Are the Gifts of the Spirit for Today? A Brief Exploration


“Are the gifts of the Spirit for today?” This is a big question and an important one because it impacts the church, missions, and individual’s spiritual lives. It is an important question because many denominations and individuals are divided over it.

Truly and sadly very often “those who [speak] most loudly of being led by the Spirit [are] the very persons responsible for quenching the Spirit’s work.”[1] Interestingly, this was also true of the Corinthians of Paul’s day. Yet, Paul does not say, “Away with the Spirit!” Instead, he says, “Don’t quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19)! The Spirit is not the problem; we are.

I think both camps, cessationists (they believe the gifts have seized) and continuationists (they believe the gifts continue), are right on some points and wrong on others. “Error is much more likely to be propagated, when it is mixed with truth. This hides deformity and makes it go down more easily.”[2] Those who believe that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit continue and those that believe they do not both very often sound right. This likely means that both arguments have been construed wrongly.

Neither side is understanding the question rightly. Of course, I will not satisfy everyone, or, perhaps, anyone. But this is my attempt to satisfy myself on this subject. And I hope to bring you along as well.

We will first look at four negative arguments that people make that believe the charismatic gifts have seized. Then we will look at one positive argument in favor of the continuation of the charismatic gifts. I also have included a long excursus that outlines a somewhat chronological example of the ongoing powerful and uncommon work of the Spirit since Pentecost. Finally, we will look at a few practical reflections. 

Negative Argument One: The Abuses of Charismatics Make it Impossible that the Gifts of the Spirit Continue Today

I think most of the problems come today because we are not looking at the clear teaching of Scripture. We are forgetting elementary hermeneutic principles because it suits our purpose. However, this is obviously not good and it does not honor our Lord. So, when we look at the relevant texts, I want us to ask ourselves, if I was reading this in the first century, before some of the deplorable “spiritual” movements, how would I understand this teaching?

Truly, “If you were to lock a brand-new Christian in a room with a Bible and tell him to study what the Scriptures have to say about healing and miracles, he would never come out of the room a cessationist.”[3]

“No one ever just picked up the Bible, started reading, and then came to the conclusion that God was not doing signs and wonders anymore and that the gifts of the Holy Spirit had passed away. The doctrine of cessationism did not originate from a careful study of the Scriptures. The doctrine of cessationism originated in experience.”[4]

However, that in itself does not prove the continuationists point. Only let us approach the question honestly. A straightforward, and especially early, hermeneutic would not make us cessationists. 

John MacArthur does not approach the question with a straightforward hermeneutic. He does not ask what the first recipients of the letters of Scripture would have thought about the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit. Instead, his book Strange Fire is mainly concerned with attacking certain charismatics. Thus much of his argument is an ad hominem argument in the form of red herring; (i.e. it attacks certain people and doesn’t argue a point).[5] Michael L. Brown is right in saying that “we should never develop our theology in a reactionary way. If we do, we will almost always go from one erroneous extreme to another, over-correcting our course as we go.”

Strange Fire could have been at least half its length. Or MacArthur could have done it in two parts: First, The Abuses of some Charismatics, and Second, Biblical Argumentation (the second part would be the smaller portion of the book). However, even much of the argumentation was a type of “straw man.” He had two chapters on the need of “Testing the Spirits”[6] and had another whole chapter on Apostleship.[7] However, I agree that we must test the spirits; that’s what the Bible clearly tells us to do. I also agree that there are no new Apostles (as in, the Twelve and Paul). That role has been closed.[8]

MacArthur does show many of the past abuses in the charismatic movement. But, all of that considered, it doesn’t mean at all that I must be a cessationist. It means that there are good and right cautions (see below). Ones that must be heeded. We must test the spirits, Satan arrays himself as an angel of light in order to devour and kill. We must also guard against those who would claim the place of the Apostles and put their word on par with Scripture. Yes, there are good and right warnings, but that does not mean that continuationsim itself is wrong.

There are also good and right warnings regarding the pursuit of knowledge. However, let us not say that the pursuit of knowledge is wrong. There are texts in Scripture that say that works do not save us, yet that does not mean that we must not have works. There are warnings that say we must continue in the faith or be damned, but that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t keep those who are His (of course, many will disagree on this point). Therefore, the warnings in Scripture regarding the use of spiritual gifts does not at all mean that they have seized in our day from functioning. Much to the contrary, it may be argued that the warnings may actually lend to the credibility of the gifts continuing.

I will be the first to say that there have been abuses in the charismatic movement. Yet, that does not prove cessationism. It is only to say that there have been abuses in the continuationist camp; like there have been in any camp. For instance, certain Presbyterian churches have often been labeled, sometimes by their own people, “the frozen chosen.” However, Presbyterianism should not be evaluated on what may or may not be true about certain of their churches. Presbyterianism, like continuationism, must be evaluated by Scripture. We believe after all in solo Scriptura, not solo história. We are measured not finally by the history of movements but by Scripture.

Jonathan Edwards reminds us:

 “We have a remarkable instance, in the New Testament, of a people that partook largely of that great effusion of the Spirit in the apostles’ days, among whom there nevertheless abounded imprudences and great irregularities; viz. The church at Corinth. There is scarcely any church more celebrated in the New Testament for being blessed with large measures of the Spirit of God,… yet what manifold imprudences, great and sinful irregularities, and strange confusion did they run into, at the Lord’s supper, and in the exercise of church discipline!”[9]

Thus, “It is no sign that a work is not from the Spirit of God, that many, who seem to be the subjects of it, are guilty of great imprudences and irregularities in their conduct… A thousand imprudences will not prove a work to be not of the Spirit of God.”[10]

Negative Argument Two: Biblical Citations and the Apostolic Argument

1 Corinthians 13:10

1 Corinthians 13:10 plays a prominent role in many cessationists arguments. It did for me when I was taught as a kid. However, this is another hermeneutical issue. Thomas R. Schreiner says, “To see ‘the perfect’ as referring to the New Testament canon is an example of anachronism… Instead of referring to spiritual maturity or to the canon of the New Testament, ‘the perfect’ most likely refers to the second coming of Christ, the end of the age. The perfect is equivalent with seeing God face to face (1 Cor. 13:12).”[11]

John MacArthur says although many “scholars [e.g. B.B. Warfield, Richard Gaffin, Robert Thomas, Thomas Edgar, Simon J. Kistemaker] disagree on the identification of the ‘perfect,’ they all reach the same conclusion—namely, that the miraculous and revelatory gifts have ceased.”[12] He goes on to say that “we must look elsewhere than 1 Corinthians 13:10, to passages like Ephesians 2:20, where Paul indicated that both the apostolic and prophetic offices were only for the foundational age of the church.”[13] I do appreciate that MacArthur points out that 1 Corinthians 13:10 does not prove the cessationists point.[14]

2 Corinthians 12:12 and Ephesians 2:20

MacArthur essentially says in light of 1 Corinthian 13:10 that to put the nail in the coffin of his argument he needs to look at Ephesians 2:20 and the passages that are like it.[15] I am not sure what other passages MacArthur is actually referring to.[16] Partly because his whole book against continuationists only ever references Ephesians 2:20 five times (the Scripture Index only lists four but there is a fifth reference on page 96). For a book that rests its ultimate argument on an interpretation of a single text you would think it would show up more in his book of 261 pages. Further, he never makes a clear argument for why Ephesians 2:20 can be used to calibrate his position.

The only thing he argues is that the Apostolic Apostles, namely, Paul and the Twelve, had a unique calling and qualification. They saw the Lord Jesus and their writings could be inscripturated. They, and they alone, were the foundation of the Church. As far as that goes, I basically agree with him. The Apostolic Apostles certainly did have a unique place in the Church. They are the “foundation.” MacArthur says Ephesians 2:20 “means nothing if it doesn’t decisively limit apostleship to the earliest stages of church history. After all, a foundation is not something that can be rebuilt during every phase of construction.”[17] He goes on to say, “When one considers the writings of the church fathers—those Christian Leaders who lived shortly after the apostles—it quickly becomes evident they regarded the foundational age of the church to be in the past.”[18] Alright, that is all well and good. However, that does nothing to say that the spiritual gifts under question have seized. Actually, as we’ll see below in the Excursus, two of the church fathers he lists, Irenaeus (c. 130-202) and Tertullian (c. 155-230), actually collaborate the continuationist point.

MacArthur doesn’t in my mind show why the rule of apostle has seized or why the gifts have seized. After all, Stephan, for example, was not an Apostolic Apostle and yet he performed great signs and wonders (Acts 6:8 and perhaps Timothy 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:19-23; cf. Acts 8:6–7; 9:17–19; 10:44–46; 11:27-30; 19:6–7; 21:9-11). So even if there are no more Apostolic Apostles that does not mean that there are not still miraculous gifts. However, I do believe there are still apostles (I am not referring to the Apostolic Apostles here, I do believe they have seized. No one today can meet their qualifications[19]).

Actually, we see that the role of apostle and prophet still continues.[20] Ephesians tells us that Jesus “gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13). We have these five types of leaders (i.e. apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers) for how long? Paul says, essentially, until perfection (this actually sounds similar to 1 Cor. 13:10), “the fullness of Christ.” There is no reason to think that we get to keep three of the five types of leaders and lose two (i.e. the apostles and prophets).

When we take these verses into consideration, there is no reason to think that just because the Apostolic Apostles were the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20) that that means that there are no longer those today that can at times according to the will of God perform miraculous signs. Regarding Ephesians 4, Markus Barth rightly points out that it “does not contain the faintest hint that the charismatic character of all church ministries was restricted to a certain history and was later to die out.”[21] In fact, he says, “Ephesians distinctly presupposes that living apostles and prophets are essential to the church’s life.”[22]

There are many examples of charismatic leaders in the NT besides the Apostolic Apostles. There are examples of those who fall into a more extended category of apostle. This includes Barnabas (Acts 14:4; 1 Cor. 9:6), Andronicus, and Junia(s) (Rom. 16:7). There were likely many more.[23] There were also prophets who predicted (cf. Acts 11:27-30; 13:-1-3; 15:32; 19:6; 21:9-10; Rom. 12:6-7; 1 Cor. 12:28-29) (*Below we will look at “Post-Apostolic Prophets”).

Some believe that 2 Corinthians 12:12 demonstrates the cessantionist point. It says “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.” They basically say that the Apostolic signs were miraculous and since the Apostolic Apostles are not around anymore then neither are their miracles.[24] However, we have already seen that there were various non-Apostolic people in the NT that performed miraculous signs. For instance, we looked at Stephan but we could also look at his associate Philip the evangelist (Acts 6:5; 8:4-8; 21:8 cf. 1 Cor. 12-14; Gal. 3:5). There are also examples that we could look at that are not from the book of Acts (see 1 Cor. 12-14; Gal. 3:5; Jas. 5:15 and the Excursus).

Hebrews 2:2-4

Briefly, for those aware of the argument from Hebrews 2, I simply quote two helpful points from Grudem. The argument “attempts to draw more from the passage than is there. First, the phrase ‘those who heard him’ (Heb. 2:3) is certainly not limited to the apostles, for many others heard Jesus as well.”[25] Further, “If someone argues that this passage limits miracles to the apostles and their companions, then he or she must also argue that gifts of the Holy Spirit are likewise limited to the first-century church. But few would argue that there are no gifts of the Holy Spirit today.”[26]

Negative Argument Three: The Gifts of the Spirit Simply Faded Away at Some Point

Perhaps the most common or compelling cessantionist view today is the one that says that the gifts just simply slowly dwindled away.[27] However, I have various problems with that approach. I don’t see the warrant for that view historically or biblically. Also, see the Excursus that gives a lot of credible witness to the ongoing miraculous work of the Spirit.

Simon J. Kistemaker says in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, without argumentation, that “when the New Testament canon was perfected, the number of prophets dwindled and they eventually disappeared.”[28] I have many questions for Kistemaker. How do we know that it disappeared? Why did it disappear? I could go on; his answer is not satisfactory.

I cannot follow Thomas R. Schreiner’s argument either though I greatly appreciate him and believe that he is more consistent than many cessationists. He says “The prophetic gift continued in the church for some time, but it slowly disappeared. We should not expect such prophets today since prophets speak the word infallibly.” Yet, this reasoning doesn’t stand if for instance there were prophets in say 237AD, or whatever “some time” you pick.[29] Why should they be allowed then and not now? Where do we get the criteria? Is Schreiner saying the people with the prophetic gift that were around for “some time” were infallible? If so, then there have already been infallible non-Apostolic apostles, or some form of prophet, so then why could there not be more?

I think it is possible that there are still infallible prophets today (*Below we will look at “Post-Apostolic Prophets”). What God says is always infallible. However, our interpretation is what is fallible. Thus the constant NT reminder to check the Scriptures. When we understand the spiritual gifts rightly, it takes us back to the Scriptures, not away from them.[30] Clinton E. Arnold points out “Because of the immediate and profound significance of the statements of someone claiming to hear from the Lord, Paul sought to ensure that there was always a careful evaluation of what was said (1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:20-21).”[31]

*Post-Apostolic Prophets

Post-apostolic prophet’s predictions are not on par with Scripture but in accordance with Scripture (thus the exhortations to test; 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:20-21; 1 Jn. 4:1). They will be circumstantial and applicatory. So, for example, we see that the nature of the prophetic gifts that continue are not of the nature that could be added to Scripture (see e.g. Acts 11:27-30; 21:10-11). As Charles Powell has said, “It also makes sense that God would want to, although not necessarily have to, continue to speak to His people in a relational way and guide them in the circumstantial details of their lives directly. Apparently, such revelation was going on in both the OT and NT eras without any contribution to the canon at all.” [32]

Max Turner has said, “Charismatic prophecy seems to operate chiefly within the area which is not directly the focus of scripture, and where specific knowledge or guidance may be required… Prophetic oracles are not to my knowledge treated at the same level of authority as scripture, but sometimes even passed over quite rapidly and without comment if the congregation evaluates them as lacking in charismatic authority.”[33] He goes on to say, “I have no reliable account of any congregation actually formally accepting a proposition to the effect that charismatic authority stands on par with scripture, far less above it.”[34] Craig L. Blomberg has rightly said “because… prophecy is not on a par with Scripture and does not in any way supplement the canon, the argument that prophecy must have ceased with the apostolic age becomes fallacious. But this does not excuse churches from failing to take action against individuals who have uttered demonstrably false prophecies.”[35]

I believe that if we understand prophecy in this way, which I think is the correct way, then we do not need to argue that prophecy has seized. Once again, the NT shows prophets that only made it in the Canon by happenstance, their words really added nothing to the Canon (once again, Acts 11:27-30; 21:10-11; also remember not all prophets wrote Scripture, e.g. John, Elijah, Elisha). So it is with post-Apostolic prophets, canonization is not even on their radar; it is not relevant to what they are or do (see under “What is Prophecy Today”). It is also interesting to remember that John the baptizer himself, “the prophet of the Most High” (Lk. 1:76) to whom “the word of God came” (Jn. 3:2), clearly spoke God’s words yet most of His words are not recorded in Scripture. Also, it should not surprise us that post-Apostolic prophets are not wholly infallible and must be checked against Scripture, as even Paul was, since John, who Jesus greatly honored (Matt. 11:11), had to be assured that Jesus was the Christ (Matt. 11:2-6). 

From 1 Corinthians 14:26 we see that there were revelations that were given that were not part of Scripture. So there seems to be “for a lack of a better word, ‘different’ kinds of revelation: one from the prophets and apostles meant for canonization and another through the Spirit to be used in the church for edification—not canonization… For someone to maintain that revelation today is a threat to the Canon does not consider 1 Cor. 14:26 and is not applying scripture properly.”[36]

Besides arguing negatively that we have no proof, textual or historical, that the gifts have seized we can argue positively from Scripture and history (once again, see the Excursus) that the gifts continue to the present. We have also seen that there is no reason to be afraid of the gift of prophesy if we do as we should; namely, check everything against Scripture. The true prophet will neither contradict Scripture nor seek to add to Scripture; that is not the role of post-Apostolic prophets.

It is thus not problematic to argue, like Thomas Schreiner does, that prophecy is infallible. It makes sense that prophecy is infallible. Isn’t that a necessary deduction if it comes from God? That, however, does not mean that the canon can be added to. 

So, truly in the last days, which we are in, “it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17 cf. Joel 2:28-32).

Negative Argument Four: The Gifts of the Spirit Served to Authenticate the Gospel Message

The Spirit blows where it wishes and accomplishes what it wishes (Jn. 3:8), except continue the exceptional gifts to the Church, it would seem. And I guess when Jesus said, he who believes in Me, will do greater works than Me (Jn. 15:12) referred to the Philip only; or, perhaps someone could somehow say it refers to all of the disciples. However, does it seem likely that Jesus was referring to Philip when he said, “he who believes in Me”? It seems as if Jesus is saying, “He who believes in Me whoever the he or she is, will do greater works than Me.” That is, unless perhaps Jesus was merely jesting.

Jesus certainly was not jesting. Nor do I think He was referring to the disciples or merely Philp alone. It seems when Jesus was talking to Philip (v. 8) he was addressing not just Philip but “he who believes,” i.e. whoever believes, at least, that’s how it seems John took it since that is how he recorded it.  Thus it seems we are left with the option that whoever believes in Jesus will do, or is able to do through the Spirit, greater works than Jesus Himself did. That is an amazing and surprising truth and yet it seems to be the meaning of the passage (yet, see the footnote for a necessary caveat[37]). 

It does not seem that Jesus put an expiration on the statement either. In fact, neither does He put one on His commission that His followers be empowered to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. After all, we as His followers need that same power even now as we go to the ends of the earth. None would disagree about needing the Spirit’s power, yet what if that power is the same power that Jesus talked about in John 15:12? What if it is the Spirit-empowered gifts or “works” (see “works” in 15:11)?

It would seem that these gifts, if not normative,[38] are very helpful when they are functioning with all the necessary biblical cautions. This was the case for Jesus, [39] the Apostles, and the various others in Scripture that the Spirit worked through (this list includes non-Apostles: e.g. esp. Stephen Acts 6:8; and perhaps Timothy 1 Tim. 4:14; 2 Tim. 1:6; 1 Thess. 5:19-23; cf. Acts 11:27-30; 19:6; 21:9-11).

I think it is important to note that Pentecost was unique in some ways. It was unique in that it was the first time that the Holy Spirit had “come upon” the disciples (Acts 1:8). There were also prophecies that were fulfilled through Pentecost. It was also a very turbulent time and there was an especially significant need for God to demonstrate that He was behind the New Covenant. This is not to say, that God does not still work in significant and similar ways. I believe He does at times. However, we must understand the special uniqueness of that time in the life of the Church.

So perhaps some of the more supernatural gifts are not normative. There is a type of continuity and discontinuity in the gifts. That is, we don’t necessarily expect exactly what happened at Pentecost, and even throughout history, to be recreated today. It certainly could be, but we don’t expect it to be, or necessarily look for it to be.

However, just because some of the gifts are not normative does not mean they have seized. Also, they can be desired as good. Yet, as Jonathan Edwards points out, and knew, in times of a mighty work of the Spirit there is also a mighty work of the devil.[40] I suspect the abuses of these movements is compounded when leaders do not have access to Scripture and have not been taught God’s truth.[41] Perhaps these movements should be handed Bibles as well as Edwards’ work on “The Marks of the True Spirit.”

We must remember that revival, the gifts of the Spirit, or whatever the form that the Spirit’s work takes, it is the Spirit’s work and according to God’s sovereign and good will (cf. 1 Cor. 12:11, Heb. 2:4). We cannot fabricate or conjure up His work. Yet it does seem that there is often a special work of the Spirit on the mission field when the gospel is going forth for the first time.

So there does, in Grudem’s words,

“seem to have been an unusual concentration of miraculous power in the ministry of the apostles, this is not a reason for thinking that there would be few or no miracles following their deaths. Rather, the apostles were the leaders in a new covenant church whose life and message were characterized by the pattern that the church throughout its history may well seek to imitate in its own life, insofar as God the Holy Spirit is pleased to work miracles for the edification of the church.”[42]

So the fact that miracles were used to authenticate the New Covenant and the gospel message (cf. Heb. 2:2-4) in no way proves that miracles or the gifts of the Spirit have seized (Rom. 15:19; 1 Cor. 12:4-11; Gal. 3:5).[43]

It seems then through Scripture and historical observation that perhaps certain spiritual gifts accompany ministers when they are taking the gospel to new and spiritually darker places.[44] This would perhaps partly explain why there does not seem to be a steady stream of the gifts of the Spirit. It appears to be more like a sporadic fire that bursts onto the scene at unsuspected and unpredictable times. Yet, perhaps it is the flame to light the darkness and make it flee. Perhaps it is the flame that prepares the way for the gospel of the glorious Christ.

Perhaps the gifts still confirm the message and point us to the hand of God; even when Satan is working his hardest to manipulate and turn it on its head.[45] After all, that is what he has been doing from the beginning; corrupting what God has made good. However, the problem is not with God. It’s with us. We need to listen to God. Yet, as I have pointed out (see endnote 36), it is hard for people in some regions to listen to God, because they sadly do not have His Word. So as we think of the abuses of certain charismatic movements, we must also think of our responsibility as teachers, as those who have been entrusted with a message, with a word, the Word.  

I like the way the Christian and Missionary Alliance says it. They say we

“believe that spiritual gifts are supernatural empowerments given by the Holy Spirit to believers in Christ to build up the church and extend the Kingdom of God. Our standard as we approach God for the release of His empowerment in our lives and the lives of the people to whom we minister should be ‘Expectation without Agenda.’ Jesus is our focus and completing His mission is our mandate. The gifts of the Spirit are to serve His purposes in the church and in our world. With the guidelines we have been given in God’s Word, believers everywhere should embrace the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and move out to fulfill our Lord’s Commission.”[46]



Paul (c. 54):

“God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts… So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor. 12:28-31; 14:39). 

Luke (c. 62):

“When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Lk. 2:1-4). 

Hermas (approx. late 1st Century):

“One of the earliest pieces of writing after the New Testament documents were completed was The Shepherd. Written by Hermas, a church leader in the city of Rome about 130 AD, it makes an interesting reference to those who did not undertake to relieve illness and distress ‘in the Christian Way.’ ‘The Christian Way’ very likely referred to prayer and the laying on of hands. The practice in the imperial city was certainly affirmed by Quadratus, one of the earliest Christian apologists. He wrote in 125 AD that in Rome the works of the Saviour continued to his time and that the presence of people in the church who had been healed left no question as to the reality of physical healing.”[47]

Justin Martyr (c. 110-165):

“For one receives the spirit of understanding, another a counsel, another of healing, another of strength, another of foreknowledge, another of teaching and another of the fear of God. The prophetic gifts remain with us to the present time. For some [believers] do certainly cast out devils,… Others have knowledge of things to come; they see visions and utter prophetic expressions.”[48]

Irenaeus (120-202):

“He Wrote a book entitled Against Heresies at some point between 182 and 188 AD. One of his most telling contentions against the heretics was that they were not able to accomplish the miracles of healing which the Christians were able to perform. They did not have access to the power of God and so could not heal. Irenaeus gave examples of almost the same range of healings that are found in the Gospels and Acts taking place in the Churches that he knew. All kinds of bodily infirmity and many different diseases had been cured. He had seen the damage done from external accidents repaired and even described the raising of the dead.”[49]

“For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ.”[50]

Tertullian (c. 155-230):

“Tertullian, the North African church leader, explicitly identified people he personally knew of in the late third century who had been healed. He testified to their great number and the wide range of physical and mental illnesses he had seen cured. Elsewhere he stated that ‘the Lord could, and sometimes did, recall men’s souls to their bodies’ meaning that some individuals were raised from the dead.”[51]

Origen (185-254):

“In the year 248, shortly before he died, Origen wrote… Against Celsus. Like Irenaeus’s book, this was a defense of Christianity written to impress barbarians and other unbelievers. He pointed out that Greeks and barbarians who came to believe in Jesus Christ were able to perform ‘amazing cures’ by invoking the name of Jesus. ‘By this means’, he wrote, ‘we have seen many persons freed from grievous calamities, and from distractions of mind, and madness, and countless other ills, which could be cured neither by men nor devils.’”[52]

“In the third century, Origen claimed that ‘apostles’ and ‘prophets’ were continuing gifts in the church.”[53]  

Gregory Thaumaturgos (c. 210-c275):

“Gregory of Nyssa tells us that when Thaumaturgos first entered that city ‘the common people, women and children, swarmed around him and some whose bodies were plagued by affliction and he was in their midst, sharing by the power of the Spirit in accord with need of each in the crowd, proclaiming, discerning, directing, teaching, healing.’ The Wonder Worker’s power to heal, said his biographer, was known throughout the region.”[54]

Hilary (c. 315-367):

“We begin to have insight into the mysteries of faith, we are able to prophesy and to speak with wisdom. We become steadfast in hope and receive the gifts of healing…”[55]

John Chrysostom (c.347-407):[56]

“Chrysostom wrote of daily miracles of healing which took place in the reign of the pagan Roman Emperor, Julian.”[57]

Augustine (354-430):

“‘…once I realised how many miracles were occurring in our own day and which were so like the miracles of old and how wrong it would be to allow the memory of these miracles of divine power to perish among the people’. He continued: ‘It is only two years ago that the keeping of records was begun here in Hippo, and already, at this writing, we have more than seventy attested miracles.’[City of God, 22.8] In another book entitled, Retractions, which he finished in 426, Augustine wrote in slightly more reflective mood.

“It is indeed true: that the sick are not always healed… But what I said should not be taken as understanding that no miracles are believed to happen today in the name of Christ. For at the very time I wrote … a blind man in [the] city [of Milan] was given back his sight; and so many other things of this kind have happened, even in this present time, that it is not possible to know all of them or to count up all those we do have knowledge of” [Retractions, 1.13.7].[58]

Patrick (385-451):

“He who wants to can laugh and jeer, but I shall not keep silent nor keep hidden the signs and wonders which have been shown to me by the Lord before they took place, as He knows all things before the world began.”[59]

John Flavel (1627-91):

“The night before he [Flavel] embarked … , he had the following premonition by a dream; he thought he was on board the ship, and that a storm arose which exceedingly terrified the passengers, during their consternation there sat writing at the table a person of admirable sagacity and gravity, who had a child in a cradle by him that was very froward; he thought he saw the father take up a little whip, and give the child a lash, saying, Child, be quiet, I will discipline, but not hurt thee. Upon this Mr. Flavel awaked, and musing on his dream, he concluded, that he should meet with some trouble in his passage: his friends being at dinner with him, assured him of a pleasant passage, because the wind and weather were very fair; Mr. Flavel replied, That he was not of their mind, but expected much trouble because of his dream, adding,that when he had such representations made to him in his sleep, they seldom or never failed.

Accordingly, when they were advanced within five leagues of Portland in their voyage, they were overtaken by a dreadful tempest,…”[60]

Jonathan Edwards (1703-58):

“Great numbers cried out aloud in the anguish of their souls: several stout men fell as though a cannon had been discharged and a ball had made its way through their hearts.”[61]

Sarah Edwards (1710-58):

“I seemed to be lifted above earth and hell, out of the reach of everything here below. The whole world, with all its enjoyments, and all its troubles, seemed to be nothing: My God was my all, my only portion…”[62]

There are also various more modern accounts:

“…people around the table began recounting story after story from their own churches—stories of healings, stories of miraculous answers to prayer, stories of supernatural occurrences, stories that could be explained only by the activity of God.”[63]

“’The Holy Spirit told me that you were coming this morning.’ And sure enough, as he motioned us into his tiny home, we could see that he already had his table set with four places…” The author goes on to say, “I cannot begin to number the stories about times when that sort of thing happened.”[64]

“Certain Alliance people received the gift of tongues.”[65]

There is reports of visions, dreams, tongues, spiritual dancing and singing, miraculous healing, and prophesies, and raptures during what is known as the Shandong Revival in China in the early 1900’s.[66]

Bruce Carlton, in his book Amazing Grace, tells of an exorcism that happened in Cambodia in 1994. I have meant Bruce Carltonhe was one of my professors at Boyce College. He is trustworthy. Carlton is balanced in his views. He has  said, “Signs and wonders are not always needed for people to believe in Jesus. We cannot put God into human-made boxes and expect Him to work according to our designs and plans. Some people build a box and say that signs and wonders are no longer necessary, negating the miraculous work of God in their lives and in the lives of others. Others build a box and say that signs and wonders are necessary, often falling into the trap of becoming Christian magicians. I prefer rather to be attuned to the work of the Holy Spirit and rejoice in all the He does. To me, every heart that is turned from darkness to light by the power of the Holy Spirit is a miracle!” (Amazing Grace, 198).

*Realize, that this is not to say that all of these movements were necessarily wholly good or even wholesale induced or supported by the Spirit, only that they do still happen. Note Edwards wise biblical words:

“In the apostolic age, there was the greatest outpouring of the Spirit of God that ever was; both as to his extraordinary influences and gifts, and his ordinary operations, in convincing, converting, enlightening, and sanctifying the souls of men. But as the influences of the true Spirit abounded, so counterfeits did also abound: the devil was abundant in mimicking, both the ordinary and extraordinary influences of the Spirit of God, as is manifest by innumerable passages of the apostles’ writings. This made it very necessary that the church of Christ should be furnished with some certain rules, distinguishing and clear marks, by which she might proceed safely in judging of the true from the false without danger of being imposed upon.”[67]


One Positive Argument

Besides the fact that there is no biblical case for the secession of the gifts (except when Christ comes again cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-12) there is at least one positive textual argument for their continuation. Paul says in the beginning of 1 Corinthians:

“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:4-8).

Paul thanks God for the (1) grace in Christ Jesus, that through this grace they were (2) enriched in speech and knowledge, (3) were living confirmations about Christ, and thus (ὥστε) (4)  were not lacking in any “spiritual gift” (HCSB, NLT, NIV give the sense). We also see that Paul seems to believe that this will be the case until “the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (this calls to mind 1 Cor. 13:8-12). Paul expects that those who are are witnesses of Christ will have the spiritual gifts available to them until “the perfect” (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-12) comes, that is “the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:8). In the context of 1 Corinthians, “spiritual gifts” (χαρίσματι cf. HCSB, NLT, NIV, Rom. 1:11) cannot be limited to encouragement and the like but must also include what is considered the “charismatic gifts.”

Of course, we could look at other reasons to believe that the gifts of the Spirit continue to this day. For example:

  • The gifts were pervasive throughout the New Testament.
  • The presence of the Holy Spirit is a sign of the new covenant.
  • There is no indication in the New Testament that the gifts have ceased. 
  • There is no statement saying that we should view the different gifts differently. 
  • All the gifts are vital for the upbuilding and mission of the church.

Therefore, we see there are positive arguments for the continuation of the spiritual gifts. 

What Does this Mean Practically?

I personally do not understand the bifurcation of the spiritual gifts.[68] Why are some in operation today, and not others? Where do we see this biblically? And why would we even desire this practically? I don’t understand the presumption that some have that think this would be a bad thing to have the gifts of the Spirit continue to our present day. If it is as bad and unhelpful as many make it seem, then why would the gifts have ever been around at all? I know this is not a biblical argument for continuationism but I feel like it does challenge some of the cessationists presumptions. However, we won’t go more into that topic. Instead, we will look at what it means practically if the gifts of the Spirit still continue today.

Paul lists a whole lot of good things about the gifts of the Spirit. He says “everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort” (1 Cor. 14:3). Paul says, all these things must be done for the building up of the church (cf. 1 Cor. 14:12, 26). He says that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7).

Grudem tells of a modern example of the outworking of 1 Corinthians 14:24-25:[69] A missionary was speaking at a church and in the midst of his sermon he had a deep sense that someone in the congregation had just left their family. So the missionary said, I don’t know if I am correct, but I think someone here has just left their family. If this is true you need to repent and live according to the commands in Scripture regarding family. Sure enough, a man in the balcony that had just walked in had just left his family. Upon hearing the missionary the man admitted that it was him and repented.

The gifts are good. If we are thinking otherwise then we are not understanding rightly and we are coming at the text with a skewed biased understanding. If these gifts are for today then they serve a purpose. They are for the building up of the body. When we suppress them it will result in the stunting of the body. We don’t want to suppress them, though neither do we want to exalt them. We don’t want to merely exalt in the gifts but in Christ because through Him our names are written in heaven (Lk. 10:17-20). The gifts are good but the Giver is better.

The gifts are good and serve a purpose, but that purpose should not be ours alone. It should be in the Lord’s Name, according to His purpose (cf. Mk. 16:17; Jn. 14:13; 16:23). Grudem says, “There is nothing inappropriate in seeking miracles for the proper purposes for which they are given by God: to confirm the truthfulness of the gospel message, to bring help to those in need, to remove hindrances to people’s ministries, and to bring glory to God.”[70]

The manifestation of the Spirit is not a bad thing as many would have us think; rather, Paul says it’s given for the common good (1 Cor. 12:7). He even says we should earnestly desire spiritual gifts (14:1 cf. 39; 12:31). Paul explains how there are “varieties of gifts but the same Spirit” (12:4).  In fact, “the body is not one member, but many” (12:14). God has given the body all sorts of helpful, even necessary, parts. He has appointed for the Church apostles, prophets, teachers, miracles, healing, helps, administrators, and kinds of tongues (12:28). So the Church is not just filled with one member. Because if the body was made of just arms, for instance, where would the body be (cf. 12:19)? Or if the body was made of just teachers, where would the body be? However, that is not the way it is. There are many members—hands, arms, toes or teachers, prophets, administrators—yet one body (cf. 12:20, 28-30). And these different parts work together in their different and God given ways for the common good of the body (cf. 12:7-11).

However, there are certain ways in which a body is to operate. When people walk, for instance, most of the time, they walk on their feet, not on their hands. This is for good reason. So it is with the Church body; there are certain ways that it is supposed to operate. So, let’s very briefly look at some of the ways we are told that the Church is supposed to function with its various parts.

Paul in a sense wrote a sort of physic or fitness manual for the optimal functioning of the Church body. And the core of his teaching on bodily health is: Edification!  It’s woven throughout his whole manual. It’s the backbone of his teaching (1 Cor. 12:7; 14:3, 4, 5, 12, 17, 26 cf. Rom. 14:19).

So that is why among the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul places the most importance on prophecy (1 Cor. 14:1). Thus we see 1 Corinthians 14:1–25 “compares the gift of prophecy and the gift of speaking in tongues in the context of public worship.” The Alliance statement on the gifts of the Spirit gives a helpful overview:

“The clear indication is that the gift of prophecy is more profitable for building up the body of Christ than the gift of speaking in tongues is, unless the tongues are interpreted (1 Cor.14:5, 27–28). The context of the ministry is what determines the value of a particular gift. Speaking in tongues is a valid gift for today. However, in the public ministry setting, the gift of tongues must have someone to interpret for it to be profitable for strengthening the body. If anyone speaks in a tongue, two–or at the most three–should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God (1 Cor. 14:27–28, emphasis added). This would indicate that if there is no interpreter present, tongues should be used in a personal prayer to God for which no interpretation is necessary. This, of course, is also of value to the individual believer’s edification and ultimately for the edification of the church and must not be considered a lesser gift.”[71]

Paul also emphatically reminds us that the gifts, knowledge, and truly all we do is to be done in love and serve the purpose of love (1 Cor. 13). How scary that we can know all mysteries, we can speak the angelic language, and yet have not love. May this never be!

Necessary Cautions

In regard to the gifts of the Spirit, there are sadly many misunderstandings on both sides of the argument. Andrew S. Kulikovsky accurately portrays part of the problem:

“The problem today is that many Christians have become completely polarised [sic] in regard to the miraculous. Most charismatics give a higher priority to experience than to relationship… and most non-charismatic evangelicals give a higher priority to knowledge than to relationship. Generally, charismatics believe not only that God can heal but that He must heal. They essentially deny God’s sovereignty. On the other hand, although non-charismatics claim that God can heal they act as if he won’t. It seems they don’t really believe that God can heal.”[72]

The Apostle Paul has some good words for us, both groups. He says earnestly desire to prophesy and don’t forbid speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14:39). And he also says all things must be done in a properly and in an orderly manner (v. 40). He says I will pray with my spirit, I will sing with my spirit (v. 15). And he says, I will pray with my mind, I will sing with my mind (v. 15). Whatever our view on the continuation of the gifts, our churches should not be able to be labeled either “charismaniacs” or “the frozen chosen” because God is not a God of confusion (v. 33) but He is a God of new and exciting life. May we, both of us, worship the LORD, as He deserves, in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24).

The Christian and Missionary Alliance has offered good cautions to the charismatic movement since the outset (that is, of the 20th century). So, for instance, “refusal to endorse the [Pentecostal] position that all who receive the baptism of the Spirit must speak in tongues cost the Alliance dearly” because many of its early leaders left to be part of the Pentecostal movement.[73] The C&MA rightly “concluded that the gift of tongues was one manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s infilling, but [was] neither necessary nor the sole evidence of such an experience.”[74] 

The C&MA also realized that “in all periods of highly emotional religious issues, excesses are inevitable.”[75] The Alliance talked about the “blessings and the mischief of the [charismatic] movement.”[76]  I believe the C&MA statement on the Spiritual Gifts is very helpful and nuanced. I commend them as a denomination for neither overemphasizing everything that may perhaps be a work of the Spirit nor discounting the fact that the Spirit does still work.

Truly “we must… remember that our ‘comfort zone’ is not the same as spiritual discernment, and at times even a gift manifested in love may make those ignorant of it uncomfortable. Therefore, patient teaching on the gifts and their manifestations is a necessity.”[77] Further, we must work very hard to distinguish between a work of the Spirit and what is merely a work of man or even Satan.

Edwards gives five evidences of a work of the Holy Spirit.[78] First, the Spirit will work in such a way as to exalt Christ (1 Cor. 12:3). Second, the Spirit will work against Satan and his work. Third, the Spirit will cause people to have a greater regard for Scripture and will establish them in God’s truth. Fourth, the Spirit will lead people in truth and convince them of what is true. Fifth, the Spirit will cause people to love God and man. Further, he says,

“The surest character of true divine supernatural love—distinguishing it from counterfeits that arise from a natural self-love—is, that the christian virtue of humility shines in it; that which above all others renounces, abases, and annihilates what we term self… Love and humility are two things the most contrary to the spirit of the devil, of any thing in the world; for the character of that evil spirit, above all things, consists in pride and malice.”[79]

The Spirit’s work in us, whatever form that work takes, should not produce pride but humility. Also, the gifts of the Spirit should always be accompanied with the fruits of the Spirit to a high degree (Gal. 5:22-23).


I think we should at least agree that “Scripture nowhere explicitly teaches that some spiritual gifts were destined to cease with that age… But neither does this text affirm the continuation of these gifts until the coming of Christ.”[80] I believe that

“Because spiritual gifts were given to build up the church, the body of Christ, as long as the church is under construction, spiritual gifts are needed. A day will come when spiritual gifts will no longer be needed (1 Cor. 13:8). However, we do not believe that this day has yet come. It will come when perfection comes (1 Cor. 13:10).”[81]

Instead of always expecting the miraculous or never expecting it, I believe we should understand that the miraculous is still possible. The gifts have not ceased. However, that does not mean that every Sunday will be a recreation of Pentecost.[82] I believe we see through Scripture and the history of the Church that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit are still given, yet they are not normative, they are not always given or to the same degree.

Wherever we finally rest on the question, we both must cry out in praise and thanksgiving:

“The mountains shake before Him

The demons run and flee

At the mention of the name

King of Majesty

There is no power in hell

Or any who can stand

Before the power and the presence of the Great I am”[83]



[1] Murray, Jonathan Edwards, 227.

[2] I have borrowed these words and stripped wide of their context. They are quoted from Murray, 207.

[3] Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993), 54. One could ask similar questions about amillennialism, pretribulation rapture, completion of the canon, etc. Quoted from 96684.

[4] Ibid., 99. Quoted from the above source.

[5] For instance, he has a whole index dedicated to the ad hominem fallacy of appeal to authority. See pages 251-61. It is also interesting to point out that the only ones that I think he can legitimately even use are between the years 1483 and 1981. See the Excursus.

[6] See pages 37-83.

[7] See pages 85-103.

[8] Of course, how you define Apostleship is important and must be understood.

[9] Jonathan Edwards, “The Marks of the True Spirit,” 264.

[10] Edwards, “The Marks of the True Spirit,” 264.

[11] Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology, 369. See also “Don’t Use 1 Corinthians 13:8 to Argue for Cessationism.” Simon J. Kistemaker confuses me when he says both “revelatory prophecy… came to an end with the close of the canon” (1 Corinthians, 466) and also that “one of the objections to this view is that we cannot expect the Corinthians in A.D. 55 to link perfection to the closing of the canon in the last decade of the first century” (Ibid., 467). I do not understand the logic that says the gifts of the Spirit do not continue because there are no longer Apostolic Apostles that write Scripture and knew Jesus. That argument is not a scriptural one.

[12] Strange Fire, 148.

[13] Ibid., 149.

[14] This is clearly true when other cessantionist such as R. B. Gaffin, Jr. say that 1 Corinthians 13:10 cannot be used to prove their position (cf. e.g. Gaffin, Perspectives on Pentecost: New Testament Teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, 109-110).

[15] MacArthur, Strange Fire, 149.

[16] Perhaps 2 Cor. 12:12 and Heb. 2:3-4 which are often construed to support the cessantionist position.

[17] MacArthur, Strange Fire, 96-97.

[18] Ibid., 97.

[19] MacArthur rightly says that “The New Testament articulates at least three necessary criteria: (1) an apostle had to be a physical eyewitness of the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22; 10:39-41; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15;7-8); (2) an apostle had to be personally appointed by the Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 3:14; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:2, 24; 10:41; Gal. 1:1); and (3) an apostle had to be able to authenticate his apostolic appointment with miraculous signs (Matt. 10:1-2; Acts 1:5-8; 2:43; 4:33; 5:12; 8:14; 2 Cor. 12:12; Heb. 2:3-4) (Ibid., 92). “It is important to be exceedingly clear that no one today possesses the same level of authority as the Twelve or Paul” (Arnold, ”Ephesians,” 259).

[20]  “Beyond the Twelve and Paul, there appear to have been apostles who functioned in a foundational rule in every church. Paul lists them as the first in the list of gifts in 1 Cor 12:28. Similarly, he uses the term ‘apostles’ in his list of gifts people God was giving the church (Eph 4:11). That list presupposes that God was still giving apostles and prophets to the churches in Ephesus and western and Asia Minor. This would suggest that Paul is also using the word in the broader sense of those who have been called by God to establish churches wherever he calls them. This usage is then similar to the way Luke uses the term of Barnabas (see Acts 14:14), who was not one of the Twelve but had an important role alongside Paul in planting churches” (Clinton E. Arnold, “Ephesians” in Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 170).

[21] Markus Barth, Ephesians, 2:437

[22] Ibid.

[23] Arnold, “Ephesians,” 257.

[24] However, “The majority of commentators understand “signs of a true apostle” to have a much broader meaning, including the qualities of Paul’s life and the character and results of his ministry” (Grudem, Systematic Theology, 363n18).

[25] Ibid., 367.

[26] Ibid. “Gifts” in most discussions refer to teaching, etc. and not just the more supernatural gifts such as tongues.

[27] Though I do not agree with this position I feel it is the most compelling because as Max Turner has said and demonstrated “the New Testament does not envisage the cessation of the prototypical gifts; on the contrary, every indication suggests that Luke and Paul expected them to continue” (Max Turner, “Spiritual Gifts Then and Now,” 41 in Vox Evangelica 15 (1985): 7-63).

[28] Kistemaker, 1 Corinthians, 464-65. Notice also the remains of the “perfected canon” argument that it appears is still being reached for.

[29] E.g. “The Didache reveals that prophets continued to function in an important role in the churches of that late first century and early second century (see Did. 11, 13)” (Arnold, “Ephesians,” 170). 

[30] See Arnold helpful and brief discussion in “Ephesians” in Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 257-59.

[31] Arnold gives a helpful and brief discussion in “Ephesians” in Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 170.

[32] 96684, italics mine.

[33] Max Turner, “Spiritual Gifts Then and Now,” 47 in Vox Evangelica 15 (1985): 7-63.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Craig L. Blomberg, “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” in the Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology (, italics mine.

[36] Matt Slick, “Have the Charismatic Gifts Ceased?” (

[37] “The ‘greater works’ cannot refer to signs and wonders that are greater in quality than those done by Jesus because no believer ever has or ever will do greater miracles than Jesus. He raised the dead, opened the eyes of the blind, restored hearing to the deaf, cast out demons, healed the lame, calmed a stormy sea, etc. No miracle-worker has even come close since the days of the apostles, and even the apostles did not do any signs and wonders that were greater” (Tom Schreiner, “The Greater Works in John 14:12”  It does seem that “works” can and does refer to “miracles” (Jn. 7:3, 21; 9:4; 10:25, 32, 33, 37, 38) yet that is not the only thing that it can refer to. “The greater works do not mean believers will do more works than Jesus, but that they will do works qualitatively better than those Jesus did in his ministry. These better works are due to the outpouring of the Spirit after Jesus’ ascension” (Ibid.). I think partly what Jesus was referring to was the accumulative affect those who believe in Him would have throughout history; I think that includes miracles even down through the present but perhaps not explicitly.

[38] “Probably the most sober conclusion is that the miraculous and revelatory gifts are not normative, and apart from the apostles and prophets probably never were. They may occur from time to time in various churches. They may never occur in some churches. They may never occur over periods of time. It is hard to say since we do not have a computer log of all the experiences of all the churches in all of history. Hopefully, we will be people, who upon hearing or seeing such experiences will be quicker to praise God than we are to critique the experience” (

[39] A. B. Simpson said, “When Christ healed the sick while he was on the earth, it was not by the Deity that dwelt in his humanity. He said, If I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come upon you (Matthew 12:28). Jesus healed by the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18). The Holy Spirit is the agent, then, by which this great power is wrought” (The Fourfold Gospel, 48) (As quoted from

[40] Cf. e.g. Murray, Jonathan Edwards, 235-36.

[41] Here’s an example from The Insanity of God: Out of around 170 (see p. 249, 250) “only seven of the house church leaders… own their copy of the Bible” (The Insanity of God, 253). He goes on to explain how some of those who did have copies decided to share with those who did not. So they tore out books of the Bible so that the house church leaders would have a new book to teach. When this is the context in which revival takes place it is not wonder that there are extremes. It might be a wonder at times that there are not more extremes. God has given teachers a responsibility and a stewardship. When many of them are exhausting so much time and effort saying that the spiritual gifts are not for today they should be building those up who are experiencing those gifts yet do not have a firm grasp on God’s truth as revealed in Scripture.

[42] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 368.

[43] cf. Ibid., 362.

[44] “One purpose of miracles is certainly to authenticate the message of the gospel” (Ibid., 359). “In the New Testament, Jesus’s miraculous signs attested that he had come from God” (Ibid., 358) (cf. Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 10:7-8; 12:28; Lk. 4:18; 9:1-2; Jn. 2:11, 23; 3:2; 4:53-54; 6;2, 14; 7:31; 9:16; 11:48; 12:11; Acts 8:6-8, 13). Notice Philip did signs and he was also an evangelist (Acts 8:6-8 cf. 21:8).

[45] Andrew S. Kulikovsky concurs: “From scripture it is clear that sign gifts and supernatural manifestations in general, served as tools for drawing attention to and arousing interest in the gospel message. Therefore, there still remains the possibility that the Holy Spirit will manifest Himself in supernatural ways among His people for the purpose of furthering the gospel. This implies that miraculous manifestations are more likely to occur on the cutting edge of the spreading gospel. ( hermeneutics/hsmirac.htm).


[47] Nigel Scotland, “Signs and Wonders in the Early Catholic Church 90-451 and their Implications for

the Twenty-First Century,” 159 in European Journal of Theology 10.2 (2001): 155-167.

[48] Dialogue with Trypho c 82.

[49] Nigel, “Signs and Wonders,” 159.

[50] Irenaeus Haer. 2.32.4 (ANF 1.409 as quoted in Gary Steven Shogren, “Christian Prophecy and Canon in the Second Century: A Response to B. B. Warfield,” 623 in JETS 40/4 (December 1997), 609-626, italics his.

[51] Nigel, “Signs and Wonders,” 159.

[52] Ibid., 160.

[53] See Origen, Comm. on Ephesians, loc. cit. 4:11-12 [Heine, Commentaries of Origen and Jerome, 174-75])” (Arnold, Ephesians, 259n46).

[54] Nigel, “Signs and Wonders,” 160.

[55] Tract on Psalm 118:12.

[56] John MacArthur quotes Chrysostom in the appendix of Strange Fire to support his position. However, upon looking up the reference I could not find it in the source he referenced.

[57] Nigel, “Signs and Wonders,” 160-61.

[58] Ibid., 160

[59] Augustine, Confessions, 45

[60] “The Life of the Late Rev. Mr. John Flavel,” The Works of John Flavel (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1968) 1:viii. As quoted from

[61] Murray, Jonathan Edwards, 167; of course, there are many passages that we could point to in connection with Edwards. Though, I am not sure of anywhere the gifts were explicitly practiced. But the Great Awakening was most certainly a very significant work of the Holy Spirit.

[62] Murray, Edwards, 195.

[63] The Insanity of God, 232.

[64] Ibid., 274.

[65] All for Jesus, 111.

[66] See for example:

[67] Edwards, “The Marks of the True Spirit,” 260.

[68] It is also interesting to me that many cessantionist readily quote from 1 Corinthians 14:40 but forget about verse 39 that says “do not forbid speaking in tongues.” I think it is right and good that they bring up verse 40, it is a necessary reminder, what I don’t understand is how you can claim the authority of verse 40 and discount verse 39. I realize cessantionists don’t believe that the gifts continue but don’t, in my opinion, have any grounds for their view. Especially when a verse many of them quote often says, ““do not forbid speaking in tongues” right before their go to verse. Maybe they should just say, “Since we don’t have any real biblical argumentation or historical proof, you can speak in tongues, but do so in an orderly way, with an interpreter, and ensure that all you do builds one another up, and exalts Christ.” I agree with that!

[69] Cf. Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1058-59.

[70] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 371. Grudem points out that “Jesus only rebukes hostile unbelievers who seek miracles” (Ibid., 370n34).

[71] I removed the italics and abbreviated the biblical references ( about/beliefs/perspectives/spiritual-gifts). “1 Corinthians 14 teaches that unknown tongues are a lesser gift, that public worship must be orderly, that speaking in tongues must be strictly limited and accompanied by interpretation, and that unintelligible speech is a sign of judgment” (Malcolm B. Yarnell III, “The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit,” 675 in A Theology for the Church).


[73] All for Jesus, 115.

[74] Ibid., 114.

[75] Ibid., 111. Jonathan Edwards says “A work is not to be judged of by any effects on the bodies of men; such as tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of body, or the failing of bodily strength” (Edwards, “The Marks of the True Spirit,” 261). See also his book Religious Affections.

[76] All for Jesus, 111.

[77] about/beliefs/perspectives/spiritual-gifts (1 Cor. 12:12–27; Rom. 12:4, 5; Eph. 4:12,15,16 were also cited).

[78] Jonathan Edwards, “The Marks of the True Spirit,” 266-69 also see Murray, Edwards, 234.

[79] Edwards, “The Marks of the True Spirit,” 268-69.

[80] Robert L. Saucy, “An Open but Cautious View,” in Are Miraculous for Gifts Today?, 123.

[81] about/beliefs/perspectives/spiritual-gifts.

[82] Donald Fee has wisely said, “Many errors where spiritual gifts are concerned arise when we want the extraordinary and exceptional to be make the frequent and habitual. Let all who develop excessive desire for ‘messages’ through the gifts take warning from the wreckage of past generations as well as of contemporaries” (Prophecy: A Gifts for the Body of Christ [Plainfield, N.J.: Logos, 1964], 26 as quoted in Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1059).

[83] Lyrics from “The Great I AM.”

3 thoughts on “Are the Gifts of the Spirit for Today? A Brief Exploration

  1. Me thinks you meant to use the word ceased instead of seized. Otherwse great article. Looking fwd to getting to know you better.

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