Musings on Perpetuity of Gifts and Speaking in Tongues

The discussion about whether or not tongues, prophecy or healing are for today has been around for some time. Despite the long-standing controversy it is my believe that the Scriptures can speak to us with definiteness, capable of informing theological experience and belief. As a believer and participant in these gifts, I affirm that they are a present activity of the Holy Spirit for today.

That said I do not believe it is an easy task to ascertain something that the biblical texts do not even discuss, i.e. the ceasing or continuation of the gifts (See 1 Corinthians 12). I realize that certain texts are presented to refute this but they fall away after closer scrutiny. The simple fact is that the scriptures do not foresee any cessation of these gifts and therefore never delineate any such position. It is my belief that the teaching of Scripture assumes its readers will know and realize that such gifts are available to all those who believe on Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit. The gifts are available to those who read from the pages of God's inspired Word.

Paul, in Acts 27, received inspired revelation from God (Acts 27:10) and a visit from an angel of God (Acts 27:23) concerning the future of a ship’s voyage—Paul’s voyage to Rome. Some scholars who hold to the cessationist view say that we can no longer experience the inspired wisdom that Paul did; instead we now look to the Bible for all our revelation and inspiration alone. Reformationists refer to this as Sola Scriptura. In a sense this is true because genuine spiritual revelation will not contradict already written inspired revelation. We do not vest canonical authority in these utterances, instead we submit them to the authority of Scripture.

“Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.” (Acts 27:10 NKJV)

Obviously God had imparted special revelation to Paul concerning the impending storm called “Euroclydon” (Acts 27:14) which would cross paths with their vessel and subsequent lives and cargo would be lost. Maritime skill and knowledge of natural disasters are not written in the Bible, God did not inspire it for that purpose. Nevertheless, God spoke to Paul warning him as well as those aboard the vessel of impending danger.

God was speaking then directly to Paul and indirectly to others. In fact, Paul would later address them and remind them of His warning. It is common knowledge that sea travel on the Mediterranean was usually not undertaken at this time of the year and some say that suggests that Paul’s not wanting to sail was a guess on his part due to experience. Certainly Paul knows from experience the perils of shipwreck (2 Corinthians 11:25), but he definitely spoke with prophetic definiteness when he predicts the disastrous results that would follow.

Paul’s voyage to Rome began in the early fall of 60 A.D., God, two years before, in Jerusalem, had told Paul that He would testify in Rome (Acts 23:11). Again God appeared to Paul to assure him that He would make good on His word. And He did. “and he said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.'” (Acts 27:24 ESV) The subsequent accompaniment of the angel in verse 23 also indicates the presence of supernatural concern.

"Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you.” (Luke 10:19 ESV)

By the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit we are enabled to overcome the enemy and have inspiration of danger ahead. As we live for God we grow accustomed to listening to voice of the Holy Spirit within as it leads and guides us.

The same things that happened with Paul in Acts 27 can happen today, there are numerous times in my life when God has given special revelation of danger or a warning of future things. God has a purpose and a plan for The Body of Christ and the members in particular. Therefore if we listen, He will speak.

The same happens across the globe as every minister clutches their Bible and bends a knee in earnest prayer and preparation; seeking God concerning a sermon to deliver to the Body of Christ. If not, why else do we pray for direction or the “right message” for a certain time? God is still speaking today and this does not contradict scripture. Again, we do not vest canonical authority in these utterances instead we submit them to the authority of Scripture.

William G. Bellshaw the Dean of the San Francisco Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary authored a work entitled, "The Confusion of Tongues" in the Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 120 (April-June, 1963). Bellshaw cites the view that the gift of tongues ceased with the canonization of the New Testament. Immediately, this argument is completely absent from scripture and is abandoned today many popular Trinitarian apologists, e.g. Dr. James White, Hank Hannegraff (The Bible Answer Man).

In addition, even the late Dr. F.F. Bruce refuted this notion. By engaging the argument in this way Bellshaw commits circular logic. He begins his argument by disparaging tongues based upon a low mention frequency in Scripture, yet the total references of tongues pass the frequency of mention concerning the Virgin Birth and Homosexuality.

The glossolalia or speaking in tongues is a predominant theme in the book of Acts, 1 Corinthians, and has mention in Mark and certain other Old Testament prophecies. Bellshaw uses the argument of the closed-canon yet this argument is conspicuously vacuous in the biblical texts. In short, Bellshaw attempts to qualify his argument in the same way that he previously disparaged another, this is circular logic. The argument also fails because of 1 Corinthians 13:10-12. Paul says:

“But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. (11) When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (12) For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:10-12 NKJV)

Paul and the “perfect” is referring to the coming end, he was referring to when we must see Christ face to face. The perfect here is referring to the Second Coming of Christ, because when we are glorified thereafter such things as tongues or prophecy will no longer be needed. “Paul’s point in this analogy, then, is not that our current understanding and relationship with God is distorted (as if the mirror reflected poorly), but rather that it is “indirect,” (i.e., the nature of looking in a mirror) compared to the relationship we will enjoy with him in the future when we see him “face to face”.

The word “perfect is the Greek teleios which is neuter singular. The neuter gender, albeit not always, is used to refer to persons and groups (cf. John 3:6; 1 John 5:4; John 17:2; 6:37; Gal 3:22) The singular obviously narrows the scope of the neuter because it is referring to one person, i.e. Jesus Christ. If this was a reference to a complete complete canon the reference would have seemingly been plural a reference to the multiple books of the bible. Actually, “Greek Christians called their sacred Scriptures ta Biblia, "the Books." When this title was subsequently transferred to the Lat., it was rendered in the singular and through Old French came into English as "Bible.”"

As mentioned earlier, various well-known scholars, like F.F. Bruce conclude that "according to 1 Cor 13:8-10, prophecies, tongues, and knowledge are to be done away, but only 'when that which is perfect is come.' That which is perfect is not come yet . . . the literature of the period following the apostolic age makes it plain that the gifts did not come to a full stop with the closing of the New Testament canon."

As mentioned earlier, some of the religious world feels as if miracles, signs, and wonders are ceased. Many cessationists assert that the ceasing of gifts and miracles ceased after the canonization of scripture or these gifts were only operative thru Christ and His subsequent disciples and apostles. This notion is of course false. While space will not permit us to refute such deception at great length, we can offer some historical reference.

An example of literature that made plain references to speaking in tongues and other miracles was the historian Edward Gibbons, this work has long been the standard by which many other writings are judged. Gibbons looks at the history of the Roman Empire from the time of the Antonines through the rise of Christianity. The book is considered to be one of the most well written histories around. It is claimed that Winston Churchill had at one point credited Gibbons with influencing his own style.

Gibbons records that the early church:

“claimed an uninterrupted succession of miraculous powers, the gift of tongues, of vision, and of prophecy, the power of expelling (sic) daemons, of healing the sick, and of raising the dead.” He also stated, “…about the end of the second century, the resurrection of the dead was very far from being esteemed an uncommon event; that the miracle was frequently performed on necessary occasions, by great fasting and the joint supplication of the church of the place, and that the persons thus restored to their prayers had lived afterwards among them many years.”

The list is long and evidence is sure concerning the contemporary experience and existence of sign gifts being found from the Day of Pentecost until now. Whether great multitudes or small gatherings held true is not certain; however, God does not change His Word and He is still the same.


[1] Biblical Studies Press. (2006; 2006). The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible. Biblical Studies Press.
[2] Wheeler's Greek Syntax Notes, Copyright © 1985-2002 by Rev. Dale M. Wheeler, Ph.D. All rights reserved. Used by Permission
[3] The New Unger's Bible Dictionary. Originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright © 1988
[4] F.F. Bruce, "Answers to Questions," The Harvester, August 1964
[5] “Miraculous Powers of the Primitive Church” The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, PC Study Bible formatted electronic database Copyright © 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.
[6] Ibid.

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