Summary: A topical exposition of 1Cor. 13:8-13 on miraculous gifts.
Text: 1 Cor 13:8-13, Title: When Shall Gifts Pass Away, Date/Place: NRBC, 1/15/12, AM
Opening illustration: Talk about Shelia, her background, my beard, and the watch night service we went to
Background to passage: Also read 1 Cor 12:7-11, 27-31. Mention subsequence and baptism/filling of the Holy Spirit. Paul brings up the miraculous gifts as they related to love, describing their temporary nature alongside love’s permanent nature related to eternity. His point really is the exaltation of love over the Corinthian error of exaltation of certain gifts and the people who possess them. But since we have been looking at all the spiritual gifts, we are going to take the opportunity to discuss the controversial miraculous ones. These verses have been used in many Baptist (and other mainline, non-charismatic churches as a proof text to support a position known at cessationism, the belief that all the sign/miraculous gifts have ceased operation due to the completion of the NT.
Main thought: Today I will argue the opposite, and explain what this means to us.
Have they really ceased?
Think of the views on tongues as a continuum rather than an either/or model. The range is from cessationism to full-blown Pentecostalism. And the differences are obvious from one end to the other, but subtle between the variations. But know that good biblical, evangelical scholars disagree significantly on these issues, even when they agree on the content of the gospel. All that having been said, let’s look at the bible. This text says that they (gifts of prophecy, tongues, knowledge) will cease. When? When that which is perfect shall come! When’s that? What’s going to be perfect? Read the rest of the text. What does it sound like to you? In fairness to a cessationist, the word for cease is reflexive, which could me that tongues would cease themselves. But again, it is hard to think that Paul is meaning the canon of the NT.
1 Cor 1:4-9,
Don’t think that just because it is difficult or that because biblical scholars are divided that it is out of your reach. The poor, miserable peasants of the middle ages were overtly refused access to the bible, but you are not! You have good, accurate translations, and you are commanded study to show yourself approved, and these issues are broad in their effects on other points of doctrine and practice. Biblically, guys like John MacArthur, cite some other verses like Heb 2:4, but I believe that you cannot find a text that explicitly states they would cease. Could they have? Yes, but definitively, no. However, their purpose was two-fold. First it was for a sign, so when are the miraculous gifts still pointing to God? Secondly, they were to upbuild the church. Neither of which apply to our church. I would expect to see the miraculous gifts on the frontiers of the gospel (like first century Greece). But I also would not rule them out here without exception.
Miracles, healing, tongues
Miracles – this is literally a “workings of powers.” This gift and healing as a gift are spoken of in the plural. This would be the situational ability to do something that defies nature. It is not as though the person exhibiting the power is commanding it at will, but being worked through by God in a particular situation. Walking on water, raising the dead, casting out demons, commanding death or blindness, or being bitten by a viper with no effects.
Gifts of Healings – Again this is situational. Even the Apostle Paul healed some, and others he could not. God may use you in conjunction with the gift of healings, and have you pray with a sense of confidence and urgency and someone be healed. Tell about Storms having an unusual sense of assurance of healing. We pay lip service to this gift, but rarely believe God will heal, and if He does, it won’t be through our prayer.
Tongues/Interpretation – In the following chapter Paul all but forbids the use of them in public worship, and clearly without an interpreter. I am undecided about a private prayer language, although it seems as though chapter 14 would allow for it. It is clear that tongues was unlearned human languages, although it also could be a “tongue of angels” (although no angel ever spoke in a language that humans didn’t understand. However it is clear that Paul says that the congregation will not understand them, so an interpreter will be necessary, which might negate the supernatural part of the gift.
Again in our culture, these things typically don’t witness as a sign to unbelievers, and most of the time don’t edify believers (especially in Baptist contexts); so their usefulness is very limited here. And I don’t think that God would inspire something that would cause confusion and disorder. But in frontier regions for the gospel, these gifts might accomplish both tasks.