Did Tongues Disappear?
Today's Question: I am arguing
with my friend about something in the Bible that involves speaking in tongues
and prophecy. The church which he is attending at the moment does not
believe in speaking in tongues nor in prophecy. He quoted 1Corinthians
13:9-10 as the proof that speaking in tongues or prophecy should cease. He
argued that the "perfection" in this scripture refers to the completion of
the Bible. And since the Bible is already here with us, speaking in tongues
and prophecy should stop. Please help to answer my queries.
Bible Answer: I get people asking
me this all the time. Your friend's interpretation is completely wrong. Paul
could not have referred to the completion of the Scriptures as the "perfect"
in 1 Corinthians 13, simply because Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:7 said,
"Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you
eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed." Paul believed that
all the spiritual gifts would remain until Jesus Christ comes back.
In 1 Corinthians 13 Paul was referring to the second coming as the
"perfect". When Christ comes back there won't be anymore sickness thus no
need for the gifts of healing. There won't be any confusion, thus no need
for the word of wisdom. There won't be any evil spirits, thus no need for
the discerning of spirits. I think you can you see that the "perfect" is
referring to the perfect age that Christ' second coming will bring
There are some who make a poor argument by appealing to the noun "perfect".
They will say that the noun is neutered and not masculine, and so the
"perfect" could not be referring to Christ. However, the gender of
the Greek noun is unimportant to the argument, because Paul was referring to
an "event" which was the second coming of Christ, and not to the "person" of
Christ who is coming; so a masculine noun is unimportant. The "perfect"
to which Paul was referring to was not "Christ", but instead was the
"perfect age" that Christ's second coming will bring about. The perfect
definitely could not be the completion of the Bible as some argue.
The Bible was completed in the first century, when John finished writing
the book of Revelation. So when John finished the last words in Revelation
did he immediately stop speaking in tongues? Or was it required that he,
being the last apostle, had to die and then tongues ended? If so, then it
was not the "completion" of the Bible that ended tongues, but the "death of
the apostles". So the "perfection" according to this view is the "death" of
the apostles. Another question, when John died, did all the others living at
the time stop speaking in tongues? As the Bible points out many ordinary
disciples spoke in tongues, not just the apostles. So did they stop speaking
in tongues when the last apostle died?
We have ample evidence from the writings of the church fathers that
speaking in tongues still occurred in the church after all the apostles had
died. In AD 150, Justin Martyr writes to a Jewish skeptic, Trophis, "Now, it
is possible to see amongst us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit
of God...For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to this present
Irenaeus, near the end of the second century wrote, "In like manner do we
also hear many brethren in the church who possess prophetic gifts, and who
through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages..."
At this point someone might argue, "Oh, the reason the gifts of the
Spirit, including tongues, continued was because the Bible had not been
canonize." Ah, so according to this argument, it was NOT the "completion" of
the Word of God but the "canonization" of the Word of God that ended the
gifts. So God was waiting for the Bishops to approve which books were truly
inspired before he withdrew the gifts of the Spirit! Question I have to ask
is, how can you prove this? Where in the Bible itself does it say that the
Word of God must be approved by leading Christians before it becomes the
Word of God. God's Word was his Word in the first century before anyone
approved of it. Besides this, we still have accounts of the gifts of
the Spirit continuing after the canonization of the Bible.
Augustine who was the first to suggest that the gifts disappeared, later
changed his mind when the gifts were rekindled again in the church, wrote,
"We still do what the apostles did when they laid hands on the Samaritans
and called down the Holy Spirit on them in the laying-on of hands. It is
expected that converts should speak with new tongues." These words came in
400 AD, after the Bible was canonized.
As you can see, there is no "scriptural" or "historical" proof that
speaking in tongues disappeared. On top of this, there is no "experiential"
proof it disappeared, because today, hundreds of millions of Christians have
this gift, and with so many having the gift of tongues, how then can one
argue that it disappeared. If it disappeared, then we should not see it. But
we do see it today in abundance!
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