Several years ago, I had a couple of Bible studies with a
man who claimed the Holy Spirit granted members of his church
miraculous gifts. I learned one very sad fact from that man. This
individual was a go-getter in his church. One of his goals was to
study with as many people as possible to convince them that the
Holy Spirit was really moving miraculously within his church.
Though he had studied the issue of modern miraculous gifts with
dozens of people, he claimed that almost no one he had studied
with knew what they really believed on the issue or why they
believed it. It is no wonder then that numerous churches of all
brands, faiths and sizes are experiencing turmoil regarding this
issue. Most people hold a position on this issue out of tradition,
without knowing what the Bible really says. Regrettably, this is
one of those issues about which even many of our brethren are
scared. They see the Holy Spirit give miraculous gifts in the
Bible, they see preachers claim they are not for today—but they
do not know why? They want to hold the “party line”—so they
just avoid discussing this issue. But we are not to hold party
lines. We are not to believe just what we have always believed. We
are to believe what the Bible says. We must not be afraid to
examine the scriptures on any issue. If we are wrong, we need to
change. If we are right, then we need to be strengthened. What is
Before we begin, we must understand two preliminary points.
First, we must understand our question. We are not asking
what the Holy Spirit can do. The Holy Spirit, being divine, can do
anything He pleases. Additionally, we are not asking what we
should do. For all our toiling and trying, we could never do
anything miraculous unless the Holy Spirit granted the power. We
are asking, “What does the Holy Spirit do?” Does the Holy
Spirit still grant miraculous gifts to God’s children today?
Second, we must understand how to answer this question. We
cannot answer this question based on experiences and feelings. Matthew
7:21-23 presents people with very strong experiences and very
strong feelings. However, the Lord claimed He never
knew them. I do not know what their experiences were, but their
experiences had misled them. Jesus had never known them; they had
never actually done what they thought they did. On the other hand,
Acts 19:1-7 presents
men who had never had any experiences with miraculous spiritual
gifts, such that they did not even know that there was a Holy
Spirit. However, their lack of experiences proved nothing. We can
only answer this question based on the clear revelation from
God—the Scripture (II
Timothy 3:16-17). Whatever our experiences, or lack thereof,
we must answer this question from scripture and then apply the
scripture to our experiences.
To begin answering, we must understand the purpose of the
miraculous gifts of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit used miraculous gifts for three purposes.
According to John
16:12-13, the Holy Spirit used these gifts to reveal the will
According to Hebrews
2:2-4, the Holy Spirit used these gifts to confirm that the
will of God was what was being taught.
In I Corinthians
14:1-6, the Holy Spirit used these gifts to edify and convict.
Please note that the gifts were never used for
entertainment, monetary gain or emotional fulfillment. Also note,
that the gifts were not even used for the purpose of healing.
Though one of the gifts was healing, the purpose was still to
confirm that God’s will was being taught. Note in II Timothy 4:20, Paul left Trophimus sick in Miletus. Why did he not
just heal him? Because the purpose of the gift of healing was not
really about healing.
Additionally, note that the Scriptures claim the Spirit
would only use these miraculous gifts for a time. In I
Corinthians 13:8-10, we learn that when that which is perfect
is come, the Holy Spirit will no longer use miraculous gifts to
reveal, confirm, edify and convict.
We must understand the part
and the perfect in I Corinthians 13:8-13.
What did Paul mean by perfect?
The typical answer given today is that perfect
If perfect means sinless, then what does in
part mean? In part
means not perfect or sinful.
But what did Paul say was in
part? Paul said the miraculous gifts were in
Are the miraculous gifts of the Spirit sinful? Certainly
not. God does not sin, nor does He tempt others to sin (James
1:13). Therefore, our whole foundation for this series of
questions must be incorrect. Since that which is in
part is not referring to sinfulness, then that which is perfect
is not referring to sinlessness.
What then is the point of the part
and the perfect? The part is exactly that, something that is partial or only partially
accomplishes the task. While the perfect,
being contrasted with the partial
is that which is whole and complete or fully accomplishes the
We must understand what the perfect
From I Corinthians 13:8-13, we learn that miraculous spiritual gifts
would cease when the perfect comes. Love, however, never fails;
continuing even after the perfect comes (vs.
8). Additionally, faith and hope will also abide when
miraculous gifts have ceased (vs.
13). The following chart presents a picture of what this
What is the perfect?
Some say, “Jesus.” However, this makes the Bible contradict
While I Corinthians
13:13 maintains that after the perfect comes, faith will still
abide, Hebrews 11:1 demonstrates that faith will no longer abide after
Jesus returns. Faith is about that which is unseen. We have faith
now, because we do not see Jesus or heaven. But when Jesus
returns, we will no longer walk by faith, but by sight.
Additionally, while I
Corinthians 13:13 maintains that hope will still abide after
the perfect has come, Romans 8:24-25 demonstrates that hope will no longer abide after
Jesus returns. Again, hope is the expectation of that which is
unseen. Once we see Jesus and are in heaven with Him, we will no
longer abide in hope, but in sight.
Do you see the contradiction? Consider the following chart
which represents the combined teaching of these three passages if
Jesus is assumed to be the perfect:
Since the Bible never contradicts itself, for God is not
the author of confusion (I
Corinthians 14:33), Paul must not have been referring to Jesus
when he spoke of that which is perfect.
If Jesus is not the perfect
about which Paul was speaking, then what is?
Go back to our understanding of the part
and the perfect. The perfect
is that which is whole or complete, which completely and wholly
accomplishes the task that the part
only accomplished partially. First, answer a very simple question.
If I gave you a part of an apple pie, what is the whole? Apple
pie. Thus, if the part
is that which reveals, confirms, edifies and convicts, the perfect, is that which reveals, confirms, edifies and convicts
What reveals, confirms, edifies and convicts, wholly and
completely preparing us for every good work?
II Timothy 3:16-17 is clear, God’s holy scriptures, once
completed, reveals, confirms, edifies and convicts us of every
good work and will make us complete.
If we go back to our chart and picture what these passages
say together, we will not find a contradiction. Because, even when
following what is written, we are still walking by faith and we
are still walking in hope, because we still do not see. Note the
We must understand our conclusion.
Since the Holy Scriptures have been completed, the perfect
has come. That which was in part has been done away. Paul used two
illustrations to explain what this means for the church.
In I Corinthians
13:11, Paul related this to childhood and maturity. A child
speaks, understands and thinks as a child. The one who grows up
must put those childish things away. The church, in its infancy
needed the support of the miraculous gifts. However, once the
Spirit had revealed all that the church needed, the church would
put away the childish things and grow up. Amazingly, people today
who are banking on the direct operation of the Holy Spirit in
their lives, typically believe they are more spiritually mature.
But the scripture says that the church, in its maturity, has the
fullness of the Spirit’s revelation in the scripture. We must
not try to go back to the church’s childhood.
In I Corinthians
13:12, Paul related it to being able to see clearly versus
dimly. The mirrors of Paul’s day were more like shiny hubcaps
than our modern mirrors. When you looked into their mirrors, you
saw an image, but it was unclear and distorted. Paul said they
could only see dimly during the time of miraculous gifts. However,
when the Spirit had finally revealed all that was needed, the
brethren would see clearly. They could examine God’s will and
know it fully. Why would the church want to go back to something
that was unclear and in part when we have the whole thing now?
Despite what we sometimes think, modern Christians have it better
than those who were relying on miraculous gifts.
But some today will claim that there is no way scripture
can edify and convict better than miracles. Take note of Luke
16:27-31. In the story of Lazarus and the rich man, the rich
man wanted a miracle to convince his brothers to do right. But
Abraham said, “If they will not believe the scriptures, they
will not believe even if they see a miracle.” Scripture is more
powerful than miracles. We must simply learn and use the
To sum up, the Holy Spirit granted miraculous gifts for a
time. But when He had revealed all that we needed, He no longer
used the miraculous gifts. Rather, He used and continues to use
that completed revelation—the Bible. I do not know what
experiences you may have had. I am not even going to begin to
explain them. However, if you have had experiences that have led
you to believe the Holy Spirit is granting miraculous gifts to you
or to other people today, remember the people of Matthew
7:21-23. Do not allow your experiences to define the Bible,
allow the Bible to define your experiences. Miraculous gifts of
the Spirit are not for today. The church has grown up. We can see
clearly now. What a great and awesome God we have who has done
this great thing to help us go to heaven.
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ