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Praying in the Spirit: That Glorious Day When Tongues are Not Needed: Until Then … Part 1

In light of I Corinthians 12:28 (“And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues” NASB), it appears that displays of healing or miracle-working power do not certify one as an apostle and are not limited to the office of apostleship. This verse makes it clear that there were in the Church apostles, workers of miracles, those having gifts of healings, and those with gifts of tongues. No doubt miracles occurred under Paul’s ministry, but he does not consider them important signs of apostleship or limited only to apostles. After listing many of his trials and persecutions he writes, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30). For Paul, there were greater indicators of apostleship than “signs, wonders and miracles.”

Many men and women whom the Church weakly and hesitantly sends out with the word of salvation should be boldly sent out as apostles and prophets of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let them shout it from the rooftops; let them proclaim His goodness throughout the earth; let their voices of light pierce the darkness!

Other verses used to support the argument that signs mark the apostles are those in Acts 8, 10, and 19 that describe the episodes where, through the apostles, new converts receive the Holy Spirit, prophesy, and speak in other tongues. Since Luke records this happening only under the apostles’ direction, cessationists feel that is an indication that tongues were solely part of the early Church. But we must remember that Luke’s history is so devoted to the Twelve and Paul that his book became known as “The Acts of the Apostles.” It is not surprising that accounts of the early church leaders—the apostles—are linked to the expansion of the Church and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit upon each new group of believers

Also, Luke records instances of signs and wonders when apostles were not present. When Philip evangelized Samaria, God wrought “great signs and miracles” (Acts 8:13). Only after this did the apostles visit Samaria. Philip was also instrumental in the eunuch’s Spirit baptism (Acts 8:30-39; Bruce, Acts p. 190). Elsewhere in Acts 9 an unheard of Christian by the name of Ananias laid hands on Saul of Tarsus (Paul) and he was filled with the Holy Spirit (v.17). In Acts 8 and 9 we see that signs and wonders are not limited to apostleship, and the bestowal of the Spirit (Spirit baptism) is not limited to the apostolic ministry. The fact that Luke’s history is limited to the apostles and their contemporaries—Acts is a history of that time by an author of that time-does not automatically imply that the signs stopped there.

After “proving” that tongues were limited to the ministry of the apostles, the cessationist now argues that the office of apostle ceased. Seven scripture passages are referenced for this purpose.

First is Ephesians 2:20—“[You are] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” The argument, as Stott states it, is that “once the foundation of a building is laid and the superstructure is being built, the foundation cannot be laid again” (pp. 100-101). C. R. Smith writes, “The church Jesus is building was founded on the apostles. There is no need for apostles today unless the church is to be refounded—and if so, another cornerstone should be required!” (p.72).

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Category: Spirit, Spring 2000

About the Author: Robert W. Graves, M. A. (Literary Studies, Georgia State University), is the co-founder and president of The Foundation for Pentecostal Scholarship, Inc., a non-profit organization supporting Pentecostal scholarship through research grants. He is a Christian educator and a former faculty member of Southwestern Assemblies of God College in Waxahachie, Texas, and Kennesaw State University (adjunct). He edited and contributed to Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture and is the author of Increasing Your Theological Vocabulary, Praying in the Spirit (1987 and Second Edition, 2017) and The Gospel According to Angels (Chosen Books, 1998).

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