We are currently responding to an article by Joel McDurmon Head of Research at American Vision in Powder Springs, Ga. Contra “church history” and the creeds, McDurmon claims that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, does not discuss the end of miracles in an objective sense. He goes further and claims 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.” Be sure to read my Into All the World, Then Comes The End, for a fuller discussion of this entire issue.
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.
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.
In the last article, we introduced 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.”
We noted that while there is widespread agreement on several key elements of this text, the key points of controversy are:
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? When he says that God, “gave gifts…to equip the church… until we all come…” , did he mean that when the point of the “until” arrived that the gifts would cease?
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?
Take a look at the first point: Did Paul actually predict the cessation of the revelatory gifts when the “until” of the “perfect man” arrived.
Now, indisputably, the word “until” normally does have a “terminal” significance. In the vast majority of cases, when the word “axri”, “mexri” (the form used in Ephesians 4:13) or cognates are used, it does indicate “up to the point of” and signifies that the point is a pivotal, terminal point, of some kind.
Now, as we have personally noted through the years, there are exceptions to this use of “until” and it is not necessary to discuss that fact here. It is admitted and acknowledged. However, the issue is this: since the normal and preponderant definition and meaning of mexri is terminal, then the burden of proof lies with those denying this normal definition to demonstrate exegetically why it is not being used in that manner in Ephesians 4. The burden of proof does not lie with those who take the word in its normal definition to prove that definition. That is the “default” definition.
☛ 1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 are parallel texts.
☛ Both discuss the gifts of the Spirit– specifically, the revelatory gifts of the Spirit.
☛ Both speak of a goal to be reached; a goal for which the gifts were given.
☛ Both define the goal in the same way: “that which is perfect”, and “the perfect man.”
1 Corinthians 13, when speaking of that goal, says that when “that which is perfect” arrived, prophecy would cease, Tongues would end. As we have noted earlier, the words that are used demand cessation. And, although he tried desperately to avoid this truth, McDurmon had to admit that even in the life of the individual, the words do demand that at some point, the function of those revelatory gifts would cease.
So, here is what we have:
1 Corinthians 13 and Ephesians 4 are parallel texts in their discussion of the miraculous revelatory gifts.
Both speak of the identical goal as the purpose of the function of those revelatory gifts.
1 Corinthians 13 says those miraculous revelatory gifts would cease to function when that goal was achieved.
Ephesians says those gifts would function “until” that goal, the same goal as in 1 Corinthians 13, arrived.
Since 1 Corinthians 13 says those miraculous revelatory gifts would cease when the desired goal was reached, and Ephesians said those gifts would function “until” that goal was achieved, it therefore follows, of logical necessity, that the “until” in Ephesians 4:13 speaks of the cessation of the function of those miraculous revelatory gifts.
Taken together with our study of Daniel 9, Zechariah 13, and 1 Corinthians 13, there is no way to avoid the truth that Ephesians 4:8-16 did predict the termination of the miraculous revelatory gifts of the Spirit.
Of course, this raises the question: what is the true definition of “that which is perfect” and, “the perfect man” and “the unity of the faith”– the goal to which the miraculous gifts were working, and at which they would cease?
We will discuss that in our next installment, so stay tuned!