Miraculous Gifts Today?
There is a diversity of opinion among Pentecostals as to the nature and number of spiritual gifts available to the church today. Without a doubt, the most popular gift among Pentecostals throughout the years has been the gift of speaking in tongues. In spite of the fact that Jesus mentioned casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead and taking up serpents and drinking deadly poison without harm (Mark 16:17ff), most Pentecostals are very choosy about which gifts they claim to possess today. A number of Pentecostals confine their claims of miraculous power to the gift of tongues and healing the sick.
On the other hand, some in the Pentecostal movement are not the least bit shy about claiming to have powers and gifts far beyond the ability to speak in tongues and heal the sick. Consider the following bizarre and outrageous examples of such:
One lady tells of how her flat tire was healed.
Jan Crouch, of Trinity Broadcasting Network, told an audience in Costa Rica of how two twelve-year-old girls had prayed to God to raise their pet chicken from the dead.
A prominent Pentecostal leader claims that Jesus comes in the bathroom with him every morning and puts His arms around him and talks with him while he shaves.
Percy Collett appeared on "The 700 Club" to tell of how he died, went to heaven, and returned to tell all about it.
Roberts Liardon claims that he was given an extensive tour of heaven when he was eight years old and that, while he was there, Jesus dunked him in the river of life and he and Jesus had a water fight.
Maria Rubio, was frying tortillas in her kitchen in Lake Arthur, New Mexico when she noticed that one of the tortillas seemed to have the likeness of a face etched in the burn marks. She was convinced that it was Jesus and so she built a crude shine for it. Believe it or not,
Thousands upon thousands of people visited "The Shrine of the Holy Tortilla" and touted it as a modern day miracle.
Decayed teeth are filled and new teeth grow where none have been before.
Some Pentecostals claim that various physical manifestations can be seen when the Spirit comes upon a person. They include: shaking, trembling, falling down (being "slain in the Spirit"), plus a euphoric state resembling drunkenness, facial contortions, stiffening of the body, trembling, rapid fluttering of the eyelids, heavy breathing, sweating, and a feeling of weight on the chest.i
Rodney Howard-Browne, the self-styled "Holy Ghost Bartender" serves up doses of "Holy Ghost Wine" to the hundreds of people who come to his crusades. As he anoints them with this "Divine beverage" all bedlam breaks loose. People are picked up and thrown over rows of chairs like a rag. A woman gets miraculously glued to the floor for six hours, unable to extricate herself from the floor. People begin laughing uncontrollably and barking like dogs.
On and on we could go, listing miraculous claim after claim of modern day Pentecostals. Even some Pentecostals are embarrassed at the claims that fellow-Pentecostals are making in the name of the Holy Spirit. However, they are very reluctant to object to a fellow Pentecostal’s testimony of what God is doing in their life because it would place them in the position of having their own personal claims of what God is doing in their life to be called into question.
If experience is the final arbiter of what miraculous power is available today, then one man’s experience is as good as another. However, if book, chapter and verse is the objective standard by which we determine the duration and nature of miracles, then man’s experience is only as good as whether it harmonizes with Holy Scripture.
From a biblical standpoint, Paul lists nine spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. If the gift of tongues is available today then all of the other listed spiritual gifts would likewise be available. All of the gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12 stand or fall together. There is no scriptural argument for the perpetuation of some of them and the cessation of others. This point is made because the majority of those who claim the ability to speak in tongues rarely mention possessing the other gifts in this package of spiritual gifts.
Furthermore, and contrary to popular opinion, the gift of tongues was not superior to the other eight spiritual gifts listed in 1 Corinthians 12.
In 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, Paul notes that the continuance of miraculous gifts is limited. The gifts would continue until "that which is perfect is come." (1 Corinthians 13:10) Most Pentecostals affirm that the phrase ‘that which is perfect is come’ refers to the second coming of Christ. This, however, is a false conclusion. Not once in the entire New Testament is the word "perfect" ever used to refer to the second coming of Christ.
Paul says that tongues would cease. He goes on to say that those things that are in part shall be done away with when that which is perfect has come. The Greek word "perfect" (teleios) means "having attained the end or purpose; complete."iii Paul was talking about the receiving and dispensing of divine knowledge - the proclamation of the New Testament faith by inspiration. iv
Also consider Ephesians 4:11-13:
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: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
Paul begins by discussing the various miraculous offices. He states that the purpose of these offices was to perfect the saints and build up the body of Christ. Then he places a time limit on this package. It was to last until the attainment of the unity of the faith. The inspired writer Jude refers to this faith and confirms that it has once for all been delivered (Jude 3). James 1:25 calls it the PERFECT law of liberty. Thus, the "that which is perfect" of 1 Corinthians 13:10 is the "perfect law of liberty" of James 1:25, i.e., the completed Word of God in written form. Therefore, the age of miracles has ceased.