Brandon W. Peach on Do Spiritual Gifts Still Exist?

“The Gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus meaningless unless we know that He lived, died and rose with but one purpose in mind: Pentecost, to pour out the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Not to make nicer people with better morals, but brand-new creations, a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within.” – Brennan Manning

When the Holy Spirit was poured out upon believers on the Day of Pentecost, the apostles marveled at the gifts they had been given, which had been foretold by the prophet Joel: the ability to speak in other languages, the power to heal, the spiritual talents of prophecy and teaching and service, and many others. Understanding and developing one’s spiritual gifts is critical to the Christian’s spiritual life—the gifts are bestowed upon believers by God so that each member of the Body of Christ can perform a specific, divinely appointed role within the Church.

While the importance of spiritual gifts is agreed upon by most Christians, opinions about the specifics differ greatly. In particular, the continuity of these spiritual gifts since the Apostolic Age has frequently been debated. Some Christians believe that the “charismatic” or “miraculous” gifts, such as speaking in tongues and prophecy, are still poured out to believers, while others believe that they no longer exist in modernity. There also exists a wide middle ground of belief—that the charismatic gifts remain available to believers in some manner, though their appearance and use vary.

On the matter of spiritual gifts. Most Christians, even cessationists, believe in the real outpouring of spiritual gifts to Christians, which continue in the present age. These gifts, known as charismata, were first given to the Church upon Pentecost. The charismata, however, are not to be confused with the “charismatic gifts,” also known as the “sign gifts”: these include the words of wisdom and knowledge, the gifts of speaking in and interpreting tongues, the gift of healing, the gift of prophecy and the discernment of spirits. These miraculous gifts are viewed as acts empowered by the Spirit that extend beyond “natural” human abilities. Those who do not believe the miraculous gifts continue into modernity are known as cessationists, while those who believe they are still present in modern Christendom and available to Christians are known as continuationists.

Because there is a great deal of nuance between cessationism and continuationism (and in the middle ground that separates the two beliefs), we will look at the matter of spiritual gifts in broad terms to understand the differences that arise among believers.

Cessationist beliefs. In general, cessationists believe that the miraculous spiritual gifts ended after the apostolic age; that is, with the closure of the New Testament canon. To evidence this belief, many point to Paul’s words in the book of 1st Corinthians: “As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” They also point to the apparent lack of evidence among Christians writing from the second century onward.

There is disagreement among cessationists regarding the exact nature of the cessation of gifts. Some believe that miracles do still occur, so long as they don’t add doctrine to Christianity. Others believe that all miracles have ceased in the modern age. Similarly, some cessationists believe that the miraculous gifts will return either in the forerunning to Christ’s return or upon His return.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Brandon W. Peach