After eleven chapters of doctrine Paul calls believers to present themselves to Yahweh as a living sacrifice. This is to be done out of gratitude for the mercies of Yahweh that you have been given. In verse 2 he talks about the covenant transformation that was taking place as the New Testament church was being transformed into Christ's glory. Verse 3 is a call to right thinking; don't be proud, but think soberly about yourself. I believe that this is primarily directed against racial pride, but also against pride of one's gifts:
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:4-5 NASB
He's talking about our physical body, we have many members in our physical body, and yet all the members do not have the same function, every one of them is different; so we being many are one body in Christ, that is the church, and every one members one of another. Just like out bodily members serve different functions, so believers in the church serve different functions.
Now in verses 6-8 he talks about spiritual gifts:
Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Romans 12:6-8 NASB
The Greek word here for "gifts" is charisma, which means "gift of grace" or "free gift." As we look at the context I think it is clear that Paul is dealing with the subject of spiritual gifts. Paul lists seven spiritual gifts in this text.
What exactly is a spiritual gift? What would your definition of a spiritual gift be? My definition is: A spiritual gift is a God-given capacity through which the Holy Spirit supernaturally ministers to the church. I get this from what Paul says about spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians:
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7 NASB
Manifestation is phanerosis (fan-er'-o-sis) and has the basic idea of: "making known, clear, or evident." This is what a spiritual gift is; it is a manifestation of the spirit--it is not your normal, natural abilities, it is a superatural function.
John MacArthur defines spiritual gifts as, "God-given channels in the believer sovereignly designed for every Christian through which the Holy Spirit ministers to the building up of the church." S. Lewis Johnson writes, "Spiritual gifts are divine abilities for Christian service." Alright, so keep in mind that spiritual gifts are "supernatural," they are "channels through which the Spirit ministers" and they are "divine abilities." So they are not natural, they are supernatural, they are manifestations of the Spirit.
Some of us have athletic ability; some of us have the ability to paint and to draw, and others have ability to lead and excel in various functions of life. Those abilities are given to people all over the world, whether they are believers or not. Like the rain, they come upon the just and the unjust alike. But spiritual gifts were given only to Christians, and that was something they never had before they became Christians.
There are three sections of Scripture that talk about spiritual gifts. In 1 Corinthians 12 Paul notes examples of 13 gifts: in verses 8-10 he mentions 9 of them: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, prophecy, faith, healing, miracles, discernment, speaking in tongues, and interpretation of tongues. Then in verses 28-29 he lists an additional 4: apostles, teachers, helps, and governments. Then in Romans 12 Paul lists 5 additional gifts: ministry, exhorting, giving, ruling, and mercy. Then in Ephesians 4 we have 2 additional gifts: evangelist and pastor-teacher. For a grand total of 20 gifts listed in Scripture. So we have a variety of 20 different gifts, and the purpose of all of them is to build up the body of Christ:
for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; Ephesians 4:12 NASB
Should we restrict the gifts to only those listed in Scripture? C. Peter Wagner opts for an open ended approach, he writes, "I do not doubt that there are even more than 27 of them. Some might want to add the gift of music and make it 28. Or craftsmanship and make it 29. I ran into another gift recently which might be called the 'gift of names.'" Where does it end? Could Garrett and I possibly have the gift of sarcasm? Or maybe my wife has the gift of baby holding. Where does it stop? I think it should stop where the Scriptures do, with 20. Let's keep our emphasis on the Word of God, not on the individual. The Word of God must be our sole court of appeal in dealing with experience.
Spiritual gifts were not natural abilities or talents. Natural abilities and talents are shared by believer and unbeliever alike. An unbeliever can be a great musician, or have a good memory for names, but spiritual gifts came only as a result of salvation. Spiritual gifts were supernatural enablements given by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of ministry.
There are basically three positions today in the Church on Spiritual gifts:
1. All the gifts are for all believers today. This is the Pentecostal/Charismatic position. 2. Some of the gifts have been removed, the miraculous ones, the other gifts are for all believers today. This would be the Baptist and Reformed position.
3. All of the gifts have been removed, there are no spiritual gifts today. This would be my position, and that of most Preterists.
The issue of whether or not all of the spiritual gifts are for today has caused much debate and strife in the body of Christ. There are biblically based groups who say that if you speak in tongues, then you are under demonic control and are not saved. On the other hand, there are groups who say that if you do not speak in tongues, then you are not saved.
Let's talk first about the Pentecostal/Charismatic position that all the gifts are still operative today. They say that if it happened in the New Testament it should be happening in the church today. Are miracles the norm in Christianity? One Pentecostal pastor writes, "The responsibility of the Church to serve others did not end in A.D.70, nor did its responsibility to reach others. A Pentecostal Church ought to manifest the supernatural." Several years ago when we were on vacation, we visited a church, and the pastor said in his message, "The Bible is a book of miracles from beginning to end; therefore, we should expect miracles." Are they right? Should the Church today manifest the supernatural, should we expect miracles? No! Miracles are not the norm, they are not indiscriminately strewn over every page of Scripture. But let me just say here that I believe that the Church should be manifesting the supernatural in the area of love!
A study of biblical history shows that there were basically only three periods where miracles occurred. There are large periods of history that are without recorded miracles. There are no miracles clustered around Abraham or David. John the baptizer did no miracle, even though Jesus said:
"I say to you, among those born of women, there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." Luke 7:28 NASB
We find miracles grouped in three great periods of history. The periods of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and Christ and the apostles. There are gaps of hundreds of years between these periods where we see no miracles.
The introduction of a new revelation brought the need of miracles to authenticate the message and the messengers. Miracles were God's testimony that those bringing in the new revelations were indeed His official representatives.
Moses introduced the Law to the newly formed nation of Israel. Miracles were given to introduce this era and to codify these new revelations to Israel. Elijah and Elisha were God's special prophets for a day of decadence in Israel's history. The worship of Baal had reached its peak. Elijah and Elisha stood for the revival of the prophetic era in an age of critical spiritual decline. Miracles such as Mt. Carmel were given by God to draw Israel back to the institution of prophecy. In Christ, Yahweh became man. Obviously proof was needed to substantiate that claim. The total New Testament hangs on Christ and the apostles. Thus, in the life of Christ and the apostles miracles heralded the new revelation:
this man came to Him by night, and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." John 3:2 NASB
"Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves. John 14:11 NASB
By His miracles Christ informed the disciples who He was and the power He possessed. Miracles through the apostles proclaimed that the Almighty God was at work in the Church:
The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. 2 Corinthians 12:12 NASB
Miracles aren't the norm; they are the exception. This becomes clear as we study the biblical history.
Are the modern charismatic gifts the same as we see in the New Testament? I submit to you that there is a definite lack of similarity. For example: are lame men who never walked healed so that they can jump up and walk and leap? Do missionaries blind their opponents as Paul did? Do preachers preach the word to foreign speaking audience who hear what he is saying in their own language? No, preachers today use an interpreter. Do church leaders discern hypocrisy and pronounce the immediate death of members? Do evangelists amaze an entire city with miracles as did Philip? Are there entire multitudes healed by merely being in the shadow of the healer? No! So I think that the position that all gifts are functioning today is wrong. What happened in the early church is not happening today.
The Baptist or Reformed position holds that some of the gifts have passed away and some of them are still here. They make a distinction between what they call Permanent edifying gifts and Temporary foundational and sign gifts. The Bible has no text to say there are temporary gifts and permanent gifts. But the Scriptures do indicate that at least certain gifts were temporary:
Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:8 NASB
So the text clearly says that tongues will cease at some point in time. And there are several Scriptures that hint at the fact that the signs and wonders were temporary:
how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. Hebrews 2:3-4 NASB
In Hebrews 2:3, the main verb is past tense and the participle is relative in time to the main verb, "was confirmed." The signs, wonders, and miracles are referred to as being in the past--at the time of the writing. All this was past at the time Hebrews was written.
The voice of history confirms the temporary nature of the signs. If the miraculous signs of the New Testament age had continued in the Church, one would expect an unbroken line of occurrences from apostolic times to present. The miraculous signs of the "last days" ceased when the last days ceased.
Chrysostom, a 4th century theologian, testified that the miraculous gifts ceased so long before his time that no one was certain of their characteristics.
Those who separate the gifts between temporary and permanent break it down something like this: They separate the temporary gifts in two categories: Foundational gifts, which would be apostles and prophets, the word of wisdom and knowledge, and discerning of spirits. And the sign gifts, which would be: miracles, healing, tongues, and the interpretation of tongues.
What they call the permanent edifying gifts are broken down into: Gifted men; evangelist, and Pastor-teacher. Gifts: teacher, faith, helps, governments, mercy, ministry, exhortation, giving, ruling. So they would say that these 11 permanent edifying gifts are available today for all believers.
Are these gifts still given to believers? Most believers would say yes. If spiritual gifts are manifestations of the Spirit, then when the Spirit manifests Himself in teaching, that teaching would always be true accurate teaching and would never change. Does that make sense? Yahweh never changes, so the Spirit's teaching would never alter. If I had the gift of teaching, would I teach Futurism and then later teach Preterism? If teaching is a manifestation of the Spirit, the person with the gift would never change what they taught. And those in the first century never did change what they taught.
The third position and the one that I hold is that all the gifts ended in A.D. 70. Let me attempt to support my position. I said earlier that there were three periods of miracles. The first one was with Moses and Joshua and it lasted how long? Forty years! Yahweh supernaturally provided for the children of Israel during The Exodus period:
You, in Your great compassion, Did not forsake them in the wilderness; The pillar of cloud did not leave them by day, To guide them on their way, Nor the pillar of fire by night, to light for them the way in which they were to go. "You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, And You gave them water for their thirst. "Indeed, forty years You provided for them in the wilderness and they were not in want; Their clothes did not wear out, nor did their feet swell. Nehemiah 9:19-21 NASB
So for forty years the miracles continued and Yahweh supernaturally provided for their every need. When did the miraculous provision of The Exodus period end?
The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year. Joshua 5:12 NASB
So when The Exodus period ended, so did the manna. At the end of the forty years the miraculous ended. This exodus period was a type! And the same was true for the anti-type, the second exodus period.
The type is the picture, the anti-type is the reality. A type is a real, exalted happening in history, which was divinely ordained by the omniscient God to be a prophetic picture of the good things which He purposed to bring to fruition in Yeshua.
Israel went from type to anti-type by means of a second exodus. At the transfiguration Luke wrote:
who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Luke 9:31 NASB
The word for "departure" is the Greek word exodos. There was another exodus that Yeshua was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. This was another forty year journey, not a physical one, but a spiritual one. This second exodus was spoken of in the prophets:
Then in that day The nations will resort to the root of Jesse, Who will stand as a signal for the peoples; And His resting place will be glorious. Then it will happen on that day that the Lord Will again recover the second time with His hand The remnant of His people... Isaiah 11:10-11 NASB
Isaiah 11:1-12 predicts the coming of Messiah's rule and the reuniting of the 12 tribes. This was to be accomplished by a second exodus.
When did this second exodus begin? To answer that we need to know when did the first exodus begin? Passover! You'll remember that the first Passover was observed when Israel was about to be delivered from slavery in Egypt:
"Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household. Exodus 12:3 NASB
Who is the anti-type of the lamb? It is the Lord Yeshua. Passover was a type, or picture of something much greater--it pictured the redemption of God's elect through the sacrifice of the sinless Son of God, the Lord Yeshua Ha'Moshiach.
The typical significance of the Passover is very clear in the New Testament writings. Probably no Mosaic institution is a more perfect type than this. The first Passover was celebrated on the 14th of Nisan, beginning Israel's exodus out of Egypt. Then almost two thousand years later, Jesus Christ was crucified on the 14th of Nisan, beginning the second exodus.
So the first and second exodus, the type and the anti-type, both began on Passover. Israel's journey from Egypt to Canaan, The Exodus, was a type.
The Passover deliverance was not consummated until they entered the promised land. The Passover began with the sacrificing of the Passover lamb, introduced in Exodus 12, while Israel is still in bondage. They ate the first Passover while they were still in Egyptian bondage. In Numbers 9:5, they ate of it again, while they are wondering in the wilderness. And then in Joshua, they entered the land:
Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." So the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day. While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. Joshua 5:9-10 NASB
Throughout the history of Israel, the Passover recalled not only the sparing of the houses marked with the blood of the Passover lamb, but also Israel's subsequent deliverance out of slavery in Egypt; a deliverance that was consummated forty years later in the crossing of the Jordan River. Once their redemption was consummated by their being in the promised land, only then were they truly redeemed from Egyptian bondage. This is true of the second exodus generation. Their redemption was not consummated until the Lord returned for His bride.
What event ended the first exodus period? The destruction of Jericho. Jericho stood at the entrance to the promised land. It was a fortified city that represented a serious challenge to Israel's claim to the land. Its fall telegraphed a message to all the world that God was the Lord of this people.
What marked the end of the second exodus? The destruction of Jerusalem. "Jesus" is the Greek transliteration of Christ's Hebrew name, which is rendered in English as "Joshua." Old Covenant Judaism was a major problem for those early believers. Nothing represented the old system better than the Temple. Here was where the presence of God dwelt. His presence assured them they were His people. But forty years after the Cross, in A.D. 70, believers fled the city of Jerusalem as the walls fell and the city was destroyed and burned.
Similar to the collapse of the walls in Jericho, the fall of Jerusalem's walls symbolized the entrance of the redeemed remnant into Christ's everlasting Kingdom. The believers were vindicated and revealed as "the sons of God" while judgment fell on the Jewish system, which had rejected God as king.
Believers now reside in the New Jerusalem, which is the New Covenant:
This is allegorically speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Galatians 4:24 NASB
Paul is talking about the two covenants, the old and the new.
Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. Galatians 4:25 NASB
Present Jerusalem (of Paul's day) represents the Old Covenant:
But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. Galatians 4:26 NASB
What exactly is this "Jerusalem above" who is our mother? You must keep in mind that the comparison here is between two covenants. Earthly Jerusalem represents the Old Covenant, so this heavenly Jerusalem represents the New Covenant.
The events of Jericho offered a graphic image and actual prophecy of events at the close of the Jewish age, forty years after Pentecost, when there were seven angels with seven trumpets of doom and judgment:
And I saw the seven angels who stand before God; and seven trumpets were given to them. Revelation 8:2 NASB
At that time the great and powerful city of Babylon (Jerusalem) suddenly fell:
standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, 'Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.' Revelation 18:10 NASB
As in Joshua, the destruction of the city came at the sound of the trumpets, so at the end of the Jewish age, the destruction of Jerusalem came as Jesus sounded the trumpet.
The exodus out of Egypt and into the promised land by the children of Israel under Moses is a direct shadow of the exodus of the New Testament generation from the Cross to the entrance into the eternal land of rest forty years later.
Let's look at some comparisons between the two forty year exodus periods. The first was preceded by physical slavery--the bondage of the Hebrews in Egypt. The second was preceded by spiritual slavery--man's bondage to sin and death. One introduced the first Passover with the blood of lambs. The other fulfilled the type with the sacrifice of the final Passover Lamb (Yeshua Ha'Moshiach). One brought God's people physical deliverance by crossing through the Red Sea. The other brought God's people spiritual deliverance by the working of the Cross of Christ. The first established a temporary covenant of God with the people He chose--the Old Covenant. The second established a permanent covenant--the New Covenant.
Fifty five days after the first Passover in Egypt, The Law was given to the Nation of Israel at Mount Sinai, written upon tablets of stone, and three thousand people died. Fifty five days after the final Passover was sacrificed, The Law was given to the "Israel of God," written upon their hearts by the Spirit of God (2 Cor. 3:3; Heb. 8:10) and three thousand people received life.
Very few would disagree that the above points are fulfilment of the shadows given at the time of the exodus. But the correlation doesn't stop with the initial workings of The Exodus, but continues with the entrance into the land of temporal rest, forty years later. Just as the children of faith were allowed to enter into the temporal land of rest the first time, the children of faith in the generation directly following the Cross of Christ were given entrance into the eternal land of rest. With each covenant, a 40 year transition period followed the initial act of deliverance into the entrance of the land of promise.
During both periods, the people saw God's works for forty years (Heb 3:9; Acts 2:17-21). God manifested Himself to His people by signs and wonders: In the desert under Moses' leadership, daily manna, miraculous supplies of water or meat, and the appearance of the cloud and the fiery pillar revealed God's presence. In the transition period to the New Covenant, the apostles had special gifts of healing, prophecy, and tongues-speaking, and testified to the coming of the Kingdom of God and the destruction of the wicked (1 Cor. 14:22). In both exodus periods the miraculous stopped when the exodus ended.
Paul is writing to saints during the transition period, during this time the gifts were still operating, they ended at the end of the age. We do not have, and therefore do not need, spiritual gifts today:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 4:11-16 NASB
According to this passage, the gifts were to be used to bring the church from a state of infancy to adulthood. The word translated "mature" in verse 13 is teleion. The purpose of spiritual gifts is to build up the body; once the body is mature, we no longer need spiritual gifts. In this passage in Ephesians, maturity is defined as "attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." This happened at the Second Coming.
There is a lot of confusion today about Spiritual gifts; do you know why that is? It's because they were for the last days, and when the last days ended, so did the gifts. This is why so many believers have no clue as to what their gifts are, they don't have any.
The talents and abilities that we have come from God and are to be used for His glory. God providentially leads, guides, and uses us for His glory. Spiritual Gifts were for the age of immaturity, they are no longer needed or given.
I have good news for you; you can stop wasting your time trying to figure out what you Spiritual Gift is, and just be busy serving Him with all the talents and abilities He has given you.
Sidebar: I have just taken this passage in Romans 12:6-8 and said that it does not apply to us. I said this about 12:2 also. So am I doing damage to the church by removing these passages? Is it damaging to seek to interpret the Scriptures correctly?
This past week on Facebook Kelly Birks wrote, "The 'Full' Preterism of today in its present posturing concerning its doctrine and hermeneutics, makes present day Christianity... irrelevant." Really, how do full Preterists make Christianity irrelevant? Birks goes on to say, "FP actually is resulting through its hyper-application of 'written to them and not to us,' in the Bible just being history but lacking in present day application to the believer."
Let me be clear that this full Preterist does not believe that the Bible is just history and lacks present day application. I sure wouldn't be constantly encouraging you to read it if it wasn't relevant to us. But I do believe the Bible was written to a certain audience, which is not us. So, we must seek to understand what it means to its original audience, and then see if what it is teaching also applies to us. If we understand the transition period, we will understand that we live in "the age to come," and many of the transition period problems do not apply to us. Only when we know "what time it is" does the Bible become relevant to us. We are not looking for things we already have, or trying to hold on to things that are past, we are not living in a day of "hope," but a day of "have."
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