1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
Some Christians who reject the present day manifestations of the Holy Spirit, try to use Paul’s words against him. They take the above verse to mean that when Paul refers to prophecy ceasing and tongues being stilled, that he is referring to a time in the near future when the Corinthian church wouldn’t be able to operate in the gifts anymore. This belief is called, “cessationism” (the belief that gifts ceased around 100 A.D.), which is opposed to, “continuationism” (the belief that the spiritual gifts will continue until Jesus comes back).
Therefore, cessationists believe that after the church received all the books of the Bible, the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased. They believe Paul spoke about this being the “completeness” that would bring about the disappearing of the gifts. However, please read carefully Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:8-9 for the true meaning of “completeness,” “8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness [perfection] comes, what is in part disappears.”
According to Paul, the word “completeness” (which is “perfection” in the Greek), has nothing to do with the completion of the Bible. Otherwise, when the disciples were finished writing the Bible, “knowledge” itself would have passed away too because they would know everything! Likewise, most scholars today believe “completeness or perfection” is referring to the perfect and complete resurrected body because it fits the overall context better.
Paul supports this interpretation further in the same passage, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). When all the disciples will be in the presence of the Lord face-to-face, spiritual gifts and human knowledge will no longer be needed because every believer will know God clearly.
As a result, Paul continued to write in the next chapter to “eagerly desire the spiritual gifts” and “not to forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Corinthians 14:1,39). It was obvious to Paul that he believed the gifts were never going to cease until everyone was face to face with Jesus. Dr. Craig Keener in his scholarly work on miracles has noted that there are around 600 million Spirit-filled disciples in the world, with more than half testifying to witnessing miracles; that is over 300 million testimonies! Certainly, we don’t believe something based on popularity, but good doctrine will result in good fruit. Funny but true, many of these Spirit-filled disciples are in countries, like Africa and China, where the anti-spiritual gift missionaries started churches. Once the unreached people were saved, they went on to read the Bible for themselves and received the baptism of the Holy Spirit!
It’s not only foolish but also unbiblical to believe the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased. The same power the first disciples needed to preach the gospel, is needed today. Thankfully, God has promised that until we’re given a perfect body in His presence, He will give us the spiritual gifts to help us make disciples of the nations!
Do you believe the gifts of the Spirit will never cease until Jesus comes back?
- Describe a time you were discouraged from using the spiritual gifts.
- Teach cessationists that the gifts will continue as long as there is knowledge.
- Continue operating in the gifts of the Spirit until Jesus comes back!