Miraculous Gifts -- Their Temporary Nature (Part Two)
by Tom Edwards
Continuing on the theme of the temporary nature of miraculous gifts, we shall begin our consideration with a passage from 1 Corinthians 13:8; which states: "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge (supernatural knowledge, T.E.), it will be done away." Unquestionably, the gifts were temporary. But does the Bible make any indication or statement as to when they were to cease? The answer is an unequivocal "yes"; and these proofs are located in a plurality of passages. One such informative verse is 1 Corinthians 13:10 in which Paul shows that the duration of miraculous gifts was to continue only until the time "when that which is perfect is come." In view of this, we must ask ourselves the following question....
What is the "perfect" Paul speaks of that was not present then, but later would be? Many sincere people today believe that it has reference to Jesus Christ at His second coming, but verses 9 and 10 indicate that whatever it was that they then had "in part" they would one day have in "whole"; and then the "partial" would have been made perfect by the completion. Therefore, this "partial" they already had was part of the "perfect" that was to come. Certainly, we would never say that there has been a time when Jesus was only partially on this earth, and the world had to wait for the rest of Him to arrive. Concerning this, Gary Workman states the following:
"There are some who assume 'that which is perfect' can only come at the end of the world. So it has been suggested that Jesus, when he comes again, is 'that which is perfect.' An examination of the Greek in 1 Corinthians 13:10 will reveal that this cannot be true, for it is a neuter article which modifies the adjective 'perfect' and which tells us that 'perfect' is also neuter. Jesus Christ is masculine and is always referred to by masculine terms. He is never spoken of as a thing but as a person. He is a 'he who,' not a 'that which.' So 'that which is perfect' cannot be Jesus or any other person."
The pronoun "who" always refers to a person; "that," however, can be used with reference to either a person or a thing; but the pronoun "which" can never be used to indicate a person, but only a thing. It would not be correct to say, "John, which is the best player on the team, made twelve baskets during the game." Rather, we could say, "John, who is the best player...." Knowing this grammatical rule helps us to better interpret the above passage.
Reading from the New American Standard: "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away" (1 Cor. 13:9,10). The prophesying was done little by little. Gradually, more and more pieces to God's gospel puzzle were carefully being set in place. As time progressed, the incomplete picture of God's word finally reached the culmination of its complete scene. Now man can no longer refer to it as "in part," "partial," etc., for it has been fully delivered to him.
More on the Duration of the Gifts
After Paul makes mention of "when that which is perfect is come," he then speaks in 1 Corinthians 13:13 of the time that would follow, by saying: "But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." We can infer from this text that after the termination of miraculous gifts, faith, hope, and love would still continue. Many commentators realize this, but make the mistake when they put faith and hope in heaven. This they are forced to do because of their misconception that miraculous gifts are to last until Christ returns. Romans 8:24,25, however, refutes this concept by stating that "hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees"; and the Hebrew writer defines faith in Hebrews 11:1 as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." When the faithful child of God finally reaches his glorious destination of heaven, he will no longer have to believe that it is or earnestly hope for it; for hope and faith will be swallowed up by sight.
Macknight also expresses this thought by saying: "The clause 'now abideth,' implies that the graces spoken of are not always to abide; at least the graces of faith and hope. For seeing 'faith is the persuasion of things hoped for,' Heb. 11:1 and 'hope that is seen is not hope,' Rom. 8:24, in heaven, where all the objects of our faith and hope are put in our possession, there can be no place for either. It is quite otherwise with love. The objects of love exist in the greatest perfection in heaven, and will exist there forever; so that love will burn in that world, with a delightful warmth and brightness, to all eternity."
Defining the "Perfect"
The "that which is perfect" in verse 10 is the completed revelation of God's word, which would direct every soul in the way of righteousness. One of the purposes for miraculous gifts was in order that man could receive and know God's divine revelation; and as we have seen, this was revealed gradually and not all at once. However, when it was finally all given to completion there would be no longer any need for more revelations. Now it is up to man to believe and obey the inspired word. James refers to it as "the perfect law of liberty" (James 1:25), and Peter declares that they had "everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him" (2 Pet. 1:3). Paul shows that the gospel has all that we need to be perfect and thoroughly furnished unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:16,17). This indicates why all "latter day revelations," such as those by Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, are unscriptural and without the authority of God. The Lord's word has been "once and for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3), and it is found in the New Testament. If a man today would go beyond the things which are written in the Scriptures, he would no longer have God and would be accursed (2 Jn. 9: Gal. 1:6-10). We do not have the right to add or take away from God's perfect revelation which has been graciously and miraculously given by the special workings of the Holy Spirit. Because of this Divine Imparting, we now have the message of God's word that can help all mankind see the way that leads to heaven above.