Ecclesiology 27, Spiritual Gifts 7
7-1-18 Lesson 27 364-377
Father, we’re grateful for today, grateful for this time of the year where we commemorate the freedoms that we have. We also know Father, and acknowledge that freedom isn’t free, somebody paid a price to give us our political freedoms, just as Jesus paid the ultimate price to give us our spiritual freedom. So we’re mindful, Father, this morning of grace that we have in you but we’re also mindful of the price that was paid to procure the grace for us. And I do ask, Father, that You’ll be with us in Sunday School as we look at a difficult subject and in the main service that follows as we continue on in the Book of Revelation and as we partake this morning of the Lord’s table and then fellowship with the fellowship meal after the service. I do specifically ask, Father, that people would leave here changed, something eternal would be an eternal seed would be sown into their lives and they would think differently or perhaps somebody would believe on Christ unto salvation but only You can do that, Father, so I humbly beseech and ask You to do that today here at Sugar Land Bible Church. And we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We lift up these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said Amen.
If you could take your Bibles and open them to 1 Corinthians 13, we’re going to look at verses 8-13 today as I’ll be explaining. And you should have two handouts, we have the regular power point handouts and also there’s another handout of a paper that I wrote on the revelatory gifts and so the teaching that we’re going to be doing beginning today and the next few weeks is going to follow along with that paper so you can see which direction we’re headed in by consulting the paper which I hope you’ll read (not right now but when you get home). And don’t read it while you’re driving either, just like don’t text either when you drive, amen.
As you know, those of you that have been following along with us in Sunday School we’re continuing to study the doctrine of the church, Ecclesiology, and we’re sort of at that section of our study where we’re dealing with the purposes of the church and we’ve gone through those very carefully. But one of the very purposes of the church, according to that middle bullet point there is to edify the saints. So one of the great purposes of the local church, and of course, even before I get moving I want to thank Jim McGowan for filling in last week. I trust that you all enjoyed his teaching. I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and it was hotter there than it is here, can you believe that? I felt like I’d stepped into a blow dryer when I got off the plane. So we did a conference on marriage there at Hoffman Town Church and then I spoke in their main service.
But one of the purposes of the church is to equip the saints for their ministry. Then it asks an interesting question, well what is my ministry, I mean, if the church is equipping me for my ministry what is my ministry. And the big hint on how you answer that question is the issue of spiritual gifts. Whatever gifting God has given you defines predominantly your ministry, not that you don’t do things outside of your giftedness. I just got finished, we just got finished at this church with Vacation Bible School where I was a crew leader, can you believe that? And I was working with kids all week long and I can guarantee you this much, that is not my area of giftedness. [Laughter] In fact, I’ve been working with kids so much I might say a few things during the sermon to let you know that I’ve been working with kids all week; if you guys get noisy I’ll say okay, if you can hear me touch your nose. [Laughter]
Just because you have a gift in a certain area doesn’t mean you don’t do anything else but your primary focus is whatever your area of giftedness is. That’s your defining trajectory in the local church. So that raises a very interesting question, so we sort of took a detour and started to talk about this issue of spiritual gifts. And basically what we’re doing in this little detour is asking and answering four questions about spiritual gifts.
Number one, what are some general observations about spiritual gifts, and I think we gave those, there’s about 19 or 20 basic observations about spiritual gifts. And then that leads to another detour, doesn’t it? This is why this subject is so difficult to talk about because one trap door leads to another trap door. Are all the spiritual gifts for today? And that is a very divisive subject in the body of Christ.
So here is sort of the outline that we’re following as we’re talking about are all the gifts of the Holy Spirit available today. And as you go through different chapters of the Bible that deal with spiritual gifts you’re going to see these seven gifts: apostle, prophet, workers of miracles, tongues, interpretation of tongues, the gift of healing and something called the gift of knowledge. I mean, are these things in full operation today. They’re right there in your Bible and you might be saying well how come Sugar Land Bible Church doesn’t practice these gifts along with all of the other gifts mentioned in Scripture.
And the reason this is sort of a divisive issue and the reason it’s easier just to duck the issue rather than talk about it is because when you talk about it it divides the body of Christ almost in half. We have what are called charismatics or continuationists, and their basic premise is every gift you see in the New Testament is in operation today. Then you have those of us at Sugar Land Bible Church who are what we would call selective cessationists meaning we believe most of the gifts are in operation today but some of them ceased back in the first century. And we’ve tried to articulate that that’s basically the teaching position of our church. You don’t have to believe this to join the church but you have to understand that when this church teaches it teaches from the vantage point of selective cessationism.
And so a lot of people have the question, well how come you do that? How come you just go through the Bible and you say these gifts are for today, about sixteen of them, or fifteen of them, and seven of them ceased. Isn’t that kind of arbitrary? And I’m trying to sort of explain the biblical logic of why we think the way we think on this. And it really starts with taking the gifts of the Holy Spirit and dividing them into four categories.
Category number one are the foundational gifts. There are certain gifts that God brought into existence to start the church and we’ve made reference to the fact that you lay a foundation one time. And those two foundational gifts are given in Ephesians 2:20. It says, “having been built” that’s the church, “on the foundation,” laid once, “of the apostles and prophets, [Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone,”] so we believe the apostles and prophets properly defined represents a foundational gift that God used in a very selective way to inaugurate the church.
Then there’s a second section of gifts called confirmatory gifts and we have noted, and by the way, those confirmatory gifts would be workers of miracles, tongues, and the gift of healing. And we’ve carefully documented the fact that God starts to perform miracles, not continuously in the Bible, but miracles have a tendency to cluster around eras when God is doing something new. And that is basically how we understand, and we’ve done past teachings on this so it’s just a matter of going into the archives and reviewing what we’ve studied. That’s basically the way we think of the workers of miracles, tongues, which is better translated languages, and healing. And we were also very clear on this that while the gift of healing does not exist today we’re not saying God never heals. When God heals today He heals directly, when He chooses to. And it’s very different than Him doing it indirectly through a gift of healing back in the first century. And so in prior sessions we’ve carefully delineated those two ideas.
And the last time I was with you we spent a lot of time on this idea of automatic healing. And talked about it is not a guarantee in the present age that every single child of God will be healed and why that’s such an important issue. God does heal today, we believe, when it’s His will but we do not hold out healing as the automatic guarantee that every child of God. And so we spoke in depth about that.
So we’ve dealt with the foundational gifts. We’ve dealt with the two foundational gifts, we’ve dealt with the three or so confirmatory gifts and now we’re moving into letter C, the revelatory gifts. Now what do I mean by revelatory gifts? What I mean by revelatory gifts is someone is a conduit of divine revelation, a channel of divine revelation and what they say is on equal par with Scripture itself. That’s what I mean by revelatory gifts.
I am not here talking about the gift of knowledge as defined as understanding what God has already disclosed. I am not here talking about the gift of proclamation or the gift of preaching where prophesying is defined as proclaiming something God already disclosed. I think there are gifts of knowledge where God gives people abilities today to understand what He’s already written and also to proclaim what He’s already said. That’s not what I’m talking about here with these revelatory gifts. If you define knowledge, and preaching or prophesying that way then I believe there is knowledge and prophesying today. What I’m talking about is people that receive a word of knowledge from God directly and what they receive is authoritative, it’s got to be authoritative because it comes from God. Right? And it’s held with such dogmatism that you could literally make that revelation in chapter 23.
And what I mean by prophesying is people that prophesy truths, not proclaim what God has already said but are a conduit of direct revelation from God on equal par with the Scripture itself. What I’m trying to say is those gifts, which we call the revelatory gifts, were functioning in the first century and they stopped functioning that way at the conclusion of the canon of Scripture back in the first century. That’s basically what I mean by revelatory gifts. So when you look at the gift list you’re going to see these gifts: prophets, tongues and interpretation of tongues, and also knowledge. So here are the revelatory gifts that we believe passed in the first century. Number one, the gift of prophet. Number two, the gift of knowledge, not understanding what God has said but receiving a direct word of knowledge from God. And number three, tongues and the interpretation of tongues. So let’s sort of look at these real quick so we get the definitions down. And then we’ll move to 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 which is really the key passage you have to analyze to figure out, are those gifts for today or not.
The first one is the gift of prophet and when somebody throws the word “prophet” around the Bible, what you have to understand, has a very high definition of what a prophet is. A prophet is a conduit of divine revelation. You might want to hold your place there in 1 Corinthians 13 and when you go over to the Book of Deuteronomy 18:18 it has a test of a prophet. God, through Moses says, “’I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.” That’s the biblical definition of a prophet. It’s not a preacher behind a pulpit teaching from the Bible or preaching from the Bible, it’s someone that’s receiving direct revelation from God. That is not just the Old Testament definition of a prophet; that is also the New Testament definition of a prophet.
If you go over to 2 Peter, you say where is 2 Peter? It’s right after what? 1 Peter, that doesn’t help very much, does it? 2 Peter 1:20-21 says, “But know this, first of all that no” what? “prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation,  for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” So what is a prophet? A prophet is someone who is carried along by the Holy Spirit to such an extent that they’re actually a mouthpiece for God; their word is God’s word because God put His words into their mouth.
The word here in 2 Peter 1:20 and 21, the verb, it says, “for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” The word translated “moved” is the Greek word phero which is the same verb used in Acts 27 verses 15 and 17 concerning wind that comes upon a sail boat, fills the sail of the sail boat thereby propelling the boat. [Acts 27:15, “and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along.” Acts 25:17, “After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along.”]
That’s what a prophet was in the New Testament sense of the word, and the Old Testament sense of the word; the Holy Spirit came upon them in the same way and propelled them along so that when they spoke God was speaking, when they wrote, God was writing. And that’s how the twenty-seven books of the New Testament came into existence, through this gift of prophecy. That is a revelatory gift.
Over in the Book of Ephesians, chapter 3 and verse 5, Paul, the apostle, talks about the gift of prophet and prophesying where he makes this statement. Ephesians 3:5, “which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit;” he’s talking about the mystery nature of the church here, something that’s never been disclosed before, and God used the gift of prophet to disclose the mystery nature of the church.
When you go over to 1 Corinthians 14:29-30 you learn of a practice that was taking place in very early Christianity, before the canon of Scripture closed, where people were standing up and they were prophesying, meaning that they were looked at as direct conduits of divine revelation, direct channels of divine revelation. 1 Corinthians 14:29-30 says, ”Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.  But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent.” In other words, you don’t have dueling prophets, where they’re interrupting each other with their ecstatic utterances. Paul says when this gift is being used one prophet is to prophecy, then another prophet is to prophecy and the others are to sit and pass judgment. So this is not the kind of sermon you would get at Sugar Land Bible Church, where we’re proclaiming what God has already said. This would be a scenario where someone stands up and they’re basically a direct conduit of God. And prophecy was a very much a reality in first century Christianity.
Over in Acts 11:28, see the reason I’m having you turn to these verses is I want us to understand how the Bible is using the word “prophet” because a lot of people are throwing the word “prophet” around today and most of the time I don’t even know what they’re talking about. What do you mean when you call yourself a prophet? Well, biblically if you call yourself a prophet you’re a direct channel from God is basically what you’re saying. You’ll see a prophet named Agabus over in Acts 11:28, and Acts 11:28 says, “One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world.” And you’ll notice what Luke in the Book of Acts says, “And this took place in the reign of Claudius.”
So one of the tests of a prophet is you can’t be right 75% of the time because God is not right 75% of the time. Your prophecies have to be 100% accurate and Agabus was recognize as a prophet of God because his short-term prophecies came to pass with absolute 100% consistency.
Over in Acts 21:10-11 you’ll also see Agabus in action and it says, “As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.  And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “This is what the Holy Spirit says: ‘In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” Now what’s interesting about that prophecy is we have no record of how it was fulfilled. The Bible never says it wasn’t fulfilled that way so I would assume that somewhere in Paul’s life it happened exactly as Agabus predicted because Agabus has a track record of 100% accuracy or else he wouldn’t be designated a prophet in the Scripture, because he made an accurate prediction in Acts 11 about the famine and we would assume that the prophecy he made over Paul’s life happened as well.
So what am I trying to get at? I’m just trying to get us to understand what a prophet is. A prophet is not a preacher behind a pulpit like we see today. It’s not someone proclaiming divine truth; it’s not someone understanding divine truth, it’s someone who is actually a channel or a conduit of divine truth. Now that was a revelatory gift which was in operation, as you can see, in the first century.
The second revelatory gift is the gift of knowledge. I’m not talking about understanding the Bible, I’m talking about receiving a direct word of knowledge from the Lord. Now why would I call “knowledge” a “revelatory gift”? If you look at 1 Corinthians 13:2 notice where Paul mentions the gift of knowledge. The Apostle Paul says, “If I have the gift of prophecy, “ didn’t we just get finished teaching that, “and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” You see how Paul connects knowledge with prophecy there?
So if prophecy is a revelatory gift and he mentions knowledge right in the next clause, then knowledge itself has to be a revelatory gift. So this is not just knowledge of a closed canon; this is a revelatory gift on equal par with Scripture. You are a conduit directly of” what? “prophecy” we just got finished defining that, didn’t we, “they will be done away; if there are tongues,” we’ll talk about tongues in just a minute, “they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.” You see how Paul links all three, prophecy, knowledge and tongues. So if prophecy is a revelatory gift (and it is), if tongues, as I’ll explain to you in a minute, is a revelatory gift (and it is) then knowledge also must be what? A revelatory gift.
And then just one more for good measure. If you’ll look at 1 Corinthians 14:6 Paul mentions knowledge again. He says, “But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues,” a revelatory gift which we’ll define in just a minute, “what will I profit you” now there profit is p-r-o-f-i-t, not p-r-o-p-h-e-t. “what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy [or of teaching]?” So you see how Paul is connecting there revelation, knowledge and prophecy. So if revelation is a revelatory gift (and it is), if prophecy is a revelatory gift, and it is, then so is knowledge.
So knowledge, the way I’m explaining it is revelatory gift number two. And then what is revelatory gift number three? It’s something we’ve actually already talked about called “tongues” and the interpretation of tongues. Over in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22, we learn that tongues, better translated as languages, was actually a sign gift for who? For the unbeliever. [1 Corinthians 14:21In the Law it is written, “BY MEN OF STRANGE TONGUES AND BY THE LIPS OF STRANGERS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE, AND EVEN SO THEY WILL NOT LISTEN TO ME,” says the Lord.  So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.”
So in Acts 2 as we worked through that passage we saw that tongues basically was an ability to speak in a language you’ve never studied. It was not a mystical language, it was not a secret language, it was an actual known language and that you have never studied it and you were able to break out. You know, if the only thing you all spoke here was Spanish and the only thing I spoke was English, if I was able to break out in perfect Spanish, having never studied it, you would say that must be a miracle of God.
So that’s basically how tongues functioned in the first century world. It was a sign to the unbeliever that God was doing something new. However, having said all that it does seem to me that there was a use of tongues, not for the non-believer but also for the Christian. And you see a record of this, not in 1 Corinthians 14:21-22 but a few verses later in 1 Corinthians 14:26-27. Paul says, “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for” what? “edification.” Here it’s talking about something not taking place amongst the unbelievers (as it was taking place in Acts 2, but the way I’m reading this is this is talking about something that takes place within the church, and was taking place in the church.  “If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret.”
So it seems to me that there was something very interesting going on in first century Christianity where someone would step up and they would be given a word from God and they were able to sort of express that in a known language. And then there was someone else with another gift; let’s say I expressed a thought in Spanish, having never learned Spanish, but someone else with another gift could take what I just expressed in an unknown language and interpret it for the benefit of who? The Christians listening. And through this process what was happening is God was directly revealing truth to His infant church.
So tongues, the way I’m understanding it is did take place amongst unbelievers, we talked about that, but there was another phenomenon taking place amongst the church, within the church, and therefore that second use of tongues, the way I’m describing it would be a revelatory gift on par with prophets and knowledge.
So what have we talked about? We’ve talked about the division of the gifts; foundational gifts, we’ve talked about those, confirmatory gifts, we’ve talked about those, but these three gifts that we’ve just gone over, prophet, knowledge tongues and their interpretation we’ve put in a third category. These are called revelatory gifts where God is revealing things to early Christianity directly as these people were exercising their gifts God was speaking directly to first century Christianity. So the question becomes, we’ve explained why the foundational gifts have ceased, we’ve explained why the sign gifts have ceased, the big question becomes have the revelatory gifts ceased. That’s the big debate amongst continuationists and people like ourselves who are selective cessationists.
So you’ll notice what the Sugar Land Bible Church Statement of Faith, Position Number Seven says, it talks about temporal gifts given by the Holy Spirit solely to authenticate both the apostles and their message,” look what our statement says, “before the close of the canon of Scripture” and notice what verse we quote there, 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, and then our statement goes on and says, “We do not believe that these gifts are active today.” So the position of Sugar Land Bible Church is this: when the perfect, otherwise known as the telion, which we believe represents the completed canon of Scripture, when that telion, when that perfect came into existence at the close of the first century with John penning the Book of Revelation, once he got to Revelation 22, the very last verse in the chapter, I think it’s verse 21, once he penned those words God silenced, or God stopped the revelatory gifts.
What are the revelatory gifts? Knowledge, prophecy and the use of tongues and interpretation within the assembly. Now before I defend why it is we believe it the way we do I just want us to understand number one, what the revelatory gifts are, and number two, what the position of Sugar Land Bible Church is on this.
So to get biblical proof for what it is we’re arguing we have to very carefully study a paragraph in the writings of the Apostle Paul, it’s the paragraph I had you open up to initially, it’s 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. So now that you know what the revelatory gifts are and what the position of our church is. [1 Corinthians 13:8-13, “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.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”]
Now the next step is to understand why it is we believe the way we do and to get the picture on that you have to understand this paragraph in the writings of Paul and you have to be able to interpret this paragraph correctly. And that’s the reasoning of the paper that I gave you to study. And so I’m sort of taking the summation of that paper and I’m presenting it to you over the next several weeks in this particular Sunday School class.
So here we go: we have in Paul’s writings 1 Corinthians 12-14. What is Paul talking about in 1 Corinthians 12-14? He is talking about spiritual gifts. Now one of the things to understand is all the way through 1 Corinthians Paul is dealing with the issue of divisions. I have some verses there at the top of the screen where he’s taking aim at issues within the church that are causing disunity. You’ll see him dealing with that in chapter 1, verse 11, chapter 3 verse 22. [1 Corinthians 1:11, “For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe’s people, that there are quarrels among you. 1 Corinthians 3:22, “whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you.”]
Of course it’s the whole point of chapter 6 where they’re suing each other, these Corinthians. There’s divisions related to how they’re practicing the Lord’s Supper. There’s divisions because some of them are even denying the doctrine of the resurrection. So all the way through Paul is attacking divisions, divisions, divisions, that are unnecessary. And he’s promoting unity, unity, unity, unity, unity. That’s how to understand chapters 12-14. The only reason he brings up spiritual gifts in chapters 12-14 is the way the Corinthians were using these revelatory gifts; they were using them in a way that was sort of narcissistic, self-serving, and it was causing divisions within the assembly.
So Paul’s point in chapter 12, 1 Corinthians 12 is there are many gifts for the use in what? One body. Many gifts, one body! So he’s getting them to understand that you’re using the gifts in a divisive way although these gifts are multifaceted they were always intended by God to be used in one body. They were to be used in an atmosphere of unity.
And then he continues his discussion into chapter 14 where he talks about two things; priority and order. If you have to choose between tongues and prophesying Paul says pick prophesying because when the prophet prophesies in a language everybody understands the whole church can be built up. If you have tongues taking place with no interpretation no one is edified. How can you be edified listening to something in a language you don’t understand if no one is present with the gift of interpretation of tongues.
So he’s getting at the issue of priority and he’s getting at the issue of order because what was happening is prophets were standing up and interrupting each other; people were speaking in tongues and they were claiming, you know, this ecstatic utterance comes over me and I just can’t control myself. And Paul says the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets, you have complete control over whatever it is God has given you but you need to express yourself in an orderly way and that’s why He starts to lay out rules two to three at most should be prophesying, they should be done in order, and don’t start rattling off in an unknown language, a language that’s known perhaps that you’ve never learned and the folks in your block have never learned, unless you have someone there to interpret what’s going on, because who can be edified through that process of no interpretation.
So that is the big idea in chapters 12-14 and what does he sandwich into the middle of that discussion? It’s something that’s in all your cards, Christian cards, it’s the love chapter. Now doesn’t that seem kind of odd? I mean, he’s dealing with spiritual gifts in chapter 12, he’s dealing with spiritual gifts in chapter 14, and almost out of the clear blue he inserts this whole discussion about love. And we say well what in the world is that chapter doing here? Well obviously this chapter is inserted because the Corinthians were using the revelatory gifts in a what kind of manner? Unloving manner, a narcissistic manner, a self-serving manner, and thus Paul, in the midst of his discussion about spiritual gifts starts talking about the nature of love.
And you know, these chapter divisions, as I’m sure you know, were not put there by the Holy Spirit, man put those chapter divisions in the Bible and sometimes I think the chapter divisions are helpful, other times I think they do more harm than good. And this is a case where I think they do more harm than good because most people are totally focused on the love chapter because it says some wonderful things about love and the nature of love and they don’t really understand why Paul is talking about this. Paul doesn’t start talking about love until he first deals with the subject of spiritual gifts, and the reason he starts talking about love is because of the self-centered way that the Corinthians were using their various gifts.
So chapters 12-14 is all one connected unit; there’s not three parts to this. The chapter divisions give you the impression there’s three separated ideas here, in fact, these are not separate ideas, these are all related. So having said all that we need to focus for just a minute on the so-called love chapter. That chapter has three parts. Number one, the necessity of love, verses 1-3, and that’s where Paul says what good is it if I have faith and move mountains and fathom all mysteries but don’t have love, I am but a what? Clanging going.
So after he deals with the importance of love or the necessity of love then he deals with the nature of love. I mean, what is love exactly? Our culture throws the word love around all of the time; after all we have a series on television called The Love Boat, so we all think we understand what love is. And we have Valentine’s Day and a young woman will marry a young man because he says he loves here. What exactly is love? Paul explains what the nature of love is; love is not rude, it is not impatient, it doesn’t seek its own, love certainly should not be equated with lust. Lust can’t wait to get; biblical love on the other hand can’t wait to give. So he explains to us verses that we’re very familiar with on the nature of love.
Then in verses 8-13 which is really the key paragraph to come out correctly on why the revelatory gifts had ceased he starts to talk about the endurance of love and how love is actually going to outlast everything. Love is actually going to outlast faith and hope, I’ll talk about that in just a second, and love is actually going to outlast the revelatory gifts because after all, when the perfect comes the revelatory gifts will cease. So now we’ve got to figure out what is the perfect; unless you understand what the perfect is you can’t understand why we believe the way we believe today at Sugar Land Bible Church, that those revelatory gifts ceased. So that’s why we’re moving into 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, a very important paragraph. You already have your Bibles open so let’s read these verses.
Verses 8-13, again dealing with the subject of the endurance of love. Paul having already discussed the necessity of love, and the nature of love in the context of the church, using the revelatory gifts in a narcissistic manner. Paul says, verse 8, “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.” These are all revelatory gifts.  “For we know in part and we prophesy in part;” now look at verse 10, “ but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with. I mean, our first order of business is to figure out what is he talking about here when he says “when the perfect” because how you define “the perfect” determines your view on how the revelatory gifts ceased or not. Do you follow me?
He continues on in verses 11-13, and he says, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  But now faith, hope, love, abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Love is never going to stop; faith and hope will stop and the revelatory gifts will stop when “the perfect” comes. So the big question is what does He mean by “the perfect.”
You can take verses 8-13 and you can sort of put them into the following outline. What is he saying there in verses 8 and 10? Unlike love, the revelatory gifts will cease with the manifestation of the telion, which is a Greek neutered adjective translated in most Bibles as a perfect. And what he’s telling these Corinthians is you guys are all infatuated with these revelatory gifts that you possess; you’re not using them in a very loving manner and in fact, what you’re doing is you’re majoring on the minors because when the perfect comes those gifts are going to disappear. Love will never disappear but your gifting will disappear. So instead of focusing on your gifting, how important it makes you feel, you ought to focus on love because love will never cease. That’s what he’s saying there in verses 8-10.
Then in verses 11-12 he gives two illustrations. What is it going to be like when the revelatory gifts cease? It will be the transition from immaturity to maturity. It’s like the transition from childhood to adulthood. That’s what he’s getting at there in verse 11. And then he gives a second illustration as to what it will be like when the revelatory gifts cease; it will be like moving from limited sight to full sight. And then he says something absolutely astounding, I mean, for years in my Christian life, it took me many, many years to try to metabolize and understand these verses. Verse 13 just blows my mind. He gives sort of a concluding statement and he says, “But now faith, hope, love, abide,” three things, “faith, hope, love … but the greatest of these is” what? “is love.” Now don’t we preach faith all the time, “for without faith it’s impossible to please God.” Did you know that there’s coming a time in history where faith itself won’t even be needed. Why is that? What is faith? It’s hoping in what you can’t see, right, Hebrews 11:1. [Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”]
But when you see Jesus Christ face to face there’s no need for faith any more, is there? See, you get an opportunity now to exercise faith, because you don’t see Christ face to face, but when you see Him face to face even the need for faith disappears. I have in parenthesis there 2 Corinthians 5:7 where the Apostle Paul says, “for we walk by faith, not by sight.” One of these days though I’m going to see Christ so even the need to trust Christ will no longer be necessary because I won’t be walking in the dark, I’ll be walking by faith.
One of the things my wife says to me all the time when we have a little issue going on in our family or some sort of crisis coming in from the outside, she always says to me, “well you know what, we really need to trust the Lord through this because the day is going to come when we won’t have to trust the Lord any more.” So we’re being given a unique opportunity to trust Christ at this moment in history that we won’t always have. Isn’t that a wonderful perspective there, because the day will come when you won’t need to trust Christ anymore because what is there to trust in when you see Him face to face?
And He says faith will disappear, hope will disappear. What is hope? It’s certainty of what you can’t see. And when you look at the Book of Romans, chapter 8 and verse 24, there’s coming a day when even hope itself won’t exist anymore. Romans 8:24 says, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” So hope is something I get to enjoy now but one of these days hope itself won’t even be needed. But of the three, faith and hope, which are very important, and love, which one will never disappear? Love will just keep on going throughout eternity, throughout the eons of time.
So what is Paul doing here with the Corinthians? He’s basically saying you guys are majoring on the minors; I mean, you’re completely enthralled with your revelatory gifts, you don’t understand that when the perfect comes those gifts will disappear. And what you ought to be focusing on is love and using those gifts while they exist in a loving manner because the day will come where love will even exceed the great triad of faith, hope and love. And that’s why the love chapter is inserted where’s inserted in Paul’s writings.
So that is just the context of the paragraph that we’re now entering into. So what, then, becomes the twenty dollar question? If the revelatory gifts, verses 8-10, cease when the perfect comes we’ve got to figure out what the perfect is, because this passage says, “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 with.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;  but when the perfect comes,” now the Greek word for perfect is teleios, that is a Greek adjective and listen to me very carefully, it is not masculine, it is neuter. You say well who cares? It’ll become a very big, BIG deal, I’m think next week when I finally get to what I want to say about the teleios, “but when the perfect” or the teleios comes,” just write down, Greek neuter adjective, when you see teleios or perfect in your Bible you should circle perfect and you should put an arrow into the column and you should put Greek neuter adjective teleion, that’s what the perfect is.
“But when the perfect” or the teleion comes the partial,” what’s the partial? The revelatory gifts; what are the three revelatory gifts? Prophecy, as we’ve defined it, knowledge as we’ve defined it, tongues and the interpretation of tongues as we’ve defined it. “When the perfect comes” those revelatory gifts, which are very active in the first century, although they were being used in a narcissistic way, those gifts will be done away with. So we’ve got to figure out what is “the perfect,” teleios, because how you define the perfect lands you on the theological landscape concerning whether the revelatory gifts are here today or not.
And you say well, gee, Andy, don’t all Christians agree on this? If all Christians agreed on this and if this was an easy thing to understand then there would be absolute unity in the body of Christ on it, right? But this is not the easiest thing to understand and that’s why I had to write… how long is that paper, 30 pages, 40 pages, trying to defend the view. There are three views on what the teleion is. The first view is that the teleion or the perfect… and this is the view that most of you know because this is the view that, for whatever reason, has the greatest market share; most of your study Bibles take this view, even my beloved Charles Ryrie in his study Bible takes this view. The view is the teleion is the eschaton or the end typically defined as the rapture, the second coming of Christ or even the eternal state. Some would say death but teleion is referring to something that happens in the future, either you die or the rapture occurs, or the second advent occurs, or we’re ushered into the eternal state and that’s what the teleion is.
But I’m here to tell you, beloved, that that’s a very popular view but it’s got some major holes in it; in fact, there are loopholes so big in this view you could probably drive a Mac truck into the loopholes. And most people are never taught what the problems are, they’re just taught this is what the Bibles says, believe it. When you get into the Greek languages, which we’re going to be getting into in this study, you’re going to see there’s major problems with that view. But that’s the most popular view.
The second view out there is the teleion represents the maturity of the church. And the maturity of the church is sort of defined a lot of different ways, the death of the apostles where the new infant church could become independent, a completed canon of Scripture where the infant church can now become independent of the apostles. Some define it as A.D. 70 when the church was no longer Jewish because Rome sacked Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and therefore the church had made a final break away from Judaism and so you find this second view kind of floating around out there, which I think is a lot closer to the truth than the first view. But they define teleion as the maturity of the church, therefore the church and the revelatory gifts ceased when the church became mature. That’s a less known view, that’s view number two.
What we think, based on our doctrinal statement and more importantly based on our study of the Word of God, what we think is the correct view is view number three, the teleion is not the second coming, it’s not the rapture, it’s not death, it’s not the eternal state, it’s not when the infant church became mature, it’s when this book was completed, this book here. Once you get to book sixty-six and John pens Revelation 22, I think the last verse in that chapter is verse 21, once that happens God took the temporal revelatory gifts, which are prophecy, knowledge, tongues and their interpretation, and stopped those gifts. Why? Because there was no longer a need for direct communication from God because God had disclosed to us an all sufficient Scripture. See that?
Each of these views has some problems with them but what I’m going to try to demonstrate is view number three has a lot fewer problems than the others, and I think view number three is the correct view. You’ll notice position statement number seven in the Sugar Land Bible Church teaching positions and we define the teleion as the close of the canon of Scripture, and you see what verses we’re quoting there? 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. So you are basically in a church that believes that the revelatory gifts ceased with the concluding of the canon of Scripture, Book 66, Book 27 of the New Testament back in the first century. So there are no tongues today the way they’re described here. There is no prophecy today the way it’s described here. There is no word of knowledge today the way it’s described here.
What you have today are people in the body of Christ that are gifted and understanding what God has disclosed and proclaiming what God has already revealed but that is completely different than saying so and so is some sort of direct channel, direct conduit of divine truth. And let me tell you something, if you believe this view, put your battle gear on because this view is totally dismissed. In fact, when you bring up this view in charismatic circles this is the answer you’re going to get: well, that’s ridiculous. I’m not kidding, I’ve brought up this view many, many times, even in my own household, not my immediate household but my uncle and my cousin who love Jesus just as much as I do, we don’t agree on this. They think all of the gifts are in operation today; I don’t. I bring up 1 Corinthians 13 and immediately what comes out of their mouth is that’s ridiculous.
Now you might be familiar with Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, he was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for about thirty years, he is very influential in Reform circles. He’s passed on now but he inherited this church from some greats, one of them in the lineage was a guy named G. Campbell Morgan, you might be familiar with him and his writings from the past. And this is the attitude (and I respect many of the things Martin Lloyd Jones said and taught) he is about as reformed as the day is long, very Calvinistic, very sort of amillennial if I’m understand his eschatology correctly, I may be off on his eschatology, but very Reformed. I’m not! But I still have a lot of respect for some of the ideas that he promoted, like the sufficiency of Scripture and those kinds of things. He’s a very interesting guy, he was trained as a medical doctor and then I believe God used him very strategically in London for the thirty years he was at Westminster Chapel in London.
And he says of the Canon view: “It means that you and I, who have the Scriptures open before us, know much more than the apostle Paul of Gods truth….” And we’re going to be answering these objections as we go. “It means that we are altogether superior…even to the apostles themselves, including the apostle Paul! It means that we are now in a position which . . . ‘we know, even as we are known’ by God . . . indeed, there is only one word to describe such a view, it is nonsense.” [D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones, Prove All Things, ed. Christopher Catherwood (Eastbourne, England: Kingsway, 1985), 32–33.]
This is a great scholar here I’m quoting. What I’m trying to show you is this is common; this is how rapidly in our modern day society the canon view is just dismissed out of hand and so we have to sort of understand how to argue for our position. I will say this, very interestingly, Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones, when he passed, his church was basically Westminster Church chapel in London was basically taken over by the charismatic movement. He passed and one of his successors down the chain was a guy named R. T. Kindle. If you study the works of R. T. Kindle he’s very charismatic, a Pentecostal, continuationists. In fact, my best friend in high school who is serving the Lord in the military visited this particular church and he told me that this church is completely open to all the manifestations of the Holy Spirit; there’s a total emphasis on personal prophecy gifts and tongues. And I can’t help but think that if the late Martyn-Lloyd Jones really didn’t believe in those practices had taken a more aggressive stand on what the teleion is then his church would not have gone in the direction that it has gone into.
So we’re going to be arguing for the canon view and what I’ll be doing as we progress is I’ll give you the other views first, I’ll show you their inadequacies, and then finally we’ll be progressing to the Canon view, I will make you completely aware of the problems with the completed canon view but I will show you that there are answers to all the objections. That’s sort of the trajectory that we’re going to argue that the revelatory gifts have ceased. I did talk a little bit over today, what s shock… right? And so we’ll be opening up to Q & A as we progress in the study, but let’s pray.
Father, I pray You’ll give us clear minds and hearts as we look at a difficult issue in this Sunday School class and help us to come down correctly on this and have Your mind and why it’s important and we’ll be careful to give you all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said Amen.