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 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.

Robert – God is capable of doing anything that is not contradictory to Himself.  Allowing these powers to continue on today is not a contradiction to any Bible verse.  If God wants people to speak in tongues, He can and will make that happen. 

Kevin – Rest assured. No one is trying to limit what God can or cannot do – You or I certainly could not even if we tried. Beyond that, I’m not sure what you are trying to say here. Of course the Holy Spirit does things differently with different people, just look at 1 Corinthians 12:4-6: Gifts are used in different ways to serve the Church and those different means of service are worked out differently by each individual. I have a hard time getting my brain and heart around the concept of Hell… Does that make it any less real… any less biblical? Of course not. God said that tongues and prophecy would cease – Why because He couldn’t sustain them… Again, of course not!

No one is questioning God’s ability to give the gift of tongues or prophecy to people, rather the question is whether He does give people the gift of prophecy and tongues. God could give people any number of abilities… the question is not can He, but why would He? The same has to be asked of tongues and prophecy, especially in light of the fact that (in spite of your dismissing 1 Corinthians 13:8-10) He said He would stop giving those gifts at some point.

One more thing that needs to be pointed out… we need to clarify what we are talking about when we mention prophecy… I am NOT talking about the simple bold proclamation/preaching of the Word of God, but rather the supernatural ability to accurately predict the future – i.e. reveal an, before unforeseen portion of God’s plan. Claiming that gift is still needed is, in essence, claiming that the Bible is incomplete and inadequate – it is saying that God has not sufficiently revealed His plan and intentions for mankind and the earth. I have a hard time limiting the completeness and perfection of the Scriptures that way.

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

Robert – My understanding of the Epistles is that they are not a complete look at God.  They were written to answer very specific issues for the growth of specific churches that allow us to learn.  There is theology involved but it is specifically aimed at specific circumstances.  Paul wrote ad nauseam about tongues in 1 Corinthians (Chapters 12, 13 and 14).  Then it seemingly disappears.  That to me is not an indication that tongues ceased… rather, to me it could indicate Paul instructed his students so well that it was no longer an issue.

This issue ties in with the previous issue in my mind.  How about this… Perhaps there was no need for tongues or prophecy during those previous revivals.  I mean let’s be honest here… what would have happened during the medieval age if someone was speaking in tongues?  They would have been drawn and quartered or tried as a witch.  Would it make more sense for the Holy Spirit move in a way that was conducive to the environment?  My answer would be yes.

Kevin – Robert brings up an interesting point… Why did Paul quit talking about how the sign gifts should be regulated? Why do the other NT writers not address the topic? The burden of proof is upon Robert to demonstrate why this topic drops off the face of the earth after Paul says that tongues will cease, if it’s not because they HAVE ceased.

Robert – To answer your other question… Why do the other NT writers not address the topic?  Speaking of hermeneutics you of all people should know that the Epistles are not a complete theology.  These books are Paul and Peter addressing specific theological issues as they arose.  To say that because there is an absence of issue there is an absence of power is insane.  I may not talk to my wife about a communication for months…it doesn’t mean that we aren’t communicating.  Seriously, Kevin!  Your Pastor may not talk about regeneration for a year…it doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit has stopped!  Burden of proof is on you Kevin because neither of us contest that tongues were there.  You say they simply stopped because they were no longer talked about…Prove it.

Kevin – I never said that they “simply stopped because they weren’t talked about”. I said that Paul said they would stop, THEN shortly after, he stopped talking about it. This is a classic attempt at twisting my words. I’m not going to hang the entire debate on an argument from silence. There’s any number of possible reasons as to why God didn’t speak about these gifts elsewhere, but the silence coupled with 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 and history make it pretty clear as to why. You have to take the argument in context and in light of the rest of the debate. Also, shame on any pastor who would not talk about salvation for a whole year… they’d be completely ignoring the Great Commission – I’d not be a part of a church like that – that’s ludicrous.

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

Robert – There is no date or time stamp assigned to 1 Corinthians 13:8.  There is only the vague reference offered in verse 9 that states when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.  There is only one perfection: God.  Since perfection has not come… then one could argue that these gifts have not ceased.

Kevin – If “tongues and prophecies will (have) ceased” is not what 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 says, then, what does it say? One cannot say that something with seemingly plain meaning doesn’t mean what it plainly seems to mean without offering a plausible suggestion as to what it DOES mean. The text clearly states tongues (one of the “sign gifts”) will cease – the questions are when and why?

You say that the only thing that is perfect is God. What about God’s word (i.e. the Bible)? I would suggest that in light of Hebrews 2, the “perfect” thing spoken of in 1 Cor. 13 is the canon (i.e. the 66 books we call the Holy Bible). Once all the books of the Bible were written and in circulation there was no need for miraculous validation of what was being taught, because by and large early church leaders exclusively taught from the writings that soon after became the “Holy Bible.” These teachings (and the letters from which they came) had already been validated and accepted as truth. Given your high view on the Bible (see your previous post on biblical inerrancy) I am surprised you do not consider the Bible perfect!

Robert – Kevin you want to talk about putting words in someone’s mouth!  I said God was perfect.  I figured that you would know this… that if God is perfection, his word is also.  Lets not be ridiculous.

Kevin you can’t have it both ways.  Did tongues and prophecy end with the apostolic era (approx 33 A.D – 100 A.D) or did they end with the canonization of the New Testament (approx 374 AD)?  If you believe that it ended when perfection came (canonized bible) then that is well beyond the apostolic era.  If you believe they ended with the apostolic era then what is perfection and when did it come?

Kevin – Actually, I’m not trying to have it both ways. The epistles and books that became the Bible were in wide circulation well before the formal settling of the cannon. The cannon was settled upon (through God’s direction) the miraculous and wondrous signs that helped confirm the validity and authority of the apostles and other church leaders, was no longer required, because they were already accepted as scripture (check out 2 Peter 3:15-16). The acceptance of the cannon supports the idea that prophecy had ceased because the church fathers in 374 AD determined that there was no further revelation that was required past Revelation (widely considered the last of the biblical books to be written), and they therefore closed the canon. Further “revelation” and “prophecy” had not occurred from the end of the apostolic era (approximately 85-86 AD) through 374 AD when the canon was finalized – this is STRONG evidence for the cessation of the type prophecy you are advocating.

Why again would it cease? Because we have the only source needed to know with certainty what God wants and requires. There is no need for further “prophesies” (foretelling of the future of the Church), or revelations, etc. Because God has already given us enough material to chew on and apply in our lives – the Bible is complete, and perfect and sufficient for one to study without supplement – all other theological instruction should be commentary upon God’s Word, not addition to it – this is where many cults get in trouble (i.e. Mormons, Muslims…) by saying that the Bible is insufficient and needs to be added to and/or correction – that is what both Joseph Smith and Mohamed claimed.  But hey, if you think the Bible is inadequate for instruction and that God needs to reveal more prophecies, knock yourself out – I just can’t go there.

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

Robert – I look at it this way… If historically a group of people thought that the earth was flat, would they live their lives according to that idea?  If, historically, men are closed off to the idea that there is healing/prophecy/tongues would they exist?  The fact that tongues/prophecy was not used previously for revivals does not mean that they no longer exist.  As I have already established…There is no repetitive nature to the Holy Spirit.  What is good for one age/revival may not have been good for another.  God knows what will work and when it will work.  Not you.

Kevin – This argument of Robert’s doesn’t hold water. God predicted that at some point sign gifts would cease. Then they disappear off the scene for like 1800+ years only to be resurrected and we are supposed to just accept that God has suddenly, without reason or precedent decided to start granting the gifts of tongues and prophecy? In Acts, tongues were used to validate certain movements of the Spirit and yet there are no records of tongues during the Reformation or prophecies of that movement beforehand. One would think that these would be immeasurably useful to legitimize the massive changes taking place in Christianity… And yet, nothing. Strange.

Another thing Robert fails to answer is: Why tongues now? Why additional prophecy now? Robert’s only defense is “Why Not?” I don’t know why God chose to inspire Paul to write 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. I don’t know why God has done or refrained from doing a lot of the things He has, and I don’t worry myself with much of it – His ways are higher than mine. However, in light of Christian History, Scripture, and the history of the manifestation of spiritual gifts and the circumstances surrounding the relatively recent resurgence of tongues and prophecies these current manifestations are dubious at best.

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6 responses to “Have tongues ceased? The debate…Part 2

  1. Chris May 6, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Worthy debate, but faulty starting points. I will repeat my thoughts on Robert’s #2-4 since I got ahead of you guys!

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

    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?!

    • kbthejesusfreak May 6, 2010 at 8:41 pm

      Chris,
      Excellent insights, as always.

      Thanks for chiming in… I appreciate your contribution vert much.

  2. Nathan September 4, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    I find it interesting that some very crucial words and key scriptures are left out of this debate.

    1 Corinthians 13:8 says that “knowledge” also will pass away. Would it be Kevin’s assertion that all knowledge was done away with after Paul’s writing of this letter?

    According to verse 12, “then we shall see face to face” and (when perfection comes, I believe it is saying) “then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”. Would a cessationist claim that (since the canonization of scripture) they know God as fully as He knows them? Or that they know the Bible as fully as it “knows” them? That seems a bit confident, don’t you think?

    I might suggest that when Christ (perfection) has returned and we see Him “face to face” then we will see Him as He is. Actually isn’t that EXACTLY what 1 John 3 says?

    “…now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (NIV)

    Look at this scripture in any version you want and it is an eerie match to 1 Cor 13:12.

    Now why don’t we also look at scriptures that seem to indicate that tongues would not cease before the return of Christ. On the Day of Pentecost account in Acts 2, the first sign of tongues draws a crowd that finds it easy to dismiss and even mock this supernatural expression. The disciples’ response? Peter immediately draws the crowd’s attention back to Joel and (referring to the manifestation they are mocking) quotes these of the prophet’s words:

    ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy…”

    In what days? The LAST days. The what days? The LAST days.

    Peter backs this up later when conviction grips the crowd and they ask how they can be saved.

    “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” Acts 2:38-39 (NIV)

    Now why don’t we also look at the purpose for tongues? According to 1 Corinthians 14:14 praying in tongues could easily be called “praying in the spirit”. According to Jude v.20 we ought to build ourselves up in our “most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” Praying in tongues edifies the believer. This is easily supported from the context of 1 Corinthians 14:4 as well, but it’s interesting that it is from the book of Jude (arguably written 15-30 years AFTER Paul penned the first letter to the church of Corinth).

    Now why would God want a church that isn’t strong in faith? Why would He want to (before the return of Christ) eliminate an equipping force that provides faith to His people?

    Well, maybe it’s because we have the Bible and don’t need anything else to build our faith? After all, “faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Romans 10) right? Before you get too excited about this verse alone, take note that it doesn’t say “faith comes by READING the Word of God”.

    I believe strongly in the accuracy and complete inerrancy of the Word and would NEVER assert that we don’t need the written Word. But there are far too many that have studied the WRITTEN Word of God (logos), and would even claim vast knowledge thereof, and have never heard the message within (rhema).

    New Testament prophecy is for the “strengthening, encouragement and comfort” of the body (1 Cor 14:3). There are examples of prophecy as foretelling of the future in the New Testament but, by this guidance, there seems to be latitude that would include such forms as exhortation, provided, of course that such exhortations are always judged in light of the written scripture.

    Along the train of thought of NT prophecy, one must recognize that there are foretelling prophecies recorded (almost mentioned off-handedly) in the NT that could easily have escaped the record-books of church history beyond the Bible (one famine among thousands through the ages happens to make the writ? – Acts 11:28). I offer this simply as an idea that might allow for hundreds of years of “silence”. Speaking of which, though, didn’t the inter-testamental period have that flavor?

    Kevin seemed to have suspicions about God resurrecting certain gifts after long periods of time and yet there is clearly precedent set for this. The church also escaped the doctrine of salvation by grace for centuries. The church also ignored baptism by immersion for far too long.

    The inbalanced response of men to God through HISTORY should never overshadow the written Word of God as originally inspired and correctly divided.

    In closing, why would Jesus warn the disciples about leaving Jerusalem without the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), deliver it on the Day of Pentecost with a clear demonstration of tongues, reference it through Joel as a LAST DAYS dynamic, inspire Peter to extend the promise to ALL the Lord will call, have Paul teach us later about it’s power for self-edification and church-edification, lead Jude to provoke us toward continuing with it, and then expect the Church to make disciples of the globe until His return WITHOUT IT? I agree strongly with Robert that the gift of the Spirit is intrinsically tied to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and, I might add, to the fulfillment of the Church becoming all she will be (Ephesians 4:16).

    I’d love to keep writing, with many more ensuing thoughts on my mind, but, since this debate is now months old I’m not even sure anyone is reading this! If you are, thanks for your willingness to search the scriptures with brothers and sisters in Christ.

    • Chris September 21, 2010 at 10:28 am

      Nathan,
      Not every cessationist would try and argue their position from 1 Cor 13. The strength of the cessationist position is a three-legged stool that stands on biblical, historical, and cultural evidence that argues quite convincingly for the spectacular gifts have ceased view.

      Your statement that “According to 1 Corinthians 14:14 praying in tongues could easily be called ‘praying in the spirit’.” as in Jude is quite a stretch and needs to be defended with evidence. You then read I Cor 14:14 back into Jude 20. You then reason that praying in tongues builds up God’s people in the most holy faith. This is eisegesis, not exegesis. Your reading into the text, not reading the meaning from the context. Jude says nothing of the gift of tongues or personal prayer languages. What he is says is relevant to every believer , not a select few given a particular gift.

      While you admit the historical silence of church history, you argue from that silence for prophecy continuing – not very convincing.

      God “resurrecting gifts” and people ignoring and supplanting the plain teaching of the Bible re:salvation by grace through faith are apples and oranges.

      As far as the the empowering of the indwelling Spirit being necessary for the fulfillment of the Great Commission, no one denies this clear truth. But to think that this empowering requires the continual giving of all the gifts mentioned in the first century is denied by many, affirmed by history, and implied by the redefining of those gifts to fit current cultural claims.

      The church has done quite well in fulfilling the Great Commission without the gift of tongues and prophecy due to building the church on the one true foundation: the person and work of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and the inspired revelation given through His apostles and prophets.

      We each must be careful how we build on that one, true foundation.

    • Jerry August 3, 2013 at 10:56 am

      Nathan so many people forget the former rain and the latter rain peter in acts 2 went all the way to the notable day of the lord with joels prophesy since joel said in the last days started at pentacost and peter went all the way to the lords coming we should still be seeing joels prophesy today .

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

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