“At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16: 11)
The Basket Case Chronicles #143
“For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will” (1 Cor. 12:8-11).
Paul’s point here in this passage is to point out the fact that multiple workings are all proceeding from one source, which means that these multiple gifts are all meant to work toward one unified purpose or end. He does this by saying the Spirit does x, the same Spirit does y, and the same Spirit does z.
The first gift is the word of wisdom (v. 8), and the second mentioned gift is the word of knowledge (v. 8). A third gift is that of faith (v. 9), and a fourth is the gift of healing (v. 9). Another man can work miracles (v. 10), yet another can prophesy (v. 10), and another can discern spirits (v. 10). Someone else has the gift of various languages (v. 10), and someone else can interpret (v. 10). But the one source of the diverse gifts is the one Spirit, who exercises His sovereignty by dispensing these gifts as He sees fit.
We do not know precisely what the gifts of wisdom and knowledge were, but judging from the face value of the words, it would be something like a timely statement of what the people should do (wisdom) and what the people should know (knowledge). The gift of faith appears to be the gift of remarkable faith, out of the ordinary faith—because every Christian has faith. It would be the gift of believing for particular things, as George Mueller had.
The gift of healing is possessed by someone who can heal someone else, with power draining from him as it happens—as when the woman with the hemorrhaging touched the Lord and was healed. The gift of healing should be distinguished from answered prayer healing. The gift of healing is not possessed by anyone today, and neither is the gift of miracles (2 Cor. 12:12). Prophecy proper is not possessed by anyone either, although elements of the prophetic office are still present in preaching. We do not have anyone today who can write new Scripture. But we do have men who can speak in the name of the Lord.
A person who can discern spirits would be necessary in a service when people were speaking prophetically in a service under the influence of a spirit—Paul himself gave guidance on discerning spirits at the beginning of this chapter (v. 3). My understanding is that the gift of languages and interpretation together should be considered the equivalent to prophecy, which means that this gift is no longer extant.
Now some will no doubt object to all the “cessationism,” and say that they themselves have spoken in tongues or have been in services where that has happened. What about that? It reminds me of Mark Twain’s response when asked if he believed in infant baptism. “Believe in it? I have seen it done!” My understanding of the gift of tongues is that it is the gift of languages—with a vocabulary, grammar, syntax, meaning, the whole deal. We are too easily impressed with or persuaded by what could be called Beach Boys glossolalia—ba ba ba ba ba ran.
Having offended one half of the church, let me proceed to offend the other. But I mean well.
The fact that I believe that this kind of gifted authority was vested in, or was resident in, particular saints prior to the close of the canon, and is not operative today in the same way, does not mean that I believe the Holy Spirit died, or that God does not answer prayers, or that He is not actively at work in the world in visible and remarkable ways. I believe that the gift of miracle-working has ceased, not that miracles have ceased. I believe that the gift of healing has ceased, not that healing has ceased. And so on. What I believe has been taken out of the picture is any genuine spiritual gift that would provide anyone with a cogent scriptural argument that would require us to believe that person to be an apostle.
There will be more on this subject as we proceed through this portion of this epistle.