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Four Gifts

Q: “Where in the Bible does it say that the four gifts (tongues, interpretation of tongues, miracles, and healing) mentioned in I Corinthians 12 are no longer given to the church?”
A: In 1977 the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod issued a report that helps to clarify the issue which this question raises: “The church will accept with joy and gratitude any gift which the Spirit in His grace may choose to bestow on us for the purpose of edifying the body of Christ. It will recognize that the Lord does not forsake His church but promises the abiding presence of His Spirit. The church, therefore, will not reject out of hand the possibility that God may in His grace and wisdom endow some in Christendom with the same abilities and powers He gave His church in past centuries…. But it will also take seriously the admonition of the apostle to ‘test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world’ (I John 4:1; cf. also I Cor. 12:10). Above all, the church will not employ such gifts as though they were means of grace.” (p. 5 of the CTCR’s report, “The Lutheran Church and the Charismatic Movement”).
The Bible does not tell us that the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in I Cor. 12 ceased at the time of the post-apostolic Church, contrary to what certain conservative theologians may wish to contend. As a matter of fact, in this chapter Paul even says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good,” and then he goes on to list the gifts, included those at issue in the question.
After having said this, though, two things need to be addressed: 1) There is much disagreement over what precisely these gifts are. For example, when “tongues” are mentioned in Scripture does this always mean “known foreign languages” (as many of our pastors take it), or does it at times refer to some “ecstatic, unknown language”? This has been an open question, although the “interpretation of tongues” in I Cor. 12 and I Cor. 14:13ff. leads us to presume Paul is talking about “known foreign languages.” 2) Much of what is being classified today as “miraculous gifts of the Spirit” needs to be tested thoroughly with the entirety of Scripture before any acknowledgement is made that it is a fulfillment of I Cor. 12. Much of what is claimed today as “the gift of tongues” flies in the face of what Paul says in I Cor. 14 about specifications of the use of “tongues.” Many who are in the “charismatic churches” are teaching falsely on baptism (as well as on all the Means of Grace) and are practicing ecumenism, in spite of what God says in Rom. 16:17. Much of what is claimed to be “healing” today (in the spontaneous sense, similar to apostolic times) goes against the fact that Christians are to pray that the “lord’s will be done,” even if that may mean enduring the sickness and not being healed spontaneously (James 4:15). The devil loves to deceive us into thinking these are genuine gifts (Matt. 7:21-23). Many times we have to say this: When it is clear that there are obvious deviations from the Word of God on the part of those professing to have “the gifts,” we must follow Christ and label them “of a false spirit.”

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