Have the Gifts of the Spirit Ceased?

Many theologians and Bible teachers reject the idea that God still gives supernatural gifts to the church today. “God does not give supernatural gifts to Christians today,” they would say, “those gifts were only for the time of the Old Testament and Jesus and the apostles.” Why do these men hold such a view? What Scriptures or reasons do they give against the use of the spiritual gifts for today? Those who believe that the supernatural gifts have ceased usually raise the following objections:

First Objection
The supernatural gifts were only for the time of the apostles to authenticate the apostle’s message. The Bible teaches that this was the purpose of supernatural gifts. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:3-4). Once the gospel was firmly established in the Roman Empire and the apostles died, the supernatural gifts ceased. Therefore they were no longer necessary.

This objection is flawed for the following reasons:
a) Authentication of the gospel message was definitely one of the purposes of the miraculous gifts, but it is only one of the purposes. We are also told in other Scriptures that spiritual gifts are given to serve the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:7; 14:26), to equip people to share the gospel (Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 4:18; 1 Corinthians 2:13; Mark 16:15-18), and to show God’s compassion and concern for His people (Matthew 14:13-14; 20:29-34; Mark 1:40-42). Surely these needs still exist today.

b) The “supernatural” gifts were not just the possession of the apostles in the Bible. Other non-apostles also were given supernatural gifts by the Spirit, for example Luke 9:49-50 or Philip’s use of the gifts in Acts 8:6-7, 13.

c) The Scriptures don’t seem to make any distinction between what we call the “supernatural” gifts and the other “less” supernatural gifts (they appear mixed together in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:28). If we are going to deny the operation of “supernatural” gifts in this day, then it seems logical to deny all the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in these passages.

Second Objection
The Bible actually tells us that supernatural gifts will cease … “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. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10.) It is clear that this passage predicts the gifts of prophecy and tongues will not continue. In verse 10, Paul says that once the ‘perfect’ is come, tongues will cease. What could be more perfect than the Bible? When the last New Testament book was written the need for supernatural revelation ended. At that time prophecy, tongues and the other supernatural gifts ceased.

This objection is flawed for the following reasons:
a) Where do we get the idea that the “perfect” is the Bible? This seems to be reading something into verse 10 which is not there. It ignores the context. A completely reasonable interpretation for ‘perfect’ can seem to be found in verse 12. The “perfect” is not the completion of the Bible, but when we see God “face to face” and “know even as also [we are] known.” This happens upon our death or at the time of Christ’s Second Coming. That is the time that the imperfect will be done away with (:10). There will not be any need for spiritual gifts in the presence of the Lord.

b) If tongues and prophecy ended when the Bible was completed then so did “knowledge” if we adopt such reasoning.

It is theoretically possible that all the supernatural gifts ceased at the close of the apostolic age, but it is the Holy Spirit not theory who determines the cessation or continuance of the gifts. It is the Holy Spirit is the one who wills what gifts are given and who receives them (1 Corinthians 12:11), so if He wished to stop giving supernatural gifts, He certainly could. What man can say that the Spirit must give supernatural gifts to Christians in the 21st century? However, nowhere does the Bible teach that supernatural gifts will cease in a later age. It is the position of Living Word Bible Church that we need to be open to all the ministrations of the Holy Spirit. Paul himself told the Thessalonians not to quench prophecies, a supernatural gift (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22). He wrote the Corinthians to “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:39). His only caution was that all gifts should be tested rather than just gullibly accepted (:29) and “Let all things be done decently and in order” (:40). That still seems to be good advice.