Addressing the Charismatic Question, Part 2

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Addressing the Charismatic Question, Part 2

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This study of cessationism focuses on three essential questions. Focusing on the gift of tongues, Part 1 began to address the first of these: What were the gifts in the New Testament, and how does that biblical description compare to what is happening in contemporary charismatic circles?

Seven similarities provide strong evidence that the gift of tongues in Acts was the same gift of tongues in view in 1 Corinthians 12–14. In Acts and 1 Corinthians, tongues share the same source, recipients, substance, terminology and primary purpose. They also share the same connection to the other gifts and the same reaction from unbelievers.

Several additional exegetical comments might be made about the gift of tongues:

1. Some, not all

First Corinthians 12:8–11 and 27–31 make it unmistakably clear that not everyone received the gift of tongues (cf. 14:26). Note that there is no contextual or grammatical warrant for seeing 1 Corinthians 12 as one type of tongues (that only a few receive) and 1 Corinthians 14 as a different type (that everyone is to receive). Along those lines, Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 14:5 (“Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues”) is almost identical to his earlier statement in 7:7 regarding singleness. (“Yet I wish that all men were even as myself”). Thus, Paul’s wish does not indicate that everyone in the Corinthian congregation actually spoke in tongues.

2. “Tongues of angels”

The “tongues of angels” in 1 Corinthians 13:1 should be interpreted hyperbolically in keeping with the context of the passage (as Paul’s subsequent examples demonstrate). It may even be a figure of speech meaning “to speak very eloquently.” If one insists on taking it literally, there are still two things to consider: (1) It is the exception and not the rule, as evidenced by the rest of the New Testament teaching on tongues and as evidenced by the other examples Paul uses in vv. 1–3. (2) Every time angels spoke in the Bible, they spoke in a real language that people could understand (cf. Gen. 19; Exod. 33; Joshua 5; Judges 13).

3. “To God and not to men”

Paul defines what he means by “speaking to God and not to men” when he says that “no one understands” (14:2). This would be true of a foreign language that someone spoke but no one else knew. The hearers would not be edified because they would not understand what was being said.

4. Rational message

The concept of interpretation implies a rational message. As Norm Geisler (Signs and Wonders Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1998, p. 167) explains: “The fact that the tongues of which Paul spoke in 1 Corinthians could be ‘interpreted’ shows that it was a meaningful language. Otherwise it would not be an ‘interpretation’ but a creation of the meaning. So the gift of ‘interpretation’ (1 Corinthians 12:30; 14:5, 13) supports the fact that tongues were a real language that could be translated for the benefit of all by this special gift of interpretation.”

5. Edifying the body

The purpose of the gifts (within the church) is to edify the body (12:7; cf. 1 Pet. 4:10–11). Paul’s whole point is that love is superior to the gifts (chp. 13). The intended use of tongues, therefore, occurs when the message is translated so that fellow believers are edified. Tongues (languages) that are not translated do not profit the body because the message cannot be understood (14:6–11). Paul is not promoting a private use of tongues, since that does not edify others—cf. 14:12–19.

6. Public prayer

The context implies that Paul’s prayer in 14:14–15 is a public prayer, not a private prayer, since the entire discussion regards the use of the gift in the church, and since verse 16 mentions that the ungifted person (who does not understand the language being spoken) will not be able to affirm a public prayer that he does not understand. Again, verses 14–15 do not mitigate against the view that tongues are authentic foreign languages. The person who prays in a foreign language should also pray that he will be able to interpret the foreign language so that all who are present will be blessed by the translation of the message.

7. Order

The gift of tongues was to be used in an orderly manner in the church (14:27–28, 39–40). Any disruptive or disorderly use of tongues-speaking goes against the way God intended the gift to be used.

8. Texts

There are no other passages that specifically teach about the gift of tongues. Some charismatics try to find tongues in Romans 8:26 and 2 Corinthians 5:13, but the context in those passages makes it clear that the gift of tongues is not in view.

9. Foreign language

Viewing tongues as authentic foreign languages is the only natural interpretation of Acts 2 and has the least number of problems in interpreting 1 Cor. 12–14. As Thomas Edgar notes observes, “There are verses in 1 Corinthians 14 where foreign language makes sense but where unintelligible ecstatic utterance does not (e.g. v. 22). However, the reverse cannot be said. A foreign language not understood by the hearer is no different from unintelligible speech in his sight. Therefore, in any passage where such ecstatic speech may be considered possible, it is also possible to substitute a language not familiar to the hearers. In this passage there are no reasons, much less the very strong reasons necessary, to depart from the normal meaning of glossa and to flee to a completely unsupported usage” (Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit. Kregel, 1996, p. 147).

Testimony of the church fathers

While not authoritative, the universal testimony of the church fathers supports the cessationist understanding of tongues. The church fathers agreed that the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians was the same as that described in Acts. Moreover, they interpreted that gift as consisting of rational, foreign languages. Though many could be cited, here is a small sampling from several early Christian leaders.

Augustine (354–430): “In the earliest times, ‘the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues,’ which they had not learned, ‘as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ These were signs adapted to the time. For it was necessary for there to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth” (Homilies on the First Epistle of John, 6.10).

Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 329–390): “They spoke with strange tongues, and not those of their native land; and the wonder was great, a language spoken by those who had not learnt it. And the sign is to them that believe not, and not to them that believe, that it may be an accusation of the unbelievers, as it is written, ‘ “With other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people, and not even so will they listen to Me” saith the Lord’ ” (The Oration on Pentecost, 15–17).

John Chrysostom (c. 344–407), commenting on 1 Cor. 14:1–2: “And as in the time of building the tower [of Babel] the one tongue was divided into many; so then the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak divers languages” (Homilies on First Corinthians, 35.1).

Severian of Gabala (d. c. 408): “The person who speaks in the Holy Spirit speaks when he chooses to do so and then can be silent, like the prophets. But those who are possessed by an unclean spirit speak even when they do not want to. They say things that they do not understand” (Pauline Commentary from the Greek Church. Cited from 1–2 Corinthians, Ancient Christian Commentary Series, 144, in reference to 1 Cor 14:28).

Based on the biblical and historical evidence, the gift of tongues was a supernaturally endowed ability, given by the Holy Spirit to select Christians, enabling those believers to speak in previously unlearned human languages. The intended use of the gift involved the translation of the message for the general edification of fellow believers or evangelism of unbelievers. This ability was not given to all Christians nor were they commanded to seek it. It was not considered the hallmark of the early church, nor is it ever highlighted as a normal part of the Christian experience.

When we compare the biblical evidence to modern charismatic and continuationist experience, we find that the two are not the same. The New Testament does not present two types of tongues; but only the miraculous ability to speak previously unlearned foreign languages. Clearly, that does not match the contemporary phenomenon. As Norm Geisler observes,

Even those who believe in tongues acknowledge that unsaved people have tongues experiences. There is nothing supernatural about them. But there is something unique about speaking complete and meaningful sentences and discourses in a knowable language to which one has never been exposed. This is what the real New Testament gift of tongues entailed. Anything short of this, as “private tongues” are, should not be considered the biblical gift of tongues. (Signs and Wonders)

When we approach the continuationist/cessationist debate by first defining the gifts biblically, it becomes apparent that modern charismatic practice does not match the New Testament phenomena. The gift of tongues provides a vivid illustration of that reality—but the same is also true for prophecy and healing. Though continuationists use New Testament terminology to describe their contemporary experience, the reality is that such experiences are far different than what was actually happening in the first-century church.

[node:bio/nathan-busenitz body]

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Good again

Good article once again.

The purpose of the gifts (within the church) is to edify the body (12:7; cf. 1 Pet. 4:10–11).

I hope the author deals with the verse that says speaking in tongues without translation edifies the speaker (only), but how does it edify him? I Corinthians 14:4 in the NASB reads:

One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.

Also, the quotations cited from the church fathers are meaningless because they are too late.  If I commented on what happened in 1700 in America, that would be just about as reliable.  Centuries later --that's a long time.

Looking forward to more installments.

 

 

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Ed Vasicek wrote:...but how

Ed Vasicek wrote:
...but how does it edify him? I Corinthians 14:4 in the NASB reads:

One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.

I would assume its the same edification we get anytime we read scripture. It is only for the speaker when the interpreter is not present because no one else presumably speaks the language in which the tongues appeared.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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Personally

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:

Ed Vasicek wrote:
...but how does it edify him? I Corinthians 14:4 in the NASB reads:

One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.

I would assume its the same edification we get anytime we read scripture. It is only for the speaker when the interpreter is not present because no one else presumably speaks the language in which the tongues appeared.

 

Chip, my thinking is that I Corinthians 14:14 suggests that one might have the gift of tongues without the gift of interpretation, prays in his spirit, not understanding what he is praying with his mind.  This was to be done privately. Do you see it that way?  I am semi-cessationalist, so I am neither claiming nor ruling out this happening today:

 

 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful.

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I Corinthians 14:4 in

I Corinthians 14:4 in reference to this statement by Busenitz in the article:

Paul defines what he means by “speaking to God and not to men” when he says that “no one understands” (14:2). This would be true of a foreign language that someone spoke but no one else knew. The hearers would not be edified because they would not understand what was being said.

Two things must be kept in view:

1. The context is about human languages. Look at the more full text, thus context (bold mine):

10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me. 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. 16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer,[d] say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

The gift of tongues here given and operated by the Spirit is human language. This is the context. To assert another context is eisegesis. One must read this into the text and ignore the context. This is amplified by Busenitz where he states:

The context implies that Paul’s prayer in 14:14–15 is a public prayer, not a private prayer, since the entire discussion regards the use of the gift in the church, and since verse 16 mentions that the ungifted person (who does not understand the language being spoken) will not be able to affirm a public prayer that he does not understand. Again, verses 14–15 do not mitigate against the view that tongues are authentic foreign languages. The person who prays in a foreign language should also pray that he will be able to interpret the foreign language so that all who are present will be blessed by the translation of the message.

2. What he is referring to is the operation of the spiritual gift that will edify the person who exercises it but if it does not have a purpose outside of that person, which is exactly the intention of the spiritual gift of tongues, it because only self-edifying which is not the purpose of tongues. Now, one asks, "How is it self-edifying if the person speaking it may not even understand it?". To that I would say, rather obviously, anytime a spiritual gift is being exercised, the one exercising it is edified. Paul's point is that self-edification is not the objective of tongues.

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Question

Alex said:

Paul's point is that self-edification is not the objective of tongues.

 

Or is Paul saying, ".... that self-edification is not the objective of tongues" in the assembly.

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Since the context clearly is

Since the context clearly is referring to human languages and the purpose Paul speaks about with regard to tongues is for others, it is rather assumed that it is within an assembly of some sort, that is with the object of its operation (others) present. It is the burden of other assertions to demonstrate otherwise which are not present in this text, thus at least from another text which instructs such self-edifiying objectives of tongues. To imagine a private use of tongues is to imagine a use outside of the very point Paul is making, that it is not for self-edification.

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Public and private

Alex, in I Corinthians 14:18, Paul seems to state that he speaks in tongues frequently, but not in the assembly:

 

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

 

"Nevertheless, in church...." seems to suggest a change of behavior, one private one public.

 

If there are two types of tongues (real languages and ecstatic utterances), then it might be that anyone (saved or lost) could speak in tongues (ecstatic utterances), just as lost people can pray or sing hymns.  But, as suggested in the article, the only indication we have of tongues in the NT is that they are real earthly languages.  Still, it is possible that some of the Corinthians who were speaking in ecstatic gibberish tongues THOUGHT they were speaking in a real foreign language, and perhaps Paul did not want to get into it.  Thus, by putting the burden on having interpreted speech, that would at least cut it down.  Anyone have an opinion on this possibility?

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I would say to assert this

I would say to assert this one is forcing a great deal of assumptions and/or reading into the text to claim this to be a derivative of the text. But let us assume it is true that he has in mind babbling also. Well if ecstatic utterances were a second kind of tongue and such a practice a problem this is the very moment which calls for clarity on the matter. It would be a rather spectacular oversight by Paul to fail to address this element in his discourse on the matter and ultimately would leave those insisting on ecstatic tongues as another form of tongues with this glaring oversight by Paul but worse, going forward with arguments from silence and/ or reading into the text which is a sinking platform for their case.

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Ed, it's reassuring to see,

Ed, it's reassuring to see, though you term yourself a soft cessationist, that you are taking a critical (in all the best senses of that word) look at what Scripture says regarding these issues and that you don't simply accept the hard cessationist arguments without analysis. 

Also reassuring to see that your views and questions are not tinged with that aggressive and dismissive attitude so often prevalent toward those who hold a more pro continuationist view.

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Richard Pajak wrote: Also

Richard Pajak wrote:

Also reassuring to see that your views and questions are not tinged with that aggressive and dismissive attitude so often prevalent toward those who hold a more pro continuationist view.

...said the man while aggressively dismissing those about whom he levels the very same complaint. LOL.

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Acknowledging, Alex, that we

Acknowledging, Alex, that we look at the issue differently and strongly from our respective viewpoints and acknowledging that sometimes my words can be intemperate it all the more increases my respect for Ed who though he has the wisdom of years and knowledge and I'm sure a far superior intellect to mine is still asking questions, still wanting to get to the core of what Scripture is saying, wanting answers to things that don't sit easily with him. I admire and respect that.

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Richard Pajak

Richard Pajak wrote:

Acknowledging, Alex, that we look at the issue differently and strongly from our respective viewpoints and acknowledging that sometimes my words can be intemperate it all the more increases my respect for Ed who though he has the wisdom of years and knowledge and I'm sure a far superior intellect to mine is still asking questions, still wanting to get to the core of what Scripture is saying, wanting answers to things that don't sit easily with him. I admire and respect that.


No doubt you admire and respect equally if not more so those who have gone beyond asking questions and found answers, definite answers, even when they are cessationist conclusions seeing that asking questions is just for that purpose, to gain answers.

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Different levels of surety

Alex said:

 

No doubt you admire and respect equally if not more so those who have gone beyond asking questions and found answers, definite answers, even when they are cessationist conclusions seeing that asking questions is just for that purpose, to gain answers.

To be dogmatic and clear where the Scriptures are clear is a virtue.  But we all have to make a judgment call as to what is and what is not clear.  At times, we have gaps in our information, which is why we have differences. We all have to do detective work when interpreting these less than clear portions, and, like a murder mystery, sometimes the private eye and the police detective postulate different perpetrators.

 

Where this happens: with tongues, cessationism, eschatology, dichotomy vs. trichotomoy, etc., it happens somewhere.

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That is true but what seems

That is true but what seems to be implied is that certainty ultimately escapes us on such matters, that we cannot conclude with certainty. To that I would and do object as would much of historic Protestantism and certainly Fundamentalism.

Per the article, I notice that Acts 2:3 is never repeated with those claiming the continuation of the apostolic sign gifts (NIV):

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.

 

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When the Holy Spirit came

When the Holy Spirit came down on Cornelius and his household the tongues of fire are not mentioned but who doubts that it was the same experience.?

I don't see where it is mandatory for tongues of fire to be seen every time the Spirit comes. The Spirit doesn't have to do things the same way every time however much we might want Him to in order to have a neat theology.

 

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Richard Pajak wrote: When the

Richard Pajak wrote:

When the Holy Spirit came down on Cornelius and his household the tongues of fire are not mentioned but who doubts that it was the same experience.?

I don't see where it is mandatory for tongues of fire to be seen every time the Spirit comes. The Spirit doesn't have to do things the same way every time however much we might want Him to in order to have a neat theology.

 

 

Richard, you are right about the difference between fire and no-fire.  The Spirit does not have to do things the same way.  This truth is double-edged: it can be used to say that there might be different kinds of tongues and prophecies, but, on the other hand, it implies that God is not obligated to give out the same gifts all the time.  Those who say that all believers should speak in tongues or that tongues are still around because God hasn't changed miss this point.

 

As for me, I lean toward the idea that tongues were real foreign languages as far as we know.  Still, I leave room for people who believe otherwise, and thus, in light of Paul's instruction, speak in ecstatic tongues at home.  We have gaps in our understanding, and the best we can do is come up with deductive solutions, propose them, test them, and see what fits best.  This is inferior to inductive study, but it is what we have to do when we have gaps.  The idea that the Corinthians were speaking in ecstatic utterances while perhaps some were speaking in real foreign languages does seem to fit.  But many other postulated  theories might fit as well.

 

PS--Because the Spirit does not confine himself to a box, it is possible that he distributes new gifts today that he didn't back then.

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Ed Vasicek wrote: PS--Because

Ed Vasicek wrote:

PS--Because the Spirit does not confine himself to a box, it is possible that he distributes new gifts today that he didn't back then.

Ed, a bit surprising to see you using this formula, it has been debunked theologically for quite some time. The Spirit confines himself to the Godhead and particularly to the will of the Father and Son with respect to his function in the body of Christ.

And even the Triune God has asserted boundaries in which he has made clear he will operate, thus we may live by faith due to trust in God's integrity that he will abide by his own Word. You may not agree that God has not bound himself the way some believe regarding spiritual gifts but the principle that "the Spirit does not confine himself to a box" fails with respect to the very readily observable truth that God has expressed boundaries of his operation with the body of Christ.

The operation of the Godhead does have a protocol with respect to when, how and why he operates in the body of Christ and what we do is not put God in that "box", rather we discover the boundaries God, himself, established and teach and practice them by faith, again trusting in God's integrity that he will not contradict himself and will uphold his own Word.

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Boundary Differences

Alex, I view the Holy Spirit as a full member of the Trinity, as you do, and I am not suggesting he acts contrary to either the Father or Son.

I do agree that the Holy Spirit will not contradict or step outside of boundaries he has established.  I probably disagree with you as to where those boundaries lie.  For example, I know of no verse that says God cannot bring new or additional spiritual gifts into the equation.  I am not suggesting such gifts, but, since God has not thusly restricted himself, neither can I.

Additionally, no list of the spiritual gifts is said to be complete. We compile our lists from several New Testament sources, none of which claim completeness, but are rather indicative of some of the gifts given.

"The Midrash Detective"

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Ed Vasicek wrote: Alex, I

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Alex, I view the Holy Spirit as a full member of the Trinity, as you do, and I am not suggesting he acts contrary to either the Father or Son.

I do agree that the Holy Spirit will not contradict or step outside of boundaries he has established.  I probably disagree with you as to where those boundaries lie.  For example, I know of no verse that says God cannot bring new or additional spiritual gifts into the equation.  I am not suggesting such gifts, but, since God has not thusly restricted himself, neither can I.

Additionally, no list of the spiritual gifts is said to be complete. We compile our lists from several New Testament sources, none of which claim completeness, but are rather indicative of some of the gifts given.

Ed,

I used to wonder about this also. One of the things that dissuaded me of the notion is that no mechanism is provided in scripture to identify new gifts and employ them.Even if there are new previously unmentioned gifts being given, I have no way to verify they are gifts of the Spirit, so it seems like a moot point.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

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You have likewise no way to

You have likewise no way to verify that they are not gifts of the Spirit. Ed seems to be taking the wise Gamaliel approach. We must be careful we don't end up fighting against the Lord.

Richard Pajak

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Foolish, not wise

I do not believe Gamaliel's approach to be wise, since his position was based on skepticism rather than faith. The "wait and see" method would be great except for the fact that the success or failure of a thing (as seen from our finite perspective) is impossible for us to determine. By Gamaliel's standard, ecstatic utterances must be a legitimate Spiritual gift because of the "success" of the modern charismatic movement.
No, the only way we can discern if something is a spiritual gift is to judge everything according to the revealed truths of Scripture. Had Gamaliel taken that approach, he would have been forced to recognize the legitimacy of the church and pushed for the council to support it rather than oppose it.

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Ed This is another rather

Ed

This is another rather surprising claim long debunked. First to the obvious. Even if one accepts the erring claim that the revelation of spiritual gifts is not comprehensive you have only one means to validate these more unnamed gifts, namely how we identify gifts now, through apostolic affirmation via Scriptural revelation. Hence your point is dead before it can even be employed since no such mechanism is available unless you are now claiming such is still available. So your claim cannot even meet this threshold.

But to its hermeneutics. You are first and foremost arguing from silence. We live by faith by what has been revealed not what has not been revealed. Which us why we approach revelation in its Canon form, complete.

And to the claim the combined Biblical list is merely indicative of some and not emphatic of all, by what interpretive principle is this made? It certainly needs proof beyond assertion and the absence of indicative treatment in the language of Paul and Peter in failing to use descriptors of an indicative nature are not easily overcome .

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It is called.

It is called the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. The hint is in the title. If it was called the book of the acts of the brethren, or of the believers etc, then it's scope and longevity would be different.

 

As for Corinth it was unique and the reasons for the abundance of signs and spiritual gifts was also unique. If the gifting were general Paul would have been send similar epistles to all the congregations. 

 

 

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To say the abundance of gifts

To say the abundance of gifts  was unique to Corinth is an assumption based on silence as far as I can see, There is no Scriptural evidence to substantiate your assertion.

Paul may well have sent similar letters. I am sure we don't have half the letters Paul wrote...each one no doubt inspired but they have not been passed down to us.

I understand that the title wasn't given to the book until the second century. Perhaps the title as we have it is not inspired?

 

Richard Pajak

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Abundance of gifts.

The lack of scriptural evidence does in fact back the assertion. Not only were Paul and Peter dealing with the ecclesia as was necessary we have the fact that neither John in his epistles nor Messiah in the Revelation needed to deal with the misuse of spiritual gifts. The reason being is the gifts were no longer necessary. The congregation of the saints had been anointed at Pentecost and the signs necessary to prove the preaching had been given and recorded. From there on in the just would live by trust, not by signs and wonders.

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Wow

Wow, I am surprised at some of the comments I am seeing.

 

First, just because we cannot be sure about new gifts does not mean they are not given.  For centuries, people breathed oxygen and didn't know what it was.  Since the lists of gifts vary and none are complete, the idea that there are gifts not listed seems logical. The idea that we cannot be sure of other gifts BECAUSE they are not listed is also logical. The two can exist at the same time.  Understand, I am not saying that there ARE additional gifts.  

 

"The Midrash Detective"

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It seems then that evidence

It seems then Huw, that evidence based on silence is invalid except when it agrees with your views.

Your comment about John  not mentioning anything about misuse of gifts is also trying to prove something by silence. John didn't exhaust all possible topics in his letters but that does not prove that unmentioned issues did not exist or were not mentioned in other correspondence.

It seems reasonable to assume that John wrote more than 3 letters in his lifetime and reasonable to assume other letters contained important information that is not contained in those that are in Scripture today.

That Jesus didn't talk about it, likewise, remember Scripture says that Jesus said and did many more things that were not written down.

 

The people at Pentecost were baptised with the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill Jesu's promise.

They needed the Spirit then as we do now.

From Pentecost and thereafter the just would live by faith irrespective of the presence of signs and wonders

 

 

Richard Pajak

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