by David Tavender
In past issues of Spiritual Blessings, and elsewhere on the Spiritual Blessings website, it has been suggested that evidential miracles, such as miraculous healings, speaking in tongues, raisings from the dead, etc. have now ceased. We do not wish to put limitations on what God will and won’t do, but we now live under the conditions set forth for us in the epistles written after Acts 28 (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon), and these miracles are not the normal course of events for today.
There are, however, a few passages in these epistles which might be initially confusing regarding our subject at a casual glance, and here I would like to suggest some solutions to apparent problems. Let us now look at the verses in question, all written after Acts 28.
Two passages with similar messages are found in Paul’s epistles to Timothy:
“Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.” (1 Timothy 4:14)
“Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands.” (2 Timothy 1:6)
Regarding “the gift which is in thee”, we might instantly think of such gifts which abounded in the Acts period, such as miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues and their interpretation, etc. (see 1 Corinthians 12:7-11). However, before jumping to a conclusion like this, note that we are not told what gift it was that had been given to Timothy. It is purely speculation to say that it was one of these “evidential” miracles (i.e. marvellous workings which we can see undeniable evidence of).
It seems likely that the “laying on of hands” by Paul and others took place in the Acts period, when he spent some time travelling with Timothy, and that was probably when he received the “gift”. This should not cause us undue concern, though. As Stuart Allen writes, “Not every gift of the Spirit was necessarily linked with the testimony to Israel. Some were of enduring value in public service for all time, and though Paul does not specifically mention what the gift was, it was evidently of this nature.” (from “The Early and Pastoral Epistles of Paul” p.289).
In the immediate context of 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul goes on to speak of courage (“for God hath not given us the spirit of fear” v.7). This gift, whatever it was, was to be exercised with fortitude and bravery. What exactly happened to Timothy after these epistles is not recorded for us in history, but tradition suggests that he became a leader of the church in Ephesus, and that he died for his faith around 97 A.D., after boldly confronting those who were taking part in a pagan festival in that city. If this tradition is true, Timothy seems to have triumphed over the timidity which threatened to stifle his gift.
These exhortations to Timothy now lead us to consider a more general passage in Ephesians.
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers… (Ephesians 4:11).
Note that these are roles, rather than gifts as such, and that the purpose was “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). In the former dispensations of the Gospels and Acts, Christ Himself appointed leaders, and those who would carry out His work. Directly after the change at the end of Acts, it was again Christ (now ascended) who appointed leaders and workers, as detailed in Ephesians.
This first book written after the new dispensation began was written to believers under the new dispensation, who were members of “…the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.” (Ephesians 2:19,20).
It is apparent that this was a “once only” appointment for the purpose of laying a foundation, for, in later writings, Paul suggests how leaders might be chosen by a human source. 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 both outline the appropriate qualities of leaders and workers within the church. The passage in Titus 1:5 is an exhortation from Paul to “appoint elders in every town, as I directed you” (NIV), not as the Lord Himself had done earlier in Ephesians 4:11. Similarly, Timothy was also encouraged by Paul to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5), though not apparently ordained by the Lord to do so.
There are also teachers today, yet how many have been divinely appointed by the Lord Himself? It can’t be all of them if they are teaching different things. Perhaps the more applicable example for us today is Paul’s instructions in 2 Timothy 2:2:
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2Timothy 2:2).
Summing up then, the divine appointments of the very earliest days of this dispensation were for a particular one-off purpose: the foundation and revelation of the new conditions in force. These appointments were not continuous, so, today, it is more appropriate for us to use the guidelines set forth in such Scriptures as 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus for establishing leaders and teachers within the church.