Why did spiritual gifts “stop”?

While I do not subscribe to the theory that God has stopped distributing spiritual gifts, it is certainly clear that for a long period of history, they did not appear to the extent they did in the early church.  The reasonable question is: why?

Here is my take, and it is based on thinking about Satan’s motives.  Satan’s goal has always been to dominate this world.  For approximately 4000 years he had been the (almost) undisputed ruler of the entire world.  There were a few minor skirmishes in Egypt and Canaan that hadn’t gone so well, but a little patience had dealt with that.  Suddenly, God sends his Spirit out on a small group of people, who act in obedience to it and spread the knowledge of God and Jesus and the Spirit.  The Spirit rests on those people as well, and a spreading group of people are listening to the Spirit of God and declaring the miracles He would perform immediately prior to His performing them.  They were suddenly listening to God instead of Satan.

Efforts to squash this group by military might were only accellerating the spread, something had to be done.  Enter Constantine.  I don’t know whether he was a genuine Christian or not, but I do know that he did one thing to change the dynamic of the situation radically: he legalized Christianity and pushed for it to become the state religion.

The pattern up to that point had been simple, a Christian meets a non-Christian and talks for a bit, speaking prophetically into that person’s life, perhaps performing some miracle that directly addresses that person’s needs.  The person converts to Christianity, because God is obviously bigger than Rome, and learns how to listen to the Spirit and thereby have the same effect on others.

The new pattern was also simple: if someone asks you if you’re a Christian you better say “yes”.  All of the sudden, you have millions of new “Christians” who know nothing about God, Jesus, or the Spirit.  They know nothing about the ability of the Spirit to minister to their needs in power and strength.  And there aren’t enough people to teach them all.

Repeat this pattern a few times (Crusades, Inquisition, etc) and you suddenly have a new dynamic: almost nobody has experienced the power of God.  Almost nobody has heard God speaked to them and recognized it as prophecy.  Some people have received a vision and been accused of witchcraft!  The result is a new “Christianity” in which many/most people don’t know Christ, and almost nobody knows what God is willing to do for them or through them.

I think the miracle is not that spiritual gifts “stopped”, but that churches are rediscovering them.  Satan’s best chance at protecting people from coming to know Christ was simple: legislate the form of Christianity to confuse the heart of Christianity.

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