Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 22, 1968
NUMBER 41, PAGE 2b-3,5b-7a

"Whether There Be Tongues They Shall Cease"

Robert H. Farish

The fact is stated in I Cor. 13:8 that tongues shall cease. The natural and proper question, "When?" arises. To question the provisional or temporary character of the "gift of tongues" and in our thinking or teaching assign it a permanent place is to reject the scriptural statement. Such a course cannot be charged to misunderstanding; it is sheer unbelief. But believing the statement, "they shall cease," does not answer the question, "when." Pointers to the answer of the question, "When", are in the context of Paul's dissertation on spiritual gifts and the gift of tongues in particular, which is found in I Cor. 12,13,14. This study is intended to determine if the Holy Spirit has terminated the "gift of tongues," or is that gift still available?

"That Which Is In Part"

"Tongues" are listed among the things "in part" in I Cor. 13:9. The partial character of tongues is indicated by the apostles inspired declaration that it alone, that is, without "revelation, or of knowledge, or of prophesying, or of teaching" (I Cor. 14:6), was without profit. The apostle wrote, "Whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away." (I Cor. 13:8). The apostle, then, states that the reason for these things being terminated, and not retained in the permanent order, was their partial character. In the very next verse, he wrote, "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away" (I Cor. 13:9,10). The "for" is causative, pointing to the reason for the removal of these things — "For we know in part, etc." — Note the contrasting terms "in part" vs. "perfect" (complete).

"That Which Is Perfect"

The arrival of "that which is perfect" marks the time "when" tongues "shall cease." The apostle plainly states, "When that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away." The answer to the question, "When" can be found by determining what the "perfect" is.

What is that which is perfect? First, we need to be impressed with the truth that "all these (gifts) worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one severally even as he will" (I Cor. 12:11). As this is the work of the Holy Spirit, a knowledge of what work is assigned to the Holy Spirit in the gospel age will enable us to determine what is "that which is perfect." The student who is familiar with the work of the Holy Spirit understands how the Holy Spirit used the things which were "in part" to accomplish his work.

The Lord's discourse, to his apostles on the night of his betrayal, as recorded in John 14,15,16, contains his promise to send the Holy Spirit to the apostles and also our Lord's definition of the work of the Holy Spirit, i.e. what the Holy Spirit was to do, and also how he would accomplish his work.

The promise to send the Holy Spirit to the apostles is recorded in John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7. It is important to note that this promise, of sending the Holy Spirit in this direct manner, was addressed solely to the apostles.

The Lord not only promised to send the Holy Spirit unto the apostles, he also told them what the Holy Spirit's work would be. "...I will send him unto you, and he when he is come, will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8).

The means by which the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, would accomplish his work is set forth also. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come" (John 16:12,13). The work of the Holy Spirit of inspiring the apostles with all the truth, by which he through them would convict the world, is also described in John 14:26. "But the Comforter even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you." In order to guide the apostles into "all the truth", the Holy Spirit must reveal to the apostles those "many things" which Christ had to say unto them but which due to their inability to bear them before his departure, were left for the Holy Spirit to reveal to them and also bring to their remembrance all that Christ "said unto (them)". With the fact firmly set in our minds, that the Holy Spirit was to guide the apostles into ALL the truth, we now turn our attention to another part of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Confirming The Truth

Not only did the Holy Spirit's work involve revealing the truth by which conviction was to be brought to men, he also provided the signs by which the "word of the truth of the gospel," preached by the apostles, was confirmed. Mark records that "they (apostles) went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed" (Mark 16:20). This passage reveals that signs, which included tongues, served to confirm the gospel. That the Lord Jesus accomplished this by the Holy Spirit is seen from Paul's statement that, "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit to profit withal" (I Cor. 12:7) and also — "but all these (miraculous gifts) worketh the one and the same Spirit" (I Cor. 12:11). Here then is a case of the truth which was revealed by the Holy Spirit to the apostles, being confirmed by the Holy Spirit with signs.

We recall that Christ had said that when the Holy Spirit came to the apostles, he would "convict the world..." (John 16:8) and also, "When he the Spirit of truth is come, he shall guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13.) From these two statements, we concluded that the Holy Spirit "convicted" through the truth which he guided the apostles to preach and which he confirmed by signs. Turning to the account of the happenings "when he the Spirit of truth" came, we read, "And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place...and there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:1,3,4). In this account of the happenings when the Holy Spirit came, we have inspiration affirmed — they spake as the Spirit gave them utterance. We also learn that the sign of "tongues" was present at this initial preaching of the gospel.

From the study of these passages bearing upon the work of the Holy Spirit, it becomes exceedingly clear that the work of the Holy Spirit was to bring to perfection or completion divine revelation. This was done by inspiration and confirmation. The absence of either disqualifies the revelation, but when fully revealed and confirmed, revelation is perfect or complete. That which is perfect came when the last element of "all the truth" was revealed and confirmed. In harmony with and supporting this is Jude's exhortation "to contend earnestly for the faith, which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). No clearer statement of perfect revelation could be made.

The Great Salvation Spoken And Confirmed

The writer of Hebrews calls upon the readers to "give more earnest heed to the things that were heard" (Heb. 2:1) Then in verse 3, he identifies the words "heard" as the message of the great salvation. He goes on to say that this salvation was "at the first spoken through the Lord" and "was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will" (Heb. 2:3,4). The character, conditions, promises, warning and instructions of this great salvation were confirmed by the signs, wonders and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Peter writes about this great salvation in his first epistle — "Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come upon you: searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified before hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them. To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves but unto you did they minister these things, which now have been announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven; which things angels desire to look into" (I Pet. 1:9-12).

From this we learn that this salvation had been announced before the time Peter wrote; it had been announced "through them that preached the gospel — by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven." From a careful comparison of Heb. 2:1-4 and I Pet. 1:9-12 we learn that the "things that were heard" of Heb. 2:1 were the things of the salvation which were "announced through them that preached the gospel" (I Pet. 1:12). This is the great salvation "which having at first been spoken, through the Lord, was confirmed by them that heard." The gospel of our salvation has been announced and confirmed — "that which is perfect" was come when these two necessary things were accomplished. These necessary things were accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the miraculous endowments called "manifestations," "gifts" and "signs" in the New Testament. As was learned early in this article the work of the Holy Spirit consisted in revealing or announcing the truth plus proving that which was announced or preached was truth, or expressing it in abbreviated form, the work of the Holy Spirit can be described as inspiration and confirmation. To establish the need for signs, which include the gift of tongues, continuing in our day, it is necessary to show that the announcement of the salvation "through them that preached the the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven," falls short of the "all truth" into which the Holy Spirit was to guide the apostles.

Holy Spirit and the Apostles Christ promised the Holy Spirit to the apostles with the assurance that "he when he is come will guide you into all the truth." (John 16:13). This promise was fulfilled by their being baptized in the Holy Spirit — "but wait for the promise of the Father, which, said he, ye heard from me: ye shall be baptized in Holy Spirit not many days hence" (Acts 1:4). The apostles were to receive power to fully qualify them as witness in any part of the earth — "But ye shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The power here which would enable them to function as witnesses in the extensive territory assigned is that miraculous power, to know all the truth (inspiration); and work miracles in proof of their testimony (confirmation). They received the promise of the Father and at their reception of it the power in its two fold aspect is manifested — "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:4). Here the apostles with the power which came when 'they were all filled with the Holy Spirit', began to speak, with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. The miraculous inspiration and confirmation is present.

The Holy Spirit And Cornelius

The falling of the Holy Spirit upon "all them that heard the word", at the house of Cornelius, which phenomenon caused Peter to remember "the word of the Lord, how he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized in the Holy Spirit", was not to clothe Cornelius and all those present "with power" to proclaim the gospel to every creature in all the world but was to teach Jewish Christians that "God, who knoweth the heart, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as he did unto us; and he made a distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:8,9). On Pentecost the apostles, who were Jews, spake with tongues, which was a sign or token of God's endorsement; at the house of Cornelius those Gentiles, who heard the word and upon whom the Holy Spirit was poured out, were heard by Peter and the Jewish brethren with him, to "speak with tongues, and magnify God," which was God's way of bearing witness to them. By this manifestation of the Holy Spirit, God established that Gentiles and Jews were accepted on the same conditions.

Through The Laying On Of The Apostles Hands

The Holy Spirit was the giver of the gift of tongues, prophecy, healing, etc., but he provided these through the apostles and not without intervening agents as in case of Pentecost and at the house of Cornelius. From the following statements, it seems clear that the "power" which the apostles received when they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, included the power to impart these spiritual gifts through the laying on of the apostles' hands.

1.) The account of the conversion of the Samaritans found in Acts 8 provides us with pertinent facts. Philip had preached the gospel and in connection with the preaching did signs. The gift of healing and the power to cast out unclean spirits were among the signs which Philip did, yet evidently he did not have the power to pass the gifts on to others. For we read that when Peter and John, two apostles, came, "then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:17). The fact of the apostles imparting the Holy Spirit was demonstrated by some gift which would be seen for the record says, "Now when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostle's hands the Holy Spirit was given..." Note that Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given. 2.) Paul's statement of his desire to visit Rome indicates that the physical presence of an apostle was necessary for the impartation of a spiritual gift. "For I long to see you that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift..." (Rom. 1:11.) 3.) In the account of the conversion of the Ephesians, the gifts of tongues and prophecy were not exercised by those believers until Paul had laid his hands upon them. "And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them and they spake with tongues and .prophesied" (Acts 19:5,6).

4.) To Timothy Paul writes to "stir up the gift of God, which is in thee through the laying on of my hands" (II Tim. 1:6).

The death of the last man upon whom an apostle had laid his hands, "to impart some spiritual gift," marked the point beyond which no miraculous I gift of the Spirit could exist. When that which was perfect came, tongues and all other miraculous manifestations were terminated. The Holy Spirit today convicts the world through the medium of the word, which he revealed and announced through the apostles and confirmed by the signs.

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