Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening. The subject we are talking about tonight is indeed vital because I believe it affects the eternal salvation of every one of us sitting in this hall tonight. I’m going to suggest to you that the many so-called “miraculous” claims of the Charismatic movement are a result of mind over matter, of psychological factors, and that this is proved by three lines of evidence.
First and foremost of course, there is what I believe to be the Bible’s testimony that the gifts of the spirit were to be withdrawn and replaced by the written Word of God.
Secondly, there is the fact that the claims of present Charismatic Christians contradict the types of Spirit gift defined in the Bible.
Thirdly, there is the considerable historical evidence that the gifts have passed away.
Now if what I am saying is correct, and it is up to you to judge that, then if follows that Charismatic Christians are replacing the attraction and power of the gospel by more subjective things such as experience (John has been talking a lot about his own “experience”) and emotion, and therefore making the Word of God, which God says He has “magnified even above His own name” (Ps. 138:2) of secondary importance.
So then, we have to face up to the almost incidental fact that nearly all the early church fathers and church historians record that the miraculous gifts ended in the Second Century. If tongue speaking, for example, was as wide-spread in the First Century as it apparently is today, it would have been mentioned more, would it not, in early Christian writings?
More importantly, I believe that there is evidence in the Bible that when the Bible was completed the gifts were withdrawn.
Now the spirit is the power or the breath of God, and the word “Holy” means “set aside for a special purpose”. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, God’s power set aside for a special purpose, were not needed once the special purposes for which they were given were completed. 1 Corinthians 13 (and I suggest if you have got a Bible, you open it there) says that at some time, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were to be withdrawn. You see in the last verse of chapter 12 Paul says he is going to explain to them a “more excellent way” than the use of the Holy Spirit gifts. It goes on in verse 8 of chapter 13 “whether there be prophecies (the gift of prophecy), they shall fail; whether there be tongues (the gift of tongues) they shall cease; whether there be knowledge (the gift of knowledge), it shall vanish away. For we know in part (that is, partially) and we prophesy partially, (or from parts). But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away”.
Now notice how he says “love never fails” but where there are these gifts, they will fail. Now the word “fail” in the Greek is very interesting because it means to “slowly fade away”. So he says true love does not fade away; the love of God, the love of Christ, it doesn’t fade way, but where there are gifts, they will fade away, and as I have said, historical testimony backs up that prophecy.
The gifts of prophecy and knowledge taught the Christians in part measure, but when “that which is perfect” came, they were to be withdrawn. Now the word “perfect” here does not mean “sinless”, it means “completed”, “ended” or “mature”.
Now I want to make a fundamentally important point. These verses teach that at some time after the First Century when those words were written, the gifts were to be withdrawn when “that which is perfect, (or complete) came”. Now “that which is perfect” cannot be the return of Jesus Christ at his second coming because if it does then it means that the gifts will be withdrawn when he returns. But the Bible teaches the opposite fact, that when he returns to set up his Kingdom on this earth, the gifts will be poured out again.
John has just said that in Joel 2 that shows that at the return of Christ, the gifts will be poured out again. Well, I agree with him. So then, he believes that the gifts are going to be poured out when Jesus returns and yet he also has said that he believes that the gifts of the Holy Spirit continue all the way from Acts of the Apostles up to the last days. But here in 1 Corinthians 13 it says that at some point, they will be taken away. Now I submit that is a point which it’s very very difficult to argue against. Apart from that there is other clear evidence in other passages that these gifts are going to be poured out at the return of Christ. For example, Hebrews 6:4 & 5 says that the gifts they had in the First Century were the “powers of the world (or age) to come”. That is, the Kingdom age when Christ has returned.
So, I suggest that “that which is perfect” is the completed Bible. 2 Timothy 3:16 “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction…That the man of God may be perfect, (completely equipped) for every good work”. So it is the Word of God which perfects. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13 that under the ministry of the gifts of knowledge and wisdom they built up their knowledge of the ways of God by parts, partially. He said when that which is complete is come, and that which is complete is in the Bible, the Word of God, the sum total of all God’s revelation, then we have that which is complete. There is no more need for the gifts.
The same teaching is found in Ephesians 4:8 “when (Christ) ascended…he gave the (spirit) gifts to men (then they are listed)…for the perfecting of the saints”. So this says that the purpose of the gifts was to make the saints, or the church, perfect or mature. 2 Timothy 3:16 says that that is done when we have all scripture. So once the Word of God was completed, we have the power, the means, to make the saints perfect, complete. Now Ephesians 4 continues, says that these gifts were given “until we all come in the unity of the faith…unto a perfect man”. So these gifts are given he says, until. Again, we have another clear evidence that the gifts were to be withdrawn, and we have just been told that they weren’t, they weren’t meant to be withdrawn, they were meant to carry on. So that point when they were withdrawn was when this “perfect man” state was reached, and that was reached through having the full Word of God.
The very nature of the reasons given for the gifts being given also means that they only needed to be used in the First and Second Centuries. So let’s think about the reasons why those gifts were given.
John 16 talking of the comforter says it was given to guide the apostles into all truth. But then Christ said John 17:17 “thy Word is truth”. So once we have the Word of God in full we have “the truth” so there is no need for any Holy Spirit gift to guide you into all truth. Ephesians 4:14 said that under the ministry of the gifts the believers were blown about with every wind of doctrine, but once of course the complete written Word of God was available, they grew up into maturity through having that one faith clearly defined.
I’m going to make another important point. The fact that many different churches claim to possess the comforter, from the Catholic Charismatics to John Liliekas to the Pentecostal movement and yet they all believe widely different doctrines, shows that they cannot all have received the gifts, because the gifts were to guide you into all truth. And yet, all these different churches believe different things. So they cannot all have the gifts.
Now secondly, these gifts were given to enable the gospels to be compiled through bringing, says John 14:26 “all things to your (the apostles’) remembrance” – whatever Jesus had said in his ministry. Now that can obviously only apply to the disciples who needed their memories jogging of what Christ had said.
Thirdly, as we have been reminded, those gifts were to confirm the spoken word of the apostles. Now remember, those apostles were mainly “unlearned and ignorant men” (Acts 4:13). They were being witnesses of Christ’s resurrection and they needed some credentials. Therefore, the Lord “confirmed the (spoken) word with signs following” (Mk. 16:20).
Fourthly, they were given to organize the early church, Ephesians 4:12 “for the work of the ministry, for the building up of the body of Christ (the church)” in the same way as Israel in the wilderness were given the gifts of the Spirit, again as John has rightly reminded us, for a limited period at the beginning of their history, in order that they could establish themselves.
We also have to bear in mind how those gifts were used by the apostles, the kind of things they did with them. A good example is Acts chapter 3 – they healed a lame man in the Temple, and as soon as Peter did that in consequence we are told, Acts 3:11, that a large number of people gathered in Solomon’s Porch to hear the gospel preached. Time and again we see the public nature of the use of these gifts – Acts 4:33 “with great power (through the gifts) gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus”. “By the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders done”. Notice how he keeps emphasizing that the apostles used these gifts. “Wonders and signs were done by the apostles” (Acts 2:43).
So let’s think then about the nature of the gifts in the First Century and I suggest that there is a big difference between them and the claims of today.
Now firstly the gifts were all of a practical nature: governments, miracles, teachers (Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:8-10), and therefore they were under the control of those possessing them, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:32 – “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets”, and they were also manifested publicly.
Now despite what John has said, I still feel that there is a marked lack of public use of the gifts among Christians today, especially of miracles which as we have seen from the apostles’ example were to be used to testify publicly. Now there is no record in the New Testament of emotions being whipped up before a cure took place. The miracles were often done on the street or in public places rather than in some back-street church with and audience of hyped-up Christians. It is also significant that never did the apostles after receiving the comforter gifts fail to cure anybody or only produce a partial cure. But for every so-called success of Charismatic healers (and I am not denying that they have some so-called successes), there are many partial cures and downright failures. Now when the ambulances bring the sick people to healing crusades of Charismatic Christians like T.O. Osborne, those ambulances wait outside and pick up the invalids again afterwards, do they not? But remember how by contrast in Acts 4:16 when Peter healed the lame man, the Jews, who were looking for every reason to discredit the miracle, they had to admit and I quote “that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them” they said “it is manifest” – it is obvious – “to all them that dwell in Jerusalem and we cannot deny it” the Pharisees said. What a contrast with the rumours of miracles we hear going on today and the many cases that have failed to be healed. The Jews had shut their hearts to the idea of anyone doing miracles, more so than I have, but the sheer power of the miracle left them to accept that a miracle had been done. Now if Charismatic Christians have the same power as the apostles had, their miracles should achieve the same effect and stir in the press.