I know we have all had experiences. But what if you never had any experiences to go by? What if all you had to go by was what God’s word says? Would you be able to make a case for the gifts being active today in the New Eternal Covenant? You might be surprised that the answer is actually no if you hold to the fulfilled view of the scriptures. Not looking for a 400 comment debate here. I am just sharing how I arrived at my conclusion from a biblical view.
The first thing I want to mention is what the New Testament saints were all looking ahead and looking forward to. We know that they all seemed to anticipate something BIG happening very soon.
Jesus Himself promised numerous times that He would return within the first generation and within the lifetime of the saints who stood before Him around the year AD30. Paul and the other apostles all follow suit and set the expectation for a first century fulfillment of this BIG thing. John writes Revelation and says 12 times in the opening and closing chapters that “ALL” the events inside the book “were about to take place.”
So, what was this BIG event?
Well, it was the Coming of the Lord to gather His people into Himself. He wasn’t coming in ways that could be seen as He told the pharisees. After all, He Himself is the Kingdom and He was returning to gather the saints into that Kingdom. Into Himself. (Ephesians 1:10-13)
But let’s list off a few of the phrases used in the New Testament for describing this BIG event that they were looking forward to. We hear it described as…
“Going from partially clothed to fully clothed” (2 Cor. 5)
“longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Cor. 5)
“When that which is perfect comes” (1 Cor. 13)
“When the Day dawns and the Morning Star rises in our hearts” (2 Peter 1)
“The dead will rise, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15)
“Death will be swallowed up” (1 Cor. 15)
“Til we come to the perfect man and the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4)
“Becoming a man, putting away childish things” (1 Cor 13)
The point here is that from these few examples (and there are MANY more) we can see a theme. The theme is that they were awaiting this Coming of the Lord. He would come and change them in the twinkling of an eye. It would be at that moment that death would be swallowed up. They would be changed to immortal. They would inherit eternal life. They would put on the Perfect Man. They would be fully clothed. They would put on their heavenly dwelling, which is Christ. And so on. From that moment forward, when a person is made new today, they instantly inherit the Kingdom....in the twinkling of an eye.
But now that we have that foundation understood, let’s look at the gifts and how they fit in.
Paul writes to the Corinthians and most of the letter is correction about things that they were doing wrong. They had a lot of issues. Paul is trying to straighten them out and give them Godly advice on how to conduct themselves. They were gifted above all other churches in that day. They had many spiritual gifts but they were abusing them big time. We don’t hear much about these gifts in the first 11 chapters other than in chapter 1. Look what Paul says…
"I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all UTTERANCE and all KNOWLEDGE, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, EAGERLY WAITING FOR THE REVELATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, who will also confirm you TO THE END, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” 1 Cor. 1:4-8
Now, few things to note. First we can clearly see that they had been gifted heavily by God. Paul even mentions tongues and knowledge in this passage. But Paul also says that they came short in no gift as they EAGERLY AWAITED THE REVELATION OF JESUS. He also says that Jesus would confirm them until or "to the end".
So that may not be very important to you but it is to me. This ties in nicely with what we will see shortly and it proves how the gifts were given as a transitory vehicle to take them to the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were blessed with the gifts AS THEY WAITED FOR HIS REVEALING. As they waited for their inheritance and their perfect clothing and perfect fullness in Him.
Paul then skips over the next 11 chapters without really even mentioning the gifts. He goes on correcting their ways about other topics. But then he returns in chapter 12 and lists the different types of gifts that the Spirit had poured out on them in that day.
Take special note of the list and its variety of offices. When we come to the next chapter, we will notice that when Paul lists the gifts again, he doesn’t list them all. Why? Well, Do you need to list off every single item when you’ve already just listed them? Or would your audience understand that you are just mentioning a few of the items but your point is that the entire group of items are being referred to? I will get back to this but for now, Paul in chapter 12 writes…
"There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” 1 Cor 12:4-11
So Paul lists off literally every gift there. Remember this. This is chapter 12, one chapter before chapter 13, and Paul exhausts himself by listing off each gift for them. Then at the end of chapter 12 he writes…
"Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you A MORE EXCELLENT WAY.” 1 Cor 12:29-31
So Paul ends the chapter by saying he would show them something even BETTER than all of those gifts that he just mentioned. He then continues by writing…
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Cor 13:1
So it seems like the “better way” has to do with love. He says it doesn’t matter what type of gift you have, if you don’t have love, it’s all meaningless. He continues..
"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, pretty clear right? But yet many people struggle here. The Greek words used for the “will fail” and the “cease” and the “will vanish away” are all definitively meaning to TERMINATE, TO RENDER INACTIVE, TO PASS AWAY. There is no question here on that. (See another study I did in the comments for more on the Greek)
People will say that Paul was just saying that the partial form of those gifts would pass away when the perfect came. But no! This does not work! Why would Paul say in one sentence that they will TERMINATE AND BE DONE AWAY WITH, if he was going to follow that up and in the very next sentence and say that they would actually increase from partial to full? Makes NO sense whatsoever! Paul was clearly saying that the gifts would CEASE! When?
When that which was perfect came.
Remember what that was? It was just another way of describing the same exact thing they were all looking for in the near future back in their day. It was right at the door. It was the perfect inheritance and perfect clothing in the Perfect Man.
But why would Paul only list tongues, prophecy, and word of knowledge here? Doesn’t this leave the door open on the other gifts like healing etc to still be around today? Not at all and here is why…
When I tell someone that I bought a bunch of fruit, I might initially start out by listing each fruit type. Let’s say I list off 12 different fruits. Later on in that same convo with the SAME PERSON, I bring up the fruit again. Am I going to repeat EVERY, SINGLE, fruit that I literally just listed off to him minutes prior? Of course not! I am going to summarize and list maybe 2 or 3 of them so he gets the point. But he will understand that I am speaking of the entire group of fruits.
Paul uses this same tactic here. He had just gotten done not even 1 chapter earlier listing off every gift in detail. He doesn’t need to list all of them again for the Corinthians to get his point. His point was that all of that childish stuff would vanish away when Christ returned to perfect them. If there is any doubt, look what he says next…
"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” 1 Cor. 13:11-12
What else could Paul be speaking of putting away there? Clearly, without any doubt, he is speaking of the gifts. The temporary childish gifts that they had been abusing. They only saw dimly at that point. But when Christ would return to gather them into Himself and cloth them with immortality, they would see Him face to face. They would reach the full stature and the fullness of Christ. THE PERFECT***MAN****
("man" or "maturity" as opposed to childish)
Now, if we need more proof of this we can go to Ephesians chapter 4 and see what Paul writes there. He writes…
"But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” Ephesians 4:7-8
So what do we see there? We see Christ ascending to Heaven and leaving gifts with men. Pretty consistent with His promise that He would send “the helper” to them while He was gone.
But what’s the common theme again? His leaving and coming back.
If He was leaving them gifts while He was gone, what type of affect would His return have on those gifts? Doesn't it make sense that they would vanish when He returned? Seems like the gifts were again nothing more than a transitory vehicle to carry them to the revelation of Jesus Christ just like Paul wrote in 1 Cor. chapter 1.
But then Paul writes this to the Ephesians…
"And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, ***UNTIL*** we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, TO A PERFECT MAN, to the measure of the stature of the FULLNESS OF CHRIST; that we should NO LONGER BE CHILDREN, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” Ephesians 4:11-15
So Paul lists the gifts again and says that they were for the EQUIPPING OF THE SAINTS *****UNTIL**** they came to the knowledge of the Son of God and to a PERFECT MAN and the fullness of Christ. Where they would no longer be CHILDREN, but would put on the Perfect MAN, Jesus Christ.
Again, when did this happen?
All scripture points to the Coming of the Lord in ad70. Jesus Himself says it, Paul says it, all apostles say it, John in Revelation says it. Remember the list I listed at the beginning? That was just a few examples of the same thing that they were all looking for within that first century generation.
Does this not match Paul’s 1 Cor 13 words perfectly? In that letter he told them that when the Perfect came, the gifts would cease and they would put away the CHILDISH things.
In his letter to the Ephesians, he tells them that the gifts were only until they entered into the Perfect man and the fullness of Christ and once they had that, they would no longer be CHILDREN.
I will end it here because it is getting too long but the point is that I believe the gifts have gone away because I believe the bible. Not my experiences. I believe that the arrival of the Perfect Man and the entering into that Perfect Man, our heavenly habitat, our righteous clothing, etc was the moment when the spirits of just men were made PERFECT. (Hebrews 12:23)
By the way, the word for "perfect" there is the same word Paul uses in 1 Cor. 13 to describe that which is perfect...teleioō. ;)
Today, nothing but faith, hope, and love remain. The greatest of those is love.
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