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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today?

Don Stewart :: When Paul Said, "God's Gifts Were Irrevocable," Was He Speaking about Spiritual Gifts?

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When Paul Said, “God’s Gifts Were Irrevocable” Was He Speaking about Spiritual Gifts? (Romans 11:29)

Are All Spiritual Gifts Active Today? – Question 15

One passage that is often brought up in the cessationist/non-cessationist debate is found in the Book of Romans. Paul wrote.

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29 NKJV).

Paul said the gifts of God are irrevocable. Many use this statement to assert that God would not revoke any of the spiritual gifts that He originally gave to the church. Therefore, this statement solves the cessationist/non-cessationist issue. God will not take back any of the spiritual gifts that He has given to the church; the gifts will continue throughout the entire age.

The Passage Is Not Discussing Spiritual Gifts

The citing of Romans 11:29 will not solve the question of the permanency of spiritual gifts. The subject under discussion has nothing to do with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The context of Paul’s statement concerns the gifts and calling that were given to the nation of Israel – these gifts are irrevocable. He is emphasizing that God will keep all His promises to the nation. The previous verse makes this clear.

As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers (Romans 11:28 ESV).

While individual unbelieving Jews may be enemies of the church, the nation has been given certain promises that cannot be revoked.

Thus, he is not addressing the subject of the New Testament church, or the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When he uses the term “gifts” it is referring to those that God has given the nation in the past. Nothing else.

Therefore, Romans 11:29 should be used in attempting to solve the issue of spiritual gifts – it has nothing to do with this subject. To solve this question, other passages must be consulted and studied.

Gifts May Be Taken Away Because of Continual Sin

There is also the fact that God could remove a spiritual gift if He so desired. Indeed, if a believer falls into moral or doctrinal error it is possible that God would remove the spiritual gift from the person until there is genuine repentance.

Consequently, we cannot say that spiritual gifts will necessarily always remain with every believer – God may decide to withdraw a gift for a time.

In sum, the subject of spiritual gifts is not addressed in this passage in Romans. Therefore, it should not be used in deciding whether certain spiritual gifts are still in existence.

Summary – Question 15
When Paul Said, “god’s Gifts Were Irrevocable” Was He Speaking about Spiritual Gifts? (Romans 11:29)

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans and stated that the gifts of God were irrevocable. This means that once given they could not be withdrawn. Some believe that this solves the question of the permanency of spiritual gifts. They have been given to the church, and according to God’s own words, they cannot be withdrawn.

While many use Paul’s statement in Romans as a promise that God would never withdraw spiritual gifts from the church, the context is speaking of something else. Indeed, the subject is the nation Israel. In this passage, Paul reminds the Romans that God has agreed to keep all His promises that He has made to this nation in spite of their unbelief. In other words, He will not withdraw any “gifts” He has previously given to them because of their present spiritual blindness.

Consequently, this particular passage is not relevant to the cessationist/non-cessationist debate.

However, there is an important point we should learn from this. God can withhold a certain gift for a time if a person is in a state of sin. Indeed, until there is genuine repentance on the part of that person, the gift may be temporarily withdrawn. Again, whether or not God does this is completely up to Him. He is the One who makes all the decisions in these cases.

To conclude, the cessationist/non-cessationist debate will have to be solved by looking at other passages.

What Is the Case for Saying That All of the Original Spiritual Gifts Still Exist? ← Prior Section
How Does a Person Discover Their Spiritual Gifts? Next Section →
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