The topic of the “Speaking in Tongues” is way too vast to address in one article. And even if we wanted to do it, we would not be able to, because I for one do not understand everything about it. But we believe that the question of whether tongues have already ceased or are still available to Christians today can be answered in one article, and with a fair amount of certainty. Here is the key verse, the source of all controversy:
1 Corinthians 13:8 – Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
It is without question true that not only tongues, but also prophecies and knowledge will cease and vanish away. So the only question that truly remains is
“When will all these ceasing take place?”
The context provides a definite answer to this question.
1 Corinthians 13:8-10 – Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
God tells us exactly when this will take. It is when that which is perfect has come. You and I will agree that the only perfect One is our Lord Jesus-Christ. At the time of Paul’s writings to the Corinthians, Jesus-Christ had already come the first time, was crucified, was resurrected, and then was seated at the right hand of God (Hebrews 8:1). And we can also agree that He is still there today because He has not returned yet (otherwise, we must have missed the memo!). When He returns, there will be no more need for tongues, prophecies and knowledge because He, the perfect One, will be here Himself.
There is no need for an ambassador when the president is around himself. But when the president is not around, the ambassador, who represents him, testifies that he (the president) exists. Likewise, the Spirit we have received from Jesus-Christ testifies of Him (John 15:26). But when Jesus-Christ is here Himself, there will be no more need for any testimony from anyone…He will be here Himself!
Verse 12 further confirms that the time for tongues, prophecies and knowledge to cease has not yet arrived.
1 Corinthians 13:12 – 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.
It is quite evident that today, we do not know the same way we are known of God. God and Jesus-Christ know us better than we know them. Therefore, verse 12 is still the present. We know in part, we do not know everything, and we certainly do not see face to face. That is the case because that which is perfect (Jesus-Christ) has not yet come (His second coming, and everything this second coming implies for us).
Conclusion: Therefore, it seems to us that the logical conclusion from the scriptures is that not only speaking in tongues, but also prophecies and knowledge have not ceased. If one maintains that tongues have ceased, then such should confess that prophecies and knowledge have ceased as well. But how can our God allow for knowledge to cease?! It is precisely the lack of knowledge that destroys His people (Hosea 4:6), so He (God) will never allow such things. Those things will stop when His Christ, Himself, is here! So now, the who, where, when and how of speaking in tongues are a different matter. We should endeavor not to be stuck in our ways, which is the hallmark of pride, and instead endeavor to study the scriptures and voluntarily submit ourselves to what God is telling us, at least to the best of our understanding.
To God, His majesty, and to His Son Jesus-Christ, be the Glory for all Eternity! Amen.
Thank you, I have been battling with myself over this question, You hit the nail on the head, If Tongues have ceased than so has Knowledge and prophecy. Question though? Do you believe tongues today is an utterance used as a sign to the unbelieving? I have heard the argument that God used tongues to reach different nations in their native tongue, But, I don’t believe that. Because, if it were why would the people witnessing it think they were drunk? Thanks for the great post!!! msinop1.wordpress.com (Marty)
Thank you very much for your kind comment! Just like you, I won’t claim to be any kind of biblical scholar (yes, I am checking your blog, and I am liking it!…will return there after I address your question first:)
True, the reason people witnessing would think they are drunk is because they would not understand those tongues. They will effectively sound like gibberish and that is precisely what the Apostle Paul was condemning.
Nevertheless, it is certainly possible that tongues could be used to reach different nations, just because we know for a fact that it happened in Acts 2:6-11. But 1 Corinthians is showing quite clearly that the primary use of tongues is for ourselves, in private. Look at 1 Corinthians 14:2…the one who speaks in tongues does not speak to men…, but he prays in the spirit to God, and no one understands Him…so what is the point of speaking in tongues in public? That is the reasoning of the Apostle. Instead, we should “prophesy” in public, or at least, “interpret” the tongue (1 Cor 14:5)
The whole context from 1 Corinthians 12 to 1 Corinthians 14 is about the issue of whether one should speak in tongues in public (i.e. in a church setting), especially without interpreting. I see no indication here that it is referring to speaking to other nations. These Corinthians had their church events like we do today…so they understood each other perfectly well. These were not people who were going around to other nations.
So my understanding is that the main focus of speaking in tongues, and by far its primary use is in one’s prayer life. We speak mysteries in doing so (1 Cor 14:2), we edify ourselves (1 Cor 14:4), we give thanks well (1 Cor 14:17)…sounds to me a like a “very good” but “private” matter. May be this is not a complete answer, but this is how much I think I understand:)
Tongues need to follow the pattern given in Acts in that there was a noise like wind, tongues of fire, and tongues. There was no special interpreter but the audience. If not then one can be deceived with the same pagan religions that were occurring in Corinth.
Hi Ronald. God bless and thank you for your comment, and my apologies for the lateness in my reply. I would say that while I agree with you that there is much deception on the matter, I would disagree with the necessity for tongues following the same pattern shown in Acts…as you are referring to the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Chapter 2 (i.e tongues of fire, etc).
The reason I disagree is because in the very same book of Acts, there are at least 2 other instances which do not appear to follow this pattern. For instance, in Acts 10:45,46…
1. There are no indication given of tongues of fire or noise like wind
2. Prior to speaking in tongues, Cornelius and Peter and the rest were conversing (same language)…then Cornelius and his household started to speak in tongues…so it must have been a different language…and we are not told that it was say another language that native to Peter for instance that Cor Elias could not speak…as was the case in Acts 2 when the people heard the Apostles.