THE MIRACULOUS GIFTS
These gifts are listed at 1 Corinthians 12:4-11. Here the apostle writes that the spirit did not operate in the same manner upon every member of the congregation, but, rather, that it manifested its operation and influence in a variety of ways. Thereby it fully equipped the congregation as a body to maintain right doctrine and clean practices, to preach and teach the good news and to stand firm against the apostasy. Let us consider the various gifts and their purposes.
The first listed is “speech of wisdom.” Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge and understanding successfully to attain certain goals. This gift of wisdom was not a wisdom born of experience, but a miraculous wisdom, the possessor thereof being able to assist the congregation in decisions of a difficult nature.—Acts 13:1-5.
Second was “speech of knowledge.” This was not the knowledge of God and Christ that all Christians were required to have to be disciples. (John 17:3; Rom. 10:14) It was a miraculous knowledge that made up for the lack of copies of the Scriptures. It also alerted them in a miraculous way to situations affecting the well-being of the congregation.—Acts 5:1-11.
Next was “faith.” Again, this would not be the faith that all Christians had to possess, for faith in God and in his Son and in the ransom sacrifice was the primary requisite to become a Christian. (Rom. 10:10; Acts 2:38, 39) Rather, this was a miraculous spirit-inspired faith, an unbreakable conviction that enabled its possessor to overcome mountainlike obstacles and to impart to the congregation energy and zeal to go ahead unshakably in preaching the good news. What a valuable member of the congregation the one possessing this gift would be!
Then there were “healings” and other “powerful works.” (Acts 3:1-8; 5:12-16; 13:6-12) These served as signs to unbelievers, powerfully proving that God’s spirit was on the congregation and facilitating its work.
The gift of “prophesying” included, besides speaking the magnificent things of God, the inspired ability to speak accurately of things to come. This inspired foretelling of events seems to have been generally limited, however, to things that affected the congregation at that time, enabling it to meet the foreseen situation, as in the case of the famine in the time of Emperor Claudius, foretold by the Christian prophet Agabus.—Acts 11:27-30.
“Discernment of inspired utterances” was a gift that worked for the safety of the congregation. At that time there actually were prophets with inspired messages from God, some of whom traveled, as did Barnabas, Silas, Paul and others. By the gift of discerning inspired utterances, the congregation would be protected from any impostors, false prophets. If such came to the congregation, they could be identified by the member who possessed this gift. Thus the congregation would know whether to give attention to the “inspired utterances” or not.—1 John 4:1.
“Tongues” and “interpretation of tongues” were important in getting the good news quickly spread through Asia, Europe and Africa and the islands of the sea. The gift of tongues also served as a sign to those outside the Christian congregation. (1 Cor. 14:22) Paul, because of his commission as the apostle to the nations, traveled more widely than the rest, meeting persons of a great variety of languages and dialects. Doubtlessly it was for that reason that he was so richly endowed with this gift, as he said: “I speak in more tongues than all of you do.”—1 Cor. 14:18.
Are the miraculous gifts of the spirit necessary for the congregation to carry on its work and to maintain its cleanness, uprightness and unity?
No, such gifts are not needed in an altogether miraculous way, as they were in the first century, for God has endowed the congregation with the necessary things in a different, more complete and permanent way. However, just as in the congregation’s early history, not all members of the congregation possess all abilities, but each complements the others so that the congregation as a body, in all its abilities, accurately represents God and Christ. This is accomplished by the operation of God’s spirit, giving a variety of abilities.
As to knowledge, God has provided his entire Word, which today can be possessed in printed form by the most humble person. Its use can make the man of God fully competent, completely equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Furthermore, knowledge is available to all through Bible study helps such as commentaries, concordances and Bible dictionaries, as well as by the help of men in the congregation who have acquired knowledge through diligent study.
Wisdom can be similarly obtained. It is not necessary for wisdom to be gained miraculously. The experience of the early congregation as related in the book of Acts is available, along with the history of the modern congregation, recovered from apostasy. Hardly a problem can arise that has not been faced and overcome. The congregation of anointed Christians at this time is designated by Jesus Christ as the “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matt. 24:45-47) Mature men who have had years of experience in being directed by God’s Word and his spirit employ the wisdom thus gained in helping the congregation to overcome problems and to carry forward the work in an orderly, successful manner.
In a similar way, strong faith works powerfully in the congregation through the majority of its members. It is a fruit of the spirit developed by carefully ascertaining God’s will through study of the Bible and by following the leading of the spirit. (Gal. 5:22) Through the upheavals of two world wars, through the furnace of burning hatred and opposition to God’s kingdom and its proclamation, through indifference, ridicule and persecution, men of faith have led and inspired the congregation to fulfill its commissions.
Gifts of healings and similar miraculous works are not necessary today. God’s change from the ancient Jewish to the Christian congregation is verified by history, while love and activity on the part of the Christian congregation, as well as many fulfillments of prophecy, stand as modern identifying signs, proof that God’s favor is upon it. The worldwide expansion of the Kingdom preaching is also a powerful sign.—1 Cor. 13:10-13; Matt. 24:14.
Inspired prophesying today would be superfluous. The prophecies written in the Bible being complete as a guide to the congregation today, nothing needs to be added. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; Rev. 22:18, 19) Accordingly, since God’s Word provides a perfect guide, there is no need to have the gift of discernment of prophecies in a miraculous sense, for there are no inspired prophets now authorized by God. Those things that “come out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the wild beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet,” or from others who speak so-called “inspired expressions” are quickly evaluated and proved false by means of the spirit-inspired Word of God.—Rev. 16:13, 14; 1 John 4:1.
“But what about tongues and interpretation of tongues?” someone may ask. In reply the question might be propounded, “Is the good news of the Kingdom being preached to all the nations in all the major languages?” Yes, in 206 lands the witness is being given, and the Bible or parts of it are available in more than 1,400 languages. Thousands of trained missionaries have learned foreign languages and have brought the good news of the Kingdom to the people in those lands. The people hearing are in turn spreading it abroad, even in dialects not spoken by the missionaries, thus interpreting the word of truth to others.
In this manner God’s spirit directs the preaching of the good news, with the result that ‘a great crowd, which no man is able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues’ has come forth in praise of Jehovah God and his King Jesus Christ, joining in the proclamation that the King has begun his rule.—Rev. 7:9, 14.
The spirit therefore does indeed act powerfully today, as it did in the early Christian congregation. Actually the work it is accomplishing might well be termed miraculous, from a human standpoint. The ones doing the work must have God’s spirit to do it, and they acknowledge that his spirit really accomplishes the results.
However, the things accomplished may seem to be the natural outworking of matters to one who does not recognize God’s spirit as the force that energizes his people to activity. The operation of the spirit in God’s congregation today does not appear as a spectacular thing, for the gifts employed are spiritual gifts developed over a period of time by their possessors, while the miraculous gifts of the early congregation were bestowed instantly on Christians as selected by God.—1 Cor. 12:6, 11, 18; Acts 19:5, 6.