Vol. 5, No. 10
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Question: "Why should we study 1 Corinthians 12-14 today? Since miraculous spiritual gifts are no longer available (1 Corinthians 13:10; Ephesians 4:11-13), how are these chapters applicable to the church in the 21st century?"
Answer: There are a number of reasons why we need to investigate these inspired chapters. For example:
To help us distinguish between the temporary and permanent. Many of our Pentecostal friends insist that miraculous gifts continue to be exercised today. While sincere in their convictions, they fail to recognize that the special "corroborating" measures (Hebrews 2:3-4) of the Spirit were intended to sustain the church only until such time as the written New Testament was completed. These gifts were never meant to be employed as an on-going or age-lasting means of producing faith.1
To help reinforce the fact that miraculous gifts were actually present in the first-century. It is not uncommon to find those who deny the reality of the Holy Spirit's work and power in Scripture. In his book, Deceptions and Myths of the Bible, Lloyd Graham states: "It takes a lot of ignorance to believe this literally, yet, literally, millions do. And then we wonder what's wrong with our world. What better world would you expect of such ignorance?" The Humanist Manifesto II [Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1973, p. 16] claims to "find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of the supernatural." Thomas Jefferson, one-time president of the United States, scissored from his Bible all references to the miraculous. David Hume, the nineteenth-century English skeptic, categorically denied the possibility of all such wonders and signs. William Barclay, famous Church of Scotland scholar and author often attempted to "explain away" supernatural phenomena recorded in Scripture.
To help us differentiate between genuine miraculous gifts of the first-century and pseudo "miracles" of the present age. First-century supernatural endeavors were performed independently of any secondary causes. They were not the result of any natural phenomena. By contrast, modern-day "miracles" are fraudulent and devoid of any divine element (cf. Matthew 24:24.) For instance, we need to study all the Scriptures, including those which deal with miraculous spiritual gifts. "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17.)
1 "Charismatics try to identify 'that which is perfect' as Jesus, and draw an erroneous conclusion that miracles continue until the second advent of Christ. However, the language will not allow for such an interpretation. The word so translated is the Greek word teleios, meaning 'complete, of/full age, mature.' It appears 19 times in 17 verses and never refers to Jesus Christ. In addition, the word is neuter in its gender; that is, it refers to neither male or female, but to an object without gender, in this case the scriptures" [Todd Clippard, "Do Miracles Still Happen Today?" Words of Truth, March 2001, p. 4.]
2 "All the essentials of Hinduism would, I think, remain unimpaired if you subtracted the [alleged] miraculous, and the same is almost true of Mohammedanism, but you cannot do that with Christianity. It is precisely the story of a great Miracle. A naturalistic Christianity leaves out all that is specifically Christian" [C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p. 83.]