More specifically, has the gift of tongues, healings, and prophesying ceased? Right off the bat some will argue of course they have not citing some of their own witness accounts at their local church. BUT are those experiences the same as the ones described during apostolic age?
When individuals chosen by God performed miracles, they were to authenticate those persons as being directly inspired and influenced by God. Signs were meant to authenticate the ministry and message. The question is now, are specific signs still needed to authenticate the already established church and scripture?
Miracle Gift of Tongues
A more common gift claiming to manifest in the Pentecostal and charismatic churches is the gift of tongues. During church services and prayer, some will begin to ‘speak in tongues’ as they pray out loud or with others. They will speak in a incoherent nonsensical manner. The justification for the incoherence and babbling is that this is a divine heavenly language and only those meant to understand it do. Is that what took place in Acts and during the apostolic age?
It is important to note that the actual gift of tongues in the apostolic age was for NON believers (1 Corinthians 14:22). This sign shows the non believer that GOD can speak to them through people who have never studied their language. The gospel message is not limited by human tongue. This is a clear contradiction in most Pentecostal and Charismatic churches today as that most who ‘use’ the gift are praying over believers or privately in worship. Another contradiction is that the nonsensical babbling is also NOT a holy divine language. God speaks ALL languages and speaks to individuals in their language as seen throughout scripture. Incoherent nonsensical babbling is not biblical.
The real question is whether or not the actual gift of tongues (speaking in a actual language never learned) is still around. Paul does state that this gift WILL cease (1 Corinthians 13:8). It is also important to note that when Paul talks about the miracle gifts, they are only mentioned in his earliest epistles to the earliest churches and not in his later ones. The earliest writings of the disciples of the Apostles also shows that these miracle gifts did cease. All the disciples of John and Peter (Paipas, Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp) do not record a single instances of the gifts in use in their time. Later ancient church writers such as Justin Martyr, Origen, Chrysostom, and Augustine taught that those gifts only happened in the earliest days of the Church as well. Thus church history DOES show they did cease.
Did that gift make a come back?
According to the Azusa street revival it did. BUT was that the same as what took place at Pentecost and the same gift recorded in Holy Scripture? All one must do is look at the gift in scripture and compare. Again, the biblical account of the gift was speaking in a language that was never learned by the speaker to reach unbelievers. Was this the case at the Azusa street revival? No. Unfortunately that was the moment that kicked off the incoherent nonsensical babbling instead.
This is a tough one to support considering that after the
Azusa Street Revival, missionaries were faithfully sent to Japan, China,
and India with no language training under the assumption that the gift
of tongues will manifest. “Numerous other Pentecostal missionaries
went abroad believing they had
the miraculous ability to speak in the languages of those to whom they
were sent. These Pentecostal claims were well known at the time. S.C.
Todd of the Bible Missionary Society investigated eighteen Pentecostals
who went to Japan, China, and India ‘expecting to preach to the natives
in those countries in their own tongue,’ and found that by their own
admission ‘in no single instance have [they] been able to do so.’ As
these and other missionaries returned in disappointment and failure,
Pentecostals were compelled to rethink their original view of speaking
in tongues” Alfred Garr and his wife went to India expecting to speak in
supernatural languages, but they quickly learned that it was a delusion.
May Law and Rosa Pittman went to Japan expecting to preach in Japanese
but when they found that no one could understand their “tongues” they
moved on to Hong Kong, thinking that they must have the gift of Chinese
instead, but they were no more successful there. T.J. McIntosh was the
first Pentecostal missionary to Macau, and though he fully expected to
speak fluent Chinese his hopes were soon dashed. (Robert Mapes Anderson,
Vision of the Disinherited: The
Making of American Pentecostalism). So what happened? Why couldn’t
anyone genuinely understand them like the various cultures could in
Acts? Because the incoherent nonsensical babbling uttered today is not
the same as the biblical speaking in tongues.
Miracle Gift of Healing
Let us first look that the healings performed by Jesus and the Apostles.
Jesus fully healed people close to death (John 4:47-50) and raised people form the dead (John 7:11-17, 8:40-42, 49-56, 11:1-45). He instantly drove out possessed people (Matthew 15:21-28, 17:14-20; Luke 4:33-34; John 8:26-39).
He healed those with high fevers, but not just any fever, it was high
enough for it to be obvious and everyone to be concerned; not just a
feeling (Luke 4:38-39). And these weren’t hurt feelings Jesus was curing, they were obvious DISEASES (Mark 1:32-34), like Leprosy (John 5:12-14; Luke 17:11-19) and blood diseases (John 8:42-48). He without a doubt, at that moment, healed people who were paralyzed (John 5:17-26, 7:1-10), literally and obviously blind (Matthew 9:27-31, 12:22-23; Mark 8:22-26; Luke 18:35-43; John 9:1-12), mute (Matthew 9:32-34), deaf (Mark 7:31-37), and crippled (Luke 13:10-17). Other OBVIOUS physical deformities undeniably instantly healed (John 6:6-11). The Apostle Peter heals a crippled person (Acts 3:1-11), Palsy (Acts 9:33-34) and raises people from the dead (Acts 9:36-41). The Apostle Paul heals a crippled person (Acts 14:8-10), casts out demons (Acts 16:16-18) and raises the dead (Acts 20:9-12).
Now as time went on we see that Paul or the other Apostles did not heal Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-27), Trophimus (2 Timothy 4:20), Timothy (1 Timothy 5:23), or even Paul himself (2 Corinthians 12:7-9). If the Holy Spirit continued to heal, why were they not healed? It comes down to understanding the purpose of these miracle gifts.
Despite popular evangelical belief, these miracle gifts were to authenticate the authority of the Apostles. Once the Apostles were proven authentic, what was the purpose then? If the purpose was for physical healing, why weren’t those later healed by Paul or the Apostles? Why weren’t the later disciples of the Apostles also healing? Why is there no further healings recorded by any other Christian teacher or writer after the Apostles in early church history? When the gifts were mentioned, why were they all spoken about in past tense?
But what about those who claim to have been healed today?
Again, lets compare the healings recorded in scripture to the claimed healings today. Are there any eye witnesses to people being raised from the dead? Any instant healings of those who were blind, crippled, deaf, or paralyzed? The bible itself does not talk about people who have been healed from headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, anxiety, or any other illness that is not truly verifiable. In fact, Paul told Timothy to drink something for his stomachaches. Why not heal him? Irony is to see healers, healing people, yet wearing prescription glasses. Why not heal their sight? Why aren’t these godly healers quietly going to hospitals and humbly healing people in the greatest need? Why aren’t they volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House and healing those innocent suffering children? The answer is obvious.
The Miracle Gift of Prophesy
Proclaiming in detail events that will happen was a sure authentication of God. Revealing secret, private, specific details about someone that only God and the individual would know is a sure authentication of God. The Old Testament Prophets described details that were impossible for them to know. Like the actual birth place of Jesus 500 years earlier for example. A New Testament Prophet revealed a coming famine that would hit specific areas and the church acted and sent aid to those areas that will suffer from famine (Acts 11:28 and 21:10). This famine did occur in 41 – 45AD. But after the apostolic age, why are there no detailed specific prophecies regarding major natural disasters later?
The word ‘prophet’ and the verb ‘to prophesy’ ALSO means to ‘bring forth’. Just as the Prophets of the Old Testament brought forth the very words of God; the gift in the New Testament meant the same. Keep in mind, during the formation and foundation of the church, the Apostles were still living BUT they were traveling. How would a church hear the words of God if the Apostles had not written them down to read while they were away traveling? Thus, some were gifted with the ability to speak forth God’s words, the same words as the apostles recorded later. Those with the gift of prophesy could proclaim God’s truths in the absence of the Apostles and Holy Scripture. Once the Words of God were recorded by the Apostles and copies of Holy Scripture were given to the churches, later writings of the Apostles commands believers to TEST that they are told from people claiming to prophesy (1 John 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:20-21). Thus, as Paul writes in his later Epistle, it is SCRIPTURE that is complete and equips men for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Notice he does not indicate any future words from anyone prophesying. The Apostles themselves, nearing the end of their lives, point to all that has been preached by them in past tense (Galatians 1:8; Jude 1:3; 2 Timothy 3:16; John 20:30-31; 1 John 5:13; 2 Timothy 3:14-17) and that everything necessary has been revealed (1 John 5:13; John 14:26, 20:31; Romans 2:16; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Cor. 11:4; Acts 20:27; Ps. 19:7-14). Because, now that they have written everything necessary, no one is to add, subtract, or change what was taught (Rev. 22:10-18; Deut. 4:2; John 14:26; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Cor. 11:4; 2 John 1:9; 1 Tim. 6:3; Ps. 19:7-14). So, the completed bible is not lacking and everything necessary has been revealed, the gift of prophesy is rendered useless now that it has completed its purpose.
NOT COMPLETELY CEASED
Since God is God, he will do as he pleases for his perfect will to be done world wide. What about societies in remote parts of the world where the language is unknown and they have no access to Holy Scripture? In situations like this, that are very similar to the the situation in early church history, God may very well choose to empower someone with the gifts so that these people can be reached. It wont be in babbling but of their own real language. These missionaries would be able to either speak Mandarin in China without ever having studied it OR the Chinese will be able to understand English without ever studying it. THAT will blow everyone’s mind and lead people to Christ! Is it possible, sure? Is it how it is done today, no.
When we simply compare the miracle gifts detailed in Holy Scripture and test the modern attempts of them with Scripture, we can clearly see that they are not the same. The gifts are NOT in use to the same extent that they were during the apostolic age. BUT we will NOT say they have fully or completely ceased because GOD is GOD and is the sole authority in the distribution and use of the gifts he provides the church. We CAN say however that the Pentecostal and charismatic efforts of these gifts are NOT the same gifts recorded in scripture. Hearing people babble is NOT the same as hearing a unlearned foreign language spoken. Seeing someone’s headache healed is NOT the same as witnessing a deformity perfectly healed or seeing the dead come back to life. The Pentecostal and Charismatic ‘experiences’ are more of a travesty and insult to the supreme amazing power of God as recorded in his word.
We pray that God grants the true miracle gifts to missionaries reaching unreached people groups and we pray that his undeniable and unquestionable healings take place to bring absolute glory to God.
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