Cessationism Proven

Cessationism, in Christian theology, is the belief that the sign gifts, such as speaking in tongues, have ceased. I offer two arguments:

From personal experience, I have spoken in tongues once but it was not the biblical gift described in scripture. I was by myself and in an emotional frenzy trying to draw close to God as a naïve and eager new Christian. This happened over 45 years ago and was influenced by supposedly Christian leaders who taught this doctrine of “tongue speaking.” Therefore, I am not in the dark about the phenomenon. This false effect can be produced by any emotionally worked-up individual, having been reported among many non-Christians. Therefore the phenomenon itself, ecstatic utterances, it is hardly the N.T. gift, where someone speaks an intelligible language they have never learned.

Secondly, Paul gives the purpose for this specific sign in 1Cor. 14.21-25. The whole chapter of 1Cor. 14 is a primer to avoid abuses of this sign gift. It is clear, from what I have seen in practice, that today’s practitioners do not adhere to Paul’s directions. The specific purpose of tongues (real languages) is for a certain class of unbelievers, Jews. This is clear since Paul quotes a section of the O.T. which is specific to the people of Israel and uses the Hebrew ha am (from am) which is the designation for, “the people.” The Jews were the people of God and all others were the Goyim, “the nations.”

Paul quotes Is. 28.11-12 to say that tongues fulfills this prophecy in a general sense, Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people, to whom he said, “This is the resting place, let the weary rest”; and, “This is the place of repose”—but they would not listen (NIV). Hence, according to this prophecy, the effect was negative for the nation in general while its fulfillment would be recognized by a remnant. 3000 were added to the church at Pentecost and for sure many elsewhere, such as when Paul spoke in tongues during his missionary endeavors (1Cor. 14.18). The ability to speak an unlearned language, a reversal of Babel’s curse, is the sign of God’s working by sending the Paraclete. Eventually, The Spirit will regenerate some from all nations (starting with the Samaritans-Acts 8, then Gentiles-Acts 10). The sign, as Is. 28 indicates, was for the Jews, who did not believe as a whole. Of course, God has a grace on some Jews individually such as Paul (Rom. 11.1,6).

Since the call of Abram, God has always redeemed a least a remnant of Jews, though your people be like the sand by the sea, Israel, only a remnant will return. Destruction has been decreed, overwhelming and righteous (Is. 10.22 NIV). Very few Gentiles were redeemed from Abram until Jesus, You only have I chosen of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your sins (Amos 3.2 NIV). The fact that the enlightened Israel were more liable for transgressing should give Christians pause concerning their own privilege. God is now calling some from all nations since it was prophesied that the Messiah would save the Gentiles along with Israel, It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth (Is. 49.6 ESV).

Notice also, that Paul’s hypothetical in 1Cor. 14.22-24 would fail his argument if taken at face value, Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all.  The unbelievers, in Paul’s hypothetical, responded to prophecy not tongues; yet, Paul says that tongues was for unbelievers. To resolve this dilemma is to see another class of unbelievers, Gentiles. Paul here is speaking of Gentile unbelievers observing a Christian gathering. No identifying Jew would ever seek out what they would regard a Pagan assembly. The type of unbeliever who would visit a church, are Gentiles, not Jews.

Tongues, historically, have ceased since roughly the end of the first century when the greater bulk of The Diaspora would have been told of Christ and known about the new reality of the Spirit and the New Covenant. The working of the Spirit, in the predominant Greco-Roman society of the first century, overturned the world: These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also… saying that there is another king, Jesus (Acts 17.6-7 ESV).