Question:

Hello,

I have read articles on your site and they are pretty informative. However, your take on Corinthians 13:8-13, stating that spiritual gifts have ceased, is flawed.

Verse 8: "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away."

Here Paul is simply trying to point out the prominence of Love over all spiritual gifts. He says that spiritual gifts will stop existing. But when?

Verses 9-10: "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away."

Verse 10 is where all cessationists cling to so as to explain that all gifts have ceased. Cessationists believe that "perfect" refers to the completed Bible so gifts have ceased. But that is incorrect.

Let's take a look at verse 12:

"For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

The phrase 'face to face' is used many times in the Bible and each of these times, it has meant a personal encounter. For example, "...for I have seen God face to face" (Genesis 32:30; Deuteronomy 5:4; Exodus 33:11; III John 14; etc.). So it is indeed referring to seeing Jesus face to face because now we have an imperfect vision of reality and our knowledge is incomplete. Now, we only have partial knowledge through the gifts but then (refers to Christ's second coming), we shall know Him just as God also knows us.

Some people do not agree that it refers to Jesus' second coming because that would be using awkward grammar to refer to a person. But then again, it must refer to the entire scenario of Jesus' second coming and so there would be no incorrect grammar usage.

Many also claim that spiritual gifts were used only for the completion of the Bible and, therefore, are invalid today. But that is a case of faulty interpretation because the Bible itself says revelation were made that were not included in the Scriptures. "How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying." (I Corinthians 14:26). This implies that there were "different" revelations, such as revelation for canonization and other(s) for edification of the church.

I have myself seen many spiritual gifts existing today. For example, a sister of mine was healed by a pastor, many people in our church speak in tongues, there are few prophets in our church, etc. When what I have seen does not match your interpretation, then there must be something wrong with your interpretation.

I shall give you a real-life example. This is a bit long, however. There used to live a person who was a cancer survivor. He used to lead worship at a very young age. Before he had cancer, his younger brother, a 7th grader, saw a vision of a black cat biting him. He said there was cancer written on the cat. He disregarded it because his brother was only a kid and couldn't have been spiritually active at all. But he was afflicted by cancer at the age of 17. He had 40 lumps in his body. He went through chemotherapeutic treatment, but the cancer didn't seem to recede. He still used to conduct worship in his church. Then one day, a small girl in his church prophesied via the Holy Spirit that his cancer would go away that night. Believe it or not, that night, while experiencing extreme pain, a figure of Jesus (in the form of light) appeared to him and said how He would send him to other regions to tell them his testimony. That night, almost all lumps in his body disappeared. He converted many Christians through his testimony and was able to preach the gospel to a lot of people. He passed away at the age of 26 when his cancer returned, but still, he was able to serve God.

So you see, there were instances of visions and prophecies here. This is a true story and I believe it.

Spiritual gifts have not ceased. You simply do not desire it due to a flawed interpretation.

Answer:

I looked up the person you referred to. The young man was diagnosed with lymphoma in his teenage years. After receiving extensive chemotherapy, his cancer went into remission at the age of 18. At the age of 26, he died after his cancer returned. People noticed about a year before his death that his health was declining, but he denied that cancer could have returned until he reached the day he was appointed to die.

"According to the American Cancer Society, survival rates for Hodgkin's lymphoma have improved in recent years thanks to advances in treatment. The five-year survival rate is currently about 86 percent. That's a higher rate than many other cancers. However, relapse is still possible." ["6 Facts About Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Remissions and Relapse", Healthline].

I feel sorry for the young man and his suffering, but what is described is not miraculous. He received medical treatment and for a while was cancer-free. His relapse was sad, but not unusual. Your description was that he was partly healed, something that you don't find in the miracles recorded in the Scriptures. True miracles are both complete and instantaneous. See Miracles in the New Testament.

The other stories you mentioned do not have details to be verifiable and so cannot be considered as proof.

"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 13:8-13).

Paul's point is that love is superior to spiritual gifts because it does not end, but spiritual gifts will come to an end. He also points out that the spiritual gifts are partial and were only needed for a period of time while things were immature. Those who were given special knowledge were given the knowledge they needed at the moment, but they didn’t know all. Those who prophesied were told what needed to be said, but it wasn’t everything. These partial abilities were given to fill a gap until the perfect comes.

The word “perfect” translates the Greek word teleion. It means something that has been brought to completion, complete, entire, having attained its end or purpose. It is used in the idea of a person who has grown to adulthood. Hence, it can refer to spiritual maturity as in, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:4), which gives a good definition of the word. It does not mean without flaw, as we often use the word “perfect” today. The spiritual gifts were a temporary measure to bring about maturity. That is why Paul stated that as a child you talk, think, and reason as children, but when you grow up the childish things are put aside. The same thing would happen with spiritual gifts.

Things at the moment appear to be riddles, which is what “dimly” means in I Corinthians 13:12. It is the medium that causes the difficulty. Like a poor mirror, the spiritual gifts gave an incomplete view of everything a Christian needed. Later we’ll be seeing things directly with no mirror in between. Later I’ll know things accurately, as accurately as I know myself. This is not talking about our seeing Jesus because mirrors are for seeing ourselves. When that which is perfect comes, I will be able to see myself accurately.

Paul states that when that which is perfect (complete, mature) comes, then the part would end. In both Greek and English, the phrase indicates that some concept or thing arrives, which is perfect, complete, and mature. It is not referring to a person. You admit that applying to Jesus would violate the rules of grammar, so you try to skip around this by saying the perfect is the second coming of Christ, the event. However, you lack evidence that the Bible refers to the second coming as something that is perfect.

We know that spiritual maturity is brought about by the word of God (II Timothy 3:16-17, “perfect” here is a synonym Greek word, artios). James calls it the perfect law, the same word for “maturity” that we have seen before.

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does(James 1:21-25).

Notice that many of the same themes are stated in James. People who look into complete, perfect, mature law of liberty are able to see accurately.

At the time Paul penned I Corinthians the law of liberty was still being revealed. It hadn’t yet fully arrived. When it was written in full and distributed, the need for the temporary and incomplete measures would come to an end. Therefore, yes, at the time I Corinthians 12-14 was written, spiritual gifts still were being used. If they were not in existence, then Paul stating that chapter 13 that the gifts would eventually end would not make sense. Because I Corinthians 14 gives rules for the use of gifts during worship, it does not imply that revelations from God would continue. Instead, Jude tells us that God's message was only going to be delivered in one period for all times. "Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 3).

What will continue past the spiritual gifts are more important concepts: faith, hope, and love. 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).

While you claim that miracles had other purposes than to confirm the word being taught, you failed to make your point. See Miracles, Signs, and Wonders.

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