10 September 2008

It never ends

by Frank Turk

Just to bring everybody up to speed, back on August 14 I linked to an essay by Dr. John Piper, and then commented on that essay. This was followed by a word of caution about the differences between those who think the apostolic gifts are still being demonstrated and those who don't, a brief post on the meaning of signs and wonders, and then last week's salvo about making clear distinctions in the continualist camp.

Now, here's where I'm at: I have taken great pains not to merely avalache the readers of this blog with a 15-page one-time post on the question of signs and wonders -- so I have broken my thoughts here into 2-3 page (as measured by WORD) buckets to keep you from impacting the US GDP. But in doing that, it gives the drive-by commenter the opportunity to really miss almost all of what I have said so far. So before you read any further, if you haven't read the other stuff, go back and re-read that other stuff if you have missed it -- because people who post stuff like, "well, you just don't believe God can do miracles," or "you're a deist," or "you quench the spirit" are just going to get deleted using Blogger's "delete forever" function and, frankly, get ignored. No appeals.

Because this topic is volatile enough, right? Get engaged in it in a way that is more than superficial if you're going to participate in a dialog here. If you want to lecture, go get a classroom. Or your own blog.


So my closer last week was this:
So my point here is that making unclear distinctions like the somewhat-confusing ones, above, doesn't make the continualist case any more convincing. It seems, in fact, to make it all the more slippery -- which brings me personally to the place where I need some actual apostolic help in sorting the problem out.
Because, we should be grateful to note, there is actual apostolic guidance on this topic.

It turns out that Paul wrote a whole section of a letter to the Corinthians on this topic, which begins, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed." And it ends, "But all things should be done decently and in order." That's not hardly all the information he packs into (what we receive in English as) about 1800 words, but that's how he frames his view: these things should not be things we are ignorant of, and they should be part of order in the church and not disorder or disunity.

For those of you who aren't constantly scouring the internet for every word I publish (as if you have that kind of time), it has come up that Paul leverages the alleged presence of the sign gifts to demonstrate that they are not the main object of church life.

1 Cor 13 is Paul's expression of what he calls a "still more excellent way" -- as compared to the jocking for position based on what gifts one may have. It is there -- in the middle of Paul's dissertation on spiritual gifts in order that we may not be uninformed -- that he says,
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends.
Which is, of course, the source of all kinds of other insinuations -- but the point of Paul saying this here is that he is saying plainly that the church is not built on signs and gifts, but that what is necessary for the church is love, and that signs are rather useless unless -- drumroll please -- the thing signified is actually present. Compare what Paul says here about love to what he says previously about how the church should judge sin, and how the church should handle disagreements, and then in just the next bit up when he gives us the full monte Gospel as the foundation on which we stand, if we are indeed saved.

So Paul's guidance to us, in brief, is that there's something greater than signs and wonders which the church must manifest and must seek after, even if gifts are given. And in that, we have the nutshell of my critique of the "cautious charismatic" crowd: at some point, what you-all are calling the gifts of the Holy Spirit ought to be doing what Paul say they ought to do in and for the church. And you should be able to apply the filter Paul applies to see when the Spirit is actually working in the church.

And that sets us up for my last post in 2008 about this subject, which we will get to next week.


Jugulum said...

Amen...With a question.

"So Paul's guidance to us, in brief, is that there's something greater than signs and wonders which the church must manifest and must seek after, even if gifts are given."

Check. Love & edification are the sine qua non of the church--not signs & wonders.

"at some point, what you-all are calling the gifts of the Holy Spirit ought to be doing what Paul say they ought to do in and for the church."


"And you should be able to apply the filter Paul applies to see when the Spirit is actually working in the church."

Check...Er...Sort of. I'm not quite clear on how you intend to apply this.

We definitely ought to apply the filter Paul applies, and we ought to be seeking for the work of the Spirit in love & edification. Where the fruits of the Spirit are not present, the Spirit is not working.

But if you intend to say, "Where immature abuses & excesses are happening, the Spirit is not really working," then Paul's letter to the Corinthians disagrees with you.

Paul starts off the letter with this thanksgiving:
"4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless 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. [bold added]"

In the rest of the letter, Paul proceeds to upbraid the Corinthians for all manner of dysfunctions among them. Sin, divisions, unworthy communion, and problems with the exercise of spirituals gifts. (Ignoring whether or not all those gifts continue today.) So, in the midst of immaturities & abuses, Paul gives thanks for the spiritual gifts & enrichment that are among them.

But I suspect your point is this: If we look at a church and can not give thanks the way that Paul did--if we cannot see the evidence of the working of the Spirit in love--then the presence of "signs" is meaningless. Empty. Nothing. Like a clanging, clashing gong.

The Blainemonster said...

"Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts..."

There, I believe, Paul's intention and priorities are clear. Follow the way "of love" first, for without it, the other gifts are just, well...annoying (clanging cymbals - yikes!). Love, then gifts.

Truly, mature Christianity is fruitful Christianity, where the work of the Spirit is evident in everyday life as we are loving, joyful, peaceful, etc. I guess if it's not fruitful, you can't even call it Christianity.

Again: Signs? Gifts? Fine. But first show me your fruit.

Jugulum said...

I forgot to say something:

Paul's point 1 Cor. 12-14 wasn't to judge whether or not a particular claimed manifestation is really the Spirit or not. That is, I don't see where he takes it there--and in the midst of their immaturities, he thanked God for their spiritual gifts. Instead, his point is to channel an interest in manifestations of the Spirit into a mature love and desire for edification.

"So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church." (14:12)

Mark B. Hanson said...

There are three scriptural ways others will know we belong to Christ: Our good works (Matthew 5), our love for one another (John 13-15), and our hope in the midst of adversity (2 Peter 3).

What continues to fail to convince me that there is anything special about the "sign gifts" Charismatics claim to have is - there doesn't seem to be a visible difference between them and the "Unsigned" in holiness, peace with one another, or hope for the life to come. The gifts are not ends in themselves - nor irrefutable evidence of our sanctity - which is Paul's point in 1 Cor 13.

Jugulum said...

Another nutshell: There are many charismatic Christians who are very Corinthian in their approach. And they need the correction that Paul offered.

David A. Carlson said...

And that sets us up for my last post in 2008 about this subject, which we will get to next week.

Leaving us with the question, is that a promise, or a threat?

da da doom....

Chad V. said...

If you leave out that whole part about how Paul says those gifts will cease I think you've missed the point. Desire love above all else because that and faith and hope are what remain and abide, the gifts were only temporary and had only a temporary purpose.

Faith hope and love abide. Not signs.

Jugulum said...


People don't "leave out" the part about those gifts ceasing--they disagree about whether "when the perfect comes" refers to a future event or a past event.

Also, the gifts mentioned in 1 Cor. 13 are tongues & prophecy--not miraculous signs.

FX Turk said...

See: now when the meta starts like this with people who actually read what I wrote, booyah.

Back in a minute with comments on your comments.

Anonymous said...


DJP said...

You may find him more of a "Deletist."


Anonymous said...


Strong Tower said...

Behold the consummation of all things are at hand. Do not become as those who say that Cent tarries, he is not slow as some men say. His final installment will come at a time when they sleep, and have ceased to ask the question: Wazzup?

Apostolic authority? As in when Paul said, I am coming to put all things in order. Kinda like telling the kids when you'll be back from the movies. What you hope is that they kept it together, but if they didn't, that they would at least remember what things like were before and make it right befoe you get home. And just to be sure, you text them with the instructions not to forget to put out the cat before they go to bed.

Paul seems to think that they should have understood. Why don't we? Maybe we missed that part about not going beyond what is written, what is understood. And if we did, there would be much less confussion. Better to say I don't know and don't do, than to abort a child and claim. Who knew?

donsands said...

And, "You Can't Hurry Love".

I remember when I was a wee lad in the Lord, and at a Charismatic church a fellow asked me: "Did you get baptized in the Holy Ghost yet?"
I said, "I don't know, how do you tell."
"Did you speak in tongues"?, he asks me.
"I'm not sure if I did or not really."

He says, "Do you act different, do you feel love for God, and for people, and do you know a peace, and joy that you never had?"

"Yep, I can say my life has changed a lot, and I do love like I never loved people, and have a joy, and reverence for the name of Jesus Christ like I never had, and I go to church, and love to read the Bible."

"You got the baptizism in the Holy Ghost."

I ended up in an AofG church, and had to leave after I found out tongues is the essentially required sign for being baptized in the Holy Spirit.

I have found that love, or hating that I don't love like I should is something that must be present in the Body of Christ.

Anonymous said...

"If you want to lecture, go get a classroom. Or your own blog."

This is why I love you, Frank.


FX Turk said...

I was particularly pleased with the black raspberries after saying such a thing, EDM.

FX Turk said...


I would agree with you whole-heartedly that the point of Paul's letter to the Corinthians is that because they are called together to be saints, they therefore should demonstrate thus and such.

I think the problem is that Paul doesn't stop there, particularly by the time he gets to what we call chapter 15. By that place, he is saying things like "if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain." Which is to say, if indeed you are saved, you will obey my teaching. He says something like that when he says, "If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized," in Chpt 14.

Paul's letter here is not just optimistic encouragement: it is also dire warning. In that, I think we have to weigh our assessment here not merely on an optimstism on Paul's part but also a concern he has for these people.

Rick Frueh said...

"So Paul's guidance to us, in brief, is that there's something greater than signs and wonders which the church must manifest and must seek after, even if gifts are given."

Sums it all up. Amen.

Jugulum said...

I agree with you on the issue of grave concern. You could say that about all the corrections Paul is offering. It's not, "I know y'all are all real believers who just need a little straightening out." Paul is confident in the reality of the Spirit's work among the Corinthians--but he also speaks out of grave concern.

I suppose the problems in the Corinthian church also raise the question of tares among the wheat. (14:38 and 15:2 show that, as you pointed out.)

So, as a point of modern application: We should be gravely concerned about churches that blithely violate Paul's regulations. (Whatever gifts continue are also regulated the same way.) Take a Pentecostal church in which pandemonium reigns--they need the firmest correction. Same thing for commmunities that use speaking in tongues as an indicator of being more spiritual.

Jeremiah said...

I just taught almost this exact same topic, that Paul never mentions the gifts without situating them within a discussion of love or unity, to my students last Sunday night. I look forward to the next installment.

donsands said...

Oh, "black" "raspberries". I thought they were blackberries. Now i gets it.

Pitbull78 said...

So...an old co-worker of mine grew up going to the Vineyard church.

The youth group consisted of the young men and women stumbling around with slurred speech, manic type laughter, and overall odd behavior as they "prophecied" to each other claiming to get a "word from the Lord".

When questioned about their bizarre behavior, they claim that to be filled with the Holy Spirit makes one resemble that of a drunkard and THAT is why the men at Pentacost accused the Apostles of being drunk when they spoke in tongues, furthermore, they also point to Ephesians 5:18, and say that is even more proof that if you are truly filled with the Spirit you will resemble a drunken lunatic.

Chad V. said...


What ever the perfect is it cannot be the eternal state. This is quite impossible as Paul says that the signs will cease but what will remain are faith, hope and love. Faith and hope have no part of the eternal state. We cannot hope for or have faith in what we already possess in it's fullness.

So I believe it is quite clear that Paul intended that the gifts he is discussing were to be temporary and cease. As DJP pointed out in an earlier post no one has ever exercised these gifts since the first century.

If one wishes to maintain that the gifts continue then they will have to argue that the gifts have changed(as Piper does), and there is absolutely zero scripture to back up that assertion.

So I still maintain that if the part about Paul saying the gifts will cease is not taken into account then his real point is going to be missed.

FX Turk said...


um, yeah?


The restraint in this thread has been, frankly, astounding. Nice work all.

One word of caution: I didn't open this can of worms in order that we can catalog all the various bizarre occurrences of excesses -- and frankly I'm not asking those with whom we (TeamPyro) disagree on this subject to 'splain all the abuses, either. I'm asking them, in the general way a public piece like this can ask such a question, how do they ground their advocation of signs and wonders in Paul's admonition here, given them the basis to discern what is and is not actually of God?

Susan said...

Wow, Frank, I always knew you were smart, but you really got clever on me with those black raspberries! (If I hadn't read the friendly exchange between you and EDM in this thread, I wouldn't even have noticed them berries!) Spunky, aren't we!?

I do have a question about Paul, though. It seems like throwing Paul into the picture doesn't seem to help the cessationists because Paul admits to tongue-speaking himself and in 1 Co. 14:5 even exhorts the Corinthians to "speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy." And notice the order in which we find this exhortation: it comes AFTER the "love" discourse in 1 Co. 13, AFTER the much debated vv. 8-12. It would seem, then, that Paul had expected a continuation of the gift of tongues after his first letter to the Corinthians. So can we really say that true tongue-speaking has ended, even though it is evident that Paul values the essentials (gospel, holiness, love, etc.) more than he does certain gifts? Perhaps true tongue-speaking may still exist, but only on rare occasions? Or could Paul be referring to a gradual cessation--that 1 Co:8-12 could perhaps be read not as a reference to a one-time deadline in history but rather as multiple phase-outs in individual churches, i.e., when the believers in the church become more mature in the faith, they will focus on the essential doctrines rather than on the peripherals?

Disclaimer: I was baptized in a charismatic church, but I didn't end up going there. I ended up in an SBC church, where my teachers were generally against "tongue-speaking" as we know it today. Personally, I do find the present-day "tongues" doubtful because the Acts 2 Pentecost account seems to indicate that tongues were known languages (as opposed to garbled utterances that lack verbal clarity). I also do not agree with the "slaying in the spirit" or "faith-healing" movements. It is from this background that I ask my questions.

Chad V. said...

BTW, I speak about the eternal state because I assume that those who believe that the signs continue for the church still believe that the perfect is the eternal state. That is the usual line of reasoning.

FX Turk said...

To chad v.'s point, btw, there's massive precedent for the cessation of miracles, signs and wonders even in OT times. Even the OT indicates to us that God is sometimes silent and does not disclose His Glory and Power 24/7/365/52.

That is an issue the continualist simply overlooks -- that the miraculous is uncommon even in terms of the history the Bible tells us.

Jugulum said...


I didn't intend to argue the point--I intended to correct the way that you seemed to mis-frame the disagreement.

But if your point is, "Incorrectly understanding Paul's point about cessation will prevent you from understanding Paul's larger point," then OK. If that was what you meant, then I didn't need to correct you.

Chad V. said...


That's pretty much what I was driving at.


That's a good point, however I think the current thinking by continualists is that the signs could have ceased only temporarily and started up again like they did in the O.T. But that sort of thinking really misses the purpose of signs in the first place.

Jugulum said...


"I didn't open this can of worms in order that we can catalog all the various bizarre occurrences of excesses"

Check. My bad.

"That is an issue the continualist simply overlooks -- that the miraculous is uncommon even in terms of the history the Bible tells us."

Hmm. My own tentative continuationism doesn't assume that God has given anyone (since the apostles) the ability to work miracles like the apostles. I allow for it, but I haven't seen it. And I wouldn't be surprised if it hasn't happened. So I agree there.

So I have to leave it to others to answer your question about advocacy of seeking signs & wonders in the church. (I basically agree with your thesis in your debate blog interaction.)

Strong Tower said...

First I have to apologize for the next post. Cent said that if we wanted to post an essay that we should get our own blog which is his kind way of saying go away. But since jugulum set the precedent I post away recognizing that Cent is sovereign in his discretion, I will not object to censure. I do have my own Blog.

Strong Tower said...

AoG (go Palin) recognizes the apostolic authority. But what they mean is that the apostolic authority no longer resides in its orignal office or individuals. They also believe in the perpetuity of the SG's.

On one hand they are correct, the Great Commission line of authority definitely descended down from Christ through the Apostles to the church as Paul instituted though Timothy and is not provided for again. The question remains, however, what is meant by apostolic authortity. The AoG says their final appeal is to Scripture for the ability to determine the proper exercise of SG's and it is in it that the authority resides. I think, though, that Paul had something else in mind concerning what was in existence in the Apostolic church.

Cent has mentioned the critical nature of getting it right. If it is wrongly interpreted, just who stands to suffer? Paul is quite clear that a PPL is as good as worthless because it must be interpreted for the indvidual to grow in understanding, which is the end game, love in truth to the benefit of others. There are also the uninitiated who can be harmed. Our responsibility to the unbeliever is critical for apostolic (authoritative) witness. Tongues without interpretation causes others to stumble or to reject the faith. Without prophecy the understanding fails. But if all prophesy then tongues is unnessary.

Still the question remains, we can understand somethings from Scripture and come to postitions contrary. What good is that? And since we will all appeal to the apostolic authority of Scripture, what then is it that Paul meant when he said that he would come and set it all in order? Obviously, Paul understood Corinthians and if the end game was clearity of revelation and not confusion then confusion is not a sign of love for love speaks the truth. What must be reckoned with in the sign gifts controversy is the presence of Apostles.

So, the bottom line is that either the gifts are active and it can be clearly demonstrated or, the gifts cannot be demonstrated to be in operation with clearity. The cessationist is then cautious, understanding that clearity is lost but God is God. Without a Paul to come along behind and set things in order, with power to punish the evil, it is safest to set aside childish things. Childish things are those which make no clear distinction. In sounds such a a baby's garble, words remain word mush. They may be words indeed, but who is instructed in love and is being built up by them? Without a Paul there is no corrective. In matters of dispute we should be able to go to the text and discover what is written. But, if that is not forth coming then we cannot say that we stand upon any truth. Rather, what we have is an opinion. When the perfect has come there is no need for words of knowledge, or tongues for the truth has been established, and love is never absent when truth is the common ground. As mature in doctrine, ala Ephesians, we see Paul's transition to practice. Here is the finality of the pursuit of Spiritual Gifts then, if the Gifts are given to mature, then when will the mature, ever be if the gifts are still needed? At some point a person matures and becomes the defender of truth able to stand, and no longer dependent upon the things fit for a child, If the gifts as Paul suggests are the marks of immaturity, then ther is something greater than they. Sure, it was the infant church and gifts given it were necessary and there was a few spiritual fathers to come behind and whip the children into shape. That time is gone and the kind of apostolic authority that was present to correct the excess is gone also.

Contentment is a sign a maturity. The AoG interestingly denies that the fullness of the Spirit given in regeneration is enough to carry out the full work of him who has begun a good work in you.

Susan said...

(Pardon me, Strong Tower, but what is PPL?)

FX Turk said...


Let me suggest, then, that you're not half the continualist you claim to be. If you merely believe that God answers prayer and works the miraculous, you are not advocating a continuation of the signs of the apostolic age: you are saying, as any right-minded Christian would, that God is alive and active in His church and this world.

Jugulum said...



Continuationism includes tongues & prophecy. Also, Sam Storms' book on spiritual gifts argues that the "gifts of healings" in 1 Cor. 12 was not a "this person has the ability to heal at will" gift. (And this is a guy who's been an associate pastor at Mike Bickle's church in Kansas City. I don't think you could call him "not very continuationist".)

I don't know how much of a charismatic I will end up being. I'm fairly well convinced that tongues as a private prayer language is part of the gift Paul's talking about, and that God does give that today--including to people who aren't looking for it. (Though I have no doubt that quite a lot of "tongues-speaking" is "of the flesh", as charismatics put it. Not real. Also, I have a friend who says she has personally experienced Acts 2-style tongues, on the receiving end--her report sounds credible to me.) I'm working through Grudem's view of prophecy as a fallible report of something that God brings to mind; I'm not quite convinced, but it seems more feasible than it did a year ago. (If he's right, then it's happening more than we think, including in cessationist circles.) I want to read more of the other side, and reread the 4 Views book. If he's not right, and prophecy is happening today, then I think it has to be something that is rarely given, and only in smaller, private contexts. And I don't expect to find any doctrine coming out of it--more along the lines of Agabus' prophecies in Acts, or the prophetic commissioning of Timothy. I'm especially trying to figure out the proper regulation/discernment/testing of claimed prophecy.

That all seems pretty continuationist to me. But it doesn't involve at-will miracles & healings, or an expectation that God will often work miracles or heal people during evangelism. (I do think that God would heal more if people prayed more... But with the more Calvinistic view that God will move his people to pray when he wants to do something.)

greglong said...

don sands wrote:

"You got the baptizism in the Holy Ghost."

I wish I could get the baptizism in the Holy Ghost. Fo shizzle!

Strong Tower said...

Sorry Susan I had to go water my mother's lawn. She said she was gonna bake some oatmeal cookies for Saturday, yum...

Private Prayer Language.

I am still curious about how apostolic authority works into all this and just how it is defined. I think I have a partial answer and hope for Cent's further explanation, if I didn't miss it in earlier threads. Anyway, I apologize to all for the length. If I began to explain all the manifestations I experienced in my yoot (33-40) during my Pentecostal/Charismatic days it would be book. I still speak in tongues as you can see, but it is English, though Centcheeri0 would probably disagree. And I am sure that Libbie has her doubts too. And Stefan makes fun of me...

Strong Tower said...

Chad V-

I missed your question in the comments until I went back and checked them again.

Perfect State:

This is how I see what Paul is referring to:

Knowledge can be perfect but not necessarily exaustive. I can know 2+2 perfectly and not need to know boolian logic.

The church being established is a done deal. Both Peter and Paul establish that the church was soon to be visited with troubles at their passing. Both were anxious to complete the task of setting up what was left to them to do before they were martyred. John also wrote to the fathers, young men, and children about the unity of the body as one going away. His demarcation of those who go out from us indicates that what they were going out from was the established church and knowledge necessary for its function. What we see to day is the success of that effort.

The cannon is complete. It is a stretch to say we need more. I wonder just what that could be?

The consummation of the ages. Needs no explanation.

Faith will never end. It has three components hope for that which is not seen only being a small portion. Faith consists of a perfected knowledge (as little as I am thoroughly sinful and condemned, God has provided Christ for me, I must repent). It is conviction. Beyond bare knowledge is the knowing of it in a unionized way. It is the difference between getting a letter and being the one writting it. The knowledge is intimate as one in unity with it. Then there is the trust, which rests in the object of the first two. So faith will never end and we wait for our Great Hope, Jesus Christ. Ephesians speaks of faith as the hupostasis, the thing down under or the very substance of the hope. We are now in the present possessors of that which will be. So only in the sense that things are passing away will hope end, but the Hope that endures is Christ and that eternally. Then it makes sense why love is the greatest. It is because God is love that he gave us our Hope and the Faith with which we embrace Him with the love of the Father that is in us by grace.

Hope that captures some of it.

Susan said...

(Strong Tower said: "I still speak in tongues as you can see, but it is English...."

LOL, Strong Tower! That would make ALL OF US tongue speakers to Christians who don't understand English!! Ok, everyone. Case closed...lights out...we can all go home now....)

Chad V. said...


Yes, but faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb 11:1

We will have that for which we have hoped in the eternal state, and hope will certainly not be part of the eternal state. Hope necessitates an expectation which has yet to be fulfilled. No such expectations can exist in glory when all things are fulfilled.

Since Paul says that faith, hope, and love abide or remain ( all three of them) I do not believe that he can be talking about the eternal state but I believe that he is talking about the present temporal state. Provided that I have misunderstood all the aspects of faith and that to some extent faith will be a part of the eternal state hope by definition will certainly not be. There is nothing left to hope for.

Anyway, that's the line of reasoning I'm tracking on.

Strong Tower said...

Chad V

But, Jesus is our Hope. And while it is true that faith is the evidence of things unseen, it is also the substance of the hope. For us there is a longing for the consummation, a longing for the things of this world to pass away so that what will remain is the true substance of hope. It remains then forever, not the hope of expectation but the hope satisfied. Yes, we will not live with future expectation of that thing appearing as promised, but the Promise will remain forever, just as faith, just as love. The line of reasoning that I am speaking of is that there are other ways of understanding hope, just as there are other ways of understanding promise, just as there is the expectation of Christ, the realization of Christ, and the Eternality of Christ being our only Savior forever. The fact remains that we will be sustained in salvation forever. So we are spoken of as having been saved, being saved, and Peter speaks of obtaining the salvation of our souls. We also have this knowledge that we have been resurrected with Christ, yet wait for that resurrection of the body. Paul also speaks of attaining the resurrection as to say the state and not merely the occurance just as Jesus did not make his resurrection a mere occurance, but the reality of hisself. We will remain part of the resurrection forever. So hope will remain and yet at the same time some considerations of hope will pass away. We will no longer be in expectation of His appearing. But his appearing is our Hope which remains forever.

Edwin Alvarez said...

I go to a charismatic church yet, I believe the the gifts are still for today and can be used but in order. I been to many Pentecostal churches. Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is important but I found this as a stumbling block. It gives brothers and sisters an air of pride when they talk about their gifts while those who don't either question their salvation or they concentrate their prayers solely on receiving the gifts. I say this because I was one who felt I was useless to God but learning about reformed theology taught me that grace abounds to the believer and that it is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that I am able to love God and be a believer.

When talking about the gifts of the Spirit it is always a hot button topic, but it should not be an issue that should divide the body of Christ. Besides the Bible even states that prophecy will cease yet love will outlast all the gifts.

To the cessationist, love your charismatics brethren, we may have all of the theology in the world, but without love we can be very judgmental, hard christians.

To the continualist, Love your cessationist brethren. Do not judge their effectiveness or their salvation because they cannot speak in tongues, drive out demons or prophesy. If you have these gifts let it be used for the service of the church and not to make a name for yourself. Learn a bit of theology as well. There are so many gems from those who came before us, grow in grace.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I am from half-way round the world. From Sarawak, East Malaysia. Greetings, all.

I agree in part to to the many points that Frank has made, but I do notice many inaccuracies. Frank, you came so near with 1 Corinthian 14:38, yet so far!

Much of the confusion comes from thinking that the charismata are narrowly 'signs and wonders'.
(1)Paul defined the charisma as “the manifestation of the Spirit” --”phanerosis tou pneumatos”. (1Cor 12:7). Therefore the spiritual gifts cannot be separated from the Person of the Holy Spirit. Miracles and signs can happen through agencies other than the Holy Spirit + humans. The charismata cannot. In Mt 10:1, you find that the apostles were able to heal miraculously before they had received the Spirit. The charismata and miraculous signs are not necessarily the same.
(2)The charismata were for ordinary believers- “To each one is given...” So they were not for attesting apostles by extension of this fact, unrelated to the formation of Scripture. Neither should their practice result in 'elite' Christians, if we understand the distribution intent.
(3)The charismata were primarily used in church (14:23,26) or in private as liturgy, to serve and worship God. To serve God that is by service to the Body of Christ ('...for the common good', and 12:5, 14:12 etc). 'Worship' through blessings, thanksgiving, prayers and singing 14:15-17. They are only signs to outsiders accidentally, being operative in the Church regardless of whether outsiders are present or not.
(4)Above all, the charismata were the Lord's command

Proof Text: 1Cor 14:37-39.
37:“If anyone thinks himself a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.” There is a warning in vs38, and in vs39 Paul indicated that he definitely had the charismata in mind as the 'commandments.' Explicit?

So there, brothers and sisters, a simple resolution to whether the charismata should continue in 14:37. If they are commanded, then unless there is a clear superseding order to abrogate them in the NT, we still need to obey and operate in the gifts. I can find no order by any apostle to cease the gifts. As commandments we should not treat them lightly nor explain them into irrelevance.

Chad V. said...


I understand what you're saying and I agree 100% when you say Jesus is our hope. But Paul doesn't use the word in that sense in 1 cor. He uses it in the sense of our awaiting an unfulfilled expectation. Hope is a characteristic of a Christian. Jesus is the object of our hope. Paul speaks of a mark of Christian character, not of the object of our hope. So while I respect your position and your ability to express yourself with intelligence and clarity I still disagree.


I really believe that there is a great need for caution among those who are continualists more so than among cessationsits. Here's why, when someone performed a miracle it was undeniable that it was done by the power of God. Everyone could see plainly that a miracle had been performed. The fact that there is so much controversy shows us that there is in fact no miracle being performed on the order of the Apostles presently.

For the continualist they have more of a problem than the cessationist does. False religion has real power and many people over look this. Pharaoh's magicians performed miracles right along with Moses. Also, remember the witch of Endor? She summoned the dead. If someone says that they received a word from God or something and it didn't come from God then who do you think it came from? Some people just make things up. They lie about receiving some supernatural gift. Others really get something but it isn't from God. The bible warns us about listening to false spirits. They are real and the scripture says to test them to see whether they are from God. What is their message? Without exception in my experience people who say they received some word from God or some gift etc. have virtually no understanding of doctrine at all. They have nothing by which they can evaluate the message given them. Many get no message at all which is even more telling. Signs always come with a message, the message has to be true and scriptural or it is false. Doctrinal precision is paramount here.

Unintelligible gobledygook is not a sign gift. Did your friend receive the ability to speak intelligibly in a foreign language or was it babbling noise? If so, to whom did she speak and what was the out come? What was her message? Such a sign and you have described should have come with a message from God of the most doctrinally precise nature.

Many contualists play fast and loose with the supernatural and they do so at their own peril. There is no call in Scripture to believe every report of someone speaking in tongues. There is however grave warnings against those who not only desire supernatural gifts but expect them. The burden for caution is clearly greater on the contilualist.

Kay said...

If I was convinced that I needed to operate in the sign gifts as a matter of obedience, how would I go about it?

I mean, I can still make random syllabic speech at will, but I don't for a moment believe that is the biblical gift of tongues, given that a pagan friend of mine does exactly the same thing in her little private pagan worship time.

And I still don't see how those random syllables will help me to the more excellent way of love. Just this last week, I've been struck by how utterly ridiculous it is to indoctrinate new believers into the random syllables, or the ability to 'get a word' or 'a picture', and completely downgrade the neccessity of genuine, world-shaking love and holiness.

Jugulum said...


1.) I agree with the need for great caution on claimed signs.

(The cessationist is not without need for caution here. Compare this summary of comments from Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. I won't judge which danger is greater--automatic dismissal or naive acceptance. I'll focus on calling people to test everything, cling to what is good, abstain from what is evil.)

2.) When I said that I have a friend who reports experiencing Acts 2-style tongues, I meant this: She was at a chapel in Europe, with a few friends. She heard the chaplain preaching the gospel in colloquial Texan English--and others heard him speaking in their own native languages.

I absolutely agree that "There is no call in Scripture to believe every report of someone speaking in tongues." That why I specified that I find her report credible--and I have found few to be credible. (But I wouldn't base my theology of gifts on that report. Scripture interprets experience.)

3.) You say that unintelligible speech isn't a sign. But you don't offer counter-exegesis to the ways that charismatics understand 1 Cor. 14:20-25, in which Hearing someone else engage in unintelligible speech is a sign--a sign of God's judgment. (The sign in Isaiah 28:11-12 was one of judgment, revealed by hearing strange tongues.) If unbelievers enter the church and find people speaking strange tongues, they'll think we're out of our minds. We will be sending the wrong sign--as though God were judging them by speaking to them in ways that they cannot understand. Rather, Paul says that an unbeliever ought to encounter prophecy or interpreted tongues--such that he will be convicted by all, called to account by all, having the secrets of his heart disclosed--and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among us. Paul's earlier discussion of uninterpreted tongues being something unfruitful in the mind is also relevant.

You can disagree with that exegesis, but if you want to convince someone from the word of God, then you can't ignore it--you need to interact with it more than the assertion "Unintelligible gobledygook is not a sign gift."

Grudem does a thorough exegesis of this passage in The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today. If you want to examine the other side, I would recommend it. IIRC, the 4 Views book also discusses it--you could read it online or pick up a copy.

Jugulum said...


"I've been struck by how utterly ridiculous it is to indoctrinate new believers into the random syllables, or the ability to 'get a word' or 'a picture', and completely downgrade the neccessity of genuine, world-shaking love and holiness."

Agreed. It has been suggested to me that I "try" speaking in tongues. No thank you. The Holy Spirit administers gifts where He will. Rather, I pray that God's Spirit would work in me more--sanctifying me, growing the fruit of the Spirit, deepening my desire for God, enabling me to serve, etc. And if an uninterpreted tongue in private will build me up in Him, I ask for it; if an interpreted tongue will build up others, I ask for it; if there is anything I can say to anyone to build them up, I ask for help to do it.

And I trust that God will give me what I need; working it up myself is not the way to go. I think people who do that are just making noise. As you say, pagan people can make noise.

FX Turk said...

Comment thread will close later today. Get your licks in while it's still open.

Jugulum said...

Licks, you say?

Strong Tower said...

Chad, I think the contrast that Paul is making is between the things that will pass away and the things that abide. Paul places hope among the abiding gifts. That he then goes on to speak of pursuing love does not mean that it is not existing, and he makes it superior to the sign gifts and places hope within love. Paul has not ended his comparisons of things that burn up and things that do. In this phase he is expressing the contrast between what ceases and what does not (faith, hope, love).

This still will not answer the question of continualism. It does however draw a sharp contrast between the gifts of the mature as opposed to the gifts that operate as a function of immaturity. Here I am speaking primarily of an infant church because it is quite obvious that the mature are indicated as operating in the gifts. However, what I think Paul is saying also is that if the Corinthians who were fond of priding themselves one against the other really wanted to attain the lofty status, then it is not to the spiritual gifts that their attention should be focussed, for they are of diminishing and vanishing importance. In the end whether they have them or not, what is important abides without them anyway.

Chad V. said...


Unintelligble speech as a sign of judgement is not in view in Paul's epistles so it is a non-issue.

As for Grudem, well we can play dueling commentators all day long and it will get us no where. I could easily throw Berkhoff and Shedd or Kistemaker at you and as far as I'm concerned they all outweigh Grudem and they were all cessationsits.

Anyway, I'm glad to see that you are proceeding with caution.

FX Turk said...

BTW, Chad, I'd count Paul as a cessationist as we see his letters to Titus and Timothy. Those are his last letters, and oddly, as he commissions the next generation of leaders who will carry on after his death, not one word about the use of signs in the church, the prophecy over Timothy notwithstanding.

Paul was a cessationsit. To say otherwise is to miss how he comissions the churches to carry on without him.

Michelle said...

There is no doubt in my mind - those are blackberries.

Jugulum said...


"Unintelligble speech as a sign of judgement is not in view in Paul's epistles so it is a non-issue. "

My goodness, Chad. I presented you with an argument that Paul was talking about it--an argument that Paul is directly and particularly talking about unintelligible speech as a sign of judgment in 1 Cor. 14:20-25. You can argue against the exegesis, but you can't respond by saying, "It's not in view."

"An argument isn't just contradiction!"

As for Grudem--My reference to him wasn't an appeal to authority, as you seem to take it. It's not about "out-weighing"--that's silly. It was an offering of a more in-depth (and more competent) exegesis than the sketch that I gave. And I would welcome referrals to good interaction on the subject. (That's partly why I like the 4 views book--it includes Richard Gaffin as the cessationist, a strong scholar.)

Jugulum said...


Paul's pastoral letters certainly excludes the idea of prophets holding an authoritative, leading role in the continuing life of the church. Similarly, signs also play no significant role in the continuing leadership of the church.

And that's part of the argument for seeing NT prophecy as less authoritative--the fallible reporting of a revelation rather than the very words of God. Because nowhere in the NT are prophets presented in the kind of leadership role of the apostles--or even the kind of leadership role of an elder.

So I agree that Titus & Timothy show something about the role of prophecy. But I can only take them as evidence for cessationism if you can show that prophecy played a bigger role before than afterward. If you're saying that "how he comissions the churches to carry on without him" shows cessation, I want to examine the difference in how the early church operated in apostolic vs. post-apostolic times.

And there is a difference. Signs didn't play the same role. Heb. 2:3-4 suggests that signs particularly accompanied the testimony of the eyewitnesses. And Paul doesn't direct us to look toward Magisterial apostolic successors in a Catholic or Orthodox sense--Scripture is our guide of apostolic teaching.

But I don't see the before-and-after difference when it comes to prophecy & tongues. How was the role of prophecy different between apostolic and post-apostolic times?

Jugulum said...

P.S. And when we have passages like 1 Thes. 5:20, "Do not despise prophecies", I want some actual apostolic teaching directly to the effect that prophecy ceased with apostolic era. (And people do argue that 1 Cor. 13 is such a teaching--I'm not convinced, but that's the kind of thing I'm looking for.)

To borrow language from the paedobaptism/credobaptism debate:

When we have practices that are positively established, I need something more than good & necessary inference to change it. (Though I don't think it's all that good & necessary.)

FX Turk said...

Jug --

That's actually a great question. I have an answer in multiple parts.

[1] I think that we often miss the clear problem in the NT that the word "prophet", it can mean anything from Isaiah, to any prophet like Isaiah, to someone in the school of the Prophets, to someone who was gifted with speaking encouragement or praise or wisdom, to someone who was possessed by a demon and had supernatural knowledge of events or information.

So when we find that word in use someplace, we have to determine what the speaker meant by it -- and I think context -always- tells us what they meant by it.

[2] When we say that the "Isaiah-like" role of prophet is frankly missing in the NT (John being the last of the OT prophets), we then are left with what is meant, for example, when Paul exhorts Timothy to remember the prophecy spoken over him, or when Paul exhorts the Corinthians to "earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy." If Paul saying there is a revelation which is not Scripture, all the wheels come off all the rails for a lot of people.

But clearly, Paul says to Titus that the church is to be lead by elders who have faithfully received the word and then who faithfully teach the word. Not those who will prophecy. The primacy of Paul's teaching is unquestionably the standard of the second-generation church.

In that, the availability of signs is frankly not even addressed by Paul when instructing both Titus and Timothy. Fidelity to Scripture, however, is. That should be a very telling fact for anyone concerned about supernatural signs, but often it is not.

[3] Lastly, if we confess that Isaih-like prophecy has ceased -- even though Scripture never says explicitly that it has ceased -- we should inductively reason that the lesser gifts have also ceased.

Now, why reason to that inductively? Because we have to recognize the purpose of Isaiah-like prophecy, and consider that the other sign gifts have the same purpose. If the purpose of Isaiah-like prophecy is complete (and I think we would agree that it is), I think it is wholly-reasonable and faithful to consider that the lesser signs have ceased for the same reason.


Jugulum said...

In other words, I don't expect to find the pastoral letters repeating everything about the continued practice of the church--but when Paul is talking to Timothy about leadership & authority in the church, I do expect to find references to prophecy & signs if they play that kind of role.

Jugulum said...

Note: I wrote my previous comment before seeing your reply. I'm now writing another.

Jugulum said...

[1] Agreed.

[2] "If Paul saying there is a revelation which is not Scripture, all the wheels come off all the rails for a lot of people."

I'm not clear--Are you saying you're one of those people? That you think all revelation that God has ever given is contained in Scripture? I wouldn't agree--we only have two prophecies of Agabus in Acts, and it strains credulity to think that he was only given those two. Also, we don't have everything that Jesus taught, which would all be revelation. The canon contains all inspired scripture, and all revelation required for "doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness"--but not all revelation God has ever given.

[2] "Paul says to Titus that the church is to be lead by elders who have faithfully received the word and then who faithfully teach the word. Not those who will prophecy"

Amen. That was my point. Prophecy isn't supposed to play that role--faithful elders who can teach the Word are.

And that only indicates cessationism if the first generation of the early church did use prophecy in that role. I don't see that happening in the NT. Isn't that suggestive?

[2] "That should be a very telling fact for anyone concerned about supernatural signs, but often it is not."

I agree. Paul's comments to Timothy and Titus are very suggestive about the role of miracles--they were not going to be a continuing authentication of the authority of a church leader.

[3] "Now, why reason to that inductively? Because we have to recognize the purpose of Isaiah-like prophecy, and consider that the other sign gifts have the same purpose."

Uh... You mean upbuilding and encouragement and consolation? Timothy receiving a word revealing a gift? Convicting an unbeliever and calling him to account so that he falls down and worships God?

Those are the Isaiah-like purposes that you have in mind?

Jugulum said...

So, to summarize:

In the apostolic era:
1.) Signs authenticated the eyewitnesses & apostolic authority.
2.) Prophecy did not play an authoritative role.

Paul's comments in the Pastoral letters suggest that in the post-apostolic era:
1.) Signs will not authenticate personal authority. (Though they could accompany evangelism without implying personal, apostolic-type authority.)
2.) Prophecy could continue to play a non-authoritative role, if that's what it was doing before.

Chad V. said...


You said; " I'd count Paul as a cessationist as we see his letters to Titus and Timothy. Those are his last letters, and oddly, as he commissions the next generation of leaders who will carry on after his death, not one word about the use of signs in the church, the prophecy over Timothy notwithstanding."

Precisely. I agree 100%

Chad V. said...


Paul doesn't say they won't understand, he says they won't listen. There's your counter exegesis.

Like I said, unintelligable gobbledygook as a sign of judgment is not in view here. This text has nothing to do with the babbling that so often goes on when people claim to be speaking in tongues.

It says quite clearly, by men of strange toungues i.e. foreigners, the gentiles. Nothing is said at all about unintelligible speech.

Jugulum said...

"It says quite clearly, by men of strange toungues i.e. foreigners, the gentiles. Nothing is said at all about unintelligible speech."

But if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. (Do you agree? Yes, no?) If yes, then a statement about "people of strange tongues" has application when I do not know the meaning of what I'm hearing.

Oh, sorry. I forgot the quotation marks around my first sentence. Paul said it, not me. :) I hope you said "yes". 1 Cor. 14 is most certainly about uninterpreted tongues, i.e. speech that is unintelligible to the hearer. (Whether it is unintelligible to the speaker would take more examination than we've given--and I have to run to my small group.)

And no, you have not offered counter-exegesis. You have argued that there's a flaw in mine; you have not exegeted the passage, or explained Paul's use of Isaiah.

Now, you're right that hear/listen makes a difference. Have you done a word-study to find out what the Greek & Hebrew mean, and if there's any ambiguity? Can it mean both, or is it specifically "pay heed to"? If yes, good. If not, what are you doing being so confident?

I'm not sure. I need to find out. So, there are two things to do before I could possibly decide that you're right:
1.) Do a word-study on eisakouo and shama.
2.) Exegete the alternative meaning of the passage.

Chad V. said...

Jug I have rule that I follow as closely as possible. I know just enough Greek to know that I can be dangerous to myself and other with it. Like James White always says, a little Greek is a dangerous thing. So as a result I try to never bring up what the Greek says in blog discussions. Most of the Lexicons available to people like you and me will not give us enough information to determine the full range of meaning of a particular word. Even when a good a and broad range of meanings is given you and I are not really going to be able to say with certainty which definition is best and we often try to pick the one we like best over and above which meaning is demanded by the grammar and syntax.

So, no I haven;t done a word study, and checking the Greek can be very helpful in personal study and I do it often and encourage others to do so I try to never bring it up in blog discussions. It really is beyond the realm of most of us to discuss properly and we can do just fine with only the English which is something even the less learned can follow without feeling left out.

I don't mean to be dismissive but I have to go right now. If the comments are open later maybe I'll have a chance to comment further. Anyway, good discussion Jug.

Jugulum said...


I wouldn't criticize you for not having done a particular study into the precise meaning of the words--I hadn't either! And I understand that this isn't a very good venue for doing so.

My point was that your brief, extremely confident dismissal of my sketch depends on the results of such a study. And you called it a counter-exegesis--when it was nothing of the kind.

Your comment was a good argument--I want to check into this, and it might be a fatal flaw in the view I presented. But if you want me to follow you into your position with the kind of confident attitude you displayed--well, it requires serious attention to God's word before I could do that.

Chad V. said...

Jug I have to head to work right now. I'll try to comment more when I'm on my lunch break.

Chad V. said...


First off, Paul does not quote Isa 28:11 verbatim, but even the application of the text in the context of Isaiah is still that since the Jews would not listen to the gospel God has taken the oracle once reserved for them and given it to the Gentiles. This is an application of many of the first shall be last theme of scripture. he's not talking about making the word of God unintelligible as a sign of judgement but rather giving it to men who are not Hebrew.

The gospel does have the effect of condemning those who reject it, but that's because they know what the message is. The understand it and still reject it such as with the Pharisees.

Remember, Paul says that the gospel was given to the Gentiles in order to make the Jews jealous, not to make the word of God unintelligible. Besides, it it's unintelligible how will they know it's the word of God? If I go down to the Hindu Temple which has been constructed in my town and people start speaking in strange utterances that I don't understand I'm not going to assume that they're speaking the word of God and thereby provoke me to jealousy.

First off, I don't think your charge that I failed to provide exegesis is fair, for one thing, you haven't given me any exegesis at all but rather isogesis. I believe you have come to the text with a certain presupposition and it's coloring your view.

When I said that Paul says that it is "by men of other tongues" and that the text says they will not listen, not that they will not be able to understand because it's in a language that's strange to them, that is exegesis. I have read the text and interpreted according to what it actually says given the rules of grammar and context.

Your insistence that it could mean since it's was in a foreign language that would make it unintelligible is isogesis, you are reading into the text something it does not say. You are making an assumption but you are not exegeting. Remember, when tongues were spoken there was to be an interpreter so all could understand. That sort of squashes your whole point of the word of God being unintelligible.

The point is that this text in no way supports the notion that tongues continue to the present day, especially since Paul says quite explicitly they will cease.

Chad V. said...

Besides, I think you're overlooking the fact that it was common for people to speak more than one language in that part of the world at that time.

Jugulum said...


I'll give your argument some more thought.

"First off, I don't think your charge that I failed to provide exegesis is fair, for one thing, you haven't given me any exegesis at all but rather isogesis. I believe you have come to the text with a certain presupposition and it's coloring your view."

Chad, it's entirely possible that my attempted exegesis of 1 Cor. 14:20-25 was flawed, and that I was reading things into it that were not there. It might turn out that my exegesis was eisegetical.

That has nothing to do with whether or not you provided exegesis of the passage, which you did not.

I say that because you have still not walked through Paul's use of Isaiah to lay out what he did in fact me. You have critiqued my attempted exegesis--and yes, you used exegetical techniques to do so. You have not offered your own positive exegesis of what Paul is talking about. In what sense does he mean that tongues are a sign for the unbeliever and prophecy a sign for the believer? How does that fit with what he has already said about uninterpreted tongues? How do interpreted tongues fit in? How do verses 23-25 fit with Paul's application of Isaiah 28?

In other words, you may have exegeted a phrase, but you have not exegeted the passage.

Jugulum said...

"did in fact me" == "did in fact mean"

Chad V. said...

The issue is whether or not sign gifts still exist. The text in question does not address that point in particular it rather addresses an event happening at the present time. They hadn't ceased yet but they would. Earlier Paul said quite explicitly that tongues would cease. That's where the argument really lies and I've gone into that several times over the course of this series in detail.

If you don't like what I've done with Paul's citation of Isaiah that's o.k. and your desire to see greater work done on the passage as a whole is valid. I don't have time right now to get into it in any greater detail right now. I'm just checking in on my way out the door and I won't have time to continue this. I've got a full plate this weekend.

Anyway, good talking with you. See you next time.