Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 14, 1961

Gifts, But Not Miraculous

Weldon E. Warnock, Lawrenceburg, Tenn.

The apostle Paul wrote, "Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men .... And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers .... Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ." (Eph. 4:8-13)

An argument has been made on this passage to show when miraculous gifts ceased. It goes like this: The word "till" in verse 13 is an adverb meaning to a specified time, the unity of the faith means completeness of revelation and gifts mean miraculous gifts such as mentioned in 1 Cor. 12. As the specified time is the completeness of revelation (unity of the faith), and the gifts were given till the completeness of revelation, therefore the miraculous gifts ceased when the New Testament was written.

But Paul isn't speaking about miraculous gifts, but works or 'offices given to men. Verse 11 shows what the gifts were. "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; etc." It doesn't say he gave some gifts unto the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers; but he gave some (that is, men) apostles, prophets, etc. He gave men these offices or functions. Weymouth translates verse 11, "And he himself appointed some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers." Goodspeed reads, "And he has given us some men as apostles, some as prophets, some as missionaries, some as pastors and teachers." Other passages deal with miraculous gifts, but not this one.

Natural Gifts

Gifts are used other places as denoting works. Rom. 12:6-8 is a good example. The passage reads, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity: he that ruleth, with diligence: he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness." The only miraculous gift in this list would he prophecy. The others are natural. Paul calls these "offices" in verse 4. Offices or works are exactly what Jesus gave men in Eph. 4.

The Word "Till"

In verses 13 through 16 Paul is writing about the growth and development of Christians. In verse 13 he is showing that these offices of verse 11 were given to bring ALL Christians to an agreement or oneness of the faith, to the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect or full-grown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Since all Christians never mature, but many are always developing, the word "till" is used. The specified time that till indicates is when ALL Christians reach maturity. But since this doesn't take place, the specified time is never reached.

Paraphrasing, Paul is saying, "Jesus gave some men to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in order that all Christians could develop unto maturity." The apostles and prophets laid the foundation (Eph. 2:20), and revealed the will of God (mystery) by the Spirit. (Eph. 3:5) The evangelists are the proclaimers of the word in order that the church may be extended. The pastors and teachers are provided for the continuation and development of the church.

"No More Children"

In verse 14 the apostle points out that maturity produces deep conviction and a stedfast faith. "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive." Completeness of revelation doesn't keep Christians from being tossed to and fro. Growth and development from a study of God's word does. If completeness of revelation is meant in verse 13, then two things would have to follow. First, Christians before the New Testament was written would be easily tossed to and fro, and, second, Christians after the New Testament was written would be stedfast and unmovable. Who is ready to say this?

The mere fact that Christians have the Bible in their homes doesn't fortify them against deception, but it is a knowledge of the Bible that brings them to full-grown men that prevents being led astray by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness.

No, Paul isn't showing the purpose and duration of miraculous gifts in Eph. 4, but the purposes of natural gifts or offices.