No Apologizing

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Have tongues ceased? The debate…Part 1


Robert – Here are the points where I believe that gifts (or sign gifts as Kevin would call them) are still active today:

  1. The gifts were given to fulfill the great commission (Acts 1:8).  The great commission is not fulfilled thus the gifts have not stopped.
  2. I have a hard time limiting the ability of God to allow someone to speak in tongues or prophesize.  The whole Bible demonstrates various ways that the Holy Spirit moves.  None of them are identical.
  3. Omission of the prophecy/tongues gifts from the Epistles is NOT admission they have stopped. 
  4. 1 Corinthians 13 does not mean that tongues/prophecy stopped in the apostolic era.
  5. The lack of historical evidence of prophecy/tongues in historical revivals does not mean that they have ceased, it only means that perhaps God had no use for it then.

Kevin – Let me clarify… I have never said that Spiritual Gifts are not active today. They absolutely ARE. I do believe, however, certain Spiritual Gifts (a.k.a. “sign gifts”) have served their purpose and, according to Paul’s prophecy in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10, have ceased.

Robert – First let me begin by saying that these points were not chosen randomly.  They are the most common points argued for and against the use of tongues and prophecy.  I hardly think that we will be breaking new ground here but at the very least these arguments will be our own.  So the first point…

The gifts were given to fulfill the great commission (Acts 1:8).  The great commission is not fulfilled thus the gifts have not stopped.

Robert – Acts 1:8 provides a pretty clear connection to the commission (Matthew 28:16-20).  The Holy Spirit delivers these powers for the witness.  As the great commission has not been fulfilled… the gifts of the Holy Spirit are continuing to be delivered.

Kevin – Again, we are not talking about ALL gifts here… However, the premise that spiritual GIFTS were given to fulfill the Great Commission is based on a flawed hermeneutic – Robert here is confusing a function/role of the Spirit (Empowerment – which is general and thus universally belongs to all believers to carry out the Great Commission), with specific gifts of the Spirit (of which there are many and assigned individually to believers at salvation – i.e. no believer has every spiritual gift.)

When studying the Holy Spirit one should look at Him from every angle: His Role, His Work, His Fruit… We don’t have time and space to chase all that down here, but suffice it to say that empowering people to live the Christian life and imparting Spiritual Gifts to believers are two different aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work that should not be confused.

  • So, why are they given? Spiritual Gifts ARE given to build up the body (1 Corinthians 12-13, especially 12:7) and to confirm the validity of authoritative teaching of the apostles (cf. Hebrews 2:3-4)

The context here points to the surrounding passage as talking to believers in how they are to function together within the context of the church. Spiritual gifts (especially the ones listed in 1 Corinthians) are, then, more for the building up of the Church rather than evangelism. An integral part of building up the early church was confirming what teaching should be considered authoritative and what should be disregarded as heretical. God used spiritual gifts to confirm which teachings were false and which were true (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:1-3)

Robert – Kevin, you talk about how the gifts were to be used.  I am confused.  Weren’t ALL gifts given to build the church?  If the body of Christ is the Church then don’t all gifts support the body of Christ?  I understand that not every believer has every spiritual gift, and I make no assertion of that kind.  You say that I am confusing the function and role of the Holy Spirit with the specific gifts, but I make no mention of former.  I think you are unnecessarily bringing in the function and role of the Holy Spirit.  You call it bad hermeneutics, but I call it plain reading…

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Emphasis on and you will be my witnesses. 

For  some reason you are wanting to isolate two specific gifts (tongues and prophecy) from the list.  Do these two gifts not build up the body of Christ as well?  According to Paul they do if done correctly (1 Corinthains 14).  If tongues and prophecy were not intended to be a gift, why did Paul list them?  Kevin…you have the last word.

Kevin: When I say your interpretation of Acts 1:8 is a case of bad hermeneutics it is because Acts 1:8 doesn’t specifically talk about spiritual gifts, yet you are tying it to spiritual gifts – forcing scripture to say something it doesn’t isn’t plain reading it’s bad logic. Acts 1:8 says that “you will receive power”. Without getting overly technical the original Greek word here is not the same word as is used for spiritual gifts… Therefore, to say that God is talking about spiritual gifts here is mistaken. I draw the distinction between different roles of the Holy Spirit because there is no link between Acts 1:8 and spiritual gifts. The word for “power” used in Acts 1:8 does not refer to specific talents, skills, or spiritual gifts, but rather the general strength to complete the task God has assigned – One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to empower us to obey God (in general) and to embolden us to fulfill the Great Commission.

Robert, before linking spiritual gifts to Acts 1:8 you should take a hard look at 1 Corinthians 14:20-25. This passage clearly states that not all spiritual gifts are for evangelism, therefore, they should not be linked to the Great Commission, which is a command to evanglize.

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5 responses to “Have tongues ceased? The debate…Part 1

  1. Neal May 5, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I can’t wait to pray through my response to this debate. Great discussion!!

    As one who prays in tongues and even functions with the gift of prophesy, this cessational belief system has always intrigued me.

    I will pray, do my homework, and join in this debate!

    Y’all are awesome!!

    Neal

    • kbthejesusfreak May 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm

      Thanks Neal!
      We look forward to your contribution to the discussion.
      Spread the word… we’d love even more people to jump in… Nothing but good can come from fleshing out theological disagreements in a respectful and loving manner.

    • kcbob May 5, 2010 at 4:05 pm

      Neal what we posted today was a warm up. The debate explodes tomorrow. Just to let you know the debate on this topic expanded well beyond the pages.

      We were debating the debate!

  2. Chris May 6, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    Worthy debate, but faulty starting points.

    Robert says: Here are the points where I believe that gifts…are still active today:

    1. The gifts were given to fulfill the great commission (Acts 1:8). The great commission is not fulfilled thus the gifts have not stopped.

    This is eisegesis as K. rightly points out. R. presents no proof for this bold assertion, while K. gives evidence from the context. One has to prove this before it is asserted as evidence. The verse sighted does not prove it.

    But K. is wrong to define the Great Commission as merely “evangelism” as though the G.C. does not include discipleship and missions. Edification is just as much a part of the G.C. as evangelism.

    2. I have a hard time limiting the ability of God to allow someone to speak in tongues or prophesize. The whole Bible demonstrates various ways that the Holy Spirit moves. None of them are identical.

    Again this is simply the statement of one’s opinion and says nothing about what the Bible actually says. Limiting God is not at issue here. Examining the evidence through the lens of the bible, history, and culture is the issue. If the evidence shows God has chosen to limit Himself, then we have but one choice: to humbly submit to what He has chosen to do. The faulty premise of #2 could be used to justify anything done by anyone at anytime.

    3. Omission of the prophecy/tongues gifts from the Epistles is NOT admission they have stopped.

    This is not the most common or the strongest argument made by cessationists. Furthermore, it is inaccurate as 1 Corinthians 12-14, Romans 12, and 1 Thess 5:20 readily shows. Prophecy and tongues are in the epistles.

    4. 1 Corinthians 13 does not mean that tongues/prophecy stopped in the apostolic era.

    While this is a common argument by SOME cessationists, it is a two-edged sword that can be argued both ways. The matter will have to be settled by other evidence.

    5. The lack of historical evidence of prophecy/tongues in historical revivals does not mean that they have ceased, it only means that perhaps God had no use for it then.

    This premise is faulty on three counts: 1) Unusual behavior and aberrations have been common to revivals in history. Though perhaps not prophecy or tongues, the spectacular and unusual has often been evidenced, attacked, and defended during revival (See J. Edwards writings on this). But the issue is not sign gifts, but the evidence of true conversion and spiritual awakening.

    2) The argument of cessationists is not just about revivals, but church history in general. History shows that after the generations to whom the apostles ministered died and until 1900, when Agnes Ozman and Charles Parham sought to restore tongues to the church, these spectacular gifts (and it is not just tongues and prophecy you are opening the door to but also gift of miracles, healing, wisdom, knowledge, raising the dead?), such claims are predominantly made by groups characterized by false doctrine and false teachers.

    3) You cannot have it both ways: If these gifts are critical to the fulfilling the Great Commission (premise #1), but God chooses to withhold them from His church, not only during revivals, but throughout church history in general!

    The bigger questions are these:

    1) How does the NT define, define, and demonstrate each of the gifts in question? (and it should include all in question, not just tongues and prophecy – though along with healing these are the big 3)
    2) Do present day definitions, descriptions, and demonstrations hold up to the NT definitions, descriptions, and demonstrations?
    3) Do those inerrantists who hold to sound soteriology yet believe in the POSSIBILITY of such gifts today (“open but cautious”) define such POSSIBLE gifts in a way that they are no longer really spectacular in way that it is worth debating (see the way Grudem so defines prophecy and healing that they are really no different than how a cessationist would define the gift of exhortation or practice praying for healing!).

    Notice you are “debating the debate” – perhaps this has helped?!

  3. Pingback: TOP TEN posts for for our year! « No Apologizing

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