Spiritual Gifts

Here are some excellent position papers presented by Valley Bible Church.

Healing          Prophecy          Tongues


The temporary nature of some spiritual gifts - 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.

Some have suggested that the temporary gifts are not temporary, but rather permanent, and are in use today.  To support this position, these individuals often cite Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  The problem with this position is that these individuals are taking the Lord’s immutability - an attribute of Deity - and are applying it to spiritual gifts.  They question how the unchangeable God can give something that is only temporary.  However, they fail to recognize that the Lord frequently uses temporary things to carry out His will.  For example, the judges of Israel - between the time of Joshua and the kings - were only temporary.  The Law of Moses was only temporary - it was fulfilled in Christ.  We are no longer under law, but under grace.  The very fact that the spiritual gifts had a beginning would also indicate that the Lord brought them into existence for a specific purpose and when that purpose was accomplished, He removed them.  There is nothing to indicate that all of the spiritual gifts are permanent - such is a misplaced assumption.

8  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, it will be done away.
  • Prophecy - A foundational gift.  Also includes - Apostles.
  • Knowledge - A revelatory gift.  Also includes - Wisdom, distinguishing of spirits.
  • Tongues - A confirmatory gift.  Also includes - Healings, miracles, interpretation of tongues.
Paul could have cited all of the foundational, revelatory, and confirmatory gifts had he so desired.  However, it seems apparent that he selected one from each category with which to illustrate the point he is about to make regarding the temporary nature of these particular gifts.  These gifts which Paul cites are representative gifts - they represent their various categories.

The foundational gifts, the revelatory gifts, and the confirmatory gifts would eventually cease and be done away.

9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

Note - the word part in this verse and the word partial in verse 10 are the same Greek word (μέρος) [3313].  This word indicates a part or portion, as opposed to the whole - John 19:23.  Acts 5:2.  Romans 11:25.  Revelation 16:19.

The revelatory gifts and the foundational gifts are partial - they don’t provide the whole picture - they only give bits and pieces at any one time.

10  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

Spiritual gifts will be done away.  When?  At the arrival of the perfect.  When the perfect comes, then the partial gifts (revelatory and foundational) will be done away.  In addition, since the foundational and revelatory gifts are done away, then so also will the gifts which confirmed them be done away (confirmatory gifts).

The interpretation of verses 8-10 hinges on what the perfect is.

Perfect = τέλειος [5046] - The translation of this word varies, depending on the context –
  • Perfect - Matthew 5:48.  Romans 12:2.  Hebrews 9:11.  James 1:17, 25.  1 John 4:18.
  • Mature - 1 Corinthians 2:6;  14:20.  Ephesians 4:13.  Hebrews 5:14.
  • Complete - Matthew 19:21 and Colossians 1:28.
      Consider - τελέω [5055] - John 19:30 - It is finished.

      Note that τέλειος and  τελέω are both from the same root - τέλος [5056].

From the context, is perfect the best translation of τέλειος?  To answer this question, we must consider what Paul is contrasting - Perfect and imperfect?  Mature and immature?  Complete and incomplete (partial)?  The references in verses 9 and 10 to partial would indicate that Paul is contrasting that which is partial and incomplete with what is complete.  Therefore, perfect is not the best translation, but rather complete.

The question now becomes - To what does the complete refer?  Two possibilities have been put forward to answer this question -
  • The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the subsequent eternal state?  This possibility is based primarily on the translation of τέλειος as perfect.
  • The completed Word of God?  This possibility is based primarily on the translation of τέλειος as complete.
To answer this question, we must consider the grammatical construction that Paul is using - τό τέλειον - Accusative, singular, neuter, adjective.  A neuter adjective must be describing a neuter noun.
  • The coming of the Lord Jesus Christ and the subsequent eternal state?
    • The Lord Jesus Christ (masculine).
    • The day of eternity (αἰών) (masculine) [2 Peter 3:18].
    • The new heaven (οὐρανός) (masculine) [Revelation 21:1]. 
    • The coming (παρουσία) (feminine) of the Lord Jesus [1 Thessalonians 4:15].
    • Thus, if Paul were speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ or His coming or heaven or eternity, then he would have used either a masculine or a feminine adjective - not a neuter adjective.
    • Note - When the Lord Jesus Christ returns and we are with Him in heaven, all of the spiritual gifts will cease and be done away, not just some.  The purpose of the gifts is to reveal, confirm, build, and edify.  When we are with Him in glory, none of these things will be necessary.
  •  The completed Word of God? 
    • Ephesians 5:26 - Washing of water with the word (ῥημα) (neuter). 
    • Ephesians 6:17 - The sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (ῥημα) (neuter).
    • It seems very possible and plausible that the neuter noun to which Paul is referring when using the neuter adjective τό τέλειον is the completed Word of God.
Note - It is important to remember which gifts Paul singles out to be done away - they are the revelatory gifts and the foundational gifts which would no longer be necessary when the revelation of the Word of God is completed.  In addition, the confirmatory gifts will also cease when the revelation of the Word of God is completed because there would no longer be any need to confirm the validity and truthfulness of the message, one can simply search the completed Word of God.  In other words, once the foundation has been laid and the Word given and confirmed, then those gifts which brought about those things would no longer be necessary.

If one wishes to keep the translation perfect, then it would still refer to the Word of God (Psalm 19:7-11).

1 Corinthians 13:11-12.

11  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.
12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

Notice the contrasts in these two verses - Child verses Man ... Now verses Then.  In other words, the Child is the Now state of things;  whereas, the Man will be the Then state of things.  Notice that the now and then are from Paul’s perspective.

To what does Child ... Now refer?  A reference to the time prior to the coming of the complete.
  • Child ... Now – Speak ... think ... reason like a child - Perhaps a reference to the spiritual gifts mentioned in this chapter - These gifts were only partial, much like the speech, thinking, and reasoning of a child.  There is an incompleteness and immaturity involved.
  •  Now we see in a mirror dimly ... now I know in part -
    • The mirror is used in Scripture as a reference to the Word of God - James 1:22-25.
    • Dimly – αἴνιγμα [135] (from which we get our English word enigma).  Used in the LXX in Numbers 12:8 and translated as dark sayings.
    • Prior to the completion of the Word of God, our knowledge was incomplete and partial, dim and shadowy (Hebrews 10:1 [8:13].  Colossians 2:16-17.  1 Peter 1:10-12).
To what does Man ... Then refer?  A reference to the time after the coming of the complete.
  • Man ... Then - The childish things are put away.  Note - done away (καταργέω [2673]) is the same word used in verse 8 with reference to the revelatory gifts and the foundational gifts.
  • Then face to face ... then I will know fully - Once the Word of God is completed, knowledge will be complete and clear - Knowledge not only of the mysteries of God (1 Peter 1:10-12 [Romans 16:25.  1 Corinthians 2:7;  4:1.  Ephesians 1:9;  3:3-10;  6:19.  Colossians 1:26-27]), but a knowledge of ourselves (Hebrews 4:12).
  • Face to face - Consider - Genesis 32:30.  Exodus 33:11.  Numbers 12:8 (mouth to mouth ... openly).  The complete revelation of the Word of God is akin to us seeing God and having Him speak to us face to face.
  • Just as I also have been fully known - Consider - Deuteronomy 34:10.  John 10:14.