Second in Paul’s list of gifts were prophets (1 Corinthians 12:27). We know those who have this gift as preachers. The prophet’s job was to expound Scripture, to multiply the gift of the apostles, the gift of Scripture (the New Testament, but not the New Testament alone — also the Old Testament) by illustrating and applying it to God’s people, to the churches. Once the Scripture was complete and available, it was to be proclaimed to the nations, to the Gentiles, to all of the people in the world. With the closing of the Canon and cessation of the role of the apostles, the role of the prophets took first place in the churches. Indeed, preaching God’s Word is still the primary job of every church.
The next gift on Paul’s list was teaching. Teachers were to help people incorporate Scripture into their lives. Teachers instruct, train and disciple others. Teaching is an outgrowth of preaching. Teaching takes preaching to the next level. Where preaching is the proclamation of God’s Word, teaching involves the assimilation and application of God’s Word. The teacher must master the subject before teaching it, and then help others master it. So, the first job of the teacher is learning.
And every Christian is called to be a teacher. Husbands are to teach their wives. Parents are to teach their children. Older students are to help teach younger students, etc. Teaching is the main staple of Christianity. Every Christian needs to be taught, not just the essentials of the faith, but the fullness and richness of the faith. Christianity is not just about the main points of biblical doctrine, it’s about the entire story of the Bible in all of its amazing details. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
Next on Paul’s list are miracles. But didn’t I previously say that miracles had ceased with the closing of the Canon? I did, and what I said is true. However, it is not the whole truth. Why? Because the closing of the Canon was not the end of Christianity. Rather, it was the beginning of God’s Christian mission to the whole world. Paul’s inclusion of miracles on the gift list was the result of Jesus’ instructions in John 14:12: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” James taught the same thing: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).
You might say that Paul used the word “miracles” where the verses I have quoted above use the word “works.” And indeed, they are not the same Greek words. Nonetheless, the meaning and intent of the two verses are the same. Paul used the word dunamis, which means power. Paul’s use of the word miracles (dunamis) here referred to going out in the power of Christ and changing the world. Paul was not talking about carnival tricks or healing aunt Sally’s sore elbow. Paul was talking about using the wisdom that God had provided in Scripture to change human culture and society into the likeness of Christ. Paul was talking about the application of biblical principles and truths to the endeavor of being human in a fallen world. Paul was talking about walking in the Spirit, about living in regeneration, about being used by God in the accomplishment of God’s purposes for His church, to extend the biblical mission to reach the whole world.
With the light of Jesus Christ and completion of the Bible, miracles that were like flashlights in the dark were no longer necessary in the light of Christ. Again, it is not so much that miracles that worked like flashlights in the dark ceased to work, but that in the light of Christ flashlights were no longer necessary. But note that if the light from the flashlights was miraculous, the light of Christ was a miracle of infinitely greater proportion. The flashlights were simply abandoned in favor of the superior light of Christ.
Miracles are like tongues. Rightly understood, we see that speaking in tongues did not cease, but rather began in earnest with the closing of the Canon as the gospel – regenerate God talk — was translated (spoken and written) into foreign tongues (languages). Similarly, miracles did not cease with the closing of the Canon, either. Rather, the closing of the Canon provided the platform for the launching of new generations of miracles, new kinds of miracles previously unknown, miracles that could only be manifest in the light of the Trinitarian Christ. Indeed, the application of the Trinitarian understanding of God and the Trinitarian understanding of reality brought about the development of science and technology, which have utterly and miraculously changed the world.
Science & Technology
What we call science and technology today, Christians of the First Century would have called miracles. What we assume as commonplace today, would have been considered to be absolutely miraculous in any other period of human history. I’m talking about modern communications, transportation, media, agriculture, population increase, etc. Think about the transformation of the world from the time of Christ to the Twenty-First Century and it is nothing short of absolutely miraculous, particularly from a First Century perspective. This is the gift of miracles that was on Paul’s list.
The rest of the gifts on Paul’s list are lumped together as if the order is not significant, “then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues” (v. 21). The previous gifts on the list are in the order of importance. The most important was the apostolic, the writing of the New Testament. Second was the preaching of the New Testament gospel. And third was the teaching of the New Testament gospel. The direct result of that preaching and teaching would be — and were — miracles. The preaching and teaching of the Trinitarian gospel of Jesus Christ utterly changed the world for the better and forever.