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Ask A Pastor: Spiritual Gifts?


Why do Reformed churches speak so little on the spiritual gifts, such as speaking in tongues and prophecy? If we take the rest of the Bible literally and practically why do we dismiss 1 Corinthians 14, such as verse 39?


Do extraordinary gifts (such as tongue speaking) continue after the apostolic period? John Owen writes:

Nor have we any undoubted testimony that any of those gifts which were truly miraculous, and every way above the faculties of men, were communicated unto any after the expiration of the generation of them who conversed with Christ in the flesh, or those who received the Holy Spirit by their ministry. 1

These miraculous gifts were necessary in order to gain a hearing for the gospel when it was first proclaimed. They were given to show that the message that the apostles and their disciples proclaimed was indeed authentic. Therefore, the ability to speak in tongues, to have gifts of healing and others only the apostles were able to convey this ability. Therefore, once the apostles died no longer was anyone able to pass on this gift. Therefore after those who had met the apostles died their was no longer any tongue speaking in the church. This is also consistent with history. There is no record of the bestowing of these gifts on someone by the laying on of the hands of any one other than an apostle. B.B. Warfield writes:

They (these miraculous gifts) were part of the credentials of the Apostles as the authoritative agents of God in the founding the church. Their function thus confined them to distinctively the Apostolic church, and they necessarily passed away with it. 2

Reasons why we consider the special gifts of the Spirit to have passed away:

  1. It is our understanding of the revelation of God to his people that required special gifts of the Spirit in the early NT period but why they are no longer required in fully developed NT church. They were needed to explain the apostolic doctrine before it was fully written down.

  2. Certain Scripture passages specifically associate the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit with the work of the apostles (Acts 14:3; 2 Cor. 12:12; Romans 15:15-19; Luke 16:31).

  3. The way Paul treats tongue speaking in 1 Cor. 12-14 suggests that this gift is no longer needed in the church. There is nowhere in the NT where tongue speaking was anything different than in Acts 2 (cf. 1 Cor. 12:10). In Acts 2 it was speaking in another language so that others could understand. Tongue speaking was never given for confusion but for order and understanding. This is consistent with 14:2 where it speaks about an unknown tongue. This merely refers to tongues of a different language than was spoken in the church.

  4. The fact that there is no reference to tongue speaking in any NT epistle other than 1 Corinthians also strongly suggests that this gift was not intended to remain in the church.

  5. Further among the qualifications for elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3; Titus 1) tongue speaking is not mentioned or even alluded to! Surely if the gift of tongues was to remain in the church you would have expected it to be a required qualification for officebearers! The book of Corinthians was a very early book written. It was probably one of the first. Therefore, we have mention of the gifts of tongues etc. However, by the time the NT church was developed (Titus and Timothy) we only have the Pastors, elders, and deacons mentioned. This is because the supernatural gifts passed away. They were no longer needed. God had revealed himself fully in his word.

  6. The almost total absence of any tongue speaking from AD 100-1900 is hardly compatible with the claim that God intended the gift of tongues to remain in the church.

  1. Owen, John, On the Holy Spirit, pg. 474-475

  2. Warfield, Miracles Yesterday and Today, pg. 21

To read an expanded answer on this, click here: “Charismatic Gifts? 1 Corinthians 12-14”

Pastor John


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