"WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT MIRACLE GIFTS AND SPEAKING IN TONGUES"
A Biblical Response to Mark Driscoll's Sermon which Claims that Miracle Gifts and Speaking in Tongues is a "Continuing" Gift for Today
Driscoll is the founder/pastor of the
In a sermon that was preached in his church in June 2013, Driscoll stated his belief in the continuation of all the spiritual gifts and the gift of speaking in tongues for this age. Among the questions and statements Driscoll made in his message were the following remarks: “Does Mars Hill believe that the gift of tongues is for today?” to which Driscoll replied in the affirmative. Driscoll also stated: “Where we disagree with the Cessationists and we agree with the Continuationists is when they [the gifts] cease. We believe that all of the gifts continue until one very important transitory moment in the history of the world…until we see Him face to face, until Jesus comes again.”
Was Driscoll right or was he incorrect? This writer believes Driscoll was wrong in two basic areas, on (a) the issue dealing with spiritual gifts and also (b) the question of tongues. The F. D. editor is responding to these two basic key matters that Driscoll raised: (a) the issue of spiritual gifts; (b) the issue concerning tongues.
THE ISSUE REGARDING SPIRITUAL GIFTS
There are seven important Biblical facts concerning spiritual gifts that this writer believes should be considered in answering Driscoll’s claims about the continuation of the special “Miracle” gifts.
1.The Gifts were Scriptural in their Definition: Using Christ’s parable in Matt. 25:14-30 as a guideline, a spiritual gift can be defined as a God given ability or a talent for Christian service. While the “talents” there specifically referred to money, Christ expanded the meaning to include abilities, spiritual gifts or talents for Christian ministry.
(a) The Gifts of the Spirit must be clearly distinguished from the gift of the Spirit: No one can claim any spiritual gift unless he/she first has the gift of the Spirit, an act that occurs with and is synonymous to Salvation—the New Birth—John 3:3 & 3:5. In Rom. 8:9, the Apostle Paul declared that “If any have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of his,” while in Rom. 8:15 he states “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”
In genuine conversion, the Holy Spirit makes his permanent abode in the body of believers—John 14:17, I Cor. 6:19-20. At the moment of conversion, Christ also imparts to each believer special “grace” or specific “gifts”—Eph. 4:7-12. These gifts [abilities, spiritual talents] are delineated and discussed in three passages of Scriptures: Rom. 12:4-8, Eph. 4:7-12 and I Cor. 12:4-10, 12:28-31. The “gift of the Spirit” in Salvation must be differentiated from the gifts [spiritual abilities, talents] of the Spirit that are given with Salvation.
The Gifts of the Spirit must be differentiated
from the fruit of the Spirit: According to I Cor.
1:7, the believers in the church at
2. The Gifts were Supernatural in their Descension: Eph. 4:8-11 makes it plain that the throne in heaven was the originating point for the bestowment of spiritual gifts. All of heaven, the triune God, was behind the bestowal of these abilities and talents in the believer’s life. God the Father was the planner of these gifts—I Cor. 12:28, God the Son was the provider of these gifts—Eph. 4:7, and God the Holy Spirit was the producer of the gifts—I Cor. 12:4, 7-8. These spiritual gifts can be counterfeited and imitated, but they cannot be humanly duplicated.
3. The Gifts were Sovereign in their Distribution: Human ingenuity and intellect could not distribute these spiritual gifts to believers. They were sovereignly bestowed by the Holy Spirit to whomsoever He divinely chose. These spiritual abilities and talents could not be humanly manufactured. God alone bestowed the gifts to those whom He decided. Human beings had absolutely nothing to do with the choice or selection of these gifts. I Cor. 12:11 plainly states: “But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.” It is not our lot to complain about gifts we have not divinely received—Rom. 8:29, Rom.11:34. God knows best and He makes no mistakes!
This does not mean that we shouldn’t Scripturally “covet” other gifts, if our genuine motive and purpose is to glorify God by the reception of such an “ability” or “talent.” Believers are instructed to “covet earnestly the best gifts—I Cor. 12:30, I Cor. 14:1, I Tim. 3:1.
While no one but God can confer these gifts, no believer has been left out! Every believer has at least one or two God-given “talents” that he/she can use to glorify God and edify a local church: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to ever man to profit withal—I Cor. 12:7.”
Sometimes we make the mistake of emphasizing only the gifts that have more public prominence, while ignoring the more unnoticed ones that can have equal impact. This is a bad mistake, but one that is frequently committed in Fundamentalist circles where small ministries are many times ignored in favor of big-name churches that make the religious headlines.
4. The Gifts were Segmented in their Divisions: There are three Biblical divisions of the gifts delineated in Scripture: (a) Speaking gifts; (b) Sign gifts and (c) Service gifts. The speaking gifts are mentioned primarily in Rom. 12 and Eph. 4 and deal with exhorting and teaching and the office of the evangelist, pastor-teacher. The sign gifts mentioned mainly in I Cor. 12 & 14 included prophecy, the word of knowledge, tongues, the interpretation of tongues, miracles, wisdom, faith, and healing. The service gifts emphasize such talents as prophecy, ministry (service), giving, ruling, mercy and the important gift of helps. It is significant to note again these distinctions in gifts were divinely and sovereignly bestowed from Heaven, with no mistakes.
5. The Gifts were Spiritual in their Designations: These gifts were all gifts of the Holy Spirit! They were spiritual in nature and purpose. The Holy Spirit never gave any gift-ability-talent for carnal or worldly purposes. While the gifts were all spiritual in nature, some of them could be abused and carnal in their operation.
Some of them were (a) incorrectly exercised with regard to their priority: Correct spiritual priorities is an important matter that must not be overlooked. For instance, the words righteousness and reconciliation are both Biblical terms, and therefore both are important, but for every one time, the word “reconciliation” occurs in Scripture, the word “righteousness” or its equivalent occurs 25 times. The ratio of righteousness over reconciliation in Scripture is a 25-1 ratio, a significant fact. The words “purity” and “peace” are both Scriptural terms, but for every one time, the word “peace” is mentioned, the word “purity” or its equivalent occurs seven times—a ratio of 7-1 of purity over peace in the Word of God.
(b) Other gifts were incorrectly exercised
with regard to their purpose: It should
be noted that in the delineation list of gifts, tongues
is listed at the bottom in both I Cor. 12:7-10 and
12:28-30. This writer will examine the purpose of
tongues in the second part of this Bible study. Suffice
it to say, that gift of speaking in tongues was on
an inverted priorities list in
(c) Some gifts were improperly exercised with regard to their power: While gifts such as tongues and miracles obviously involved powerful acts, these outward spectacular gifts were being over-emphasized and being carnally manifested in a fleshly manner at the expense of such important but quiet and unseen gifts as “helps,” “giving” and “mercy.”
6. Some of the Gifts were Short in their Duration: Specifically, the sign gifts were temporary in their operation. With regards to (a) miracles, signs and wonders, as the N. T. progressed in its revelation, these spectacular actions diminished and virtually passed out of existence. (b) With regard to tongues, there is absolutely no mention of tongues after I Corinthians was written. Neither Paul, Peter, John or Jude mentions anything about the operation of tongues in N.T. churches. (c) Concerning the Apostles and Prophets, there were several necessary qualifications for these offices, none of which anyone can fulfill or qualify for today. The second part of this study discusses the brevity of some of the gifts, specifically the gift of tongues.
To qualify as an apostle, it was  necessary to be an eyewitness to Christ’s resurrection—Acts 1:22;  You had to be Scripturally invested with miracle signs and wonders—Acts 5:15-16;  you had to be Scripturally chosen by God—Matt. 10:1-2, and  you had to be part of the foundation of the church in Eph. 2:20 where the apostles and prophets are there declared to that foundation. You can only build a foundation once, so despite the many claims, there are no Biblical apostles and prophets in existence today.
7. The Gifts and their Stewardship Dispensing Today: Spiritual gifts do exist today for the edifying of local N.T. assemblies of believers and the propagation of the gospel message. No believer has been forgotten; every saint of God has at least one special gift-talent-ability to assist a local N.T. church in its Great Commission Mandate ministry.
(a) There should be a cultivating of spiritual gifts: In I Cor. 14:12, Paul states: “Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church,” while in I Cor. 14:26b he says, “…let all things be done unto edifying.” Individual spiritual gifts should be developed and improved in believers’ lives so that they can utilize them to the greatest benefit and extent of the local N. T. church.
(b) There should be a consecrating of
spiritual gifts: According to
(c) There should be a coveting of spiritual gifts: I Cor. 12:31 exhorts believers to “covet earnestly the best gifts,” while always seeking the “more excellent way” of manifestation of God’s love-I Corinthians chapter 13.
Christian gifts must be used (a) with Scriptural understanding—I Cor. 14:15, (b) with spiritual unction—Eph. 5:18 and (c) with supportive Unity—I Cor. 14:33.
THE ISSUE CONCERNING SPEAKING IN TONGUES
With regards to speaking in tongues there are seven questions to ask and answer: (a) Were there tongues in the N.T.? (b) If so, what was this gift? (c) Who possessed this gift, if it existed? (d) How important was this gift? (e) What was the purpose of tongues? (f) How long did this gift last? (g) What is the real need today?
1. The Gift of Tongues was a Supernatural Gift: Yes, there was an actual gift of “tongues” in the N. T. Tongues was a supernatural gift given by Christ. There are three passages dealing with spiritual gifts in the N.T.: Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and I Corinthians chapters 12-14. The Scriptures in I Cor. 12:4-11 and 12:28-30 definitely refer to tongues as a gift granted by the Holy Spirit. You would have to be a blatant non-believer in Scripture to question this assertion.
2. The Gift of Tongues was a Sovereign Gift: The Charismatics and Pentecostalists want people to believe that tongues is a gift that believers should seek. However, there is not one instance anywhere in the N. T. Scriptures where believers were instructed to seek this gift or pray for its reception. The recipients of tongues were all sovereignly chosen by the Holy Spirit. I Cor. 12:4-11 makes it plain that the Holy Spirit sovereignly chose the recipients: “Now there are diversities of Gifts but the same Spirit...But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit…to another prophesy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues.”
Nothing could be clearer in this extensive passage than that the Holy Spirit sovereignly chose who would be recipients of specific gifts. While believers could legitimately seek and pray for the “best gifts,” No believer by his/her own persuasive action could obtain any of these gifts, including tongues. Charismatics and Pentecostalists today delineate certain action conditions that must be followed in order to receive this gift. However, no conditions were ever listed for the reception of this gift. The reason being that the Holy Spirit sovereignly granted this gift to those whom He alone chose.
Charismatics and Pentecostalists also claim that speaking in tongues is the “initial evidence” of being baptized in the Holy Spirit, but there is absolutely no evidence that such is the case. In fact, all believers already possess the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Rom. 8:9, 8:16 and I Cor. 12:3 verify that this baptism occurred at Salvation, at conversion and the New Birth.
3. The Gift of Tongues was a Selected Gift: Nowhere were any believers commanded to specifically seek the gift of tongues. In I Cor. 12 in the passage dealing with spiritual gifts, the Apostle Paul compares the Corinthian church to a physical body that contains numerous different parts. The body parts were all specifically different, yet all were needed for its completion and successful operation. Now, it is ridiculous to liken the entire body to only a tongue. Such a body would be a monstrosity; likewise if every believer in the church spoke in tongues!
The Holy Spirit selected only a few believers to possess this gift. Tongues was only one of several gifts the Holy Spirit granted to individual believers. We do not know how many or how few possessed this gift, but that only because it was a spectacular outward gift, and therefore easily distorted gift, that it was being abused and misused for improper ends. The entire 14th chapter of I Corinthians is an exegetical study of the problem of the misuse of tongues by giving it a place and priority it did not deserve in the Corinthian assembly of believers.
4. The Gift of Tongues was a Speaking Gift: This is where there is sharp division between dispensational Fundamentalists and the Charismatics and Pentecostalists. Charismatics believe that speaking in tongues is a heavenly mystical unknown language or tongue that the Holy Spirit grants after intense prayer and following certain mental and physical directions as opening one’s mind and just letting the mouth babble unintelligible sounds. Some Charismatics believe that it a form of private praise... Others believe that it is a public gift to be exercised in assembly meetings, while others yet believe it can be a combination of both private and public activity.
Known spoken foreign languages: (a) The First Mention Principle
The N. T. Scriptures make it abundantly clear that the exercise of tongues was the speaking in a known foreign language, not some unknown heavenly babbling. One of the great principles of Biblical Hermeneutics [Bible Interpretation] is the principle of first mention. The first time something is mentioned, mark it down because it will give you a clue to its interpretation elsewhere in Scripture.
For instance, the first time Satan is mentioned in Scripture, he is called “subtle—Gen. 3:1.” Now mark that down, because that initial usage give you a key as to what Satan will be doing throughout the rest of Scripture. If there is any change, the Scripture will make that change clearly evident.
The first time tongues is used in the N. T,, it is associated with known spoken foreign languages, not some heavenly mystical utterance. When the disciples spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost, the utterances were all in known spoken foreign languages. The Scripture that they “began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” in Acts 2:4 is explained as foreign languages, since the next verse, Acts 2:5 states that “every man heard them speak in his own language.” Those foreign languages are delineated in Acts 2:8-12 as being “every man in our own tongue,” (2:8) and “in our tongues” (2:11).
If you want to use the language in which the N.T. was originally penned, the Koine Greek, as proof that these utterances were known spoken foreign languages, that is easy to confirm. The root phrase in Acts 2:4 for “other tongues” is the same Greek root used in I Cor. 14:21 when the same phrase “other tongues” is used again by the Apostle Paul!
Known Spoken languages: (b) The use of the term “Barbarian”
In writing about the importance of mental comprehension of what is being said when speaking in tongues, Paul states I Cor. 14:21 that “If I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be to him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.”
That “Barbarian” refers to a spoken but not
comprehended foreign language and not some
heavenly mystical language, can easily be verified
by Paul’s statement in Rom. 1:14 about being a debtor
both to the “Greeks” (referring to the people of his
homeland and the language he learned as a child) and
the “Barbarians” (the languages and cultures with
which he did not personally identity.) In Acts 28:2,
when Paul met with the natives on
5. The Gift of Tongues was also a Sign Gift: I Cor. 14:21-22 is the only place in the Scriptures where the purpose of tongues is given. In those verses Paul states: “In the law, it is written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not…”
It is abundantly clear from these verses that the major purpose of tongues was as a sign to unbelieving Jews. The “in the law” phrase refers to Isaiah 28:10-11 which says: “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line; line upon line; here a little, and there a little; For with stammering lips and another tongue shall he speak unto them.” Now, this writer has read Charismatic commentators who falsely allege that the phrase “another tongue” refers to the so-called heavenly mystical babbling that God grants when a seeking believer speaks in tongues.
Nothing could be farther from the truth! Isaiah
chapter 28 is not a blessing chapter, it is
a judgment chapter delineating God’s judgment upon
the unbelieving nation of
In view of
that O., T. reference, the Apostle was prophetically
looking forward to the potential savage destruction
that the Roman Empire was going to heap upon Jerusalem
shortly afterwards in 70 A.D., when Herod’s Temple
would be completely destroyed and hundreds of thousands
of Jews would be helplessly massacred by Nero’s armies.
Now God was giving the Jews a second chance, by speaking
to them in the foreign languages they had assimilated
in the foreign countries into which they had been
driven over the centuries. Would they listen to this
“sign” message concerning judgment which was being
graciously given to them by God in these foreign languages
The Gift of Tongues was a Short Gift: Would
the Jews as a race, repent and seek God’s face when
they heard this message in various spoken languages
they spoke in Jerusalem, Corinth, Athens, and the
nations to which they had previously been scattered?
Unfortunately, they didn’t, and in 70 A.D., the Jewish
With national judgment an accomplished fact in 70 A.D., there was no longer any need for the use of tongues and they quickly vanished from the N.T. No mention is made of tongues again in any of Paul’s 11 other epistles [and perhaps Hebrews] beyond I Corinthians. The apostles Peter, John and Jude make absolutely no mention of tongues. Why? Because the need for tongues had diminished and virtually ceased.
When the Canon of Scripture was complete with John’s writing of the book of Revelation, there was no longer any need at all for this temporary gift. With the New Testament’s completion, tongues forever ceased to be a God-given and God-granted revelatory medium.
7. The Gift of Tongues is a Supplanted Gift: With the completed written revelation in the 66 books of the Bible, there is absolutely no need for this gift today. Tongues has been supplanted by the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, which is God’s sufficient means to bring believers to full spiritual maturation today. II Tim. 3:16-17 states: “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.”
There is absolutely nothing the so-called gift of tongues can do to advance and further a Christian’s growth: If What the tongues speaker says is unscriptural, I don’t want it; if what he/she says in that so-called heavenly babble is correct, I don’t need it! Why go through a subjective interpreter when I can read it all for myself in plain English!!
Also in this issue:
|Editorial – AUGUST - SEPTEMBER 2013 The Fundamentalist Digest; Permission granted for reprint, so long as proper credit is given.|