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Pentecostalism
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Hi Orrin,

Thanks for your comments, very kind of you to write. Hopefully I can add some reflections on this interesting topic. You wrote,

>>Mark, I noticed an error in your view on the ceasing of gifts. "The gift of tongues, healing, miracles and prophecy "vanished away" when the purpose for which they were given ended [1 Cor.13:8f]." The first problem with this statement is that no where in the Bible does it say healing or miracles will "vanish away". I find it very humorous that out of the whole Bible you base your logic on the ceasing of gifts with one verse. The point Paul was making in that chapter was about love.<<

The gifts of healing (1 Cor.12:9) and miracles (1 Cor.12:10) can be included in 1 Cor.13:8 because they constitute the miraculous “sign” gifts that followed ‘them that believe’ (Mk.16:17-18). No where is it written they were to be permanent. They were primarily to confirm the spoken word and claims of the Apostles note the word ‘confirming’ (Heb.2:3-4 Mk.16:20 Acts 5:12). Christ and the Apostles were the “foundation” of the Church (1 Cor.3:3-11 Eph.2:20-22 1 Pe.2:4-8). Once the foundation was laid the sign gifts vanished, as the writing of the early church fathers confirm.

The Bible documents examples of miracles for special periods that ceased shortly after bestowal. So I base this view on many reasons, not “
one verse”, in fact the Bible is the reason why they are not required today. God communicates through His Word. Pentecostalism however has abandoned the principle of Sola Scriptura and claims revelation from God beyond Scripture, as if the miraculous gifts didn’t ‘cease’ (contrary to 1 Cor.13:8). You wrote,

>>I was wondering also where in the Bible does it state that those speaking in tongues where witnessing? A closer look at the Acts 2 will show you that the crowd came to them. They were not witnessing to the crowd but "declaring the mighty works of God" just like every occurence when the Spirit fell upon people. Peter was the one who addressed the crowd and "witnessed" to them. Then they got saved.<<

Are you saying, “witnessing to the crowd” and “declaring the mighty works of God” are unrelated? They were not attempting any work of witnessing till the Holy Spirit came on them. Then Jesus’ words came true, “you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea…” (Act.1:8). Nothing more aptly expresses God’s will for the world mission of the church than proclaiming the great deeds of God in the world’s languages. This is what gives the Pentecost story its beauty and meaning. An OT prophecy states, “those speaking in tongues were witnessing”, “With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people, and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.” (1 Cor.14:21 Isa.28:11-12). So the content and nature of tongues was a witness to unbelievers.

Interesting the first Pentecostals (1900’s) believed God gave tongues to witness to foreigners. Some travelled the world only to discover nobody on earth understood their gibberish. :) You wrote,


>>It seems tongues was more a sign than for spreading the gospel. A few examples would be when Peter went to Cornelius and it says "the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message."[Acts 10:44b] Then in verse 46 it says "speaking with tongues and exalting God". Why? Who were the people who were speaking in tongues speaking to? It says they were exalting God and there is no mention of anyone else around to "witness" to since everyone listening to Peter's message had the Holy Spirit fall upon them. The other reference is Acts 19:1-6. Again we find people having the Holy Spirit come upon them and speaking in tongues. There is no reference in this chapter either about the ones speaking in tongues "witnessing" to people.<<

In Acts 10 they ‘exalted God’, indicating tongues were real languages and understood, not gibberish. But the lesson in Acts 10 is that God accepts ALL men freely by the gift of the Spirit. Tongues were a sign to the Jewish Christians (both present and absent) that equal with the Jews were the Gentiles. That’s why tongues came as a complete surprise - “amazed” (vs.45). Both Acts 2 and 10 confirmed that all distinctions are done away with. Notice also it wasn’t a ‘second blessing’ it was their salvation experience. So it’s not the coming to the house of Cornelius, but a conducting of the Spirit into another part of the body of Christ.

In Acts 19 the same words are used as in the earlier two cases, the same experience is seen. The context and mention of tongues together with prophecy (vs6) suggests that all present heard their words. They were not silent about their conversion but open before all.

I agree that as a ‘
sign’ tongues did have a limited purpose. It fulfilled the OT prophecy made to Israel (Isa.28). Paul present in Acts 19 wrote 1 Corinthians shortly after the Ephesian occurrence. He says the prophecy was fulfilled, “So tongues are for a sign not to them that believe, but to them that believe not” (1 Cor.14:22). God wanted to convince even the most hard-necked Jews that the Gentiles also were included among His people. When the transition period from Judaism to Christianity concluded, tongues ceased. There was no other repetition or fulfilment to Israel. The clear teaching of the NT is that the need for the spectacular is more often a feature of unbelief than belief. You wrote,

>>We see Paul's description for one who speaks in a tongue "does not speak to men, but to God"[1Cor.14:2] Paul states that one speaking in a tongue edifies himself. Paul also says "For if I pray in a tongue, my Spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful." [1Cor.14:14] Some people refer this to "praying the in Spirit" and there are a few references about praying in the Spirit.<<

A difference between the Acts and Corinthians situation is the latter is a local church gathering. There are obvious problems with tongues when they only “know” a few languages (1 Cor.14:11). Tongue speakers would only ‘speak to God’. Any ‘edification’ was purely the effect of exercising a spiritual gift. But the church gathering wasn’t edified, so Paul would rather they edify the mind (1 Cor.14:5, 14 26 2 Cor.12:19). It’s questionable in Paul’s thought, a gift can be said to exist for the individual if it is not employed for the church.

The difference between Biblical tongues and Pentecostalism is the latter emphasizes a practice that doesn’t edify, it’s not miraculous, a prayer, a witness or understandable. Prayer in the Bible is always understandable. Gibberish bypasses the mind and relates to hypnosis. ‘In the spirit’ has become a catch phrase to excuse anything - falling down, jerking, laughing, barking, howling and other spontaneous hypnotic manifestations all clearly belong to the realm of another spirit not the Holy Spirit. In fact researchers have discovered that prayer stops the bizarre manifestations before they happen and prayer hinders them. You wrote,

>>What is funny is that every occurrence of people speaking in tongues in Acts was done by more than three people; in fact it was always by a group. Thus the references of speaking in tongues in 1Corinthians must be different than that of Acts<<

True, speaking in tongues in Acts on all three occasions were a corporate, church-founding, group-conversion phenomenon. They weren’t asking for the Holy Spirit or tongues. They were not a subsequent Spirit-experience of an individual. They were historical events once and for all, indicating that God accepts all men freely by the gift of the Spirit. And tongues were the sign to the Jewish people present of that fact. So it occurred then and only then for that purpose . The occurrences were never intended to become a pattern for the reception of the Spirit by subsequent believers.

An obvious difference between Acts and Corinthians is God’s use and man’s misuse. But both were real languages. In Acts 2, unbelievers of many dialects, at Corinth believers who used only a few. Luke is the one who fully describes what tongues are, while Paul takes it for granted his readers know what they and so offers no description. Theophilus, the recipient of Acts would need an explanation of the phenomenon, but the Corinthians wouldn’t. You wrote,

>>The only time anyone in Acts speaks in tongues is right after the Holy Spirit came upon them. It seems they were referring to tongues as a sign of receiving the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians the speaking of tongues is for edifying yourself and edifying the church if there is interpretation.<<

If we base our doctrine on a book describing a transitional period all will be confusion. “There is no doctrine discussed in the Book of Acts” (pg114 The Holy Spirit in Today’s World. Criswell). The NT teaching is that the Holy Spirit is now here. The forgiveness of sins and faith are received with the Holy Spirit, not tongues. Just because one speaks in tongues or falls over doesn’t mean they have the Holy Spirit. You wrote,

>>It also seems in 1Cor.1:7 when Paul is referring to not lacking any gift awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ; that he is implying that we will have gifts until the second coming of Christ.<<

Paul says the message of Christ has become so truly established in the Corinthians that they lacked no spiritual gift. He did not explicitly say the gifts would last till Christ’s return, he simply stated their present condition. They had the gifts and were waiting Christ’s return. And as they wait, God would keep them (1 Cor.1:8 GNB). Paul lived in expectation of Christ’s return continually. This Gospel Paul preached was confirmed by various gifts of the Holy Spirit (“miracles” 2 Cor.12:12).

Note also, while the Corinthians lacked no spiritual gift, they are called “carnal” (1 Cor.3:1-3). Contrary to the Pentecostal idea that tongue speakers are spiritual. All Christians are spiritual because they posses the Holy Spirit. To be spiritual simply means to posses the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:6-9). You wrote,

>>Why would Paul also say "But to each one is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good" [1Cor.12:7] ; say "earnestly desire the greater gifts"[1Cor.12:31]; and "yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts"[1Cor.14:1] if they were going to end so soon??<<

Yes Paul desired they “earnestly desire the greater gifts” (not tongues) for the ‘common good’ (1 Cor.14:5, 14 26 2 Cor.12:19). The tongues movement has reversed this. But Paul knew they were going to ‘end soon’. “That which is in part" are gifts of Prophecy and Knowledge, "For we know in part, and we prophecy in part." (1 Cor.13:9-10) This part illumination would give away to "that which is perfect." The special gifts provided the early Church that which was later provided by the NT. When Paul wrote 1 Corinthians the only part of the NT in existence was 1 & 2 Thess. The early Church was at a disadvantage, so God gave the miraculous gifts to enable the assimilation of the NT truth (so readily available to us). The gifts were "in part" compared with the "perfection" of the completed Scriptures we have. You wrote,

>>Didn't Paul write 1Corinthians around 50-56 CE and Hebrews around 50-67 CE. Well it seems that they didn't have much "time" get their spiritual gifts or keep them for long. Paul seems to be focusing on the purpose Spiritual gifts not the ending of them. It just doesn't seem logical if they were supposedly going to end so soon. My question to you is do you not believe that God heals today? I guess you also do not believe that people can have spiritual gifts?<<

Yes 1 Corinthians was written prior to Acts 28 before the gifts ceased, about AD 54. But scholars say Hebrews was written much later about AD 95-96 (AD120 latest AD 70 earliest - pg.1582 “Hebrews G.F. Hawthorne Pickering Bible Commentary 1984). So when Paul writes his latter epistles, Ephesians and Romans and discusses gifts of the Spirit at length, he makes no mention of the miraculous gifts. In fact, the writer of Hebrews looks on miracles as something in the past (Heb.2:3-4). By this time, apostolic authority and the apostolic message needed no further confirmation.

Regarding lack of “
time”. The problem Paul faced at Corinth was how to control what was disorderly and shameful. Not a matter of ‘hanging on’ but restoring order. The gifts were not given as rewards, or because they were dedicated enough, or desired them, however fervent. They were given “as He will” (1 Cor.12:11-12). The sign gifts were for God’s use and a limited period of time, not something for self-gratification or vainglory. God has the right to bestow and withdraw “as He will”.

Yes I believe God can heal today, but no man has the gift to heal, raise the dead etc. One only need consider the mess at Corinth to realise another reason why the miraculous gifts would be temporary. And consider the obsession today with healing and neglecting the gospel. The experiences of many Pentecostals are contrary to their own formulated pattern. And obviously God doesn’t give them the gift of knowledge as they must read, pray and study hard at college like the rest of us. :)

Regards
Mark



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