Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 24, 1959

The Meaning Of Spiritual Gifts

James A. Allen, Nashville, Tennessee

The Christian religion began miraculously. The establishment of the church was a miracle. The preaching of the first gospel sermon was a miracle. After giving the great commission to his apostles, Jesus commanded them to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would miraculously guide them in teaching and preaching. "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:49.)

"And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:1-4.) This was a wonderful miracle. Jesus commanded the apostles to teach all the nations Thus they were empowered to speak the many languages of all the nations. When the multitude, who had come from seventeen different nations, assembled, they were amazed to hear twelve men speaking "in our own language the wonderful works of God." There was no disorder and no confusion of any kind. It was the antithesis of a holy-roller, mumbo-jumbo spectacle. Every thing was "done decently and in order." Not a word was spoken but was understood by them to whom it was spoken. Finally, Peter, "standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice," and preached the first gospel sermon.

Now, we point out that what passed away, when the apostles finished revealing the Christian religion "once for all," was that which was miraculous. The miracle of delivery ceased when it was finished and passed away. The things that were preached miraculously did not pass away when the miraculous delivery was finished and ceased, but remained for the guidance of the whole world unto the end of time. The precedent, or the example miraculously set by the inspired men in preaching them, and also in practicing them, did not pass away, but remained to be followed by all who are guided by divine inspiration. Only the miraculous delivery and confirmation ceased when "all things", "all the truth", was completely and fully revealed and confirmed. The things revealed, and the way in which the things revealed were taught, preached and practiced, remain as the precept and the precedent for all to teach and practice.

From the day of Pentecost, when the church was established, until the apostles, as they were miraculously guided by the Holy Spirit, finished delivering the complete and full revelation, and completed and closed the Bible canon, we have the infancy of the church. "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I snake as a child: I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Cor. 13:9-12.) The infancy and childhood of the church was during the miraculous age in which inspired men were revealing the teaching of Jesus The revelation of the Christian religion was "in part" until the last inspired man ceased to speak "as the Spirit gave him utterance." "That which is perfect" was the completed, finished, perfect revelation of the Christian religion. It was the completion of the books of the Bible and the close of the Bible canon. All miraculous inspiration from the close of the Bible canon until the end of time is in the Bible. The inspired men now do their work through the Bible. The Spirit speaks to men and women through the Bible, and in no other way. All claims to communications from the Holy Spirit today, outside of the Bible, are a rejection of the Bible as the full, complete and perfect revelation from God to man.

Indeed, the things that the apostles were miraculously guided to tell sinners to do to be saved are bound in heaven and on earth "unto the end of the world." "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 18:18.) The things they commanded, or "bound", were commanded and "bound" miraculously. The miracle ceased, but the things "bound" miraculously remain. The example, or precedent, that the apostles were miraculously guided to set, or "bind", in teaching, preaching and evangelizing remains for the guidance of all Christians for all time. They are "bound" in heaven and on earth. The miracle ceased but the miraculous guidance remains. It is "bound." From the death of the last inspired man the miraculous guidance is in the Bible.

It must also be remembered that the apostles were divinely, or miraculously, guided by the Holy Spirit in setting the churches in order and in giving them the ordinances of divine service. The apostolic order of things in the church was thus delivered miraculously. It was "bound" on earth and in heaven and remains for the guidance of all churches until the coming of the Lord. The miracle of its delivery ceased when it was completely delivered, but it remains and is taught by the apostles in the Bible today.

The procedure, then, of inspired men, in establishing new churches, and in setting them in order, as recorded by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament for the guidance of all, is most instructive and edifying. New churches were started by the apostles all over the world simply by preaching the gospel. Nothing else is in order. When men and women, in any locality, hear the gospel and obey it, there is a new church. With a new church just established, the inspired man or men did not set down to stay with it. They started the new church off properly, taught them to live soberly, righteously and godly, gave them the ordinances of divine service, and then got out of the way to let them grow by doing their own work. "And some days after, Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the Word of the Lord, and see how they do. (Acts 15:36.)

We thus approach "the meaning of spiritual gifts."

Teaching is one of the five ordinances of divine service that were ordained in the church by the apostles. A church is what it is taught to be. It cannot grow and develop without teaching. Improper teaching, like improper eating physically, is injurious and deadly. All the teaching that is done in the church must be from God. It must come through miraculous or divine inspiration. It must be the teaching of inspired men, who spoke "as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Acts 2:4.) Otherwise it could not be the Word of God and those guided by it would not be walking "by faith" but would be doing things that are sinful.

Before the New Testament was written, before the "apostles teaching" was committed to writing, the apostles, having started a new church by preaching the gospel, were empowered to bestow spiritual gifts upon the members to guide them until they could have the New Testament to so do. "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one man is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gift of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues but all these worketh that one and the self-same Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ." (1 Cor. 12:7-12.)

There is much said in the New Testament on spiritual gifts and their place in the work of the New Testament church. Of course, they were miraculous, just as the preaching of first principles, and the setting the church in order, "in the beginning of the gospel," and also as the writing of the New Testament was miraculous. But it must be remembered that the things preached miraculously, and the procedure, the precedent, or example, that was set miraculously, remained after the miracle of delivery ceased for the guidance of every one until the end of time. The miracle passed, but the teaching and example set "once for all" did not, and remains for the churches to pattern after today.

The spiritual gifts and the use of them were both miraculous. Prophesying, or teaching by divine inspiration, was a miracle, just as speaking with tongues, or healing the sick. Paul shows that the brother who prophesies or teaches does more good than the brother who speaks with tongues, "except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying." (1 Cor. 14:5.) "But covet earnestly the best gifts; and yet show I unto you a more excellent way" (1 Cor. 12:31.) The full revelation, the completed New Testament, is "the more excellent way." Every Christian with the New Testament in his hands has every thing, "all the truth", delivered by all divine revelation.

One of the many things we learn from "the meaning of spiritual gifts" is that every brother in the church should take a public, part from time to time, when "the whole church be come together into one place." In the infancy of the church, while they had spiritual gifts, before the New Testament was written, Paul said: "For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted." (1 Cor. 14:31.) The apostles ordained that the brethren in the church, each one with a spiritual gift, do their own teaching, edifying and exhorting. This is the precept and the precedent that all churches must pattern after. With the completion of the full and finished revelation, with the completion of the New Testament, which is "the more excellent way," and the passing of the temporary spiritual gifts, which were "in part", every brother in the church with the New Testament in his hands, in his own language, wherein he was born, has "all things that pertain to life and godliness." If he is too weak and incompetent to present a single thought on it, he at least can read a few verses, which, after all, is the best preaching. Every Christian is commanded, "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom." (Col. 3:16.) Any one full of the Word of Christ is a good teacher and preacher. All Christians are commanded to so be.

But what will the preachers do? Is that not really absurd? What a glorious thing it would be if preachers were freed from having to do what they ought not to be doing in the first place, and could give their whole time to teaching, preaching and talking, "publicly, and from house to house." It would electrify and revolutionize any neighborhood, and many would obey the gospel. And of course the preachers should be paid, and paid well. Every one who loves the gospel and who realizes that without obedience to the gospel people are lost, rejoices to contribute, and to contribute liberally, to the support of those who are preaching it. The only man they feel any reluctance in supporting is the preacher who spends a mere minimum of his time in preaching and draws a second large salary for teaching in a college. They rejoice to give, and to give liberally, to sustain those grand and good men who are really giving their time to actually preaching the gospel. May all the holy brethren be faithful in so doing.