NO CONTINUATION OF PROPHETS TODAY
By: Victor T. Stephens
"People often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it's served up."
~ George R.R. Martin
Completion and Maturity
Let's now take a look at 1 Corinthians 13:10 and Ephesians 4:13.
"But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." (1 Cor. 13:10)
"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:" (Eph. 4:13)
As pointed out earlier in our study, non-cessationists render the word "perfect" in 1 Corinthians 13:10 as someone or something that is flawless such as Jesus or His Second Coming. Similarly, they render the word "perfect" in Ephesians 4:13 as a believer's state of sinless perfection which results from Jesus' Second Coming. While there is a clear link between these two verses, non-cessationists have arrived at an invalid conclusion.
As we previously discovered, the word "perfect" ["teleios"] in 1 Corinthians 13:10 is rendered as "complete". Now, in Ephesians 4:13, the word "perfect" ["teleios"] is rendered as "mature". The NIV version says:
"until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." (Emphasis mine)
Let's take a look at other examples of the word "perfect" being defined as "mature".
"Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:" (1 Cor. 2:6 KJV, emphasis mine)
"We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing." (1 Cor. 2:6 NIV, emphasis mine)
"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." (Col. 4:12 KJV, emphasis mine)
"Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured." (Col. 4:12 NIV, emphasis mine)
"But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."
(James 1:4 KJV, emphasis mine)
"Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
(James 1:4 NIV, emphasis mine)
The word "perfect" in Ephesians 4:13 and 1 Corinthians 13:10 are rendered "mature" and "completed Word of God" respectively. These two words represent two sides of the same coin. They complement each other by representing an illustration of the church that Paul had in mind. Thus, in proper context, Paul is saying that the completed canon of Scripture will lead the body of Christ to complete spiritual maturity.
Now, take note that Ephesians 4:15 states:
"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ." (Eph. 4:15)
This verse says "we will grow to become" ... meaning a process of spiritual maturity is still ongoing after the fact that the church is no longer being "tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching ..." (v. 14). Spiritual growth represents a steady succession of time rather than an immediate event such as the rapture.
Jesus, the apostles and the prophets are the foundation. Their revelatory ministry revealed the completed will of God --- The Bible. And God's Word is all that is necessary to bring believers to spiritual maturity.
Let's now show the correlation between Ephesians 4:13 and 1 Corinthians 13:11.
"Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect ["mature"] man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." (Eph. 4:13, emphasis mine)
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (1 Cor. 13:11)
As we can see, these two verses are speaking in context of spiritual maturity of the church, not a perfect state of sinless perfection. Recall, "maturity" illustrates a growth process that transpires over a period of time as compared to an instantaneous event such as the Second Coming of the Lord. Further confirmation of this fact is presented in James 1:2-4:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4)
This passage clearly indicates that it is perseverance produced through faith that brings maturity and completeness to the church. And how does faith come? Romans 10:17 says:
"So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
And what is the Word of God? The Bible!
Desiring the Gift of Prophecy
Now, another charge by the non-cessationists camp is that it would have been illogical for Paul to teach the cessation of prophecy to the early church in Corinth while they were at the height of their spiritual charismata experiences. What reason, they say, would Paul teach the cessation of prophecy to the Corinthians when he stated in 1 Corinthians 14:1-6:
"Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy. For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified. Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?" (1 Cor. 14:1-6)
If we read 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, it should be clear that Paul is speaking about the supremacy of love. Love endures all things; and will never fail (v. 8). By contrast, Paul teaches that the spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will pass away once God's final will for the church has been completed through the written Word. What will remain are faith, hope, and love; but the greatest among these is love (v. 13). Thus, Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 14:1-6 that the Corinthians should pursue love; which ultimately means they should serve one another in love.
As aforementioned, Paul instructed the Corinthians that prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will cease upon completion of the Word of God. However, since this was a future event, Paul taught the Corinthian Church to desire spiritual gifts. When the first Epistle to the Corinthian believers was penned, they only had a portion of the Gospel. Therefore, these gifts were still necessary at that point in time for revealing the will of God, for strengthening, encouraging and comfort. On account that some people in the Corinthian Church were abusing their spiritual gifts, Paul tactfully reminds them that their gifts should be exercised in an attitude of love. Ultimately, love is eternal and supreme ... enduring in times past, present, and future.