Those familiar with the Book of Acts are well-aware that the author seemed to have had a positive understanding of glossolalia or “speaking in tongues”. In 2.1-14; 10.44-48 and 19.1-7 (and possibly 8.14-24) we have a public display of the sign. The first being on the Day of Pentecost amongst Jews in Jerusalem. The second being amongst Samaritans who had believed the gospel that Philip preached but who had to wait for Peter and John to experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The third being the Gentiles of the house of Cornelius. The last being disciples of John the Baptist who had believed the message of John but did not know the New Covenant had been inaugurated and that the Spirit had been made available to all.
On the other hand, we have the Apostle Paul who is very supportive of this gift while providing regulations on how it is to be used in public worship. In 1 Cor 12-14 he addresses the gift in several places. In 12.10 he list it as one of the gifts of the Spirit. In 12.28 he notes that it is used to edify and build the church. In 13.1 he reminds his readers that it must be accompanied by love if it is to have any value. In 14.1-5 he notes it has less value that prophecy in public worship and in vv.6-12 he clarifies that this is because no one can understood what is being said. In 14.13-19 he explains that it can be useful when accompanied by an interpretation which puts it on par with prophecy at that point as concerns edification.
In 14.20-25 he uses confusing examples (in citing Is. 28.11-12 and using the vague word “sign” [σημεῖόν] he complicates matters a bit) to say something fairly straightforward: glossolalia will make the outside world think you are mad but prophecy may lead to conversions. In 14.18 he speaks of himself as an avid user of this gift so there is no way he sees it as a bad thing. Rather, he simply sees it as not being very useful in public worship.
At first glance it would seem that the Pauline and the Lukan perspective on the public use of glossolalia are at odds. Is this so? Let me suggest several possible options and you tell me what you think makes the most sense.
(1) There is a tension between Luke and Paul here that that we must embrace.
(2) Luke describes how glossolalia functioned early, even into the ministry of Paul, but the Corinthian correspondence shows that the church had learned what could happen if there were not some regulation in place. Luke and Paul would agree that there was a time when it was a harmless expression but now there needed to be some qualifications.
(3) Luke’s perspective is the general rule. Glossolalia can be a valuable tool for bringing people to Christ. It is a witness of the Spirit. The Corinthian situation was an exception to the rule. The Corinthians were abusing the gift so Paul put regulations on them because the way the Corinthians were using the gift was taking away from the gospel. Other churches that did not have the same problem as the Corinthians would not have been told that speaking in tongues publicly should be discouraged.
(4) Paul’s perspective is the general rule. Luke addresses important events in this epoch of salvation-history that he did not see as common place. The events mentioned are important because Peter was able to witness the Spirit being poured out on Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile which parallels the outline provided in 1.8.
The disciples of John the Baptist are mentioned in 19.1-7 as having a similar experience in all likelihood as a polemic against a rival sect of disciples still following the teaching/message of John who had not come to embrace Jesus as Messiah. By emphasizing this event Luke shows that even some of John’s disciples have come into the New Covenant but only through Jesus the Messiah who provides the Spirit.
(5) An alternative to these four theories that you have found convincing.
Of course, anyone who has read this blog for any time knows I have written in favor of part #4 on several occasions. Which of these do you find most likely? Or do you have your own approach that you feel makes more sense?
It would be nice to include the cessionist position, just for reference and to compare. Since Paul does talk about “tongues” ceasing, in some sense? (1 Cor.13:8). I do not really care to argue this point myself, however. Just seeking make this position aware, I know most here are continuationalist.
True. That could fall under #5. I’m not sure if it would solve the immediate problem between Paul and Luke though because at one point this tension would have existed even if these gifts eventually ceased.
I sort of lean on option 3 if I understand it correctly, but I also agree with option 4, especially on this part “Paul’s perspective is the general rule.”, I couldn’t agree more.
All of the the churches that Paul started were Spirit empowered churches, and all of them had some sort of Spirit manifestations going on, and possibility all were also speaking in tongues. But it was the Corinthians as best as we can tell that were abusing these gifts. I think that they were the exception, and not the norm. We know that even the Thessalonians were prophesying otherwise, why issue the following statement.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 TNIV
19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject whatever is harmful.
Often Acts 1:6 has been called an argument from silence about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. But when we look at the aspect of the Book of Acts as being a Book that is part of the transition of the OT to the New, and the rejection of the Jewish nation of the kingdom of God, and Christ (Acts 28:25-29), this comes into better light and focus. This is also true in regard to that aspect to signs and wonders, miracles, etc. (Note Acts 5, and Anaias and Sapphira, their death.) And we note 2 Cor. 13:12, “Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.” Thus it does seem that in the Book of Acts we have a real time of transition, from the OT to the New. From the Apostles preaching to Israel, to that time when the kingdom is being given to the Gentiles, and Israel slips into that place of unbelief, as a Nation (Lk. 21:20-24). But, the kingdom is still Israel’s, but held in abeyance, until “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
This is rather quick, but I think it helps us to see what later had happened to both Israel and the Church. For the Church itself, is now seeing some of those signs of her own apostasy foretold by both the Lord and the Apostles, especially St. Paul. But note also 1 Peter 5:6-10. The Church age will end in apostasy, and great suffering, (2 Thess. 2 / 2 Tim. 2:19 into chapter 3 & 4, etc.) The Church is always cast upon the Word of God, itself (2 Tim. 3:16)…”But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” (John 4:23-24). It is also here we should note Acts 20:29-32, if this really began late in the Book of Acts as St. Paul was on his way to Rome. What can we but say to the Prison Epistles, and Eph. 6: 10-20, and the Apostle Paul in chains? Indeed, the Gospel is not a thing of theological development, but certain Revelation, (Gal. 1:11-12). Therefore it is the Word of God itself that we are always left with, not gifts, men or even the visible Church. But God and the Word of God!
Robert: I lean toward 4 because I think if the Thessalonians would have used tongues in a disorderly manner like the Corinthians he would rebuked them as well. In other words the problem was the act as much or more than the actors.
My post was not a negation of the Church or the real gifts of God, but both are in submission to God Himself, His Spirit and His Word, simply and profoundly!
To quote J.C. Ryle, we need God, “the pillar and the cloud of fire!”
That was a bit sermon-istic! But, with the nature of the Church and the Western world in great flux, and so spiritually lacking! I am always first a pastor-teacher, and theology must be “biblical” and pastoral!
Just a note, but like John A. T. Robinson, I believe that all of the NT Letters (and Gospels) were written before 70 AD. Note his book the Priority of John. And I place 2 Cor. (from which I quoted written by Paul in early 56 A.D.)
I lean toward another ‘5th option’: There are two different gifts being described in different places. There is a tongues that is intelligible human speech which is understood by all hearers and there is a tongues that is unintelligible speech which requires translation to be understood by any. Because the same word is used, we tend to make an assumption all cases must be the same, but the description of what is happening in Acts 2 seems entirely different from what Paul writes about 1 Cor. Different rules/admonitions are given because they are dealing with different charisms.
That is another valid possibility. Do you find it problematic that (1) Paul never spoke of this type of gift of tongues or (2) that he seems unaware of a common gift of tongues that can be used to communicate but rather talks about a tongues-interpretation combo? Those would be my two primary hurdles.
Let’s assume the cessationist position is correct. I don’t think this addresses the historical problem of a time in the apostolic age when Luke saw public glossolalia as a wonderful thing while Paul seemed to see it as a bit of an embarrassment. How would we have reconciled the two if we were in that era.
I don’t myself see the tension between Luke and Paul at all on this subject. Paul is addressing its use in the church, both pastorally and somewhat theologically. Though I don’t see Paul really engaging in a fully glossolalia theology even in 1 Corinthians. As we can see in both the Prison Epistles/Letters, and the so-called Pastorals, St. Paul says nothing about glossolalia. It had or was dying out in use, etc. (1 Cor. 13: 8-13) Really in 1 Cor. 13, St. Paul is moving to the greatest gift, and that of love.. from verse 1 to verse 13.
It is a bit of a stretch to assume that because it isn’t mentioned in the Pastorals that we should deduce that he expected it to fade out of the life of the church. It isn’t mentioned in the Thessalonian correspondence either and that is very early.
But it is somewhat mentioned in 1 Thess. 5:19-21. At least in the form of prophetic speaking. Which is in that whole genre I would think. (Again note 1 Cor. 13:8-9-10, etc.) We need to mention that the Early Church had the OT Scriptures, and the Apostolic people, and the all the “gifts” of the Spirit. But, when the “canon” would come fully, it would be the Biblical Text alone! (2 Tim. 2:15 ; 3:16) Note also, Eph. 4:11-16, profound there!
Brian, I’m not sure that this is a correct way “…Paul seemed to see it as a bit of an embarrassment” to describe how Paul felt. I don’t think Paul ever felt embarrassed about anything or in any way that the Spirit moved. Even if it was being abused. It is clear that he was concerned, but I doubt he was embarrassed.
Sure, 1 Thes. 5.19-21 addresses prophetic speaking but not tongues. On a side note, I think it is a passage that needs to be seriously considered by Cessationist. It seems that the Cessationist position does scoff at prophecies!
It is an exegetical stretch to equate “the canon” with “that which is perfect” and 2 Tim 2.15 and 3.16 likely refer to the OT canon, not to a “coming” NT canon. Finally, as regards Eph. 4.11-16, I hardly see the church having reached that point. We may need the gifts now more than ever!
When he uses language suggesting that the abuse of the gift of tongues may cause outsiders to think that Christians are a bit crazy it seems like “embarrassed” may be a fitting term in my opinion.
Brian, I agree that it is a big stretch to think that the Canon = “that which is perfect”. When this comes up and it always does, we need to ask this question. Did Paul have the Canon in mind when he wrote “…that which is perfect…”, and is that what his readers understood it to mean? If that is not what he intended, and that is not how his readers would have understood it, then it can’t possibly mean that.
Brian, I totally see what you are saying, but are you sure you are not injecting your own personal feeling on this 😉
Maybe he did, but it is clear that he was concerned enough to write and correct them on this.
That it has continued to exist and is reported throughout church history is enough evidence for me against the cessationist view. That it has continued and there is nothing in Scripture expressly denying its continuation makes it hard for me to argue that silence in ‘later’ parts of the Bible means it died out. We need to remember the Bible is not a systematic theology. (This leads back to Brian’s question to me, above.) None of Paul’s letters are attempts at a /summa theologica/. He wrote task/situation-oriented letters to particular churches. My guess as to why he didn’t write about this particular gift was that it was not a gift that caused problems for those churches at those times.
If ever there was an “embarrassment”, it has come over the so-called modern day gifts of the Spirit! And how can the true Spirit…”the pillar and the cloud of fire”, ever be an embarrassment? No, I personally just don’t see it! It does seem that in the apostolic church and time itself, the so-called “gifts” of manifestation became less. And St. Paul himself, wrote the grand Prison Letters & the Pastorals, for the length of the Church itself, as he knew that the “gifts” would be left alone for the pastor-teacher, etc. over this OT/NT Text. And now “All Scripture..(2 Tim.3:16)” is both the Old and New Covenant Text! (Note, 2 Cor. 3:7-18) Also, I think history here speaks for itself. If ever there was a time of modern church apostasy…it is now! I am just too old to not notice this most profound shift!
Cademon, I have to agree with you. My guess is that all of Paul’s churches spoke in tongues, but were not out of control or abusing it in such a way as the Corinthians were. You may have this book already but it’s worth mentioning. In the book “The Holy Spirit” by Ivan Satyavrata, he does a great job of tracing the activity and manifestations of the Spirit through out the history of the church.
there is nothing to be embarrassed about what the Spirit is doing today. Just like the Corinthians, there will be those today that abuse the manifestations of the Spirit. But how many other areas have we abused through out history, much worst than this? I think the Lord kept the Corinthians letters, not to discourage us for allowing the Spirit to operate in this outward manner, but to help us understand that we are not people who are out of control, but rather people of the Spirit, who are under his control.
By the way I appreciate your tone and grace in this dialog.
Thanks, I would be the first to admit that I could be wrong. For way back when, I was part of the charismatic renewal (70’s & 80’s). But over time, in both church & culture, I have changed my biblical and theological position. I used to be quite involved at the academic and academy level (I have two doctorates..D.Phil.,Th.D.). But, now that I am getting older I can see that (that level) though important is not as so to me now, as being both a priest/presbyter and pastor-teacher. And I am just more of a real biblicist and also old school Evangelical. But I have my appreciation of the classic Anglican High Church position also (been there too). Sorry, just some backdrop and history to who and what I am. As this does affect the way we reason and look at scripture.
As to this subject, I am cessionist right now, but I am always open to God’s direction. I have read quite a bit on the history of church and revival, both the UK, and America. But as of the last twenty-five years or so, I am as I say a convinced cessionist. But if people note, I have changed biblical and theological views on other subjects. I have gone from both A-Mill / Post Mill, to the classic or historical Pre-Mill. But that change took many years in reality. But I regress again sorry.
In the end, and am also one that looks at history. And with and in such, I just don’t see the “manifestation” gifts as that important now, and certainly not “theological”. Note, even biblical theology, does not seem to play an historical part in that area. Luther, Calvin. Wesley, etc. And today, Barth, Wright, many others etc.
I appreciate the background. I think you have the best possible attitude one can have. I remember hearing once in a sermon “in an instance God can change our theological understanding, but it can take a lifetime to change our attitude”.
Thanks. Yes, God could drop me like a fly! I am always in His hands…and I am so thankful to know that! Lord make me pliable in Thy/Your hands, is always in my heart, mind and prayers. I hope at least? – A Christian that has not had some sense of brokenness, is really a sad affair!
I get this daily from a dear brother, feeds spoken by J.C. Ryle. I thought it was very good for today:
(Brian, I hope you don’t mind me passing this?)
Robert J.: It may be that I am projecting my own emotional response back onto the Apostle, but what emotion would you suggest better encapsulates his concerns that the pagans would think the Corinthians Christians to be behaving as insane people? I think embarrassment or shame is fitting.
Robert: Sure, some modern charismatic expressions are embarrassing. You ask how the work of the Spirit can be embarrassing. Well, it was still the work of the Spirit being misused by the church in Corinth.
I think this is a common error made by many cessationist. They see modern spiritual gifts being abused and they say that is not how it should look so it must not be real at all. The problem with this is that it was real even when the Corinthians abused it. Imperfect expressions of the charismata don’t denounce these gifts, they only remind us that we need to mature in our use of them. This is why Paul called for them to be done in love in 1 Cor 13.
Lastly, while I see where Paul’s statements concerning Scripture can be applicable to the NT canon because it is now considered “Scripture” I don’t think he had a NT canon in mind when he said these things. He did not see the New Covenant as being defined primarily by a canon but by the Spirit-led community in contrast to the people of God before the Spirit was “poured out on all flesh”.
Caedmon: Fair enough, it is possible. It is difficult to prove or disprove either way since it would be an argument from silence either way. I still lean toward #4, but I think you offer a plausible explanation.
Brian, as far as what sort of emotion Paul might have felt, I would say frustration with them for their inability to grasp what he has been telling them. He calls them “mere infants” and not being able to address them as “spiritual”. I’m not 100% confident that he wasn’t embarrassed, I have been embarrassed by my son on more than one occasion when he was an infant/toddler.
Which is a side topic all together but how often do Pentecostals measure their spirituality based on their gifts? If that was the case I doubt Paul would have called the “mere infants”. Plus from the reading of his others letters it is clear what he had in mind when he called us spiritual.
Robert: I am sure frustration plays a part. I used the word “embarrassed” because of his concern with how it appeared to sinners. Yes, it is possible he was frustrated but not embarrassed, but anytime we talk about being frustrated by someone because their behavior makes others write them off as crazy we are pressed not to see this as some sort of embarrassment. In the end we can never know though. All I am saying is I don’t think the assumption of embarrassment is far fetched.
I agree. I think the assumption that gifting makes one more important is immature. One reason why I defend the continuationist position is not because I want to say that those who think the gifts have ceased must in some sense be less spiritual because they are not allowing their gifts to function, but rather I am concerned that a cessationist will not receive what God is doing through a brother or sister because “God doesn’t work that way anymore.”
In other words, if I was gifted with the gift of prophecy and it was not recognized I wouldn’t be all that upset. But if I knew someone who was gifted that way and I knew s/he had a word from the Lord for another brother or sister who I knew was struggling I would be disappointed if presuppositions like this one prevented the body from ministering to itself.
Brian, being embarrassed makes sense in the way you explain it. When you first mentioned being embarrassed, I thought about it in the sense of being ashamed, or wishing they weren’t around. Which I don’t think that was ever the case with Paul, and does not seem what you were at all implying. I have spoken to many that were embarrassed but also looked down and riducled us for holding to the belief that the Spirit still enables his people with his gifts.
I must admit that there have been times that I have been embarrassed by the behavior of some and hoping that we had no visitors that day 😉 Although that rearly happens at all in my church.
Well, obviously the problem lies in the fact that you no longer recognize the initia, evidence doctrine, you darned heretic. 😉
Seriously, though, Acts 2 wouldn’t fall under Paul’s reprimand in Corinthians because the witnesses were speaking in (at least some) earthly languages and testifying about Jesus. This was a sign for the unbeliever. Do you agree? Obviously, the 3 other instances in Acts require an answer, but I’m very comfortable with the initial evidence doctrine, though I’m aware that you are not.
Acts 2 would not be part of his critique but one must wonder if he expected but one must wonder if he would have expected similar events to be commonplace.
I understand that, Brian … but I’m not entirely sure how common those events were. The problem with Acts is that we only know as much as the author tells us. He hits the high points, not a day-to-day description of the practice of the early church.
I agree. He surely highlights the events as he wants them known.
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