Home » Signs & Wonders » Irenaeus of Lyons (120-202) on the Miraculous Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Irenaeus of Lyons (120-202) on the Miraculous Gifts of the Holy Spirit

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As I mentioned last week I’m reading Jeff Doles’ Miracles and Manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the History of the Church, and it’s amazing to see what God has been doing continously in His church throughout world history. The book is basically only made up by quotes from older works, and it gives clear proof that cessationism – the idea that miraculous spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles – hardly existed before Luther and Calvin. For example, take a look at what Irenaeus of Lyon, the second century bishop who was a disciple to Polycarp – who in turn was a disciple of John the evangelist – says concering miraculous gifts when he refuted the Gnostics in his famous work Against Heresies:

“Those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ], and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole.

Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of the gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and which she exerts day by day for the benefit of the Gentiles, neither practising deception upon any, nor taking any reward from them* [on account of such miraculous interpositions]. For as she has received freely from God, freely also does she minister [to others]**. (Against Heresies, book 2, chapter 32, section 4)

But already some of the most faithful women, possessed of the fear of God, and not being deceived (whom, nevertheless, he did his best to seduce like the rest by bidding them prophesy), abhorring and execrating him, have withdrawn from such a vile company of revellers. This they have done, as being well aware that the gift of prophecy is not conferred on men by Marcus, the magician, but that only those to whom God sends His gracefrom above possess the divinely-bestowed power of prophesying; and then they speak where and when Godpleases, and not when Marcus orders them to do so. (Against Heresies, book 1, chapter 13, section 1)

Now God shall be glorified in His handiwork, fitting it so as to be conformable to, and modelled after, His own Son. For by the hands of the Father, that is, by the Son and the Holy Spirit, man, and not [merely] a part of man, was made in the likeness of God. […] For this reason does theapostle declare, We speak wisdom among them that are perfect, *** terming those persons perfectwho have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak.

In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms spiritual, they being spiritualbecause they partake of the Spirit (Against Heresies, book 5, chapter 6, section 1)

*Acts 8:9, 18

**Matthew 10:8

***1 Corinthians 2:6


  1. timgiovanelli says:

    Reblogged this on Manly Life and commented:
    Very interesting read about the continued miraculous in the early church post the Book of Acts…

    • Ian Carlisle says:

      I was raised in a NZ Brethren church where the “miraculous activities” of the Holy Spirit was outlawed… What a tragedy!
      The basis of this stance was 1 Cor 13 with the reference to “tongues and prophecies shall cease”
      What was overlooked was the condition in V10 “when that which is perfect is come”… ie not on earth… but when we reach heaven !
      That’s so simple to understand but easy to be diverted from the truth.
      We won’t need tongues, nor prophecy nor even healing… we will be whole !
      What churches do need is sound biblical teaching and the demonstration of God’s power among us
      Bring it on

      Ian Carlisle

  2. Eben De Jager says:

    Though Justin Martyr (ANF1:240) and Irenaeus (ANF 1:531) attest to the contemporary manifestation of the gifts, Origen (ANF 4:615) noted in Against Celsus, that “these signs have diminished”, probably speaking of the signs referred to in Mark 16:17-18. After him Chrysostom (NPNF1 12:168), Augustine (NPNF1 4:443; NPNF1 7:497–98) and Theodoret of Cyrus (PG 82:319) either emphatically state that the gift no longer manifested as it did before or alludes to the cessation with Cyril of Alexandria (PG 71:1005) giving the clearest indication of the time it ceased.

    Quoting only Irenaeus when those after him paint a different picture does not provide a true reflection of the views of the Church Fathers. Stating that “the idea that miraculous spiritual gifts ceased with the apostles – hardly existed before Luther and Calvin” is simply not true. It seems to me that more Church Fathers argued for cessation than argued for continuation, therefore one could say, among Church Fathers at least, the idea that the spiritual gifts continued, hardly existed.

    The vast majority of them describe the gift of tongues as a xenolalic manifestation even in the context of 1 Corinthians, which means that any manifestation not aligning with intelligible languages cannot really be considered a continuation of what they knew as the gift of tongues.


    • Hi Eben! No Christian before Calvin argued that all miraculous gifts ceased with the apostles. Augustine and Chrysostom speculated that the gift of tongues had ceased, but they had loads of experience with healing (Augustine fills page after page with testimonies of contemporary healings in the City of God).

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The author

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

Micael Grenholm, a Swedish charismactivist, apologist and author.

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