Miraculous Gifts (Part Four)
by Tom Edwards
Did the Gifts Produce Spiritual Maturity?
Many people are of the opinion today that spiritual gifts make a church more mature and greater spiritually, but is this what the Bible suggests?
When I think of churches in the New Testament that abounded in spiritual gifts, the church in Corinth is the first one that comes to my mind. However, it must be also pointed out that this church had problems galore and truly lacked in spiritual development: in chapter one, division existed among them; chapter five shows that they even allowed one of their members to be guilty of incest, without using discipline or showing even the slightest compunction toward the fornicator; chapter six, they weren't even wise enough to settle their own matters, but were taking each other to court to be judged by unbelievers; 1 Corinthians 4:7 seems to imply that they were puffed up over their miraculous gifts and acted as if they were naturally born with them and did not give God the credit as being the bestower; they had corrupted the Lord's supper in chapter 11 by making a common meal out of it; notice especially 1 Corinthians 3:1-3: "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to babes in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?" This makes it evident that just because one had miraculous gifts, does not necessarily indicate that he would also be spiritually mature. This is because, though one was inspired by the Spirit of God, one still had no more power to obey that message than you or I have. Paul was well-gifted. The things he taught he learned not from men, but rather from God Himself. Yet he still realized that even he could be lost if he did not obey that message (1 Cor. 9:26,27). What served to make God's people spiritual, mature and complete was not the gifts themselves, but what many of the gifts could produce -- the word of God! This is all that people need today in order to "grow in the grace and knowledge" (2 Pet. 3:18) of Jesus Christ. The young Christian is exhorted in 1 Peter 2:2 to "long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation." Pulpit commentary makes the following remark:
The Greater Gifts
"Sometimes we are prone to regret that what we call the `extraordinary gifts' of the Church have ceased (v. 8); but if instead of losing these we had lost the others, how infinitely impoverished we should have become! Faith, hope, love: these are sufficient for all our present needs. Miraculous gifts ceased because it was best for them to cease. They were suited to the infancy of the Church; but the necessity for them having passed away, they have disappeared. The...gifts of faith, hope, and love abide evermore with the Church in this world."
These are the gifts that we must strive to develop -- faith, hope, love, and all the wonderful fruit of the Spirit. Today, it is possible to accomplish this as we make God's word a part of our lives, allowing its teachings to mold us into being more like God's perfect Son, Jesus Christ.
The beginning of the church is quite like the beginning of creation -- God began it with a miracle! Human beings, flowers, trees, the animal kingdom, plant life, sea life, the birds of the sky, etc., all originated by God merely speaking them into existence.
Though the Lord caused these different forms of life to begin miraculously, He also made it possible for each of them to continue through a natural order.
The church, too, began through a miracle (Acts 2:1-4): The soul-saving power of the gospel had been supernaturally imparted to the apostles, but now the church can continue to grow by those who will simply hear God's word and submit to it by their obedience.