Thursday, May 10, 2012

On the Ceasing of Tongues

I try to avoid commenting on my Lutheran Satire videos on YouTube. There are two reasons for this:

1. YouTube comments have a character limit, which makes discussing theology rather difficult.
2. YouTube comments don't show up in order, so it's very difficult to keep track of a conversation.

By and large, this isn't a problem, since there isn't much gold in the comments section, either way.  Most of the supportive comments are not much more than cheer-leading, which, don't get me wrong, I greatly appreciate. And negative comments generally sound like the ramblings of wild haired anabaptists in straight jackets. So there's not much point in responding anyway.

But every once in a while, someone posts a comment that I believe deserves a bit of a thoughtful response.  And I think these words, from YouTube user Ph33rsPhun certainly do:

Just referring to the debates aspect of saying 1 Corinthians 13:8 has already occurred, because knowledge is also a part of what is going to pass away in 13:8. I suspect Paul was saying that when Christ comes again, prophesies, knowledge and tongues will pass away, but Love will not pass away. It seems quite a stretch to insert that tongues has passed away but knowledge has not. Note: I'm not defending the theology of speaking in tongues, just addressing the scriptural argument.

A stretch you say, good friend? A STRETCH?!?!?!?!?! Let me assure you, there's not a drop of Reed Richards' cosmically radiated DNA up in this Lutheran exegetical house. Which I shall prove to you. So let's break down some 1 Corinthians 13.

First off, I'm not asserting that tongues have passed away but knowledge has not.  I'm asserting that they both have.

Love never ends.  As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

If you look at the full context of chapters 12-14, it's clear that the knowledge Paul refers to here is the same direct revelation, stuff-you-only-know-about-God-because-He-told-You-directly-kind-of-knowledge that he mentions in chapter 12, when he lists off the various charismatic gifts, saying:

For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.

So when Paul states in 13:8 that prophecy, tongues and knowledge will cease, he's using these three terms to encompass all the charismatic gifts.  

And not only does Paul tell us that these charismatic gifts will one day be gone. He also tells us when they'll be gone, saying:

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 

This is perhaps a minor point, but I would argue, as Dr. Douglas Judisch has before me, that the Greek words here translated as perfect and partial would be better translated as complete and incomplete. So, as Paul tells the Corinthians, tongues and all the other charismatic gifts are taking place in this incomplete era, but they will cease to take place in the complete era.  So what is the complete thing?  When does this complete era begin?

Many, such as Ph33rsPhun, seem to be under the impression that this complete thing is the return of Christ on the last day and that the complete era is when all believers are taken into His kingdom.  It's understandable how one would draw that conclusion, but it's still wrong.  Here's why:

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

So, when this complete thing arrives, prophecy, tongues and knowledge will be gone, but faith, hope and love will still be hanging around.

Will there be love in the heavenly kingdom?  You betcha.

But will there be faith and hope?  Heck no.  Because faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).

And when Jesus is seen, faith and hope give way to sight.  This is, after all, why those unbelievers who want to turn to Christ on the Last Day will find that it's too late.  Faith and hope in a Jesus who is standing right in front of you, in all His glorified glory, ain't no faith or hope at all.

So the charismatic gifts will cease before Christ's return, which is something that Zechariah also points out, stating in chapter 13 (how fitting!) of his book that, one day, you will be able to spot a false prophet simply by his claim to be a prophet, a claim he will still have time to repent of.  Which wouldn't be possible on the last day.

So, then, what is this complete thing?

It's the completion, the fulness of apostolic revelation.  In other words, it's the New Testament.

It's important to remember that, when Paul writes these words, not all of the New Testament has been written.  And even that which has been was not widely available (or available at all) to most Christians.  So, if a congregation wanted to know what to believe about the resurrection, but the explicit teachings of 1 Corinthians 15 hadn't been written yet, what were they to do?  Or if a bunch of divorce happy pagan converts needed to be rebuked for their sin, but their congregation didn't have access to Christ's words in Matthew, how did God solve that problem?  When those Christians looked in a mirror and couldn't see a clear picture of what they were to be and to believe, how did God address that incomplete reflection they were seeing?

Through the charismatic gifts.  

So God would give people the gift of tongues, where He put His Word directly into people's mouths.  And He would give others the ability to interpret those tongues so that the assembly could understand what God was saying and believe it.  Likewise, God gave the gift of prophecy, of direct revelation, so that those who received it could speak it to the Church and the Church could know better and more clearly who God was.  That's why Paul says, in chapter 14, that the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.  And God also gave the gift of testing the Spirits so that the Church would not be deceived by those who would falsely prophesy.  And surrounding all of this, God gave the gifts of healing on command and miracles, so that doubters would see that the proclamation coming from those who possessed these others gifts should be heeded.

So God gave the charismatic gifts to fill in the blank spots until He permanently filled in those spots with the writings of the Apostles.  As Paul himself said about these charismatic gifts, when I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  So, in other words, these charismatic gifts were for the Church in her infancy stage.  They were milk.  But now that the Church has grown up, through receiving the fulness of the Scriptures, we have moved on to meat.  Quite simply, we have the Bible.  We no longer need the charismatic gifts.  And that's why they have ceased.

And history backs up this interpretation.  Because, after the death of the apostles, there were no claims to the charismatic gifts within the orthodox Christian community.  After approximately 100 AD, there simply has been no charismatic presence in the Christian Church, Sacraments-denying early 20th century holiness weirdos notwithstanding.

So, in summary, the Bible said that the charismatic gifts would go away when the Scriptures were fully written.  And when that happened, the charismatic gifts did exactly that.  Their purpose disappeared and the gifts disappeared with it.  And those who claim to have these gifts today are either deceived or lying.


  1. "After approximately 100 AD, there simply has been no charismatic presence in the Christian Church"

    By Charismatic, you mean exclusively tongues, right?

  2. Well, I mean that there hasn't been a kind of institutional presence of tongues, prophecy, healing on command, etc...

    There have been individuals who've claimed some of these things here or there. But in the corporate sense that we see in first century Christianity, and then what we see claimed among modern Pentecostals and Charismatics, it's just not present after the death of the apostles.

  3. The latter two, especially that last one, don't seem to have ceased.

    Although I'd hate to refer to any wonder as "on command".

  4. When I say "healing on command," I'm not talking about miraculous healing, which certainly does continue to happen today and always has every now and then, when God so wills it. By "healing on command," I mean where someone can walk up to another person, and with a touch or a word, take away diseases, restore to life, etc... as we see Jesus and the Apostles do. Who would you say has this gift today?

    As for prophecy, I'm talking about God giving direct revelation to individuals. Where would you say that this is happening now?

  5. Thanks for this blog post, I was intrigued by the cartoons statement that charismata had ceased, since I knew of no Scriptural evidence to say such and only Rationalistic arguments in support of cessationism.

    I am interested in some clarification on one of your assumptions though.

    You seem to argue that the charismata’s purpose was to fill in the gaps until all of canon could be written, especially in places where only one or two epistles might be found. Is that a correct assessment of what you’ve said?

    If that is so, when did the charismata cease? As of the end of the writing of the Apocalypse? At the recognition and wide dissemination of the complete canon? Or what about places like South India in the 2nd or 3rd century where they only had a copy of Matthew which may have made its way there with Matthew? By your argument, would the charismata still be operative there because those Christians did not have access to the complete canon?

  6. Also, I think your assertion that there has been no institutional presence of the charismata since 100AD is flawed.

    The Didache, the close of your suggested timeline, goes on positively and negatively about the treatment of prophets and their role in the Divine Service. The Shepherd of Hermas, after your date, purports to be a prophetic vision. Justin Martyr argued the validity of Christianity over and against Judaism because of the ongoing reality of the prophetic charismata in the Church. 100 years later Origen testified similarly. Irenaeus blamed the false Montanistic prophecy for driving true prophecy from the church in His day. Though shortly after that, about 5-10% of Cyprian's letters speak of prophecy through visions, etc. within his own life and that of his school. Then, Eusebius asserts that "the prophetic gift must continue in the whole Church until the final coming, as the apostle insists." Augustine also speaks both positively and negatively of prophetic visions as though they are an ongoing thing needing testing.

    And later, many of Luther's own circle, including Amsdorf, asserted that Luther possessed many of the charismata. While Luther himself, and factions on all sides of the Reformation, made common reference to accepted prophesies in their day and the last hundred or so years. While Luther, (as all the Fathers before him) railed against false prophets, he (and they) also asserted the validity of prophecy and the necessity to test it.

    Hence, I would suggest you have a flawed premise.

  7. Sorry, it was Thomas who likely brought Matthew to India. My bad.

  8. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

    "So, when this complete thing arrives, prophecy, tongues and knowledge will be gone, but faith, hope and love will still be hanging around."

    It appears to me that verse 13 is in present tense, so it would refer to the time in which Paul is writing, not to the time of completion. Look at verse 12:
    12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
    He contrasts "now", the incomplete, with "then", the complete. Therefore verse 13, which speaks of "now", must also be referring to the incomplete, not the complete era. [Bleh, I need more coffee.]

  9. Unknown,

    I'd also argue, based on passages from Acts, that one only received the charismatic gifts through the laying on of the apostles' hands. So once the apostles are dead, no one else gives the gifts because there is no one left to give them. But what I'm saying is not my own assertion. All of this comes from Douglas Judisch's "An Evaluation of Claims to the Charismatic Gifts." I'd highly recommend it if you want to know more about the position I'm espousing. It's a bit hard to find, so if you can't get your hands on a copy, email me and I'll see if I can help you out.

    As far as your examples of references to tongues, I'd be interested in taking a look at those, especially the Reformation era ones. Do you have specific citations of those?


  10. "As for prophecy, I'm talking about God giving direct revelation to individuals. Where would you say that this is happening now?"

    If we define prophecy as a revelation from God, then I'd say anyone who encounter's God's uncreated presence is a prophet. Anyone who preaches the Gospel is a prophet, of course. And anyone who takes the Eucharist is a prophet. All those things are direct, in my book.

  11. Pastor,

    I'm sorry to be commenting again. A friend told me you had posted new Satire videos, and as I mentioned last time I commented, I'm a big fan of that series. However, I have two big concerns about your video/post.

    The first is your assertion that Jesus no longer provides His Church with workers who are gifted in regards to their use of language. The second is your non-Christological interpretation of Zechariah 13.

    Origen, Jerome, Cyril and Methodius, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther. All those men are seminal figures within “the Orthodox Christian World” and had the gift of tongues. The Charismatics do not have the gift of tongues and have no idea what it is. They're like some kids who heard a cool movie talk about getting hammered, so they go out to the shed and start smashing hammers into each other's faces. That's the Charismatic movement.

    Don't let their insanity make you stand contrary to 1st Corinthians 14:39. But, if you want to have temporary commands about Church order, that's great! That's exactly how many church bodies become fine with the ordination of women and homosexuality.

    Satan's best use of heresy is getting its opponents to overreact and create their own.

    You are claiming there was a magic time of unicorns and fairy tales where God was giving charismatic gifts from congregation to congregation and would, “put His word directly in people's mouths.” If Paul is saying that, then he contradicts himself by saying, “at this exact time right now, we see through a mirror in riddles, but then face to face, i..e. as He did to Moses in the wilderness.” If God was speaking directly to people, “His word directly in people's mouths,” then they were currently “face to face,” since that's what “face to face” means in the Bible, as defined by Moses.

    Also, if God was simply answering each congregation's questions, why were they writing to letters to the Apostles asking questions? If they were currently living in Charismatic Disney World, why did the Church meet in Jerusalem to have a Council in Acts 15?

    The Holy Spirit gave the Church careful instructions about the proper use of languages, interpretation, and even prophecy. In 1St Corinthians 12, 13, and 14 the Holy Spirit teaches the Church of Christ how to communicate. The Charismatics are be wrong because what they do is the opposite of the Holy Spirit's doctrine, which is Christ's, especially ch. 14, just like women's ordination is also the opposite of ch. 14.

  12. II.
    Zechariah 13 is a prophecy about the death of Christ. The entire chapter is about "that day." The day idols are cut off and a fountain opened to cleanse from sin and uncleanness.

    Apparently Dr. Judisch, and yes I know he was a notable professor at CTS, thinks the day we are cleansed from sin was day about seven decades after Jesus was crucified. That's fine, I guess. He can say whatever he wants, but if I'm ever in a church and the pastor preaches that, I'm walking right out.

    "That day" is the day God His Father pierced Jesus as though He was us, as if He was a liar. The day His mother Israel pierced Him as though He spoke lies in the name of God the Father, as all the accusations in John 8 indicate.

    The day of the crucifixion is the day of Christ The Prophet's shame, and we should be ashamed when we preach about it, for it is our death and our sin which was pierced.

    Christ on the cross was not wearing the cloak of Elijah, fire from heaven and a slaughter of heathens, but instead He said, "I am the new Adam, for I am your Joseph who was sold to feed you with the grain of my body."

    And if it seems crazy to think Zechariah is prophesying about Jesus, then let's note that the same "prophet who will be ashamed" has wounds "received while in the house of his friends." What a profound statement! We shouldn't be asking, “could this maybe be Jesus?” But, “is He talking about the house/temple of His body, the house/palace of Pilate, the house/temple of Israel, the house of the world, or all of these?” The house of friends should especially sing Jesus to us this week as we read John 15, "No longer do I call you slaves but friends."

    Or if it still seems to remarkable, then why does verse 7 have God (the Father) summon righteous punishment against The Man who dwells with Him? I only know one man who stands next to the Lord of Hosts.

    But if anyone is totally contentious about this Christological interpretation, Jesus told us this was about Himself. "Strike the shepherd" should leap off the page in full color 3D, like a "Magic Eye" where suddenly Jesus is seen, especially since He quotes Zechariah 13 at the Last Supper in John.

  13. Nicholas,
    The key distinguishing factor of a prophet is that he receives immediate revelation. We don't receive God immediately in preaching or the Sacraments. We receive Him through means, through the Word, through the Word tied to the water, the Word tied to the bread and wine. I'm not a prophet when I preach because the things I declare of God are the things God has told me through the Word, not things He's told me directly.

  14. Nor,

    "Origen, Jerome, Cyril and Methodius, Wycliffe, Tyndale, Luther. All those men are seminal figures within “the Orthodox Christian World” and had the gift of tongues."

    These men were skilled at translating languages that they understood through study. And certainly God gave them the intelligence to do this. But this is not the gift of tongues that the Bible speaks of. The gift of tongues, Scripturally speaking, is the miraculous ability to speak fluently in a language that you don't have the ability to speak without the direct work of the Holy Spirit.

    If you want to call having an aptitude for studying and learning foreign languages "the gift of tongues," that's fine. But it's not the same thing that we see going on in the Book of Acts and in the early Church.

  15. "We don't receive God immediately in preaching or the Sacraments. We receive Him through means, through the Word, through the Word tied to the water, the Word tied to the bread and wine."

    Do we not encounter God directly through those means? Has God not always used means?

    If the Eucharist is really Christ, isn't that direct?

  16. Pastor,

    Is daily bread a gift from God when it comes through a child's parents, a man's vocation, or the feeding of the 5,000?

    Aptitude for using foreign languages to preach Christ is a gift Jesus Himself gives whether it comes through a multilingual childhood, years of study, or an extraordinary miracle.

    No one can ever preach Christ nor even pray privately without the direct work of the Holy Spirit.

    The Charismatics are not wrong because they say the Holy Spirit directly gives men gifts of language. They are wrong because they say everyone must have this gift, when the Holy Spirit says in 1st Corinthians 12:30 He doesn't give this gift to everyone.

    They are wrong because they claim to be saved, to get to heaven, by relying on their own tongues, exactly like the builders of Babel tried to reach heaven by relying on their own tongues. Just as God confused the tongues of men at Babel, He has confused the tongues of Charismatics, for they are confused and do not speak with intelligent tongues.

    God confused language at Babel as a form of discipline designed to both teach and remind humanity that God Himself gives us Heaven with His Tongue, His Word. The Charismatics are heretics because they attempt to build a tower to heaven with their own tongues. They are heretics because, as you said in your video, they despise the salvation spoken into being by Jesus in His Sacraments and seek salvation in a sacrament spoken by themselves.

    And you're dead right; we shouldn't expect a little Holy Spirit zizzap! bam! Summer Greek passed! no more than any one of the 5,000 should've quit his vocation. But I call learning foreign languages "the gift of tongues" because it is exactly what was going on in the Book of Acts and the Early Church. We don't read the miracle of loaves and quit working, nor do we say daily bread isn't God's gift if it's vocational.

    When a foreign language is learned, whether much or little, whether ordinarily or extraordinarily, and that tongue becomes a means to preach Christ, a way to pray, or a mode of spiritual edification, that is the gift of tongues. Speaking gibberish is not the gift of tongues. Paul told the Corinthians to stop speaking in gibberish and start speaking in the love of Christ.

    Just like he said they have their own homes for getting wasted, not the Lord's Supper, so also he says to speak in church only what, after we translate, will build up and edify others. If someone can't control himself, let him go home, grab a bottle of Scotch, and get silly like a Pentecostal. Then sleep it off, come, and speak the Creed of salvation; drink the blood of Christ.

    Just like neither Paul nor the Holy Spirit really wanted the Corinthians to go home and drink 'till they couldn't feel feelings, Jesus doesn't want us to be Charismatic. He wants to save us with His Word and His Sacraments.

  17. Wow, best defense of the cessationist position I've ever read. I went to a cessationist Christian college, and the Bible profs there (dispensationalists) all admitted that the Biblical case for their cessationism was very weak. Apparently not so!

  18. Yep, I guess I totally 'see face to face' now that we have the whole canon, and this isn't at all the same thing that is alluded to in 1 John 3:2. I guess that I now know 'as I have been fully known' by God already, and this isn't a reference to the end times at all. I guess that the biblical case for cessationism isn't exactly as weak as I thought it was before I read this article.

  19. after the death of the apostles, there were no claims to the charismatic gifts within the orthodox Christian community. After approximately 100 AD, there simply has been no charismatic presence in the Christian Church


    'For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time'
    - Justin Martyr (100-165), Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 82

    'Now, it is possible to see amongst us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God'
    - Justin Dialogue, Chapter 88

    'In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God'
    - Irenaeus (d. c. 202), Against Heresies, Book 5 Chapter 6

    'we tell them [Montanists] that we do not so much reject prophecy—for this is attested by the passion of the Lord—as refuse to receive prophets whose utterances fail to accord with the Scriptures old and new'
    - Jerome (347-420), Letter 41.2

    'It is possible that God may make new revelations to particular persons about their particular duties, events, or matters of fact, in subordination to the Scripture, either by inspiration, vision, apparition, or voice; for he hath not told us that he will never do such a thing. He may tell them what shall befall them or others, or say, 'Go to such a place,' or, 'Dwell in such a place,' or, 'Do such a thing,' which is not contrary to the Scripture, nor equal with it, but only a subordinate determination of some undetermined case, or the circumstantiating of an action.'
    - Richard Baxter (1615-1691), Christian Directory, Question 140

  20. Pastor,
    While your argument by this Douglas Judisch's assertion, makes sense to me; its main point (gifts ended) sounds so much like "limiting God's power".
    The God I believe in can do what He wants...while he sets rules for the natural (spiritual) order of stuff, He has also broken those rules (and I won't even refer to any of those passages from the Apostles as "rules" in comparison to the Natural order I'm referring to).
    So, that being said.. I believe there's still real prophesy, miracles, and tongues.. though there may/should not be 'ordained prophets' and etc.

  21. Pastor, my name is Emmanuel. I came from a charismatic church to the LCMS and I would like to get a hold of that book that you talked about. I know this a while after you originally posted it, but hopefully you can still direct me in the right direction. Thank

  22. Emmanuel, I'm so sorry, I just saw your comments. The title of the book is "Am Evaluation of Claims to the Charismatic Gifts" by Douglas Judish. It's currently out of print, but if you shoot me an email, I can try to find you a copy.

  23. Pastor,

    What do you think of the follow from Justin Martyr's dialogue with Trypho? Is he saying that the gift of prophesy is still around?

    Then I replied, "You have inquired most discreetly and most prudently, for truly there does seem to be a difficulty; but listen to what I say, that you may perceive the reason of this also. The Scripture says that these enumerated powers of the Spirit have come on Him, not because He stood in need of them, but because they would rest in Him, i.e., would find their accomplishment in Him, so that there would be no more prophets in your nation after the ancient custom: and this fact you plainly perceive. For after Him no prophet has arisen among you. Now, that [you may know that] your prophets, each receiving some one or two powers from God, did and spoke the things which we have learned from the Scriptures, attend to the following remarks of mine. Solomon possessed the spirit of wisdom, Daniel that of understanding and counsel, Moses that of might and piety, Elijah that of fear, and Isaiah that of knowledge; and so with the others: each possessed one power, or one joined alternately with another; also Jeremiah, and the twelve [prophets], and David, and, in short, the rest who existed amongst you. Accordingly He rested, i.e., ceased, when He came, after whom, in the times of this dispensation wrought out by Him amongst men, it was requisite that such gifts should cease from you; and having received their rest in Him, should again, as had been predicted, become gifts which, from the grace of His Spirit's power, He imparts to those who believe in Him, according as He deems each man worthy thereof. I have already said, and do again say, that it had been prophesied that this would be done by Him after His ascension to heaven. It is accordingly said, 'He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, He gave gifts unto the sons of men.' And again, in another prophecy it is said: 'And it shall come to pass after this, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, and on My servants, and on My handmaids, and they shall prophesy.'


    "Now, it is possible to see amongst us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God; so that it was prophesied that the powers enumerated by Isaiah would come upon Him, not because He needed power, but because these would not continue after Him.