How Long did the Seventy-Two of Luke 10 Keep Their Gifts?

qa-whiteThere are cases in Luke 9 where Jesus gives special gifts to the 12 apostles.  Jesus also sends 72 disciples to preach the gospel and he gives them the gift to heal and drive out demons.  Are there any other cases of Jesus giving such gifts in the 4 gospels?  Did the 72 disciples keep the gift until their death or was this gift mentioned in Luke granted for the mission only?

The case of Jesus sending seventy-two disciples is found in Luke 10:1-12 and Luke 10:17-20.  Jesus commands them to “heal the sick” in verse 9 implying that they had special ability to heal the sick, and when they return, they proclaim that the demons were subject to them (10:17).  Jesus then tells them that he has given them authority to walk on serpents, scorpions, “and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you” (verse 19).  Jesus gave them this authority so that they could tell others about Him.  These men return to Jesus relatively soon and report that the demons were subject to them “in your name,” which means that they were calling upon the authority of Jesus to cast out the demons.  This may have been similar to what we find in Acts 19 where some tried to used Jesus’ name to cast out demons, but failed, because Jesus had not authorized them to do it.  The net result of their action, however, was that “the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified” (Acts 19:17).  This is what Jesus desired to happen with the seventy-two as well.  They passed ahead of Jesus into the villages and towns of the region as He was on His way to Jerusalem.  Jesus had not gone into these areas before this time and wanted to prepare the people to receive Him.

Prior to the sending of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, I know of no other cases such as this and the twelve disciples when Jesus gave such miraculous gifts to others.  The focus in the four accounts of the gospel is on Jesus and no additional information is provided about these individuals other than when they returned to report to Jesus the works that they did.  Jesus’ words to them upon their return was this, “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).  This indicates that Jesus wasn’t so much concerned about their ability to cast out demons and tread down scorpions as he was concerned about their redemption, “that your names are written in heaven.”  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).  That is where Jesus’ emphasis was, and it is where our emphasis needs to be today.  Just as when the demons were cast out in Acts 19 that the name of Jesus was magnified, so also must we do today by our good works.  Why?  So that the Son of Man’s mission of seeking and saving the lost may be fulfilled.  It is far better than someone’s name be written in the book of life than that the demons be subject to us.  Demons are without hope, but living men still have an opportunity to repent.

The final question is about whether these disciples were able to keep their gifts.  According to verse 19, it seems that they kept their gifts because Jesus specifically says, “Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Luke 10:19).  The implications of Jesus’ statement is that they would continue to receive the miraculous benefits of the gifts that Jesus gave them.  Moreover, we know that it is not in the character of God to take back gifts that have been freely given.  James tells us that God “gives to all liberally and without reproach” (James 1:5).  The term “without reproach” literally means He doesn’t throw it back into our teeth.  This means that when God gives a gift, it stays given.  It is a different topic as to whether an individual chooses to exercise such a gift or not.  Such gifts that God has given have always been used at the discretion of those to whom they were given.  First Corinthians 14:32 states, “And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.”  This means that even though a person had a miraculous gift, that didn’t mean he couldn’t choose the time and place to exercise it.

Finally, in the case of the apostles, we know that they received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2.  With this baptism came the use of all the miraculous gifts recorded in the New Testament.  Paul tells us that in his life he demonstrated the “signs of an apostle” (2 Corinthians 12:12).  Paul used these signs to claim full apostleship and equality with the other apostles in authority, so evidently, the set of signs that belonged to an apostle were reserved specifically for apostles, and no others.