PMT 2014-069 by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.
In this concluding article I will show that tongues have ceased. The evidence is found in the revelation of God, not the experience of man. And Scripture trumps experience.
1 Corinthians 13
First Corinthians 13:8-10 reads: “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” This passage, properly understood, points to the providential completion of the New Testament canon as that which renders tongues (and other revelatory gifts) inoperative. Tongues, prophecy, and knowledge are specifically designated as having a joint terminus: each will be rendered inoperative at some future date (1 Cor. 13:8). What affects one gift, will affect all three.
Furthermore each of the three gifts mentioned as temporary is a revelatory gift of the Spirit. Who would dispute the claim that prophecy is a revelational gift? We saw earlier in our study that tongues is revelatory. And that “knowledge” is a supernatural, revelatory gift and not merely human rationality, is clear in light of the following: (1) It is specifically designated a “spiritual gift” in its context (1 Cor. 12:28). Mundane human rationality or knowledge is not a spiritual gift for the redeemed; it is a “natural” endowment for humanity. (2) The gift is here bound up closely with tongues and prophecy, which both are revelatory. (3) To view “knowledge” here as human rationality is absurd because the context warns that “knowledge” will one day be done away with (1 Cor. 13:8d). Who would teach that in the eternal state (or whenever) there will be no rationality?
Now to the point of the transience of tongues as related in this passage. Verse 9 speaks of these revelatory gifts as piecemeal — they are, by the very nature of the case, fragmented and incomplete revelations: “We know in part (Gk., ek merous), and we prophesy in part (Gk., ek merous).” The idea here is simply that during the period between Pentecost and the completion of the canon God gifts a variety of believers in various churches with these revelatory gifts. But these gifts are sporadic in that they give a revelation here and one there, but do not weave a total, complete New Testament revelatory picture. The various prophetic revelations offer at best partial insight into the will of God for the Church.
Charismatic Gift of Prophecy (by Ken Gentry)
A rebuttal to charismatic arguments for the gift of prophecy continuing in the church today.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
But verse 10 speaks of something coming which will contrast the piecemeal, bit-by-bit (Greek: ek merous) revelation of that transitional age. That which supersedes the partial and renders it inoperative is something designated as “perfect” (Gk., to teleion): “But when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.” It is difficult to miss the antithetic parallel between the “partial” thing and the “perfect” (complete, mature, full) thing. Since the “partial” speaks of the sporadic revelatory gifts of tongues, prophecy, and knowledge, then it would seem that the “perfect” — which supplants these — represents the perfect and full New Testament Scripture, in that modes of revelation are being contrasted. The final inscripturated word is not piecemeal — it is perfect (James 1:22-25). Thus, it equips the man of God adequately for all the tasks before him (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
This understanding of the intended parallel between piecemeal revelations and the perfect revelation is supported by the following verses. Verse 11 illustrates the matter by analogy from Paul’s own physical growth. “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became A man, I did away with childish things.” Notice that in verse 10 the contrast is between that which is partial and that which is perfect, whereas in verse 11 the contrast is between childhood and adulthood: In verses 8 through 10 those things which demonstrate the partial state are three revelatory gifts, whereas in verse 11 he mentions three means of knowledge in the child. A purposeful parallel exists between the three-fold reference to each of the two states of partiality and childhood: Tongues are equivalent (in the analogy) to “speak as a child,” knowledge to “understand as a child,” and prophecy to “reason as a child.”
The analogy thus presented is this: When Paul was in his childhood he thought as a child, but when he became a mature man he naturally put away childish thought modes. Similarly, when the Church was in her infancy stage, she operated by means of bit-by-bit, piecemeal revelation. But when she grew older, she operated by means of the finalized Scripture. Thus, tongues are related to the Church’s means of “knowing” in her infancy stage (cp. 1 Cor. 14:19-20).
In verse 12 Paul employs another analogy to illustrate the matter: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face-to-face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.” Paul here is teaching the Corinthians that “now” (Gk., arti), “just now, at this present moment”), before the completion and availability of the New Testament canon, they are limited to sporadic, inspired insight into the authoritative will of God. They simply do not know all that God is going to reveal yet. They are looking in a dim mirror. But when they have before them all the New Testament Scriptures, then they will be able to fully see themselves as God sees them, they will know themselves as they really are.
Thus, 1 Corinthians 13 offers important teaching regarding the transience of tongues: both by express reference and by analogy. Tongues are by design intended to serve the Church only during its inter-testamental period while the new covenant revelation is being organized.
Getting the Message (by Daniel Doriani)
Presents solid principles and clear examples of biblical interpretation
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
In summary, the argument against the continuation of tongues in the Church today is two-fold: First, the gift of tongues is given for a specific dual purpose. It serves as a sign of confirmation for the apostolic message and as a sign of covenant curse upon unbelieving Israel for rejecting that message about the Messiah. As this two-fold purpose is realized in the first century, tongues were rendered inoperative. Second, the gift of tongues is given a specific terminus ad quem in the very passage which deals most extensively with tongues-speaking in Scripture. First Corinthians 13 teaches that all partial revelational modes are supplanted by the perfect, final revelation—the completed word of God.
Much more needs to be said regarding the modern tongues phenomenon. The three main issues I deal with in this series, however, are certainly among the more crucial matters for grasping the import of tongues in redemptive history. The exegetical evidence is clear: Tongues were miraculous endowments of foreign language bringing inspired revelation from God to the first century Church and warning to the Jews of the judgment to befall them in A.D. 70. Tongues served an important — though temporary — function in their time. Biblical tongues no longer exist.
Tagged: 1 Corinthians 13, cessation of tongues, charismatics
Very Good article!
Dr Gentry I just would like to ask if the bible is talking about the “rational worldy knowledge” when it says that ” Knowledge will be done away”?
I mean the knowledge that this world is seeking and holding on to: like Laws of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics. Is there a time when this kinds of knowledge will Fail, be made rubbish and nonsense or would not be worth seeking any longer? Thanks!
Thanks for your question. Actually I believe the “gift of knowledge” refers to some special, spiritual insight, because: (1) It is a spiritual gift, not a “natural” gift. (2) It appears to be imparted by the Holy Spirit sometime after conversion, rather than after getting a job (so to speak). (3) I actually believe we will use our skills and abilities we gain here on earth when we enter the new heavens and new earth.
On what basis do you put knowledge in the category of “special” spiritual insight? We know that the wisdom and revelation of the knowledge of God continues as we are growing up in Him as His body. This is spiritual insight and special because it comes from God and it has not ceased. When i use the word revelation i do not mean what is equal to God’s Word but the revealing of the depth and riches of the knowledge of Him found in His Word.
All the gifts have been given to bring His body into a mature man. I do not beleive that some like apostle and tongues have ceased and some gifts have not. Apostles are sent ones and God through the Holy Spirit is still sending to plant churches, appoint elders and all that is necessary for a healthy church (lampstand)
I also enjoy your teachings and the insights you bring to God’s Word.
Thank you again,
Pastor George Taggart
Thanks for your note, George. Just quickly I will explain why I believe “knowledge” is a special, inerrant insight imparted miraculously by the Spirit of God:
(1) It is called “a word of knowledge” (1 Cor 12:8) which suggests it is a revelatory impartation (a “word,” not an impression). (2) It is given “to one” (1 Cor 12:8), not to all. Thus, it doesn’t appear to be a general gift for all members of the body, rather to one here, one there, etc. (3) Paul specifically says it “will be done away” (1 Cor 13:8), which would not be the case with general spiritual insight. Therefore, I see this as a special, miraculous gift of the Spirit designed for its day while the “partial” things (piecemeal revelations here and there) operate, awaiting the “perfect” (complete) revelation (the NT) to come (1 Cor 13:9, 10).
If you hold to continuing apostles in the church, then you hold to continuing special revelation, and a growing Bible. The idea of commissioning can be a general concept, such as you mention. But the apostles in the NT were not generally commissioned but specifically endowed with authority and revelation.
Thanks for listening. I suspect we will have to agree to disagree. God bless!
Thanks Ken. Paul does not say, word of knowledge, which is a spiritual gift but knowledge itself. Second I believe the role of the apostles were sent ones who planted and established churches. Not all apostles wrote the scriptures and therefore the Scriptures is a closed Canon but the sending (which is what apostle means) will be ongoing until Christ returns. It interesting how the church stopped using the term apostle and substitute another word which means the same thing “missionary” a sent one. The problem with this is there is no criteria for a missionary but there is for an apostle.
To agree to disagree is good but it is always better to keep dialogue and growing in Him.
Thanks for all you do for His Kingdom!
I am looking forward to your book on Revelation. I have been reading your work a long time. I was in Tyler with all the guys in the 80’s and was blessed by much of what they had to say. The greatest blessing was being mentored by Greg Bahnsen for many years.
Thanks again Ken.
Thanks for the answer!, I got no#1 and 2, that it’s a spiritual insight. But could you please explain no#3 “I actually believe we will use our skills and abilities we gain here on earth when we enter the new heavens and new earth.”
Does it mean a practicing Scientist here on Earth will still use his Math/Computational and Physics/Natural Science knowledge. I’m just curious because our Senior pastor said the only job on heaven will be Praise and Worship, He jokingly said He and the pastoral team will be out of commission in Heaven, cause Christ will be the One teacher there while the Music ministry got to keep their jobs. 🙂
I read that God promised in the New Heavens and Earth he said “Behold, I will make ALL things New..” therefore the Natural Laws of Physics that govern us on this Earth will be made obsolete in the New Earth. Hope you can clarify. Thanks!
God created us as material creatures and placed us in a material world. We are not spiritual beings, such as angels (although we have a spiritual component: we are body and soul). We were designed to inhabit a material world. When we die our souls go to heaven. But there they await a physical resurrection (Rom 8:18-23). And God will re-create the universe, establishing the consummate, eternal order as a new heavens and new earth. The natural laws of the universe are God-created, and are therefore not evil. They will surely continue into the eternal order.
Furthermore, we are resurrected — not wholly recreated as someone else. That is, when we die and go to heaven, it is we ourselves with our personalities, memories, talents, skills, and so forth that go to heaven. When we are resurrected, these traits indwell our new bodies.
It would seem on these two bases that we will continue to employ the knowledge of the material world in the newly reorganized and perfected new creation. We will certainly praise God (we do even now!). But we will praise him by using our minds and our skills to develop culture for his glory (as Adam was originally called to do, Gen 1:26-28).
The making of “all things new,” speaks to the removal of sin: “according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13). It is a moral newness that is especially in view. Although since our bodies will be indestructible (1 Cor 15:42), their composition will apparently be new in various ways, but not in all ways. Remember: it was Jesus’ earthly body that walked out of the grave in resurrection power, not some other body. I see no reason that the laws of physics would no longer function. What is sinful about gravity, and so forth. Unless, of course, you feel you are overweight or you are behind on paying your gravity bill. 🙂
Thanks for the clarification Dr Gentry. I really appreciate it. It’s just the Spirit is urging me to study further and I discovered something important in my Biblical studies that I want to share, as if He’s wanting me to post this.
The “knowledge” in (I Cor 13:8) is different from the “word of knowledge” in (1 Cor 12:8),
I read the Ancient Greek Lexicon, the “knowledge” in 13:8 is γνῶσις gnōsis (gnō’-sēs)[ is actually referring to: general knowledge, knowing, science] while the “word of knowledge” in 12:8 is σοφία sophia (sof-ee’-ah) n.1. wisdom (higher or lower, spiritual understanding). So the knowledge that will cease is “general knowledge” itself (e.g natural science) while “the word of knowledge” is given as a gift to that “one” Christian/s in service of the body, while to the others: healing, prophecy, interpretation of tongues by the “same Spirit” therefore Spiritual.
Although I agree that the making of “all things new,” speaks to the removal of sin: (2 Pet 3:13) but the previous verse (2 Peter 3:10) speaks about the heavens passing away with a great noise, and the elements the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. My HyperPreterist friends are saying it’s not literal but only “elements” of the Old Laws and covenants. But careful understanding shows it’s litteral: στοιχεῖον stoicheion (stoy-khei`-on) n. classical elements, fundamental principle] as understood by the Gk: earth, water, fire. While earth γῆ ge (ghay`) n. soil, the whole of the earthly globe.
i don’t know why some are forcing it to be spiritual, maybe the desire to promote the teaching that the earth will continue forever. But unbiased study shows it’s literal, therefore it is Biblical that GOD would someday remove the Laws of Physics (including Gravity) into something we don’t fully understand yet., It could be why He said, He will make “ALL” things new.
Lastly, it was definitely Jesus’ earthly body that walked out of the grave in resurrection power as clearly recorded in the Gospels, although it still has human capabilities (such as eating and drinking) but It defied the laws of Physics and is not subject to it. such as the law of entropy or decay (it is indestructible) it has form and solidity to the touch, but with no hindrance to travel (John 20:19, 26; Luke 24:39) Can pass through solid walls, appear at different places at once and can fly (ascension).
like what you said; when we are resurrected – the traits indwell our bodies, but biblically speaking, I think there will be no science class in the new Heavens and Earth because earthly Natural science is no longer applicable there but somehow a new “Physics” and fine tuning governs it.
I’m really thankful that your answers led me to some deeper study of the scriptures, The more I studied it the more I’m glad that He is the Ultimate Hope and he himself will perfect and finish what he has begun. Thank You and God Bless!:)
Well, it seems we will have to continue agreeing-to-disagree! Let me very briefly interact with your comments.
I believe you are mistaken in your understanding of gnosis and sophia; and have confused the contextual issues. Let me briefly explain.
You write that: “the ‘knowledge’ in (I Cor 13:8) is different from the ‘word of knowledge’ in (1 Cor 12:8).” I don’t see how you can say this due to contextual indicators, as well as lexical functions:
(1) The whole context of discussion in 1 Cor 12-14 is spiritual gifts, not science. The section opens with: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware” (1 Cor 12:1). This “now concerning” phrase is a frequent indicator in 1 Cor showing that Paul is responding to their questions. We see this in 1 Cor 7:1: “Now concerning the things about which you wrote….” Here in this large section of 1 Corinthians, he is answering their questions about “spiritual gifts.”
(2) It seems you have overlooked the fact that 1 Cor 13:8 not only mentions “the word of knowledge” but also “the word of wisdom.” Therefore a mention of “knowledge” in this context does not require the repetition of the phrase “a word of.” The free-standing word refers to this phenomenon.
Furthermore, you have too narrowly defined “knowledge” (gnosis) as referring to “general knowledge, knowing, science.” This is not at all demanded in the current context; nor is it likely even out of this context. In the context, gnosis is clearly used as a spiritual gift in the phrase: “the word of knowledge” (1 Cor 12:8). Besides in many cases in the NT it does so (e.g., Luke 1:77; Rom 2:20; 15:14; Php 3:8; 2 Pet 1:5; etc., etc.)
Regarding your later comments, I agree that 2 Pet 3:13 is speaking of the refashioning of the literal, physical world. But I do no see why you argue that this (necessarily?) involves the removal of the laws of physics (including gravity). If there is any regularity in our physical experience in the ultimate new creation, this regularity would be law, and since it would deal with physical realities, it would be laws of physics.
Regarding your mention of Jesus’ unusual post-resurrection movements: The biblical evidence regarding Jesus’ passing through walls, etc., does not prove a removal of the laws of physics, but a unique ability to overcome them when he so desired. For at other times he does eat, drink, walk, and so forth after the resurrection — all functions within physical laws. At best you could argue the capacity to suspend the laws of physics for a time, not altogether remove them for the whole of our new creation experience.
No Problem Dr.Gentry, I stand corrected on the “word of Knowledge” and “knowledge”. I get your points there.
I think you nailed what I want to express on the last paragraph. You mean there’s still Physical laws after the Resurrection – The only difference is we DEFY them or at least have the capacity to suspend the Laws of physics at a time? Like we can travel from one place to another at the blink of an eye, while gravity still remained at 9.81 m/s and we can pass through walls while the constants of Mass,velocity and force still remained the Same.
(Velocity = Distance / Time ) (Force = mass x acceleration). It’s a system upgrade of the body but the “Current” physical laws remain as it is…..
I think I love that idea. Thanks! for the clarification and for taking time. 🙂
Now we can dwell together happily ever after. 🙂
I know of a reformed Presbyterian gentleman who hold that all of the “sign gifts” are still in existence. He is a seminary graduate and is skilled in the Biblical languages. His “sticking point” seems to be 1 Corinthians 1:7:
“…so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, “(1 Corinthians 1:7 ESV). He says that this verse means that Christians are not to be lacking in any gifts (gk. charisma) until such time as The Lord returns.
I would be very grateful if you had a moment to comment on his position.
Thanks for reading and commenting on my article. As you might suspect, I disagree with your friend. I would note the following:
1. Paul is reporting on the Corinthians in their own situation. “you are not lacking in any gift.” I don’t see how that presupposes that all Christians throughout the history of the church will continue to receive all the spiritual (“charismatic”) gifts.
2. The word charisma has both a broad and a narrow use. That is, it can speak broadly of all the spiritual blessings from God through salvation. And it can more narrowly focus on the distinctive “charismatic” gifts which my article is discussing. This is Paul’s first use of charisma in this epistle. It appears to anticipate the later, more narrow usage. But he is not yet focusing so narrowly on that later matter.
Rather, here he seems to be speaking of the ultimate source of those gifts, i.e., God’s free grace, without actually referring to those specific gifts. As usual in his letter, he is opening with a commendation of “the grace [chariti] of God,” i.e., God’s saving grace. He speaks of this grace as that “which was given [dotheise] you in Christ Jesus.” The verb “was given” is an aorist participle pointing them back to God’s previous, foundational gift of saving grace. This grace involves the “testimony concerning Christ,” which speaks of the gospel.
3. As he anticipates his later, more narrow discussion of the distinctive charismatic gifts — which will include many rebukes — he is reminding them of the ultimate source of all those many gifts, for they “are not lacking in any gift.” He is subtly encouraging them to keep their focus on God, who is the giver of grace and the gifts that flow from his grace. The remarkable sign gifts come from the God of salvation: keep that in mind, Corinthians.
4. By his reference to their “awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he is gently prodding them to recognize what this means regarding their spirituality. That is, since they are admittedly awaiting the second coming of Christ, they must understand that they are awaiting the final fullness of salvation and its perfect sanctification. By this, they should understand that they do not have that fullness yet. Later he will rebuke them for their arrogance, even though their expectation of their final salvation at the resurrection should instruct them to be more humble.
Thus, I do not see this verse as requiring the continuation of the sign gifts, the “charismatic” endowments (as well call them).
Dr. Gentry, Thank you very much for taking the time to read and answer my question. I am sure that you are not lacking for things to do, so your good work gives me cause to thank God.
Thank you for this wonderful series! I do have one question. In one of your June 12 responses to Mike, you mention that there will be a refashioning of the physical world (II Pet. 3:13). I wonder if you could comment on the passage below from Chilton’s “Days of Vengeance.” I just recently read it, and it is the first time I have run across this interpretation:
What if the melting of the elements in II Pet 3:10 happened in A.D. 70?
What are these “elements”? So-called “literalists” will have it that the apostle is speaking about physics, referring the term to atoms (or perhaps subatomic particles), the actual physical components of the universe. What these “literalists” fail to recognize is that although the word “elements” is used several times in the New Testament, it is never used in connection with the physical universe! The term is always used in connection with the Old Covenant order (see Gal. 4:3, 9; Col. 2:8, 20). The writer to the Hebrews chided them: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the “elements” of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food” (Heb. 5:12). In context, the writer is clearly speaking of Old Covenant truths–particularly since he connects it with the term “oracles of God.” From “Days of Vengeance” David Chilton pg. 542.
Thanks much for your question. I much appreciate Chilton’s commentary on Revelation, even deeming it one of the finest currently available. Nevertheless, I do not agree with his analysis of 2 Peter 3. I will only briefly respond here, but in a couple of weeks I hope to have a study of 2 Peter 3 posted on this blogsite.
The word “elements” in Greek is stoicheion. According to the Baur-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker Lexicon the primary meaning of the word is “basic components of someth[ing]” (p. 946). It is used in ancient Greece “of substances underlying the natural world, the basic elements fr[om] which everything in the world is made and of which it is composed” (946). The ancients believed the world was composed of four basic elements: earth, water, air, and fire.
For instance, it is used of “the four elements of the world (earth, air, fire, water)” in Hermas, Visions 3:13:3 (BAGD 946), Diognetus, Plutarch, Philo, Josephus, and others.
We see this usage in ancient Jewish literature. For instance, we find this word several times in the Apocrypha. In 4 Macc. 12:13 we read: “As a man, were you not ashamed, you most savage beast, to cut out the tongues of men who have feelings like yours and are made of the same elements as you?” And in Wisdom 7:17 we find: “For it is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements.”
And we find the word in Philo Judaeas, Cherubim 127. There Philo comments on the created physical order: “Consider the greatest house or city, namely, this world, for you will find that God is the cause of it, by whom it was made. That the materials are the four elements, of which it is composed.”
Josephus uses the word stoicheion also of the four elements of nature. In Antiquities 3:7:7 (183) he is discussing the veils in the tabernacle. There he writes: “The veils, too, which were composed of four things, they declared the four elements; for the fine linen was proper to signify the earth . . . ; the purple signified the sea . . . ; the blue is fit to signify the air; and the scarlet will naturally be an indication of fire.”
Because of its basic, structural implication the word can also mean the basic elements or fundamental principles of religious teaching, as in Heb 5:12. It may mean such in Gal 4:9 and Col 2:8, but these passages are much debated.
Stay tuned. I will focus on 2 Peter 3:10 in a future article.
Dr Gentry, I see what you’re saying about the eschatological purpose and ‘sign’ of tongues. However there is clearly more of a purpose that Paul talks about regarding this gift. “He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself” 1 cor 14:3 Has the need for supernatural edification ended?
Thanks for reading — and interacting.
It is true that there is more than one significance to tongues. Paul is dealing with the issues in his current environment in which God’s spiritual gifts are being abused. He is encouraging the Corinthians to use the gifts within the church setting in a manner that would benefit all, not just the speaker. He notes that tongues do have a benefit of edifying oneself, which is what the abusers of tongues at Corinth are selfishly seeking.
And it is certainly true that spiritual edification is of continuing value today. However, the means for securing that edification have changed. The unusual nature of tongues may bring edification on the personal level, but on the larger level tongues came to the church as a sign gift due to their remarkable character.