Have the Revelatory Gifts Ceased to Function?
A Response and Refutation of Joel McDurmon on 1 Corinthians 13- #3
This is the third part of a short series examining an article by Joel McDurmon in which he addressed the question of the charismatic, revelatory gifts, and particularly 1 Corinthians 13. In that article, McDurmon denied that 1 Corinthians 13 discusses the end of the charismatic gifts, and he denied that the text has any eschatological content: “I think that the whole endeavor to see 1 Corinthians 13:9ff as an indicator of any major eschatological, doctrinal, covenantal, or revelatory shift is to miss the point of the passage entirely.”
I have noted the irony in the fact that McDurmon, along with a host of futurists, like to castigate the preterist movement for holding a “minority view” that is not well attested in church history. And yet, McDurmon’s view is, to understate the case, not a popular or even that well known interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13. The consensus view of the church has been– and continues to be to this day– that 1 Corinthians 13 is in fact a major statement by Paul, about the “eschatological, doctrinal, covenantal, or revelatory” nature of the coming “that which is perfect.”
As we have noted, McDurmon denies that 1 Corinthians 13 is about an objective point of time at which the charismata would cease. Further, he is insistent that Paul’s discussion of the gifts focuses on the individual gifts, not on the corporate body. Thirdly, he says “that which is perfect” is referent to a time in the life of a “gifted” individual when they arrive at “spiritual maturity.” When that given individual arrives at that state of personal spiritual maturity, the gifts would cease to function in their life. This raises all sorts of logical problems, and we discussed just a few of them in our first article, so be sure to read that.
The question we wish to discuss here is in reality the foundational issue. Does the Bible posit the cessation of the charismata as an objective reality, to occur at a given point in time, or, is McDurmon correct when he suggests that the cessation of the gifts occurs strictly on an individual basis as individuals come to personal spiritual maturity?
Just as an introductory comment, however: McDurmon, while wishing to deny that 1 Corinthians is making a major statement about the end of the charismata, is forced, nonetheless, to admit that the text does predict the cessation of the charismata! And the words of the text are clear, unambiguous and emphatic: “Where there are prophecies they shall fail, knowledge shall cease, tongues shall cease.” So, at least on some level, McDurmon has admitted that Paul does predict the cessation of the miraculous gifts. This is a critical and fatal admission.
I am convinced that the Bible does teach that the charismata were given to the church as a corporate body, and that those gifts were given with a corporate goal in mind. When that goal was achieved by the sovereign work of YHVH though His Son, it was always His intent that the gifts would cease. I will only offer a few texts, of several that could be given, that teach this truth.
The texts we will examine are:
Our discussion of these texts will have to be brief, but, I believe these texts, properly understood, are a clear refutation of McDurmon’s view.
Before we examine those texts, however, I want to briefly note a severe problem with McDurmon’s claims. He says he was a member of the charismatic movement for over five years, and yet, he never witnessed a genuine example of revelatory gifts, tongues or miracles. This is a stunning admission in light of his theological position. Let me explain.
Remember, McDurmon says that the gifts were focused on the individual, not the corporate body. He says that when the “gifted” individual achieved a state of personal spiritual maturity, the gifts would cease to function in their personal life. With that in mind, consider the following:
McDurmon was a member of the charismatic movement for over five years, yet, says he never witnessed even one genuine miracle.
Was there no one, in any of the charismatic churches that he attended during that five years, that claimed to be speaking on tongues, giving an inspired “word of wisdom”, offering a “prophetic word”, or, claiming to be able to heal? It is beyond the pale of belief to think that in over five years of attendance in charismatic churches, that no one claimed to be under the divine, miraculous influence of the Spirit. I have personally attended many, many, charismatic services, and have only attended one single service where no one claimed to be moved by the Spirit to speak in tongues, prophesy, offer a word of wisdom, etc.. One single service out of probably in excess of 100 times of attending charismatic services! (It was interesting that at that one service, the minister, a friend of mine, specifically made comment that this service was going to be different from regular “Pentecostal” meetings and was, instead, going to focus on a lesson exegetically based. To say the least, this was an interesting statement).
So, it is incredible and literally unbelievable to think that McDurmon attended so many charismatic services and no one claimed to be under the miraculous power of the Spirit. He undoubtedly witnessed numerous individuals who claimed to be offering divine utterances, tongues, etc. And yet, McDurmon says not one of them, in his observation, was genuine! This means one of three things:
☛ McDurmon did not recognize a genuine miracle when he saw it. This stretches credulity beyond measure. In the NT times, it was impossible for even the enemies of Christ to deny the reality of the miracles performed by the followers of Christ. See Acts 4-5.
☛ McDurmon is labeling all of the individuals who claimed that the Spirit was operating in them as false: deceived and / or deceiving. That means that he is, after all, siding with John MacArthur, who recently labeled the charismatic movement as false and deceptive. McDurmon castigated MacArthur for this, and yet, by admitting that in over five years of witnessing the claims to miraculous gifts, he says all of those claims were false! Thus, McDurmon cannot maintain his claim of witnessing no miracles in five years as a charismatic, without aligning himself with MacArthur who he has condemned.
☛ If there were no true miracles witnessed by McDurmon while he was a member of the charismatic movement, this virtually demands that the entire membership of the churches that he attended had reached the state of spiritual maturity posited by McDurmon. After all, he is insistent that the gifts would indeed cease when those gifted individuals arrived at “the perfect” i.e. a state of personal spiritual maturity. How incredibly remarkable to consider that in congregation after congregation of “charismatic churches” attended by McDurmon, the gifts had ceased because of the wonderful spiritual maturity of every single member in all of those churches!
Has anyone ever attended any church, of any size, of any denomination, where the entire membership– every single member– was spiritually mature?
So, to reiterate, McDurmon says no one in any of the churches he attended performed a genuine miracle. This means:
A.) McDurmon did not know how to identify a genuine miracle, even in five years of attending charismatic services and undoubtedly witnessing many people claim to perform miracles.
B.) Those who claimed to be operating under the power of the Spirit were wrong– being personally deceived or seeking to deceive others.
C.) The gifts were simply not operative. This would demand that all of the members had
reached that magical plateau of maturity– all pretty much at the same time.
The choices here, no matter which one, reflect badly on McDurmon’s logic, and reveal it to be shoddy from start to finish. His “ad hominem” anecdotal story, has direct implications for the theological and doctrinal point he seeks to establish. If his experience– or lack thereof– was valid, then it invalidates– or at the least calls into serious question– his attempt at exegesis. He cannot have it both ways.
We will begin with Daniel 9 in the next installment. Be sure to get a copy of my book, Seal Up Vision and Prophecy, for a discussion directly relevant to our topic. You will find it more than helpful.