Home > 1 Corinthians, Bible Study, church history, church life, Old Testament, S. Lewis Johnson > The Temporary Spiritual Gifts: S. Lewis Johnson in 1 Corinthians 12

The Temporary Spiritual Gifts: S. Lewis Johnson in 1 Corinthians 12


From S. Lewis Johnson’s 1 Corinthians series (this message), and this related message from his earlier Systematic Theology series, a look at the different spiritual gifts as set forth in the scriptures, and why some of the gifts are temporary (not permanent) spiritual gifts.

Four passages address the spiritual gifts – the two 12s and two 4s:  Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4.  The temporary gifts are largely sign gifts, the miraculous gifts:  apostles, prophets, miracles,  healings, tongues, utterances of knowledge and wisdom (1 Corinthians 12:8), and discerning of spirits.

Four reasons, biblical support, for why these spiritual gifts were temporary:

1) Scriptural hints:  Hebrews 2:3-4 indicates a progression: the word of God was spoken by our Lord, then moved in transition from our Lord to the apostles; and then, as the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us, it came to you and to us. There is a progression here and a progression in time, and it’s in the past, according to his understanding.

2)  Biblical principle: the analogy of Biblical history suggests it.  Dr. Johnson noted this very good point in his Systematic Theology series.  We can look at Old Testament history and the special times of miracles, in the ministry of Moses and later in Elijah’s day. Later came the arrival of the Messiah, the time of miracles in Jesus’ earthly ministry, followed by the time of the apostles (the book of Acts).

 When Israel entered into the land, the miraculous died out.  The signed gifts that Moses did, no longer were done. And for a long time, you’ll remember, no mighty signed gifts were performed in Israel.  Of course, God worked for Israel, He worked for David and He did remarkable things through those who believed in Him.  But the outburst of the miraculous performed by a man died out.  Now, if you had been an Israelite, you might have said, like many of my Pentecostal friends say today, “What Moses did, we ought to do.”  And you might throw snakes down or throw rods down, trying to make them turn into snakes and all of the other things that Moses did.  You might have struck the waters of the Red Sea and you might have struck the waters of the river — and none of those things would have happened because God did them through Moses.

3)  The nature of certain gifts demands that they be temporary.  For instance, the Gift of apostles.  By the very nature of his gift, it is to be understood that that gift is temporary.  For one of the requirements of an apostle, for example, was that he should see the Lord.  The canon of scripture was not yet complete, and from the temporary gift of apostles we have most of the New Testament books.

We have in the beginning of the history of the Christian church in the New Testament, the apostles of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  They were individuals who are ones who have seen the Lord and his resurrection.  That’s one of the qualifications.  And so apostleship is something we don’t have today, because we don’t have the privilege of seeing the Lord and his resurrection.

I am not an apostle.  I have not seen the Lord.  The Twelve and then one to take the place of Judas who fell, and the Apostle Paul; these are the apostles.  I know the term “apostle” is used elsewhere in the New Testament of others because it has a twofold usage.  It’s used of people who are sent as messengers of churches, because that’s essentially what the word apostle means, one who has been sent.  Apostles of the churches: but they are different from apostles of Jesus Christ.

4)  The voice of history confirms the fact that certain of the gifts are temporary.

 Beyond the time of the apostles there is no clear indication of the persistence of the assigned gifts in both number and character.  There are some incidental things that are stated here and there, and we do not deny that miracles may exist, remember, because Christians pray.  James 5 may have been used, so you may expect here and there miracles to take place.  But in the sense that they took place in the times of the apostles, we have no indication of that in later history.

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  1. Truth2Freedom
    June 26, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.

  2. June 27, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for summarizing S. Lewis Johnson’s study. I like the two 12s and two 4s as a memory device. I suspect that in the days leading up to the Strange Fire Conference this will become more and more important

    • June 27, 2013 at 8:18 pm

      Agree, a good memory device for this topic. And yes, already the charismatics/continuationists have started the false accusations against MacArthur and the upcoming Strange Fire conference.

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