For at present we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror, but then it will be face to face. At present I know partially, but then I shall know accurately even as I am accurately known."

He uses the metaphor of a baby becoming a man and gradually ceasing "childish ways, thinking and speech." In other words, he is discussing maturity. The English word "maturity" (or, completeness) may be drawn from the Greek root telos (end). Note how Paul’s uses this word here in verse 10 in the context of growing from a babe to a man. In other words, the Greek teleion possibly carries the idea of maturity.

We note that elsewhere Paul uses this same word with growth and maturity in mind: "And he gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones, for ministerial work, for the building up of the body of the Christ, until we all attain to the oneness in the faith and in the accurate knowledge of the Son of God, to a full-grown man [Greek = andra teleion = a perfect male = maturity], to the measure of stature that belongs to the fullness of the Christ; in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error. But speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things into him who is the head, Christ." (Ephesians 4:11-15)

Combining these two uses of teleion -- both in the context of growth from infancy to maturity -- we believe the "complete" thing which arrives in 1 Corinthians 13:10 is that state of maturity following the completion of the Christian canon. It is our own conviction that the entire New Testament canon was finished by the year 100 AD. Thereafter, we would expect the special pneumatic gifts in 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13, and 14 would cease or pass away.

We have before us one contribution from a "certain commentary published before 1832 in Scotland: "In 1 Corinthians chapter 12, verses 8-10 gifts of the spirit are listed. In 1 Corinthians 13:8 three of the nine are referred to. One is said, "shall fail"; one is said, "shall cease"; one is said, "shall vanish away." What about the other six? When the nine are listed, a common English expression in the KJV, ‘to another,’ separates them. That English expression is appropriate only six times in verse 8-10 where it translates the Greek word allo. The other two appearances of ‘to another’ wrongly represent the Greek word hetero, which Vine’s Expository Dictionary says means ‘another of a different sort.’

"So the use of hetero two times divides the nine gifts into three groups. The first group is of two; the last group is of two; the middle group is of five gifts. The relationship of the two gifts in the two groups of two is obvious: when the gift of tongues ceased, interpretation of tongues also would cease. Inasmuch as wisdom is the application of knowledge, when the gift of knowledge (knowing something without having to undergo the process of its learning) ceased, the gift of wisdom would also cease. The relationship between ‘prophecies’ and the other four gifts in the middle group is not so readily apparent. But from the evidently intentional apostolic choice of words, having already divided the nine gifts into three groups, he purposely mentioned one gift out of each group to represent that summary method God’s intent that all nine gifts would pass away.

"But when would they pass away? Is it not obvious that the miraculously conveyed gifts would pass away before faith, hope, and love would pass away? His mention of faith, hope, and love, and that they now abideth is entered into the narrative after he has made known to the church the passing, vanishing, fa9iling of the miraculously-conveyed gifts. And when would faith and hope pass away? When the church is selected and entered into the things which faith instructed them to hope for.

"So, the nine gifts would pass away, while faith, hope and love would still abide (in the history of the church). It is well to note the testimony in verse 10, ‘That which is perfect (complete) [perfect thing -Marshall Interlinear] does not identify Christian believers, bur rather the Scriptures of divine instruction which Paul and other apostles and teaches of the early church were writing. The phrase ‘perfect thing’ translates the Greek word teleion, which is in neuter gender, singular, a fitting form to represent the holy scripture."

What would "signs" be proof of now? Paul warns: "But the lawless one's presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved." (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10) Our Lord warns that many will point to such signs in the judgment and yet he states he never knew them. (Matthew 7:21-23) If such "lying signs" are Satanic -- and our Lord warned about the Elect being misled by such -- what can we conclude but that, as Paul predicted, the early pneumatic gifts passed away with the death of the apostles and the completion of the Christian canon?

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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