Thursday, September 16, 2010

Do Not Forbid

In 1 Corinthians 14:39 it says, "do not forbid to speak in tongues." Can this be reconciled with the contention that tongues have passed away? The standard answer is that this applies to the genuine gift of tongues, which has passed away, and all current claims to tongues are spurious. But this will only work if it is proven categorically that tongues have indeed passed away.

God can change His way of doing things, as He did in the transition between the Old and New Testament (Hebrews 10:9-18; Colossians 2:16,17; Mark 7:19). But these changes are clearly commanded. Has God ever clearly taught that certain spiritual gifts will pass away? Now 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, when taken in the straightforward, obvious way, would refer to the coming of Christ, when we will know as we are fully known. It is also argued that the verb used here for tongues means "cease of itself" (1 Corinthians 13:8). But since it does not say when, it may allow for the possibility that tongues have passed away but does not prove it. It is claimed from 1 Corinthians 14:21 that tongues were a sign to the Jew and have therefore passed away. But this idea, which is nothing more than an inference from this verse, only works if can be shown that tongues are confined to a clearly-defined Jewish period of the church. This is more than this verse is able to bear. Hebrews 2:3,4 says miracles were used to attest to the Word of God. But to say that their only use was to attest to the Word of God when it was being written and that they would vanish once it was finished is reading more into this passage than is there.

One question that arises is whether the canon is closed, but this relates directly only to two spiritual gifts, apostleship and prophecy, and tying other gifts to them does not seem to be justified Scripturally. (There is dispute over these two gifts, as to what may be involved in them, but that is another subject.) Also, there is not a clear-cut argument from Scripture for the close of the canon. (Ephesians 2:20 & Revelation 21:14 are the best, but are hardly inarguable.) In my experience, the best approach to those who claim to add to Biblical revelation is to apply the Scriptural tests, the chief of which is, Does their teaching accord with the teachings of Scripture? (Galatians 1:8,9; Jude 3; Isaiah 8:20). I have not found anyone who stacks up to these tests.

I am not at all suggesting we should blindly accept everyone who claims to have a spiritual gift. Rather, we are commanded to put things to the test (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11). Also, Scripture clearly teaches that not every believer is to possess every spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12:27-30). But while it may be more convenient to dismiss the whole thing out of hand, I do not see a Scriptural basis for doing so.

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