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Praying in the Spirit: That Glorious Day When Tongues are Not Needed: Until Then … Part 2

Beyond the theological and philosophical arguments against the temporal use of now are the grammatical arguments. Greek scholars enumerate several reasons why the virtues of faith and hope cannot be separated from love.

  1. According to Lenski, the position of the verb “remain” stresses application to all three virtues in the triad (p. 571).
  2. Robertson and Plummer state that Paul’s use of the singular verb with the three subjects argues for the durability of all three virtues (p. 300; Edwards, p.354).
  3. The construction of the sentence demands that, if faith and hope be construed as temporary, love be construed as temporary also (Lenski, p. 572).
  4. Faith, hope, and love are inseparably bound by Paul’s “these three” construction (Lenski, p.573; Edwards, p.354).
  5. Goudge notes that the now of verse 13 is a different Greek word than the definitely temporal now’s of verse 12 (p.121).

It should also be observed that Paul’s point in verse 13 is to contrast the three permanent virtues and the three temporary gifts. To make two of the virtues also temporary seems to defeat the very purpose of Paul’s comparison.

To eliminate faith and hope in heaven is to eliminate reasons for joy. It is more likely that our joys in heaven will multiply as further faith and hopes are continuously fulfilled from glory to glory throughout eternity:

“For faith will still find scope in the ever-deepening mysteries of the unfathomable wisdom of God, and hope will still look onward with assurance to some fresh fulfillment of God’s redemptive purpose” (Abingdon Bible Commentary, p.1188).

Ultimately, 1 Corinthians 13 :8-1 3 provides scriptural support for charismatic continuity and knocks down all theories that would lock any of God’s gifts out of the twentieth century. Ironically, when everyone agrees with this … when “we all reach unity in the faith,” tongues will have ceased (Ephesians 4:11-13)!

Other cessationists who consider the completed New Testament the cessation factor take up an issue different from the fulfilling of I Corinthians 13:8-13. It is a theological issue of immense proportion. For these, the continued use of revelatory gifts, producing “fresh revelations,” infringes upon the sufficiency and finality of Scripture.

Pentecostal-charismatic scholars have yet to answer this charge thoroughly. Perhaps it is because the objection seems so outrageously misplaced, given the high view of Scripture the great majority of Pentecostals hold.

Since Scripture says nothing explicit about the cessation of the charismata (except 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, which decrees them until Kingdom come), an extrabiblical argument must be posited. Thus, for some of the cessationists listed in the AD 90-98 column of Figure 2, the cessation of the charismata often becomes an argument based upon the following syllogism: Extrabiblical revelations undermine the sufficiency of Scripture; prophecy and tongues produce extrabiblical revelations; therefore, prophecy and tongues undermine the sufficiency of Scripture.

There is, of course, good reason why Paul and other New Testament writers did not mention tongues in the other epistles. They did not mention tongues for the same reason that they did not mention any other topic that was not mentioned!

As much as the cessationists have tried to make the major premise self-evident, it is not. The key term, unfortunately, is the most nebulous—sufficiency. Sufficient for what? The obvious, most general answer is that it is sufficient for what it was given. The basic error of the cessationist is lumping the two—inscripturated revelation and revelatory charismata—into the same category on the assumption that they were given for the same purpose. There is no scriptural or logical reason for doing this.

A major error of the cessationists is that they focus on the source and authority of the charismata and ignore their function. Since the Scriptures and the charismata have the same source, so the argument goes, they have the same authority; therefore, the charismata undermine the sufficiency and finality of the Scriptures. But prophecies, when made subject to Scripture, do not derogate the authority of Scripture. Rather, they exalt it.

If a prophecy is from God, it is indeed authoritative; but though all such prophecies have the same origin, it doesn’t follow that they have the same function. One function of Scripture is its service as The Standard. Since it alone serves as The Standard, prophetic utterances can neither attain its glory nor undermine its supremacy. All prophetic utterances are subject to its blazing light. If they survive, they are gold; if not, they are dross and are rejected by the Word-governed Body of Christ. Pentecostals and charismatics indeed shout sola scriptura—and louder than most.

Scripture is sufficient for what it was given; Scripture is final, not to be contradicted or overridden by local prophetic utterances, which are, along with all charismata, given “to each one … for the common good… All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Corinthians 12:7, 11).

The Silence of Tongues in the New Testament

Another cessationist proof that tongues have ceased is seen in the absence of reference to the gift in later New Testament books. If the gift had any permanent validity, certainly Paul would have mentioned it, so it is argued (John Williams, p.210). “After Acts, only one book mentions tongues—and as a problem” (Flynn, p. 188). MacArthur states the cessationists’ argument well:

Tongues are mentioned only in the earliest books of the New Testament. First Corinthians is the only epistle where tongues are even mentioned. Paul wrote at least twelve other epistles and never mentioned tongues again. Peter never mentioned tongues; James never mentioned tongues; John never mentioned tongues. Neither did Jude. Tongues appeared briefly in the early days of the church as the new word of God was being spread and the church was being established. But once this occurred, tongues were gone. They stopped.

(p.169)

Unger points out that tongues appear only in the early lists of the spiritual gifts, proving that they had ceased by the time the later lists were written (New, pp. 81-82). Additionally, it is argued that the inability of Paul to heal Timothy and Trophimus (1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:20) is proof that the miraculous “sign” gifts had ceased (Schutz, p.29; Sir Anderson, pp. 19-20).

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Category: Spirit, Summer 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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