All Scripture quotations are from the 1901 American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
Spiritual gifts passages: Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:11-12; 1 Peter 4:9-11.
In regard to the Holy Spirit and His work in the Church today, God has given each believer at least one spiritual gift that is to be discovered and used to serve Him as the Holy Spirit leads and empowers. I believe that our gifts are discovered through the normal course of walking in the Spirit and serving as God provides opportunity (Gal 6:10; Eph 5:16; Col 4:5).
I believe there are permanent gifts and temporary gifts. As we proceed through this study, I will present my reasons for that.
6. Word of wisdom
8. Discerning of spirits
Temporary Gifts – (Miracle gifts)
Authority / Foundational Gift:
1. Apostleship – Those with this gift were given authority over the Church and were given most (if not all) of the spiritual gifts for the purpose of proclaiming the Christian message and establishing the Church. They were called to continue the message and work that Christ began. While the gift of apostleship may not have been a miracle gift in itself, miracles accompanied this gift.
2. Word of knowledge
3. Word of wisdom
4. Discerning of spirits
5. Interpretation of tongues
1. Miracles (limited to the Apostles)
2. Healings (limited to the Apostles)
The revelatory gifts were given to the Church for the purpose of providing God’s Word, consisting of the message of Christ, Christian doctrine and instruction for living the Christian life. All, of which, is what we have now in the NT Scriptures.
Note: Notice that the gifts of word of wisdom and the discerning of spirits are in both the permanent and temporary categories. I’ve done this because I believe there’s an overlapping of these two gifts. Before the NT Scriptures were written, I believe these two gifts were received via revelation. However, with the NT revelation complete – in the form of the Scriptures – I believe these two gifts are primarily learned via a sound understanding of God’s Word. The Holy Spirit empowers those with these gifts – according to sound understanding of Scripture – to discern truth from error, and to provide sound wisdom to those who need it.
The confirmatory gifts were given for the purpose of validating the message and ministry of those who had the revelatory gifts. As we’ll soon see, the confirmatory gifts of miracles and healings were limited to the Apostles, who performed signs and wonders and mighty works in the power of the Holy Spirit.
All the temporary gifts were foundational, and were given for the purpose of establishing the Church. These gifts ceased with the Apostles and prophets in the first century. Once the Church had been established and the NT Scriptures written, there was no longer a need for these gifts. Once a foundation has been laid (as it was by the Apostles and prophets), the building materials for a foundation are no longer needed — for once a foundation has been laid, attention must then be turned to the structure that is built upon that foundation, and that is what the permanent gifts do for us today as post-apostolic Christians.
The temporary gifts (miracle gifts) were the materials used to lay the foundation of the Church. They had a specific purpose for a specific time. The permanent gifts are for building up the Church, and they have been serving that purpose since the foundation was laid during the early days of the Church, which was the apostolic period.
The following passages reveal the mission of the Apostles and prophets, as well as the signs that accompanied the message they preached.
Key Verses Regarding the Apostles and Prophets and Miracle Gifts:
(2 Corinthians 12:12) “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, by signs and wonders and mighty works.
Do you realize what Paul is saying here, who was himself an Apostle? The miracles were a sign of an Apostle, not the sign of the common believer! Paul positively reveals that “signs and wonders and mighty works” were something that was given to the Apostles only, and not to the general community of believers. If these miracles had been performed by other Christians, there would be no point to Paul’s statement here. It would have no meaning as it relates to other Christians. It was these miracles that validated the Apostles and their message and their ministry as the Christ-appointed leaders of the Church.
To be clear, the “signs and wonders and mighty works” of the Apostles, refer to the gifts of miracles and healings (1 Cor 12:9-10). These are the two spiritual gifts that were limited to them.
(Hebrews 2:3-4) “3 how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; 4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will.”
“Manifold powers” or “various miracles” (ESV)
Aside from the twelve, there are only four men mentioned in the NT who performed these miracles: Paul and Barnabas, and Stephen (Acts 6:8-10) and Philip (Acts 8:4-7; 12-13). While Paul and Barnabas are called Apostles, Stephen and Philip are not. However, based on what the key verses above and the passages below reveal, I believe we can safely conclude that they were regarded as Apostles along the same line as Barnabas. We have the twelve Apostles and Paul, then we have Barnabas, Stephen and Philip. While these three were not given the same status as the other Apostles, they did perform the signs and wonders of an Apostle. The idea that these “signs and wonders and mighty works” were given to anyone other than Apostles, is not supported by the NT account. All of these passages of Scripture clearly limit these miracles to the Apostles.
Even if Stephen and Philip were not regarded as Apostles, they would be the very rare exception. One’s doctrinal position should never be based on exceptions, but always according to the primary or fundamental teaching on any given biblical subject. In addition, they were in association with the Apostles – the same as Barnabas – which is a significant point that must be considered.
Note: The seventy (seventy-two — ESV/NIV) whom Jesus commissioned in Luke 10:1-20, are to be regarded not as the norm, but as those whom He sent with a temporary enabling for a temporary assignment. That situation was before the cross and before Pentecost — which was the beginning of the Church and its associated spiritual gifts. Furthermore, they didn’t have the same authority as the Apostles.
Please read carefully the remainder of these passages. It would be beneficial to read them in their full context. Pay special attention to the words in bold print. These verses are key to determining whether the miracle gifts (all the miracle gifts) have continued to the present. While most of these passages focus on miraculous works, later, I’ll demonstrate how all this ties in with all the other temporary gifts.
(Acts 2:22) 22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God unto you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, even as ye yourselves know;
What Jesus began in working “mighty works and wonders and signs,” continued through the Apostles. They were an extension of Himself.
(Acts 2:42-43) 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.
It was the Apostles who were performing the “many wonders and signs,” not the average Christian.
(Acts 4:29-33) 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, 30 while thy stretchest forth thy hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of thy holy Servant Jesus. 31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken wherein they were gathered together; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness. 32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul: and not one of them said that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33 And with great power gave the apostles their witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
It was the Apostles who were given “great power.”
(Acts 5:12-20; 27-29) 12 And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s porch. 13 But of the rest durst no man join himself to them: howbeit the people magnified them; 14 and believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women; 15 insomuch that they even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that, as Peter came by, at the least his shadow might overshadow some one of them. 16 And there also came together the multitudes from the cities round about Jerusalem, bringing sick folk, and them that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. 17 But the high priest rose up, and all they that were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with jealousy, 18 and laid hands on the apostles, and put them in public ward. 19 But an angel of the Lord by night opened the prison doors, and brought them out, and said, 20 Go ye, and stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this Life…… 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, We strictly charged you not to teach in this name: and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. 29 But Peter and the apostles answered and said, We must obey God rather than men.
This passage makes it clear that it was the Apostles who were performing the miracles “among the people,” as well as the passages below:
(Acts 14:3-4) 3 Long time therefore they tarried there speaking boldly in the Lord, who bare witness unto the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. 4 But the multitude of the city was divided; and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles.
(Acts 15:12) 12 And all the multitude kept silence; and they hearkened unto Barnabas and Paul rehearsing what signs and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles through them.
(Acts 19:11-12) 11 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: 12 insomuch that unto the sick were carried away from his body handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out.
(Romans 15:18-19) 18 For I will not dare to speak of any things save those which Christ wrought through me, for the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed, 19 in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Holy Spirit; so that from Jerusalem, and round about even unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ.
The message of Paul, as an Apostle, was validated as being from Christ through “signs and wonders.” Again, the Apostles were an extension of Jesus Himself, as those whom He chose to lead His people and to establish His Church. As representatives of Christ, their message about Him had to be confirmed by “signs and wonders.” As His appointed leaders, those miracles had to accompany them in order for people to trust them. People had to know that what they preached was the truth, that it was from God. Their authority had to be validated, and that’s what those signs and wonders did for them.
Therefore, the idea that the “signs of an Apostle” were given to the average Christian, doesn’t even make sense. They were not the authority. They were not the leaders. They were not tasked with establishing the Church.
(Ephesians 2:19-22) 19 So then ye are no more strangers and sojourners, but ye are fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God, 20 being built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone; 21 in whom each several building, fitly framed together, groweth into a holy temple in the Lord; 22 in whom ye also are builded together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.
Notice the purpose of the Apostles and prophets. They were tasked with laying the foundation of the Church. The foundation is not the same thing as the structure that sits upon it. We absolutely must make that distinction. As I discussed before, once a foundation is laid for any kind of building, attention must then be given to the structure. The structure requires different building materials than the foundation. The same holds true in building the Church. Different spiritual gifts were needed for the foundation than for the structure. It was the Apostles and prophets who laid the foundation of the Church, and the Holy Spirit empowered them with gifts that were needed for that task, gifts that He didn’t give to anyone else, because nobody else had their calling, mission or responsibility.
(Ephesians 3:1-6) 1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus in behalf of you Gentiles,— 2 if so be that ye have heard of the dispensation of that grace of God which was given me to you-ward; 3 how that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words, 4 whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; 5 which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; 6 to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel….
Notice who the revelation about Christ was given to. It was to the Apostles and prophets. Not to the average Christian! Thus it was necessary that their message about Christ be validated by “signs and wonders.” Unless we understand the purpose of these miracles, we’re going to get way off track and open ourselves up to deception.
In context, Paul is specifically talking about the common faith and unity of Jews and Gentiles in Christ, but he cannot talk about that without talking about the teachings of the Christian faith in general. The whole context of Paul’s discussion makes that clear. Read the many verses before and after.
This passage also confirms the point that I make throughout this series on the gifts, that the prophecies given to the Apostles and prophets were primarily the gospel of Christ and the teachings of the Christian faith. The idea that the gift of prophecy was used for personal direction for someone’s life – as a normal and common occurrence among the community of believers – cannot be substantiated by the biblical record. Unless we understand the primary purpose of the gift of prophecy and the period of history that it was intended for, we leave ourselves wide open to deception.
All these passages make it clear that the “mighty works and wonders and signs” were reserved for the Apostles. To claim that anyone else did what they did, would be pure assumption, and not based on the plainly stated account of Scripture.
These passages reveal that it was the Apostles and prophets who were given the responsibility for laying the foundation of Christ’s Church and the Christian faith. We also see that the message that the Apostles proclaimed was accompanied by signs and wonders. These miracles confirmed that the message they preached was the truth of God. They confirmed that they were the true appointed Apostles of Christ, that they had been sent by God to lead and establish His Church.
The idea that Apostles have continued to the present, is completely contrary to what the Scriptures reveal. Again, as Paul stated very plainly, apostleship is confirmed by “signs and wonders and mighty works.” You will search the book of Acts in vain to find someone other than the Apostles (includes Stephen and Philip) performing these great miracles. The powerful works that we see being done through them, were limited to them. They were the ones who were given the mission to establish the Church. They were the ones who were tasked with leading and teaching God’s people. They were the ones to present and confirm the truth. Their calling and message had to be confirmed that they were truly sent by God as His leaders of authority, and that’s what the signs and wonders accomplished.
There are no individuals today who are characterized by the miraculous signs and wonders that characterized the Apostles. Those who believe that there are, have a very limited view of the type of miracles that the Apostles performed. There is NO ONE today who does what they did. You can be sure, if there was, EVERYONE would know about it, and there wouldn’t be any doubt about it. The whole Church would be able to recognize it, and would have to acknowledge the truth of it. The fact that there are no longer miracles being performed in the likeness of the Apostles, is irrefutable evidence that these gifts are no longer operational today.
Don’t Miss This: Since the prophets are named along with the Apostles, we can safely say that that particular gift (prophecy) is also no longer operational today. The Apostles and prophets were for the purpose of leading and establishing the Church. It was their calling to provide the Church with the message of Christ and the NT Scriptures. It was their responsibility to proclaim and validate the teachings of the Christian faith. Once all of that was completed and contained within the NT Scriptures, their mission was fully accomplished, and their office and gifts were no longer needed, and therefore, ceased.
Since we know that the gifts of miracles and healings were for the purpose of validating the message of the Apostles and prophets while the NT Scriptures were being written, we can confidently conclude that all the miraculous gifts ended with them — for they were all related to the Word of God and worked in harmony with one another for a common purpose and goal. Again, those gifts include the following: prophecy; word of knowledge; word of wisdom; discerning of spirits; tongues; interpretation of tongues.
Note again, the gifts of miracles and healings were limited to the Apostles only, and the rest were available to the rest of the Christian community.
Note: In regard to the gifts of the word of wisdom and the discerning of spirits, please see note in the introduction under “Temporary Gifts.”
To be clear, the gifts of: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, discerning of spirits and tongues & interpretation of tongues, are all related to the gift of prophecy. All these gifts relate to the Word of God, and functioned together in order to verify the truthfulness of what was being taught. Therefore, if prophecy ended with the Apostles and prophets, then these other gifts also had to end with them.
Those who believe and teach and insist that the miracle gifts have continued to this day, don’t understand the transitional situation of the early Church, nor do they understand the associated function of those gifts in establishing it. What they’re doing, in effect, is continuing the transitional period throughout the whole Church era, which, of course, makes no sense. It was a unique time in history that will never be seen again. Those revelatory and confirmatory gifts were both transitory and transitional. They had a special role for a special time. In order to understand the gifts of the Spirit for today, it’s critical that we recognize the uniqueness of their situation and the means (miracle gifts) that was required to accomplish the mission of the Apostles and prophets, and of the Church as a whole at that time.
The Apostles were an extension of Christ, and the NT Scriptures are an extension of both. The canon of Scripture and the establishment of the Church completes the mission that the revelatory and confirmatory gifts were given to accomplish. Since that time, the permanent gifts, especially the gifts of teaching and pastor-teacher and evangelism, has been used by the Holy Spirit to build the Church, to build upon what the Apostles and prophets began. Ever since they completed their mission, it’s been the sole mission of the teachers to expound the written Word of the NT Scriptures. They’ve picked up where the Apostles and prophets left off. Not that there weren’t gifted teachers then too, of course — it’s just that now the responsibility of teaching God’s Word to His people, belongs solely with them.
Many Christians seem to have the idea that Christians today should be able to do everything the Apostles and prophets did, even though the Bible makes it clear that they’re the ones who provided the foundation for the Christian faith. Who among us today can make that claim? Put in proper perspective, such an idea is biblically baseless. Christians read what went on in the early years of the Church, and they want to experience the same things. But we have to set those desires and biases aside, and look honestly and sincerely at what the Bible reveals about all this. The evidence is overwhelming that the miracle gifts have ceased, that they belonged to a period of time now long past.