The Second Century Church, part five
In previous articles, we have been reading about the successors of the apostles leading a Church that was full of love and power. Writings that have come down to us from the second century describe the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in that day in a similar way as happened during the New Testament period.
For many years during the last few centuries many taught that God withdrew the gifts of the Holy Spirit after all of the New Testament was completed. This view has been fading away more and more as God has been pouring out His Spirit in these last days, as He said that He would (Acts 2:16-21). Also, we have writings of second century Christians which reveal that God did not withdraw the gifts of the Spirit after the apostles departed, but these gifts continued in the Church.
If the gifts of the Holy Spirit were to disappear after John’s death, Jesus had a perfect opportunity to tell the churches about it when He appeared to John and gave him messages for the churches. But instead, He told them, “Only hold on to what you have until I come” (Revelation 2:25, NIV). This meant that believers were to hold fast to the Word of God, the love of God, and the Holy Spirit and His gifts, as well as all other commands and blessings God had given them.
Irenaeus, who was taught by Polycarp, who was taught by the Apostle John, reported, “His true disciples, receiving grace from Him, perform such works in His Name for the benefit of other men, as each has received the gift from Him. For some drive out demons effectually and truly, so that those who have been cleansed from evil spirits frequently believe and unite with the Church. . . ”
“Others have a foreknowledge of future events and visions and prophetic revelations. Still others heal the sick by the laying on of hands, and restore them to health. And as, we have said, even dead persons have been raised and remained with us many years. But why should we say more? It is impossible to recount the number of gifts which the Church throughout the world has received from God in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and exercises every day for the benefit of the heathen, never deceiving any, nor doing it for money. For as she has received freely from God, freely also she ministers. . . . Also we hear that many brethren in the Church possess prophetic gifts, and speak, through the Spirit, with all kinds of tongues, and bring to light the secret things of men for their good, and declare the mysteries of God.” (This quotation is in Polycarp Disciple of the Apostle John and the Second Century Church, pages 87-88).