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Have the gifts ceased? 

The affirmative answer is called cessationism – the spiritual gifts were restricted to he first century church, and were discontinued moving forward. The negative answer is called continuationism – the spiritual gifts continued through the history of the church. While some cessationists believe that there are no miraculous signs anymore whatsoever, others are happy to pray for miracles, viewing them as direct interventions of God instead of through someone’s spiritual gift. This latter group believes that only the prophetic gift has ceased.

Continuationists find proof of their view in scriptures like the following.

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

Gordon Fee, the respected evangelical New Testament scholar, says the following in his commentary on 1 Corinthians. 

“However, there has also been a spate of literature whose singular urgency has been to justify that limiting of these gifts [1 Cor 12] to the first-century church. It is fair to say of this literature that its authors have found what they were looking for and have thereby continued to reject such manifestations in the church. It can also be fairly said that such rejection is not exegetically based, but results in every case from a prior hermeneutical and theological commitment.”

Gordon Fee, NICNT, 600.

This means there is considerable burden of proof for the cessationist. They would need to prove from the Bible, attending carefully to their presuppositions they bring to the Scriptures, that God chooses not to give spiritual gifts to believers anymore. In light of passages like 1 Corinthians 12 this already seems like a hopeless task. Failing to do this, they would need to argue either (2a) that there has been no personal prophesy, no supernatural tongue, no miracle or healing has occurred in the past nineteen centuries, or (1b) that none have occurred as a result of a spiritual gift. Is this cliff too tall to scale?

I once knew a guy who believed miracles were for a bygone era. He had to change his view along with his attending theological commitments when his sister, chronically ill her whole life, was miraculously healed in the name of Jesus while attending church here in Auckland. Thats all it takes to topple this view. One encounter from God.

For a debate on the subject, proving Gordon Fee’s observation above, see here.


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