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The Purpose, Regulation, and Duration of Miraculous Manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

There are a great number of misconceptions concerning the work of the Holy Spirit. It is no question that the Holy Spirit works in the lives of people, and most would not argue that point. However, many believe that the Holy Spirit works miraculously in the lives of people today as he did in the first century. The purpose of this study will be to consider that view in the light of divine scripture; the “sword of the [Holy] Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17).   In addition, this study does not in any way deny the Holy Spirit’s divinity nor His power. He is God (1 Corinthians 2:10-11). He does have the power to work miracles (Acts 2). Thus this study is designed to consider His method of operation as it is laid out in the Bible, and as it pertains to followers of Christ.

In the New Testament there are several examples of miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit. We find the Apostles speaking in tongues (actually languages not mere gibberish), in Acts 2:1-12. We find an example of one being healed in Acts 3:7-8. We find one being raised from the dead in Acts 9:40. On and on the list could go. There is simply no denying that the Holy Spirit has power and used power to perform miracles. But consider the nature of these miracles, as it opposes the forgeries and false miracles that are claimed by many today. In Acts 4 we find the opponents of Christianity discussing a miracle that took place. In a discussion concerning what to be done with those who taught the truth, they said ” …For indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident, to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it”(Acts 4:16, emphasis mine KGJ).  When a genuine miracle had taken place, there was no denying that fact that it happened even by those that stood in opposition to Christianity! Yet the supposed manifestations today are questioned by most everyone!

Miraculous manifestations were an important part of the assembly of the first century church, and they were to be used properly in the assembly to edify the whole church (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).  Paul explained, regulated, and gave the duration of them in 1stCorinthians 12, 13, 14.  In the 12thchapter, Paul pointed out that the Spirit made the decision regarding who received what gift, of the diversity of the 9 gifts of the Spirit. Paul writes “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit… For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge, through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophesy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-12).  The Bible is clear, that not every person received every spiritual gift of miraculous manifestation, but the Spirit “distributes to each one individually, as He wills.  To assume that all Christians had the ability to use all of the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit is simply false!

In Chapter 14, Paul regulated the use of these miraculous manifestations, and specifically tongue speaking. He writes “So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world and none of them is without significance” (1 Corinthians 14:9-10, emphasis mine KGJ) . Notice the point, Paul speaks about the nature of tongues, that if they were not interpreted, they were “speaking into the air” and that tongues in the first century were ” languages in the world.”  They were not unintelligible  gibberish, nor where they “angelic prayer languages.”  The Bible never speaks of an “angelic prayer language.”  These were languages that existed in the world. Paul continues concerning the importance of having the tongue interpreted. He writes “Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of a language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you excel. Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.” (1 Corinthians 14:11-14). Paul noted the need for interpretation of these tongues that “understanding [may not be] unfruitful.

He continues and begins to write about miraculous manifestations in regard to their regulation in the assembly. He writes “How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation, let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26).    They were to be organized and used in an effort to edify or build up the body. He further notes how that is to be done. ” If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn and let one interpret. But if there is no interpreter let him keep silent in the church, and let him speak to himself and to God” (1 Corinthians 14: 27-28). Some points we can see in this verse: 1) tongues did not flow from people uncontrollably; a person could make the decision as to whether or not to use the gift. 2) Tongues were only to be used when the opportunity to “let one interpret,” existed.  It was not to be done if an interpreter was not present!

He then goes on to speak about the regulation of prophesies during the assembly, Pointing out that “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as it is in all the churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).  The text regulates that women are not subject to display the miraculous manifestation in the church, but rather to “keep silent” (1 Corinthians 14:34). As it can clearly be seen under the microscope of the Truth, the practice of many churches today who claim to have the same spiritual gifts, are in direct opposition to the teaching of the inspired apostle Paul!

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul writes concerning   “love”, and its quality to “endure forever” as it contrasts things which are temporary.  He points out that the miraculous, manifestations of the Spirit, and the other works that man can do were unprofitable without love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). He then speaks about the nature of love and its great ability (1 Corinthians 13:3-7). There is no denying that love is powerful, and required of the child of God. Paul then contrasts the enduring eternal nature of love, as it opposes those things that are temporary in nature. The Apostle writes “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease, whether there is knowledge it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, But when that which is perfect has come, that which is in part will be done away with” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).  Here Paul shows that there are some things that will vanish away, (i.e. miraculous spiritual gifts). They are associated with “knowing in part” and “prophesying in part.”  He shows that “when that which is perfect has come, that which is in part will be done away with” (vs. 10).  That which is “perfect” is in reference to the completion of the written word. James writes “He who looks into the perfect law of liberty ….” (James 1:25). The “perfect law of liberty” is that which is complete and whole, able to make man complete unto eternal life.   The law of Christ; the law of liberty is perfect!  It is completed and it brought about the end of the miraculous manifestations, thus we no longer ” know in part” We know in whole (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Miraculous manifestations in the first century were an important part of the spread of the gospel.  The Gospel of Mark ends by noting their purpose to confirm the message preached by the apostles (Mark 16:20).   Let each of us always understand the importance of these miracles, but understand that God’s purpose for them ended when the perfect, complete word of God was given.  In addition, during the time of their use, they were regulated to best fulfill the purpose of God.