The Gifts of the Spirit

Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4

The gifts of the Spirit in written about in Paul’s letters to the body of Christ have been debated for years. Many of the debates center around the following questions—who were the gifts given to and when, why they were given, did they end, and if they did end, why and when? In this study, we will examine these very questions, with a concentration on 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4. The hope is to come to a surer realization of the truth that would line up with what Priscilla and Aquila did for Apollos in Acts 18:24–26, “a more accurate way.”

The first thing we must understand is that the gifts were given by Christ himself as 1 Corinthians 7:7 and Ephesians 4:7–10 show. These gifts were supernaturally endowed upon members of the body of Christ for at three purposes:

1. For the foundation/establishment and building up of the body of Christ—1 Corinthians 12:1–11 and 28 and Ephesians 2:19–20 and 4:12.
2. To attain to the unity of the faith, of the (“full” in the Greek) knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ—Ephesians 4:13.
3. Tongues were given, not only to spread the gospel to others who spoke a language that the evangelists didn’t speak, but to send a message to unbelieving Jews that Paul’s message was indeed from God and was valid—1 Corinthians 14:21–22 and 1:22.

The list in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12-14 and Ephesians 4:11 are gifts that God gave to establish the church at its outset—Ephesians 2:19–20 and 1 Corinthians 12:28. The first thing we have to notice is that these gifts were given AFTER Christ ascended to heaven, as verses 7–11 plainly show. This means that these apostles must NOT be the twelve chosen by Jesus while He was here on earth as portrayed in Matthew chapter ten. Those twelve were apostles of Israel (Galatians 2:8) and not apostles of the church, the body of Christ for this age of grace. Paul is speaking here of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers of grace, which included primarily Paul and his fellow workers—Romans 11:13, 1 Corinthians 14:37, 1 Thessalonians 2:6 and 1:1 and 1 Timothy 2:7.

These gifts were given to the church in its infancy, with the goal of reaching maturity—1 Corinthians 13:11 and Ephesians 4:14. It was a time when only a partial knowledge of the administration of grace was revealed to and known by Paul and the body of Christ—1 Corinthians 13:12-13 and Ephesians 4:13. This holds true for the gifts listed in Romans 12:6–8 as the book of Romans was also one of Paul’s earlier writings. We will see the significance of this later. The reason this knowledge was not fully known at this time is that the body of Christ, with its heavenly destiny and precepts were a mystery, never revealed in the Old Testament or the gospel period, when Jesus walked the streets of Israel—Romans 16:25, 1 Corinthians 2:6–8, Ephesians 3:1–12 and Colossians 1:25–26. The Old Testament and the four gospels hold in them the whole program for Israel and God’s plan for the earth.

The word “until” is used in Ephesians 4:13, indicating that the gifts listed in verse 11 have an expiration date. In 1 Corinthians 13:8, not only is this confirmed, but verses 9-10 lets us know when this will happen, and it is the key to our understanding of the whole gift program given to the early church— “when the perfect comes.” But before we examine this phrase, we have to understand why Paul was addressing this in this letter to the Corinthians. The Corinthian church had been gifted with all of the spiritual gifts—1 Corinthians 1:4–7. Unfortunately, they were abusing these gifts and were apparently being puffed up by whatever gift each one exhibited, thereby causing divisions and strife within the assembly. So, Paul addressed this by showing them a more excellent way…love—1 Corinthians 12:31–13:8a and 13. Love was a sign of maturity, and Paul wanted the Corinthians to grow up—1 Corinthians 14:20. He goes on to explain in 1 Corinthians 13:8–13 that love will never fail or end, but the gifts will eventually come to an end (Ephesians 4:13—“until”).

Notice that Ephesians 4:11 is past tense… “And He gave some…” Paul does not write that God is “still giving” or “will give.” No, by the time Ephesians was penned, this giving of the gifts was in the past, indicating that the “perfect coming” mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:9 had already occurred. But what is this “perfect?” Many teach that it refers to the coming of Christ to rapture His church up to heaven, so Christ or heaven itself must be the “perfect” that Paul is alluding to. Well, just a cursory reading of 1 Corinthians 13:8–13 and a quick reference check from elsewhere in the Scriptures will show that this can’t be the case. Paul writes in verse 13 that “now faith, hope and love” remain. The now refers to a time when the gift of tongues, knowledge and prophecy will be done away with, because Paul says he will have full knowledge. Well, when a believer is in heaven, there will no longer be faith and hope. Faith is the “conviction of things not seen”—Hebrews 11:1b. Romans 8:24–25 conveys the same idea about hope—it is hoping for something unseen. But when Christ returns, we will see Him. His return is our blessed hope—Titus 2:11-13. When Christ comes back to take the body of Christ to heaven, hope will become a reality and there will no longer be a need for faith, for everything will be seen. Summing this up then, the “perfect” coming can’t refer to Christ’s return or heaven, because when Paul has full knowledge (verse 12), faith and hope will still be operational, two things that won’t be in existence in heaven. Therefore, the gifts will vanish BEFORE Christ comes back. So, let’s take a look at 1 Corinthians 13 in a little more detailed way, referring to the Ephesians 4 passage, and I believe we will gain a complete and “more accurate” understanding of why the gifts ended and when.

Paul clearly states in 1 Corinthians 13:8 that the supernatural gifts given by God will depart. Tongues will cease (end), knowledge (the gift of knowing something without having learned it), which was only partial knowledge (verse 12) will be done away with, and the gift of prophecy (speaking forth God’s word), which also was exercised in an incomplete fashion (in part…partial) will be done away with. Paul likens the current condition of partial knowledge in the Corinthian church to that of being a child, immature. He also describes this condition as almost being partially blinded, not seeing the whole picture, as in a mirror that isn’t showing the complete image… “dimly.” The same is true of the Romans letter, because of the early date that it was written. But, when the “perfect comes,” the whole picture will be revealed, and Paul says that he will then know fully. So, what does this “perfect” refer to?

The Greek word that Paul used for “perfect” is “teleion,” which is used at least three other times in the New Testament—1 Corinthians 2:6 and 14:20 and Hebrews 5:13–14. All three times the word is used to describe a condition of spiritual maturity, not “perfection.” So, when this maturity is accomplished, the gifts will be done away with. The Ephesians 4 passage already indicates that this had been accomplished by the time Paul wrote to them. Compare the present tense used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 13— “we know (present tense) in part,” and he compares this to being a child, immature, not fully educated with the past tense in the Ephesians 4 Scripture— “And He gave (past tense) some as apostles…” “As a result, we are no longer (present tense) to be children.” See the contrast. This is why Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture. The knowledge gained by and revealed through the Apostle Paul, by the time Ephesians was written had now elevated the body of Christ to a state of maturity to the point that the supernatural gifts given by Christ had now faded off the scene and were replaced with the whole revealed picture for the age of grace. Paul refers to this as the revelation of the mystery—see Ephesians 2–3 and Colossians 1:25–26.

Review the following chart and compare the Corinthian church, where the gifts were in full use, with the Ephesian church, where they had already attained maturity.

Corinthian Church With Gifts          Ephesian Church Without Gifts
Childlike/Immature                            No Longer Children
Having Partial Knowledge                   Full Knowledge Revealed
Seeing the Program of Grace Dimly     Seeing Clearly/Program of Grace Revealed
Gifts Needed for Building Up Body       Gifts Not Needed/Maturity Attained

Now, let’s look to Ephesians 4 to find out when and how this maturity was reached. There are four tenets of this maturity listed in verse 13:
1. We attain to the unity of the faith.
2. We attain the full knowledge of the Son of God
3. We attain maturity.
4. This maturity add up to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

By the time Paul wrote Ephesians, God had revealed all of this to His church, the body of Christ.

The attaining to the “unity of the faith” can’t possibly be referring to a time when everyone in the body agrees, for Paul writes that that there will be more divisions as the church age progresses and reaches its completion at the end of the age—1 Timothy 4:1–3 and 2 Timothy 3:1–4. This unity mentioned in Ephesians 4:13 has already been given by God and is listed in Ephesians 4:3–6. It is interesting that in the Strong’s NASB concordance, the phrase “face to face” is used to describe the Greek word for “attain,” precisely what Paul says would happen in 1 Corinthians 13:12, when full knowledge is gained.

The “full knowledge of the Son of God” has also been reached in Paul’s letters with the revelation of the mystery—Ephesians 1:9–17 and 3:1–11, Colossians 1:9-10 and 25 and 2:1–3 and Philippians 1:9–11.

This “full knowledge” brings the church to a maturity level equated with being “a mature man,” no longer children—Ephesians 4:14–16 and 2 Timothy 3:16–17. Notice that Ephesians 4:16 ends with the phrase, “Christ…causes the growth of the body (maturity) for the building up of itself in love.” This takes us right back to 1 Corinthians 13, where love is the more excellent way and is the greatest principle taught to the church, which is His body.

Finally, this full knowledge brings the church to “the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.”—Ephesians 1:9–23 and 3:14-19 and Colossians 2:9–10 (before, He gave gifts in order to reach this, but now believers are “complete in Christ,” no longer partial).

All four of these tenets of the church were attained through the ministry of the gifts listed in Ephesians 4:11. Notice that Paul does not separate any of these gifts. The teaching today that the first two gifts, apostles and prophets, are done away with, but the other three remain and are still needed, is man’s tradition and is not supported by the passage. Nowhere, does Paul indicate that these are to be exclusive of one another in any way. They are lumped together and were all needed to be given supernaturally by God for a time, the beginning of the body of Christ, but that time has passed. Now, the list of five are all utilized through the Scripture. The writings of the apostles and prophets of grace (Romans through Philemon) are still to be referred to. In fact, these Scriptures are the only place where we receive our instruction for the body of Christ. Evangelists, pastors and teachers are now jobs/offices that need to be carried out in order to spread the gospel, lead the church and instruct them in the ways of Christ, who is the head of the body. Again, these jobs/offices, and how to do them, are now written out in God’s completed revealed word.

Evangelist—2 Corinthians 5:17–20 and 2 Timothy 4:5.
Pastors (Preachers)—1 Timothy 3:1–7 (notice that he must be able to teach) and 5:17 and Titus 1:5-9.  Paul writes that being a pastor (overseer) is something that an individual may desire; it is not given supernaturally by Christ anymore.
Teachers—1 Timothy 5:17 and 2 Timothy 2:2 and 24.

No longer does Paul mention that gifts are needed or used supernaturally for any of these offices. Nobody has a special “calling.” Now, the fully revealed mystery in Scripture is where one goes in order to obtain all instruction for what the “man of God” needs to fulfill what God wants today for the body of Christ. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 is very clear. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Notice the term “man of God” is what Paul said had already been attained in Ephesians 4:14— “we are no longer children…” It is the completion of the revelation of the mystery that now equips the body for “every good work—Ephesians 4:11-12.” There is no need for gifts to fill in any gap, “every good work” can now be accomplished when the man of God educates himself with God’s word rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV)— “then I will know fully…”

This article was written by Paul D. Pedro of Oakdale, Minnesota in 2019 with the help of the following—Pastor Joel Finck, Pastor Gary Johnson, Pastor Richard Jordan, an unpublished work by Tracy Lesan 2019 and of course, the Holy Spirit, whose Word, when “rightly divided,” is sufficient for all understanding. All italics and emphasis of Scripture was added by the author. All Scripture was quoted from the New American Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.


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