Talk of Cessation of Tongues Implies They Were Already Ceasing

cessation of tongues

8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Cor. 13:8-12 NKJ)

A Paraphrase: When the realm of complete revelation of God has come, the realm of partial revelation of God will cease to exist. Therefore, when the complete revelation of God has come, all incomplete revelation of God through prophecy, tongues and special knowledge will cease as the partial realm where they existed was done away.

I have no desire to rework the raging debate between Continuationists who believe this proves their position the revelatory gifts remain till Christ comes, against Cessationists who point out ONLY the realm of partial revelation is said to remain, not any specific means of revelation within it.

Here I discuss what no one ponders: “Doesn’t discussion of the (near future) cessation of charismata imply they were already ceasing? [1] It would be “near Paul’s future” because he believed Christ might come in his lifetime (1 Thess. 4:17; 2 Thess. 2:1). In other words, WHY would Paul who loved Prophecy, Tongues and Special knowledge of God (1 Cor. 14:1-5, 14-18), discuss their cessation? What situation in Corinth made discussing the cessation of these gifts necessary? The only plausible answer is they were already ceasing, causing four main schisms in the church (1 Cor. 1:10-12), which could be grouped into two main categories. The “Have-nots” who seek “wisdom” and the “Haves” who seek “signs” (1 Cor. 1:22).

The Four main divisions

Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12 NKJ)

The “Haves” were those who claimed to be:

“Of Paul”. He did all the signs, wonders and deeds to found the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 12:11-12), and many received the gift of tongues etc. through laying on of his hands (Ac. 19:6-7, 11-12; 2 Tim. 1:6).

Ditto “Of Cephas” (Acts. 10:44-46). The reference to “Cephas” (the Aramaic kepha water bearing rock”) Christ said Peter became when he confessed publicly the PETRA of Christ the massive Petra Rock Christ, source of living water from which Peter and all the congregation drink to be living stones themselves (John 1:42; Mat. 16:18; 2 Pet. 2:3-5).

Have-nots:
“Of Apollos” Seekers of Wisdom converts of Apollos “born at Alexandra, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures….was at Corinth” while Paul “came to Ephesus” (Ac. 18:24, 27-28; 19:1)

“Of Christ”
Perhaps both have and have-nots claimed to be Christians more than the other, as Paul says all are in the One body of Christ regardless of Gifts (1 Cor. 12:1, 5-27).

Now we know why Paul began his epistle reassuring the Corinthians their situation was not unique, they did not come behind other churches in these gifts. Their evident ceasing did not indicate God was displeased with them, abandoning them:

4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,
5 that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge,
6 even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you,
7 so that you come short in no gift
, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,
8 who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Cor. 1:4-9 NKJ)

As Paul says they were not behind in any gift we can extrapolate the dwindling of the revelatory gifts in Corinth was happening everywhere. As genuine charismata ceased, pseudo-charismata became more prominent. When “Tongues speakers” fell into the minority, the “have-not majority” wanted to forbid tongues altogether. Therefore, Paul commanded “do not forbid to speak with tongues” (1 Cor. 14:39). A parallel situation of dwindling gifts in Thessalonica caused a reaction against ALL prophecy, hence Paul commands ” Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thess. 5:20-21 KJV)

Both of these injunctions confirm genuine charismata were ceasing about 51-56 AD, being replaced by pseudo-charismata (1 Cor. 12:1-3; 2 Cor. 11:12-14; 2 Thess. 2:2).

By 67 AD those manifesting confirming signs including gifts of the Spirit are spoken of as “in the past”:

3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,
4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? (Heb. 2:3-4 NKJ)

That time of cessation roughly coincides with the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. As “tongues” were a sign to the Jews, it follows something relevant to God’s speaking to them (like the total destruction of the Temple) is intimately connected.

21 In the law it is written: “With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me,” says the Lord.
22 Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. (1 Cor. 14:21-22 NKJ)

The rise of pseudo-charismata and false prophecy is the best explanation for Timothy’s “neglect” of a special gift Paul gave him by laying on of his hands, with the elders who prophesied about it. Peer pressure can change behavior:

13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership.
15 Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all.
16 Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. (1 Tim. 4:13-16 NKJ)

Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (2 Tim. 1:6 NKJ)

There are enough clues to deduce the gift was the equivalent of “prophecy” but not “prophecy” because Paul would then write “neglect not prophesying”.

As it is being neglected, the appearance in the context of the reverse “take heed, pay attention” are clues to what the gift was. “Give attention to exhortation and doctrine” implies the gift is material to accomplishing that. When Paul admonishes “take heed to yourself and doctrine” that implies the gift is pertinent to Timothy’s spirituality on a personal level, and results in sound doctrine that edifies the church. Add the metaphor of stirring up the flames and tongues of fire in Acts comes to mind.

Put it all together and we conclude the gift Timothy is neglecting is Tongues, and the interpretation of those tongues. Combined they are equal to prophecy, and prophecy or its equivalent alone can be “the gift” material to doctrine, personal development, edification and salvation of oneself and others:

5 I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification. (1 Cor. 14:5 NKJ)

Timothy could do both:

Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. (1 Cor. 14:13 NKJ)

What would cause Timothy to neglect this gift? Peer pressure, the flood of false prophecy and babblers caused many in the church to despise both tongues and prophecy. Rather than defend their practice, most of us would do as Timothy did, just stop doing it.

That pseudo-charismatia exists, is plainly revealed in the following, especially review the entire context. The broad way of destruction has many on it believing they do signs and wonders by the Spirit of Christ. Alas, they NEVER knew Him:

22 “Many will say to Me in that day,`Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’
23 “And then I will declare to them,`I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt. 7:22-23 NKJ)

21 “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings.

23 “Am I a God near at hand,” says the LORD, “And not a God afar off?
24 Can anyone hide himself in secret places, So I shall not see him?” says the LORD; “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the LORD.

25 “I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying,`I have dreamed, I have dreamed!’
26 “How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart,
27 “who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal.
28 “The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD.

29 “Is not My word like a fire?” says the LORD, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

30 “Therefore behold, I am against the prophets,” says the LORD, “who steal My words every one from his neighbor.
31 “Behold, I am against the prophets,” says the LORD, “who use their tongues and say,`He says.’
32 “Behold, I am against those who prophesy false dreams,” says the LORD, “and tell them, and cause My people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all,” says the LORD. (Jer. 23:21-32 NKJ)

This is why the objective Word of God is far superior to any subjective revelation. The apostle Peter recognized the superiority of the Written Word above his personal experiences. He called Scripture “a more sure word”:

18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:
20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. (2 Pet. 1:18-21 KJV)

END NOTES
[1]
What is today called “Tongues” and other mystical experiences have two possible sources, psychological or demonic. The Holy Spirit is infinitely greater than any demon, they cannot touch a Christian (1 John 4:4; 5:18). Psychological reasons account for how genuine Christians can be convinced “babble” is the scriptural gift of tongues, and speak them. Scores of former tongues speakers have repented upon learning the truth that confirmed the doubts (= “their anointing” 1 John 2:20-21) they had suppressed about the experience.

The other source of such mysticism is demonic:

It could be demonic. It could be satanic; I think it was in Corinth in some cases. It could be that. Ecstatic speech is a part of many pagan religions in Africa, East Africa. Tonga people of Africa, when a demon is exorcised, sing in Zulu, even though they say they don’t know the Zulu language. Ecstatic speech is found today among Muslims, Eskimos, Tibetan monks. It’s involved in parapsychological occult groups. Did you know that the Mormons – even Joseph Smith himself – advocate speaking in tongues? It could be demonic.

Secondly, it could be learned behavior. You just learn how to do it. If you can go to the Hunter’s seminar, they’ll jump start you. It could be psychological; it could be a kind of a self-induced hypnosis, a kind of a trance where you just yield up all of your will and you yield up your vocal chords, and you empty out your brain. And the power of suggestion takes over, and you become psychologically induced. And once you’ve had that experience, you then learn to do it and just do it. Many studies have been done to show that it is psychological.-Pastor John F. MacArthur, Grace Community Church

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