Duration Of The Miraculous Gifts


Once God revealed the entirety of the information that He wished to make available to mankind, later contained in what we call the New Testament, the need for miraculous confirmation of the oral Word came to an end. Now, people can sit down with a New Testament, the written Word of God, and with honest and diligent study, conclude that it is God’s Word.

Many preachers and teachers today have failed to acknowledge this crucial Biblical factor. They fail to face the fact that we have absolutely no need for the miraculous. Since the purpose of miracles has been achieved, the miracles, themselves, have ceased. I repeat the Bible teaches that miracles are no longer necessary.

We have everything we need to function in this life, to be pleasing to God, and to survive spiritually. 2 Peter 1:3. Spiritual maturity is now within the grasp of every single individual who chooses to access the means to maturity, the written Word of God.

To insist that we have a need for the miraculous today is to undermine, and to cast aspersions upon, the all-sufficiency of God’s Word. 1 Corinthians 1:22 / 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

The most detailed treatment of the phenomena of miracles in the New Testament, including tongue-speaking, healing, and prophecy, is 1 Corinthians 12 / 1 Corinthians 13 and 1 Corinthians 14. These three chapters were written to Christians at Corinth because miracles were being abused and misused.

1 Corinthians 12 defines the miracles. 1 Corinthians 13 indicates their duration. 1 Corinthians 14 explains their disposition. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul argued that the body, the church, should function harmoniously by using miraculous gifts properly.

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul argued that love is a more excellent attribute than miraculous gifts. After all, miraculous gifts i.e., prophecy, tongue-speaking, supernatural knowledge, etc. were going to fail, cease, vanish, and be done away, 1 Corinthians 13:8. These miraculous gifts are identified in the text with the expression ‘in part,’ 1 Corinthians 13:9-10.

The ‘in part,’ or miraculous, would cease and be done away when the ‘perfect’ had come.

But to what does the ‘perfect’ refer?

The Greek word translated ‘perfect’ is ‘teleios’. The term doesn’t refer to ‘perfect’ in the sense typically understood by the average modern English reader, i.e., to be sinless. Following this faulty notion, some have concluded that the ‘perfect’ refers to Jesus, since He has been the only perfect person, Jesus is never described as a ‘that’.

Other interpretations apply ‘perfect’ to heaven, the only perfect place that will be free of sin and imperfection, or Christian maturity and perfect love, the perfect condition or quality.

But, in context, Paul wasn’t contrasting qualities or places. He was contrasting quantities, i.e., those things that were incomplete and partial, ‘miraculous gifts’ with that which would be total and complete, ‘the fully revealed Word of God’.

The inaccuracy of these interpretations is seen further in the Greek definition of ‘teleios’. The word refers to totality that which is whole, brought to its end, finished, and lacking nothing necessary to completeness. When referring to persons, ‘teleios’ refers to being full-grown, adult, and mature.

Used in its neuter form, Paul was referring to a thing, not a person, something that, when completed or finished, would replace the incomplete or partial, i.e., the miraculous gifts, which clearly had only temporary significance.

Whereas James used the term ‘teleios’ to refer to the all-sufficiency of God’s Word in its ability to achieve everything it was intended to do, James 1:25. The exegete is forced to conclude that Paul’s use of ‘perfect’ referred to the completed revelation or totally revealed New Testament Scriptures.

The revelation of God’s will was completed in its entirety when the final book of the New Testament, Revelation, was written by John prior to A.D. 100. Paul offered a useful illustration to clarify his point.

When the church possessed only bits and pieces of God’s will, as revealed through scattered miraculous gifts and the gradual production, between approximately A.D. 57 and A.D. 95, of the written documents from the inspired writers of the New Testament, it couldn’t achieve full spiritual maturity.

It, therefore, was ‘like a child’, 1 Corinthians 13:11. It lacked the necessary essential elements to reach spiritual adulthood. However, when the totality of God’s will, which became the New Testament, had been revealed, the church then had the means available to become ‘a man,’ 1 Corinthians 13:11

Once the church had access to all of God’s written Word, the means by which the Word was given, i.e., miraculous gifts, would be obsolete, useless, and therefore ‘put away.’ 1 Corinthians 13:11

Notice that in this illustration, Paul likened miracles to ‘childish things.’ 1 Corinthians 13:11.

In other words, miracles were the spiritual equivalents of ‘baby dummies’ or ‘pacifiers’ as the Americans call them, that were necessary while the church was in a state of infancy. Now that the church has access to ‘all truth,’ John 16:13, the use of tongue-speaking and other miraculous enhancements in the church today would be comparable to an adult man or woman sucking on a dummy!

Paul then explained his point by making a contrast between the initial necessity of miracles to reveal and confirm God’s Word, and the idea of ‘looking through a clouded mirror’. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Now please don’t think of a mirror like we have today, the mirror in those days was polished bronze and your reflection wasn’t as clear as it is in today’s mirrors.

Once the entire contents of the New Testament had been revealed, the miraculous gifts no longer would be necessary. Having all of God’s revealed Word would enable one to be face to face with that Word rather than ‘looking through a clouded mirror,’ i.e., having partial access.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:11-12, ‘Now I know in part (i.e., my knowledge of God’s revelation is incomplete and partial due to limited access via the miraculous element), but then (i.e., when all of God’s Word is revealed) shall I know fully even as also I was fully known (i.e., I shall be made to know or taught thoroughly).’

Paul made essentially the same point to the Ephesians that he made to the Corinthians. Miracles, the ‘gifts’ given by Christ, Ephesians 4:8 were to last ‘till the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God.’ Ephesians 4:13.

Two significant observations emerge from this latter verse

1. The word translated ‘till’ is ‘mechri’, and was used as a conjunction to indicate the ‘terminus ad quem,’ finishing point, of the miraculous offices, mentioned in Ephesians 4:11, bestowed as gifts by Christ.

2. The phrase ‘the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God’ often is misunderstood to refer to the eventual ‘unifying’ of all believers in Christ.

But this conclusion can’t be correct. Both Scripture and common sense dispel such a notion. Complete unity within Christendom will never occur.

Those who profess affiliation with Christianity are in a hopeless state of disunity. Catholicism and Protestant denominationalism are fractured into a plethora of factions and splinter groups, literally thousands of divisions and disagreements. Besides, Protestant denominationalism didn’t exist in the New Testament era, and the New Testament neither countenances nor legitimizes any such ‘manifestation’ of Christianity.

Nor will unity ever be achieved even within churches of Christ. The first-century congregations didn’t attain complete internal unity. Nor have the post-first-century congregations achieved unity within.

In contrast with this interpretation, notice the use of the articles in the phrases, ‘the faith’ and ‘the knowledge.’ Contextually, Paul was referring to ‘the system of faith’ alluded to so often in the New Testament. Jude urged his readers to ‘contend earnestly for the faith’. Jude 3. Paul referred to himself when he quoted others as saying, ‘The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’ Galatians 1:23

Luke reported that ‘a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith,’ Acts 6:7. Elymas sought to ‘turn aside the proconsul from the faith,’ Acts 13:8. The early disciples were exhorted to ‘continue in the faith,’ Acts 14:22. Due to Paul’s repeat visits to Lycaonia, ‘the churches were strengthened in the faith,’ Acts 16:5.

So ‘the faith’ and ‘the knowledge’ refers to the ‘completed body of information’ that constitutes the Christian religion. Indeed, eight verses earlier, in Ephesians 4:5, Paul already had referred to ‘the faith’ as the summation and totality of Christian doctrine, now situated in the source of the New Testament.

An honest approach is needed to conclude that once the precepts of New Testament Christianity were revealed on Earth, the miraculous element no longer was necessary. Miracles lasted until ‘the faith’ was completely revealed.

They had served their purpose, in the same way, that scaffolding is useful while a building is under construction. However, once construction is complete, the scaffolding is removed and discarded as unnecessary and superfluous paraphernalia.