Why should we believe that the spectacular and miraculous spiritual gifts continue in our day?

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Some people have argued that certain spiritual gifts and miraculous happenings aren't for today. But, you know, when Paul lists gifts he doesn't distinguish, you know, here are super gifts and here are other kinds of gifts. He doesn't distinguish natural and supernatural. That wasn't the kind of distinction somebody would have made in the first century in any case. So, we need all the gifts. We need all the members of the body of Christ. If you're amputating certain members, or maybe some other churches like to collect all the amputated members, but, you know, it's still not a whole body. So, what we see in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 is that gifts like prophecy and tongues and knowledge — again, that's what we don't always consider a supernatural gift, but in the content of 1 Corinthians it probably has to do with the gift of teaching — but that these things will pass away when we have full knowledge in the context when we see him face to face. So, at Jesus' return then we won't need those gifts because we'll have something so much better. But there's no indication that such gifts will pass away before that time. There's no mention that the gifts like that would stop. It's actually the teaching that they would stop that's postbiblical, not the idea that it would continue. And so, if the concern is, well, we can't have postbiblical gifts like prophecy because they might compete with the canon, well, they didn't compete with the canon while the canon was being written. Obviously not all prophecies were recorded in Scripture because we have like hundreds of thousands probably in the first century if we can believe Paul that in a regular house church in 1 Corinthians 14 you've got maybe two or three people prophesying per week. And, you know, all these per year, you add up the years for all the house churches in the Roman Empire, that would be a lot of prophesying. But it didn't compete with the canon. It never was meant to have that function. So, to say that those things would have ceased because it would compete with Scripture, I mean, teaching might run the risk of competing with Scripture too, but it doesn't. You have false prophecy, you have false teaching — things that contradict Scripture. In those cases we need to use discernment and see which is which. But you also have, because there's the possibility of false teaching… You know, I've experienced some of these spiritual gifts. I believe in them, but sometimes I've been tempted to believe that they ceased just because it would make it so much simpler — you wouldn't have to use discernment. But that's not the solution that Scripture gives us. Scripture says that we need to discern the right from the wrong. That's true of prophecy. That's true of teaching as well.

Answer by Dr. Craig S. Keener

Dr. Craig Keener teaches New Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.