The gifts of the Holy Spirit

 

 

The gifts of the Spirit have ceased

 

 

 

Many Protestant Churches – such as Baptist Churches, Reformed Churches, Presbyterian Churches - teach that the gift of tongues and the other supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased. In their opinion, the gifts of the Spirit were given by God only for a certain period of time, that is to say, till the Church was established and the Canon of the Scriptures was completed.

They support their teaching through some passages of the Bible, such as 1 Corinthians 13:8-9, which according to them confirms their teaching on the gift of tongues and the other gifts of the Spirit – and also through some statements of some well known Christian writers who lived in former times, such as John Calvin, John Owen, Thomas Watson, Matthew Henry, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, James Buchanan, Robert L. Dabney, and Benjamin B. Warfield.

John Calvin (1509-1564): ‘...the gift of healing, like the rest of the miracles, which the Lord willed to be brought forth for a time, has vanished away in order to make the preaching of the Gospel marvellous for ever’ (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk IV:19, 18).

John Owen (1616-1683): ‘Gifts which in their own nature exceed the whole power of all our faculties, that dispensation of the Spirit is long since ceased and where it is now pretended unto by any, it may justly be suspected as an enthusiastic delusion’ (Works IV, 518).

Thomas Watson (c 1620-1686): ‘Sure, there is as much need of ordination now as in Christ's time and in the time of the apostles, there being then extraordinary gifts in the church which are now ceased’ (The Beatitudes, 140).

Matthew Henry (1662-1714): Speaking of the ‘gift of tongues,’ he said, “These and other gifts of prophecy, being a sign, have long since ceased and been laid aside, and we have no encouragement to expect the revival of them; but, on the contrary, are directed to call the Scriptures the more sure word of prophecy, more sure than voices from Heaven; and to them we are directed to take heed, to search them, and to hold them fast ...’ (Preface to Vol IV of his Exposition of the OT & NT, vii).

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758): ‘Of the extraordinary gifts, they were given 'in order to the founding and establishing of the church in the world. But since the canon of Scriptures has been completed, and the Christian church fully founded and established, these extraordinary gifts have ceased’ (Charity and its Fruits, 29).

George Whitefield (1714-1770): ‘... the karismata, the miraculous gifts conferred on the primitive church ... have long ceased ...’ (Second Letter to the Bishop of London, Works, Vol. IV, 167).

James Buchanan (1804-1870): ‘The miraculous gifts of the Spirit have long since been withdrawn. They were used for a temporary purpose’ (The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit, 34)

Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898): ‘After the early church had been established, the same necessity for supernatural signs now no longer existed, and God, Who is never wasteful in His expedients, withdrew them ... miracles, if they became ordinary, would cease to be miracles, and would be referred by men to customary law’ (‘Prelacy a Blunder,’ Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, Vol. 2, 236-237).

Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921): ‘These gifts were ... distinctively the authentication of the apostles. They were part of the credentials of the apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confirmed them to distinctively the apostolic church and they necessarily passed away with it’ (Counterfeit Miracles, 6).

 

Confutation

 

The Scripture says that during the first century after Christ God confirmed the message of His grace by working signs, wonders and various miracles, and by distributing gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His will (cf. Hebrews 2:4; Acts 14:3; Mark 16:20). Today God still confirms the message of His grace in the same way He did in the days of the apostles, that is, by working signs, wonders and various miracles, and by distributing gifts of the Holy Spirit to His children. For God has not changed (cf. Malachi 3:6).

 

1 Corinthians 13:8-12

 

Let me say something about the following words of Paul: “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. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 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. 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” (1 Corinthians 13:8-12 – NKJV). According to those who support cessationism (the theory which says that all the gifts of the Spirit have ceased), ‘that which is perfect’ is the completion of the Bible. However, they are wrong, for Paul did not refer to the completion of the canon of the Scriptures but to the perfection we will experience at the return of Christ from heaven. For when Christ returns we will receive perfect bodies, as it is written: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:20-21 – NIV); we will know the Lord fully, just as we also are fully known by Him; and we will see Him face to face. Therefore, tongues, prophecy and the other supernatural gifts of the Spirit will cease when Christ returns. That is evident also from the fact that Paul says that when that which is perfect has come knowledge will vanish away (“For we know in part …. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away” 1 Corinthians 13:9 – NKJV). Did knowledge vanish away when the Bible was completed? Of course not. When will it vanish away then? When Jesus returns from heaven, for at that time we will know Him fully.

 

The works of Satan

 

All those who know the Holy Scriptures know that Satan is God’s adversary, and that he counterfeits both the works and words of God. Satan is a liar and the father of lies, and so he takes delight in whatever opposes the truth. He counterfeits the Gospel, he counterfeits the doctrines of the Bible, and he counterfeits also the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Therefore the fact that Satan counterfeits the spiritual gifts means that the spiritual gifts still exist. In other words, just as the fact that Satan counterfeits the Gospel and the doctrines of the Bible indicates that the Gospel and the doctrines of the Bible still exist and have not vanished away, so the fact that there are false spiritual gifts indicates that there are true spiritual gifts still in operation. I do not think that Satan would counterfeit something which does not exist any longer. So the existence of counterfeit spiritual manifestations implies that the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation in the midst of the Church of God.

 

Conclusion

 

Brothers and sisters, “eagerly desire spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1 – NIV), so that you may lack no spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. Let no one deceive you with empty words.

 

 

 

 

Back