Are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit for today?
Over the years I've become convinced that some of the Charismatic gifts listed in 1 Cor 12 are no longer given and that they are no longer needed in the life of the church.
I am thinking particularly of the gift of prophecy, tongues, interpretation of tongues, words of knowledge, the gifts of healing, and working of miracles and perhaps discernment of spirits, although the last one, I wonder about, because if we are to recognise whether these manifestations are genuine or false, I am sure one would need to discern if these things are of God or not.
I believe that the revelatory gifts of the Spirit that we read of in the early church are no longer being experienced in the church. However, if this is a true statement, what are the manifestations that we see happening in the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches today? Not only the so called Charismatic churches but also filtering into the Roman Catholic church and in some cases, heretical cults.
If these manifestations are not of God, then what are they?
The only two possibilities are that they are either, of the flesh or worse still, of the devil.
We know from scripture that demon manifestations are possible and that in the last days these things will be happening more and more.
Just as Jannes and Jambres counterfeited the miracles of Moses, so shall it be in the last days.
Exo 7:11 Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments.
Exo 7:12 For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.
2Ti 3:8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.
I do believe that these gifts had a purpose in the beginnings of the church but were phased out and ceased to be manifest after the first century of the early church. This is normally said to be Cessationism. This is in opposition to Continuism, which believes that the revelatory manifestations are still relevant.
You may ask, why would anyone think that some of the gifts have been withdrawn?
The truth is that all gifts of God have not been withdrawn. The church is still gifted today with gifts and ministries for the edification and building up of the Body of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists and some pastors and teachers.”
The Apostle Paul speaks of the variety of spiritual gifts:
I Corinthians 12:4–11“Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. . . . But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will”.
Prophecy: Reveals truth of scripture ( Forth Telling NOT Foretelling) so that fellowship with God can be restored and/or maintained.
Serving: Demonstrates love by meeting practical needs, usually through tangible work.
Teaching: Discovers and validates truth so that the Church maintains accuracy.
Exhorting: Encourages Christians to grow spiritually by discipling, teaching, and counselling others.
Giving: Conserves and shares resources in order to meet needs.
Organising: Carries out projects by recruiting workers, organising tasks, or delegating responsibilities.
Mercy: Demonstrates God’s love and compassion by responding to hurt.
All these gifts are for the church not the individual.
As for the revelatory Gifts of the Spirit in 1 Cor 12, namely Tongues and Interpretation, Prophecy and Word of Knowledge.
My answer would be that the cessation of these gifts fits best with Scripture and the experience of the church. Scripture takes priority over experience, for it is the final authority.
Paul says the church is “built on the foundation of the Apostles and the prophets” (Eph. 2:20). Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
I conclude that all we need to know for salvation and sanctification has been given to us through the teaching of the Apostles and prophets, and that this teaching is now found in the Scriptures.
Now that God has spoken in the last days through his Son.
(Heb. 1:2), God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
We don't need further words, in the form of prophetic utterance from Him to explain what Jesus Christ has accomplished in his ministry, death, and resurrection. Instead, we are “to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all” through the Apostles and Prophets (Jude 3). Paul specifically says he was the last Apostle (1 Cor. 15:8 - 10).
1Co 15:8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
1Co 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
1Co 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am:
And when James the brother of John died (Acts 12:2), he wasn't replaced.
We are told in scripture that the prerequisite for an Apostle was those who have seen the risen Lord.
Lots of people today claim to be apostles (with a capital A) — to wield the same authority and power as the leaders of the New Testament church. To properly evaluate those claims, we’re looking at the biblical requirements for apostleship and measuring the credentials of these modern apostles against those of the men the Lord used to found and establish His church.
The Greek noun "apostolos" — from which we get the word apostle—is derived from the verb apostellō, which means “to send off on a commission to do something as one’s personal representative, with credentials furnished.”
Two other words that express the work of an Apostle would be “envoy” or “ambassador,” someone who goes on a mission bearing credentials of the one who sent him.
In the New Testament there were others who were called apostles, Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Epaphroditus, (Philippians 2:25), Andronicus and Junius (Romans 16:7) and James the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19) all bore the title, though they were not among the twelve chosen by our Lord. They were not Apostles of the Lamb but apostles of the church.
They are what 2 Corinthians 8:23 calls “messengers [apostles] of the church. We would call them church planters today.
In that broad sense, believers today are able to accomplish apostolic work through evangelism and service to the church but that’s not what many modern church leaders mean when they lay claim to the apostolic office.
Instead, modern apostles are claiming authority, privilege, and power that belonged only to men specifically appointed by Jesus.
So, what about the gifts of the Spirit today. Do Christians possess the gift of healings, the working of miracles, the gift of prophecy (new revelation) and so on?
Can men today perform the things that were done by the Apostles of Jesus Christ, or are we experiencing counterfeit miracles, healings and manifestations of prophecy, tongues etc.
It is interesting that from around 65AD and onwards, very little is written about the manifestations of the Spirit that we heard of in the beginning of the church.
The church at Corinth was one of the earliest churches established and quite obviously were seeing the gifts of the Holy Spirit being manifest in the congregation, even with it’s many abuses and problems. Remember, that at this time there was no compiled book of the New Testament.
However we read in Chapter thirteen of Paul's letter to the church of Corinth, an indication, or prophecy that eventually these gifts would indeed cease or fade away.
1 Cor 13:8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
This seems evident in the fact that as the Word of God became more established in the churches, the gifts were spoken of less and less. It is evident that in the later books of the New Testament, not much is spoken of in way of the Gifts of the Spirit.
This of course hinges on the scripture in 1 Cor 13:10.
1 Corinthians 13:10-But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake 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 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.
“When that which is perfect” ( Perfect, greek neuter. Teleios— Complete, mature ) not relating to a person, as some believe but something that has come to maturity or something that is complete is come, then these gifts would either cease or pass away.
There are those that say that "Teleios" relates to the person of Christ and that the gifts of the Spirit will only cease when Jesus returns.
However the meaning of the word "Teleios" relates to a thing, something complete or mature.
The New Testament is complete, we now have the mature Word of God.
This is why there is no more need for revelatory gifts because the Apostles doctrine had been established and there is no more revelation given. What this means that the canon is closed. God has finished with giving new revelation.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that God has finally spoken through His Son.
Hebrews 1:1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
The signs and wonders gifts were a means of verifying and attesting that the Apostles words were from God, in the same way that Jesus words were shown to be of God by the working of miracles and healings.
Hebrews 2:4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
This seems scripturally sound.
Many Christians seem to think that miracles and signs and wonders are spoken of all over the Bible but is this correct?
It appears from scripture that apart from three specific periods in the Bible, these things are far and few between.
In the book of Exodus we read of God calling Moses to be the deliverer of the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt.
God used signs and wonders to validate that Moses was a chosen man.
Apparently this period lasted about 65 years.
The next period of signs and wonders was the time of Elijah and Elisha. Again this period lasted about 65 years.
The next was Jesus Himself and God showed that Jesus was from God by many signs and wonders.
When Jesus died and the church age began. The Apostles were also attested by signs and wonders.
This period began at Pentecost around 33AD and lasted to the time of the Revelation of the Apostle John, who was the last Apostle of Jesus, around 95AD to 100AD, by then these gifts of miracles, tongues etc are not spoken of by the following early church fathers.
Again, interestingly enough, this period lasted about 65 years.
For the next 1900 years there were no manifestation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If there were, they were in many cases attached to false and pagan religions.
The apparent revival of these gifts seemed to appear in the early 1800s and developed through the beginnings of the Irvinites, the Quakers, the Pentecostal movement and followed by the Charismatic Renewal.
Whether this is what really happened is a matter of opinion.
The question that many ask today is, is this the true work of the Holy Spirit or is it the work of the flesh?
I remember in the 70s, one brother saying to me that the manifestations being evident in our church (a charismatic church) are nothing more than light entertainment. I was shocked, but now I understand just what he meant.
I understand now how I was carried along with this mystical, experiential Christianity and can now see how the flesh played a big role in the things that occurred .
Even if it was a true manifestation of the Holy Spirit, something seems to have gone drastically wrong. Even if the Charismatic movement was a work of God, what we are seeing today is very dubious indeed.
With the advent of the Telly evangelists, the new emergent church, the new age movement, the supposed Toronto Blessing, The Kundalini experience and many preaching what some believe, is a different gospel. An easy believism, with no emphasis on repentance. There are many questions to be answered.
When we see people rolling around on the floor laughing and barking and making sounds like animals, supposedly drunk in the spirit, shaking with involuntary movement. How can we not wonder what is going on.? What is more, this movement is growing faster than ever. We are led to believe that there are mighty revivals occurring all over the world. It makes you wonder, is this is genuine, are these people really being genuinely born again or is there a delusion taking place. Are they just professors and not really possessors?
Are they being lulled into a false belief system, based on their own emotional choice, rather than based on salvation in Christ through a conviction of sin and a quickening of the Holy Ghost.
It seems like experiential Christianity is replacing the written word. People depending on physical or emotional experiences. People are seeking mystical experience rather that trusting in the teachings of the Bible.
People are looking for a sign to prove their faith rather than believing what the word of God says.
It seems like a lot of Christians are looking for a mystical experience and that they need to see proof of faith, a feeling, a spiritual experience. This is replacing the Bible with supposed gifts of revelation and encouraging people to depend on feelings and experience rather than trusting God's revealed Word.
Through history we have seen the results of mystical experiences in people such as Mohammed, who had a mystical experience in a cave. An appearance of something or someone, supposed to be the angel Gabriel, that gave him a new revelation. Hence, we saw the rise of Islam.
Another was Joseph Smith the founder of Mormonism. He also said he had a supposed visitation from an angel “Moroni” who also gave new revelation.
Many false religions sprang up based on new revelation. Charles Taze Russell of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Helen G White of the Seventh Day Adventists, Mary Baker Eddy of the Christian Science Movement, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young of the Mormon religion, Scientology and others, all basing their doctrines on extra revelation.
Ignatius Loyola was another one that experienced something, again in a cave.
The Jesuit movement was born out of this with all it’s mystical spiritual exercises.
We see this extra revelation in the Roman Catholic church when the Pope speaks “ex cathedra”.
We have today the Apostolic Reformation with many self professed prophets such as, The Kansas City Prophets, who are a group of (self-proclaimed) prophets originally associated with that American city. They arose in the 1980s with teachings and practices often regarded as heretical. They were (and are) influenced by the 'Latter Rain Movement' of the 1950s which had been so strongly associated with William Branham (1909-1965). Branham claimed himself to be the 'angel' of Revelation 3:14 and 10:7 and prophesied that in 1977 all denominations would be consumed by the World Council of Churches under Roman Catholic control, an event which obviously did not occur.
The list of self proclaimed prophets is endless. Peter Wagner, Bill Johnson, Mike Bickle, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, Randy Clark, Rick Joyner, Bill Hamon, Lou Engle, Rodney Howard-Browne, Heidi Baker, John Arnott, Todd Bentley, All claim to be prophets.
Yet we see in scripture, the Apostle Paul warning about extra biblical revelation.
Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
People are being led away from depending on the Bible as the only source of revelation, doctrine and guidance for Christian living.
If God is revealing new truth in our churches, why do we need the Bible?
Am I saying that all those people that practice tongue speaking, believe in visions etc are not true born again Christians, of course not, I was one myself, carried along in a wave of what I believed to be a movement of the Holy Spirit, only to come to the conclusion that most of what I was doing was in the flesh.
One thing that caused me to stop and think on these things, was the question, why would God want to use the gift of tongues and interpretation in a fellowship that was made up of 100% English speaking Christians?
I came to understand that God speaks to us through His perfect, mature Word, the canon of scripture. We do not need any other revelation.
Thank God for those today that still teach “Sola Scriptura” the Bible alone.
We are seeing a rise in seeker sensitive Christianity, the question is being asked, what do we need to do to fill our churches.
Are we to compete with the world in entertainment, attract by any means?
Give the unbeliever what they want to see in our churches, whether it be modern music, charismatic personalities, signs and wonders, just to see our churches full.
Or should we get back to praying that God will have mercy on our nations. Basing our faith on the revealed Word of God and praying that God will open the eyes of the spiritually blind and the ears of the spiritually deaf. Preaching the Gospel of repentance and trusting in the finished Word of God for our guidance and our Christian walk.
If we are taken in by these modern day false teachers, how shall we be able to stand against the coming antichrist with all his lying wonders.
As true Christians we should guard against these false teachers taking from us our weapon against all falsehood. The Bible is the only way to counteract the false gospels and erroneous teaching that are infiltrating our churches.
2 Tim 1:13 Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.
See Also: Blog 36 https://jeffreyunsworth.wixsite.com/teleiosbibleblogs/totalityofgodsword