Whenever a contentious topic of discussion comes up people historically land in one of two polarized camps:
- Tastes great or less filling?
- Seat up or seat down?
- Ginger or Marianne?
The topic of miraculous spiritual gifts is no different. Whenever the subject of prophecy, healing, tongues, etc., comes up, there are usually two fiercely defended sides taken:
1. Miraculous Spiritual Gifts Can’t Happen Today
Your understanding of God/scripture/life won’t allow them to happen. When people share stories about having witnessed the miraculous in action you conclude they are either lying, delusional, or live in their mom’s basement with 12 cats.
Others fall into the…
2. Miraculous Spiritual Gifts Can And Do Happen
Not only could they occur, but you believe you’ve seen them with your own eyes – deformed legs grow miraculously, the deaf hear, the blind see. Life is like a non-stop Benny Hinn crusade minus the cheesy Italian suits.
I tend to land, as I do on many issues, in the radical middle. My position is…
Miraculous Spiritual Gifts Could Happen
Biblically speaking, there are two reasons one cannot say miraculous gifts can’t happen:
- When the New Testament writers discuss spiritual gifts, they never create two separate “miraculous” and “non-miraculous” categories (see 1 Cor. 12:28).
- There’s nothing in scripture that conclusively teaches miraculous gifts will cease (despite those who erroneously point to 1 Cor. 13:9-10 as a proof text – “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears”).
That said, my understanding of scripture and my experience in ministry have led me to believe that miraculous spiritual gifts are probably not active today like many people claim.
Why Miraculous Spiritual Gifts Probably Don’t Happen Like Most People Claim
1. People who claim to experience miraculous spiritual gifts always conveniently re-define them as “borderline miraculous” and thus make them easily practiced, but not easily verified.
Tongues become not speaking another language but angelic gibberish. Prophecy becomes not really about predicting the future but “forth-telling” God’s viewpoint on the present.
2. What most people interpret as “gifts of healing” or “miracles” is just plain old fashioned answered prayer.
I believe God answers prayer, miraculously at times, but whenever God has healed someone I’ve prayed for (only a handful of verifiable times in 25 years of ministry) I didn’t jump up and say, “Dude, back off. I’ve got the gift.” God just simply did what he promises to do at times – he answered prayer.
3. A spiritual gift is something that can be exercised in the face of extreme skepticism.
I think my main areas of gifting are leadership, teaching and evangelism. Those gifts seem to work just as well, if not better, in the presence of spiritual skeptics. Not once have I said, “Listen, I can’t lead or teach here because there are too many skeptical non-believers in the room.” Yet, those who claim to have gifts of healing say they can’t heal people because those who want to be healed don’t have enough faith?
4. Christians routinely embellish spiritual events/encounters.
It’s been happening for 1900 years now. Google a set of books called “The New Testament Apocrypha” and you’ll find endless examples of how misguided and less than honest Christians made up stories of miraculous encounters. Most of the time when I’ve questioned an over-zealous would-be healer (or would-be healer groupie) this turns out to be the case.
Could miraculous spiritual gifts occur today? Of course.
In fact, I wish they did. I would love nothing more than to see people genuinely experience the things the Apostles Paul and Peter helped people experience.
But that doesn’t seem to happen any longer.
And that’s okay.