Addressing Continuationist Arguments from 1 Corinthians 14


Last week we posted an article which argued that the idea of a heavenly prayer language is untenable based on Jesus’ command concerning prayer in Matthew 6:7. Additional questions arise on the issue concerning Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 14.

For example, some continuationists claim for the existence of two different types of tongue gifts. The argument claims that there is one gift in Acts 2 and another in 1 Corinthians 14. Among others, Nate Busenitz has demonstrated that this position is unsound from Scripture.

Other continuationists hold to the position of a heavenly prayer language on the grounds of various details in 1 Corinthians 14. As somewhat of a part two of last week’s post, this will briefly address some of the popular continuationist arguments therefrom. It will not deal with every detail in 1 Corinthians 14, but merely a few of the more common arguments posed in favor of the continuationist position.

A common continuationist position is that there exists a gift of tongues which is a Spirit-given language, understandable by God, that is exercised in prayer between the believer/Spirit-filled individual and God (e.g. Gordon Fee, NICNT: The First Epistle to the Corinthians; and David Guzik, Guzik Bible Commentary). Variations of this position exist within charismatic and continuationist theology.

Before a conclusion can be made from 1 Corinthians, an understanding of the context is needed.

The Context of 1 Corinthians

Overall, the book of Corinthians is written to answer several questions about biblical issues, while offering correction of spiritual pride and error rampant in that church. Many in the Corinthian church were overly fascinated and influenced by the culture. It seems they erred by using the spiritual gift of languages in a disorderly, unedifying fashion, while possible engaging in the popular Greek pagan practice of non-language ecstatic utterances. Though it gave a spiritual high, a sense of elevated spirituality, and a feeling of superiority in the culture and above others, Paul rebukes them because it was disorderly and absent of edification. He will argue for intelligibility and order in the worship service, since that is the prerequisite to edification, which is the goal of gathering (1 Cor. 14:12, 40).


If someone did have the legitimate first-century gift of languages, Paul is correcting the failure to translate the languages in the gathering. While some in Corinth may have manufactured the gift with ecstatic utterances, others likely had the legitimate gift. To these he gives corrective instruction on ensuring translation of the language to ensure edification.

The Context of the NT

The New Testament is absent of a teaching on the existence of Spirit-endowed private prayer language. However, we do see the existence of “tongues,” described with some detail in Acts 2:4-11. In that passage, intelligible human languages are listed (Acts 2:6-11). A natural reading of the text reveals that it is the miraculous ability to speak a previously unlearned foreign language for the purpose of exalting Christ and building up others in a foundational way during the early, first-century church. As with any interpretive issue, the less clear is to be interpreted with the help of the more clear. Thus, 1 Corinthians should be understood in light of Acts 2. The idea of a private prayer language as an endowment from the Spirit, called “tongues,” contradicts the more clear description of the gift in Acts 2.

Second, the Greek word, glossa, used both in Acts (e.g. Acts 2:4, 11; 10:46; 19:6) and 1 Corinthians 14 for tongues means either “language,” or the anatomical organ. The burden of responsibility lies with the continuationist position to demonstrate that the word means something other than an earthly, human language in 1 Corinthians 14.

The Context of Redemptive History

The language gift appears at a specific time in redemptive/salvation history for a specific reason. In Israel’s wake were centuries of nationalistic pride. She had presumed upon her pedigree and broken covenant with God. Her Messiah came, but was rejected to the utmost. In God’s sovereignty, however, he was unfolding a mystery. God would no longer center his redemptive plan on one nation with one language, but all nations and all languages (cf. Matt. 28:18-20, Rev. 7:9). So, at the birth of the church, God made it creatively clear with the miraculous gift of previously unlearned foreign languages that his new nation would be made up of the world’s people groups.


This new language gift was a sign of judgment upon Israel for failing her purpose (cf. 1 Cor. 14:21). An era of hardening had come upon her as God gave time to the nations (cf. Rom. 11:25). What better way to demonstrate that than to endow the early Christians with the ability to speak the word of God in the languages of the people whom Israel despised? The old was fading and the new was dawning. The temporary gift of languages, then, served the transitional period to make it absolutely clear what God was doing in birthing and building the church. As the other apostolic-era gifts, it served a wonderful purpose during those foundational days. But, just like many things which occur in the birth of a human are unique and not repeated, so it was with these miraculous gifts and the birth of the church. Later in the epistles, the gift of languages is never seen or mentioned.

Some continuationists have argued, “See, you cessationists have to craft this elaborate argument just to arrive at your position. If you simply read 1 Corinthians 14, the continuationist position pops right out of the text.” As every book of the Bible, 1 Corinthians was given to a particular church, dealing with particular issues, in a particular town and culture, while God was doing particular things in a particular time in redemptive history. Context is key to meaning. When we read in Alfred Lansing’s, Endurance, of Ernest Shackleton and his sailors shooting their dogs, we understand that Lansing is not prescribing lessons for dog assassination and animal control. There is a context involving Antarctica, sailing in the early 1900’s, starvation, epic voyages, and the like. So, to understand the authorial intent, it behooves the reader to dive into the contextual particulars, lest we violate the meaning of Scripture. Doing so in 1 Corinthians 14 is especially important to properly understand the text.

With that, a few responses to some of the stronger arguments in favor of the continuationist position from 1 Corinthians 14. In each, a continuationist position is given, with a cessationist response.

  1. “The gift of tongues as a prayer language is the act of speaking to God by the Spirit in prayer, just as it says in v. 2.”

“For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries” (1 Cor. 14:2).

Continuationists often hold that, as stated in v. 2, those speaking in tongues are speaking to God, not people. Tongues cannot be the miraculous ability to speak a previously unlearned foreign language to other people because Paul describes the gift as the act of speaking to God. Therefore, some sort of prayer language from the believer to God is in view.


This position clashes with the context of Paul’s correction. The discussion is not about a private prayer language, but intelligibility in the worship service. It would not make sense, for example, to say, “One who prays a private prayer language doesn’t speak to men, but to God, for no one understands him.” Why? Paul is not talking about anything private, but everything corporate; about the public gatherings.

Further, the problem happening in the Corinthian congregation was using the spiritual gift of languages/tongues with no translation. The church was spiritually proud. Individuals with the gift would speak languages miraculously, but no one would translate, which means no one understood. Consequently, the word of God was not taught and no one was edified. It was simply a spiritual fireworks show for the self-exalting benefit of the speaker.


Also, it is possible that others in the congregation were attempting to mimic the gift out of jealousy. As was popular in Greek culture then, some may have been imitating the Greek pagan practice of non-language, ecstatic utterances. However, it seems most likely that Paul is addressing is the genuine gift of languages being used without interpretation.

So what does it mean that “no one understands” and he “does not speak to men but to God”?

Since no one was interpreting the languages, the only one who could understand the languages was God. Consistent with Acts 2, individuals in Corinth spoke real languages. However, only God could understand since no one who spoke the language was present to translate. It was a mystery in that sense.

Additionally, if there were a Spirit-endowed private prayer language, we might expect Paul to say something like, “One who prays in a tongue,” in v. 2, using one of the Greek words for prayer, such as proseuchomai or deomai. However, he uses the Greek word laleo, which refers to human speech. Thus, it is not a Spirit-endowed utterance that is in view, but known, human languages.

But this brings up another issue. 

  1. “Paul does mention praying in a tongue later in v. 14, so, the continuationist position is viable.”

  “If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful” (1 Cor. 14:14).

Both Guzik and Fee argue that Paul’s point is to simply observe how things are in the act of praying Spirit-endowed utterances to God. And, in doing so, they both assert that it is perfectly fine for one’s mind to be unfruitful.” Guzik writes,

“For some, this bypassing of the understanding is undesirable. They never want to relate to God except by and through their understanding…If someone is perfectly satisfied with their ability to relate to God through their understanding, they really have no need for the gift of tongues. But if the day comes when they desire to relate to God beyond their ability to understand, they should seek God for the gift of tongues.”


This position seems to violate the plain teaching of the passage. Again, Paul is correcting abuse of the gift of languages.

First, the Greek term translated, “unfruitful,” has the idea of “useless” (Louw-Nida, 65.34). This term is never used in a positive sense within the New Testament. In fact, the term “fruitful” refers to genuine attitudes and behavior that evidence the true work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life (cf. Matt. 3:8, 14:23; Gal 5:22-23). And, we could go to Matthew 21:19 to see what our Lord things of unfruitfulness. Peter exhorts us to avoid being “useless” or “unfruitful” (same Greek word) (2 Pet. 1:8). From passages like John 15:2 and Jude 12, we see that the unfruitful person is not a Christian. Every use of the term is speaking of unbelievers, sin, or false teachers. And, we are to love the Lord our God with all our mind, not with an unfruitful, useless mind.


Paul teaches here that to pray in a way that is unintelligible is not something he wants them doing. They are to pray in a way that is understandable to them and others. Otherwise, they risk mimicking the drunken Greek oraclers and the pagans who do not know God.

From scenes in heaven, to the Temple, to the Garden of Gethsemane, to boats, and more, Scripture is full of prayers. Yet, not one of them records an occasion of a non-earthly language. They are all known human languages. Thus, Paul is not describing something he wants them doing, but correcting misuse and misunderstanding of the gift. Paul is saying, in effect, “Christians, though it might make you feel good, I don’t want you to be caught up in mindless activity in prayer. Use simple, plain language, just like every other prayer recorded in God’s word.”

  1. “The gift of tongues as a private prayer language is greatly used to draw me to God and, thus, edify me, just as it says in v. 4.”

“One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church” (1 Cor. 14:4).

Continuationists teach a variety of positions. Some, like Fee, teach that Paul corrects the use of the Spirit-endowed utterances in corporate worship (657). Gruzik argues that this is not correctional, and there is nothing wrong with the edification of self.


Keeping with the context, v. 4 is corrective in nature. Edifying self is never to be the focus of spiritual gifts. If Paul were teaching that there were such a spiritual gift to be exercised for self-edification, that would contradict everything said in the previous two chapters on spiritual gifts. In fact, Paul wrote 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 in large part precisely to correct the idea of serving oneself. It’s no coincidence that the content of chapters 12 and 13 precede that of 14.

In chapter 12, Paul taught that the purposes of spiritual gifts are: 1) to shine the light on Christ, and, 2) to build up other people in tangible ways. Or, we could say, spiritual gifts are: 1) Jesus-centered, not me-centered, and, 2) community-benefitting, not self-serving.

Paul gives additional insight on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 13 which rule out the idea of a private gift exercised for self-edification. He exhorts the church in a corrective way, explaining that spiritual gifts are to be used in love. Among other things, love “does not seek its own” (v. 5).


Furthermore, the validity of a spiritual gift is based upon falling in the category of building up others; (12:7;14:3-6, 12-13, 19, 26-28). Spiritual gifts are to put Christ in lights and be used for the common good, which is the opposite of serving myself. We are built up when others use their spiritual gifts while we are the recipients. Paul explained this idea with “the body of Christ” metaphor in chapter 12. A body part does not exist for itself (to edify self) but for the benefit of the other parts. A human lung does not exist for the lung, but to provide the body with oxygen. This rules out the possibility of a Holy Spirit-given gift or ability which is a private practice used for self-edification.

Further, Scripture delineates the gifts generally as speaking and serving gifts (1 Pet. 4:10-11). The cessationist position is consistent with 1 Peter 4:10, in that it was a speaking gift, just like exhortation is a speaking gift. The miraculous ability to speak a previously unlearned foreign language to preach Christ was a wonderful speaking gift used to greatly edify others.

 Much more could be said of 1 Corinthians 14 in favor of the cessationist position, for example, the absolute necessity that the gift is a known, human language (v. 11) and how the gift is for unbelievers, indicating that God would now include non-Jews in his redemptive plan (v. 22, consistent with Acts 2 as a spoken, human language),


Therefore, from these verses in 1 Corinthians 14, it is clear that, as in Acts 2, the gift of languages was the miraculous ability to speak an unlearned language that is known by others for the purpose of exalting Christ and building up others. It served as a loud statement at the birth and foundational time of the church to declare that God’s plan of redemption is no longer restricted to one nation, but all nations. It served as a statement of judgment by God on Israel for failing their mission to be a light to the nations. This gift ceased with the apostolic era in the first century as the New Testament church foundation was established.

  • bs

    Eric, you said “Individuals with the gift would speak languages miraculously, but no one would translate, which means no one understood.” If this is what was happening at Corinth then isn’t the problem not that there was no translation, but that there were no speakers of these real languages to hear (and understand) the “tongues”? How do vs 18-19 fit in with the view that “tongues” are real languages? Why would Paul distinguish here between “with my mind” and “in a tongue”?

    • It seems pretty clear that the phrase τῷ νοΐ μου, which is a variant by the way, means five words with my understanding than 10,000 words that no one understands. Why? In order to instruct others! It is right there in the text.

      • bs

        My question, Ed, is why is this statement in the text? It is quite understandable IF Paul is talking about ecstatic language. It does NOT make sense if he is talking about tongues as real languages in a multilingual situation (as in Acts 2). Wouldn’t he want to speak to people in their OWN language?
        Yes, there are variants … and…?

        • chrisleduc1

          Because Paul didn’t speak every gentile language, it would make sense that he would speak in a foreign language (tongue), in his life as an Apostle, more than anyone else in Corinth. However while in an assembly of believers, a local house church, they would likely all be able to speak one common language. So in that context, 5 words they all understand in a common language was way better than 10000 in a foreign language that they didn’t.

          The following verses (20-25) regarding tongues being a sign for unbelievers support the idea of the purpose being evangelistic, and hence Paul using them
          More than anyone else, whereas prophecy in ones own native tongue was for the edification of the gathered church.

          So to answer your question about the real problem being that there were none there who spoke the language – yes, that’s exactly the problem. They’re using a gift meant to reach unbelievers with a message they can understand, and they’re using it amongst believers, where nobody understands. On top of that, there is no interpreter. They’ve been reduced to a clanging cymbal because they sure aren’t being motivated by godly love.

  • Jane Hildebrand

    Excellent job! Every believer should be equipped to explain those passages as you have. Thank you.

  • Excellent post Eric! Truly excellent. Thanks for the effort and the time.

  • Ian

    It’s worth noting that pentecostalism (and therefore the charismatic movement) only began because some people started speaking in tongues around 1900. They originally thought it was real languages, based on the Bible, but learnt it was not after disastrous attempts to communicate to natives in foreign lands. Then they invented the idea of “heavenly languages” or “angelic tongues” as an alternative explanation.

    The key thing is this. Tongues is the foundation on which continuationist theology rests. Pentecostals and charismatics say that tongues are miraculous, so speaking in tongues proves that the miraculous gifts haven’t ceased. But, as Eric, Nathan, and many others have shown, what pentecostals and charismatics have is definitely not the Biblical gift of tongues. It’s simply the brain coming out with gibberish. And so the foundation is proved to be false, and the whole building falls down. And there’s 500 million people in it, if the statistics are correct.

    I was once one of those 500 million people. It was almost ten years ago that, with the Lord’s help, I realised I was wrong. I remain a convinced cessationist to this day.

    • Paul Sinclair

      I’m one of those Pentecostals you refer to. I got saved through the faithful witness of cessationalist believers and am ever grateful for them. I believe they are mistaken and walk with The Lord in the Pentecostal way Fee would refer to.

      What I liked about this Cessationalist writer was his approach. He didn’t belittle Pentecostals or deride us, he simply set out his case based on biblical arguments. While I thought his comments on tongues in the context of Israel’s rebellion against God was just brilliant, I don’t go along with his deductions at all. Nonetheless, he didn’t belittle or pah pah his fellow believers like the MacCarthys of this world do. I respect that and would suggest that is the tone we should all gun for.

      • Ian

        Paul, I too was led to the Lord by cessationists. I then became influenced by pentecostals, and joined the charismatic movement. It was only after many years and much heart-searching, that I realised I that their beliefs about spiritual gifts are wrong.

        I also respect those I disagree with. I grew in the Lord during my time as a charismatic, I continue to have many friends with charismatic beliefs, and I know that they are devout and sincere christians, and I’m sure I’d say the same about you if I knew you.

        But let me ask you this: are your spiritual gifts the same as the Biblical ones? Do people speak real languages that they haven’t learnt? You probably reject that view, so are tongues used within Biblical parameters? That is people speaking individually followed by an interpretation. Do people make prophecies that come to pass? And do people get permanently healed of diseases that can be medically verified? Looking back, all this was notable by its absence, and I’d encourage you to take a long hard look at what goes on (or does) within your movement.

        • Paul Sinclair

          Hello Ian.

          Your questions are fair. Believe me, twenty three years as a conventional pentecostal pastor and all I’ve been through and seen, I know exactly what a long hard look is!

          I regret, that I have seen some nonsense been spoken out as ‘prophecy’ over recent years and saw some daft interpretations a while back too, but I am pleased to say that I have seen tongues followed by interpretation many times, albeit with those that I thought wrong. Just as I’ve heard some great expositors, and to my continued horror recall getting a few of my own expositions wrong over the years as well. I’ve seen people healed, indisputably so too and with medical folk even commenting. I’m not saying that happens every day, just that it does happen.

          Unfortunately, there are congregations who tolerate weak words passed out as prophecies, just as there are dispensationalist churches who tolerate weak preaching. There are congregations that seldom see people get healed, just as there are Gospel preaching cessationist churches not seeing many people get saved, but lack of fruit doesn’t mean healing or salvation is not for today.

          Ultimately, we all have to go to the Word. I’ve seen bad practice in both camps, in my many years ministry I can look back and see where I’ve not always got it right either, again in both camps, but even in the early church itself folk didn’t get things right. That’s why Paul had to address them. He addressed them on preaching the gospel, standards, ethics, morality and spiritual gifts. What he didn’t do, was stay “let’s stop this, it is no longer for today.”

          In in my former dispensationalist church I recall people clearly saying The Lord had led them to preach on a certain text or evangelise in a certain area etc., yet say they didn’t believe prophecy wasn’t for today. In other words, it isn’t even clear cut between both camps. I believe there are people who are clearly led by The Holy Spirit and speak words of knowledge etc. in your camp, they just don’t admit to or realise it. Who cares? What matters is they love The Lord and walk with him.

          I’m sorry for your experience, I can relate, I just as that you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. People really do get healed, there really are spiritual gifts, nowhere does it suggest these stopped. However, wherever the gospel is preached I rejoice, so for your camp, praise God!

          • Lynn B.

            “I recall people clearly saying The Lord had led them to preach on a
            certain text or evangelize in a certain area etc., yet say they didn’t
            believe prophecy wasn’t for today.”

            I agree that cessationists use contradictory language when it comes to the Holy Spirit’s leading. How does God lead us today would be a good Cripplegate topic.

          • chrisleduc1

            “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” Rom 8:14

            But in all seriousness, there seems to be a misunderstanding about what cessationism is.

            Basically it’s that God no longer works in the exact same way in the church today as He did during the apostolic church. Example – He no longer gives Apostles. From there we believe that He no longer gives the miraculous gifts or gifts of revelation (which is what tongues were). Does He still heal people? Absolutely! Does He endow people with a gift that is exercised like Peter and Paul in Acts? No. But we are called to lay hands on people and pray for them, and He heals as He wills. Does anyone have the NT gift that heals people through ones own shadow? No. That gift is gone. It was a sign.

            If one wants to say they have the “word of wisdom” they’ll need to go to the NT and demonstrate first and foremost from the Scriptures what that gift was, and then they can make the case that they do the exact same thing. Same goes for any other gift…

          • chrisleduc1

            These 2 posts may help clarify some misunderstanding about what cessationism actually is:



          • Paul Sinclair

            Thanks Chris, but respectfully, one could use the same argument for the fruit of the Holy Spirit not being for today, or standards, morals, ethics etc. The New Testament stands as a whole, it isn’t really our place to pick and choose what is for today and what isn’t. Most cessationists I know well are great folk, I really like them, but they do have this hermoneutical problem of needing to pick and choose what is for today and what is not, without anywhere in the New Testament clearly saying what is now stopped. In my camp, for sure we get it wrong in places and some of what I see on TV and online makes me cringe, but at least we are not saying X part of the New Testament is not for today, Y part is, Z part isn’t and so on. It is not our place to pick and choose what we can take and what we can leave.

            I would personally agree that there is no clear case for Apostles and Prophets continuing, they do seem to vanish, but even there I can’t be categoric.

          • chrisleduc1

            Paul, what are the biblical qualifications for one to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ? If someone claimed today to be an Apostle of Jesus Christ, what does Scripture say are the criteria, so that we can examine their claim?

          • Paul Sinclair

            Personally, as I said, I don’t see a clear case for a continuous ministry of Apostle, but I couldn’t say from the New Testament they had categorically ceased forever.

            To answer your question, an Apostle in the bible is a messenger and in the New Testament they would teach and preach the gospel, with signs and wonders following. If, for example in an area under ISIS control, someone was preaching the gospel, casting out demons, being used to heal the sick and rapidly building churches, I’d suggest that person was an Apostle. If you disagreed, what difference does it make? What matters is the gospel is being preached, churches are rapidly growing and so on. Frankly, I don’t think that man would care whether we recognised him as this or that, he’d be too busy getting on with the job.

          • chrisleduc1

            Paul you seem to be taking in circles here..

            You said, “What he didn’t do, was stay ‘let’s stop this, it is no longer for today.'”

            Right, because he was writing in his own time which was in fact the apostolic era, and if he indicated more specifically the the gifts would cease, and when, it would totally destroy the doctrine of imminece. i.e. no need to be ready for His return at any moment, because first the gifts have to cease…

            “I believe there are people who are clearly led by The Holy Spirit and speak words of knowledge etc. in your camp, they just don’t admit to or realise it.”

            Ok, so can you demonstrate from the Scriptures, exactly what gift you are referring to, and how to identify it? If you are claiming that this is a spiritual gift listed in the NT, and that it is still being given today, then we simply need to go the Scriptures, see exactly what the gift is, and then compare that to what we see today. You repeatedly use the phrase “a clear case” and it appears that you want your doctrines based on what you deem to be a clear case of X, so if you are asserting that what is manifesting today, I would think you can make a clear case from Scripture about what the gift is and is not, and then apply that to today’s manifestation.

            “The New Testament stands as a whole, it isn’t really our place to pick and choose what is for today and what isn’t.”

            Ok, so if I am understanding you correctly, you are saying that we should just assume that everything we see happening is supposed to happen today as well? Unless we have a clear case otherwise? Or do we need a clear case that it is supposed to continue. What exactly does it mean that “it isn’t really our place to pick and choose what is for today and what isn’t”?

            “Most cessationists I know … have this hermoneutical problem of needing to pick and choose what is for today and what is not, without anywhere in the New Testament clearly saying what is now stopped.”

            You seem to be saying that the the cessationists are wrong, because there is not clear case for saying something has or will stop? So, we should presuppose that things will continue, without a clear case to the contrary?

            “It is not our place to pick and choose what we can take and what we can leave.”

            Again, does this mean we should presuppose everything continues just the same?

            “I would personally agree that there is no clear case for Apostles and Prophets continuing, they do seem to vanish, but even there I can’t be categoric.”

            Ok, so Im confused. Do we need a clear case that they continue? I thought we just presuppose that they continue?

            Do we need a clear case to say they continue or cease, or…? Please explain?

            “Personally, as I said, I don’t see a clear case for a continuous ministry of Apostle,”

            Again, so what? Do you need a clear case, or is continuation a presupposition?

            “To answer your question, an Apostle in the bible is a messenger and in the New Testament they would teach and preach the gospel, with signs and wonders following.”

            Is that it? So anyone who can do signs and wonders and claims to be an Apostle should be taken as one?

            So is he prophecy authoritative? Do you have a clear case that his prophecy is authoritative for all believers today? Or a clear case that it is not?

            Can he write Scripture? Do you have a clear case that the canon is closed? Or open?

            What if he brings “new” revelation?

            Acts 8 recounts that when the Apostles come from Jerusalem to Samaria, and when they laid hands on those who believed, they received the Holy Spirit.

            So is there a clear case that today, things should be different? If we presuppose that things are to continue as they were, shouldn’t all new believers require an Apostle to lay hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit? 8:15 is clear that these new believers hadnt received the Sprit yet…

            We see something similar but different with Corneliusin Acts 10. The Holy Spirit causes Cornelius to speak in tongues at his conversion when he receives the Holy Spirit. Since there is no clear case (that I am way of) shouldn’t all new believers receive the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues, as the gospel is preached? Is there a clear case that that has ceased? Or is that only if an Apostle is preaching? And would that then become a test for one claiming to be an Apostle – that during a gospel presentation the Holy Spirit should be received and the new believer should speak in tongues?

            Do you know of people who today can heal serious diseases and deon possessions just by having people go through their shadows? That’s what happened with Paul and Peter, so if I understand you correctly, that should be happening today, because you are not aware of a clear case of that ceasing in Scripture? And that ALL who were brought were being healed. Can you point me to that?

            Help me understand here what you are saying. You’ve stated that there is no clear case things continue. You’ve stated there is no clear case things cease. So what do we presuppose? Does that match reality today? How exactly are you defining these gifts that you say you see happening today, and what Scriptures are you basing this off of?

          • Paul Sinclair

            To answer each and every question you ask me to answer would see us hijack Eric’s thread. I like Lynn B’s approach, where she suggested a new topic for a later date.

            I will say, briefly, that the New Testament doesn’t state that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the standards taught for how we should live, prayer, intercession, worship, evangelism, nor the fruit of The Holy Spirit were exclusively for the period prior to the bible being published.

          • chrisleduc1

            Eric is writing this article, because its an important topic, and there is much confusion and many questions among many sincere brethren. I doubt Eric would have a problem with you answering my questions, since you represent the real-deal pastor who believes what we dont and have been in the field many years, and seem very king and gracious in your replies. I would speculate that he’d love to have you reply. Maybe he can say one way or the other and if he says OK, you could bless the many who are reading this.

          • Paul Sinclair

            When you call me the ‘real-deal pastor’ do you mean ‘bargain-basement pastor’? 🙂

          • chrisleduc1

            Yea, I shy away from the references to the “Dollar Store” and “99 Cent Store” because not everyone knows what they are… 🙂

            In all seriousness, I simply mean that unlike many who are brothers and sisters, kind of going with what they are taught, you are teaching, dealing with the text on a regular basis, peaching, and having to lead. You are not an arm-chair quarterback, who’s not actually been preaching and teaching for an extended period of time. I figured you knew that and were just jesting with me, but figured I’d clarify, just to make sure 🙂

          • Lynn B.

            Thanks, but that doesn’t answer my question. I’d ask how do you believe the Holy Spirit leads us today but that would be off topic. I would add only that I have been guilty of exactly what Paul suggests and while I believe my understanding has been clarified I still struggle in the application and/or truly changing my thinking on the matter. So my suggestion remains, how God lead us today would be a good
            Cripplegate topic. In other words, what does it mean to be “led by the Spirit of God?”

          • Ed

            I agree the is often a disconnect in what some cessationists say, as opposed to what they claim to believe. A good treatment of that subject can be found in Garry Friesen’s “Decision Making and the Will of God”. As one coming out of the charismatic movement it was a huge help.

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  • Ed

    My understanding from these two articles is that tongues was a gift given by the Spirit to an individual to speak an earthly human language he had not previously had the ability to speak. Last week he could not, but today he can, because the Spirit has endowed him with the gift. That’s pretty much how I see it. What then of teaching? Is it in a different category? All the gifts are listed as “spiritual”, with no distinctions made, apart from importance, or prominence. Would one who has the gift of teaching be one who couldn’t teach last week, but the Spirit has endowed him with this particular gift, and now he teaches? What if an unbeliever, who is dynamic and effective in the grade 5 classroom becomes a believer. I expect he’d do well teaching Sunday School. Would we call that the gift of teaching? It was something he did before being filled with the Spirit. Or is it a natural talent, different from a spiritual gift? Do we function in the church today using talents in given areas, or are these genuine spiritual gifting? I’m asking because I’m not sure why there seems to be differentiations made between the various gifts. I speak as a cessationist who spent many years in the Charismatic movement

    • Jane Hildebrand

      Ed, the purpose and gift of tongues (languages) was given so that the gospel could be spread to all nations. Here are some quotes from Augustine (354-430) that may help you.

      “In the earliest times the holy Spirit was falling upon those who believe and was given the ability to speak in languages, which they had not previously learned, even as the Spirit was giving them utterance. These were signs adapted for the time. For it was in this manner necessary that the holy Spirit to be shown in all the languages which the Gospel of God was about to run around all the earth through all the languages. That it is to be a sign and has passed.

      Why then does the holy Spirit not appear now in all languages? On the contrary He does appear in all the languages. For at that time the Church was not yet spread out through the circle of lands, that the organs of Christ were speaking in all the nations. Then it was filled-up into one, with respect to which it was being proclaimed in every one of them. Now the entire body of Christ is speaking in all the languages.” (As translated by Charles Sullivan. MPL Vol. 37 Augustine. Enarratio in Psalmum. CXLVII:19 (147:19) Col. 1929)

    • Lynn B.

      Ed: Your question about the difference between spiritual gifts and natural talents and the use of both within the church is excellent and I hope Eric responds.

      • Ed

        This response is to Jane. I saw your response to mine on my email, but don’t see it in this thread, so I’m placing it here. I hope you find it. I’m in agreement with what you wrote, and with what Augustine wrote. That really wasn’t my question, though. I’m asking if there is a fundamental difference between gifts such as tongues and teaching, the examples I used. Tongues was a gift given by the Spirit enabling the believer to do something he was not previously able to do. Was teaching given in the same way to a believer who was not previously able to teach, but suddenly could because of the gift he’d been given? There doesn’t seem to be any differentiation in the gifts as listed – all are referred to as “spiritual”. So I’m asking – is what we understand as the gift of teaching today exactly that, a gift given to one who previously could not teach, but now can, or has that gift also ceased, and what we now utilize are talents, inherent in the individual, like the teacher I mentioned in my initial question? If anyone else has any input on this, I’d appreciate it.

        • Lynn B.

          Blessed Sunday Morning to you Ed! I’ve heard several different takes on spiritual gifts over the years and I think it’s an area not clearly understood by many, myself included. Gifts are not talents and they may or may not run on parallel tracks. One of the most helpful definitions I’ve heard for spiritual gifts is that they are the supernatural enablement to do what God calls you to do in the church. At least one of the great historical preachers read his sermons in a monotone (was that Edwards, I can’t remember just now). We would be prone to say he was not gifted, but maybe not talented but very gifted would be more accurate. Conversely, an unbeliever can be a talented teacher but not gifted by the Holy Spirit.

          I long thought I knew my gifts based upon an assortment of tests only to have a pastor tell me he believes my gifts are something completely different… that gift is not consistent with my talents and very much requires the enablement of the Spirit… and walking in the flesh and the strength of my talents actually squelches the gift… confused? Me too! I’m not sure we need to define our gifts so much as we need to know that we are gifted to serve the Church.

          John MacArthur says the gifts listed in scripture are categories more than unique gifts (and that the lists may not be all inclusive)… I’ve heard that before but would not have remembered it had I not just now scanned over this sermon.

          The cessationist believes the sign gifts ceased with the completion of the Cannon of Scripture. One of the unique things about those gifts is that they were clearly/visibly/audibly evident whereas the others are “intangible.” Not only are they not clearly evident to our senses but I’m not aware of any place where scripture plainly defines the meaning of the terms leaving them to interpretation.

          This article addresses your question directly about gifts vs. talents and gifts being given at conversion.

          • Ed

            I’m with you on the differences between talents and gifts, but maybe I’m still not getting to the crux of what I’m trying to describe. Let me put it this way. Is it possible that all of the spiritual gifts per se have ceased now that the church is established? Take a seemingly mundane “gift” of administration. I know of lots of church administrators. None of them were like me, befuddled by columns of numbers and the balancing of schedules – they all had the knack from earlier. Are there any like me who suddenly see with clarity spread sheets, and can organize with precision where they never could before, in the same way as someone spoke a foreign language, never having studied it? Maybe I’m still not clear – in a bit of a rush this morning.

          • Jane Hildebrand

            Ed, I believe one of the problems we have in the church is to over think the gifts vs. the Giver. What I mean is, of course God gives believers and unbelievers talents and abilities in this world. That itself is a mercy. But the very fact our lives and our talents are now transformed for His glory is in itself miraculous and will certainly not cease until the church is complete.

            Take your example of administration; Yes, people may “have a knack” from earlier, but the difference is that if it done with a deep gratitude and love for God with the purpose of serving others, that is a gift from God. Whether or not God allows a person extra clarity to perform a task is secondary to the manner in which they do it, meaning for God’s honor which will be manifest in how they work and relate to others.

            Sadly, I admit it is often hard these days to distinguish a talent from a gift. And I believe one of the reasons for that is because we do much in our power and not in the Spirit. We work much and pray little. We talk often of earthly things and little of our savior. I wish that were different.

        • Jane Hildebrand

          Yes, sorry Ed, I deleted my comment because I felt I had misread your question.

          I believe Lynn answered your question well. I would just add that yes, I do believe the sign gifts were unique in that they were given for a specific purpose and duration to establish the gospel and confirm the message, as Augustine and others have testified to.

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  • Ed

    Just remembered something I read a while back on this site, not in an article, but in a comment relating to an article along these lines. The commenter pointed out that if these were in fact angelic languages, they should all be the same. The only reason there are many earthly languages is because of sin and rebellion on man’s part. In heaven, there would be no need for such a thing.