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

Comparing Theories to Scripture (Part 2)

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

Up until this point in time, we have been discussing 1 Corinthians 13 in terms of the fourth theory that the gifts would pass away when the Church became mature. But what impact does our evaluation of 1 Corinthians 13 have on the other 3 theories regarding the passing of the gifts?

Well, one thing that we have seen is that the notions of the "death of the apostles" or "the close of the New Testament canon" are nowhere to be found in these passages. Such phrases are wholly absent from the New Testament, as is any expectation that the gifts would pass with the destruction of the Temple. These concepts are foreign to scripture and they are also foreign to the works of the early church writers. And because these ideas are not articulated in the New Testament, they must be read into it. But not only that, as we have seen, these ideas contradict the plain teaching of scripture.

From our examination and comparison of 1 Corinthians 13 to Ephesians 4, 1 John 3, 1 Corinthians 15, and Philippians 4, we see that the gifts were supposed to pass away on the day when the Church saw Jesus Christ face to face at his return and became mature reaching even his full stature when our corruptible bodies were transformed into the very likeness of his glorified spiritual body and "knew fully even as we are fully known" so that we reached the "unity in the knowledge of the Son of God" and were no longer "blown about by every wind of false teaching." This remarkable event has always been the future hope of the Church and it has not happened yet, not at the death of the last apostle, not when the New Testament was complete, and not when the Temple was destroyed. Therefore, the gifts were not yet supposed to pass away. Yet, nonetheless the authentic gifts are no longer occurring. And while we have not yet discussed why they ceased, we have discounted four theories suggesting that they were supposed to cease.

But before we move on to explore why the gifts ceased when they were not supposed to, we have a few more items to discuss in our evaluation of 1 Corinthians 13 and Paul's prediction that the gifts would pass away.

First, if Paul had meant that the gifts were supposed to pass away, then why does he spend the entire previous chapter (chapter 12) and the entire next chapter (chapter 14) laying out the guidelines for their ongoing occurrence and practice within the Church? And why in the world did he encourage and instruct the Corinthians to continue to seek the gifts?

1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

1 Corinthians 14:5 I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.

1 Corinthians 14:12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

1 Corinthians 14:39 Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.

The answer is that Paul did not expect that the gifts were supposed to soon pass away. We will touch more on this momentarily.

1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Second, if by 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul had meant that he put away the gifts when he became mature at some earlier point in time, then why does he state in 1 Corinthians 14 that he continues to speak in tongues?

1 Corinthians 14:14 For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. 15 What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.

1 Corinthians 14:18 I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all.

The answer is that Paul was talking about a maturing that had NOT yet taken place, specifically the maturing of the Church when Christ Jesus returns and we see him face to face and are transformed with incorruptible, glorified, spirit bodies like his and know as we are known so that we reach the unity in the knowledge of the Son of God and are no longer deceived by varying false doctrines.

But moreover, we can find out even more clearly from Paul when he expected this maturing, seeing face to face, and passing away of the gifts would take place. And the proof comes from the very onset of the same book, 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The first thing to note from 1 Corinthians 1 is verse 7's mention of the phrase "so that you come behind in no gift." While this may certainly include other gifts besides the charismatic (prophetic) gifts that will be discussed in detail in chapters 12-14, it certainly includes those gifts as well.

Notice also that in verse 7 Paul ties their having the gifts to their "waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." This is remarkably similar to 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul states that the gifts will pass when we see "face to face" and to 1 John 3:1-3 where John writes that when Christ Jesus returns we will be like him because we will see him as he is. And not only that, but Paul also speaks in verse 8 of Jesus Christ "confirming" the Ephesians unto the end. What is "the end" Paul is talking about? Verse 8 answers that also, it is the same "end" spoken of by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:14, 30, Mark 13:13, 26, Luke 21:9, 27.) It is the "day of our Lord Jesus Christ," "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" as Paul has also stated already in verse 7.

Notice that the word "confirm" appears both in verses 6 and 8, right before and right after the gifts are mentioned in verse 7. In both cases it is the Greek word "ebaioo" (Strong's No. 950), which means, "to make firm, establish, confirm, make sure." But what does this word "confirming" mean?

Well, a simple word search will answer that question. The same word also occurs in Mark 16.

Mark 16:20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming [950] the word with signs following. Amen.

Here in Mark 16, we see that the apostles go and preach the message everywhere and the Lord confirms the word that they preach with signs. Paul's use of this same word "confirm" twice in verse 6 and 8 right alongside his mention of the gifts in his opening chapter to the Corinthians is quite informative. And notice also that in both 1 Corinthians 1 and Mark 16, it is the Lord Jesus Christ who is doing the confirming of the Gospel message through signs. This all tells us that these "gifts" including tongues and prophecy were part of the signs that confirmed the message among the Jews and Gentiles including the Corinthians as the apostles went about and preached the message of salvation.

Notice that the Corinthians' receiving of the gifts is directly connected to Jesus Christ providing confirmation in them.

1 Corinthians 1:6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

This further demonstrates that the gifts came as part of the confirmation.

And this is perfectly consistent with what we find in the book of Acts where God confirms his acceptance and endorsement of men first in Acts 2 with the disciples and apostles and then also in Acts 10 with the first Gentile converts. In both cases, the signs of God's endorsement and acceptance were the prophetic gifts including prophecy and tongues.

And notice also from 1 Corinthians 1, how long Paul says Jesus Christ will continue to confirm the Corinthians?

1 Corinthians 1:6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

According to Paul's teaching and expectation, the gifts and signs were supposed to continue in the same way as they were confirmed originally in the Corinthians all the way "unto the end" when Jesus Christ returned. In fact, as stated earlier, Paul uses 3 parallel phrases to confirm the timeframe. He says "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," "the end," and "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." No only is the phrase "the end" a common New Testament reference to the end return of Jesus Christ (for example, Matthew 24:3, 6, 13-14), but here in 1 Corinthians 1, the phrase "the end" is literally sandwiched between to explicit references to the return of Christ.

This is amazingly consistent. Notice how in the opening chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul is laying out the summary of the issues he will address in greater detail later on in the letter. Here in chapter 1 Paul states that Jesus Christ will continue to confirm the Corinthians with the gifts unto the end as they wait for the return of Jesus Christ. Then in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul explains that the gifts will pass away when the Church becomes mature and when we see face to face. And finally, in chapter 15, Paul explains that when Jesus Christ returns we will see him and receive incorruptible, immortal, spiritual bodies like his. Therefore, both the very context of 1 Corinthians 13 as well as the context of the entire first epistle to the Corinthians require us to interpret chapter 13 as an indication that the gifts were NOT supposed to cease until the return of Christ, when we became mature by seeing him face to face at which point we would be transformed into his likeness.

In his refutation of the Montanists, Asterius Urbanus (who lived in the second century AD)confirms the ancient Christian origin of this interpretation of 1 Corinthians 1.

"THE EXTANT WRITINGS OF ASTERIUS URBANUS. Book I. Chapter X. For if, after Quadratus and the woman Ammia in Philadelphia, as they say, the women who attached themselves to Montanus succeeded to the gift of prophecy, let them show us which of them thus succeeded Montanus and his women. For the apostle deems that the gift of prophecy should abide in all the Church up to the time of the final advent. But they will not be able to show the gift to be in their possession even at the present time, which is the fourteenth year only from the death of Maximilla."

In this excerpt from Asterius, we see that he ascribed the theory that the gifts were supposed to continue until the return of Christ to "the apostle." Based upon our review of 1 Corinthians 1, we can see that Paul was the apostle Asterius was referring to. Asterius' comments here also indicate how he interpreted Paul's statements in 1 Corinthians 13, where Paul discusses the gifts passing when "the perfect comes." Thus, Asterius has given us a window into how the ancient Christians interpreted Paul's teaching in both 1 Corinthians 1 and 13 regarding how long the gifts would remain.

And this also explains why orthodox Christian writers such as Irenaeus (115-202 AD) and Justin Martyr (110-165 AD) recorded that the prophetic gifts, including tongues specifically, continued to occur into the mid and latter half of the second century AD, about half a century after the destruction of the Temple, death of the last apostle, and close of the New Testament canon.

"For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time. And hence you ought to understand that [the gifts] formerly among your nation have been transferred to us. And just as there were false prophets contemporaneous with your holy prophets, so are there now many false teachers amongst us, of whom our Lord forewarned us to beware; so that in no respect are we deficient, since we know that He foreknew all that would happen to us after His resurrection from the dead and ascension to heaven. (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, CHAP. LXXXII.)

Justin also testifies that the gifts were not only still in use at this time, but still being received by new converts.

CHAP. XXXIX. Therefore, just as God did not inflict His anger on account of those seven thousand men, even so He has now neither yet inflicted judgment, nor does inflict it, knowing that daily some [of you] are becoming disciples in the name of Christ, and quitting the path of error; who are also receiving gifts, each as he is worthy, illumined through the name of this Christ. For one receives the spirit of understanding, another of counsel, another of strength, another of healing, another of foreknowledge, another of teaching, and another of the fear of God." To this Trypho said to me, "I wish you knew that you are beside yourself, talking these sentiments." And I said to him, "Listen, O friend,(6) for I am not mad or beside myself; but it was prophesied that, after the ascent of Christ to heaven, He would deliver(7) us from error and give us gifts. The words are these: 'He ascended up on high; He led captivity captive; He gave gifts to men.'(8) Accordingly, we who have received gifts from Christ, who has ascended up on high, prove from the words of prophecy that you, 'the wise in yourselves, and the men of understanding in your own eyes,'(9) are foolish, and honour God and His Christ by lip only. (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, CHAP. XXXIX.)

Since all of the apostles were long dead by the time Justin wrote these words, this means that receiving the gifts was not restricted to laying on hands from the original apostles. Either God was doing it directly similar to Acts 2 and 10 or perhaps the elders were distributing the gifts through the laying on of their hands as suggested by 1 Timothy 4:14.

Notice from the first quote above that Justin says the Church of his day was "in no respect deficient" with regard to the gifts. This reflects Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 1:7, "that ye come behind in no gift." So, it seems Justin interpreted 1 Corinthians 1:6-8 to refer to the charismatic gifts and their continuation in the Church having been "transferred" and "continued" from the Jews under the Old Covenant. And, since Justin Martyr is quoting one part of Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 1:6-8 and applying it to the Church of his own day, it stands to reason that Justin also applied the rest of that statement to the Church of his own day as well. This at least indirectly indicates that like Asterius Urbanus, Justin Martyr believed the charismatic gifts were supposed to continue in the Church without deficiency until what Paul referred to collectively as "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," "the end," and, "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."

"For this reason does the apostle declare, "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect," (6) terming those persons "perfect" who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms "spiritual," they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit." (IRENAEUS AGAINST HERESIES, BOOK V.CHAP. VI.)

From all this we can conclude with certainty that Paul's teaching was that the gifts were not supposed to pass away until the return of Jesus Christ. And this was the understanding of the early Church as well. This conclusion is just as certain as the fact that for some reason, the gifts have already ceased even though they were not Biblically supposed to do so. This brings us to the question of what happened to the gifts? If they were not supposed to pass away, then why did they cease? Our next section will address these very questions.