WHO GETS THE GIFTS?
Jesus only personally gave miraculous powers to his Twelve Apostles (Matthew 10:1-4). In John 20:23 after his return to life, he gave the Apostles power to forgive sins. Then moments before he returned to heaven, he promised them that in Jerusalem “the gift my Father promised…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:2-5).
True, there were 120 men and women assembled in an upper room with the Twelve (Acts 1:12-15). But Acts 2:1 “when the day of Pentecost arrived” the Twelve were all together in one place. It was another day. How do we know only the Twelve were there? Follow the sequence: Verse 7 says the crowd mocked “these men…Galileans” and accused them of being drunk; verse14 says Peter stood up with the [other] Eleven, v. 15 Peter said, “These men are not drunk.” There were 12 Apostles, and there were some 12 languages represented in the crowd. Then the crowd “said to Peter and the other Apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ ” (Acts 2:37).
Let’s follow another sequence ~ the miracles that followed. “…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings….Many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the Apostles” (Acts 2:42-43). Peter and John saw a cripple, then Peter healed him (Acts 3:3-8) and the people rushed to Peter and John who then taught them (Acts 4:1-4). Then in Acts 5:12-14 the Apostles “performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people” and “more and more men and women believed”.
Notice, every time miracles are mentioned in the New Testament, they are always related to spreading the Gospel.
Philip was the first non-Apostle listed who “preached the good news” working “great signs and miracles.” Notice, back in Acts 6:5-7, the Apostles “prayed and laid their hands on” Philip and six others.
Later Paul was made an Apostle directly by Jesus who taught him 3 years (Galatians 1:11, 17-18). Apostles Paul and Barnabas spoke “boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders” (Acts 14:3).
Later Paul wrote the church in Rome saying, “I long to see you so that I may import to you some spiritual gift” (Romans 1:11). And in 15:17-19 he referred to his “leading the Gentles to obey God by what I have said and done, by the power of signs and miracles.”
In I Corinthians 1:6-7 Paul recalled preaching to the Church in Corinth which was “confirmed….therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift.” Then in 11:17 he criticized the church there because “your meetings do more harm than good” and in 12:1 he got specifically on their spiritual gifts
In I Corinthians 12:8 he listed these: message of Wisdom, message of Knowledge, faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues. Understand that back then they did not yet have the New Testament in written form. So all these gifts were needed in the early church to spread an accurate gospel.
A little later in a second letter to the Corinthians Paul listed, “the things that mark an apostle ~ signs, wonders, and miracles (II Corinthians 12:12). You will recall that when others had these powers, it was after an Apostle had visited them.
In I Corinthians 13:8-9 Paul warned, “Where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled, where there is knowledge, it will pass away….” ~ all miraculous powers. Later he wrote that “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, sign and wonders” (II Thessalonians 2:9). By the time Hebrews was written some forty years after the Apostles started the church, miracles were becoming a thing of the past: “God also testified [past tense] to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Hebrews 2:4).
Keep in mind that the miracles included healing the maimed (Matthew 15:30-31) and raising the dead (Acts 20:9-10). Who are the maimed? People missing hands or feet, arms or legs. Has anyone claiming to heal since then been able to grow someone’s arm or leg back? Have they been able to bring someone back to life?
Irenaeus, about 180, wrote in Against Heresies I.x.1; and Refutation and Overthrow of False Doctrine, Bk. 2: "For the church, although dispersed throughout the whole world as far as the ends of the earth, received from the apostles and their disciples the faith...in the Holy Spirit, who has proclaimed through the prophets the plans of God and the comings of Christ....So far are they from raising the dead, as the Lord raised, and as the apostles by means of prayer, for even among the brethren frequently in a case of necessity when a whole church united in much fasting and prayer, the spirit has returned to the ex-animated body, and the man was granted to the prayers of the saints....
“Some, indeed, most certainly and truly cast our demons, so that frequently these persons themselves that were cleansed from wicked spirits believed and were received into the church. Others have the knowledge of things to come, as also visions and prophetic communications; other heal the sick by the imposition of hands, and restore them to health. And, moreover, as we said above, even the dead have been raised and continued with us many years.”
Irenaeus referred to those raised from the dead as having “continued with us many years” indicating it was a thing of the past.
So does that mean Christians today do not have gifts? There is another list of gifts in the New Testament found in Romans 12:6b-8.
Prophesying (can tell what he’d heard or read the Apostles say)
Contributing to the needs of others
These are gifts that all Christians can have.
Once the New Testament had been written, miraculous gifts are no longer needed, for they had been to prove the words of the miracle worker were from God. Instead, in Galatians 1:8 Paul said, “If we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached (past tense) to you, let him be eternally condemned.
And in the last few verses of the entire Bible, we were given this warning: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book; if anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."
Yes, after the Apostles died, there was no one left to impart the miraculous gifts, so now as the second generation of the church began to die off, the gifts died off too. They were no longer needed. By this time, the New Testament had been written.