Its evident from Acts 2 that the tongues the apostles spoke in were human languages.
Its also evident from 1 Corinthians 14 that Paul spoke about people speaking to God without the edification of the assembly. Paul was addressing people speaking in tongues with no interpretation. In the assembly of believers, tongues should edify people other than the speaker – hence the need for interpretation if there are people who do not understand (with the possible exception of there being others speaking in the languages of the rest of the assembly giving the same message, as in the case of Acts 2). While the use of tongues to speak to God (as in a prayer language) edifies oneself, tongues in the assembly was intended to be a way to speak for God as a prophet in a language known by someone in the audience to edify said audience – which again brings up the need for interpretation for those who did not understand the language.
There are plenty of people who say the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements are based solely on personal (emotional) experience. However, I think it depends on the individual. I know some who are extremely well versed in scripture, and some who are not.
The same is true for people who are not in said movements. Those who do not believe in the sign gifts being in evidence today speak from their own experience, or lack of it. This lack of experience of the sign gifts creates a bias towards not believing in the supernatural, which in turn lends one to the interpretation of scripture that the gifts are no longer necessary and have ceased.
It is my experience that God meets us where we are. While there are times God will work in our lives outside the box we put Him in, most of the time He is content to limit Himself to work within our level of faith. Except for 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, where it says that tongues will be stilled, there is no scriptural evidence for believing the miraculous gifts have ceased. This particular passage will be dealt with further into the article. But I would agree for the need for order in the assembly that is sometimes missing in certain churches (1 Corinthians 14:25-33).
Now, there are just as many who say that prophecy, as in God speaking through someone, rather than preaching, has ceased as well. They want to believe that because prophecies concerning Jesus have been completed, and Jesus was resurrected, and/or the church has been established, that there is no need for prophecy. But let’s examine what scripture says.
Jesus said what was written about Him must be fulfilled:
Luke 18:31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.
Then Jesus told his disciples that they were witnesses to what had occurred.
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” 45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
And what was written about Jesus was fulfilled. Yet this does not mean prophecy ceased when that happened.
Acts 2:17-18 In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
In fact, we see there were prophets in the early church:
Acts 13:1 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
Acts 15:32 Judas and Silas were prophets
Acts 19:4-7 twelve men prophesied when they received the holy spirit.
Acts 21:8-9 Philip the evangelist had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.
Acts 21:10-11 a prophet warned Paul.
Romans 12:6 – gift of prophecy
1 Corinthians 11:4-5 – prayer and prophecy
1 Corinthians 12:8-11 – spiritual gifts include prophecy
1 Corinthians 13:8-13 – prophecy will cease when perfection comes.
1 Corinthians 14 – regulation for tongues and prophecy in church service
Ephesians 3:5 – the Spirit of God makes things clear to apostles and prophets
Ephesians 4:11 – some are called to be prophets, which is distinct from pastor or teacher.
1 Thessalonians 5:20 told to not treat prophecies with contempt
1 Timothy 4:14 – Timothy received his gift through a prophetic message.
2 Peter 1:21 – prophecy comes from God
Revelation – a book of prophecy.
God can and does speak into people’s lives. Sometimes it is to comfort them. Sometimes it is to guide them. Sometimes it is because they need to hear directly from God in an extraordinary fashion. But regardless of the reason, it DOES occur.
My personal experience is one of having been given a prophecy, through a godly man, of what would occur in the future. This prophecy did not go against what is written in the Bible and in fact came true. God also spoke to me through my wife when I would not hear Him any other way. I have also been used by God as a mouth piece for God in the lives of others. I have been used by God both by proclaiming the word of God as written in scripture (in evangelism, teaching, and preaching), but also by telling people in a one-to-one situations what God wanted them to hear – when I KNEW what was coming out of my mouth did not come from me. My wife has had similar experiences of being given a prophecy and of being used by God in the lives of others to speak what they need to hear from God.
If you think I’m being arrogant because I should not claim to know the mind of God – I’m not claiming any such thing. I only know what scripture teaches us, and what God has revealed or illumined in me (and yes, I know the two are not the same). However, just because I have been used by God to speak to someone who apparently either would not hear any other way or who needed to be edified in that particular way at that particular time does not mean I understood the meaning of what I said or why it was being said. Yes, I understood the words, but not necessarily the meaning of the message. There have been times when I did, but there have also been times when I did not. Yet, I was still used as a prophet in the lives of those people. And no, other than when evangelizing, teaching, or preaching, I have no control over when God will use me as a prophet to tell them what God wants people to hear, although I can wait to speak or I can choose to disobey.
I personally see no biblical evidence of the cessation of sign gifts until ‘the perfect comes’, based on 1 Corinthians 13:8-13. In fact, Paul specifically told the assembly to not forbid the speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:). In 1 Corinthians 14, Paul is telling us that prophecy was still occuring when he wrote it, and provides regulation for prophecy in church services. In 1 Thessalonians 5:20, Paul warns to not hold prophecies in contempt. So we know Paul was not writing about the birth, life, suffering, and resurrection of Christ – otherwise prophecy would have not continued to the time of 1 Corinthians or 1 Thessalonians. In fact, if prophecies had ceased, why would Paul provide regulation for the use of that particular gift (1 Corinthians 14)?
Now it is unclear what ‘the perfect’ in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 is referring to. It may be ‘the perfect’ is Christ upon His second coming, or it may be when we are in heaven, or judgement day, or the New Jerusalem. Personally, since Paul spoke of the ‘the partial’ and ’seeing in a mirror dimly’, I think he was speaking of the perfect rest in heaven with God that is to come (when we will each be able to hear God one on one) – just as he did in Colossians 2:16-17 when speaking of the eating, drinking, festivals, and the sabbath day.
I doubt Paul was referring to the codification of the New Testament when he spoke of ‘the perfect’, as I doubt it was even in his mind that such a thing would ever occur. We certainly see no evidence of the codification of the New Testament in scripture, nor that Paul thought it would occur. And we must be careful to not add to what God has said in Scripture (Proverbs 30:5-6; Revelation 22:18). And no, speaking for God when He speaks through you is not adding to Scripture. There were many prophecies that never made it into Scripture (Acts 19:4-7; Acts 21:8-9). It is merely being faithful and obedient. I will write a post on this in the future (note, the article can be found here).
But regardless of your position on the sign gifts, love must be our motivation and focus (1 Corinthians 13).