Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Study With Me -- Acts Lesson 12

I ended the last post with the question as to what will cause knowledge and prophecy to cease and when will or did tongues cease in and of themselves.

I Corinthians 13:10 Tells us, “when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.” Well, when is that? I think verse 12 has the answer for us. Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. What does that sound like to you? To me it sounds like knowledge and prophecy will be made to cease when Christ comes back and we see Him face to face. Neither gift will be needed after that.
The other half of the question though is more difficult. When did or will tongues cease in and of themselves? On this topic I think a great deal of humility is needed because there are a great many opinions on this topic and many books and sermons have been preached on it throughout the centuries. There is no way that I’m claiming to have the final answer which everyone must follow. However, I don’t think that means we should stop studying and trying to figure out what God is saying. Certainly as men who would be faithful, part of that faithfulness is in attempting to study the Word so that we can rightly divide it. So for whatever it’s worth here is my take.

Just as in chapter 13 Paul mentioned growing up and putting away childish things, he challenges us in chapter 14:20 to be grown up in our understanding. He then quotes from Isaiah 28:11, 12. “With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear me,” says the Lord.

If you go back to Isaiah 28, the scenario is this. Isaiah has been preaching and the people basically say, “Who does he think he’s talking to? Babies?” “He keeps repeating things to us – line upon line, precept upon precept. He is treating us like little kids!”

Isaiah’s response to this basically is, “OK. If that’s they way you are going to be about what I’m teaching you then judgment is coming and I’m going to talk to you with people of other languages. You don’t like hearing this in your own language, then I’ll speak to you with men of other languages. That will be a sign to you that judgment is coming.”

Of course that was followed up in the Old Testament with the fall of Jerusalem and the captivity of Israel in foreign countries.

What Paul is saying in chapter 14 of I Corinthians is that tongues are a sign to the Jews in that same way in His day. Of course we know that not many years later judgment came and the Jews were scattered from Jerusalem once again. So in verse 22 after he quotes Isaiah he says, “Therefore.” That is an important word. The “therefore” means he is connecting this verse to the quote from Isaiah. “Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe.”

So we say to Paul, “What are tongues for?” His answer is that tongues are a sign. So we ask, “A sign? Who is the sign for?”

Paul says, “Tongues are a sign for unbelievers.”

I believe he means unbelieving Jews because he tied verse 22 with a “therefore” to verse 21. It is a sign for unbelieving Jews that God is again speaking and expecting a response from the Jewish nation. It’s a validating sign that God is working through Paul and the other apostles.

So when will they cease? I believe they ceased in and of themselves when Jerusalem fell and the judgment had come. After that, Jews were no longer in their land, Scripture had been written and validated by all of the previous signs and wonders and there is now no need for this sign gift to unbelieving Israel.

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