Temporary Spiritual Sign Gifts

Charity [love] never faileth:

but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail;

whether there be tongues, they shall cease;

whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.

I Corinthians 13:8

Whether some spiritual gifts were meant to be permanent and some temporary has been the subject of debate among Christians for centuries. The Apostle Paul made it clear that some spiritual gifts would endure and some would pass from use. This chart is a quick summary of this in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13:

Miraculous sign gifts were meant for the apostolic age when the gospel was first taking root around the known world. Genuine miracles authenticated the teaching of apostles and their immediate disciples (like Timothy and Titus who were trained by Paul) about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. As gatherings of new believers scattered, they met together in what they called “churches” (Greek – EKKLESIA). God gave spiritual gifts to people in those assemblies (I Corinthians 12: Romans 12:4-8; Ephesians 4:11-12 ) to encourage them and help them grow spiritually. As the churches matured, they received the inspired writings of apostles and gifted prophets for a solid doctrinal foundation (Ephesians 2:20, 3:5; II Peter 3:2) that would be preserved into the future. As the first century came to a close, the apostles had died out and the near-apostles taught by them were dwindling. The apostles and prophets left behind what we call the New Testament gospels and epistles.

With the completed collection of New Testament writings (II Peter 1:3), some spiritual sign gifts were no longer needed: the miraculous, authenticating sign gifts (healing, tongues) and the revelatory gifts (prophecy, inspired knowledge and wisdom). Other spiritual gifts, however, continued in local churches to encourage, edify, and exhort through gifts like faith, hope, and love (I Corinthians 13:13).

Every local assembly of believers is a marvelous collection of spiritually gifted individuals who function together as the Body of Christ. God’s supernatural power working through Spirit-filled individuals demonstrates the vibrant life of Jesus Christ to the world.


Permanent and Temporary Spiritual Gifts

There are two lists of spiritual gifts and one list of spiritually gifted men in the New Testament. These are identified as God’s gifts to the local church.  Some of the terms and functions of these gifts overlap.

  • I Corinthians 12:6-8 (8 gifts)

  • Romans 12:6-8 (7 gifts)

  • Ephesians 4:11-12 (5 gifted men)

When we look at these lists, we immediately have to question why some of the gifts seem in regular use today while others are not. Should I expect to see every one of these gifts being used? For example, are there apostles today? What about the gift of healing? What about miracles?

One way to answer these questions is to realize that out of the entire list of spiritual gifts (all of which were given for edifying or building up believers), some are still active in the church and others gradually disappeared when they were no longer needed.

Permanent spiritual gifts are general in nature and contribute to the ongoing spiritual health and vitality of the Body of Christ—the local church. Temporary spiritual gifts were active immediately after the start of the church and were evident in the Book of Acts in the first century. By the end of the first century and upon completion of the Apostle John’s Book of Revelation, the need for sign gifts like healing and miracles had become unnecessary. The purposes of sign gifts were to certify God’s true messengers (the apostles and prophets). Edifying gifts like prophecy were to give churches verbal revelation directly from God until the apostles and prophets wrote their down their inspired revelation.

Today, the New Testament Scriptures are sufficient and complete revelation from God and are all we need “for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3-4) and we do not need new, supplemental revelation (Revelation 22:18-19). God’s New Testament messengers (the apostles and prophets) have been identified and recognized as authentic in the Gospels and Epistles by many eyewitnesses (Ephesians 2:19-22). Any new or special revelation today that claims to be from God lacks authentication by genuine, divine sign-miracles (John 3:2; Hebrews 2:1-4). Any information claiming to be of divine origin that disagrees with the written Scriptures is to be rejected (Galatians 1:8-9; Titus 3:10). The believer’s duty today is to compare spiritual information with words of the apostles and prophets to see if they agree (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1-5). If in agreement, those words are sound doctrine and acceptable (Titus 1:9; 2:1).

Next – Temporary spiritual gifts and why they gradually ended.


The Purpose of Spiritual Grace-Gifts

A spiritual grace-gift is not mine to do with as I please. God has entrusted it to me as His steward to be used as He alone intends. His intention is that spiritual gifts be used to minister to (serve) one another and not to please myself.

1 Peter 4:10 As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Our spiritual gifts are to serve one another. They are motivated by love.

Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

The manifestation or use of the Holy Spirit is given to benefit or profit everyone. (In the context of I Corinthians chapter 12, the “withal” or “everyone” is the local church.)

1 Corinthians 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

God’s purpose is for me to use my spiritual gift(s) to edify or build up the local church.

1 Corinthians 14:12 Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church.

Ultimately, God’s purpose for spiritual gifts is that they be used in the local church for the glory of God through Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 4:11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

God gives some people to the local church who are uniquely gifted to train others. They are to help grow believers to spiritual maturity and to edify or strengthen them for the work of the ministry. The principal is that all the members of the body of Christ are “in the ministry” together and not just the gifted teachers.

Ephesians 4:8, 11-12 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.  And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ


The Source of Spiritual Grace-Gifts

In one sense, every blessing that comes from God is a gift. The Bible says that all gifts ultimately have their source in God the Father. James says:

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

Spiritual grace-gifts (Greek, charisma)  are the outworking of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 7a) as evidence of spiritual life in a born-again person for the profit of all in the local church (1 Corinthians 7b).  Each believer is given one or more spiritual gifts by the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 8a).

1 Corinthians 12:7-8  But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

Among believers in an assembly (local church), spiritual gifts are given, apportioned, distributed, or assigned by the Holy Spirit according to His will for the spiritual edification of the body as a whole.

1 Corinthians 12:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

John MacArthur comments on the end of verse 11: “…,this beautiful thought: ‘dividing to every man,’ which is universality; and ‘severally,’ which is individuality. The Spirit of God universally gives gifts, but to every individual. He give them peculiarly. Nobody has your gift. You are a snowflake. It is not mass production; everybody is different. There are not forty-three teachers in one section, eighty-four givers over here, and forty-nine with faith over there. Everybody’s uniqueness manifests itself in a unique way. So, the Spirit of God divides to every man severally as He wills. Remember, you cannot seek a gift. In the first place, gifts are from God, and in the second place, He is the one who wills what He gives.” *


* Spiritual Gifts – I Corinthians 12, John MacArthur’s Bible Studies (1983) pp. 60-61


What are Spiritual Grace-Gifts?

In 1 Corinthians 12:1 the words spiritual gifts in English are actually the one word spirituals (plural) in the original Greek. Bible teacher John MacArthur explains the meaning:

“The word spirituals is the word pneumatikōn in the Greek. This is a simple word. You can understand a lot about its meaning by understanding the word. Pneuma is “Spirit” and any time there is an -ikōs or -ikōn ending on a Greek word it means “characterized by” or controlled by.” So pneumatikōn would be “characterized or controlled by the Spirit.” The verse can now be translated, “Now concerting certain things characterized or controlled by the Spirit, brethren…”

“You can learn a lot about spiritual gifts from that word because it tells you spiritual gifts are controlled by the Spirit. Paul’s use of the word pneumatikōn is one of five terms he uses in subsequent verses to refer to spiritual gifts.

  • In verse 4 the word “gifts” is charisma (grace or “grace-gifts”) in the Greek. It means that they are received by grace. You can’t earn them.

  • In verse 5 he uses the word “administrations.” In the Greek it is diakōnia which means “serve.” This word indicates that spiritual gifts are used to serve.

  • In verse 6 he uses the word “operations.” The Greek word energeō, refers to energy, which means that the gifts are energized by God.

  • The Greek word phanerōsis is “manifestations” in verse 7.

“So, spiritual gifts are controlled by the Spirit, given by grace from God, used to serve the Body, empowered by the Lord, and manifest the Lord. The different terms that he uses each have a different emphasis. In verse 1 they are simply called spirituals—those things under the control of and characterized by the Spirit.

There is a lot of ignorance today concerning spiritual gifts. It manifests itself in the abuse of gifts—ignoring them, neglecting them, overemphasizing the wrong ones, and confusing them with counterfeits. Paul says that this ignorance has to end. Hopefully, the Spirit of God will direct us in the understanding of spiritual gifts so that the ignorance will come to an end.”


* Spiritual Gifts – I Corinthians 12, John MacArthur’s Bible Studies (1983) pp. 23-25


Spiritual Grace-Gifts – Introduction

And he [Jesus Christ] gave some apostles; and some, prophets;

and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;

For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry,

for the edifying of the body of Christ

Ephesians 4:11-12 (KJV)

This post begins an important section about Biblical Spirituality that delves into the “spiritual gifts” or “grace-gifts” that Christ, through the Holy Spirit, gives “variously as He wills” to each believer. God decides in His infinite wisdom to give grace-gifts to each believer—unique and personal to that individual; some with more than one gift—to minister to others. The purpose of spiritual gifts, as we will expand upon later, is three-fold, “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”

Lewis Sperry Chafer introduces the topic of Spiritual Gifts:

“The very service of the Christian, like his salvation, has been designed in the eternal plan and purpose of God: For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). According to this passage, God has before ordained a very special service (work, ministry) for each individual to perform, and the doing of these particular and individual ministries constitutes ‘good works’ according to the divine estimates. Any service other than that which was foreordained for the individual though valuable in itself, cannot be called ‘good works’ because it is not the personal outworking of the will of God. The…realization of ‘good works’ is not experience by all believers, but only by those who have presented their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God; who are not ‘conformed to this world,’ but are ‘transformed’…by the renewing of their minds (Romans 12:1-2).

“Christian service (ministry) according to the New Testament, is the exercise of a spiritual gift. The Bible use of the word ‘gift’ should not be confused with the world’s conception of a ‘gifted person.’ The thought of the world concerning a gifted person is of one who by physical birth, is especially able to accomplish certain things. Such natural ability the Spirit will doubtless employ; but a ‘gift’ in the Bible use of the word is a direct undertaking or manifestation of the Spirit working through the believer. It is the Spirit of God doing something, and using the believer to accomplish it; rather than the believer doing something and calling on God for help in the task. It is the ‘work of the Lord’ in which we are to ‘abound.’ According to the Word, the Spirit produces Christian service as He produces the graces of Christ in and through the believer. Every faculty of the human instrument will be employed in the work. That human instrument will know what it is to be weary and worn in the service. Human energy, however, could never produce the divine results which are anticipated, and the Scriptures jealously contend that true Christian service is a direct ‘manifestation of the Spirit.’

“A ‘gift’ then, is the ‘manifestation of the Spirit,’ or service divinely produced by the Spirit, and ‘as He wills.’ Thus it is clear that there can be no exercise of a spiritual gift through an unyielded life.” *

* He That is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer (pp. 51-52)


Spiritual Love’s Characteristics

If you are like me, spiritual love is something hard to wrap your mind around. Love itself is hard to fully grasp and so spiritual love seems even more abstract. Yet, spiritual love is the dominant characteristic of a believer who is full of the Holy Spirit and walking in the Spirit. Lewis Sperry Chafer lists seven evidences or characteristics of genuine spiritual love. *  (I paraphrase for the sake of brevity.)

  1. Spiritual love is not experienced by the unsaved: “But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you” (John 5:42 – Jesus addressing the Temple leaders who were conspiring to kill Him.)

  2. Spiritual love is without favoritism and reaches out to the whole world. A desire for salvation for others is at the core of spiritual love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 – Jesus to Nicodemus on the new birth and eternal life). “And he [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2).

  3. Spiritual love abhors the present world system (GK. cosmos). “Love not the world [cosmos], neither the things that are in the world [cosmos]. If any man love the world [cosmos], the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15).

  4. Spiritual love is naturally shown to God’s Spirit-born children. “Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. …if we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us” (I John 4:11-12).

  5. Spiritual love is limitless, eternal, unending – like God’s love for us. [Love] “…Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things” ( I Corinthians 13:7).

  6. Spiritual love has a special affection for Israel. The spiritual believer will learn to rejoice in the great promises and purposes of God for the people for whom He is in everlasting covenants, and for whom He has an everlasting love. “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).

  7. Spiritual love is sacrificial. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (II Corinthians 8:9). Such an attitude on the part of the Son of God toward eternal riches must, if reproduced in the Christian, affect largely his attitude toward earthly riches.


* He That is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer (pp. 48-51)


Spiritual LOVE

“In this is love, not that we loved God,

but that He loved us

and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

I John 4:10

“There is very real human love; but all Christian love, according to the Scriptures, is distinctly a manifestation of divine love through the human heart. A statement of this is found in Romans 5:5, “because the love of God is shed abroad [lit. gushes forth] in our hearts by [produced or caused by] the Holy Spirit, which is given unto us.” This is not the working of the human affection; it is rather the direct manifestation of the love of God passing through the heart of the believer out from the indwelling Spirit. It is the realization of the last petition of the High Priestly prayer of our Lord: “That the love wherewith thou has love me may be in them” (John 17:26). It is simply God’s love working in and through the believer. It could not be humanly produced, or even successfully imitated and it, of necessity, goes out to the objects of divine affection and grace, rather than to the objects of human desire. A human heart cannot produce divine love, but it can experience it. To have a heart that feels the compassion of God is to drink of the wine of heaven.” *



* He That is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer (page 48)


Christian Character and the Holy Spirit

Nine Words

But the fruit of the Spirit is

love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness,

faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….

Galatians 5:22-23 (NKJV)

“Compressed into these nine words we have not only the exact statement as to what Christian character is, but a description as well, of the life that Christ lived while here on earth. It is also a statement of that manner of life which He would have the Christian experience here and now. These nine words form a Bible definition of what is meant by the phrase, ‘For to me to live is Christ.’ Though the world strives at a shadow of what these nine words represent, the reality is foreign to human nature, even when that nature is at its best. These graces, as here presented, are exotics and are never found in human nature unless produced there by the power of God. They are the ‘fruit of the Spirit.’ Christian character, therefore, is not developed or ‘built’ through human attention and energy

“There are…two principles of life which are open to the Child of God: the carnal walk which is by the energy of the flesh, ‘as men,’ and the spiritual walk which is by the energy of the Spirit, or as Christ. This passage in Galatians states, ‘This I say the Walk in the Spirit [lit. by means of the Spirit], and ye shall not fulfill the lust [desires] of the flesh.’ These two principles are absolutely opposed to each other and therefore cannot be mingled. Walking by means of the Spirit, or ‘being led by the Spirit,’ is not the flesh being helped in some degree by the Spirit. It is said to be a direct accomplishment of the Spirit in spite of the opposition of the flesh.

“The nine words which define Christian character may be traced through the New Testament and, when so traced, it will be found, (1) that they are always present as being divine characteristics, though they sometimes have a shadow of their reality in the relationships and ideals of the world; (2) they are assuredly expected by God in the believer’s life; and, (3) they are always produced only by the Spirit of God.” *


* He That is Spiritual by Lewis Sperry Chafer (pp. 44-48)


Genuine Faith Produces Good Works

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable,

gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits,

without partiality and without hypocrisy.

Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

James 3:17-18  (NKJV)

A person who is born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit will show outward evidence of that inner transformation. Conversely, a person who does not have the Spirit of God in them will eventually show their true colors by what they say and how they act.

In the Epistle of James, there is a section about faith vs. works (2:14-26) that is often misinterpreted, or at least misunderstood. The epistle is directed to believers; it is not an epistle telling unbelievers how to be saved! James’ purpose is to explain to believers how they can tell genuine faith from a phony or showy faith that talks a big talk. This was the problem in his day when Pharisees came into an assembly of Christians and announced, “I’m a Christian just like you. I’m right with God. Listen to what I have to say because I’m a teacher sent by God.” These were Pharisees who mixed the grace of God with displays of colorful clothing, lavish ceremonies, and complicated rules and traditions. They insisted that believers in Jesus Christ also obey the Law of Moses and follow the Temple elders. These Pharisees were educated, articulate, persuasive, respected religious people! Should James’ readers follow them?

Of course, the best way to spot a false teacher is to see if they teach the truth or not! If they teach false doctrine, then reject them (Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 1 John 4:2-3). Another way to detect a false teacher is to evaluate their works. People can say anything, but their actions will give them away.  That’s the point James makes in his faith vs. works treatise: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? James 2:14 (NKJV). If this “someone” says he has great faith but his works contradict what he says, that kind of faith won’t save him—it’s a hollow, empty, dead faith. “… faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17, 26).

The hypothetical discussion continues in 2:18 when this “someone” points to his works: “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” The “someone” who we now know is an ultra-religious Pharisee, a false teacher, upholds his “works” as superior to the other person’s “mere” faith. The Pharisee points to his meticulous observance of a kosher diet, frequent prayers, regular fasting, observance of holy days, fine religious clothing, precise tithing, an all the ceremonies of the Temple as the evidence of his faith. God is not impressed. These are not works at all! How do we know, because James describes their true works: bitter envy, self-seeking, boasting, lying against the truth (3:14). James assures us, “This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic” (3:15).

Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh!” (3:12). The answers to the two questions are No! James concludes with this guidance: watch to see what kind of fruit that fig tree produces. What kind of fruit does the grapevine yield? Watch those teachers and look for evidence of spiritual fruit that comes from above.