Before and After the New Testament Scriptures (Part IV)
Those miraculous gifts that the apostles and others had in the first century were to last only until the New Testament Scriptures were completed. Paul said,
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. (1 Cor 13:8–10 NKJV)
“That which is in part” were those gifts of the Spirit, the tongues and the prophecies. Those things would “fail”; they would “cease” and “vanish away,” said Paul. They were not intended to be forever. When “that which is perfect has come,” those gifts would cease. That which is perfect is the New Testament. When it was completed near the end of the first century, those miraculous gifts ceased. They were no longer needed.
The word “perfect,” in verse 10, was translated from the original Greek word teleios. This word does not mean flawless, it “signifies having reached its end (telos), finished, complete . . .” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, vol. III [Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Company 1966], 173–174). Christian doctrine was not revealed all at once, but in parts (“we know in part and we prophesy in part”), through the gifts of “prophecies,” “tongues,” “knowledge,” etc. It was not complete (in other words, “perfect”) until God had fully revealed it to mankind (which is what we have in the New Testament). Once the New Testament was completed, there was no more need for those miraculous gifts.
Some say that the “perfect” is in heaven. That cannot be because the miraculous gifts were to continue until “that which is perfect has come,” then they would cease. There are no genuine miraculous gifts today. So, that which is perfect is now here. Until those who claim to have miraculous gifts, such as healing, can walk into a hospital and heal those who are actually sick, or give sight to the blind, or raise the dead, etc., etc., it isn’t so. Furthermore, there is a progression from those things that were “in part” to “that which is “perfect.” The “perfect” is the completed product of what came in parts (through “prophecies,” “tongues,” and so forth). No one would argue that heaven or anything in it came through those gifts, and in parts, but the teaching found in the New Testament certainly did.
We still go to the writings of Paul and other inspired men to learn what we need to do in order to be pleasing to God, we just can’t hear it directly from their lips. But it’s the same Word, the same message, and carries the same authority now as it did then.