Are the miraculous gifts of the Spirit still active?
In any discussion of the “miraculous” spiritual gifts, we must first recognize that God does still perform miracles today. It is clear both from Scripture and experience that God does continue to heal and perform miracles. But are the gifts of the Spirit as described in 1 Corinthians 12–14 still happening in the church today? We are not questioning the Spirit’s ability to give gifts to His people; we recognize that the Holy Spirit can dispense gifts if He is willing (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). The question is, does He still give miraculous gifts to the church today, or was the giving of spiritual gifts a “one-time deal” that applied only to the early church?
The apostles performed many amazing deeds, as shown in the book of Acts and the Epistles. Miracles, healing, raising people from the dead, casting out demons and many other wonders are recorded in these historical documents. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:12 that “the things that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles—were done among you with great perseverance.” From this statement, we can assume that the amazing works performed by the apostles were a sort of “guarantee” of their authenticity. It is as though God was saying “I’m giving my power to these men so that you will know they are from Me.” The same principle was used many times over in Jesus’ life. Acts 2:22 tells us that the miracles, wonders and signs which Jesus did were a sort of “credential” that lent reality to His identity. In the same way, it is clear that the signs and wonders of the apostles proved their message as coming genuinely from God. Acts 14:3 again shows that the gospel Paul and Barnabas preached was “confirmed” by the miracles they were able to do.
Returning to 1 Corinthians, we see that some of the “regular” Christians in the church were also sometimes given the ability to do the miraculous (1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30). However, there is no indication that this was common. It is likely that signs and wonders were exceptional, not something experienced by all believers. In fact, the apostles and their co-workers are the only individuals who are named as having the ability to do miracles, heal, etc.
Why was this? The Bible was not completed at the time (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The early church did not yet have the full revelation of Scripture. The Scripture was revealed to the apostles – the same apostles who by signs and wonders were proven to be authentic messengers of God. Their gifts of prophecy, knowledge, wisdom and inspiration were now added to the list alongside healing and miracles, and were given in order for the early believers to know God’s will and plans. But these “revelatory” gifts, now that the Bible is finished, are obsolete. The Bible is a supernaturally-inspired book, given to the apostles, God’s proven messengers. We are commanded not to add to or take away from the Word of God as revealed to the apostles (Revelation 22:18-19). Because the revelatory gifts have ceased, and the sign gifts were given to give credence to those receiving God’s message, it is safe to assume that the sign gifts have also ceased.
However, we do see that God still miraculously heals. God speaks to us through His Word, lovingly leading our hearts and minds into the truth. At times, especially in cultures that are bereft of the Scripture, we see God speaking to people through dreams or miraculous events. However, these events are not in the same category as the “miraculous signs of the Spirit” that were done through the apostles. Now that the canon is closed, God may use signs and wonders to further His kingdom, but miraculous gifts are no longer an indication that a person is a special servant of God that should be listened to as if speaking God’s words. Also, miraculous gifts should never be looked to as a proof of a person’s salvation. Belief in the gospel of our Lord as revealed through His Word is enough.
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