Cessation of the Spiritual Gifts

When looking in the Scripture to learn about the gift of tongues, we will find only a few passages that refer to this gift: Mark 16:17 (one time) which is a prophetic account - Acts 2, Acts 10, Acts 19 which are the historical accounts, and 1 Corinthians 12, 13, 14 where we read of the doctrinal account. In the passages in 1 Corinthians Paul addresses all the gifts but he narrows down the list to specifically three problematic gifts – tongues, knowledge, and prophecy. These are the gifts that the Corinthians were having the most difficulty with. The gift of tongues was the gift that Paul spent the most time addressing. In fact an entire portion of these passages are devoted to this one gift in chapters thirteen and fourteen. 1 Corinthians 13 is where we get one of clearest revelations that the gifts of the Spirit have ceased.

1 Corinthians 13

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;

5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;

6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;

7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

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.

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.

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.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (NKJV)

This portion of Scripture is often referred to as the “love” chapter. While love is a big part of the context, it is not the main reason that Paul wrote what he did. The subject of love is intertwined with the context of the spiritual gifts. His objective is to explain the proper way in which we should use these gifts. In verse one he states, “though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” (See our page on Angelic Tongues) His point is clear; if he speaks in the tongues of men or even angels and does not have love his tongue is merely a noise without purpose. Growing up in my household, whenever my sister and I made a lot of noise, we were scolded by my mother. I can still hear her say, “Quit making unnecessary noise!” As an adult, I can understand this, especially when my wife and I are around our two nieces. Unnecessary noise is not beneficial and tends to be distracting to those who are around it. Paul said that if love was not the motive for speaking in tongues (or even if it were absent altogether) then all they were doing was making unnecessary noise.

Paul goes on to make the same point about the other gifts; without love they mean absolutely nothing. He then explains exactly what the qualities of love are. This is certainly one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible, but the context is still focusing on spiritual gifts and their proper use. In verse eight he picks up his focal point again by making a very clear statement. He says, “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.” We cannot escape this statement by Paul. It means what it says. Prophecies will fail, tongues will cease and knowledge will vanish away. It is important to again understand that the context of this passage of Scripture started back at the beginning of First Corinthians 12. The context is Spiritual gifts. It explains to whom they were given, what they were for, and then gives important instructions about one gift in particular in chapter 14.

Making this distinction is important because it helps us to understand that Paul was not saying that prophecies and knowledge would cease, but that the gifts of prophecy and knowledge would come to an end. The gifts would fail. We still have prophecy and knowledge through the Word of God. We we do not have is the gift of prophecy or the gift of knowledge. Everyone can obtain the same knowledge through study of the Bible, and everyone can see the prophecies of Scripture by reading it.

1 Cor 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.

The Bible says in the above passage that 1. Prophecies will fail 2. Tongues will cease. 3. Knowledge will vanish away. So the next question that must be examined is - when? When will prophecies fail, when will tongues cease, and when will knowledge vanish away? Let us remember the reason Paul made this statement. These Corinthians were using their gifts without the express written permission of Love. He reminds them that the motivation for using these gifts should be based upon love. They should be motivated by patience and kindness, they should not be envious, boastful, prideful, rude, self-seeking, easily angered, or think evil. Paul reminds them here that not only are these gifts not to be used for selfish gain, but that the gifts were not going to last much longer! While they were misusing and misunderstanding these gifts, they were about to see the fulfillment of the purpose for which they were given. Reading further in the text Paul gives us some answers as to when these gifts would end:

1 Cor 13:9-12 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 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. 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.

Paul gives us the answer by using three parables. Let us analyze these parables.

Parable One

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” The gifts were given only in part. There was a reason for that. They knew only in part, because they did not have the complete revelation of God. They prophesied in part because they did not have the complete revelation of God. But when that which is perfect is come, then the in part will disappear. There will be completeness. But what is “that which is perfect” that is yet to come? The text shows that it could only refer to the Revelation of God, the Bible.

It must be addressed here that some people think when Paul said, “that which is perfect” he was referring to Jesus. They believe that the perfection to come is the return of Jesus Himself. But Jesus is not in the context here. Paul is addressing the spiritual gifts. We can also see that the term “that which” could not be referring to a person, especially the person of Jesus Christ. Paul has never referred to Jesus in such a manner, instead Paul would have used the term "And He who is to come,” not "that which is to come". The Greek word translated "perfect" is teleios meaning "perfect" in the sense of "nothing lacking" or "complete." The Greek word is neuter, so it cannot possibly refer to Jesus, who is masculine. This is not the type of language one uses to speak about Christ. Furthermore, this could not be Jesus because Jesus is going to come back in different stages, first in the rapture then in His actual second coming. Which stage would make these gifts end? At which stage would there not be a need for these three gifts? Paul does not specifically say because the "perfect (thing)" is not Christ, but the completed Word of God.

Paul makes it very clear that the gift of tongues would die out: “whether there be tongues, they shall cease." Obviously there has to be a time when the gift of tongues would cease. Paul is making this point to be clear. Remember his words at the beginning of this passage, “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant” (1Cor 12:1). If Paul did not want us to be ignorant then he would not leave us in the dark about when this would happen. Indeed he tells us when it will happen. The Greek word translated "cease" is a future tense, middle deponent voice, indicative mood verb meaning "to cease in and of themselves" or to "die away of themselves." So this verb tell us that these gifts were already in the process of ceasing. Paul was actually writing part of the Bible as he wrote this letter and as he penned these words the gifts were already passing away. The Bible is the perfect thing. Every single word being written in the New Testament was leading to an end of the gifts. Their purpose, need, and existence would be coming to an end. Soon, these gifts of the Spirit will have vanished away, but until the Bible was completed they still served a purpose.

Parable Two

This parable shows a time frame as to when “that which is perfect” will come. He says, “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.” Paul is using the illustration of a life-span to show the time frame in which these gifts would end. I have attempted to make a chart that would better explain this:

Paul uses a lifespan. It was his lifespan, and he is teaching that he is putting away childish things. When Paul was a child, he spoke as a child. This is a reference to tongues. He understood as a Child is a reference to knowledge, and he thought as a Child is a reference to prophecy. But when he became a Man those things disappeared. This was to happen in an observable period of time. Since Paul is using the development of a man as an illustration, then we can draw some conclusions from that. The Church is likewise referred to as a body. Paul refers to the Church as the body of Christ. Again we can look directly at the context to see this:

1 Cor 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. NIV

Look back at the entire context of chapter twelve. Paul is using the symbol of the body again. In his illustration here in the thirteenth chapter, he is teaching that as a baby (early Church), it did childish things. As a boy (as the Church progressed), it started to put away childish things (the gifts were already beginning to cease at this point). Then, as a man, these gifts would disappear, no longer to be used or needed. Some argue that we are nowhere near the point in time when the Church has reached maturity. But consider what Paul is trying to say. He is telling these Corinthians that as he is writing this letter the gifts were already ceasing. They were using gifts (without love) that were going to end soon anyway. The Greek tense of the word testifies that they are beginning to cease.

Paul was using a lifespan as an illustration and we must realize that we can look at any lifespan and see when that person reaches adulthood. It is something completely observable by all of us. First there is a baby, where we see a new life totally dependent upon others. Then we see their childhood and watch them grow up into adulthood. If we can physically see this happen, then there should be no difference in our observation of the body of Christ, the Church. We can read of its infancy (Acts 2-19). We can read of its childhood (as we are doing right here in this passage). We can then see when it reaches adulthood. If the church were not going to reach adulthood until Jesus comes back Paul's point would have been completely irrelevant. If the gifts were not going to cease until Christ’s return, then there was no need for Paul to warn us of their departure. He could have easily said, "These gifts are going to end when Jesus returns so continue using them. This would have been quite obvious and would not have needed to be mentioned. Paul, however, warned us that they were going to end and he did so in the context of correcting how the Corinthians were using them. He said to use them with the proper motive and remember that they were soon going to end anyway once we have "that which is perfect."

Parable Three

Let us get back to the “that which is perfect” again. We read in verse 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.” We have already shown that the phrase “that which is perfect” could not be the Church or the return of Jesus. This is reference to the completed Word of God. Paul is telling the Corinthian church that, when the completed Bible is in their hands, they will no longer only have a partial knowledge, but they will know just as they are known. They will see the word of God just as well as they see their own face in a mirror. When we look into the perfect law of liberty (the Bible) it shows us ourselves as we really are. The Word of God is “that which is perfect.” When the Word is complete then that which is in part shall be done away. Scripture will interpret Scripture. We do not have to guess what the “glass” means. The glass is the Word of God.

James helps us shed light on Paul’s metaphor:

James 1:22-25 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he will be blessed in what he does. NIV

The phrase “that which is perfect” is a reference to the perfect law that gives freedom, which is the glass in which we see ourselves. This is confirmed by Paul’s words that when these gifts cease, we will have a perfect thing. Notice what else the Bible says about the God’s Word:

2 Tim 3:16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. KJV

It is the Scripture in which God gives doctrine, reproof, correction and instruction in righteousness, not spiritual gifts. Furthermore, the Scriptures are able to make us perfect (complete, adequate) unto all good works.

Peter also wrote of the greatest prophecy. He tells us about an experience his eyes saw, and ears heard. The experience he had was on the mount of transfiguration. Even after having this experience he said, we have a greater prophecy. He was speaking of the Word of God (2 Peter 1). So Paul’s words here in chapter 13 makes even more sense in light of what Peter had said. The partial understanding of prophecy is made complete in the full revelation of God. We can trust the Word of God; we cannot always trust a human agent. The Bible is above all human experiences and emotions. People who profess that the gifts are still useful for today always use experiential arguments.

The Bible is powerful. It does more for a person than any experience, gift, what eyes may see, what ears may hear, or what the body may feel. The gifts of the Spirit were communicated through fallible people but the Word of God is infallible. (See our page Apostleship to learn more about uniqueness of those who were given the spiritual gifts.) The Bible gives overwhelming evidence as to why Scripture must always be our sole authority for faith. The Word of God is pure, perfect, inerrant, infallible, living, truth, light, holy, eternal, and forever settled in heaven. It illuminates, cleanses, saves, frees, guides, converts, heals, quickens, judges, and sanctifies. It also brings conviction, gives knowledge, gives wisdom, produces faith, refutes error, searches the heart, equips for every good work, and is used as a weapon. We could not ask for more than that!

Heb 4:12-13 For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. NIV

When we realize that the Holy Scriptures are God-breathed, living and powerful, we begin to realize that there is no gift, no sign that is greater than that. It is at this point we should meditate on the Bible, one of the absolute greatest gifts we have, and be thankful for this gift. Thank You Jesus, for the written revelation of your precious word.

For an in depth study on this topic please read our page titled "Spiritual Gifts."

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Apostleship and the End of the Gifts

The main reason spiritual gifts were given, especially the gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, knowledge and the gift of tongues, was to signify God's message. That is to say they were given as signs, validating God's message and giving His signature to the teachings that were coming from them. God was ushering in a new dispensation. At this time, we moved from being under the Law of Moses into the new dispensation of grace. Jesus came to fulfill the law and He accomplished this in several ways. After His death, a new era was beginning. We read about this in Acts chapter two where it records the birth of the Church. This transformation from law to grace, referred to as the dispensation of grace, needed to be confirmed. There had to be some sort of proof that the message of grace was from God. God chose the means and the method for which he would do just that. These sign gifts were not given to just anyone, they were given to certain people. Those people were the Apostles. The apostleship could extend past just those twelve apostles chosen by Christ. The Bible teaches that Paul was also an apostle. In the gospels we see that Jesus called another seventy-two in the proclamation of the gospel of the Kingdom on earth. [Some manuscripts seventy; also in verse 17. KJV – seventy, NASB – seventy.]

Luke 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. NIV

But the office of an apostle is a very unique one. To be an apostle required something that not everyone had accomplished. Note:

Acts 1:21-22 Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection." NIV

Notice also what Jesus tells His apostles in John chapter fifteen:

John 15:26-27 "When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. NIV

Apostles had to be personally acquainted with the Lord's ministry from John's baptism to his assention. Even more, they had to have a first hand account of the entire ministry of Jesus Christ. This particular office cannot be filled today, because all of the people who were witness to the events of Christ are now dead. It is simply not possible to have an apostle today. For someone to claim apostleship is to be contrary to the Word of God. There were certainly apostles in the apostolic age, but an apostle had to be an eyewitness of Jesus’ life. Consider what Paul said to the Corinthians:

2 Cor 8:23 If anyone inquires about Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker concerning you. Or if our brethren are inquired about, they are messengers of the churches, the glory of Christ. NKJV

The Greek word for “messenger” is the same word that is transliterated as apostle. It is Apostolos. Note Strong’s dictionary’s definition of this word:

apostolos (ap-os'-tol-os); from NT:649; a delegate; specially, an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ ["apostle"] (with miraculous powers): KJV - apostle, messenger, he that is sent.

Let’s look at the meaning of apostle from Unger’s Bible Dictionary:

APOSTLE (Grk. apostolos, a "delegate"). One sent with a special message or commission…

So the apostle had a special commission, to carry the new dispensational message of the gospel first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles. Read through the entire book of Acts. It is evident that the acts recorded are historically the transformation period from law to grace. This is one reason why it is dangerous to attempt to take the events recorded in Acts as the norm. Some of those events were one time events or events that are strictly unique to the apostolic era. In fact, the book was titled Acts because it records the “Acts of the Apostles.” The Bible teaches that it was by the apostles that these sign gifts were given. Consider the following passages:

Acts 2:43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. NIV

Acts 4:33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. NIV

Acts 5:12 And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people. And they were all with one accord in Solomon's Porch NKJV

Acts 14:3 So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. NIV

Rom 15:18 I [Paul] will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done- 19 by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. NIV

2 Cor 12:12 The things that mark an apostle-signs, wonders and miracles-were done among you with great perseverance. NIV

Reading through the book of Acts, you will find that all of the miracles were done by an apostle. From Peter to Paul, the biblical pattern is laid out. Knowing this, we can further understand the purpose of the sign gifts. Frankly, we simply do not need these gifts anymore! Again, we have something much more reliable, which is the completed Word of God. When a person realizes that the Bible is not only a theological book, but that it is a historical one as well, they can be satisfied with the historical record. It is also a factual historical record, not one based upon vague historical events. For instance the book of Acts confirms that these sign gifts were actually performed by the apostles. We know that the apostle Paul had the authority to speak for God because he had signs that accompanied his words. The Bible (which I trust more than life itself) teaches this. Paul himself, over and over stressed that he was not making things up, but pointed to his apostleship as his authoritative source. The writer of Hebrews also confirms this, note:

Heb 2:3-4 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will? NKJV

Those who heard Him and were bearing witness with signs and wonders, which included miracles, were the apostles. It is impossible today for anyone to be an apostle, even if they desire to do so, because no one can meet the qualifications set out in Acts chapter 1. Furthermore, we should not be seeking this position. We should follow the example of the apostle Peter and believe that we have a much more reliable source of truth in the Holy Scriptures. When we realize that the Holy Scriptures are God-breathed, living and powerful, we begin to realize that there is no gift, no sign that is greater than that. It is at this point we should meditate on the Bible, one of the absolute greatest gifts we have, and be thankful for this gift. Thank You Jesus, for the written revelation of your precious word.

For an in depth study on this topic please read our page titled "Spiritual Gifts."

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Angelic Tongues

In 1 Corinthians 13:1 is Paul telling us to speak in the tongues of angels?

1 Cor 13:1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. NIV

It is important to look at what Paul is trying to say. What point is Paul trying to get across to the reader? Charismatic theology assumes that Paul is teaching that people can and DO speak in an angelic language. This certainly would be a language unknown to man. However, in every single biblical encounter that man had with an angel, he never had a problem understanding or communicating with them. So, if there were some angelic language, this would be the only scriptural reference to it. It is important to understand that in this passage Paul is not teaching that we can speak in an angelic language. Scripture never refers to tongues in this manner. The context reveals to us what Paul is actually trying to teach. Paul said IF I speak the tongues of angles, and do not have love, it means nothing. He said he would only be making unnecessary noise. He is not telling us that we all have this ability to speak angelic languages but that even if it were possible it would be completely useless without love. Paul makes a similar statement in regards to the importance of love in the very next verse:

1 Cor 13:1-2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. NIV

Again Paul is making a hypothetical analogy to show that love should be the motivating factor behind all the gifts. If he had the gift of prophecy and could understand all mysteries and all knowledge and even have the faith to move mountains, but not have love, he is nothing.

One could argue that Paul represents one of the greatest characters in the entire Bible. He certainly was given special gifts by God (Acts 19) and was even caught up to the heavens (2 Cor 12). If anyone has ever had enough faith to move a mountain, certainly Paul would have been one of them. Yet, the Scripture does not teach that any saint had this much faith. Paul understood he did not have this faith, but said IF he did, and did not have love, it would be a meaningless faith. Likewise, to understand all mysteries and possess all knowledge would be an admirable trait, but Paul only said IF it were possible to do so, without love it would be meaningless. In verse 12 Paul tells us clearly that he only knew in “part.” That reveals that he did not possess all knowledge. To suggest that he did was not his purpose. Rather, he was trying to show that without love, even the grandest of things is useless. The next verse used by Paul is also relevant:

1 Cor 13:3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. NIV

If anyone is under the impression that Paul was teaching that we have the ability to speak in angelic languages, they would also have to believe we should all have enough faith to move mountains and have the ability to understand all mysteries. They must then also consider giving all they have to the poor and surrendering their body to the flames. Obviously Paul is not teaching this should be the lifestyle of Christians! Paul certainly never did such a thing and there is definitely no mandate here from him for us to do so. His point was again, that If he did those things, without love, they meant nothing. Likewise, even if he could speak in tongues of angels, without love it would be worthless. Paul is not teaching that we are to attempt speaking in some angelic language. In fact, the context had nothing to do with angelic languages. It was an instruction concerning the condition of their heart. When they exercised their spiritual gifts, they were to do so in love.

For an in depth study on this topic please read our page titled "Spiritual Gifts."

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Peter - Was Peter the First Pope?

The Catholic Church uses three passages in Scripture to support their claim to the supremecy of the papacy of Rome. However, the verses in question do not actually give Peter an office as the supreme bishop, nor do they attest to any infallibility or the succession to the unmentioned office of the pope. They interpret these verses so that they will be in union with church teaching instead of getting church teaching from Scripture alone (See our page Catholic View of Scripture for further explanation). The Bible does not mention an office of the papacy and we will show, through Scripture, that Peter was not the first pope. Let us begin by briefly examining the most popular texts among the Catholic Church for supporting their claims of the supremecy of Peter.

John 21:15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
16 Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
17 The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Most biblical scholars agree that these passages were directed to Peter because he had denied the Lord three times after declaring that he would never fall away. Just as Peter denied the Lord three times, Jesus asked him three times, "do you love me?" There is nothing in this passage to suggest that Peter alone was commissioned to shephard the flock. It does not even imply that no one else should feed the sheep. This passage simply does nothing to set Peter apart as the cheif apostle. That doctrine is nowhere in the text.

Luke 22:31 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

Again Peter is singled out here, not because he is being appointed the chief of apostles, but because of his denial of Christ. Christ knew Peter would deny him, but he also knew that he would turn back. Christ instructed Peter to strengthen his brothers once he had turned back. Every apostle strenghtened his brothers. Paul told the Romans he imparted gifts on them to make them strong (Rom 1:11). This again does not specify Peter as greater than any other apostle. Peter was spoken of in this passage because of his denial of Christ, not because of his supremecy.

Matt 16:13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
14 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
15 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
16 Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
17 Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." 20 Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.

This passage is the most prominent among Catholics for supporting thier belief that Peter was appointed the first Pope. Their interpretation implies that Peter is the rock upon which the church was built. This, however, does an injustice to the language of the passage. Peter is translated petros which is a stone, a piece of a rock. A petros is a detached stone that could be easily thrown. The word rock in this passage is petra which is an immovable rock, a sure foundation. Christ did not build his church upon an easily detachable stone which is what Peter's name means. He built the church on a sure foundation, which was Christ Himself. In fact, Peter reveals his fallibility immediately after Christ makes this declaration. Peter was seduced by Satan and rebuked by Christ just three verses later.

Matt 16:21-23 21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.
22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. "Never, Lord!" he said. "This shall never happen to you!"
23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

We do not deny that Peter was indeed a great apostle that played an important role in the Bible, but there is no evidence or any implication that Peter was given a role of divine leadership over everyone in the church. There is no Scriptural mention of or implication of the office a pope, the succession of it's powers, or the infallibility of any apostle. In fact there are several passages that disprove it's existance.

The early church did not understand Peter to have any power of authority over the other apostles. We see this best illustrated in Acts chapter 15. In this chapter we find a dispute because some people were teaching that the Gentiles needed to be circumcised according to the law of Moses. There are a few things in this passage we must notice. First we see that Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

Acts 15:2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.

The Catholic Church teaches that Peter was the Bishop of Rome and here they are meeting in Jerusalem. We also see that Paul and Barnabas went to discuss thier dispute with "the apostles and elders". They are not going to speak to Peter or ask solely his opinion or authority. It is apparant they felt they needed to address this question to all of the church leaders. Peter is present and does address the assembly.

Acts 15:7 After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them..."

But Peter's words were not presented as any more authoritative as any other. After Peter spoke, others also testified.

Acts 15:12 The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.

After everyone had spoken they finally decided on how to handle the dispute. However, it was James, not Peter who made the final decision and the elders, in agreement with James, did as he suggested.

Acts 15:13 When they finished, James spoke up: "Brothers, listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God at first showed his concern by taking from the Gentiles a people for himself. 15 The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: 16 "'After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things' 18 that have been known for ages. 19 "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

It is James, not Peter who comes to a decision. While James does refer to Peter's testimony he validates that by revealing Peter's statement was in agreement with the prophets. He does not suggest that Peter's testimony should be accepted because of the authority of his office, nor does any other part of this proceeding make that assumption. It is obvious from this passage that Peter had no more authority than any other apostle or elder in the church. The decicision of this counsel was again carried out by the church as a whole, and no one bishop claimed or displayed any supremecy.

Acts 15:22 Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.

There are several other examples that prove Peter had no supremecy over the entire church. Paul specifically stated that Peter was sent, not to the entire church, but to the Jews, while he (Paul) was sent to the Gentiles.

Gal 2:7 On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. 8 For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul also shows us a side of Peter that contradicts any teaching of the infallibility of Peter. Paul opposed Peter when he was contradicting his own teaching and causing others to be led astray.

Gal 2:11 When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong. 12 Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. 13 The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.
14 When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?

Peter himself never declared any supremecy over the other apostles. In fact, in his letters he addressed himself as an apostle, not the chief of apostles.

1 Peter 1:1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

The gospels reveal to us that the apostles specifically asked Jesus who among them was the greatest. This reveals two things. First we see that the apostles had no understanding that Peter had already been made the chief apostle. Secondly, we find no evidence of Peter's appointment as leader of the church in Jesus' response.

Mark 9:33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all."

Peter is said to have been the bishop of Rome, but the Scriptures show that either Peter was never in Rome, or if he was he abandoned Paul. The Lord alone stood with Paul. Surely, if Peter were the pope of Rome he too would have stood with Paul, but he was never mentioned as having been there.

2 Tim 4:16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them.

We also find other passages about Peter that contradict the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. The Chatholic Church's Code of Canon Law 1394 forbids the marriage of clergy. The Catholic Church does admit that Peter was indeed married (as the Scriptures below reveal). The church added the forbiddance of marriage and the vow to celibacy years after the Bible was completed. This is yet another example of how the Catholic Church allows her teachings to have precedence over the clear teaching and intent of Scripture. Peter (whom they claim was their first pope) was indeed married.

Matt 8:14 When Jesus came into Peter's house, he saw Peter's mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever.

1 Cor 9:5 Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas?

Peter did not allow anyone to pay him reverence. When Cornelius bowed before him, Peter instructed him not to do such a thing.

Acts 10:25 As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. 26 But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself."

Peter did not have riches. The Catholic Church does. While it is the church and not the pope that owns the silver and gold, Peter in no way had any access nor any desire for such riches. No pope could in good conscience make this statement today.

Acts 3:6 Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.

There are not any passages that support the Roman Catholic teaching of the supremecy of Rome, the divine leadership of Peter, the office of the papacy, the infallibility of it's head, or the succession of divine authority. That teaching does not exist in Scripture

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What is an Unknown Tongue?

The Greek word for Tongue is glossa. This word is defined by Thayer's Greek Lexicon as: a tongue, i.e. the language used by a particular people in distinction from that of other nations: Acts 2:11. Throughout the New Testament the word tongue is clearly a language or dialect used by a particular people distinct from that of other nations. The concept that a tongue is a language unknown to mankind may come in part because of the way the King James Version translates certain passages. The King James Version added the word unknown before the word tongue in their translation. The word unknown is never found before the word tongue in any of the original manuscripts. Understand that the translators of King James Version never intended to show or imply that it was a part of the original writing of Paul. They KJV translators often inserted a word that they felt would help the reader understand what the original text was saying. Because of the great task of translating one language to another (as here they were translating Greek into English) sometimes it is necessary to do this. But when they did it, they put the inserted word in italics. So it says in the text of the KJV, “…unknown tongues…” This lets the reader know that the word unknown is not part of the original manuscripts. And in this case, this probably causes a lot of confusion. If the word “unknown” was used to say that a tongue was a real human language unknown to the person speaking the tongue, then this is a valid insertion of the word. But if we take the word “unknown” to mean a language unknown to mankind, such as an angelic language, then this word is wrong. The best thing to do here is read the Bible as written in the original manuscripts and interpreted properly by most modern versions, which did not insert the word 'unknown'.

One of the best examples of the definition of a tongue is found in Acts 2 where the apostles began to speak in languages that they were not able to speak before. We see here that the apostles spoke specific languages that already existed. Speaking in tongues was nothing more than the supernatural ability to speak in a real human language.

Acts 2:6-12 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: "Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs-we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!" NIV

Notice here that these apostles were speaking in known languages and those that heard them speak in tongues heard them speaking in their own language. So we can read clearly that this gift of tongues was not some unknown language. In fact the Bible lists the specific native languages that were spoken.

Tongues in the Bible were real human languages that were known to man (They were never Angelic Tongues. See that page for further details). The gift of tongues was the ability to speak in a foreign language without having to study and learn that specific language. The tongue was known to someone, just not the speaker. This gift is no longer given today.

For an in depth study on this topic please read our page titled "Spiritual Gifts."

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The Rapture

We believe that the Bible teaches the rapture will happen before the tribulation. The word rapture is a word we use for the Greek Word harpazo which is translated as caught up in 1 Thess 4:17, here is the verse:

After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. NIV

This word means to snatch away and can mean to snatch away right before something is about to happen but this is not always its meaning. Picture a little child walking out in the street in front of a bus. To snatch that child away from the bus would be a picture of a rapture. Sometimes this word is simply used to denote a snatching. This Greek word, harpazo appears throughout the New Testament, here are some examples of its uses:

Matt 13:19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. NIV

John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. NIV

Acts 8:39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing NASB

2 Cor 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know-God knows. NIV (cf. vs 4)

Jude 23 snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear-hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. NIV

This word is used in First Thessalonians to teach that before the wrath of God on the earth, Jesus will appear in the clouds and with a trump of God, will harpazo us out of this world first. Paul taught us in 1 Cor. 15:52 that this will happen in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye. If we continue to read into First Thessalonians chapter five, it explains to us that we (the body of Christ) are not of the night (darkness) but of the light. Note what is said:

1 Thess 5:1-5 Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all sons of the light and sons of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. NIV

The “peace and safety…destruction” will be during the actual tribulation period (see Matt. 24; Rev. 6; 2Thess. 2). Because we are not of the darkness but of the light we will not go through that period. Paul goes on to say in this context:

1 Thess 5:8 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. NIV

A good understanding of the book of Revelation will also help shed light on this question. It tells us that it was given to tell us of things seen, what is now and what will take place later (Rev. 1:19). An outline could be given that would show that chapter 1 is the things seen, 2-3 are the things present and 2-22 are things yet future. As we read of the seven Churches, they represent the age in which we live in now, that being the Church age. But after chapter four begins, we will no longer read of the Church on earth. But we will read of the church in heaven with Christ. The beginning of chapter four gives us a picture of the rapture: Rev 4:1-2 After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, "Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this." At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. NIV After the last letter to the Churches in Revelation chapter three, the tribulation begins on earth after the body of Christ has departed. This will be a time never to have been experienced on earth before. The great wrath of God poured out upon this earth can be escaped only by believing on Him now as our savior.

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God Loves Me

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so… But does the Bible actually tell us that Jesus loves us? The answer is yes, in two ways. First it tells us that God loves us, and then God illustrates that love. Sometimes we picture a God that is always mad at us. We live in a time when there are many false teachers who use legalistic fear to make the child of God always think they are not in favor with God. But this is so untrue. Think of the way we love others. The love that is in our hearts certainly doesn’t make us walk around disappointed, mad or constantly angry with those we love. Yet God’s love is much deeper and stronger than our love! Jesus does not want us to walk around in constant fear of Him; this is not the freedom or peace He gave to us. He wants us to know that we are loved, consider the following passages:

Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, (NIV)

John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. (NIV)

Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NIV)

Eph 2:4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, (NIV)

1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (NIV)

What is love? The Bible defines this best. In First Corinthians chapter thirteen, we see a list of the characteristics of love. Not only is this to be our guide, it states as a fact what love is. Notice some of the characteristics listed: Love is patient, love is kind, it is not rude, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, it always protects, and always perseveres. These are what God is for us! God not only loves us, He is love. It is comforting to know we have a God who cares this much about us. He is not some tyrant waiting to zap us for any wrong we do. He has already paid the price for our sin!

Because of our faith in the Bible as God’s written revelation to us, we can rest assured that we have an almighty powerful God who is in love with us. But the Bible not only tells us this, Jesus demonstrated this in an extraordinary way. He wants us to spend eternity with Him, so He became a man, lived 33 years upon this evil earth, faced that evil, and died a painful death. As He was hanging on the cross for 6 hours, He was thinking of us.

John 13:1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. (NIV)

What is even greater is that no matter what, we can never be separated from God’s love:

Rom 8:37-39 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Thank you Jesus, for your love for us.

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The Purpose of the Gift of Tongues

We must be very cautious to not get so caught up in an experience that we forget why we are experiencing it to begin with. People who are professing to be speaking in tongues focus on the experience and seldom talk about the purpose for which they are doing so. It is not until we understand the purpose of the gift of tongues that we can understand why this gift is not still relevant today.

The gift of tongues is unique. It is unlike any other spiritual gift. While the gifts of knowledge, wisdom, prophecy, discerning of spirits and even faith helped to edify the body of believers, the gifts of healing and working of miracles helped to bring people into the body of Christ, primarily Jews. The gifts of healing and the workings of miracles are what we refer to as sign gifts. The very first gift that we see given was performed by the Holy Spirit Himself on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two. This was the gift of tongues. Tongues were also a “sign” gift, but it was not a sign for just anyone. It was primarily used as a sign for the Jews. We should note that this gift only occurs three times in the book of Acts. The first appearance of this gift occurred on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Jews were present in this instance. The second appearance of this gift takes place in Acts chapter 10 and again Jews were present. The third and final time this gift appears in the book of Acts we read yet again that Jews were present. Notice the following chart taken from the Bible Knowledge Commentary on the New Testament, page 408:

Passage Tongues - Speaker Audience Related to Salvation Purpose
2:1-4 The 12 Apostles and others Unsaved Jews After Salvation To validate (for Jews) the fulfillment of Joel 2
10:44-47 Gentiles (Cornelius and his household) Saved Jews (Peter and others) who doubted God's plan The same time as salvation To validate (for Jews) Paul's message
19:1-7 About 12 Old Testament believers Jews who needed confirmation of the message The same time as salvation To validate (for Jews) Paul's message

Paul confirms the significance of this by his statement that the gift of tongues was not useful for the believer at all, but was a sign for the unbeliever:

1 Cor 14:22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers. NIV

Marks Gospel states:

Mark 16:17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues;… NIV

The gift of being able to speak in an unknown language is certainly a unique gift from God. The purpose of that gift however was a sign to the unbelieving Jews (See chart above). In the three examples of the use of tongues that are found in Scripture (Acts Chapters 2, 10, 19), we see that this gift was used to confirm the message to a Jewish audience and/or participants. There is nothing in these passages that reveals that the people speaking in tongues ever asked or prayed specifically for the gift. These passages never suggest that this gift was ever used for personal self-edification nor does it mention any feelings or emotions involved in the exercising of this gift. The Bible clearly speaks to the purpose of the gift, not how it felt. This does not coincide with the teaching of tongues today. The purpose of tongues as a sign to the unbelieving Jew is overlooked and the emphasis of the benefits of the personal experience are proclaimed. They teach that people are to seek and expect this gift. They emphasize the “power” that one is supposed to feel when the Holy Spirit takes control of your tongue. These false teachings of man are simply trying to entice the lusts of the flesh. Man wants to feel good and this experience is supposed to do just that. However, Paul clearly teaches the opposite in 1 Corinthians 14.

Tongues had a specific purpose. They were not given for us to have a special language with which to speak to God. God has given everyone the ability to talk to Him in their own native language, for the reader that is probably English. No Scripture commands or compells us to pray to God in a language that we cannot understand. Every person in the Bible that communicated with God or His angels always had the ability to understand them in their own language and they were able to speak in their own native tongue. There are no examples in Scripture to suggest that God desires for us to speak to Him in a secret language that the speaker is unable to interpret. There can be no communication when only half of the party understands the conversation and there is Scriptural evidence to suggest that it is necessary. In fact Paul tells us just the opposite. He says, "Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air. 10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. 11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me." (1 Cor 14:9-11)

Speaking in tongues, as it is taught today, is a man made doctrine that is read into the Scriptures. The Bible never speaks about the emotions involved with speaking in tongues, therefore in order to believe this doctrine, you must assume that people who spoke in tongues had a certain feeling or blessing involved. Scripture is silent about emotions or spiritual benefits from speaking in tongues. The Bible does not tell us that tongues enriches our spiritual life. The Scriptures never talks about how is makes us feel. We do a grave injustice to the Word of God to add to it our own interpretations, desires or agendas.

In order to understand the primary reason for the gift of tongues it is essential that we understand that Acts 2 is the beginning of a new dispensation. We must first realize that the Nation of Israel (Jews) were God’s chosen vessel through which the blessings of God would come to this earth. Through them we received the Law of Moses and through their lineage came Jesus the Christ. They were the salt of the earth (Matthew 5). They were the light unto which the Gentile could see the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through all His riches poured out on them. Although the Old Testament prophets did not understand this new dispensation of grace, they were searching for it intently (1 Peter 1:10-12). This new dispensation called together both the Jew and Gentile, so that the Gentile as well as the Jew could be a part of the wonderful grace of God. This gospel would extend to everyone. Surely the gift of speaking in foreign tongues signified or testified to this fact. It helped usher in the dispensation of grace. The gospel was to start first with the Jews then reach to the Samaritans going forth from there unto the Gentiles:

Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." NIV

This is exactly what happened! First we have the outpouring of the Spirit on only the Jews (Acts 2), then the Samaritans (Acts 8), and then the Gentiles (Acts 10). Take a close look at the first Gentile Conversion.

The event surrounding the first Gentile conversion is one that deserves some attention. Before the conversion of Cornelius (a Gentile) in Acts 10, God had to prepare Peter for the event. As Peter was praying, he had a vision that something like a sheet was lowered down from heaven and it contained both clean and unclean animals. We know that the Jews were not allowed to eat unclean animals. In this vision God tells Peter to “kill and eat.” Peter declared “Surely not, Lord!” This happened three times. God told Peter not to call unclean what God has made clean. This vision was to reveal to Peter that his message was also for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews. Notice what he says later about his vision as he approached Cornelius:

Acts 10:28 He said to them: "You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. NIV

The message of Peter is very important. Not only does he share the gospel, he reveals the truth that God’s plan is available to the Gentile as well as the Jew.

Acts 10:34-43 Then Peter began to speak: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached- how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. "We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen-by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." NIV

Then, read what happens next:

Acts 10:44-46 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. NIV

The circumcised were the Jews. They could hear with their own ears the tongues that were being spoken. This gift of tongues was a sign proving to them that what Peter was preaching was from God, and that God was indeed opening the door for the Gentiles. There was no doubt for those who were present. Remember, the Jews believed that Gentiles were unclean and this new revelation was not something they were ready to quickly embrace. In fact this event with Peter stirred up quite a bit of confusion. Read what happens next:

Acts 11:1-3 The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." NIV

Even after hearing that the Gentiles received the Word of God, they still criticized Peter for going to the Gentiles, regardless of the result! As we read the account, Peter had to explain everything to them, including a very important part, notice what he said:

Acts 11:15-17 "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?" NIV

The Gentiles were given the same gift of tongues that the Jews were given on the day of Pentecost at the beginning of Acts 2. We find this confirmation significant in that God is unifying a people unto Himself both Jew and Gentile and is signifying it with tongues. It takes us back to Genesis chapter 11 where God used languages to cause division. Now He uses them to bring unity in Christ. What better sign than to allow them to understand foreign languages. And it is important for God to give a sign, for Jews required a sign:

1 Cor 1:22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: KJV [NIV, NKJV - request a sign, NASB - ask for a sign, ESV- demands a sign]

The Jews specifically asked for a sign of the Christ on several different occasions.

John 2:18 Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this? NIV

In the case of the Gentile conversion, the sign gift of tongues served its purpose. Notice what the Hebrew apostles and disciples said to Peter after he explained to them that it was God who poured out His Spirit on these people in the same manner that they had received it; accompanied by the same gift of tongues.

Acts 11:18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life." NIV

So we see then that the purpose of the gift of tongues is not for self-edification, but for a sign to the Jews to reveal that the unification of both the Jew and the Gentile was taking place. This gift has served its purpose and is no longer needed today. All of the gifts of the Spirit had a purpose and that purpose has been fulfilled. (See our paper Purpose of the Gifts for further explanation) These things are no longer needed today, for today we have a more sure word of Prophecy, the Scripture (2 Peter 1:19-21).

For an in depth study on this topic please read our page titled "Spiritual Gifts."

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Purpose of the Spiritual Gifts

What are the gifts of the Spirit for? For what purpose were they given? These questions are of great importance and will help us determine if these gifts are still valid today. The answer must come from the Word of God. It cannot be made based upon something we have experienced or witnessed firsthand. We must examine the Word of God to determine why God gave the Spiritual gifts. If someone professes to have a gift and does something that appears to be miraculous, that alone is not enough to proclaim that they have indeed been given a Spiritual gift. The Word of God must judge our experiences; it is not the other way around. In order to determine if a gift is or is not from God, we must first determine for what purpose the gifts were given. Why were people given the gift of tongues, prophecy, knowledge, healing, etc.?

Pretend for a moment that you have just accepted Christ as your personal Savior. As a new believer, where will you go to grow in your knowledge of God? As a new creation in Christ you should have an unquenchable desire to learn all you can about your Savior! This desire will continue as we grow in our Christian life! Where do you go for the answers? Naturally, a more mature believer will quickly answer this question by stating that you should read the Bible. It will have all the answers to your questions, just as David declared, "Thy (God's) Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path" (Ps. 119:105 KJV). Scripture itself admonishes us to use Scripture alone as our guide! But what if you did not have access to the Word of God? Where would you go then? Well, today that is not the case. We do have the Word of God to turn to for all of our answers. This, however, was not the case in the early Church. Back then, a person could certainly read from the Old Testament. The writers of the New Testament certainly used it when they were teaching and preaching. But they did not have the entire New Testament. The new church only had parts of the New Testament. For example, the Galatians had their letter, which we know is scripture. The Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, and the recipients of the rest of the epistles had their letters as well. But they did not have all of them compiled together. In time those letters began to circulate and were preserved by God as His inspired Word. Of course they were inspired at the very time they were written. By the time of Peter’s epistles, Paul’s epistles had begun to circulate and Peter referred to those as Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). But for the first generation of Christians the “Bible” was not complete. It was in the process of being completed, but at the time of the early church the Bible as a whole was not yet available.

Furthermore, at that time many of the Jewish customs were still being practiced. Today we can see a major division between the Old Testament and the New, but the first Christians were still very much accustomed to the Old Testament ideas. This is especially true for the Jewish converts. Judaism was very prevalent and the Pharisees were still active in spreading their view of the Law. Jews being converted to Christianity were confused. Acts 15 is a good example of this. For the most part, these people truly realized that what the apostles were saying was a new doctrine or teaching.

Mark 1:27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching-and with authority! [Speaking of Jesus] KJV

Acts 17:19-21 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, "May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we want to know what they mean." NIV

Peter did not even understand part of this new revelation when it was first given to Him. He pondered the meaning until God revealed it to Him.

Acts 10:17 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon's house was and stopped at the gate. NIV

Naturally, there were many questions about these New Testament doctrines such as what role the Mosaic Law played under this new covenant and other such troubling questions. These needed to be explained. This brings us back to the purpose of the spiritual gifts. Because the Bible was not complete, God imparted spiritual gifts upon certain people so that they could be instructed about the New Covenant. If a believer had a question about the grace of God, baptism, or justification by faith they could not simply open up their Bible and read the New Testament to find their answers. They could, however, find someone with the gift of knowledge and ask them these questions. Those who had words of instruction would speak among the congregation and share their gift of knowledge or wisdom with everyone. These gifts were necessary for the edification (instruction) of the body, so that they could learn and understand what God desired from them under this new covenant of grace.

The gifts of the Spirit were necessary in the days of the early church. Today that is not the case. The Bible tells us that God has given us all we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). There is nothing lacking. The Bible is complete and useful for all instruction, we no longer need the gifts today.

2 Tim 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. NIV

The gifts were given for a reason, to edify, that is, to instruct the body and build them up in the knowledge of the Lord (See our paper on edification for further explanation). As the Bible foretold, the gifts have now ceased, been stilled, and passed away (1 Cor 13:8-9). They have fulfilled their purpose.

For an in depth study on this topic please read our page titled "Spiritual Gifts."

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Edification Defined - Addressing Self Edification & Tongues

People who believe that the gifts are still valid for today often say that speaking in tongues enriches their spiritual life. They say to speak in tongues in private will be self edifying and one should desire to do so. This belief, however, is not scriptural. Edification, as stated in the Bible, has nothing to do with any of these things.

Edification is about increasing in knowledge. Webster Dictionary defines it as “to instruct and improve especially in moral and religious knowledge.” The actual word means to “build up.” In scripture, this type of edification (building up) is about strengthening the church in knowledge, or instruction. Today, however, people seem to think that edification has to do with how a person “feels.” Edification is not about making anyone “feel good” nor does it come from an “experience” or supernatural event. There is no scriptural basis for this type of definition. Paul was clear, that gifts hold no purpose unless they bring some sort of instruction or information with which the church can learn and grow from. Edification requires instruction.

1 Cor 14:6 & 12 Now, brothers, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?…12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. (NIV)

There are no scriptures anywhere that speak to edification as a "feeling" or "experience" of the "power" of the Holy Spirit. Emotions are never mentioned. The gifts were given to help the church grow in the knowledge of Christ. Speaking in tongues without understanding what was said is not instruction. There is no edification taking place. The gifts were given for the edification of the body.

Eph 4:11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (NIV)

We must discard the preconceived and worldly definition of edification as personal satisfaction and glory. This is not what “edify” means. Edification is to instruct and improve in spiritual knowledge. I can think of no greater way to be built up than in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In order to do that we need understanding.

What about 1 Corinthians 14:4?

1 Corinthians 14:4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church.

When we read the context of this passage we can see that Paul was not teaching the Corinthians to use their gifts to edify themselves, but that they should instead, seek to use their gifts for the edification of the entire body. In fact the chapter begins with Paul comparing and contrasting the gift of tongues, to the gift of prophecy. In each instance Paul prefers for the people to choose to prophecy because it edifies the church, which he states should be the desire for the gifts. His point in this passage is that rather than speaking in tongues edifying themselves they should prophecy so that the church as a whole is edified. In fact, this point is summed up in the next verse where Paul says that those who prophesy are greater than those who speak in tongues "unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified."

1 Cor 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy. 2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God. Indeed, no one understands him; he utters mysteries with his spirit. 3 But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified. NIV

Paul was stating self edification as a negative effect, not the positive. He continues to go on at length about how useless it is to speak in tongues no one understands. He then makes this statement:

1 Cor 14:12 12 So it is with you. Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church.

He was telling the Corinthians to seek in gifts that would build up the church and not to use them for personal edification, which is really no edification at all.

Which type of tongue is for self edification?

While many people say that the 'gift' of tongues is for the edification of the body, tongues as the evidence of the Spirit is a different kind of tongue and therefore allowed for personal use. However, you can not use the verse in 1 Corinthians 14:4 to try to support an idea of using tongues for personal edification if you admit that what you are speaking is NOT the gift of tongues. 1 Corinthians 14 is clearly speaking about Spiritual gifts. The chapter begins stating this fact.

14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts

Spiritual gifts is obviously the topic of these passages. In our article "Tongues and the Evidence of the Holy Spirit Baptism" we have shown how tongues are not the evidence of the Spirit so I will not address that here, but we will mention that the Bible never speaks of two kinds of tongues. Even if it did, (which it does not) the passages in 1 Corinthians 14 are dealing solely with the gifts of the Spirit. There is no contextual way to say that 1 Corinthians 14:4 means a 'different' kind of tongue. This argument is totally invalid and has no Scriptural basis. No where does Scripture say there are 'two' types of tongues.

Tongues were meant to edify the church

So we see that the gifts were given for the edification of the church. These gifts were an instrument of God given to man so that the early church could learn and grow in the knowledge of this new covenant during its early stages. During this transitional period, from law to grace, the church not only needed these instructions, they needed a method in which they could verify that those people who were teaching it were really speaking for God. Therefore, the apostles were not only given the authority to instruct us about these new doctrines, they were given the ability do miracles and practice these gifts so that people would know they were really speaking for God. These gifts were given by God as “sign” gifts to authenticate His apostles and to authenticate His “new” teachings.

2 Corinthians 12:12 The things that mark an apostle--signs, wonders and miracles--were done among you with great perseverance. NIV

Hebrews 2:3-4 This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. NIV

These “signs” were not merely miraculous in order to awe the crowds; they had been prophesied about and should have been recognizable to the Jews who were familiar with the Scriptures. They were used to prove the new revelation that was taking place was that which was spoken about in the Scriptures (Acts 2:16, 1 Cor 14:21). This was done so that the church could be edified. There was no purpose to do so for self edification and they are no longer needed today. Today we can read the Bible, the completed Word of God. These teachings were written down so that we can be edified, which means we can be instructed in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the Written Word.

For an in depth study on this topic please read our page titled "Spiritual Gifts."

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