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And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

The Holy Spirit and Some First Century Disciples
(A Study of Spiritual Gifts )

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs
I.  Introduction.
    A.  The apostles of Jesus received a direct outpouring of the Holy 
        Spirit administered by Jesus (Matt. 3:11; Acts 2:33).
        1.  The apostles of Jesus were empowered to administer 
            secondary gifts from the Holy Spirit by laying their hands 
            on some selected first century disciples. 
            (a)  The expression "secondary gifts" means the gifts came 
                 from the Holy Spirit through the apostles to a second 
                 person or persons.
    B.  Specific instances where secondary gifts from the Holy Spirit 
        are mentioned.
        1.  Gifts to the Samaritans recorded in Acts 8:9-19
            (a)  Note verse 18 ("Simon saw that through the apostles' 
                 hands the Holy Spirit was given").
        2.  Gifts to the Ephesians recorded in Acts 19:1-6
            (a)  Spirit given when Paul laid his hands on them.
        3.  Gifts to Timothy recorded in 2 Tim. 1:6; 1 Tim. 4:14.
            (a)  Timothy received a gift from the laying on of the 
                 hands of Paul (2 Tim. 1:6). He also received a gift 
                 through the laying on of the hands of the presbyters 
                 or elders (1 Tim. 4:14). The two gifts were obviously 
                 not the same. Paul gave Timothy a measure of the Holy 
                 Spirit; and the elders appointed him to preach in 
                 Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3).
            (b)  Timothy had to study (1 Tim. 4:13; 2 Tim. 2:15).
            (c)  The apostles did not have to study (Matt. 10:19-20; 
                 Gal. 1:11-12).  Therefore, what Timothy had as a gift 
                 of the Spirit was not the same as what the apostles 
                 had.
        4.  Paul's intention to bestow spiritual gifts on some at Rome 
            recorded in Romans 1:11
            (a)  Paul wanted to give the Romans a spiritual gift.
                 This was not the gift of salvation because they 
                 already had that (Rom. 6:1-4). It was not teaching 
                 because Paul was teaching them in his letter to them.  
                 The gift referred to must be gifts of the Spirit 
                 which could only be given by the laying on of the 
                 hands of an apostle and would therefore require 
                 Paul's physical presence (See Acts 8:18).
II.  Purpose and Use of Spiritual Gifts.
     A.  The purpose of spiritual gifts was to instruct, lead, and 
         edify the church in the first century while the entire New 
         Testament was being revealed and confirmed.
     B.  There were nine spiritual gifts. The gifts are listed in 
         1 Corinthians 12:4-11):
         1.  Wisdom
         2.  Knowledge
         3.  Faith
         4.  Gifts of healing
         5.  Miracles
         6.  Prophecy
         7.  Discerning of spirits
         8.  Tongues
         9.  Interpretation of tongues 
     C.  Those who had one of the spiritual gifts worked with others 
         who also had a spiritual gift, as the members of the human 
         body must work together for the gifts to accomplish the 
         divine purpose of edifying and directing the church (1 Cor. 
         12:12-28).
         1.  Spiritual gifts were limited to some first century 
             disciples (1 Cor. 12:28-30).
             (a)  There were many in the church in the first century 
                  who did not have these spiritual gifts.
             (b)  The spiritual gifts administered by the apostles 
                  were not necessary to salvation--some of the saved 
                  had such gifts and some of the saved had no such 
                  gift.
         1.  A person could exhibit only one spiritual gift at a time.
         2.  A person could request through prayer that his particular 
             spiritual gift be exchanged for a different spiritual 
             gift (1 Cor. 14:12-13), but he could not have two 
             spiritual gifts at the same time (otherwise the analogy 
             of the different members of the body working together in 
             order for the body to properly function breaks down).
             (a)  The determination as to which spiritual gift an 
                  individual might have, and whether that gift could 
                  be exchanged for a different one, was made by the 
                  Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11).
     E.  When the church came together in assembly different members 
         of the church had different gifts of edification (1 Cor. 
         14:26).
         1.  For the church to be taught, the various members having 
             spiritual gifts had to work together.
             (a)  This would prevent apostasy. If they went astray, 
                  several people would have to cooperate in order to 
                  deceive them.
     F.  Rules for use of spiritual gifts had to be followed.
         1.  Had to edify the church (1 Cor. 14:26).
         2.  Not more than three persons were permitted to speak in a 
             tongue at a given worship service (1 Cor. 14:27).
         3.  Only one person at a time was allowed to speak in a 
             tongue (1 Cor. 14:27).
         4.  Speaking in a tongue was not allowed in the absence of an 
             interpreter (1 Cor 14:28).
         5.  Only one person at a time was permitted to prophecy 
             (1 Cor. 14:27).
         6.  Not more than three prophets were to speak at a given 
             assembly (1 Cor. 14:29).
         7.  The worship service had to be decent and orderly; 
             confusion was not permitted (1 Cor. 14:23, 32, 40).
         8.  Those who possessed spiritual gifts had the power to 
             control the use of the gift (1 Cor 14:32).
     G.  When the church came together, different ones would have a 
         psalm, teaching, revelation, tongue, interpretation.
         1.  One brother might give a lesson; another brother make a 
             revelation in a tongue; another brother would interpret 
             the tongue for the group; another brother would discern 
             this to be the spirit of truth; another brother would 
             heal someone, or perform a miracle in order to confirm 
             the truth of what had been taught or revealed.
             (a)  The purpose was instruction that produced growth in 
                  understanding and character (1 Cor 14:3-5, 24-25, 
                  26, 31).
             (b)  They learned and grew through words given to them by 
                  the Spirit.
             (c)  The Holy Spirit works through and by the word of God 
                  (Eph. 6:17).
             (b)  The system of spiritual gifts required the disciples 
                  to work together, as the various members of the 
                  human body must work together, in order to know what 
                  God would have them to do in the absence of a living 
                  apostle of Jesus, or before the word was written.
III.  Duration.
      A.  Spiritual gifts ceased by their own limitation.
          1.  Only an apostle could impart spiritual gifts.
          2.  Those who received spiritual gifts from an apostle could 
              not impart them to others. Philip, for instance, could 
              not by the supernatural power he possessed impart 
              spiritual gifts to the saved in Samaria (Acts 8:8-18). 
          3.  Therefore when the last apostle died, and the last 
              person upon whom an apostle had laid his hands in order 
              to impart a spiritual gift died, the arrangement died.
      B.  The written, confirmed record (New Testament) became the 
          source of all teaching and edification.

Comments On The Outline

The apostles were baptized in the Holy Spirit whereby they received a knowledge of all saving truth and they had the ability to perform signs and miracles for the purpose of confirming that word. God gave the apostles the ability to pass on spiritual gifts by laying their hands on the intended recipient. That person then could exercise his gift in the absence of an apostle. Until the word of God existed in written form, those with spiritual gifts could impart their knowledge of the word to others. Once the revealed will of God was completed, the work of the apostles and the necessity for spiritual gifts ceased. What the apostles did in that first generation does not need to be repeated. The word was revealed one time for all time (Jude 3) and that revelation is final and complete and for all time. It is the perfect will of God and we dare not add to nor take away from nor change that revelation in any manner.

If any person claims revelation in addition to and other than the teaching of the gospel as preached by Paul and the other apostles, he is accursed (Gal. 1:8-9). Paul repeats the warning to emphasize the extreme danger of claiming revelation from God after the first century.

We may not know everything about the nine spiritual gifts mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:8-12, but we can be absolutely certain they do not continue and are not in the church today. The supernatural gifts of knowledge and wisdom would mean information and the ability to properly apply it. The supernatural gift of faith is more difficult to explain. We know that it was not ordinary saving faith because disciples of the first century had that kind of faith before receiving spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit through the apostles' hands. It may have been courage to speak the truth in the presence of kings and the powerful of the earth, or it may have been used in connection with supernatural signs of confirmation, such as striking Elymas blind (Acts 13:8-11). Gifts of healing involved the perfect recovery of those who were sick and disabled. Miracles would be like stilling a storm or being impervious to venom or poison. Prophecy would be supernatural teaching. There were some prophets in the first century church who had no miraculous power. Tongues, the interpretation of tongues, and the discerning of spirits had to do with speaking foreign languages, the translation of the alien language, and the inspired determination of the spirit of truth as opposed to false spirits.

The most common mistake in studying the miraculous spiritual gifts of the first century is to approach the subject with trepidation, supposing the matter to be so deep and mysterious that it cannot be understood. Paul said to the Corinthian saints concerning these spiritual gifts "I would not have you ignorant" (1 Cor. 12:1). This shows the subject is capable of being understood. It is shrouded in mystery merely because men have superimposed their human anticipation on something that is really very simple.

The supernatural tongues were foreign languages, as is demonstrated in Acts chapter two, "we hear them speaking in our tongues the mighty works of God" (Acts 2:11), and in Paul's explanation, "There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and no kind is without signification" (1 Cor. 14:10).


H. A. "Buster" Dobbs, email: [email protected]
P. O. Box 690192
Houston, Texas 77269-0192
(281) 469-3540

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