Were the apostles the only ones with supernatural spiritual gifts? The apostle Paul writes about miraculous gifts like speaking in tongues in 1 Corinthians 14. But who was he writing to and what was he trying to address?
The Corinthian church had a lot of issues. There were theological questions, moral problems, and divisions in the church. One of the things that Paul addressed was fighting caused by spiritual gifts. Some Christians in Corinth were exalting themselves, saying, “Oh, my gifts are better.” They were neglecting others in the church.
So Paul emphasized that every member of the body is gifted by the Lord in unique ways. Each member plays a role. And he makes it clear that it wasn’t just the apostles who had these miraculous spiritual gifts in the first century. But members of the church wondered, “Do I have to speak in tongues to be saved, or is it at least a sign that I’m truly saved?” Paul says no. Not every believer has the same gift.
But are these miraculous gifts still for followers of Jesus today? My view is that those gifts passed out of the ordinary life of the church as the word of God continued to advance and local churches were established. You don’t read in 1 Timothy 3 or Titus 1 the qualifications for prophets within the New Covenant community. But you do have the qualifications for elders and deacons. It seems like those are going to be the ordinary officers in the life of the church—not prophets who receive revelations directly from God.
So I don’t think that you have prophets today walking around like you did in the days of Jeremiah and Isaiah or in this transitional period in the New Testament church. These sign gifts were meant to help fix people’s eyes on the gospel and the forgiveness of sins. That’s why God was working in this miraculous way at this stage of redemptive history, when the gospel was first going out. Hebrews 2:3–4 says, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders, and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will.”
In other words, what was the purpose of those miracles and those gifts of the Holy Spirit? It was to bear witness to the message of salvation in Jesus Christ. That’s what needs to be central in Christian ministry. The message of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins. That’s what we should hear about every single week when we gather together with the people of God.
It’s that message that the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the first-century church were meant to bolster. And so can God work in extraordinary ways today? Yes, he can, if he chooses to. But ordinarily, he works through the faithful preaching of Scripture.
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