Thursday, June 18, 2015

Spiritual Gifts are for Today

Spiritual Gifts are for Today

This is a refutation of the article “7 Biblical Arguments for Cessationism,” the first point for a discontinuation of spiritual gifts was that miracles were only for certain periods in the Bible and  states for his first argument that miracles don’t happen anymore.

The unique role of miracles. There were only 3 primary periods in which God worked miracles through unique men. The first was with Moses; the second was during the ministries of Elijah and Elisha; the third was with Christ and his apostles. The primary purpose of miracles has always been to establish the credibility of one who speaks the word of God—not just any teacher, but those who had been given direct words by God.”

The writer invokes the fuzzy phrase “primary periods.” Yes these men’s ministries were distinguished by miracles, but to try to confine to certain periods does not take into account the full counsel of the scriptures concerning workers of miracles. The miraculous was done by God through many others: Noah, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, Samuel, the prophet who spoke to Jeroboam, Isaiah, Jonah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. I would agree with the author that God gave miraculous signs to validate the message or to show His favor, but to claim there were only three periods is inaccurate.

God does make provision for the miraculous to operate as part of the body of Christ.
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues…And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 1 Corinthians 12:7, 10, 28 (NASB95)

It would appear that each of us has a spiritual gift and some can even effect miracles. There is not a qualifier that states that miracles were only for the apostles or that these were soon to vanish away.

Church history is rife with anecdotal incidents of miracles. It would be wrong to paint with a big brush and say that none of these happened. This is what Calvin and Luther both did when they broke from the Catholic Church.

The next biblical proof that the author cited for the cessation of the gifts of the Spirit was that the gift of apostle was a temporary gift.

The end of the gift of apostleship. In two places in the New Testament Paul refers to the apostles as one of the gifts Christ gave his church (1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4). Although not all spiritual gifts are offices, all offices are gifts to the church. One of the gifts Christ gave his church was the apostles, but they were a temporary gift.

Although I am not a big fan of the modern apostolic movement I do believe that the office of apostle is a gift that continues. The main argument against apostles is that since they are part of the foundation of the church, they are no longer needed since the church has been established. I would counter that the church has not been established throughout the whole world. There is still a need for God appointed leaders to follow the Apostle Paul’s model and establish churches throughout every tribe, tongue and nation.

The author uses a narrow definition of apostle to add weight to his argument.  “No one meets the qualifications anymore, which included being an eye-witness of the life of Christ and his resurrection. You also had to be personally appointed by Christ and be able to work miracles.”

According to scriptures there were other apostles. Matthias who was chosen to replace Judas (Acts 1:26) Paul, Barnabas (Acts 13:2), Silas (1 Thes 2:7) and James the half brother of Jesus (Gal 1:19). More than just the twelve were considered to be apostles. Paul claims that there were false apostles in operation (2 Cor 11:13) and if that gift were limited to only the twelve it would have been ludicrous to claim to be an apostle in the first century. God even praises the church at Ephesus for testing men who claimed to be apostles (Rev 2:2). And if I might add that the Didache, written in the late first century or early second century, contains instructions for receiving prophets and apostles. So there is an early church tradition that there were more than just the original twelve.

Are miracles still available? Of course. God does the miraculous through men as He wills. Are apostles all gone? Not until this Gospel is preached unto the whole world. We need spiritual gifts to do the work God has called us to do.

 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 1 Corinthians 12:4–6 (NASB95)

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