The Necessity of the Knowledge Gifts

First Corinthians 13 is well known as the Bible’s beautiful exposition of true love. But the chapter also contains one of the most controversial passages in all of Scripture, one which is hotly contested and is very pertinent to our day:

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, then that which is in part will be done away. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, NKJV

I like to look at cross-references. This verse tells of something which is perfect which had not yet come, at this point in Paul’s ministrations to the Corinthians. What is perfect?

Looking through the Scriptures, many things are perfect. Noah was perfect in his generations; Job was perfect and upright. The Father is perfect, and so should we be. The Lord is perfect in wisdom, His way is perfect, and He is able to make our way perfect. In obedience to the Law, Jesus is said to have been made perfect.:”(Hebrews 5:9.)”: And of course, Scripture is called perfect, twice as many times as Jesus but far fewer times than Job, for those keeping score. The Scriptures are called the perfect law of liberty,:”(James 1:25.)”: perfect to the point that they are able to convert the soul of man.:”(Psalm 19:7.)”:

And at that point, the Scriptures had not fully “come” yet. Revelation was still on-going. The Old Testament was complete, but the Spirit of God was still working on the New Testament. It was a work-in-progress during much of the apostles’ work, finally being completed when John penned the final “amen” of the Revelation.

What this means is that the early church didn’t have a New Testament they could look to in order to determine right doctrine. As books and letters were written, the theology of the New Covenant spread, but by and large early Christians relied upon the Old Testament Scriptures. They are what they knew, what they searched to determine whether teachers were speaking truth or not.

How were the changes to be accepted, though? After all, if one does not have New Testament Scriptures and is only familiar with the Old Testament and the Law, one would be quite wary of a person preaching a new doctrine which eschews animal sacrifice in favor of a singular human sacrifice.

The Lord worked it out so that the message would be confirmed with miraculous gifts, notably that of tongues. Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, we see that their message was repeatedly confirmed by gifts.

And we can see how the Lord would have used these gifts to benefit His churches during that transitional time of New Testament development and initial church growth. The ability to speak on behalf of God via tongues or prophecy or via the impartation of special wisdom or knowledge would have been very beneficial in resolving problems within the assembly, as well as directing others toward spiritual growth.

Remember that for several years, followers of Christ didn’t have such well known Scriptures to reference as the list of fruits of the Spirit, the description of spiritual armor, the qualifications of church leadership, and so much more.

This void was filled miraculously.

With the completion of Scripture, however, that void has been forever filled. That which is perfect has come. We no longer know in part (i.e., only having the Old Testament revelation of God); we now have the complete revelation of everything God desires for us to know, everything required for us to be perfect ourselves, thoroughly furnished for every good work.

No further revelation — whether it be by way of tongues, prophecy, or the special impartation of knowledge or wisdom — can add anything to what the Scriptures have already given us. They are complete and able to not only convert the soul of man, but to see it come to perfect maturity spiritually.

I am repeating much of what I said on Open Switch, but I am confident that this position is a rational one:”(Even though I freely confess that some of the above post may not be entirely rational and thought out. You are more than welcome to discuss any problems there may be with my reasoning!)”: and that it bears repeating:

The special knowledge gifts can do only one of two things: (1)Agree with and affirm the Bible, in which case we already had the sure testimony of Scripture to go by. (2)Disagree with and contradict or undermine the Bible, in which case we must hold to the words of Scripture at all costs.

Anyone who speaks in a manner inconsistent with the Scriptures does so because there is no light in them.:”(Isaiah 8:20.)”: Jesus is a stranger to those who speak contrary to His Word!

Peter declares the Scriptures to be a “more sure word of prophecy.”:”(2 Peter 1:19.)”: The implication is clear: If someone claims to prophesy that a woman is called to be a church elder, we have a “more sure word of prophecy” which has already declared for us that an elder of a church must be a husband of one wife, a feat impossible for any woman. That the Scripture is “more sure” than other prophecies, hold fast to it! You cannot go wrong by trusting in His Word. It is perfect, it is complete, and it requires nothing more to fully equip you to serve God!:”(2 Timothy 3:16,17.)”:

That which is perfect has come. We now have the Scriptures which have been given by God to make us complete. We no longer have any need for the partial benefits of tongues, prophecies, and special impartation of knowledge. As we are known, so can we fully know what God desires for us to know.

And though such knowledge gifts have been removed from service, other gifts remain, the greatest of which is love. Want to exercise a spiritual gift? Want to make a difference? Love one another. Do good, show mercy, spread grace. Love. Love. Love. It never fails! It’ll never pass away!

I realize that I’m echoing the sentiment of a verse which goes on to say we should especially desire to prophesy,:”(1 Corinthians 14:1.)”: but please don’t forget the context within which that verse appears, which includes chapter 13.

The Christian Corinthians were abusing the gifts the Spirit was giving them to guide and mature them. As an interim solution until the gifts would no longer be necessary, the Spirit directed Paul to write to them, laying out a very specific method of exercising these special gifts. And just as the Levitical Law was given to a certain people for a certain time period, so were the sign gifts and their instructions for use given to a specific people during a specific time.

The people were Christians, which I and (I hope) you are. But the time period was that early church developmental phase wherein the message of the apostles was confirmed by the sign gifts, as they did not yet have a New Testament to point to in order to confirm what they were saying.

The moment the New Testament was completed, however, it became possible to test every teaching from any teacher. The complete revelation of God had been laid out, becoming a perfect measuring rod against which doctrines either stand or fall.

To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isaiah 8:20, NKJV

6 thoughts on “The Necessity of the Knowledge Gifts”

  1. a very good summary on the subject. And the first to answer the question that,
    if the perfect was the scriptures, and when they were completed the gifts are no longer needed, then why do the scriptures mention the use of the gifts.

  2. I think the perfect thing mentioned here is believers in heaven. You’re right the passage is debated and will continue to be debated. Your position is quite popular and may very well be right.

  3. First of all, yes your presentation was presented nicely. Secondly I agree with the 2 above me. I as well believe that the perfect is when we get to heaven. Allow me to back it up.

    To start out I would suggest that you look at the word perfection in the Greek. It means End, Complete, or Fullfillment. Which definantly makes backs both points of view. Lets look a few verses before and a few verses after. 1Corinthians 13:8-12. “8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
    9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
    10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
    11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
    12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Ok do you notice how you constantly see personal words? “I” “We” knowin in part then knowing fully.. Being a child then growing into a man? Clearly it is talking about our perfection.
    Now lets talk about verse 12. Let me direct you to a few verses “2 Corinthians 3:18
    18 and we all, with unvailed face, the glory of the Lord beholding in a mirror, to the same image are being transformed, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (YLT)” and James 1:23
    “23 because, if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, this one hath been like to a man viewing his natural face in a mirror, [YLT]”. You see Christians have “unveiled faces” in the sense that we are able to see that Jesus is Lord. But for the Jews their hearts are “Veiled”. They do not see that Jesus is the Messiah. But when a Jew turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.(2 Corinth. 3:18)We as Christians do not see the Lord face to face, as he is in Heaven. What we see is a “poor mirrior reflection” of him. Because we are in Christ and Christ is in us through his Spirit, We reflect his image, albeit poorly. Thats why James 1:23 says Anyone who is a hearer but not a doer, is only like his natural self(not Jesus) as he “looks in a mirrior”. The more we learn about Jesus the more we are transformed from glory to glory in his likeness. (2 Corinth. 3:18)This transformation is still ongoing for every Christian and will be completed when we see Christ “Face to Face” –no longer “as a poor reflection as in a mirrior” In other words when Christ comes back we will be perfected with all knowledge in our glorified bodies.
    I noticed that you said, “That which is perfect has come. We now have the Scriptures which have been given by God to make us complete.” That verse says that “WE WILL KNOW FULLY EVEN AS WE ARE FULLY KNOW”. Not that we will have at our disposal. No Christian can say that they know fully. If so they have lied. We dont know everything. Furthermore I think that God has far more knowledge for us than that which is contained in the scriptures. The Bible is silent on many topics.
    I have many more Scriptures if you want. But you should take into consideration both sides. I could honestly go on for hours.
    In Christian love, Michael

  4. Then you’ll have to explain to me why such gifts as prophesy or tongues would be necessary.

    Most of ’em that I have heard have either been in blatant contradiction to the Word of God (a woman saying “God told me to be a pastor,” an attempt at prophesying that contradicts the Word) or are practiced in a manner inconsistent with the Word (tongues being meaningless gibber jabber or coming from the lips of a woman in church).

    On the off chance someone does manage to biblically practice the gifts in an assembly (I’ve yet to see this, but then again I’ve only been in three churches which accept the continuation of the gifts), what can the gifts tell me that I could not already have known from the Bible?

    I can see their usefulness before Scripture was completed, but what use are they now? God’s gifts have a reason and a purpose; if certain gifts are still be given, why?

  5. To begin I would say that women prayed in church lead singing prophesied and many other things. The thing I would agree with you on is the part about a women being a Pastor, contrary to the sound Bible teaching that a man is to be of headship. I must say that tongues is not meaningless gibberjabber,hence 1 corinthians 14:2 you see God understands it so its not just gibber jabber. If you want scripture for the verses about women prophesying and praying singing and dancing, let me know there are several. reasons for the gifts are: for the perfecting of the church and for the building up of the church.

  6. All of this is “that I am aware of…” and I welcome any corrections.

    Women prayed in church: No evidence of this in Scripture.
    Women sang in church: Again, no evidence.
    Women prophesied: Of course, but not within churches.
    Many other things: Such as?

    The tongues within Charismatic churches I have been to and seen on television employed tongues which was meaningless jibber jabber. Regardless of what one thinks a private prayer language is, tongues within the assemblies must be interpreted or they are meaningless. Further, these tongues cannot be spoken by women nor can more than two or three employ them in any given service.

    Dancing: No evidence of this within the churches.

    Ephesians 4:11,12 does state that there were apostles, prophets, and so on for the purpose of the perfecting of the saints. I don’t deny that. But there were only 15 or so apostles, so it is perfectly acceptable that there were only a limited number of prophets as well, all living during that early church period.

    Even Israel, a nation with many famous prophets, only had a set few, as that gift went silent for them for hundreds of years.

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