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In first Corinthians and other places, there is a lot of talk about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. For example:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (NIV 1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.(Romans 12:6-8)

Were these gifts just for those early Christians, or are some or all of them still active in some churches today? If only some how can we tell which ones?

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There's a lot of debate on this question, and I doubt you'll find agreement. There's absolutely no cross-denominational 100% accepted answer to this. Of course, there is a truth about it, but what that truth is isn't agreed upon. I don't know that this is answerable according to the site guidelines in its present form. But darn it, it's a good question. –  David Stratton Jul 5 '12 at 12:05
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Possible duplicate: What is the basis for Cessationism? –  Eric Jul 5 '12 at 12:15
    
See cessationism –  Affable Geek Jul 5 '12 at 13:39
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5 Answers

Spiritual gifts are an important part of Latter-Day Saint theology. In the Articles of Faith, (a simple set of beliefs written by Joseph Smith to describe LDS theology to a journalist, which was later accepted by the church as a canonical description of basic beliefs,) we find:

7 We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.

And in fact, the Book of Mormon takes it a step further, asserting that such gifts are not only present, but necessary:

27 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased because Christ hath ascended into heaven, and hath sat down on the right hand of God, to claim of the Father his rights of mercy which he hath upon the children of men?

28 For he hath answered the ends of the law, and he claimeth all those who have faith in him; and they who have faith in him will cleave unto every good thing; wherefore he advocateth the cause of the children of men; and he dwelleth eternally in the heavens.

29 And because he hath done this, my beloved brethren, have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men.

...

35 And now, my beloved brethren, if this be the case that these things are true which I have spoken unto you, and God will show unto you, with power and great glory at the last day, that they are true, and if they are true has the day of miracles ceased?

36 Or have angels ceased to appear unto the children of men? Or has he withheld the power of the Holy Ghost from them? Or will he, so long as time shall last, or the earth shall stand, or there shall be one man upon the face thereof to be saved?

37 Behold I say unto you, Nay; for it is by faith that miracles are wrought; and it is by faith that angels appear and minister unto men; wherefore, if these things have ceased wo be unto the children of men, for it is because of unbelief, and all is vain.

38 For no man can be saved, according to the words of Christ, save they shall have faith in his name; wherefore, if these things have ceased, then has faith ceased also; and awful is the state of man, for they are as though there had been no redemption made.

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Its important to point out that some of the gifts listed are an essential part of Christian life. Faith, for example, is essential to all Christians and there is no question that it is, and should be, active today. Likewise wisdom. The only controversy is the 'supernatural' gifts (which are often called 'charismata'), so I'll restrict the rest of the answer to them.

There are differing opinions within Christianity about this. While there are variants of belief, most Christians fall into one of three camps.

  1. Yes absolutely, and Christians today should be exercising these gifts. All the promises made by Jesus about miracles, and all the things that Paul and other writers said about the Gifts of the Spirit are still applicable today. However God does not give gifts indiscriminately, and not everyone gets any particular gift. Denominations that believe this sometimes also believe in a 'second experience', the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, which comes after conversion and which these gifts are associated with. Some denominations believe that every Christian is given the Gift of Tongues as a witness of their true conversion. For Pentecostals the view that supernatural gifts are for widespread use today is virtually a defining belief. This view can also be held by groups or individuals within denominations that don't officially hold it. Those that subscribe to this view are often called 'Charismatics'.
  2. Yes, but the supernatural gifts are now very rare. This is the official view of many denominations, including Catholics. Such denominations do not encourage the practice of supernatural gifts, but do not necessarily condemn them either.
  3. Absolutely not. The gifts of the Spirit were for a limited time in order to act as a witness to the truth of the Gospel and draw people to the early church. In most cases it is believed that the supernatural gifts died out either with the end of the Apostolic age, or with the definition of the Biblical canon. The witness to the truth of the Christian message is now provided by the Bible, without the need for supernatural evidence.

Many denominations take no view one way or another, and different people within them can hold either view. Many Christians also hold a "not really sure" view, or the pragmatic view that the Gifts of the Spirit can be manifested in modern times, but we're not really going to focus on them.

Some arguments

The chief argument in favour of the Gifts of the Spirit being for all time is the fact that the NT writers just assume the normalcy of supernatural events in the life of the church. There is no clear indication from the writers that these gifts are for a limited time. On the other hand the epistles particularly were written to specific groups at specific times. Paul may not have seen the need to point out to his readers (if he had thought it true) that these gifts would cease in a few hundred years. The one Bible passage that does talk about the far future (Acts 2:38-39) is clearly talking about the Spirit himself, and not about any of his gifts. The Spirit might well fulfil that promise by continuing to be present, without giving supernatural gift.

Likewise the chief argument for the cessation of the gifts is simply their absence. The supernatural events we find considered commonplace in NT times do not occur with anything like the frequency only a few hundred years later. Nor do we find any writers who lament this state of affairs and wish for the return to the days when tongues and miracles were commonplace. The church experienced some of its most rapid growth in that time, without the need for widespread supernatural events.

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I will hold you to your own standard. It isn't enough to mention "others probably disagree" when you're posting something as strong as this. The only think keeping you from creating a false dichotomy is your first sentence (which makes no attempt to explain why it is so). –  San Jacinto Jul 5 '12 at 20:55
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Short Answer: There are all sorts of opinions on this topic, but I will present what I believe to be the most clear and coherent argument - from Scripture, logic, history, and observation - which is that the gifts have always been "offered", but not always "accepted". Thus, it can be seen that both the cessationist and non-cessationist views are built upon some truth: the former, historical; the latter, doctrinal.

I grew up in conservative churches (Nazarene, etc.), got "saved" and "baptized in the Spirit" in a Latter-Rain Movement church, spent some time in an Assemblies of God church, and am currently serving in ministry at a Baptist church. I have heard, accepted, and believed each of the major positions at various points, and now feel that I understand the topic well enough to make a claim about the truth.

Scriptural Groundwork

First, "receiving the Holy Spirit" is the same as "the baptism in the Holy Spirit." (See here for full justification.) As such, there are not two classes of Christians (the "saved" and the "charismatic"); if you are born again, you have been baptized in the Spirit.

Second, this baptism is a promise to all believers for all time:

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” -Acts 2:38-39

This passage is in the context of an explanation of the "baptism" of Acts 2, not the isolated (and often misinterpreted) statement of John 20:22.

Third, the gifts are given according to the will of the Spirit, and are exercised according to the obedience of the individual. That is to say, if you don't speak in tongues (for instance), either the Spirit hasn't given you that gift, or you aren't walking in it.

Fourth, the gifts did "cease" (as far as we can tell) after the time of the Apostles. There may be exceptions, but let's face it, the scene in Acts was not the scene in AD 500.

  • However, it would not be correct to say that "because the gifts ceased, it must have been because God wanted them to cease." That's just bad logic.

  • It would also not be correct to say that "because the gifts ceased, they are not for today." It is entirely possible that the gifts are not in widespread operation today because modern Christians are unwilling to step out and look like a fool (by claiming to have a message from God, for example.)

A More Subjective Argument

To argue that "the Spiritual gifts are not for us today", one would have to show that the Spirit does not want believers to move in these gifts today. Since the gifts were given to empower the church for ministry, build the church, and edify the church, I think it is strange to argue that they were only needed during the time of the Apostles; the job is not yet complete! We still need His help! The argument becomes stranger when we consider that there is not a single passage of Scripture to support this! If we were to just look at Scripture, and ignore history for a moment, it would seem clear the gifts were intended for every generation.

The confusion comes in when we look at history and ask "why to they appear to have ceased?"

  • Some claim that God didn't want them in operation anymore, but this argument is unfounded.

  • The alternative is: the church began to reject the gifts of the Spirit - or at least, those gifts which were most uncomfortable! (People generally don't claim that "teaching" or "evangelism" or "exhortation" has ceased... but when it comes to "healings" or "tongues" or "prophecy" they get nervous.)

With all of that "reasoning" aside, I can testify personally to the fact that all of the gifts are in operation today, but are not in widespread operation. There are some who give themselves over to the Spirit when He leads them to lay hands on a person for healing; some who will prophesy; some who will give with liberality. But let's face it - this stuff is 100% rejected by modern post-Enlightenment (humanist) thinking. It's not "science" so it can't be true. But it is true.

However, I can also testify that there are many "charismatic" things going on that are driven more by emotion and mimicry than the Spirit. If a "prophecy" about the future doesn't come true, it wasn't coming from a "Spiritual gift" in the first place. If a person can "pray in tongues" before they are even in relationship with God, it wasn't coming from a "Spiritual gift". (Not to mention some of the made-up gifts modern churches have invented.)

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@Jas3.1 +1. If you know your own tradition well and are speaking from it, then you get a +1 from me, even if I may disagree with you. All of this nonsense about needing to post answers describing several angles of doctrine with which one disagrees is silly. –  San Jacinto Jul 5 '12 at 20:52
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@DJClayworth Could you explain to me, in meta or some other message, how what you claim as "the point of the site" is in concert with the faq, specifically regarding "Answers are to be judged based on how well they represent the specific view or tradition they claim to speak for, not whether or not you agree with that position." –  San Jacinto Jul 5 '12 at 22:48
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(+1) You explained a balanced common charasmatic view well. I think it was your honest thougjts after much bible study and thinking about perplexing issues. That's the most this site can hope for. –  Mike Jul 6 '12 at 0:02
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@DJClayworth we aren't trying to generalize Christianity (the scope of this site really doesn't allow for that). The original idea for trying to scope answers was to have the question lay out the doctrinal scope. Since this question does not do this, then answers should identify their position. It's somewhat unreasonable to ask answerers to illuminate all positions. However (and I think this is the key) a number of answers that all separately cover doctrinal POVs leaves open the possibility of a single authoritative answer that covers all positions. –  wax eagle Jul 6 '12 at 11:50
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@DJClayworth no need for that. Every answer should be evaluated on it's own merits. Best case scenario is the complete answer getting the check mark, but we can't enforce that. I'm not going to tell people how to vote, that's up to them –  wax eagle Jul 6 '12 at 12:37
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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.

Future Expectation:

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)

Conclusion:

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.

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"Miracles from God were not fake things in secret closets but ‘public manifestations’ that none could deny" That's certainly not the case of all the miracles Jesus did. –  DJClayworth Jul 6 '12 at 14:30
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Unfortunately I have witnessed much abuse of these miraculous gifts and and they tend to bring down the body rather that uplift them. The interpretations of what they are only offer confusion and we never really have a clear definition or current real life example of the true operation of them. I also think it causes many to chase the spiritual manifestations and neglect Jesus Christ and His Truth. They remain immature in their thinking and never grow into a mature believer in Christ. There are also many who operate in these gifts who are deceivers and who are unsaved. These gifts if given for today would operate in the same way as in the beginning. I believe we would be able to discern the true from the false because they would be absolutely the real deal. If God wanted us to operate in these we would be given them instead looking for them. We would know how they operate because it would be clear and no confusion would be present. Too many twist scripture to give themselves biblical permission to bring so much confusion and deceptive teaching into the body. Hurting people come expecting God to heal them and they give their money for a chance at healing and then what they do leave with is something...an experience. They hear tongues praying(no interpretation), prophets prophesying healing and hands on them with what seems shocks and waves of healing going through them. They feel like they have been with God and God has touch them. But their sickness remains, they go home in their wheel chairs, some end up dying. But some continue to come back because they feel in love with the experience. They are offered hope that God just may heal them if they keep their faith or have enough faith and they keep coming and keep paying. Its like a lottery. "Will I be the winner this time?" These types of experiences are very powerful and can overshadow the truth of what is happening. Its very sad. Who would not want God to work in this world like in Acts but sadly it seems to be only an imitation.

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