Speaking in Tongues

"Whether there be (gifts) tongues, they shall cease". 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.

THE NINE GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT:

One of a number of problems within the Church at Corinth, about which the elders wrote to the Apostle Paul for guidance, was the abuse by some recipients, of the 'Spirit-gifts', especially the gift of tongues.

The abuse (mis-use) of the spirit-gifts, was bringing pride, independence and disunity, among Christ's brethren, instead of humility, inter-dependence and unity, for which all the spirit-gifts were designed. Thus the Apostle spends much of three whole chapters on the subject of 'Spirit-gifts' in general, and on the gift of speaking in an unknown tongue (foreign language) in particular. (1 Corinthians 12 to 14)

There were NINE miraculous gifts of the Spirit….chapter 12:4-11.

  •   "The word of wisdom"---wise counsel for the inexperienced and immature.

  •   "The word of knowledge"--knowing the answers to difficult and practical problems.

  •   "Faith"--outstanding trust in God to surmount the dangers, worries and troubles of life.

  •   "The gift of healing" --miraculous medical powers to heal the sick.

  •   "The working of miracles"--the ability to perform miracles to convince unbelievers of the power of
         God to help and save.

  •   "Prophecy"--the ability to explain accurately the meaning of God's word and will.

  •   "Discerning of spirits"--the ability to detect false teachers from the true.

  •   "Divers kinds of tongues"--the power to speak without previous learning, in the many different
         non-Greek languages prevalent.

  •   "The interpretation of tongues"--the power to translate each of those many languages into the
         then common tongue, Greek.

HOW AND BY WHOM THE SPIRIT GIFTS WERE GIVEN

Only the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ could impart the 'Spirit-gifts', which they did by laying their hands upon the recipient, (Acts 8:14-18). The 'gifts" were not given to everyone who believed , but only to those specially selected by the inspired Apostles,, so that the danger of misuse could be minimised. ( 1 Corinthians 12:28-30).

The 'every man' spoken of in verses 7 and 11, refers not to EVERY BELIEVER, but to EVERY person who actually received a gift…

V.7 "The manifestation of the spirit is given to EVERY man to profit withal".

V.11 "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame spirit, dividing to EVERY man severally as he will".

THE INFANT CHURCH NEEDED THE SPIRIT GIFTS:

The believers at Corinth were recent converts from both Judaism and paganism. Everyone who first believes into Christ is a spiritual infant and needs much time and spiritual help to grow up to maturity. That help was provided to the first century believers (and to them only) by the 'Spirit-gifted' brethren, who ministered to their needs, as and when required. Paul alludes to this 'infant' stage in of faith in 1 Corinthians 13:11, where he is probably also saying that the possessor of a 'Spirit-gift' should never consider himself as greater and more mature than his 'ungifted' Brethren. Rather, he should consider himself as inferior and less mature until, though possessing a Spirit-gift, he grew into the greater gift available to all by faith and hope in God and His Word. That is the gift of Godly, self-sacrificing, 'others-serving' LOVE.

THE GIFT OF LOVE:

The 'Spirit-gifts' were for the collective good, (1 Cor. 12:7); were designed to create inter-dependence, (12:12-26), and were far inferior to the greatest gift, that of LOVE, (12:31, to chapter 13). Love, God's greatest gift to mankind, comes by God's blessings in understanding, believing in and living His love in Christ, a love by which the Father "so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life". (John 3:16). Love should be sought by all because it is needed by all; is offered to all and is possible to all. Love in a continuing gift which should never cease, unlike the 'Spirit-gifts', which were but temporary gifts. God is love, and whoever copies His love for others, knows God and His beloved Son and their ceaseless love for all.

WHEN AND WHY THE 'GIFTS' CEASED:

The Apostle Paul clearly predicted that "when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away". (1 Cor. 13:10). "That which is in part" refers to the 'Spirit-gifts', which had been given singly to particular brethren only, not to everyone. The context shows that "that which is perfect", is the mature knowledge of faith, hope and love.( vv 11-13). This knowledge would come when the New Testament, then largely unwritten, was complete and when people read and studied it. The availability of the Biblical knowledge came soon after the last book, The Revelation, was communicated to the last surviving Apostle, John, on the island of Patmos, about AD 96-7, (Revelation 1:9) When John died soon after, the power to impart the 'Spirit-gifts' ceased and the Bible, wonderfully able to bring believers into maturity of faith, hope and love, was complete, (or 'perfect'), and available to all. (2 Timothy 3:14-17).

NO MIRACULOUS SPIRIT GIFTS AVAILABLE TODAY:

It follows then, that when the last recipient of the 'Spirit-gifts' died , about AD 150, then the Spirit-gifts "ceased, failed, vanished away, was done away", as the Apostle Paul predicted. ( 1 Corinthians 13:8-10). History is silent about anyone subsequently having miraculous powers, despite many claims..

However, when Christ comes to "restore again the Kingdom to Israel", the 'spirit-gifts' will be given to His resurrected, approved and glorified saints. (Acts 1:3, 6; 1 Cor. 15:20-28; Joel 2:27-32; Isaiah 32:15). Until that day comes we would do well to seek after the 'gifts of faith, hope, and especially LOVE'. (1 Corinthians 13:13 & 14:1)

 

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