Sovereign Grace Blog

Sermon Summary - Is the Spiritual Gift of Tongues for Today?

Acts 2:4 is the first time the issue of speaking in tongues comes up in the book of Acts.  This brings up 2 huge questions:

  1. What was speaking in tongues in the New Testament? (to be covered next week)
  2. Are the “sign” gifts (like tongues) for today? Or did those gifts only have their place in the first century? (covered this week)

        First, the argument for cessationism (those that hold that the sign gifts were only for the first century church and have now ceased): cessationists hold that the sign gifts are for the purpose of authenticating the apostles’ ministry and eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ resurrection.  And the apostles are unique in their calling.  Thus, when the last apostle died, the signs and wonders passed away with them.  “Signs and wonders” – Acts 2:22, Acts 2:43, Acts 5:12, Acts 14:3, Acts 15:12.  From these passages you can see that Luke intends to show that signs and wonders were happening to give credence to the apostles’ testimony.  And the apostles are on the same level as Moses as revelatory spokesmen.  In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul argues for his true apostleship and calls signs and wonders “the signs of a true apostle”.  See also Hebrews 2:4.  Church history also suggests a lack of any person with verifiable gifts to perform signs and wonders. 

        Next, the counter-argument (where Pastor Joe lands): first, there seems to be a continuity between Jesus’ preaching the kingdom of God and the ministry of the church.  Second, when you read Acts, it’s not true that only apostles perform signs and wonders.  Acts 6:8 – Stephen, a deacon performs signs and wonders.  Acts 8:6-7 – Philip was performing signs, casting out unclean spirits, and healing the lame.  Galatians 3:5 – miracles at work in the churches of Galatia.  The crux of the issue, and why Pastor Joe cannot be a cessationist (although he does agree on some points, such as the difference between the signs and wonders of the apostles and those that anybody else may perform): 1 Corinthians 12-14 – does Paul teach that the gifts are no longer in operation? 

        1 Corinthians 13:8-12 – What does “the perfect” refer to in v. 10?  Cessationists understand “the perfect” to refer to the maturity of the church (when the Gentiles are fully included in the church) or the completion of the New Testament writings (both after the first century).  But there seems to be a huge assumption made here, which is where the issue lies: this position assumes that prophetic gifts operating within the church in the first century are on the same level of revelatory authority as Moses, Jeremiah, Paul, and Peter.  Alternatively, those who do not hold to cessationism may understand “the perfect” to refer to Christ’s second coming.  The love chapter (1 Cor. 13) is inserted to show that love is in a totally different category than the spiritual gifts.  Love is eternal and will never fail (13:8), but the gifts will pass away because we won’t need them when we are in glory.  But until then, the gifts are to be in operation.  Closing encouragement: seek to better love others through Holy Spirit-given gifts, knowing that there is no new revelation that is not already given in Holy Scripture.  1 Thess. 5:19-22


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