When did tongues and the sign gifts cease?
1. At the end of the book of Acts – “The sign gifts, tongues, prophecy, the gift of healing, etc. were operating all through the Book of Acts, and these gifts are mentioned in the letters that Paul wrote during the Acts period. But when we turn to the letters written after the Book of Acts—the 4 Prison Epistles, and the 3 Pastoral Epistles, we find that the sign gifts either aren't mentioned at all or we see—as with the gift of healing—that they were no longer operating in Paul's life. What he could do in Acts 28, he could no longer do in Philippians, or in 1 and 2 Timothy. He could heal all the sick on the island in Acts 28:9, but he couldn't heal any of his closest co-workers—Timothy, Epaphroditus, Trophimus—after the close of the Book of Acts. The answer: The sign gifts ceased at the end of the Book of Acts. There is no record in Scripture of any of the sign gifts operating in any of the letters that Paul wrote after the end of the Acts period, and it is clear that the gift of healing had ceased since Paul could no longer heal even his closest co-workers after the close of the Book of Acts
70 AD - “Tongues were a warning
96 AD, At the Completion of the Canon of Scripture -
It is also commonly argued that the
"perfect" thing in I Corinthians 13 must refer to the canon of
Scripture because Church historians generally state that these gifts completely
ceased to operate prior to the Second Century, A.D.. These arguments generally
rely upon a quotation from
4. 98 AD, At the Death of the Last Apostle, John –
5. When the Young Church Reached Maturity – “And what were the childish things that Paul had in mind that would be put away when that which is perfect or complete had come? Well, it should be obvious to any reader that he was speaking of the early gifts of tongues, prophecy and special revelation knowledge given to the members of the infant church during the apostolic age.”
6. 367 AD, When the Cannon was recognized –
7. Christianity Fully Founded -
8. When We Die and Go To Heaven – “This will occur when we pass from this life and enter God’s glorious presence in Heaven.”
9. Love is the “perfect” – When we live in perfect love the gifts will cease.
10. When Jesus Returns
Paul is correcting the Corinthian definition of “spirituality”
This includes redirecting the purpose for charismata (even tongues) as a function of love not on selfish purposes as outlined in 13:1-7
Love characterizes God’s purpose and ways both now and in the future.
Charismata are one of God’s methods of manifesting his love now, but not in the future.
These verses do not condemn the gifts but places them in perspective of eternity.
First Corinthians 1:7 says, “Therefore, you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed.”
Paul says “Pursue love” (14:1, “Follow the way of love.”) since love is the character of God now and forever but since we are living in this present age you should “eagerly desire spiritual gifts.” (12:31; 14:1)
In other words, God’s eternal character of love is manifested today when we manifest spiritual gifts.
“Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.”
“Love never fails”
1) This could be the closing of the previous verses and mean “Love is never defeated, never brought down and persists even when faced with opposition”
2) This statement “Love never fails” could be starting a new paragraph which will contrast the three verbs that follow:
i. “pass away” (13:8)
ii. “cease” (13:8)
iii. “remain” (13:13)
In this second case it would mean: “Love never comes to an end or becomes invalid like the charismata”
Paul is still focused on charismata and lists three of them here.
We are living between the times as is described in 1 Cor. 15:20-28
“they will cease” “katargethesontai” or literally “they will be abolished”
“they will be stilled” “pausontai” or literally “they will cease”
“it will pass away” “katargethesetai” or literally “it will be abolilshed”
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part.”
“in part” “merous” or literally “For in part”
“but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.”
“perfection” “teleion” or literally “perfect thing’’
“imperfect” “to ek merous” or literally “the thing in part”
“disappears” “katargethesetai” or literally “will be abolished”
“perfection” can hardly refer to the completion of scripture or the recognition of the canon since the Corinthians would not have understood this nor would have Paul.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
“child” “nepios” or literally, “an infant”
There is no negative connection here with tongues, talking, and childish. Notice Paul talks in tongues more than the Corinthians.
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
“gar arti de esoptrou en ainigmati”
“For yet through a mirror in a riddle”
A mirror represent clarity and self-recognition in Greek literature.
Mirrors in the ancient world were made of polished metal.
is a Greek legend of placing a mirror into a spring of water at the
“a riddle” “ainigmati” means “riddle, an indistinct image”
“face to face” “pros” which means “before or facing”.
First John 3:1-3 “when he appears” or “when it is manifested”
“And now these three remain: faith hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Interesting Statements that I do not feel are scriptural:
All of these agree that ‘tongues have ceased’ but I tend to disagree with their logic and conclusion:
a. John Chrysostom (c 347-407) Concerning the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians: “This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to, and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place” (“Homilies on 1 Corinthians,” Vol. XII, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Hom 29:2).
b. John Calvin (1509-1564) “...the gift of healing, like the rest of the miracles, which the Lord willed to be brought forth for a time, has vanished away in order to make the preaching of the Gospel marvellous for ever” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk IV:19, 18).
c. John Owen (1616-1683) “Gifts which in their own nature exceed the whole power of all our faculties, that dispensation of the Spirit is long since ceased and where it is now pretended unto by any, it may justly be suspected as an enthusiastic delusion” (Works IV, 518).
d. Thomas Watson (c 1620-1686) “Sure, there is as much need of ordination now as in Christ's time and in the time of the apostles, there being then extraordinary gifts in the church which are now ceased” (The Beatitudes, 140).
e. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) Speaking of the ‘gift of tongues,’ he said, “These and other gifts of prophecy, being a sign, have long since ceased and been laid aside, and we have no encouragement to expect the revival of them; but, on the contrary, are directed to call the Scriptures the more sure word of prophecy, more sure than voices from Heaven; and to them we are directed to take heed, to search them, and to hold them fast ...” (Preface to Vol IV of his Exposition of the OT & NT, vii).
f. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) “Of the extraordinary gifts, they were given 'in order to the founding and establishing of the church in the world. But since the canon of Scriptures has been completed, and the Christian church fully founded and established, these extraordinary gifts have ceased” (Charity and its Fruits, 29).
g. George Whitefield (1714-1770) “... the karismata,
the miraculous gifts conferred on the primitive church ... have long ceased
...” (Second Letter to the Bishop of
h. James Buchanan (1804-1870) “The miraculous gifts of the Spirit have long since been withdrawn. They were used for a temporary purpose” (The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit, 34)
i. Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898) “After the early church had been established, the same necessity for supernatural signs now no longer existed, and God, Who is never wasteful in His expedients, withdrew them ... miracles, if they became ordinary, would cease to be miracles, and would be referred by men to customary law” (‘Prelacy a Blunder,’ Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, Vol. 2, 236-237).
j. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) Speaking of the office of the apostles, “an office which necessarily dies out, and properly so, because the miraculous power also is withdrawn” (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 1871, Vol. 17, 178).
k. Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) “These gifts were ... distinctively the authentication of the apostles. They were part of the credentials of the apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confirmed them to distinctively the apostolic church and they necessarily passed away with it” (Counterfeit Miracles, 6).