Monday, October 20, 2008

The End of Spiritual Gifts

"Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:8-12).

As a young Christian, I was taught that the Holy Spirit ceased to give spiritual gifts to believers when the New Testament writings were complete. 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 was the primary text being used to support the conclusion. As my teachers (who were very good men) reasoned, the "perfection" referenced in the passage was the complete New Testament, since "perfection" could also be translated as "completion." When the New Testament was completed, the gifts of the Spirit would cease.

However, I became skeptical of their interpretation of the passage. Was the Holy Spirit intending to communicate that idea when he inspired those verses? Did the apostle Paul have the completion of the New Testament in mind when he wrote those verses? Would the Corinthian Christians who received the message have interpreted Paul's words in such a manner? Nothing in the context of 1 Corinthians suggested an affirmative answer to any of my questions. The interpretation I had been taught seemed to have been forced onto the passage, rather than derived from it.

A better explanation of the passage could be found in understanding "perfection" as referring to the return of Jesus Christ. Paul had already written, "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God" (1 Corinthians 4:5). In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul would describe in more detail the return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the transformation of believers. Until then, as I understand 1 Corinthians 13, the Holy Spirit would continue to provide God's people with spiritual gifts.

I have not found anything within the context of 1 Corinthians supporting the idea that spiritual gifts were expected to end at the completion of the New Testament. However, I have found evidence within the text that the return of Jesus would usher in a time of completion or perfection. Therefore, I must conclude that spiritual gifts were expected to continue until Christ returns.


Christy said...

Interesting. I've never heard of not recognizing ANY spiritual gifts, but I am painfully aware of those who say there are only SOME spiritual gifts still given. In fact, my current pastor doesn't recognize my spiritual gifts! I was dumbfounded when I found this out. HOW can you NOT when it's right there in God's word? Well, I know you're wondering what my spiritual gifts are, so I let you know. I have two predominant gifts, the gift of prophecy and the gift of discerning spirits (Romans 12:4-11 and I Cor. 12:4-11). Since my pastor doesn't recognize these gifts, I've really been feeling wilted, for lack of a better word. But God is faithful, and He has opened up another avenue for me to use these gifts! I have recently been involved as a prayer partner with the Freedom in Christ ministries. A prayer partner is someone who sits in on a freedom appointment with a person and their encourager (they are called 'encouragers' because they are not necessarily counselors). While the appointment is taking place, the prayer partner prays for the person and writes down Scripture and/or encouraging notes that the Holy Spirit brings to mind, and later these are shared with the person. I'm so thankful to have this opportunity to exercise my gifts. If you are wondering what I view as prophecy and discerning spirits, I'll be glad to elaborate. Just be assured that I'm not telling anyone's future!

Terry said...

Thanks for the comment, Christy! Okay, I'm curious. Please elaborate on prophecy and discerning of spirits. Also, could you let me know more about Freedom in Christ ministries? It sounds like a counseling ministry. Is it a ministry for people with addictions or for prisoners who have been released from prison recently or for the general public? I don't think I have heard of it before, but I'm interested in learning more.

Mike said...

I could not agree more. I still have a problem with some of the extreme actions out there. But that does not nullify truth.

Christy said...

Going by this definition of prophecy coming from the NIV translation - a spiritual gift, a supernatural empowering TO BUILD UP GOD'S FAMILY. Those with this gift either proclaimed to God's people new truth from God or CHALLENGE THEM WITH EXISTING SPIRITUAL TRUTHS (I Cor. 14;1-5) BTW, I'm not yelling, just trying to emphasize ;0).
Definition of a prophet - a mouthpiece of God, one who receives a message from God and PROCLAIMS IT TO A SPECIFIC AUDIENCE. Exodus 15:20 gives an example of a prophetess.
Everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their STRENGTHENING, ENCOURAGEMENT AND COMFORT and he who prophesies EDIFIES THE CHURCH (I Cor. 14:3-4). So, I see this gift of prophecy as using Scripture to strengthen, encouragement, comfort and edify the Body of Christ (Yeah, I know I said that twice, sorry).
As far as discerning spirits goes, this is God's 'red flag' to me that something or someone is not right. I am able to sense in my spirit if someone is false. The Greek definition of discerning is a "judicial estimation" and the definition of spirits (concerning human) is "the rational soul or mental disposition".
I hope that explains things well.

The Freedom in Christ ministry is an awesome ministry. It is one that helps Believers understand who they are in Christ. We too often continue to live enslaved to guilt and to legalism. This ministry helps to cut those binds. This ministry helped me when I was at one of my lowest points in life. I was hearing voices in my head telling me to kill myself or at the least to leave my family! If it weren't for Freedom in Christ and going through the Steps of Freedom, I know without a doubt that I would be dead! It's so wonderful to be a part of this ministry and helping others find true FREEDOM! Here's the website (Sorry I don't know how to include a link successfully)

Terry said...

That's a good point. I was not trying to justify anything unbiblical, but I was trying to interpret the passage correctly as the Corinthian Christians would have interpreted it.

Terry said...

Thanks for the definitions. It's good to define our words sometimes, because we can miscommunicate if we are not on the same page. I thought you were talking about that, but until you defined it, I was not sure.

Also, thanks for sharing your story. It's good to hear good news in the lives of our friends. I appreciate your willingness to share.