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The History and Nature of Spiritual Gifts

At various times in history, God employed supernatural signs and miracles to accompany the message being given by His messengers. The purpose of these miracles was twofold: to draw special attention to the message, for it was, in most cases, new, or stronger than the one given before; and to authenticate the speaker. The miracles, and the special power given men to effectuate them, were not the focus of the message; they were secondary, simply intended to draw attention to the spoken words and to validate the speaker as God’s chosen representative.

Likewise the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ—salvation solely through faith in Him—was new in that it centered men’s relationship with God on Jesus Himself—the Son of God, our Advocate, God as Man. In the same way His promise of the Holy Spirit as our Helper—God in us—required such abandonment of current Jewish thought that Christ’s ministry and that of the apostles were supported by continuous miracles—supernatural healings, speaking in unknown languages, sudden death—designed by God to promote His truth and lead witnesses to a saving faith in Christ.

At the moment of salvation when the believing person is baptized into the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit gives to every believer one or more gifts, God-given abilities for service as He chooses (1 Cor. 12:11). However we believe certain of these gifts were temporary, and were used of God to authenticate the gospel to the first century church and, in the process, to establish the biblical canon. Today, having a completed canon which provides for the full knowledge of God, these temporary gifts are no longer necessary to reveal God’s truth or to validate the speaker, and they are thus not a part of the believer’s normal life. At the same time, other gifts endure to equip believers for service and to edify the whole church body.