Question:

Hi,

I already read so many of your articles and Q&A sections dealing with the cessation of gifts. I have to say, you are totally wrong.

One mistake is not referring to this verse: "So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 1:7). If they were to stop existing, then how would we hold onto them until the return of Christ?

Moreover, "that which is perfect" in I Corinthians 13:10, refers to the kingdom of God. The kingdom is imperfect right now because:

  1. Death is not destroyed
  2. There are still 'weeds' in this kingdom

Now, when Jesus returns, death will be destroyed (I Corinthians 15:26) and the kingdom will be handed over to God, the Father (I Corinthians 15:24) and the "weeds" will be removed, hence making the kingdom complete or perfect. This is why we say that it refers to the second coming of Christ.

Also, I read in one of your articles that gifts, like speaking in tongues and prophecy, only existed to confirm the word of God. This is incorrect. When one prays in tongues, his spirit prays (I Corinthians 14:14). Also, he utters "mysteries" (I Corinthians 14:2), which is why an interpreter of tongues is very important in the church.

Next, New Testament prophecies are not the same as Old Testament prophecies. Prophecy is also for disclosing sin and the secrets of others in the church, so that they may repent and praise God (I Corinthians 14:3, 14:24).

Does it matter if one does not possess the gifts of God? We are to desire them (I Cor 12:31), but one must value love over gifts, and also one should not abuse the gifts.

Will all those who possess gifts work wonders in the name of God and receive the kingdom? Absolutely not.  "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" (Matthew 7:21-23).

God bless!

Answer:

I find it strange that people who don't possess spiritual gifts and cannot demonstrate that they currently exist as they did in the first-century look for some way to prove they should exist.

"I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 1:4-8).

Paul is thankful for the things the Corinthians were given by God through Jesus Christ. They were richly blessed by God in everything, including the various manifestations of the spiritual gifts given to them. Two, in particular, are named: the ability to speak in other languages and knowledge of God’s will. The purpose of those gifts was to confirm to the Corinthians the gospel message. (Notice that this supports the argument that the purpose of the gifts was to confirm God's message.) Here the gospel is called the testimony of Christ because it was relayed to those who heard through witnesses (II Timothy 1:8; Revelation 1:1-2). The gifts from God then confirmed that message as true (Philippians 1:7). As a result, the Corinthians do not lack, or are not behind, other Christians in regards to God’s gifts. And they, like other Christians, eagerly looked forward to the return of the Lord.

Nothing in this statement indicates that the Corinthians were going to survive until the Lord's return. They have died long ago. Thus, for the same reason, there is nothing in this statement that can be construed as Paul insisting that the spiritual gifts would continue until the Lord's return. What Paul does say was confirmed was the testimony concerning Christ and that Paul believed that these Corinthian brethren will be confirmed as blameless when Jesus returns.

An insistence that the "perfect" in I Corinthians 13:10 is the kingdom doesn't establish proof. It only lets us know that this is your goal. Yes, the kingdom will return to God, the Father, after death is conquered (I Corinthians 15:25-28), but this does not prove that the "perfect" in I Corinthians 13:10 is the kingdom. You allude to the parable of the wheat and the tares in Matthew 13:24-30, but if you had continued reading you would find Christ's explanation: "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels" (Matthew 13:37-39). The field is the world, not the kingdom. The good seed are the sons of the kingdom who must exist in the world among the bad seed. Yes, the bad will be separated from the good at the coming of Christ, but this does not prove that the "perfect" in I Corinthians 13:10 is the kingdom when it exists in heaven.

"Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love" (I Corinthians 13:8-10).

If the "perfect" refers to the kingdom after the return of Christ, then we still only have partial knowledge. But the Bible says that the message is complete (II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:2-4) and that it was only delivered once for all people and all times (Jude 3). The existence of the kingdom, which in this age is another way to refer to the church, is to cause people to mature. "And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-15). But that would be impossible we still only know in part.

Right after stating that the spiritual gifts would end, Paul said that faith, hope, and love would remain (I Corinthians 13:13). This is yet another clue that Paul sees perfection or maturity coming before the end of the world. Faith and hope end when we reach heaven and obtain the promises. The ending of the spiritual gifts would come before that time. Yet since faith and hope have an end (Hebrews 11:1; Romans 8:24), love remains the greatest because it will continue through all eternity, for God is love (I John 4:8).

It is funny how you only alluded to pieces of I Corinthians 14.

"For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation" (I Corinthians 14:2-3).

When a person speaks in another language (tongue), and the implication is that it is in a language that no one else present understands, God alone understands him. He might have important information to present, but it remains a mystery. In contrast, the prophet gives a message men can understand which edifies, exhorts, and consoles the listener. Both the speaker in another language and the prophet may have the same message from the Spirit, but only the prophet is able to give that message to other people if a common language is used. When there is no shared language, the tongue speaker might benefit from his own message, but the rest of the church is unable to gain any benefit. It remains a mystery to them. Thus, "mysteries" here is not a benefit but a detriment to the church.

"For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not edified" (I Corinthians 14:14-17).

Paul encourages the Corinthians to be zealous for spiritual gifts, but not to lose sight of using the gifts to the benefit of the church. They need to excel first and foremost in building up the church. If a person speaks in another language, he needs to also pray that he can properly, clearly, and accurately interpret what he says in the language his audience understands. Paul is not saying that someone with the gift of languages cannot demonstrate his ability to speak in another language, but that demonstration cannot be solely for showing off. He must first think about benefitting his listeners with a message they can understand. A person who prays in another language, unknown to those around him, knows what he is thinking and so it is a benefit to him, but what he understands bears no fruit because no one else understands along with him.

Whether we are talking about prayers or songs, enthusiasm and sincerity of heart aren’t enough. When we give a prayer or sing a song, it must be something that is understood by those who hear. After all, the purpose of the church is to edify (Romans 14:19; 15:2; Ephesians 4:12, 16; I Thessalonians 5:11). The spirit must be blended with understanding (John 4:24).

When prayers are offered, others are listening and when they agree with the prayer they give their “amen” (“so be it”) at its end. If a person does not understand what is being said, they cannot rightly agree with the prayer. “Uninformed” or “ungifted” in verse 16 literally means a private person; that is, a person who is isolated from others because of his lack of understanding or skill. When all cannot understand, they are isolated from the rest. Though they came together, the fellowship doesn’t exist.

Prophecy existed to communicate God's message to mankind. Jesus told the apostles, "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:7-8). Jesus was not talking about personal messages to each individual but of the fact that God's message would cause people to be convicted. The things each person keeps buried deep within would be seen by the unbeliever in a new light, changing the way he sees himself, his motives, and the world around him. As a result, glory will be given to God. It is not necessary to assume that the prophets would reveal some secret facts from a person’s life. Paul is talking about the more general process of how God’s teachings work on the heart of sinners. "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). That message was delivered once (Jude 3) and is now complete or perfect (James 1:25; II Timothy 3:16-17; II Peter 1:2-4). It isn't the spiritual gift that converts a person but the message that was revealed through those gifts and confirmed to be true with the gifts.

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