A well-known pastor was verbally attacked in his church on August 16. This pastor, John MacArthur, is known for his opposition to the gifts of the Spirit in evidence today. He has done a number of sermon series on his scriptural interpretation of the cessation of tongues, healings, prophesy, and other gifts associated with the gifts listed in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. His contention is that the gifts, which were an affirmation of the gospel as presented by the apostles during their ministry, died out after the apostolic age. He has many arguments from his interpretation of scripture, such as Paul saying that when something becomes perfect then gifts of the Spirit will cease. And what Pastor MacArthur believes what Paul is referring to is the New Testament.
The New Testament canon was not finalized until about 300 years after the Apostle John wrote his letters, which was around 90AD, according to most sources who know better than I do in these matters. There are some miracles that happen after, even fairly recent after that with one of John’s disciples, Polycarp, as part of a miracle. And there are many other instances where the Supernatural has intervened in our time/space continuum for purposes only known to Him. I am sure that many of us have known someone who has been cured of cancer when they had no reason to be cured based on the diagnosis.
Now for the individualized showings of the Spirit through tongues, healings and other ways, I contend that they occur. I do believe that the Spirit uses whatever means necessary to support the gospel where it is being preached. In areas where the devil has a foothold through witchcraft and other occult practices the Spirit may move extraordinarily through His vessels so that people can see that the power of the Lord of the gospel is more than that of those who practice in the occult. It is necessary to combat demonic activity with the power of the Almighty. Those people live in fear and they need to understand they do not need to live in fear of the witchdoctor anymore.
But in Western Civilization it may be a little different. Are we much different than that of the culture of the Pharisees? I contend that we are far worse because we far more skeptical than the Pharisees were. The Pharisees did not ever doubt or contend that the miracles performed by Jesus were not real they only questioned their point of origination. We don’t even believe they happened or are possibly happening. We believe what read in the bible to be true but would we believe it to be true if we witnessed a miracle healing when one person placed their hands on another infirmed person, prayed a simple prayer and the person walked?
My point is that we cannot simply rule out that the Spirit has not manifested Himself with outward signs as He once did as meaning that the gifts of the Spirit ceased. And we cannot simply believe that every babbler in the church is really full of the Holy Spirit and is speaking in an unknown tongue. Shrewd as serpents and meek as lambs we need to be. I believe the Spirit is moving with outward signs of His power but I do not believe that He is moving on a stage set for TV or Madison Square Garden. He is moving in the places where His movement needs to be witnessed in the most deliberately covert manner.