In several of his letters, Paul described the Church as the Body of Christ where each disciple was a part, a member of it.

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one Body in Christ...but having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, whether prophecy, gifts of faith, of service...(Romans 12:4-7)

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For also by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body...
Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all translate? (1 Corinthians 12: 12-13, 27-30)

Early Church The first century church Body was described as a church that had many members who exercised various and sundry gifts of the Holy Spirit (12:1-11). There is no doubt or disagreement among commentators that many of these giftings were supernatural and miraculous, and were mentioned throughout the description of the history of the Church folk in the Book of Acts. (2 Corinthians 12:12, Acts 6:8, 8:6, 9:34, Mark 16:20)

But the question arises, Since the modern Church is also the Body of Christ is it hermeneutically correct to exegete, by way of expectation, that the modern Body of Christ would also be a miraculous church Body? Is Paul setting forth an example of the Body for all generations? Or do the scriptures anticipate a change in the nature and ministry of the church Body?

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    The One Body encompasses the totality of all that are in Christ. Which includes all eras.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Mar 29 at 20:34
  • @Nigel - Since it is so "that One Body encompasses the totality of all that are in Christ in all eras", should not it have the same characteristics in all eras, including types of miraculous ministry? Approaching the Scriptures hermeneutically, is there any hint of a "change"? By what exegesis can we deduce a change? Thanks for your interest and input.
    – ray grant
    Commented Mar 29 at 22:38

1 Answer 1


Is it hermeneutically correct to exegete, by way of expectation?

If by this you mean, "considering what the text might imply or entail for our beliefs, practices, or experiences as Christians today", then yes it's okay to exegete by way of expectation. We do that with much of scripture. However, some scripture is not simple or clear enough to give us a straightforward answer. I believe that is the case for this question.

This question deals with the large, but important theological topic of continuity of spiritual gifts throughout history.

It is evident from Paul's letters that the early Church experienced a manifestation of miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, as described in Acts and other New Testament writings. This much is clear.

However, some view the early Church as a unique historical context, with the miraculous gifts serving a specific purpose in the establishment and authentication of the Church in its infancy. For those with this perspective, while the Church today remains the Body of Christ, the manifestation of spiritual gifts may differ from the early Church or even ceased.

Continuationism vs. Cessationism: The question of whether miraculous spiritual gifts continue in the Church today is a matter of great theological debate. However, believers on both sides of the issue can agree to disagree. Continuationists argue that the gifts described by Paul are still active in the Church today, while cessationists believe that certain or all the miraculous gifts ceased after the apostolic era.

What's the issue? The issue is that this theological perspective influences how passages like 1 Corinthians 12 are interpreted for contemporary practice.

Principles vs. Prescription: While the specific manifestations of spiritual gifts may vary across different historical contexts, the principles underlying Paul's teaching on the Body of Christ remain relevant for all generations. These principles include the unity of believers in Christ, different spiritual gifts, the importance of mutual edification, and the functioning of the Church as a unified body with Christ as its head.

In conclusion, while Paul's descriptions of the Church as the Body of Christ provide insights into the nature and function of the Church, the interpretation and application of these passages for modern contexts will vary depending on one's theological perspective.

Finally, whether the Church today experiences the same miraculous gifts as the early Church will likely remain a difference in doctrinal conviction and personal experience.

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    *Jason - Thank you so much for your input! I was hoping that on emphasis on the topic of "Body", which consists of the same type of disciples ministering to the same types of needs in any society, would imply the necessity of the same types of practical and spiritual ministry: both charitable and charismatic. If theologians would place emphasis on meeting needs, in all ages, then the tools to meet those needs would be readily and eagerly sought after. (?) Good answer. Peace.
    – ray grant
    Commented Mar 29 at 22:22
  • @raygrant Thank you for your thoughtful reflection! Peace to you as well!
    – Jason_
    Commented Mar 29 at 23:21

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