My view of the entire subject does not fall into either standard camp. I think both sides of the camp represent two Biblical emphases but fall short of properly respecting the other aspect. I realize as I prepare I can’t answer my own question without writing a small book, so I will limit to a very high ‘top-10’ level and may later post my own personal beliefs about what each gift actually means against someone else’s question. If I can’t find a suitable one, I will raise another question for a storage location.
Top Ten Observations:
-1- People in the Old Testament already had the Holy Spirit by faith in Messiah and some were also ‘clothed’ with an ‘unusual external empowerment’ that went beyond a normal internal experience by faith and holiness. For example, the Prophets when they prophesied did so by ‘gifts of the Holy Spirit’. When Samson slew scores of Philistines single handed with a jaw bone, it was the Holy Spirit that fell upon Him and gave him a gift of unusual strength.
-2- The prophecy in Joel 2:28 concerning the times of Messiah was that this ‘unusual outpouring’ of the Holy Spirit in an ‘external manner’ would no longer be experienced by a special few but be given out liberally to everyone. This was Christ ‘coming in power in His kingdom’ (Mark 9:1). After being exalted into heaven Christ returned in power in ACTS Chapter 2. This was in one sense a single instance and in another sense a ‘repeated event’ throughout ACTS apparent to anyone who has read it.
-3- Extraordinary miracles attended the forming of the Old Covenant under Moses. These attended miracles partly validate the writings of the associated scriptures that were established at this time, upon which the covenant is continually supported by afterwards. Those miracles did largely cease after the covenant was established indicating that there purpose was partially in the establishment of a great covenant from God.
-4- Not all ‘extraordinary miracles’ ceased after the death of Moses until the coming of Christ, making complete cessation not a traditional biblical principle. There is no reason to assume that from the time of Christ first coming until His second that there will be no similar miracles. This is entirely unwarranted from proper scriptural exegesis.
-5- During the ministry of Jesus the Christ it hardly seems proper that any disease, or demon possession should go without cure, as he was ‘life ‘and the guarantee of the final heavenly state of paradise, where their will be no suffering or tears (revelation 21:4). Furthermore, it was necessary that His words should be established above all (John 10:38).
-6- After Christ returned in power in His kingdom He established his new church through the Apostles and early believers with the most unusual amount of miraculous gifts ever to have been recorded in all history. Just as during the establishment of Old Covenant, this New Covenant was established and God’s associated words of the covenant written in scripture for future generations under divine attestation of those miraculous powers.
-7- Miracles from God were not fake things in secret closets but ‘public manifestations’ that none could deny, without attributing them to the Devil or some other cause. For example, if God were to heal someone today for the purpose of drawing attention to the gospel (which most, arguably all, miracles in the Bible were accomplished for) people publicly deformed like blind famous singers, or paralyzed famous scientists would be healed and every news station in the world would be lit ablaze with the story, causing many to take interest in the persons that seemed involved and what they were teaching. I have not seen this in the news recently, so I remain skeptical about any fantastically miraculous healing, etc. The burden of proof is on God. I do not doubt that He might help healing people through direct involvement and with the support of medicine and surgery, etc., but we must not despise God’s normal way of miraculously supporting us, from his abnormal extraordinary ways.
-8- If you carefully read ACTS, Christ visited groups in power more than once and that some people who were in the house that ‘shook’ may have also been among other groups to receive this outpouring again, at least Peter would have been in more than one group.. Remember individually everyone had the Spirit when they believed and I am talking about an external extra ordinary outpouring of the Spirit, not regeneration and new birth. Even Abraham, etc. had the Spirit in ever sense of the word before ACTS, just to a lesser degree.
-9- History has recorded that Christ has, for some reason known to Him alone, visited certain churches in power making them overturn the world, or on a smaller scale their local community for Christ in an unusual manner. We generally refer to these phenomena as Revival, and like a tornado landing, swirling and then quickly leaving; these revivals suddenly came and suddenly stopped without any holiness or sinfulness of the people involved that would imply men can pull heaven down to earth regardless of Christ’ sovereign will. The reformation and the next couple hundred years after seems to have been the time of the greatest occurrences of these outpourings since the times of the apostles to our own time and although many gifts of the spirit such as faith, discerning of spirits, etc. were present in those times, healing, miraculous tongues, raising the dead were not accompanied with this period. I do not imply that under these sovereign chosen times of blessing individual responses did not have bearing on individual experience of those blessing as Jesus often did not heal a lot among people without faith.
-10- It is predicted (in some sense) that the Devil does or will ‘deceive the nations’ through false displays of God’s miraculous power, or ‘fake gifts of the Spirit’, therefore we must be very suspicious, test and try the spirits to see whether the doctrines of those claiming such activity holds to the strict truths of the gospel. (Revelation 13:13, 20:8) I somehow doubt that the Devil will be proposing faith in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins according to orthodox doctrine when he goes about deceiving the nations. This is where critics of the charismatic movement in some way act as a blessing, for in some respects each denomination is another limb of Christ’s body to battle the Devil on earth. We sometimes overestimate the divisions we have created. I have met many believers impressively filled with the Spirit, who believed in total cessation. I have also met many charismatic pastors who seemed not to have the first clue about the power of the Holy Spirit.
Although I am not a dispensationalist, I think before Christ returns we may have an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that approximates to, or even exceeds those extraordinary miracles in Acts. I believe this in relation to my traditional interpretation of Romans 11:15 to infer that the greater part of Israel as a nation will one day convert to Christianity and this will cause the greatest revival the world has ever witnessed. Although it is possible that extraordinary miracles will not be needed at this time as the event in itself would be staggering. My views of Revelation are not currently established but I sense this great ‘end of days’ revival to be a long precursor of a sudden quick apostasy, so that when Christ returns there will be few believers left. (Mathew 24:37)
Yes, the gifts are still active but God chooses which ones, and at what times. When they are manifested they are not ‘spurious claims ‘but accompanied with real convincing power extending God’s kingdom on earth and bringing attention to the doctrine of Christ and his gospel. A revival that brings attention to the Spirit is not biblical; the attention must proceed to Christ alone.