by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.
Speaking in tongues? Prophecies? Healings? Discerning of spirits? These and other supernatural signs and spiritual gifts were commonplace occurrences in the early Church. On that the Bible record is clear. But should we expect such spiritual gifts in our churches today? A growing number of Christians responded “Yes!” to this question during the twentieth century and up to the present time.
The first half of the twentieth century saw the emergence of many of today’s large Pentecostal denominations, with the associated manifestation of various gifts of the Holy Spirit. In the second half of the twentieth century, the Charismatic Movement led millions more Christians in non-Pentecostal denominations to embrace the present-day validity of these spiritual gifts.
However, man’s experience and beliefs by themselves do not establish doctrine. That is the prerogative of the Bible. In the balance of this study, we will examine a number of Scripture verses which support the ongoing validity of the gifts of the Spirit throughout the Church Age.
1 Corinthians 12:4, 7-11 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.... (7) Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the 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, 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. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
This list of spiritual gifts comprises what Bible teachers commonly call the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit (note: another list occurs in Romans 12). In the order listed, as translated in the King James Version, they are:
• the word of wisdom
Biblically knowledgeable Christians readily admit that these supernatural spiritual gifts occurred in the first century Church, as recorded in the New Testament. The question that is raised by some, and which is at the heart of this study is: Are these spiritual gifts still occurring today? I reply with a heartfelt “Yes!” to that question, and I invite you to consider the following Scriptures in support of that belief. (Bold text throughout this study is mine, added for emphasis).
Mark 16:15-18 [Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.  And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;  they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
These verses, along with the companion verses in Matthew 28:18-20, are known as the Great Commission. These words of Jesus make it quite evident that the Great Commission is intended for the entire Church Age, stretching from Jesus’ First Coming to His Second Coming. Consider the following:
• Jesus commissioned the Church to “go into all the world” with the Gospel (vs. 15). We are still in the process of fulfilling that command in this, the 21st century.
• Jesus commissioned the Church to “preach the good news to all creation” (15). That, too, we are still in the process of fulfilling.
• Those to be affected by the Great Commission are “whoever believes...” (16). “Whoever” would encompass all believers in every century.
• Supernatural signs — including speaking in tongues, driving out demons, and healing the sick — were promised to accompany the Great Commission. That is, the Gospel preached “to all creation ... [in] all the world ... [to] whoever believes” throughout the Church Age is to be accompanied by the supernatural spiritual gifts of God.
• In sum, the Great Commission throughout the centuries since Jesus’ death and resurrection involves preaching the Gospel of Christ, accompanied by God’s confirmation with supernatural manifestations — (Mark 16:20) “And the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”
Matthew 28:19-20 ...go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
This is Matthew’s record of the same Great Commission that we just looked at. Consistent with Mark’s account, we see that “to the very end of the age” we are to “teach them to obey everything” Jesus commanded them, including His commands to heal the sick, to cast out devils, etc.
It is vitally important that we Christians of the 21st century understand that Jesus intended the Great Commission to be pursued throughout the Church Age as He originally established it — that is, WITH accompanying supernatural signs. Sadly, for too much of history, the Church has been content to try to reach the world with the preached word only, thereby violating the Apostle Paul’s great declaration: “Our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
1 Corinthians 1:7-8 Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.  He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (underlining mine)
Recall our opening list of spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit, taken from chapter 12 of this epistle to the Corinthians. Here the apostle Paul is opening this same epistle by assuring them that they will lack no spiritual gifts all the way “to the end”! Contrary to teaching in some modern circles, the early Church was promised that all the way to the end of the Church Age, up to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, they would “not lack any spiritual gift.” Millions of Christians around the world today continue to believe straightforward Bible promises from God like this one, and they are personally receiving gifts of the Spirit and seeing them regularly manifested by God in their midst — exactly as promised!
1 Corinthians 2:4-5 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power,  so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
Today as then, it is vitally important that our preaching of the Gospel be accompanied with a “demonstration of the Spirit’s power.” Such demonstrations in Paul’s ministry included healings and miracles, along with other gifts of the Holy Spirit. This principle still applies today. That is, the faith of those we lead to Jesus Christ must not rest on the skill and wisdom of our words, but on the Word of God confirmed with genuine manifestations “of the Spirit’s power.” In other words, the supernatural gifts of the Spirit provide Christians in every century with powerful testimony to the reality of the Gospel we preach.
John 14:11-12 ...at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Jesus promised that believers (not just apostles) may do the works that He did, and even greater, because He has returned to the Father and given us His Spirit. Ministering your spiritual gifts is very much a part of "full gospel" ministry. Christ’s disciples in the early Church did indeed do the works that He had done. They healed the sick, raised the dead, cleansed the lepers, cast out devils, and more. But note that Jesus’ promise was not just to the disciples of that first generation, but to “ANYONE who has FAITH IN ME.” If you have faith in Jesus, then in His Name YOU can heal the sick, cast out demons, etc.
Romans 11:29 God’s gifts and his call are IRREVOCABLE.
God’s charisma are irrevocable. The Amplified Bible says: “For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable -- He never withdraws them when once they are given.”
The Greek word here for “gifts” is charisma, from which we derive our English word “charismatic.” The Bible is assuring us that the charismatic gifts, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, are never revoked or withdrawn when once they have been given. In fact, the bible encourages you to increase in your spiritual gifts.
Hebrews 2:4 God also testified to [our great salvation] by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who DOES NOT CHANGE like shifting shadows.
God the Father does not change, including in His giving of spiritual gifts. He confirmed the preached Gospel in the first century with “signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit.” And He who “does not change” confirms the same Gospel in the 21st century with the same supernatural manifestations.
Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the SAME yesterday and TODAY and forever.
Jesus ministered in power, signs, wonders, and miracles in the first century. And the Bible clearly records Him empowering the early Church to minister with supernatural manifestations and spiritual gifts. Well, Jesus is the “same...today.” Jesus has not changed. As in the early Church, so today He empowers His followers to minister in the power and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
KJV: Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Jesus began His Church in the power of the Holy Spirit. He will bring His Church to maturity and completion in the same power of the Holy Spirit, not by “the flesh.”
The early Church was born of the Spirit and baptized in the Spirit. They ministered in the power of the Holy Ghost and manifested the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. But as Paul notes above, even in the first century there began a drift away from living and ministering in the Spirit to living and ministering in “the flesh,” that is, by man’s human abilities.
Some segments of Christianity in our day have made this same error — that is, believing that “human effort” can successfully accomplish Christ’s Great Commission. To correct this error, Paul called them back to remembrance of their beginnings “by the Spirit”. That is my desire in this study — to call the Church back to its beginnings, when the word of God was preached and confirmed in the power of the Holy Spirit with signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 13:8-12 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is KNOWLEDGE, it will PASS AWAY.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when PERFECTION COMES, the imperfect disappears.  When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see FACE TO FACE. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
This portion of Scripture has been used by some allegedly to prove that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased at some arbitrary time long ago. In fact, these verses prove exactly the opposite! They are among the New Testament’s strongest references to the continuing validity of the spiritual gifts.
Will prophecies, tongues and knowledge “cease ... be stilled ... [and] pass away”? Certainly. These verses clearly declare that. But the relevant question is WHEN and in what sense? The answers are clear from the very text itself — that is, in the perfected state that occurs upon the Second Coming of Jesus, not before.
Vs. 10 says “...when perfection comes...” As of today, some twenty centuries later, this has not yet occurred. Jesus is the Perfect One. “Perfection ... comes” to us at His Second Coming, when we see Him “FACE TO FACE”! (vs. 12) Then, when we see the Perfect One “face to face,” tongues will be stilled, prophecies will cease, and knowledge will pass away.
But in what sense will they “cease ... be stilled ... [and] pass away”? This is a crucially important question. The answer is given in verse 12, using the specific illustration of “knowledge ...[which vs. 8 says is to] pass away.” Verse 12 shows us that knowledge as we know it now “passes away” NOT in the sense of going from some to none, but in the sense of going from “know[ing] IN PART” (vs. 9) to “know[ing] FULLY” (vs. 12).
This well-known portion of Scripture says nothing about the gifts of the Spirit ceasing in the sense of disappearing. The flow of thought, as clearly illustrated in verse 12, is that spiritual gifts that are partial now (tongues, prophecy, knowledge...) will go not from partiality to zero, but from partiality to FULLNESS. For the entire Church Age we can expect to “know in part and [to] prophesy in part” (9). Then, at Jesus’ Second Coming, “when PERFECTION COMES, the imperfect disappears” and that which has been “in part” will (verse 12) be brought to fullness!
1 Corinthians 1:7-8 Therefore you do NOT LACK any SPIRITUAL GIFT as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will keep you strong to the END, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (underlinings mine)
Let us close with this Scripture that we examined earlier. Paul wrote to this Corinthian church about the gifts of the Holy Spirit (chapter 12). He showed (chapter 13) how those spiritual gifts would continue during the Church Age in their partial, incomplete state and then would be brought to fullness at the Second Coming of Christ.
And Paul (ch. 1:7-8 above) clearly encouraged his hearers to expect to “not lack any spiritual gift ... to the end,” right up to the “day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
And that is my encouragement to the Lord’s Church today. Preach the Word of God. Teach the Word of God. Share the Word of God in your personal testimony and witnessing. And expect God to confirm His word with “signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit” (Hebrews 2:4).
©2004, James H. Feeney. Copyright statement.