Are The Gifts Of The Holy Spirit Needed Today?
There is a long-running battle between Pentecostals and our brethren in the “Cessation Camp.” Cessationists hold to the idea that the gifts of the Spirit were signs endorsing the apostles. They say that when the last apostle died, there remained no more reason for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Are they correct? Are the gifts of the Holy Spirit needed today?
Scripture does not bear the view that the gifts were meant to validate the apostles. In Acts 10, we see that those of Cornelius’ household received the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues. These Gentiles were certainly not apostles.
Throughout Church History, They Spoke In Tongues
Whenever you believe cessationism began, miracles and the gifts of the Holy Spirit continued.
In AD 150, early Christian apologist Justin Martyr wrote, “For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to this present time.” 1 He added, “Now, it is possible to see amongst the women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God.” 2 This is some forty years after the beginning of the so-called cessation period.
Irenaeus (c. Ad 130-202)
His writings are considered foundational in the early development of Christian theology. As an apologist, his writings are well respected.
“Wherefore, also, those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ] and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole…It is not possible to name the number of gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ.” 3
Irenaeus was a disciple of Polycarp, who had sat under the leadership of the apostle John.
More Evidence Throughout History
Tertullian (ca. AD 155-230) was an early Christian leader and apologist who spoke of tongues and interpretation of tongues in his time.
Theologian, scholar, and writer Novatian (d. AD 258) spoke of the gifts in operation in his day. 4
And Ambrose (c. AD 340-397) wrote of the gift of tongues in the present, not in the past tense.
These are but a few who wrote of the gifts continuing throughout church history.
Do We Need It Today?
Jesus told His disciples to stay in Jerusalem until they had been endued with power.
Acts 1:8 tells us the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit is empowerment to reach the lost: “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
Do we not need that same power in these days—the last of the last days? Yes, of course we do.
1 Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 82.
2 Ibid., Chapter 88.
3 Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book II, Chapter 32, Section 4.
4 Treatise Concerning the Trinity, Chapter 29.