The Wonderful Gift of Tongues

Where do you stand on the gift of tongues? Many committed Christians believe one of two views, cessationism or continuationism. Others aren’t exactly sure what to believe about this oft-debated gift. Is there a way to bring the two views together while at the same time explaining New Testament tongues simply and convincingly? I believe there is, and to get there all we need is take a fresh look at the gift as described in 1 Corinthians 14.

Cessationism

What do cessationists believe? Cessationists are convinced the gift of tongues is no longer available to believers today. To support their case they often assert that tongues were for the most part unhelpful if not downright dangerous in the First Century Church. To support their case, cessationists typically disparage the gift and even claim that Paul’s expresses his own discomfort and frustration with it in 1 Corinthians 14.1 Such denunciations only drive a further wedge between them and the other camp in the body of Christ, continuationists. Continuationists are impressed with the gift of tongues described in 1 Corinthians 14 and defend it as an important gift that God is still giving to Christians today. For many continuationists the negative claims of the cessationist camp are seriously out of touch with both the Scripture and the Spirit as He expresses Himself among the majority of believers and churches today.

Where do I stand? You’ll have to read to the end to find that out, but I hope to show you that neither camp takes tongues seriously enough. Cessationists are wrong because they all too often disparage the tongues they read about in Scripture. Fact is the gift is so prominent that Paul mentions its activity more than any other spiritual gift in 1 Corinthians. Average every-day Christians just like you and me spoke God’s word in languages unknown to them. It was a miracle every time it happened, and it happened a lot. That’s why cessationists need to rethink their entire approach to their position.

On the other hand, if you are a continuationist and are grateful for the tongues in use today, I’d like you to read this article because, well, you too have a problem. Your continuationist brethren who write and speak favorably about tongues today are claiming far too little about it. As I’ll explain, people in your camp are disparaging tongues and discounting its spectacular powers from those Paul ascribed to it in 1 Corinthians 14.

So both camps would benefit by some reconsideration of tongues’ dynamism in 1 Corinthians 14, and could even come together in doctrine and worship. A fresh analysis of the power of tongues would also benefit any who are unsure of what to think about this glorious gift. And while 1 Corinthians 14 describes many excelling powers of tongues, we’ll consider just three: revelation, mystery, and authority.

Revelation

Paul said, “brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation”? (ESV, 1 Cor. 14:6. C.f. 14:27-30). Here Paul looks forward to a future day when he will be with the Corinthians and participate in their passionate worship of Christ. He longs to be with them and benefit them by speaking God’s very own words to them, in tongues—words he identifies as revelation. Earlier in his letter Paul referred to Scripture when he said “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit” (NASB, 1 Cor. 2:10). “Revelation” is a word used by biblical writers to describe a miracle of communication. Whenever God communicates to man it is called revelation, and as the word implies, is a disclosing of truth that could not be received apart from God taking the initiative to give it. This miracle of revelation, this self-disclosure from God, was the greatest power in the gift of tongues.

Revelation was God-initiated and God-breathed communication whether written or spoken, which means tongues, like Scripture, were infallible. So when a continuationist says that tongues bring forth both truth and error, we have a problem.2 Unwittingly, they are showing contempt for God’s revelation that He robed so beautifully in this glorious gift.

Mystery

Here’s another point like the last one. Tongues-messages also communicated mysteries, as Paul says, “one who speaks in a tongue…utters mysteries in the Spirit” (1 Cor. 14:2). At first that might sound mystical and other-worldly, but it isn’t. It just means that when a person spoke tongues they spoke truth that hadn’t been revealed previously in the Old Testament. A mystery was hidden truth that God was now revealing to the First Century Church. Many such mysteries are recorded in the New Testament: the church (Eph. 3:3-9), Israel’s future salvation (Romans 11:25), the indwelling of Christ in the believer (Col. 1:27) and the instantaneous catching up of believers at Christ’s return (1 Cor. 15:51).

Nobody could make up a “hidden-in-God” mystery and speak it in a tongue because a tongues-message still had to be translated for anyone to know the mystery. That in part is why we never see a false tongues-speaker in the New Testament. Instead, once a tongues-message was received and interpreted the church received a mystery from God. And since it came from God, the tongue-message was immediately useful for the believers and instructed them on essential Christian doctrines that promoted godly living. As a result tongues-messages were vitally important to the church, and in the right situation a church service would stop in order to hear the message being spoken by the tongues-speaker. He had the floor because his message spoke mysteries that God was now revealing for the whole church. So anybody who wants to claim that their tongues are just private affairs between them and God, or that tongues can contain errors, are not speaking about New Testament tongues. They are speaking about something different.

The Authority of Prophecy

Because every tongues-message was revelation and every tongues-speaker spoke mysteries,” every instance of tongues came with God’s authority. Scripture assures us that a tongues-message was equal in power and authority to prophecy: “The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets” (1 Cor. 14:5). Once a tongues-message was translated it was Christ Himself speaking in prophecy. That’s why Paul wanted the Christians speaking and hearing tongues-messages: “do not forbid speaking in tongues” and “I want you all to speak in tongues.” (1 Cor. 14:39, 5). So it’s hard to understand why continuationist leaders forbid Christians to speak in tongues and prophecy on such matters as “dates, mates, correction and direction.”3 On one hand they say that the gift of tongues is available and important, but on the other hand they say its use needs to be hindered. Tongues-messages weren’t an embarrassment to first century pastors. They respected tongues too much to make up rules about who could say what and when they could say it, like continuationist churches do today.4

Tongues-messages never gave out errors because the speaker wasn’t in control of the act—his mind was “unfruitful” (1 Cor. 14:14). A tongues-speaker simply didn’t know what he or she was speaking and couldn’t unless there was a Christian nearby to translate the tongue into the known language of the listeners. That special ability is called the gift of “interpretation of tongues” in 1 Corinthians 12:10. So, because the tongues-speaker didn’t know what he or she was speaking until the interpreter spoke, he or she couldn’t mess it up. That’s why there’s no such thing as a tongues-message or prophecy-message with errors, as continuationists claim.5 It would be an oxymoron, like a square circle or a holy sin.

Every tongues-message was inerrant because the tongues-speaker didn’t understand the tongues-language he was speaking and, therefore, couldn’t inject his own errant thoughts into it. Instead tongues always delivered error-free, holy, and authoritative truth from God. To protect against prophetic phonies, other gifted people sat in judgment of tongues and prophecy speakers in a church service: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge” (KJV, 1 Cor. 14:29). They passed judgment on the person, not just the message. If the tongue or prophecy was even potentially mixed with error, it wasn’t just the errant words of a tongues-prophecy that was sifted out. Everything the tongues-speaker said was rejected because “the spirit of prophets are subject to prophets” (1 Cor. 14:32; c.f. 2 Thess. 2:2; 1 John 4:1-3, not “the words of prophets”).

Tongues’ authority illustrated

Paul illustrates the importance of translated tongues several ways in 1 Corinthians 14, and all the illustrations have significance. One of them is borrowed from the first century battle field: “If the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Cor. 14:8).

Picture a Roman battalion getting ready for battle. They are on an open plain, exposed and vulnerable. Just over the hill crouches an enemy of great cunning. As the tension mounts the Roman battalion waits for their next order from the general, who uses a bugler to sound out his commands. But instead of clearly sounding out the proper calls, the bugler sends out mixed-up and indecipherable sounds. The soldiers are confused and dispirited. Should they move forward and engage the enemy, or should they retreat? Life and death are on the line.

No general would be satisfied with such communication from his messengers. Nor is Jesus Christ, the “General” of the Church, satisfied to have His holy words revealed in an indistinct sound. That’s why He crafted and gave gifts like tongues and prophecy—so His Church would have a distinct sound of clear authority from Him. It prepared them for spiritual battle. When translated tongues or prophecy rang out in the assembly of the Corinthian Christians, they heard their General’s instructions.

But this presents a problem for continuationists. Given tongues’ true authority, why shouldn’t they be spoken in church? When continuationist leaders hinder prophesy and tongues in worship they set themselves above not only the bugler but the church’s General, Jesus Christ.6 Again, they show contempt for this spectacular gift, and show by their decisions, if not by their words, a deep-set distrust of modern tongues and prophecy.

Paul’s bugle analogy illustrates the authority in tongues. When a tongues-message was understandable—meaning it was translated so all could understand—it communicated military orders from the church’s General, Jesus Christ. Translated tongues-messages brought clear and distinct orders so all could do the General’s will. Why would anyone hinder that unless they didn’t believe the tongues-speaking was from Christ?

What about the rest of us?

Because the gift of tongues was authoritative, anyone claiming to have it was rightly granted a place of honor in the church. Therefore Paul would have been extremely dismayed with anyone who claimed they had the gift of tongues yet also claimed they could mix it with personal error. He would have sternly rebuked Christians who demeaned the gift by claiming they had it when they actually didn’t. Since tongues were always authoritative and brought infallible revelation, a false claim to the gift was sinful and dangerous to every church. The person making such a claim was either misguided or mistaken—or worse, a false prophet. Equally dangerous was any church leader who didn’t allow tongues in a church service. Christ’s own command was, “do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39).

If you claim to speak in tongues or prophecy, are you willing to claim the powers of 1 Corinthians 14 and argue that your gift must be obeyed by your church because it brings them “hidden-in-God” mysteries as well as infallible and inerrant revelation? If not, relax. You are just like me—an average Christian who never has possessed such spectacular gifts. You see, once you’ve caught Paul’s passion for this gift, cessationism makes a lot more sense than a censorious, one-foot-in, one-foot-out continuationism. And that’s a good thing, right? When God speaks, He doesn’t need us sifting through His words to discover the parts we do and don’t approve. With that burden lifted, we can thank God for just how spectacular He is, how great discipleship is, and faithfully employ the good gifts He actually has given us to use for His glory.

To my cessationist brethren: isn’t the “tongues were spectacular” theology a lot more satisfying than the “tongues were a problem” position that has typified our discussion for years? Isn’t it good to know that whether you are explaining yourself to your continuationist brethren or just trying to protect your flock from dangerous spiritual experiences, 1 Corinthians 14 is your strongest ally? After all, Paul really did like the gift (1 Cor. 14:5, 18). Shouldn’t we?

Notes

1 Cessationist writings in this regard have been unconvincing to date. Edgar writes, “First Corinthians 14:2 is not a description of the gift of tongues, exalting it as a means of communication with God” ((Thomas Edgar, Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit, Kregel, 1996, 174). But Paul writes, “one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God” (1 Cor. 14:2) . Another cessationist writes: “We have no indication in Scripture that he (Paul) ever prayed in tongues…” (Herbert Vander Lugt, Are Tongues for Today? Radio Bible Class, 1979, 36) yet Paul writes, “if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful” (1 Cor. 14:14). Cessationists also tend to be critical of tongues: “Paul sees little value in the gift of tongues per se.” (Robert Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement, P & R, 1975, 130). Further examples can be found on the Internet: “Paul’s positive commendation of tongues (if such it is) is sarcastic” (Mark Snoeberger, “Are Tongues for Today? Part 4,” http://sharperiron.org/article/are-tongues-for-today-part-4, accessed May 30, 2011). “Tongues-speaking, though we consider it last, is the gift of the Spirit par excellence, in the minds of both Pentecostals and Charismatics” (Ron Hanko, “Signs of the Apostles, The Temporary Gifts of the Holy Spirit,” http://cessationism.com/#articles, accessed May 30, 2011, emphasis added). See also Philip R. Bryan, “Paul and Tongue-Speaking,” http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/8297/ptg.htm, accessed May 31, 2011.

2  See “Creating a New Category in Our Thinking” at http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/the-authority-and-nature-of-the-gift-of-prophecy, accessed May 21, 2011.

3 That’s something of a stock phrase in continuationist circles. Sam Storms gives confusing warnings about tongues and prophecy such as “resist the temptation to speak when God is silent.” But since tongues and prophecy are by definition “God speaking,” one is left wondering what Storms means. Sam Storms, [i]The Beginner’s Guide to Spiritual Gifts, Gospel Light, 2002, 102.

4 In spite of Paul’s command to speak tongues in the worship service (1 Cor. 14:39), a typical statement from a continuationist church is, “Grace Community Fellowship does not practice the speaking of tongues in our corporate worship services.” Accessed May 30, 2011 at http://www.gcfweb.org/institute/1corinthians/week9.php.

5 Christian leaders such as Wayne Grudem, Mark Driscoll, Adrian Warnock, D. A. Carson, and John Piper say that tongues and prophecy contains human errors and mistakes. Grudem’s scholarship provided the seminal impetus for this view by claiming the phrase “apostles and prophets” in Eph. 2:20 and Eph. 3:5 should be translated “the apostles who are also prophets.” For Grudem and many others this translation has created a new category of “uninspired prophets.” Cessationists view that as an oxymoron and point out its inherent flaws. Among those is its violation of the “Granville Sharp Rule” in Koiné Greek. This rule requires that Eph. 2:20 and Eph. 3:5 be translated “apostles and prophets,” since the words “apostles” and “prophets” are plurals, not singulars. See F. David Farnell, “Does the New Testament Teach Two Prophetic Gifts?” Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (January-March 1993): 75.

6 For another example, http://parksidecampverde.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=41:-what-do-you-believe-regarding-speaking-in-tongues&catid=5:faq&Itemid=10. Continuationists also claim that preaching/teaching in the worship service is more important in church than prophecy, but Paul is clear that prophecy is the far more important gift (1 Cor. 12:28; 14:1).

[node:bio/ted-bigelow body]

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Mike Durning's picture

I Cor. 14:9. Wink

Aaron Blumer's picture

Not sure what happened. The main article text was missing but is now included.

Jim's picture

This point (near the beginning):

Quote:
What do cessationists believe? Cessationists are convinced the gift of tongues is no longer available to believers today. To support their case they often assert that tongues were for the most part unhelpful if not downright dangerous in the First Century Church. To support their case, cessationists typically disparage the gift

And this point (near the end):

Quote:
To my cessationist brethren: isn’t the “tongues were spectacular” theology a lot more satisfying than the “tongues were a problem” position that has typified our discussion for years?

Perhaps I have lived under a rock but I've not witnessed the disparagement of the true 1st century gift. And I have not witnessed the “tongues were a problem” position.

David S.'s picture

Jim Peet wrote:
This point (near the beginning):

Quote:
What do cessationists believe? Cessationists are convinced the gift of tongues is no longer available to believers today. To support their case they often assert that tongues were for the most part unhelpful if not downright dangerous in the First Century Church. To support their case, cessationists typically disparage the gift

And this point (near the end):

Quote:
To my cessationist brethren: isn’t the “tongues were spectacular” theology a lot more satisfying than the “tongues were a problem” position that has typified our discussion for years?

Perhaps I have lived under a rock but I've not witnessed the disparagement of the true 1st century gift. And I have not witnessed the “tongues were a problem” position.

I agree. I have never heard people talk this way about tongues. I have heard them disparage the modern day implementation of tongues but not the 1st century gift. Having said that, Ted has provided a helpful way for disparaging cessationists to present their case with grace and care to those who wish to have gifts like tongues still existing today.

mthwsms's picture

I actually agree with a lot of what was said. I've always found especially perplexing the errant gift positions of many continuationist. However, it seems that stating every instance of tongues was prophetic or containing some kind of mystery for the church might be an overstatement. I'm thinking of passages in Acts when the Holy Spirit was sweeping through and it talks about the apostles preaching to people in their own tongue. It seems at least in some instances tongues was used as a way to communicate with others in their language and not necessarily to pass on a new prophetic word or some mystery. Also, your position seems to make tongues equal with prophecy (i.e., prophecy but in a language not your own). Even Paul in I Corinithians 12:27-29 makes just a base level distinction between the gifts. And in chapter 14 there seems to be some level of distinction made between the two gifts (this one is bettery...I'd rather have you prophecy...tongues doesn't really help you unless I do this). I'm just not 100% sure that the Scripture seems clear that all forms of tongues are prophectic or mysterious in nature. Last, you reference praying in tongues in the footnotes...how would that fit with your interpretation? Would the person be praying prophetically?

Ted Bigelow's picture

Jim Peet wrote:
Perhaps I have lived under a rock but I've not witnessed the disparagement of the true 1st century gift. And I have not witnessed the “tongues were a problem” position.

Jim, thanks for reading... you comment reminds me of a Geico commercial....

Check out the footnotes, and in particular the link to the SI article on tongues from last year. I've read a fair amount on the topic, did intensive ThM studies on it, and never saw a Cessationist writer seriously comment about how great 1st C tongues were. If you know of one who has, please let me know and make me wiser.

I credit the Cessationist response as a knee jerk reaction to the Charismatic movement. Cessationists write article and books on tongues to keep their people from doing it, and IMO read 1 Cor. 14 in that light. Truth is, 1 Cor. 14 encourages tongues speaking, so the Cessationist puts himself or herself in a twisted position.

Point is, Continuationists disparage NT tongues so they can claim they have them and are open to to the Holy Spirit; Cessationists disparage tongues to prove to themselves that the Continuationists don't have them, and to protect the singular authority of Scripture.

ChrisS's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
and never saw a Cessationist writer seriously comment about how great 1st C tongues were.

At least one local church pastor has taught and preached to that effect. So he's not a "Cessationist writer", but I believe the greatness of those 1st C tongues is likely getting is proper due out there, if not in print.

Richard Pajak's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
Jim Peet wrote:
Perhaps I have lived under a rock but I've not witnessed the disparagement of the true 1st century gift. And I have not witnessed the “tongues were a problem” position.

Point is, Continuationists disparage NT tongues so they can claim they have them and are open to to the Holy Spirit; Cessationists disparage tongues to prove to themselves that the Continuationists don't have them, and to protect the singular authority of Scripture.

Why would Continuationists disparage New Testament tongues...is this mistyped? Continuationists uphold the teaching on gifts in order to uphold the authority of the Word as well.

Richard Pajak

Gabe Franklin's picture

Ted, thanks for the article. It gave me some things to think about. Two quick questions.

You stated:

Quote:
Paul said, “brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation”? (ESV, 1 Cor. 14:6. C.f. 14:27-30). Here Paul looks forward to a future day when he will be with the Corinthians and participate in their passionate worship of Christ. He longs to be with them and benefit them by speaking God’s very own words to them, in tongues—words he identifies as revelation.

Don't you think this is a stretch? For one thing, you cut off the verse. Paul states, "revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching." I think Paul is presenting a hypothetical. He is not looking forward to a time when he would reveal revelation to them through tongues.

Second, you seem to indicate that the main purpose of tongues was to provide revelation/prophecy to the church. How does you reconcile this with I Cor. 14:22 "Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers..."? I believe that if tongues are used, but there is no unbeliever present, then the tongues are being misused.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Some cessationists, like Floyd Barackman (Practical Christian Theology) believes that the tongues at Corinth, unlike the tongues in Acts 2, were ecstatic utterances:

Quote:
That tongues required interpretation (diermneuo) ...rather than translation (methermneuo) indicates an ecstatic utterance that has no grammatical construction...

I point this out to show that there are all sorts of views out there.

Others have disparaged the tongues the Corinthians used (I think Dr. Smith at Grace Seminary in Winona Lake held that view -- can anybody help me out and affirm this?).

I personally like the way Ted thinks, but I have to call him on taking some mini leaps. The text does not say that the prophets judge the other prophets as persons. Ted, brother, you may be right, but there are some links missing in your argument.

Wayne Grudem has argued well, IMO, that the Old Testament authority of the prophet is replaced by the NT authority of the Apostle, not the NT prophet. NT prophecy is not the equivalent of OT prophecy in its perfection any more than my teaching ministry is the equivalent of the Apostle's teaching. I teach what I think is true (after study and prayer), and a NT prophet prophesied what he felt God leading him to say.

I think we must affirm that the Scriptures are the final authority for all matters of faith and practice, but that sometimes FALLIBLE authorities (teaching ministries, doctrinal statements, observations, what seem to be leadings of the Spirit) do exist but are not completely dependable. Sometimes I sense I am being led by the Spirit and things prove out that I was; other times, they prove not so. I think NT prophecy is more in that category. I consider it a form of "leading."

The whole idea that tongues were interpreted as prophecies to guide people into specific actions in their lives and that these interpretations were viewed as infallible words from God is not clearly proven in the NT, IMO. If such words came from a prophet with a great track record, they would have carried some weight, but I do not believe they would have carried constraint. At least Ted has not proven so. I do think it more likely that the prophecies themselves were evaluated.

Obviously the value of interpreted tongues or prophecies would not be as strong as would the words of OT prophets or NT apostles, but, obviously at times were edifying. Ted's view would make them more valuable, I concede. Still, it is when all "prophesy" that the lost visitor is convicted (I Corinthians 14:24-25) because the secrets of his heart are revealed by the prophecy, and everybody or just about everybody is prophesying. That sounds more like something any believer could do, like praying, than it does the OT version. I am still unsettled about the NT gift of prophecy, but I think we have somehow inflated it.

Personally, I believe that NT tongues are real languages and I am skeptical of them today because all indications are that they are not real languages. I agree with MacArthur in that the Scriptures do not teach that tongues would cease when the NT was completed (as some claim I Cor. 13:8-11 means), but I am skeptical because observation shows that the real thing is not around, at least commonly. I guess that makes me an "almost cessationist."

"The Midrash Detective"

Ted Bigelow's picture

Gabe Franklin wrote:

Don't you think this is a stretch? For one thing, you cut off the verse. Paul states, "revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching." I think Paul is presenting a hypothetical. He is not looking forward to a time when he would reveal revelation to them through tongues.

Second, you seem to indicate that the main purpose of tongues was to provide revelation/prophecy to the church. How does you reconcile this with I Cor. 14:22 "Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers..."? I believe that if tongues are used, but there is no unbeliever present, then the tongues are being misused.

Gabe, thanks for reading and your questions. No, I don't believe it's a stretch. The verse prior equates interpreted tongues to prophecy (1 Cor. 14:5). That's why the tongues-gift was so marvelous. Interpreted tongues not only brought prophecy (v. 6) but even the supernatural gift of "knowledge" (1 Cor. 12:8) and accomplished "teaching" (1 Cor. 12:28).

Your stance on v. 22-24 is quite common among cessationists and is a cessationist position I am definitely arguing against in this post Smile It is well represented in Thomas Edgar's excellent book I cite in the footnotes. Ultimately I feel this "mainly a sign to unbelievers" position puts way too much emphasis on three verses (22-24) at the exclusion of others. Paul is not saying tongues may only be used if unbelievers are around, but that untranslated tongues, ("if the whole church assembles together and all speak in tongues") inhibit the unbeliever from seeing the sign since no one is translating.... i.e., prophecy is so much more direct! There are simply too many references that clearly refer to tongues-speaking in Christian worship (14:5, 6, 12-13, 15, 27-28). In v. 39 its commanded. These cast serious doubt on the "tongues is a sign to unbelievers and should be used only when they are around" idea, if that's where you were going. Good question.

Gabe Franklin's picture

While I think about these things, let me make one quick comment on something you said:

Quote:
In v. 39 its commanded.

Paul never commanded people to speak in tongues. He simply told the Corinthians not to forbid others from speaking in tongues. There is a big difference between the two.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Some cessationists, like Floyd Barackman (Practical Christian Theology) believes that the tongues at Corinth, unlike the tongues in Acts 2, were ecstatic utterances:
Quote:
That tongues required interpretation (diermneuo) ...rather than translation (methermneuo) indicates an ecstatic utterance that has no grammatical construction...

I point this out to show that there are all sorts of views out there.
Others have disparaged the tongues the Corinthians used (I think Dr. Smith at Grace Seminary in Winona Lake held that view -- can anybody help me out and affirm this?).

Ed – thanks for the comments here. This position suffers from the same unsoundness as Grudem’s: the same word “tongues” describes two gifts (one ecstatic, one not). Grudem: one word – “prophecy” for 2 gifts (one inspired, one not).

Quote:
I personally like the way Ted thinks, but I have to call him on taking some mini leaps. The text does not say that the prophets judge the other prophets as persons. Ted, brother, you may be right, but there are some links missing in your argument.
Wayne Grudem has argued well, IMO, that the Old Testament authority of the prophet is replaced by the NT authority of the Apostle, not the NT prophet. NT prophecy is not the equivalent of OT prophecy in its perfection any more than my teaching ministry is the equivalent of the Apostle's teaching. I teach what I think is true (after study and prayer), and a NT prophet prophesied what he felt God leading him to say.
I think we must affirm that the Scriptures are the final authority for all matters of faith and practice, but that sometimes FALLIBLE authorities (teaching ministries, doctrinal statements, observations, what seem to be leadings of the Spirit) do exist but are not completely dependable. Sometimes I sense I am being led by the Spirit and things prove out that I was; other times, they prove not so. I think NT prophecy is more in that category. I consider it a form of "leading."
The whole idea that tongues were interpreted as prophecies to guide people into specific actions in their lives and that these interpretations were viewed as infallible words from God is not clearly proven in the NT, IMO. If such words came from a prophet with a great track record, they would have carried some weight, but I do not believe they would have carried constraint. At least Ted has not proven so. I do think it more likely that the prophecies themselves were evaluated.
Obviously the value of interpreted tongues or prophecies would not be as strong as would the words of OT prophets or NT apostles, but, obviously at times were edifying. Ted's view would make them more valuable, I concede. Still, it is when all "prophesy" that the lost visitor is convicted (I Corinthians 14:24-25) because the secrets of his heart are revealed by the prophecy, and everybody or just about everybody is prophesying. That sounds more like something any believer could do, like praying, than it does the OT version. I am still unsettled about the NT gift of prophecy, but I think we have somehow inflated it.
Personally, I believe that NT tongues are real languages and I am skeptical of them today because all indications are that they are not real languages. I agree with MacArthur in that the Scriptures do not teach that tongues would cease when the NT was completed (as some claim I Cor. 13:8-11 means), but I am skeptical because observation shows that the real thing is not around, at least commonly. I guess that makes me an "almost cessationist."

John’s position is that NT prophecy is today’s gift of preaching – that it underwent transition in the apostolic age. The more common position is that prophecy was direct revelation from God and therefore brought immense authority. Grudem’s position on uninspired prophecy is the new kid on the block.

Ed, isn’t it at least a little distracting to think of NT prophecy as something akin to a subjective ‘leading‘ when God uses the exact same word to describe NT prophecy as he does of OT prophecy (and prophecy in the gospels)? Why not attribute to NT prophecy the same power, authority, and value as OT prophecy? After all, which is the more important and authoritative gift in your church – teaching, or prophecy (1 Cor. 12:28)?

For me, Paul's words “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” imply the entire person is being evaluated as true or false, based on his words (1 Cor. 14:32). I disagree with Grudem, Piper that God wants judges sift through the words of prophecy and picking out the good parts from the bad parts. Imagine if that was done of Paul’s, or Agabas’ words. Not many of them would have made it through. Prophecy is often unsettling and upset the religious status quo.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ted wrote:

Quote:
John’s position is that NT prophecy is today’s gift of preaching – that it underwent transition in the apostolic age. The more common position is that prophecy was direct revelation from God and therefore brought immense authority. Grudem’s position on uninspired prophecy is the new kid on the block.

Ed, isn’t it at least a little distracting to think of NT prophecy as something akin to a subjective ‘leading‘ when God uses the exact same word to describe NT prophecy as he does of OT prophecy (and prophecy in the gospels)? Why not attribute to NT prophecy the same power, authority, and value as OT prophecy? After all, which is the more important and authoritative gift in your church – teaching, or prophecy (1 Cor. 12:28)?

For me, Paul's words “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” imply the entire person is being evaluated as true or false, based on his words (1 Cor. 14:32). I disagree with Grudem, Piper that God wants judges sift through the words of prophecy and picking out the good parts from the bad parts. Imagine if that was done of Paul’s, or Agabas’ words. Not many of them would have made it through. Prophecy is often unsettling and upset the religious status quo.

Ted, you are misrepresenting Grudem a shade. He says God inspires the mind of the NT prophet, but the NT prophet (unlike the old) may get inspired thoughts confused with his own thoughts or may not always accurately express those inspired thoughts. That's what I meant by being similar to leadings, we can confuse the leading of God's spirit with our own leadings. That doesn't mean we are never led by the Spirit.

I think this lesser type of prophecy may have existed in the OT as well, as sort of lower grade. For example, we do not think of King Saul as a prophet, yet I Samuel 10:9-11 (NASB) reads:

Quote:
Then it happened when he turned his back to leave Samuel, God changed his heart; and all those signs came about on that day. 10 When they came to the hill there, behold, a group of prophets met him; and the Spirit of God came upon him mightily, so that he prophesied among them. 11 It came about, when all who knew him previously saw that he prophesied now with the prophets, that the people said to one another, “What has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

The entire "school of the prophets" may have involved this lower grade of prophesying. How do you see it? Do you think Saul prophesied like Isaiah?

"The Midrash Detective"

Ted Bigelow's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Ted, you are misrepresenting Grudem a shade. He says God inspires the mind of the NT prophet, but the NT prophet (unlike the old) may get inspired thoughts confused with his own thoughts or may not always accurately express those inspired thoughts. That's what I meant by being similar to leadings, we can confuse the leading of God's spirit with our own leadings. That doesn't mean we are never led by the Spirit.

Grudem has taken the historic meaning of "inspiration" and turned it topsy turvy. We Christians have historically believe that God so inspires a man so that even through a man's fallenness God still communicates with holy, sinless revelation (2 Peter. 1:20-21). IOW, inspiration takes into account fallenness and while using it yet overcomes it. Grudem inverts this in his view of inspiration when he claims a man's fallenness can overcome and get mixed into the communication process of inspiration. He even claims Agabas in Acts 21 was mistaken. That's why I and others refer to his view as "uninspired prophecy."

Quote:
How do you see it? Do you think Saul prophesied like Isaiah?

Ha! Yeah, I do. God uses the same word. Sounds like you are surprised at the notion - almost enough to ask incredulously, along with everybody else, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" Bleah

JG's picture

Ted, I Corinthians 14:6 is not saying that tongues is revelation. It is saying that tongues alone is of limited profitability. Tongues certainly could be used for revelation, but Acts 2 makes it pretty clear that it could also be used for exposition of that which had already been revealed.

Paul mentions tongues more than any other gift in I Corinthians because it was being misused and he was correcting a problem. That is not to disparage a wonderful gift, but we should not use his correction to over-exalt it, either. His frequent mention of tongues in chapters 12-14 tells us more about the problems in Corinth than it does about the relative importance of the gift.

If we look at the total picture of tongues in Scripture, we see that it is simply the miraculous ability to speak in another language. Since we know that we are to test the spirits by what they say (I John 4:1-2), the speaker had to have a way to test whether what he was saying was of God. If we assume that a tongues speaker would not know what he was saying, we assume that God gave a gift which required the user of that gift to not test it. Since God does not tell us to do something (try the spirits) and then give us permission to ignore that command, I find any suggestion that a tongues speaker didn't know what he was saying to be highly dubious.

It is clearly erroneous to say that a tongues speaker wasn't in control of the act. The whole thrust of I Corinthians 14 is that it was being done wrongly, and that the believers in Corinth needed to sort out the way they were using the gift. They weren't to be all speaking in tongues at once, for instance -- 2 or 3, and by course, with an interpreter. If they couldn't control it, why are those instructions given?

You've not really satisfactorily addressed the "sign to unbelievers" question, and what in the world the significance is of the OT quotation. From the position you've taken, that OT quotation is meaningless and out of place, as near as I can see. I would strongly agree with you that it does not mean that unbelievers must always be present, however. From my understanding of the Scriptures, it is the giving of the gift to the church that constituted a sign, not every particular usage of the gift.

I don't think we really have an understanding of this gift, its purpose and its usage, until we get a grasp on what this concept of a sign to unbelievers means. We would do well to start by nailing that down and comparing the actual instances in Scripture where the gift occurred (Acts 2, 10/11, and 19) to get a handle on this gift.

MichaelD's picture

I have never ever heard the gift of tongues in the first century being put down. Why would God create a "problematic" gift?

Ed Vasicek's picture

Quote:
God uses the same word.

Ted, unless there are several words and one of them is used rarely, to say "God uses the same word" is a weak argument indeed. The word "judge" for example, can mean to discern, to rule, or it can mean to (unfairly or improperly) criticize. Words and figures are often used in more than one way. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and Satan roams like a roaring lion. Jesus is the bright morning start, and Lucifer is the morning star.

Ted my brother, to say prophecy can only mean infallibly inspired words of equal authority with Scripture is to confuse the part with the whole. Because some prophecy involves inspired infallible words and is indeed Scripture does not mean one can assume all prophecy is that way. Saul's words as a prophet, for example, were certainly not Scripture. And if they were, Saul's later apostasy would disqualify him as a true prophet. Indeed, we debate whether Saul was even truly saved.

I disagree with you on this one. Saul was prophesying, IMO, in a way that was different, I believe, from the way Isaiah prophesied. This was also true, I would argue, with the "school of the prophets." I am not sure what was involved, and I would argue that the "school of the prophets" was probably the original version of disciples following a teacher (prophet) which later evolved into the type of discipleship we association with Jesus and his disciples.

To say that Grudem is wrong may be accurate. But if he is wrong, IMO, it is not because the word "prophet" can only mean one thing.

Ted, there are differences between Saul and Isaiah. Isaiah delivered a message from God to the people; whatever Saul did was more of a sign, and his prophesying was around fellow prophets who were prophesying in like manner. There is no indication at all that he was delivering a message to the people. This was actually more like a mini-Pentecost; in this case, his prophesying (rather than tongues) were the sign of the Spirit coming upon him. The sign in the I Samuel text (quoted in an earlier post by me, I Samuel 10:9-11) is that Saul was ONE with the prophets, much like Pentecost demonstrated that believers in Jesus were one with him and one another and people of the Spirit. Do you see what I mean?

"The Midrash Detective"

Larry's picture

Quote:
Saul was prophesying, IMO, in a way that was different, I believe, from the way Isaiah prophesied.
What prophecies of Saul's would lead you to believe this?

Aaron Blumer's picture

We really can't argue that the same word (used for "tongues") must always refer to the same activity. The reasons we reject Grudem's two-kinds-of-prophecy (those of us who do reject it) are not based on a "same word" argument, but rather on contextual and theological grounds.

Other things being equal, the same word would indicate the same thing/activity. But other things are often not equal.

Paul and James use the word "justification" quite differently.
The word kosmos does not mean the same thing everywhere it appears, even by the same writer.
Lots of other examples could be listed.

So the question of whether the tongues phenomenon in Corinth was the same as the one in Acts or other places really needs contextual and theological arguments either way to make a strong case.

On another subtopic...
I do think some cessationists have occasionally overstated the relative inferiority of the gift of tongues. My own take on 1Cor14 is that Paul is teaching, in part, that it's prophecy that made tongues really valuable to the church. He says (14.5) "I wish/want you all to speak in tongues but even more [mallon de ] that you prophesy." This seems to be a key statement for understanding the chapter.
Was tongues always prophesy when translated? This seems possible to me, though it's not a possibility I've studied out yet. Clearly, though, the tongues had no prophetic value when untranslated.

So I think the gist of 14.5a is "It would be great if you all spoke in tongues because there would be more prophecy, but it's the prophecy that is most edifying to the body."

Another problem
Someone may have pointed this out already, but a problem with the view that the tongues speaker could not help but speak accurate prophecy because he didn't know what he was saying.... 14.5b says "unless indeed he interprets." Paul seems to say here that the tongues speaker can interpret his own tongues utterance.
Other portions of the section don't seem to fit idea so well.
(This is one of the reasons people have had a tough time with 1Cor14 for centuries, and sorting the chapter out is no simple thing for us today.)
It's just not easy to tell what was really happening in Corinth.

dcbii's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Saul's words as a prophet, for example, were certainly not Scripture. And if they were, Saul's later apostasy would disqualify him as a true prophet. Indeed, we debate whether Saul was even truly saved.

While I wouldn't say I necessarily agree with Ted on his whole argument, I have to ask why Saul's apostasy disqualified him as a true prophet. What about Balaam? His words definitely did make it into scripture, and God used him as a prophet in spite of who he was.

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

Ed wrote:
Since we know that we are to test the spirits by what they say (I John 4:1-2), the speaker had to have a way to test whether what he was saying was of God. If we assume that a tongues speaker would not know what he was saying, we assume that God gave a gift which required the user of that gift to not test it.

This is a strong argument... I think.

I'm not sure how the OT phenomenon of involuntary prophecy fits in. It's certainly unusual for prophet to prophesy involuntarily as in Saul and Baalim. (Though I vaguely remember another scene where God overcomes some guys with involuntary "prophecy" almost as a defensive weapon in a situation. Can't remember where that was now).

On "tongues are for a sign" to unbelievers (1Cor.14.22), this statement clearly can't stand alone. In the same chapter, Paul has indicated that properly interpreted tongues edified the body (v.6ff). So I think we have to grant that "tongues" had more than one purpose, one of them being a sign for unbelievers (probably unbelieving Jews in particular) and one of them being the edification of the body. 14.6 does indeed suggest that the content of a tongues utterance could take several forms: "revelation, knowledge, prophesying, teaching"

Aaron Blumer's picture

1 Sam 19:20-24... You have a number of people prophesying involuntarily here. Saul ends up "prophesying" naked on the ground all night. In this case, it appears to be God having a joke on Saul and his messengers. He is humiliating them via involuntary prophecy.
In any case, these are anomalies (as is the Balaam case) and I don't think we can glean alot from them for understand what is normal for prophetic utterance in the OT--and even less so what what was normal in the NT church setting.

Ted Bigelow's picture

JG wrote:
Ted, I Corinthians 14:6 is not saying that tongues is revelation. It is saying that tongues alone is of limited profitability. Tongues certainly could be used for revelation, but Acts 2 makes it pretty clear that it could also be used for exposition of that which had already been revealed.
Paul mentions tongues more than any other gift in I Corinthians because it was being misused and he was correcting a problem. That is not to disparage a wonderful gift, but we should not use his correction to over-exalt it, either. His frequent mention of tongues in chapters 12-14 tells us more about the problems in Corinth than it does about the relative importance of the gift.
If we look at the total picture of tongues in Scripture, we see that it is simply the miraculous ability to speak in another language. Since we know that we are to test the spirits by what they say (I John 4:1-2), the speaker had to have a way to test whether what he was saying was of God. If we assume that a tongues speaker would not know what he was saying, we assume that God gave a gift which required the user of that gift to not test it. Since God does not tell us to do something (try the spirits) and then give us permission to ignore that command, I find any suggestion that a tongues speaker didn't know what he was saying to be highly dubious.
It is clearly erroneous to say that a tongues speaker wasn't in control of the act. The whole thrust of I Corinthians 14 is that it was being done wrongly, and that the believers in Corinth needed to sort out the way they were using the gift. They weren't to be all speaking in tongues at once, for instance -- 2 or 3, and by course, with an interpreter. If they couldn't control it, why are those instructions given?
You've not really satisfactorily addressed the "sign to unbelievers" question, and what in the world the significance is of the OT quotation. From the position you've taken, that OT quotation is meaningless and out of place, as near as I can see. I would strongly agree with you that it does not mean that unbelievers must always be present, however. From my understanding of the Scriptures, it is the giving of the gift to the church that constituted a sign, not every particular usage of the gift.
I don't think we really have an understanding of this gift, its purpose and its usage, until we get a grasp on what this concept of a sign to unbelievers means. We would do well to start by nailing that down and comparing the actual instances in Scripture where the gift occurred (Acts 2, 10/11, and 19) to get a handle on this gift.

Wow! That was an in-your-face mouthful. I agree with you in parts (I’ve not satisfactorily answered the “sign to unbelievers” question”). That would require addressing tongues usage in Acts and the role of apostolic attestation (Acts 8, 10, 11, 19). Nonetheless, Paul only devotes a few verses to this matter in a lengthy chapter of 40 verses. That ought to tell us something, like maybe the Corinthians should have used prophecy more than tongues. Isa. 28:11 is not a prediction of tongues, but an analogy. Just as the ancient Jews received a sign from God through the foreign language of the invading Babylonians, so the Jews of the 1st C received a sign in tongues. This analogy diminishes the cessationist claim that the main value of tongues was for unbelievers. Paul's point is continuous throughout the chapter - prophecy is superior to tongues because it doesn't require translation. The matter of tongues as a sign for unbelievers fits in this larger point.

JG, the gift of tongues was always revelation and never less (1 Cor. 14:5-6). All tongues were prophecy delivered directly from God in a tongues-language. Once translated they were as immediately authoritative as prophecy. Like prophecy they were commanded to be used in church – v. 39. How do you over-exalt something commanded by God and is revelation from the Almighty?

You wrote, “It is clearly erroneous to say that a tongues speaker wasn't in control of the act.” Who even said that? Your use of 1 John 4 skips between others testing the spirits and a person testing themselves. It’s confusing. And you may find it “highly dubious” but a tongues-speakers mind was “unfruitful” (v. 14), but Paul commanded prayer alongside tongues so that whether spoken, sung, or prayed, they would be publicly translated (13, 27). If a tongues speaker knew what he was saying in tongues he wouldn’t need translation, would he? He could just give the translation apart from the tongue. No need to pray.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:
Ted, unless there are several words and one of them is used rarely, to say "God uses the same word" is a weak argument indeed. The word "judge" for example, can mean to discern, to rule, or it can mean to (unfairly or improperly) criticize. Words and figures are often used in more than one way. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, and Satan roams like a roaring lion. Jesus is the bright morning start, and Lucifer is the morning star.

Of course. But 2 points. Did you check out my footnote on Grudem where I provided a more substantial response to his assertion? I’m assuming you would interact with that, and my “one word” argument is only supplemental. And 2, it rests upon those who want to use a single word to mean 2 differing things to prove it. In Grudem’s case the proof against his exegesis is relatively easy and goes back to 1st year Greek.

Quote:
Ted my brother, to say prophecy can only mean infallibly inspired words of equal authority with Scripture is to confuse the part with the whole. Because some prophecy involves inspired infallible words and is indeed Scripture does not mean one can assume all prophecy is that way. Saul's words as a prophet, for example, were certainly not Scripture. And if they were, Saul's later apostasy would disqualify him as a true prophet. Indeed, we debate whether Saul was even truly saved.

Ted, there are differences between Saul and Isaiah. Isaiah delivered a message from God to the people; whatever Saul did was more of a sign, and his prophesying was around fellow prophets who were prophesying in like manner. There is no indication at all that he was delivering a message to the people. This was actually more like a mini-Pentecost; in this case, his prophesying (rather than tongues) were the sign of the Spirit coming upon him. The sign in the I Samuel text (quoted in an earlier post by me, I Samuel 10:9-11) is that Saul was ONE with the prophets, much like Pentecost demonstrated that believers in Jesus were one with him and one another and people of the Spirit. Do you see what I mean?

I don’t think Saul was saved. But God can speak revelation through a donkey, no? So too with Saul. Saul’s words, while speaking as even a naked man, were from God – though they humiliated him. I’m not following the unity analogy to Pentecost. Pentecost was a sign but more than that too, nor were the words spoken there by the believers in tongues less than revelation, any less than the angels’ song over Jesus birth to the shepherds was revelation. Remember, a heavy burden is on you to explain why prophesy can mean authoritative inerrant revelation in one passage of Scripture, and something tainted by human sin in another. You gotta make a really strong case with this one Cool

JG's picture

Sorry, my friend, I wasn't trying to be "in your face". Smile

This one first, because it is easiest:

Quote:
You wrote, “It is clearly erroneous to say that a tongues speaker wasn't in control of the act.” Who even said that?

From the original article:
Quote:
Tongues-messages never gave out errors because the speaker wasn’t in control of the act—his mind was “unfruitful” (1 Cor. 14:14).

Short answer: You said it. Smile

Quote:
Just as the ancient Jews received a sign from God through the foreign language of the invading Babylonians, so the Jews of the 1st C received a sign in tongues. This analogy diminishes the cessationist claim that the main value of tongues was for unbelievers.

Excellent. I agree 100%. In both cases, you have judgment on unbelieving Jews. In the 1st Century it is exactly what Paul said in Acts 18:6 -- your blood is on your heads, I am going to the Gentiles. This was the point of tongues in Acts 2 and 10/11 -- you have rejected the Messiah, and now God's blessing of salvation is going to be declared in every tongue to every nation.

I would say, therefore, that the "point" of tongues is a sign to unbelieving Jews, but the "benefit" of tongues was to be for edification.

The reason the "sign to the unbelieving" is so important is because it tells us so much about the nature of the gift. It was a real language of real people. Otherwise, the sign wouldn't signify anything. And it was a sign that even unbelievers couldn't deny. They might scoff and say people were drunk, but they couldn't deny that people were speaking in those foreign languages in Acts 2. It was real and indisputable, and even unbelieving Jews couldn't deny it in any honesty.

A false "gift of tongues", on the other hand, is eminently deniable. In fact, about the only people who DO believe in it are believers, not unbelievers. Those who don't believe in it (Christians and unbelievers) think it is just babbling. It isn't a sign at all.

So if we properly understand the sign, then it helps us to get everything else into perspective. That is true especially when we recognize that Corinth was on a major Roman trade route, and many multiple languages could be heard in its streets.

Quote:
JG, the gift of tongues was always revelation and never less (1 Cor. 14:5-6). All tongues were prophecy delivered directly from God in a tongues-language. Once translated they were as immediately authoritative as prophecy. Like prophecy they were commanded to be used in church – v. 39.

Well, the Scriptures don't anywhere say that tongues is prophecy in a tongues-language. You might infer it from verse 6, but it's hardly conclusive. There is nothing in the documented cases in Acts that indicates this. They praised God in tongues. Was this tongues prophecy, or was it simply praising God? We don't know. This is one of your logical leaps, I'm afraid. You might be right, but it is "facts not in evidence".

Could tongues be used for revelation? Of course. Always? The Scripture doesn't say dictate that.

You have another of your logical leaps here, too. As someone stated above, verse 39 does not command they be used. It prohibits prohibition, which is not the same thing. Does someone speak in tongues in your church? If not, why not? If verse 39 commands it, you'd better obey. Smile

When prohibition was repealed, the federal government could no longer forbid people to drink alcohol. That doesn't mean the US constitution required people to drink alcohol. Verse 39 forbids forbidding, but that is NOT the same thing as a positive command.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Richard Pajak wrote:
Ted Bigelow wrote:
Jim Peet wrote:
Perhaps I have lived under a rock but I've not witnessed the disparagement of the true 1st century gift. And I have not witnessed the “tongues were a problem” position.

Point is, Continuationists disparage NT tongues so they can claim they have them and are open to to the Holy Spirit; Cessationists disparage tongues to prove to themselves that the Continuationists don't have them, and to protect the singular authority of Scripture.

Why would Continuationists disparage New Testament tongues...is this mistyped? Continuationists uphold the teaching on gifts in order to uphold the authority of the Word as well.

Richard, Continuationists disparage tongues and prophecy far more than Cessationists do. Did you read the footnotes?

Jay's picture

Hang on a second - JG, in what sense do you mean that speaking in tongues was a sign of judgment on unregenerate Jews?

You've rightfully argued that we should look at tongues use in Acts 2, and I agree with you on that. However, the use of tongues in Acts 2 was for two reasons. One, it was the fulfillment of Jesus' promise to the apostles that He would send The Comforter ["Helper" in the ESV ] (John 15:26-27), and also it allowed the immediate propagation of the gospel to those who did not believe in the languages that they spoke (Acts 2:7-12).

I say that because I don't think you can argue that preaching the gospel was a sign of judgment unless you are arguing that the sign of tongues was an evidence that God had finally rejected the Jews, which I don't think you can do (esp. since Paul later rejected the Jews in Acts 18:6). Is that possibly what you mean? It might be semantics, but I want to make sure I get what you're saying.

On another note, you mentioned in Post #17-

Quote:
I don't think we really have an understanding of this gift, its purpose and its usage, until we get a grasp on what this concept of a sign to unbelievers means. We would do well to start by nailing that down and comparing the actual instances in Scripture where the gift occurred (Acts 2, 10/11, and 19) to get a handle on this gift.

I thought about this a little this morning, but lost my post before I could get it up on SI. I think we can argue that spiritual gifts - like miracle working or speaking in tongues - is evidence for God's specific use and approval of that person, even if only for a limited time. Some examples of this would be Saul's prophesy and Balaam (already discussed here), the exclamations of the Egyptian magicians in Exodus 8:16-19, and the healing of the man born blind in John 9-10:21 (note esp. John 10:19-21). The use of tongues in Acts 2 would seem to indicate that they were given for that specific reason as well. If I go to Japan and suddenly start speaking Japanese fluently, wouldn't that indicate that something supernatural is going on, and that people ought to pay attention to who I am?

From that, and the teaching in I Corinthians, I think we can confidently assert that tongues are a gift given to the Church in order to authenticate the speakers and to enable the gospel to spread quickly between groups without years of language training. I personally think that the gift of tongues has just about ended, but I'm not willing to say God's totally finished using it. I do not think that tongues can be used for new revelation - Revelation 22:18-19 seems to indicate that the canon is closed.

Finally - the term prophesy in I Cor. can also be used to indicate preaching, right? I seem to recall that there is a double translation for that word.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Ted Bigelow's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

Another problem
Someone may have pointed this out already, but a problem with the view that the tongues speaker could not help but speak accurate prophecy because he didn't know what he was saying.... 14.5b says "unless indeed he interprets." Paul seems to say here that the tongues speaker can interpret his own tongues utterance.
Other portions of the section don't seem to fit idea so well.
(This is one of the reasons people have had a tough time with 1Cor14 for centuries, and sorting the chapter out is no simple thing for us today.)
It's just not easy to tell what was really happening in Corinth.

Aaron, I look at the problem this way – Paul was not encouraging a tongues-speaker to interpret their own tongues-message. I ask the question - Why would Paul command a tongues-speaker to pray for the gift of interpreting his own tongues-message (v. 13)? Since the tongues-message came by exercise of a tongues-speakers gift (an act of the will), didn't the gift of interpretation come by exercise of human will? We don’t get spiritual gifts by prayer since they are sovereignly given once for all in regeneration, nor do we receive them sporadically when we pray. So v. 5 is describing not the original tongues speaker doing his own interpretation, but one interpreting another’s tongues-message. Thus the one tongues-translating is more important than the tongues-speaker. This explains 1 Cor. 14:28: “if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.” If the tongues speaker could translate his own message, there would always be a tongues translator available, and v. 28 doesn’t make sense.

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