Are the Miraculous Gifts of the Spirit for Today?

Upon examination of Scripture it seems that some of the gifts of the Spirit were only given to the apostles — foundational gifts used for the first century church.

There have been numerous interpretations about this and just as many approaches to the subject. My approach is quite simple. As with all topics upon which the Bible sheds some light, I follow three vital principles in reaching my conclusions.

First, study the content of any verse or passage. Be careful not read into it anything that is not there; or leave out anything that is there. The major question becomes, "What does it say?" not what does it seem to say.

Second, study the context of the passage. The context is that which is surrounding the verse or verses under consideration. Every verse (with the exception of some in Proverbs) has a surrounding context that gives added insight. To consider a verse out of its context and then give it a meaning that fits one's notions or experiences is dangerous, and leads to no certain truth. 

Third, interpret unclear or vague statements by those that are clear and literal, never the reverse of this principle. 

Why Did God Give the Miraculous Gifts?

We can determine the answer to this question by discovering from Scripture the purpose of such gifts, and there are only two New Testament passages that tell us specifically what that purpose was.

So then after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through accompanying signs.
— Mark 16:19, 20
How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing them witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
— Hebrews 2: 3, 4

In both passages God worked with these apostles through miraculous signs and gifts of the Spirit for the express purpose of confirming the word spoken by them. In fact, the writer of Hebrews is explicit in stating that the word spoken by the apostles was "confirmed to us" through these miraculous abilities God had imparted. 

Included in these "signs, wonders, and miracles" was the ability to cast out demons, miraculously speak in other languages unknown to them, heal the sick, and drink anything deadly without it harming them (Mark 16:17, 18). Incidentally, as with Christ, the early apostles and prophets almost always performed their miracles in "enemy" territory among unbelievers — sometimes among hateful unbelievers who wanted to kill them, not in rented facilities filled with sympathetic believers.

Were the Miraculous Gifts Intended Only for the New Testament Apostles and Prophets?

The New Testament clearly reveals that God had unique purposes for the apostles and prophets that were not to be repeated by others later on in church history.

The Apostle Paul: In writing to the Corinthian church Paul made it as clear as can be that the miraculous sign-gifts imparted to him by God were strictly apostolic in nature.

I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.
— 2 Corinthians 12:11, 12

If these "signs and wonders and mighty deeds" were intended for all believers, or for any believer who wanted them badly enough, they would not have been, nor could they have been, "the signs of an apostle." Let the impact of what Paul is saying sink in. These "signs and wonders and mighty deeds" were presented by Paul as proof of his apostleship, setting him apart from the run-of-the-mill Christians. These miraculous abilities had nothing to do with the baptism of the Spirit or with spirituality in general. They were divinely imparted confirmations that Paul was indeed one of the apostles — a unique first century position in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The New Testament Apostles and Prophets: These men comprised the foundation of the Church. 

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers…but…members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.
— Ephesians 2:19, 20

Foundations are laid at the bottom or beginning of a building, not throughout its structure. Are miraculous gifts for the Church? Absolutely, yes. However, the miraculous gifts are apostolic gifts, and thus they are the foundation of the Church. We do not live during the laying of the Church's foundation. That occurred in the first century. We are living more than 2000 years later and, as with any structure, we dare not attempt to lay again the foundation of the Church on the third, the 16th, or the 22nd floors! We would not have a strong cohesive structure if we did that, but that is exactly what some individuals are attempting to do. They may be well meaning, but sincerity is no substitute for truth and we would not have a strong, cohesive structure. 

What Have We Learned?

• All the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the Church. 

• Foundational gifts were for the foundation, comprised of New Testament apostles and prophets. These gifts were miraculous in nature and should remain where God placed them — with the foundation. 

• All gifts of the Spirit, other than foundational gifts, are for the rest of the Church age. They are built upon that foundation with "Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone."

• Today's believers are part of the building, the growing Church. We are not the foundation, nor should we desire to be.

Paul states:

In whom [Christ] the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit.
— Ephesians 2:21, 22

But Isn't God the Same Today as He was Then?

It is clearly taught throughout the Bible that God does not change in His essential nature. However, it is just as clearly taught that while God Himself does not change, His dealings with men often do. In fact, at times He has changed His methods with the same people at different stages of their lives. We sometimes have the mistaken notion that the Old Testament is a record of one big miracle after another; such, however, is just not the case. Miraculous happenings appeared in clusters, not throughout Old Testament history. Not everyone back then was a Moses or a Joshua or an Elijah. And not everyone in the Church age is a Paul or a Peter.

God is still the God of miracles, but on His terms, not ours. If we truly desire for God to reveal His presence in our lives today, then we need to let Him be God as He has revealed Himself in His Word, not as we wish Him to be, or as some dynamic speaker says He ought to be. Be a believer who build his life solely upon Scripture, and be satisfied with that.