Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?

Posted: March 3, 2009 in Uncategorized

Conservative Christians disagree on whether all the gifts mentioned in the New Testament are still granted by the Holy Spirit.  “Cessationists” like John MacArthur and Norman Geisler believe that the Holy Spirit poured out “miraculous” gifts (healing, prophecy, etc.) on the early church in order to validate their claims but that these gifts ceased after the inspired authors completed the writing of Holy Scripture, which is now validated by the inworking of the Spirit.  Others, like Wayne Grudem (and Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, C.J. Mahaney, etc.) argue that there is no evidence of a cessation of gifts in Scripture and, in fact, experience teaches the opposite.

The debate centers on texts such as 1 Cor. 13:8-13, which reads,

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

As Dr. Grudem points out, Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 13 that Christians should not just seek “the greater gifts” but, above all else, seek love for it is eternal while the former is temporary and, in fact, will pass away “when the perfect comes.”  What did Paul mean? Grudem argues that the coming of the “perfect” refers to Jesus’ return when there will be no need of prophecy, healing, etc.

Cessationists argue that “the perfect” refers to Scripture but such an argument simply doesn’t hold (I will spare you the rather long complex argument behind it.  See chapter 52 of Grudem if you’re really interested).

Most cessationists are concerned that (1) we don’t see miracles as we did in the time of the NT and (2) seeking “spiritual gifts” can lead to anarchy in the church.

It is true (and disturbing to me personally) that we don’t see the level and intensity of the miraculous today (one may argue that the general lack of faith is to blame) but I think it is wrong, however, to argue that there are no signs of God working in “a less common kind of…activity in which He arouses people’s awe and wonder and bears witness to himself” (Grudem, 355).  As a pastor and pastor’s son, I have seen people cured of cancer and survive incredible ordeals against all odds. 

As to the second concern, certainly a congregation can become obsessed with “spiritual gifts” but, frankly, they become obsessed with anything and abuse it!

Thus, I believe that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit listed in Scripture are available to us today should God so will it.

Tomorrow, we will begin discussing certain gifts in depth.

Until then, grace and peace.


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