The transcendent nature of the present outflow of Gods favor
corresponds with the exaltation of Christ among the celestials. Because He is up
above all the heavens (Eph. 4:10). we are raised to the heights supreme. It is not,
indeed, as the English may suggest, that He is located in space at a point outside of and
beyond the universe, for that is a palpable absurdity. As to space, the universe is made
up of the earth and the heavens. The more accurate Greek makes it of the heavens,
for He is the highest of the celestial hosts, not as to space, but as to dignity
and glory. There can be no higher exaltation. He completes the universe (Eph. 4:l0).
He Who descended into the lower parts of the earth has now ascended to
the highest heavens. Just as the celestial aspect of the mystery of Christ is the basis of
the secret economy, so now also, the completeness of Christs sweep of all creation
is the basis of our maturity. A complete revelation raises us to the plane of adults.
Being associated with Christ in His headship of the whole universe the believers now have
attained their majority.
The inauguration of the present administration of Gods grace
brought many changes with it. This called for an adjusting of the saints, in the
language of inspiration (Eph. 4:12). It is figuratively presented as the change from
minority to manhood (Eph. 4:13 ; 1 Cor. 13:10). The new celestial destiny severed the
saints from earthly, physical blessing, which they had enjoyed as guests of Israels
covenants. The new status of the nations demanded that their spiritual growth be
completed, so that they may truly be the complements of Christ among the celestials.
The spiritual manifestations of so-called gifts give us a
graphic illustration of the changes involved. The twelfth chapter of first Corinthians
shows what the nations had before the mystery was revealed. The fourth of Ephesians tells
us what gifts are ours today. There are great changes. Most of the early gifts were
dropped in this adjustment. They are no longer needed. Two new ones were added. Three are
carried over. Of the gifts which enter this administration, apostles, prophets, and
teachers were known before. They link us with the past. Evangelists and pastors are
unique, for they had not been classed as gifts before.
|1 Cor. 12:7-10
||1 Cor. 12:28-29
||1 Cor. 13:8
|By the spirit for
|By God in the
|Given by Lord
|| Eph. 2:20
|| In the
The accompanying lists of the spiritual endowments given
in Pauls ministry will help us to compare and study these gifts. First
we have the nine gifts which were temporary expedients during the transitional era between
the Pentecostal administration and the present. These are individual manifestations of the
spirit. Next we have eight corporate endowments, connected with membership in the body of
Christ. These are arranged in the order of their rank. Note particularly that the first
threeapostles, prophets, and teachersare found again in Ephesians. Then we
have a special list of those which were to be discarded by the incoming of maturity. The
last column gives us the facts in Ephesians. First we have the list of those given for
adjusting the saints. Finally we find that two of these are confined to the foundation.
This leaves three spiritual endowments todayevangelists, pastors, and teachers.
It is worth every effort needed to clear up the relation between the
gifts in first Corinthians and Ephesians. Two extreme and opposing positions are based on
untenable views of this relation. A large number of zealous believers claim that all of
the gifts may still be appropriated by faith and that many are in exercise today. As in
Corinth, they emphasize the gift of tongues. Healing is also pressed. On the
other hand, some cut off Corinthians entirely, claiming that we have absolutely no
connection with them. We are told that the dispensation of the mystery is unique, and is
neither a blend nor a development of Corinthians, but a newly created thing, far above
all. In contrast with both of these positions, the Scriptures, both in Corinthians and
Ephesians, illustrate the relation between the two by the figures of minority and maturity.
This is the key to the subject.
This figure avoids both extremes. It is in harmony with the fact that
some of the gifts were present in the past which are ours today. It agrees with the
setting aside of the lesser gifts and the retention of the greater. It accords with the
character of the gifts which have been retained and those which have been repudiated. Paul
and others were apostles and teachers in Corinthians and remained such in Ephesians. They
were not reappointed, as though their previous services were not recognized. The figure of
a new creation is not in point here. A man is not recreated when he reaches maturity. Some
things remain as they were. Others are dropped because they are suited only to minority.
The believers among the nations had been enjoying some things, as the
guests of Israels promise covenants, which find no appropriate place among the
spiritual, celestial blessings which characterize the present grace. Perhaps if such a
change should be brought about in these days we would call it a reorganization. If a great
business should change the sphere of its operations and the character of its products,
some of its machinery would become useless and be discarded. Its system of doing business
would be revised to suit the new conditions. So it was when this charter of our faith was
first given. Some things were entirely dropped, others merely modified. Physical benefits
vanished. Earthly disabilities disappeared. In Pauls preparatory epistles the
believers are seen in the period of adolescence. They verge upon manhood. Some of the
gifts given them at that time were the relics of childhood. Others were intended to
develop them into manhood. The youth learns to talk and to care for his physical frame.
These are represented by the gifts of healing and tongues. The principal task
of adolescence is the schooling and training for the duties of life. It is concerned with
self-development, not with the care of others or the duties of maturity.
GIFTS FOR EXPEDIENCE
The manifestations of the spirit, given to the Corinthians, were expedients
(1 Cor. 12:7). Let us not miss this inspired characterization, which assures us that they
were not ideal, permanent endowments, but only temporary measures to fill a lack which has
since been supplied. Now to each one is being given the manifestation of the spirit,
with a view to expedience. The Authorized Version rendering,
profit is misleading, though of course it is not untrue. Expedients are
resorted to because they are profitable or helpful for a time. This word, sumpherO,
they translate profit seven times, and seven times expedient. Another word, oninemi,
means profit. The loss of an eye or a hand can hardly be called profitable,
though it may be expedient (Matt. 5 :29,30). It was expedient for the Lord
to go away (John 16 :7). Absence is not His permanent condition. All is allowed us, but
not all is expedient (1 Cor. 6 32). In every occurrence there is but a transient
advantage gained by expedience.
This is confirmed by the fact that none of these endowments are
reaflrmed in Ephesians. They are suited to the times of transition which introduced
the present grace. It is put beyond all question by the further fact that all three of
the gifts which are definitely discarded are found in this list of expedient spiritual
endowments (1 Cor. 12:7-10). These are prophecy, languages, and knowledge (13:8). They
were necessary at that time, but such expedients are no longer needed since the present
administration has been fully established. Instead of giving a few individuals
supernatural fragments of information, God has completed the whole circle of knowledge in
His latest revelation. This is open to all. Now each believer has access to all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge, in Christ.
The more we know of the transitional era which accompanied Pauls
early ministries, the more we see the necessity of temporary spiritual manifestations to
tide the believers over into the present grace. Although we now have a record of this
period in Pauls earlier epistles, as well as the full revelation which closed it,
how few of the believers are really clear about it! Since early times the church has found
this period prolific in confusion, for few understood that it was not a permanent part of
the present. If this is so, how difficult must it have been for those who lived in those
changing times to keep step with Gods operations! There was no finally formulated
system of truth, as we now have it in Ephesians. God was still occupied with Israel. If we
lived in an era in which God was winding up one system of truth while He was unfolding
another, there would be more excuse for confusion than there is. They needed temporary
help to tide them over the time of transition.
The expedients are of two different kinds. Some linked them on to the
kingdom and the powers of the coming eon. These were powerful deeds, healing,
languages and translation. These will find their fullest fulfillment in the
millennium. Humanly speaking, if Israel had not rejected the Messiah in Acts, these gifts
would have flourished more and more, yet they would be exercised only in subordination to
Israel. They could not continue when Israel was set aside. The other gifts linked them to
the approaching change, when Israel should be rejected. Without knowing what was in store
for them, they would naturally fall into folly and ignorance. Hence some were specially
endowed with knowledge and wisdom. Their faith would fail, as did that of so many in
Israel, as the kingdom receded. There was need of the gift of prophecy, to receive direct
word from God. Spirits must be discriminated, lest they be led contrary to Gods
intention. All of these gifts are displayed in Pauls epistles to them. All of the
other group were found exemplified in the narrative of Acts, which begins with a special
exhibition of tongues and ends with a notable example of healing (28:8).
But do we not need all of these things today? As our blessings are
spiritual, among the celestials, we cannot claim the physical endowments of the coming
eon. Instead of healing we are given grace for our infirmities. Instead of power we are
promised weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). Languages are directly denied to an era of maturity (1
Cor. 13:8). Wisdom and knowledge, faith, and prophecy, and the discrimination of spirits
may be greatly needed today, but they are no longer individual gifts. All the wisdom and
knowledge we need is found in the secret now revealed. That is Gods final word to
us. No gift of prophecy is needed (1 Cor. 13:8). And by this completed revelation we may
test all spirits. The dispensation in which we now live abrogates all of the spiritual
manifestations which the apostle so carefully labeled expedients.
We are not aware that this point has been pressed before. Hence we wish
to urge it upon all who believe God. Many lines of reasoning may be developed to show that
these gifts are no longer with us, but none should appeal to the man of God as the word
here used by the holy Spirit. Before we are even told that these gifts existed, their
temporary character is asserted. This will be enough for everyone who wishes to believe
God. We do not doubt that there are spiritual manifestations today which seem to
correspond to the lesser gifts. Such there were even in those days. A special gift was
needed to discriminate the spirits. If this endowment existed today it would
unhesitatingly class all of these as the work of deceiving spirits. It is an effort to
engross the believers with the things of minority in order to keep them from attaining
majority, which is the primary object of the real gifts we have today.
Let us note carefully the opposite effect, the direct contrast, between
the modern gifts healing and tongues and those given us by God.
The former drag us back to childhood; the latter bring us to manhood. Pastors,
evangelists, and teachers are given toward the adjusting of the saints for the work
of dispensing, for the upbuilding of the body of Christ, unto the end that we should all
attain to the unity of the faith and of the realization of the son of God, to a mature
man, to the measure of the stature of Christs complement, that we may by no means
still be minors, surging hither and thither and being carried about by every wind of
teaching . . . (Eph. 4:12-14). Languages are listed by God as the least of all the
gifts of minority. True pastors, evangelists and teachers lead in the contrary direction,
toward maturity. That is their special function if they are faithful.
There are many methods of testing Gods servants today which are
without warrant in the Word. Success sometimes signifies failure in Gods sight.
Here, however, we have Gods standard. Here He tells us what He expects. The test we
should apply is found in this passage. Do they dispense that which edifies the body of
Christ, so that all have one faith and realize their sonship and maturity in Christ? Alas!
the very idea of maturity is unknown to many and their ministry is more calculated to make
infants out of full-grown believers than to make mature saints out of minors. Let us note
that the prime object of the gifts we now possess is to lead the saints beyond the
lesser gifts which characterized minority. We are mature in Christ! Let us not relapse
THE eight spiritual endowments placed in the ecclesia by God are not
introduced as expedients, hence we find that three of them enter the present
administration. The notable point is that these three are expressly put at the head of the
list and numbered, lest they should be misplaced. First, apostles, second,
prophets, third, teachers, thereupon . . . (1 Cor. 12:28). Furthermore, the
other gifts are discounted by the exhortation, Be zealous for the greater
graces. This is followed by a statement which practically repudiates the lesser
gifts. In confirmation of this we read that the last and leastlanguagesis to cease
(1 Cor. 13:8). The five unnumbered gifts, powers, healing, supports, pilotage, languages,
are not suited to the present era of transcendence (1 Cor. 12:31).
ABROGATED BY MATURITY
Prophecies, languages, knowledge are the gifts which are expressly
discarded in the thirteenth chapter of first Corinthians. All three are found in the first
series which are expedient, and onelanguagesis also the last of the second
group, which is arranged according to rank. The gift of tongues, therefore, is
the least of all the gifts. But the path of transcendence which we now tread does not
merely discard the signs of the coming eon, as languages and powers and healing, but also
abrogates prophecies and the gift of knowledge. The reason given is that these were but
installments and, in the impending era (in which we now dwell), such fragmentary
revelations will be unnecessary because God will have given a full-orbed prophecy
embracing all knowledge. Such we have in this Ephesian epistle.
The fact that the gift of prophecy has been abrogated is evident from
the many modern attempts to supplement Gods revelation. All who have sought to add
to Gods Word have only manifested their ignorance of what He has already revealed. I
would advise those who imagine that they have a direct message from God to get a grasp of
the Ephesian letter. They will find His Word final and complete. It is sufficient for
every present need. The gift of prophecy, or the power to speak as the mouth-piece of God,
has been abrogated. The only prophets in this economy are in the foundation, and all that
they might reveal is already spread out before us in the epistles of Paul, the greatest
prophet of them all.
A distinction should be maintained between the gift of prophecy, as one
of the spirits manifestations, which was given for individual exercise in the
ecclesia, and the office of prophet, as given to the ecclesia to complete the Word of
God. Paul was the great apostle and prophet through whom the truth was given in
permanent form and incorporated in the Scriptures. The fragmentary prophecies were
temporary expedients, but the gift of prophecy remains with us, in spiritual form, in the
sacred scrolls. The prophet is found in the foundation. His prophecies, unlike those
earlier manifestations of which we have no record, are written for all to read.
In the Corinthian letter we notice that some gifts are discounted,
though not forbidden. The gift of languages, or tongues, together with
interpretation is last on the lists, and is discouraged. The apostle declares he would
rather speak five words with his mind, to instruct others, than ten thousand in a language
which they could not understand (1 Cor. 14:19). He gives notice that it is only a
temporary endowment, for it would cease (1 Cor. 13:8). It is not included in the
latest list, given in Ephesians (Eph. 4:1). It is beyond question that the gift of
tongues is the least adapted to maturity.
The testimony of the Scriptures is sufficient, and I am not adding what
follows to confirm it. It may, however, be helpful to those who do not clearly see that
this gift has ceased, and who appeal to its presence as a fact. I have lived for about a
score of years at the very center of the tongues movement and have had ample opportunity
to hear it exercised. I have listened most carefully, each time I have heard, in order to
determine if the utterance had the characteristics of language. It never has. There is
usually a tell-tale repetition of sounds, such as one who is imitating a foreign tongue
would use, after a slight acquaintance with it. No one who has a knowledge of a variety of
languages has any reason to suppose that the gift of tongues today is a real
language at all.
We do not need to turn to Ephesians to prove that most of the gifts
were temporary and unsuited to the present economy. That is the burden of first
Corinthians. Not only does the thirteenth chapter definitely name some which were to be
abrogated, or cease, but the twelfth chapter, in which they are cataloged, just as
definitely labels them as expedients, or turns us from some of them to a path suited to
transcendence (1 Cor. 12:31). Is it not remarkable that these two warnings, one before and
one immediately following the lists of the gifts, should have been so insistently ignored
or obliterated by mistranslation and misinterpretation, that the object of Gods
spiritual endowments has been actually reversed? Almost everywhere the believers are
enticed back to babyhood instead of being built up into Christ.
It is commonly supposed that the thirteenth of first Corinthians
contrasts our present experience with our future glory in resurrection. Now we are
supposed to see in a glass darkly, but then face to face (1 Cor. 13:12). Then we shall
know as we are known. This popular and erroneous interpretation has practically robbed us
of the true teaching of the chapter. The apostle is not comparing our experience in this
life with that in the next. He is comparing the dispensation before it with that of the
present. That was minority. This is maturity. Then matters were dimly seen which now are
clear and plain. Now knowledge is not being doled out in installments. We have a full
revelation since the mystery has been revealed.
The fourth of Ephesians gives us the gifts for the present. The mere
fact that most of the endowments listed in Corinthians are not repeated here does not
prove that they are abrogated. That would not be sufficient ground for discarding them. We
must intelligently consider what is said about them in Corinthians. We must recognize the
fact that the time of maturity has come. Then we will see why it is that the lesser gifts
cannot enter this era of transcendence. Then we will exult in their disappearance. We will
thankfully take our place as mature men, and refuse even the appearance of immaturity.
APOSTLES AND PROPHETS
Of the five gifts which belong to this administration, three have
continued and two are in the foundation. Apostles and prophets were imperative needs for
its inauguration. Gods mind must be made known by His spokesmen, and it must be
accompanied with all the authority of Gods commissioner. Since Paul, the greatest of
all the prophets and apostles of this economy, has made a permanent record of the new
revelation in his epistles, these have served the purpose of prophets and apostles. They
remain with us, in spirit, in in these writings. The evidence for their absence among
us is not merely the lack of accredited men, but the statement that these gifts are
confined to the foundation (Eph. 2 20). A prophet who could not add to Pauls
epistles would be useless. All who have tried it have proven to be false.
EVANGELISTS, PASTORS, TEACHERS
Gods gifts today are three in number, the evangelist to preach to
the world, the pastor to care for the saints, and the teacher to edify the body of Christ.
The great weakness in Christendom today lies in the attempt to combine all three in a
single cleric, who must entertain and shepherd saint and sinner alike, who seldom is
gifted in more than one way, and often in none. With a rising tide of spirituality there
has usually followed a separation of these ministries. Evangelists leave all else for
their message to the unbeliever, and teachers arise and conventions are held for the one
purpose of edifying the saints. In seasons of spiritual refreshing these divine
manifestations come to the front.
In these last days the special need is for teachers who are themselves
mature and who can establish the saints by dispensing the grace which has come to them by
the revelation of the mystery. Alas! most of those who are giving religious instruction
today are bringing their hearers into the bondage of law and ceremony, or occupying them
with the affairs of minority, and are thus dragging the believers down when they should be
building them up. Here we have the divine test of the true teacher. Does he correspond to
Ephesians 4:12-14? Is he adjusting, dispensing, upbuilding, unifying, giving the
realization of sonship, maturity, and adultness? These are the seven signs of the ideal
Most of the believers today need adjusting quite as much as those to
whom Ephesians was addressed. Their doctrine and experience is limited to the teaching of
our Lord while on earth, or his apostles in the book of Acts. Under the false impression
that the church began at Pentecost, they seek to utilize the varying
presentations which follow it to determine their creed and practice. Others go further and
seek to include some of the teachings of Pauls earlier epistles, notwithstanding the
grave differences between the two. How few go to Pauls final presentations and
modify even his previous ministries to accord with these transcendent truths! This is the
task of the true teacher today. He must, first of all, be an adjuster.
He must also be a dispenser. Much of the teaching we hear fails to
emphasize the grace of God and the gratuitous character of His gifts. He is not running a
bargain counter or a commercial enterprise, but a free dispensary. Very few believers even
know what He has for them. It is the duty of the teacher to put them into possession of
their riches in Christ Jesus.
He must edify, or build up, the body of Christ. This is a vastly
different matter from entertaining the members of a church or the adherents of a
denomination. The teacher who merely recognizes the fact that there is a spiritual
organism to which all believers belong, irrespective of creed or affiliation, is edifying
or building up the body of Christ. The teacher who ignores it or displaces it by human
organizations is demolishing the one body. He who discounts human associations, and
presses upon the believers their place in that marvelous organism of which Christ alone is
Head, is a God-given gift, fulfilling the work of building up the body.
Many are the attempts which have been made to unite the saints. The
true basis of such a unity is the one faith which we have today, which is set forth in
this epistle. The cause of the divisions is the multiplicity of beliefs resulting from
ignorance of this consummating revelation. If it were Gods intention to make us all
one before Christ comes again, He would probably call for teachers to make known the
truths of this economy. This is a test of the ideal teacher. Does his message lead to the
unity of all in Christ? Or does it divide the believers into classes? Especially, does it
form a special, superior clique of all who heed his teaching? Let us remember that, if we
all believed God we would be one in fact as we are in truth.
Sonship is a much higher thought than that conveyed by the figure of
the new birth. Indeed, Paul leaves that illustration to the kingdom proclamation. He makes
us a new creation, rather than a regeneration. Sonship is not necessarily based on birth.
It may be obtained by adoption. It does not figure mere relationship, but the honors
granted only to the heir when he comes of age, and is invested with the highest dignities
which his father can bestow. It is vastly more to be a son of God than a child. A teacher
in this economy should press this point, so that the saints may realize their sonship
(Eph. 4 :13).
The crowning result of true teaching today has already been elaborated.
It brings the believers to mature manhood, to the adult stature of Christs
complement (Eph. 4:13). This can be accomplished only by showing them the immature
character of previous economies, and the fullness which is theirs in Christ in this
transcendent administration. It is only as they realize that they have outgrown much that
God once gave, and that, in Christ, they have attained their full stature, that they are
fitted to stand steadfast in the midst of the turmoil in which they find themselves. False
teaching carries them about (Eph. 4:14), the true establishes them in grace.
The phrase systematizing of the deception (Eph. 4:14) is a
most apt description of modern methods of maintaining error. Isolated departures from
truth are difficult to promulgate. They must be worked up into a philosophic system in
order to become popular. The great theologies are systematized to agree with their main
position, which may be a half-truth. Many of the movements of the day which appeal to the
Bible for support, have so systematized their deceptions that they appear to rest on
divine revelation. They seem to have enough contacts in the Scriptures to give them the
appearance of truth. However the mature believer will not be deceived by them.
The path of transcendence is the way of love, as the apostle shows in
the thirteenth of first Corinthians. So it is in Ephesians (4:15,16). It is further
figured by the human frame, all parts of which are in loving sympathy with all the rest,
through the head. Christ is Head of the body now, and the believers are its members. There
is a vital union, which makes us one with Him and with every other member. All real growth
and service in the church today has this for its basis. Its motive is love. Its impuIse is
from the Head. Its end is the upbuilding of the body.
In this meditation we have found that the revelation of the Ephesian
secret was accompanied by the incoming of maturity. Minority prevailed before, even among
the Pauline ecclesias. Hence many of the gifts are discarded and only a few enter this
economy. Teachers are specially given to lead the believers into a realization of the fact
that they have outgrown the immaturities of past eras, and are now mature in Christ. It is
our privilege to tread the path of transcendence. May God grant that many who read these
lines will enter that path in conscious appreciation of the privileges of their majority.