The great questions keep on coming. Check out this question:
Hello, my friend Bob. I just read this blog, and I was wondering about the last part where you say that you don’t believe the prophetic gift is in operation today. So does that go for speaking in tongues too? I would like to know why you believe this. For I have been searching for answers about the sign gifts for so long if they are for today or not. I would appreciate it if you could please tell me why you arrived at this conclusion. I appreciate you, Bob, and all your articles!
I have seven reasons why I believe the sign gifts are not operative today:
- Paul, who as an Apostle, evidently had all the gifts, certainly including the gift of healing. He healed many people (Acts 14:9-11; 28:8-9), one involving raising a young man from the dead (Acts 20:7-12). However, in his last epistle he says, “Trophimus I have left in Miletus sick” (2 Tim 4:20). By the mid-sixties, Paul failed to heal a beloved believer. This suggests that the gift of healing has ceased to function.
- What we see today in terms of tongues, prophecy, faith healers, and so forth does not at all match what we see in the NT. A friend of mine, Dr. Garry Friesen, routinely sends his students to healing services, and he asks them to record and report on everything they see and hear. The reported healings are not organic healings. That is, we do not see someone with a shriveled hand growing a new hand. We do not see dead people raised (though this has been claimed occasionally). We do not see paralyzed people rising and walking. What we see is people who walked in under their own power who are told to sit in wheelchairs and wait until the healer asks them to stand. Many studies have been done of glossolalia, tongues speaking. They all show that what is being done is not a language at all, but gibberish. Yet in the NT, tongues speaking is the speaking of an actual language (Acts 2:11, “we hear them speaking in our own tongues, the wonderful works of God”).
- Paul said, “Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge [i.e., words of knowledge], it will vanish away. 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” (1 Cor 13:8-10). It is crystal clear that tongues and prophecy will end. What is not clear is when. I think that the words that which is perfect in 1 Cor 13:10 most likely refer to the Second Coming of Christ. However, it could refer to the close of the canon, that is, the completion of the NT. In my study of Church history, it is clear that the gifts of prophecy and tongues and healings did not operate from the time the Apostles died until at least the start of the twentieth century. However, what I see in the claims of the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Third Wave movements do not convince me that any of the sign gifts have operated since the Apostles. (Yes, God heals today. But He does so without faith healers. Our prayers result in healing when it is God’s will to heal.) I do believe, based on what I read about the Tribulation, that the sign gifts will be operating again then. Certainly the two witnesses of Revelation will be doing many signs. I think it likely that the 144,000 Jewish evangelists will have the gift of tongues, enabling them to evangelize people whose languages they have not learned.
- Miracles have never been normative, either before Israel, during Israel’s history, or in the Church Age. There are three main times when lots of miracles happened: the time of Moses, the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, and the ministry of Jesus and His Apostles. There will be a fourth such time in the future, the Tribulation. We do not live in any of those time periods.
- The gift of apostleship has ceased. The Apostles were part of the foundation of the Church (Eph 2:20-22), not the superstructure.
- The gift of prophecy, like the gift of apostleship, was also part of the foundation of the Church, not the superstructure (Eph 2:20-22). Thus the gift of prophecy, like the gift of apostleship, has not functioned in the Church Age since the time of the Apostles.
- While there are many who claim to speak in tongues (including people from cults and non-Christian religions, by the way), there are extremely few people who claim to have the gift of interpretation of tongues. Since the NT says that no one should speak in tongues in church unless there is someone to interpret (1 Cor 14:28), that puts a halt to tongues speaking in church. One charismatic preacher stopped having people speak in tongues in his church for that very reason. See Neil Babcox, My Search for Charismatic Reality: One Man’s Pilgrimage. A friend of mine left the Charismatic movement because he was being taught how to “interpret” tongues. He was told to just say something Biblical. If someone gave a 10-second tongues message, he might give a one minute “interpretation.” Or a minute-long tongues message might produce a 10-second “interpretation.” My friend did not see the work of the Holy Spirit in such a practice.
When, as a senior in college, I came to faith in Christ, I immediately let an R.N. know with whom I had worked the previous summer. She came with her husband, and she and her husband told me that I was now a minor-league Christian. To become a major-league Christian, I had to ask the Holy Spirit to baptize me. So we prayed. They then asked me to start speaking in tongues. Nothing was coming, so they said, “Just try opening your mouth and letting sounds come out.” I said the word “Abba,” and they were happy. “That’s a start. That’s the Biblical word for Daddy. Keep practicing, and you will be speaking in tongues in no time.”
I then spoke with Warren Wilke, the man who led me to faith in Christ. He showed me what I wrote above. I stopped trying to speak in tongues. I saw no evidence that we had to practice to learn to speak in tongues.
I am not opposed to the sign gifts. I think it would be great if they were functioning today. But the evidence is overwhelming in my opinion that they are not.