The sign gifts are perhaps one of the single most disagreed upon topics in Christianity today. On one side you have those who believe that the miraculous gifts still exist. On the other side you have those who say that they have ceased. I believe the following information should provide a solid argument for one side over the other.
This article will be longer than normal. I must provide enough proof for what I feel is the correct biblical teaching on the subject. I will say right off the bat that I do not intend to discredit or to offend ANYONE who claims to have had supernatural experiences with God, whatever they may be. I myself, if you read my home page intro, experienced first hand one morning in a hotel room the overwhelming and powerful presence of the Almighty Creator. It was that morning that I tossed my atheistic beliefs in the trash immediately. I am well aware that God is still VERY active and is still in the business of bringing those whom He calls into His everlasting light. Please again, do not take this as me doubting your experiences. I am solely going to make a case today based on what scripture says. That is all. I hope that this doesn't tarnish any relationships that I have been blessed to develop through the cyber world with any of you. I appreciate you all. Ok with that said, here we go.....
We are all aware of the portion in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 where we read about these sign gifts and miraculous gifts. This is sort of the "go-to" passage. But we need to set the context a little better to understand the overall message.
Paul was writing to the members of the church of Corinth and basically sort of reprimanding them for the way they'd been misusing the gifts. In 1 Corinthians chapter 12 Paul gives a rundown of certain gifts and certain positions that God has handed out. He makes mention of Apostles, prophets, tongue speakers, healers, etc.
But at the end of chapter 12 after going through all of those positions, he says this....
"But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way." 1 Cor 12:31
He tells them there is a "more excellent way". It seems as though Paul was saying that all of those positions that he had just mentioned were inferior to this "better way". His letter continues in chapter 13 and he begins speaking about LOVE.
He writes to them and tells them that all of the gifts God has given them mean absolutely nothing without Love. Tongues, the gift of word of knowledge, the gift of predicting the future (prophecy) all meant absolutely zip without love. It seems as though the members of this church were really abusing the special gifts that were bestowed to them.
Now we come to the passage that we all know so well. Paul says the following....
"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." 1 Cor 13:8-10
Now clearly there is a lot to define here. Let's just start by defining a few words and phrases so we can see what exactly is being said in that passage.
Paul speaks of "prophecies"- Greek word "prophēteia" meaning "that which is hidden or a discourse emanating from Divine Inspiration". He says regarding these prophecies that "they will fail". This phrase is the Greek word "katargeo" which literally means "to render inactive, to be done with, or to terminate".
Now we will look at what he said regarding tongues. He said "they shall cease". This phrase is the Greek word "pauo" which means " to cease, to desist, to come to an end".
Now we look at what he said about the gift of a word of knowledge like in Acts chapter 5 when Peter knew that Ananias and his wife were in a conspiracy to hold back a portion of the money. Paul says again that this gift "shall vanish away". Same Greek word above is used here "katargeo" meaning "to render inactive, to be done away with, or to terminate".
Paul says that at that present time they "know in part and prophesy in part". He is basically saying that they were not yet perfected. They were still immature. He then says something that has had many people wondering what he really meant. He says...
"But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away."
1 Cor. 13:10
Everyone wants to know what this "perfect" thing is. It would be when this "perfect" thing arrived, that all of those immature things would be done away with or be terminated. Before we attempt to answer that I want to look at Paul's next words immediately following that sentence. He writes...
"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 Cor 13:11-12
Now there are some who believe that Paul was saying that when that which was "perfect" would come, it would be then that the sign gifts such as tongues, prophecy etc would come to full maturity. In other words, when Paul wrote this letter they only had the half sized version of the gifts but when that which was perfect would come, their gifts would increase to their full power. I truly cannot express enough that I wholeheartedly and firmly believe that this is a serious error. Why?
For starters Paul was reprimanding the church members for their foolishness and misuse of these gifts. He is comparing the gifts to acting "like a child". He even suggests that they are "childish things". But he says that when the perfect comes, it would be at that point that they would become full grown. Mature. Perfect.
As a child, I used to watch cartoons. I would get upset when I wasn't allowed to watch them and I would cry and throw a fit. This was my childish immaturity showing itself. Now that I am a 33 year old full grown adult, I no longer act like that. I no longer cry and throw fits when I can't watch cartoons. Those things have passed away. Why? Well because I have grown into maturity. When I became a man my crying didn't increase over cartoons. On the contrary my crying no longer existed over those cartoons. Paul was not suggesting that these childish and immature gifts that they were abusing would increase to full power when the perfect came. He was clearly suggesting that they would cease to exist and would be done away with.
Secondly and more importantly, we just defined all 3 phrases that Paul used to describe what would happen to the gifts. All 3 Greek words meant "to destroy, to be done away with , or to terminate." It is impossible for Paul to be speaking about anything other than the termination of the gifts themselves.
It makes no sense for Paul to say 3 times that these gifts were going to "be done away with and terminated" if he was only going to follow it up by saying that they would go from partial to full or doubled if you will.
The "partial" reference was made in speaking of "maturity". They were still "immature" They had only partial maturity but when "that which is perfect" would come, the childish things would fade away and they would be made perfect and complete.
Now, of course we need to biblically define and figure out what exactly "that which is perfect" is. If we can figure this out, then we can understand why and when the sign gifts were removed.
The term "that which is perfect" is Greek word "teleois" G5046 which means "completeness, perfection, full grown, mature, adult".
There are some who believe this is referring to when we see Christ come bodily. This absolutely cannot be the case 1) Christ is not returning bodily as we know the bible never speaks of this 2) the word "THAT which is perfect" cannot be referring to a person. "THAT" is not a he or she.
There are also those who believe this is referring to the written cannon. When the bible would be completed those things would fade away. First of all the holy scriptures would be completed long before it was actually put into a full book called "the bible". Secondly, this theory absolutely DOES NOT fit into the theme and flow of the message. I will show why this is the case shortly.
Now back to this "perfect" (Teleios). Where can we go to get some powerful scriptural evidence. We can go to the book of James, 1 Peter, but I am only going to use the book of Hebrews for this article because it is so overwhelmingly clear by that one book.
For anyone who has read and studied the book of Hebrews, it is easy to understand and see that the author speaks at length about the two Covenants. He compares the two Covenants. He compares the priestly work of the Old Covenant to the Priestly work of the New Covenant. He speaks over and over and over again about how the Old Covenant was flawed and imperfect but he speaks over and over and over again how the New Covenant is lacking nothing and is totally flawless because it is built on superior promises and it is sealed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
In the end of chapter 5 and beginning of chapter 6 we read this....
"For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection." Hebrews 5:13-14 and Hebrews 6:1
Now we see that the author uses the term "we who are of FULL AGE". Guess what this word is? It is the same word used for that which is "perfect". The word is "teleios".
The author also finished the portion by saying "let us go on to PERFECTION." Guess what word? Again, same word as that which is "perfect". The word is "teleiotes". Same exact meaning.
In Hebrews chapter 7 the author is speaking of the Levitical priesthood and how it couldn't make anyone "perfect". He says...
"Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek." Hebrews 7:11
The author uses the same word "teleiotes" in that passage as well when he refers to "perfection". Now think about this. If the author is comparing the Law to being UNABLE TO BE MADE PERFECT, and he is then contrasting that by speaking of Christ and the New Covenant, then what can we conclude? We can clearly conclude that he is saying that the New Covenant is PERFECT. This point is further established just shortly after when the author writes...
"for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God." Hebrews 7:19
The author again uses the same term with the same meaning for perfect here. He is clearly saying that the Law was imperfect but the New Covenant is perfect. We see this again shortly after when he writes...
"For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever." Hebrews 7:28
Again, same word for perfect. Clearly saying that the Old Covenant was weak. The New Covenant (Being IN CHRIST) means perfection.
Hebrews 9:11 reads...
"But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation."
Again, same word for perfect. Speaking of the New Covenant yet again.
Hebrews 10:1 reads...
"For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect."
Look at that one again. Same word again used for perfect. The law couldn't do it. The opposite of the OC Law is the New Covenant of grace.
Hebrews 10:14 reads...
"For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified."
Again same word there for perfect. The already but not yet principle is shown here. Christ had already made the offering of Himself and had perfected His saints forever. Yet the New Kingdom and the way into the Holy of Holies was not yet opened. It would be very soon after this letter was written though.
Hebrews 11:39-40 reads....
"And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us."
Speaking of those saints who died before them the author says that all those who had faith didn't receive the promise of being made "perfect" (same word again) without them. They would be made perfect together at the end of the age at the resurrection.
Lastly and emphatically, Hebrews 12:23-24 reads...
"But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel."
Now here we see clearly how the New Jerusalem would be where the spirits of just men would be made "perfect" (same word again). He says Jesus is the Mediator of the New Covenant where this "perfection" would exist. He says that they had already come to Mount Zion the heavenly Jerusalem. Here we see the already but not yet again because look at just a few verses later what he says...
"Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come" Hebrews 13:13-14
Clearly, it was so close that the author already speaks of it as a present reality but yet he also speaks of it as fast approaching and about to come. The New Jerusalem would come down as a bride at the destruction of Jerusalem to end the Old Covenant age.
Christ IS PERFECTION
The Kingdom of God IS PERFECTION
The New Covenant IS PERFECTION
The things which served a true purpose in the first foundational generation of the church would be terminated and would cease to exist at the coming of "that which is perfect".
Is there now any doubt about what that was?
Remember friends, this is not to take away from any experiences you may have had. I believe God is still in the business of healing and making miracles happen daily. But the scriptures should be our ultimate molding tool for our beliefs. It seems pretty straight forward that the Kingdom of God would bring perfection and in that New Eternal Kingdom only "faith, hope, and love would remain"
1 Cor. 13:13
If you are part of the Kingdom and are In Christ, you are now counted as PERFECT.
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