Have Tongues Ceased?

This is a vexing question. The fact that the miracle of languages at Pentecost has completely ceased with the passing of the Apostles is beyond question. Why then is this prevailing confusion?

The confusion has arisen for this one reason. People try to equate the present day ‘ecstatic’ meaningless gibberish with the miracle languages of Pentecost. These are two entirely different things. The New Testament ‘tongues’ were known, understandable, interpretable languages brought on by the supernatural working of the Holy Ghost. They appeared suddenly, were equally abruptly withdrawn, and never appeared again after the Apostolic era. They come under the category of ‘the signs of an apostle’ (2 Cor. 12:12).

Modern tongues are not languages at all. There are no rules of grammar, or syntax, or vocabulary. They cannot be understood, neither can they be interpreted. They are not exclusive to Christianity, being commonly found in heathen and idolatrous tongues-speaking groups. They are certainly not the work of the Holy Spirit.

Now, we come back to the question: have tongues ceased?

Answer: Positively, YES. The Holy Spirit-inspired foreign language-speaking of New Testament times has ceased. Being one of `the signs of an apostle,’ they ceased with the passing of the apostles.

After the Apostles, the earliest post-apostolic Church records report nothing of this miraculous occurrence. Since then, and throughout the 1900 years of Church history, all the Church fathers, great saints and men of God have expressed the same consistent conclusion:

In the following, we have summarized from the Sword and Trowel (1987 No. 2) the pronouncements of many recognized church leaders spanning 1,600 years of Church history, from Chrysostom to Arthur Pink. All of these, without exception, are agreed that ‘tongues have ceased.’

a. John Chrysostom (c 347-407) Concerning the spiritual gifts of 1 Corinthians: “This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to, and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place” (“Homilies on 1 Corinthians,” Vol. XII, The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Hom 29:2).

b. John Calvin (1509-1564) “…the gift of healing, like the rest of the miracles, which the Lord willed to be brought forth for a time, has vanished away in order to make the preaching of the Gospel marvellous for ever” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Bk IV:19, 18).

c. John Owen (1616-1683) “Gifts which in their own nature exceed the whole power of all our faculties, that dispensation of the Spirit is long since ceased and where it is now pretended unto by any, it may justly be suspected as an enthusiastic delusion” (Works IV, 518).

d. Thomas Watson (c 1620-1686) “Sure, there is as much need of ordination now as in Christ’s time and in the time of the apostles, there being then extraordinary gifts in the church which are now ceased” (The Beatitudes, 140).

e. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) Speaking of the ‘gift of tongues,’ he said, “These and other gifts of prophecy, being a sign, have long since ceased and been laid aside, and we have no encouragement to expect the revival of them; but, on the contrary, are directed to call the Scriptures the more sure word of prophecy, more sure than voices from Heaven; and to them we are directed to take heed, to search them, and to hold them fast …” (Preface to Vol IV of his Exposition of the OT & NT, vii).

f. Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) “Of the extraordinary gifts, they were given ‘in order to the founding and establishing of the church in the world. But since the canon of Scriptures has been completed, and the Christian church fully founded and established, these extraordinary gifts have ceased” (Charity and its Fruits, 29).

g. George Whitefield (1714-1770) “… the karismata, the miraculous gifts conferred on the primitive church … have long ceased …” (Second Letter to the Bishop of London, Works, Vol. IV, 167).

h. James Buchanan (1804-1870) “The miraculous gifts of the Spirit have long since been withdrawn. They were used for a temporary purpose” (The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit, 34)

i. Robert L. Dabney (1820-1898) “After the early church had been established, the same necessity for supernatural signs now no longer existed, and God, Who is never wasteful in His expedients, withdrew them … miracles, if they became ordinary, would cease to be miracles, and would be referred by men to customary law” (‘Prelacy a Blunder,’ Discussions: Evangelical and Theological, Vol. 2, 236-237).

j. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) Speaking of the office of the apostles, “an office which necessarily dies out, and properly so, because the miraculous power also is withdrawn” (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit 1871, Vol. 17, 178).

k. Benjamin B. Warfield (1851-1921) “These gifts were … distinctively the authentication of the apostles. They were part of the credentials of the apostles as the authoritative agents of God in founding the church. Their function thus confirmed them to distinctively the apostolic church and they necessarily passed away with it” (Counterfeit Miracles, 6).

from The Banner, October-December 1987 source

Published by Jack Lamb

I'm amazed by God's grace. Lindsay and I were married in 2001 and we are blessed with four children. I've been in ministry since 2001. Prior to starting Anchor Baptist Church in 2014, it was my joy replant the First Baptist Church in Miami, Arizona.

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  1. Thank you for this article. I have found it very helpful indeed !!
    Interesting to note that the subject has confused most people in modern times which is indicative that God is (not) behind it. Plus it has become rampant in modern times which is also indicative. That (impersonal) which is perfect is about 2000 years come already.

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