Have the Gifts of the Holy Spirit Ceased to Function? Well, if you were to ask Joel McDurmon– and, we might add– some other Dominionists and Amillennialists– you would get a confused and confusing answer.
Joel McDurmon Head of Research at American Vision in Powder Springs, Ga. claims that in 1 Corinthians 13 Paul does not discuss the end of miracles in an objective sense. In fact, contra “church history” and the creeds, McDurmon claims that 1 Corinthians 13, has no eschatological content: “I think that the whole endeavor to see 1 Corinthians 13:9ff as an indicator of any major eschatological, doctrinal, covenantal, or revelatory shift is to miss the point of the passage entirely.” So, on the one hand, the gifts of the Holy Spirit have not ceased, but, on the other hand, they do cease in the lives of individuals.
McDurmon claims that the focus and purpose of the revelatory gifts was (is) to bring the individual believer to “that which is perfect”- the time of the spiritual maturity of the gifted individual. When the individual believer arrived (arrives) at that point of maturity, the gifts cease in his / her life, but, not in the life of corporate church. Be sure to read my book, Into All The World, Then Comes The End, for more on this entire topic. But of course, as we have shown, although McDurmon claims to have been a member of the charismatic fellowship for over five years, he says he never witnessed even one genuine miracle! How utterly incredible! Was every charismatic believer in all of those congregations spiritually mature? See our previous discussion of this problem.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians
By way of refutation, we took introduced Ephesians 4:8-16:
“ Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.” (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
In our last article in this series, we noted how Ephesians 4:8-16– which is all but universally admitted to be parallel with 1 Corinthians 13– did in fact – contra McDurmon– predict the cessation of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. We noted that the stated function and goal of the gifts of the Spirit was to bring “we all” (the corporate body) to “the unity of the faith.” We demonstrated that “the faith here” is not personal, individual faith, but rather, the system of justification by faith– i.e. the gospel system. Paul was not saying that the gifts of the Spirit were given to bring all believers to a point of identical faith on every issue. The miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were to reveal the New Covenant, and to confirm the New Covenant world of Christ. As 1 Corinthians 1:4f states, those miraculous gifts of the Spirit had confirmed them, and would continue to confirm them (from bebaioo) to the end, the Day of the Lord.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and “The Unity of The Faith”
Look closer at that term “the unity of the faith.” There is even more there than we have suggested. I suggest that “the unity of the faith” was in fact the completion of Paul’s ministry to bring about Jew and Gentile equality in the body of Christ.
The theme of Ephesians is the re-unification of heaven and earth (Ephesians 1:10). It is the bringing together both Jew and Gentile, in the one body of Christ (Ephesians 2:12f). Notice in chapter 3 that Paul says it was given to him to manifest the “mystery of God” which was Jew and Gentile in one body, in Christ. In Colossians 1:24-27 Paul tells us (note the emphatic mode of the Greek) that he was specially chosen to “fulfill the word of God, the mystery” and that his ministry was empowered to “present every man perfect in Christ.”
We call attention again to the corporate and collective nature of his ministry, which was empowered by the Spirit. Also, the absolutely critical role of Paul and his personal ministry is one of the most critical of elements, but seldom given its proper due. See my Who Is This Babylon, for an in-depth study of Paul’s critical eschatological role.
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit and Paul’s Personal Ministry
It is this context, the bringing together of Jew and Gentile in the one body of Christ– a corporate goal– that dominates Paul’s discussion and thought in Ephesians.
Notice that he calls on the Ephesians to “”keep the unity of the Spirit” (4:3), and remember that this “unity” that he has just discussed is the Jew and Gentile oneness and equality. (There is an “already but not yet” “unity of the faith” at work in Paul’s ministry. For more on the already-but-not-yet of NT eschatology, see my YouTube video series). Then, Paul reminds them that “there is one body, one Spirit,” etc.. These are all “corporate” concepts and emphasis, not individualistically focused.
So, when we come to Ephesians 4:8f and we read where Paul says the purpose of the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit was to bring the body (until we all come) to “the unity of the faith” context demands that we honor the corporate nature of the goal and function of those miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit.
There is no focus on the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit to bring individuals to personal spiritual maturity, as suggested by McDurmon. There is no suggestion, no hint idea, that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit would function in the lives of individual Christians during the entirety of Christian age, operating individually, ceasing individually, as particular individuals come to maturity. This flies in the face of the emphatically stated purpose that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were given “to equip the church to do the work of the ministry until we all come...to the unity of the faith.”
As we have noted, since McDurmon agrees that not every Christian was– or is– given the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, and yet, the stated goal was that those gifts were to bring “us all” to the identical and synchronous goal of “the unity of the faith” this is prima facie falsification of his claims. More to come.