Home Church Community

Statement of Beliefs

Contact Us

Search Our Site

Bible Study Resource



Printer Friendly Version

Particulars of Christianity:
310 Pentecostalism,
the Charismatic
and Faith Movements



What Happened to the Gifts:
Scriptural Indications (Part 1)


What Happened to the Authentic Gifts?
Comparing Theories to Historic Documentation
Comparing Theories to Scripture (Part 1)
Comparing Theories to Scripture (Part 2)
What Happened to the Gifts: Scriptural Indications (Part 1)
What Happened to the Gifts: Scriptural Indications (Part 2)

Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4
| Section 5



As we have seen from our previous sections, we know three things with certainty. First, we know that the authentic gifts did decline and eventually disappear sometime between the middle of the second century when Irenaeus and Justin Martyr wrote and the fourth century when John Chrysostrom and Augustine wrote.

Second, when we consider the circumstances and characteristics of modern charismatic gifts, we find that that they fail the Tests of Authenticity based upon Apostolic Continuity, Origination, Quality (Ecstasy), Heresy, and Purpose and Verifiability. Therefore, there is no reason to accept modern gifts as restorations of the authentic gifts of the first few centuries. Instead, our comparison has revealed that modern gifts are more properly viewed as restorations of the counterfeit gifts found among the heretical groups of the early centuries. As such, the cessation of the charismatic gifts has not been reversed but the absence of the gifts continues to this present day, despite widely reported counterfeits.

Third, an examination of the New Testament instruction reveals that the gifts were supposed to continue until Christ's return and were not supposed to pass away. A survey of the early Church writers also reveals that the gifts continued well after the close of the New Testament canon, the death of the last apostle, and the destruction of the Temple. And there is no documented expectation in the early church writers that the gifts were soon supposed to pass away.

So, we're left with the need to explain or resolve the three following realities:

1.) The gifts were not supposed to pass away until the return of Christ Jesus.
2.) The gifts did pass away sometime between the second and fourth centuries AD.
3.) The gifts continue to be absent to this very day.

So, what happened to the gifts?

Scripture provides for us some strong indications. But before we examine those indications, we need to say a few important words.

As we have seen from our survey of the history of the Charismatic Movement, the expectation that the charismatic gifts should reemerge was an outgrowth of the Wesleyan Holiness doctrine known as "sanctification." The main premise that evolved into the early Pentecostal Movement was that if the Church returned to holiness, the gifts would return as well.

Before we turn to examine scriptural hints concerning what caused the disappearance of the gifts, we need to clearly state that we do not share this view. Even if scripture indicates that the gifts were lost due to actions, compromises, or doctrinal heresy on the part of the Church, it does NOT follow that the gifts will return if the Church removes these things. In the charismatic gifts, God gave the Church a precious gift indeed and a powerful weapon to confirm the Gospel to an unbelieving world. But there is no promise in the scripture that God would restore that gift to us if we lost it through our own choices, activities, and compromises.

It took God to start the gifts on the day of Pentecost. No amount of repenting or preparing could have triggered that. It took divine initiative to give the charismatic gifts to the Church. And since the charismatic gifts were God's doing and did not result from anything men did to obtain them, we have no reason to suspect we can get them back by anything we do either.

If it turns out that the gifts were lost through compromise with the world either in deed, doctrine, or both, we will NOT be learning how to get the gifts back. There is nothing we can do to prompt that. The only thing we can truly learn from this is how much God wants us to live holy and separated from the world. The following study then, should be taken as an exploration of how important holiness is and not as an exploration of how to restore the gifts. God is not bound to give the gifts back to us if the Church returns to holiness. The gifts are not the natural product of holiness. The gifts are an added bonus. And once we have lost that bonus, we cannot assume that God will restore it. But we can repent of what caused the loss in recognition of the fact that our collective and historic compromise resulted in the loss of such a wonderful gift.

We now turn to examine the scripture in search for an answer to the question of why the gifts passed away when they were not supposed to.

1 Corinthians 12:9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit.

James 5:14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

Now, the words for "save" and "raise" in verse 15 are the normal Greek words used with regard to salvation and resurrection. In Romans 10:13, we find this same word for "save," which is the Greek word "sozo" (Strong's No. 4982.) And in 2 Timothy 2:8, we find the same word for "raise," which is the Greek word "egeiro" (Strong's No. 1453.) However, these same words are also used in the New Testament in terms of being made "whole" regarding healing from sickness and in terms of getting up after being bedridden from sickness. Consider the following 2 passages.

Matthew 8:14 And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever. 15 And he touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose [1453], and ministered unto them.

Here in Matthew 8, we see Jesus himself healing Peter's mother of a fever that had confined her to bed. She is said to arise from bed using the same word for "raise" as we find in James 5:15.

Matthew 9:20 And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: 21 For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole [4982]. 22 But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole [4982]. And the woman was made whole [4982] from that hour.

"Sozo" occurs 3 times in this passage. Yet it doesn't refer to eternal salvation. Instead, it refers to making a body healthy and whole. From this we can see that when James speaks of the prayer "saving" the sick person and that they will be "raised up," he is not talking about eternal salvation and resurrection. James is talking about the sick person being made whole and well so that they can get out of bed and return to normal living.

From 1 Corinthians 12:9 and James 5:14-15, we can see that there was in the early Church not only the supernatural gift of healing but the expectation that the sick would be healed. Despite that, however, Paul writes the following.

1 Corinthians 11:28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is discussing some problems with the way the Corinthians conducted the communion meal. In this segment, Paul teaches that eating and drinking the communion meal in an unworthy manner is causing many Corinthians to remain sick and even to die. Or, in other words, eating and drinking the communion meal in an improper way is one specific way that the healing gift in the Church could be halted.

And while this is a very specific statement to the extent that Paul only speaks of one thing that could halt the healing provision in the Church, in verse 31 and 32, Paul goes on to make a more general and broad-sweeping statement. In verse 31 and 32, Paul states that when the Church fails to judge itself, it then incurs the Lord's own judgment. To remedy this, Paul instructs that the Church should judge and correct itself. Otherwise, if the Church does not judge and correct itself, it is in danger of being judged along with the world.

Paul's inclusion of this statement immediately after discussing how the healing provision can be stopped indicates that it may indeed be a more general rule that the more the Church puts itself in a position alongside the world, the more God treats the Church just as he would the world. The world does not experience God's merciful healing power. And if the Church fails to examine, judge, and correct itself, then it too will no longer experience God's healing power. And it stands to reason that if this is the case with healing, it would also be the case in other areas and with other gifts as well.

This general sentiment is restated by Paul in 2 Corinthians as well.

2 Corinthians 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18 And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

Although it may only be speculation, the strongest indications from the Bible seem to be that the gifts may have been lost before they were supposed to due to the Church's compromise and loss of separation from the world. This theory that the gifts were lost ahead of time due to the Church's compromise does four important things for us.

First, it explains why we cannot do anything to prompt the return of the gifts, even if we dedicate ourselves to living holy. The Holy Spirit manifests these gifts as he wills. The gifts aren't guaranteed and won't necessarily happen. It is the Holy Spirit's prerogative to manifest them and thus, whether or not to restore them and when.

At this point we should also say that it is entirely possible to be part of a return or reemergence of sound doctrine and without being endued with miraculous power from the Holy Spirit. That was the exact situation of the apostles and the rest of the 120 disciples in the days between Jesus' resurrection and Pentecost. Jesus Christ has come to restore the lost sheep of Israel to the teaching of God.

Jesus came preaching the truth of God.

John 1:17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to restore the Israelites who had departed from God and needed to be restored to following in God's commands.

Matthew10:6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Matthew15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Luke 15:4 What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? 5 And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. 7 I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

The apostles were part of the Israelites who heard Jesus' teaching and received it. They were part of those sheep of Israel that he came to seek and to save. And not only had they sat under his teaching for 3 years before his death and resurrection, but in the days between his resurrection and ascension, he continued to teach them and to reveal to them the things that had been hidden from them in parables and shadows about him in the Old Testament.

Luke 24:44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

Thus, before Jesus ascended into heaven, his apostles understood his doctrine and the full context of his life correctly according to the Old Testament scriptures as explained to them by Jesus Christ himself. Therefore, they had correct doctrine. But despite the fact that they had correct doctrine and had held the doctrine of Christ without departing from it since the time they began to follow him, the power to perform miracles did not come upon them automatically or instantaneously as soon as they had sound doctrine or just because they were part of the sheep of Israel who returned to the Words of God.

Acts 1 also affirms these things by stating clearly that the apostles had received the teaching of Jesus Christ and remained in it yet had not on that factor alone automatically or instantaneously received miracle-working power from the Holy Spirit. Instead, there was a time frame that God himself had set and the miracle-working power was given only in accordance with those factors, which God knew and set by his own wisdom. It was not give strictly on the condition of returning to or keeping sound doctrine.

Acts 1:1 The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, 2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: 3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: 4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5 For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. 6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

The disciples had been a part of that return to God's truth and had embraced that truth without corrupting it in the 50 days between the resurrection and Pentecost. But the fact that they held to sound doctrine during those days did not guarantee an automatic manifestation of miraculous power the moment that they had sound doctrine or just because they had sound doctrine.

Having sound doctrine was not the only qualification that God was waiting for but instead, while holding sound doctrine, they still had to wait for the time appointed by God, which was the day of Pentecost. Thus, being part of a return to sound doctrine and keeping that doctrine does not on its own guarantee the manifestation of miraculous power. Instead, it is God's ordained time and purposes that determine when he bestows miraculous power and even those who hold to sound doctrine cannot change or alter the time and purpose of God in this matter.

Additionally, in this example of the 120 disciples we see that God's decision to bestow miraculous power is based upon greater factors that are independent of simply holding to sound doctrine even though the miracles function to confirm the divine origin of doctrine. In this way, sound doctrine is a prerequisite to miraculous power as we have outlined in detail throughout this study of the Charismatic Movement, but sound doctrine is not the only factor or even the primary factor for God in determining if or when to bestow such power.

Just because we prepare ourselves by removing and reversing those trends, which lead to the decline of the miraculous gifts, does not mean that the Holy Spirit will automatically restore them or that he is bound to do so. Instead, the gifts remain as they always were: manifest according to the prerogative and purpose of the Holy Spirit. What is important is that we, as a Church, return to our first love, do the first works, and separate ourselves from the world.

Second, this theory explains why all the gifts seemed to pass away at around the same time. For, as Justin Martyr and Irenaeus both inform us, the gifts including tongues, continued in their day, which would have been the middle to latter half of the second century AD. Yet, by the time of John Chrysostom and Augustine, the gifts had disappeared. This means that whatever caused the gifts to cease apparently affected all the gifts at about the same time. In other words, what caused their disappearance was uniform. And the rise of compromise in both doctrine and behavior in the Church could easily provide such a uniform cause for the disappearance of all the gifts in the decades between the middle of the second century and the beginning of the fourth century AD.

Third, this theory explains the dilemma faced by John Chrysostom, Augustine, and even Gregory the Great. When faced with this dilemma concerning how the lack of gifts impacted whether or not Christians still had the Holy Spirit, Augustine commented as follows.

"How then, brethren, because he that is baptized in Christ, and believes on Him, does not now speak in the tongues of all nations, are we not to believe that he has received the Holy Ghost? God forbid that our heart should be tempted by this faithlessness..." (Augustine, "Ten Homilies on the First Epistle of John)

Since the passing of the miraculous gifts, the Church has pondered whether or not we still retained the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. Some, like Augustine, have argued that we still have the Baptism in the Holy Spirit even though we don't have the gifts. The modern answer to this seems to be that the rebirth is different from Baptism in the Holy Spirit. So, Christians without the gifts have been reborn but not baptized in the Holy Spirit. But this is incorrect as evidenced by our articles on Baptism. The reality is, the rebirth is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and the reason the Church no longer has the gifts is because of the scriptural indications described in this segment and found in such passages as John 15, whereby if the Church left the doctrine of Christ, it would lose its ability to ask and receive and in fact, "do anything." (John 15 will be described in more detail in our next segment.)

And fourth, this theory explains how the gifts could have passed away when, Biblically speaking, they were not supposed to do so until the return of Jesus Christ. The gifts passed away because the Church left its first love, left the first works, and compromised with the world, specifically in terms of the influence of Gnosticism and other heresies on Church doctrine.

Why had the gifts ceased at around the same time Gnosticism and other heresies were making such strong advances into the Church? Because the Church, which had always contended with Gnosticism and other heresies, had now been overwhelmingly overrun by them particularly in the climactic compromise of the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Therefore, this theory explains why the continual rise of Gnosticism and other heresies in the Church coincided in time with the disappearance of the gifts somewhere between the late second and early third centuries. Thus, the two coincided because they were related. Effectively, the shift toward heresies including Gnosticism within the Church contributed to the decline and loss of the gifts.