In our last article, in response to Joel McDurmon Head of Research at American Vision in Powder Springs, Ga., we examined Zechariah 13. In that article, we demonstrated that Zechariah– just as Daniel 9– did predict the cessation of the prophetic, revelatory gifts. This flies in the face of McDurmon’s position– which is itself at odds with the historical view of the church. McDurmon claims that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, does not discuss the end of miracles in an objective sense and that 1 Corinthians 13 has no 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.”
McDurmon’s view is that the focus of the revelatory gifts was the individual believer and that “that which is perfect” is the time of the spiritual maturity of the individual. When the individual believer arrived (arrives) at that point of maturity, the gifts cease in his / her life, but, not in the life of corporate church. I believe this view is misguided and violates scripture. In the previous articles we have demonstrated that even in the OT, God did predict the objective cessation of the revelatory gifts. We have shown that the gifts were posited in the context of the corporate body– not in the context of the individual believer. Be suree to read my book, Into All The World, Then Comes The End, for a fuller discussion of this issue.
The next text that we want to examine is Ephesians 4:8-16:
“ Therefore He says: “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, And gave gifts to men.”
(Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
Before proceeding, it needs to be clearly understood that it is universally understood that 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 are parallel texts. I am personally unaware of any commentary that disagrees with this assessment. Thus, when and as we examine Ephesians 4, we are in fact at the same time examining Corinthians.
There are several key elements of this text.
➤ Paul is clearly discussing the impartation of the charismatic gifts, after the ascension of Christ.
➤ Notice the emphasis on the revelatory gifts. Virtually all of the gifts mentioned – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors– are in fact revelatory in nature.
➤ Note that while certainly says that God gave gifts to men, i.e. individual believers in one sense, that the true focus of Paul’s discussion is on the corporate body.
➤ Those gifts were given “to equip the church, to do the work of the ministry.” They were given to bring the body to “the perfect man”, to the measure of the fulness of the stature of Christ.” Note carefully the corporate nature of the purpose and function of the gifts, “until we all come to the unity of the faith.”
➤ Those revelatory gifts were given “until” – This indicates that the revelatory gifts would in fact cease to function in the body of Christ.
➤ Those gifts would terminate at the arrival of that state or condition of the “perfect man.” Clearly, the “perfect man” is equal to “that which is perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:8f.
Now, without any doubt, the gifts mentioned were miraculous. They were revelatory in nature, and those gifts were given to bring them to “the unity of the faith,” “the perfect man,” “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
The key points of controversy in regard to Ephesians 4 are:
1.) Does Paul actually predict the cessation of the charismatic, miraculous gifts in this text?
2.) What is the nature and identity of “the unity of the faith, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, the “perfect man”?
3.) For our purposes, in our examination of McDurmon’s claim that the gifts were focused on the individual believer, is, does Paul focus on the corporate body in regard to the miracles, or is he focused on the individual?
We will examine each of these questions as we proceed, so stay tuned!