Searching the Scriptures
“Search the Scriptures…they are they which testify of me.” John 5:39
Author: Bob Moses
Man-ward Gifts Discontinued
Our last Lesson focused upon Spiritual Gifts and Duties. In that article I wrote that some Spiritual Gifts were God-ward. Namely the Gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge and Faith. These three are still prevalent today, remain relative, and shall not be hindered in any form, as they are honorable to the Glory of God. Needless to say, we are speaking of Spiritual Wisdom, Spiritual Knowledge and Spiritual Faith. Much of today’s wisdom is of a worldly character, just as much of today’s knowledge, pales in light of pure, common sense, and today’s form of faith is often focused upon faith in other objects: faith in money, faith in possessions, faith in material objects or any other idol, in which man-made faith can find a resting place.
There were six gifts which were man-ward. The number six, obiviously, relating to man, for God created man on the sixth day, Gen; 1; 26. These six gifts are namely the gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, diverse kinds of tongues and interpretation of tongues. These gifts were appointed primarily to the Apostles, but also carried over to the early Church. Their aim and function was to display God’s power and testimony that Jesus Christ was, indeed, the Messiah. That He was, indeed, the foretold Redeemer of God’s people. That His ministry was an everlasting path to God the Father and eternal life. This was all summed up in the Book of Acts.
There is little doubt that the Book of Acts was written by Luke. He continues the account of Christianity, which began in the Gospel of Luke, which bears his name. In his former treatise, he shares what Jesus “began to do and teach”; in the Acts, he reveals what Jesus continued to do and teach through The Holy Spirit, which was sent down from heaven to begin His ministry, (that of the Holy Spirit) of revealing Christ to the people. The presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit is frequently noted throughout the Book of Acts. Some have pointed out, perhaps a better title for the “Acts of the Apostles” might well have been the “Acts of the Holy Spirit”. The Book of Acts is, of course, a book of history as well as a book of missions and evangelism. Its numerous references to cities of the first-century Roman world, to customs of the day, to political officials at various levels (often by name), and to various dates and events, leave the book open to detailed investigation and criticism in respect to accuracy. Contrary to expectations of the higher critics, archaeological research by Sir William Ramsay and others, has confirmed its accuracy at every turn and in full detail. There is no longer any legitimate doubt as to the historical accuracy of this Book. Inserted, I might add, right after the written account of the ministry of Jesus, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and recording the “Acts” of His (Jesus) Apostles, as they were commissioned by Christ Himself and confirmed by the Holy Spirit, to perform.
The Book of Acts does, indeed, record numerous miracles, and these are hard for critics to accept. The believer in God, however, recognizes the critical importance of this particular period in history, and it is only to be expected that God would confirm the beginnings of this new dispensation with unique signs, as was also true with all other previous dispensations of God’s dealings with His people. It is not surprising that the miraculous coming of the Holy Spirit would quickly follow the miraculous resurrection and ascension of God the Son. As mentioned, the Holy Spirit fills the scene, not to diminish the ministry of Christ, but rather to ratify, and uphold it. As the presence of the Son, exalting and revealing the Father, is the great fact of the Gospels, so the presence of the Spirit, exalting and revealing the Son, is the great fact of the Acts. Jesus himself spoke: John 15: 26; “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me”. Thus we see the fullness of the Godhead revealed before us; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, all working in perfect harmony. How could it be anything less?
All this was made manifest on the day of Pentecost when collectively, all of the Apostles, were gathered together in one place. I prefer to allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves: Acts 2: 1—16; “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans (unlearned and under educated men)? And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God. And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another; What, meaneth this? Others mocking said, these men are full of new wine. But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: For these are not drunken, as ye supposed, seeing it is but the third hour of the day (nine a.m.). But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.”
It should be quite clear, at this point, that at least two of the man-ward gifts have been removed. That of speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues; two totally separate gifts. It is quite obvious from the above that the speaking of tongues was not some gibberish, but rather the Apostles, due to the influence of the Holy Spirit, were speaking to the people in their native language. The main characteristic of the “tongue” is that it is unintelligible. The man “speaks mysteries,” prays, blesses, gives thanks, in the tongue, but no one understands him. He can hardly be said, indeed, to understand himself. This was the case of the Apostles. They spoke, they knew not what, because they were speaking themselves in a foreign tongue, therefore even they needed an interpreter. Nevertheless, the receivers of the message understood and proclaimed “we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God”. The peculiar nature of this gift leads the people into what appears at first a contradiction; 1st Corinthians; 14: 22; “Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not”. The believer does not need a sign, he has the Written Word and it is founded upon “Spiritual Faith”. It is the unbeliever who seeks a sign because he wants tangible evidence. Therefore signs and wonders are not for believers, but rather for unbelievers. This is why after the first approximately 100 years of the early Church, the gifts of tongues and the interpretation of such were summarily dismantled. These two gifts were no longer necessary once the Bible was complete and then written in the languages of the day, primarily Hebrew, Greek and Latin. And, in which, now, Bibles are in English, and other world-wide languages. We no longer have any need to speak in “tongues” or foreign languages. Those of other nations can read the Scriptures themselves. Should you or I have the opportunity to visit a foreign land for the ministry of Jesus then we may perhaps need an interpreter such as you see in the United Nations or when the heads of State meet. But to speak unto fellow Christians, who speak English, no such interpreter is needed.
Of Note: I mentioned above that the Book of Acts does indeed, record numerous miracles and that the believers of God recognize the critical importance of this particular period in history, and it is only to be expected that God would confirm the beginnings of this new dispensation with unique signs, I wish to go further and take up this gift as a side bar. I mentioned in the 2nd paragraph of this Study that the gift of miracles was one of the man-ward gifts, which have since been discontinued. That is not to say that this gift is totally obliterated, it shall indeed be resurrected, in the future when we get into the realm of the Book of Revelations and the various trials and tribulations of that time frame. But for all practical purposes, after the apostolic era, they have ceased; with the exception of some rogue elements, who claim they can perform miracles. These of course, are after their own gain, and have their own agenda.
It is important at this juncture, to take up the subject of miracles. Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines a miracle as; “an event or action that apparently contradicts known scientific laws, and is hence thought to be due to supernatural causes, especially to an act of God”. Unger’s Bible Dictionary proclaims otherwise. “The term miracle is etymologically inadequate (etymological meaning the branch of linguistics dealing with word origin and development). Unger’s continues; “and indicates only one (definition) and that not the most important feature of the proper conception. In general terms, miracles may be defined as supernatural manifestations of divine power in the external world, in themselves special revelations of the presence and power of God; and in connection with other special revelations to which they are subservient as aiding in their attestation, establishment and preservation”.
I think it helpful to continue the thoughts of Merrill F. Unger, Th.D., Ph.D. The Bible recognizes a divinely established order in nature, but also a special series of facts brought about by the direct intervention of God; and such facts are miracles. The Bible does not, however, represent nature, or natural law, as something independent or separate from God. The universe is not a vast mechanism which God has created and left to itself. The power which continually works therein is his power. What we call natural law, according to the biblical conception, is only the order of God’s ordinary working in the natural world. A miracle therefore, is a putting forth of the same power in the natural world in an extraordinary or supernatural manner. Thus we see why and in what sense miracles are (often called) “wonders”. They are such not because the usual exhibitions of God’s power in the natural world are in themselves less wonderful, but because of their unusual and supernatural character. But a miracle is not only wonderful, but so in the sense of being “a new thing (Num. 16:30), and therefore peculiarly fitted to awaken the feeling of wonder. And further, miracles are “powers” not in the sense of being greater, but different, manifestations of divine power than are usually exhibited. They have special acts of power, and therefore have special impressiveness. To produce a harvest implies power as great as to feed a multitude with a few loaves and fishes. But the manifestation is different. In the one case the power is often overlooked, in the other it is recognized (comp. Rom. 1:20; Acts 14:17; Luke 9:43; John 6:14).
The coming of Christ marked the greatest of all epochs in religious history. The revelation he brought, which centered in himself, was that for which all preceding revelations were preparatory. Coming to offer such new matter for faith, and to ask from men such complete submission to his authority and such complete trust in his power and grace, it was necessary that he should exhibit the signs of his character and mission. All that was miraculous in his history and activity was subservient to the great purpose of his coming.
Thus throughout the Bible record we find the same end in view. Miracles are to arrest the attention of men, and aid in winning their acceptance of revealed truth. And so far as the sacred record shows us they were wrought only when most needed—in the great crises of revealed religion. And he declared faith that was founded upon his words to be of higher value than that which was based upon his miracles (John 4:48; 14:11; 20: 29). Christ did not work miracles needlessly. He appealed to them as among the evidences of his authority (Matt. 11:4, 5: 20—24; 12:28, 39, 40; John 5:36; 20:25, 37, 38; 14:11; 15:24). And many were led to faith by the aid of these means (John 11: 45).
The promise of miraculous power, it is held, was completely fulfilled in the early period of the Church when such power was needed for the establishment of Christianity. This necessity no longer exists.
It is proper also, to remember that the cravings for miracles at the present day, may spring not from faith, but the lack of it, and the failure to recognize the great spiritual works which God is constantly accomplishing (Matt. 16:14).” And there you have it. I could not have said it better myself. Brother Unger has made my point; that miracles beyond the Apostles, is not applicable to our present day dispensation.
Now we shall take up the topic of the gifts of healing. Remember Paul stated: “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come (The Holy Bible / Scriptures), then that which is in part shall be done away”. (1st Cor. 13:10). He was referring to the man-ward gifts, not the Spiritual Gifts. There is no longer the Spiritual Gift of healing; that is to say, as we see on television, some minister or pastor hitting someone in the forehead and suddenly they throw away their crutches and walk back to their seat. Then there are those who come to this man who are deaf, and he slaps his hands on either side of the poor person’s head at ear level and proclaims the person can now hear. The poor souls are carried away by the elders crying and rejoicing. I would cry and rejoice too, just to get away from this bully who was beating me up. This is not healing, it is physical abuse.
Spiritual healing, according to Paul, has been done away with and has been done away with shortly after the apostolic era. This does not infer that those who practice medicine do not have a special calling. The marvel of modern medicine is fully acknowledged and is undoubtedly a bestowed gift. Christ himself stated: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick”. (Matt. 9:12; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31). Jesus healed the sick and gave power to the Apostles to heal; but again, this was to usher in the new dispensation of Christianity. It is interesting to note that Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) who wrote two Books of the New Testament, Luke and Acts; never healed anyone as recorded in the Holy Canon. He was a follower of Christ and traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys. Perhaps this is the point, that he who was trained as a physician “followed” Christ. Jesus was deemed by many, even unto this day, as the “Great Physician”.
We take a brief look upon the gift of “discerning of Spirits”. The Scriptures do not shed much light on this subject. Apparently it stems from speaking in tongues. This gift, as were those we have already discussed, seem to be specific to the apostolic age. This gift enabled its possessor to judge from what spirits the utterances they heard proceeded, whether the Holy Spirit, human, or demoniac spirits; thus preserving the Church from misled influences (1st Cor. 12:10; comp. 1st Cor. 14:29;). Then 1st John 4:1 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world”.
Then comes the gift of prophecy. As the New Testament neared completion, the true Spiritual gift of prophecy began to vanish away (1st Cor. 13:8). Paul said “whether they be prophecies, they shall fail”. But Satan continues to send false teachers: (2nd Tim. 4: 3 & 4) “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables”. And even occasional false teachers who claim to be prophets (Mark 13: 22) “For false christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect”. (1st John; 4:1) “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world”. Thus we see many of the teachings of false prophets in the world today, for false teaching in the name of Jesus is rampant as never before. Ranging from subtle heresies to flagrant denial of His divine and human nature.
The last great prophecy was written by John when he penned the Book of Revelation around A.D. 96. This was commanded of him by Jesus Himself. (Rev. 1: 10—19) “I (John) was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, what thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I (John) turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks (lampstands) and in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like, unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shining in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not: I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter”.
While Christ is the central theme of this Book all of the events move toward one consummation, the bringing in of the covenanted kingdom, (Rev. 11: 15) “And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever”. The Book is therefore a prophecy.
The three major divisions of Revelation must be clearly held if the interpretation is to be coherent. (Rev. 2: 19) “Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be here after”. The things which thou has seen includes the ministry of Christ, plus the destruction of the Jewish temple and the Jews dispersed and the testimony of God had been committed to the Churches (1st Tim. 3: 15) “Which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth”. Accordingly we have seven messages to seven representative churches, Rev. 2. 1—3. As mentioned above. The things which are, is John’s presence in heaven to record the revelation from Christ. And the Things which shall be hereafter, are the third division. W. J. Erdman has pointed out that this third major division falls into a series of six sevens, with six parenthetical passages, making with the church division, seven sevens. The six sevens are: (1) the seven seals, Rev. 4: 1—8; (2) the seven trumpets, Rev. 8: 2—11; (3) The seven personages, Rev. 12: 1—14, (4) The seven vials (bowls), Rev. 15: 1—16. (5) The seven dooms, Rev. 17: 1—20, (6) The seven new things, Rev; 21: 1—22. And then the Church division (7) as mentioned above, written to the seven representative Churches.
One can clearly see the “hand” of God upon this last prophecy: Seven being God’s perfect number; Three representing the Triune God, and four representing the earth. There are no more prophecies to be had, from the heavenly realm, until after the rapture of God’s Saints into heaven. When the Tribulation period begins, then new prophets shall arise from God, but we are not there yet. And may we pray that we will not be upon this earth to suffer through this Tribulation era. Praise the Lord we will see it from afar, as we look down from heaven to the events then taking place upon the earth.
This concludes our “Study” on the man-ward gifts, which have been discontinued. May God bless you and your family. Remain in prayer for our brothers and sisters in Christ; and the return of our Lord to call us home.