- Christ predicted that miracles and prophesying would be done in
his name, apart from his sanction or power. (Matt. 7:21-23; see also 2 Thess. 2:9). This
is why an experience or miracle, no matter how great, cannot be appealed to as the sole
judge of the source of that event. A discussion with a Pentecostal can often be more
effective if a simple, yet important, ground rule is laid down at the beginning - that if
anything is said in the discussion, even if attributed to extra-Biblical sources, it must
stand the test of Scripture.1 To
assume such a posture in the discussion is to follow the instruction of the New Testament.
Consider the following:
- Paul establishes the test of sound doctrine as the criterion by
which claimants to Spirit-gift powers can be examined. "Now concerning spiritual
gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried
away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that
no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that
Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Spirit." (1 Cor. 12:1-3). The lord prominent in
the first century was "my lord Serapis".2
The Gospel challenged allegiance to this god through converts made to the Hope of Israel.
No teacher with Spirit gifts would say "Jesus is accursed", but on the other
hand, no teacher who followed the pagan cult would assert that Jesus was lord. The test of
the claimant to Spirit powers, was, therefore, the test of the doctrine he taught.
- Similarly, John applied the test of sound doctrine: "Hereby know ye the Spirit of
God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And
every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God . .
. " (1 John 4:2-3). The test is the same - Is the teaching of the one who claims
Spirit gifts in accordance with the revealed Word?
- Now an area of discussion can be selected. But where should one
start? The recurrent theme of Pentecostal services is the weight of man's sin, the
suffering of Christ in vicariously atoning for man's guilt, and the debt of gratitude
which all believers owe to Jesus who relieved them of their guilt. It is in this context
that the Pentecostal evaluates Christadelphian teaching about the kingdom of God and the
nature of man - interesting discussion, perhaps, but hardly fundamental to the
"gospel". It certainly could be effectively argued that both of these areas are fundamentals
of the Gospel. There are times, however, when it is advantageous to work within the belief
system of the non-Christadelphian and in so doing, become "all things to all
men" (1 Cor. 9:22) that some might be saved. What better place to start than the
nature, death and atonement of Christ?3
The implication of such a discussion would be to imply, if not to state, that the
Pentecostal claim to be led into all truth by the Holy Spirit is wholly unjustified, since
the doctrines taught are unscriptural and therefore subject to the severe condemnation of
Gal. 1:8,9 ("As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other
gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.")
- Sooner or later the Christadelphian will be required to provide proof that the Spirit
gifts are not available today. The following summary attempts to compile the evidence:
- The ability to pass on the Spirit gifts seems to have been the
special privilege of the Apostles only (Ananias being a possible exception - Acts 9:17).
This is indicated by the fact that although Philip's preaching was accompanied by miracles
(Acts 8:7), the Apostles at Jerusalem sent Peter and John to Samaria to transmit the
Spirit gifts by the laying on of hands. (Acts 8:14-18). Why should Peter and John be sent
to Samaria to transmit Spirit-gift powers, if this power were available to all believers?
Hence, with the death of the Apostles, there was no one able to transmit these gifts and
so they ceased. As Peter said, the gift of the Holy Spirit was promised "to you [the
Jews to whom he was speaking], and to your children, [two generations], and to all that
are afar off, [Gentiles]4, even as
many [i.e., of these] as the Lord our God shall call." (Acts 2:38,39).
- In 1 Cor. 13, the Apostle Paul contrasts the temporary character of the gifts with the
permanence of faith, hope and love. "But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew
I unto you a more excellent way". "Charity never faileth: but whether there be
prophecies, [i.e., the gift of prophecy, 1 Cor. 12:1,9,10] they shall fail; whether
there be tongues, [i.e., gift of tongues, 1 Cor. 12:10], they shall cease; whether
there be knowledge, [i.e., gift of knowledge, 1 Cor. 12:8] it shall vanish
away." (1 Cor. 12:31; 13:8). When is this to take place? Paul says, "But when
that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." (1
Cor. 13:10). Two interpretations are usually given to this verse. Pentecostals argue that
the "perfect" which is to come refers to the return of Christ, while others,
such as the Christadelphians, argue that it refers to the maturity which would come to the
ecclesia with the completed Scriptures. If the latter could be proven, then, of course,
this would amount to a proof that the Spirit-gift powers ceased about the end of the first
century. The following is advanced in support of the latter interpretation:
- The Spirit gifts would pass away before the advent of Christ since Paul says, faith and
hope abide (vs. 13). But when Christ returns one will have no need of hope, for
"hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?"
(Rom. 8:24). Nor would one have need for faith, since faith is "the assurance of
things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen". (Heb. 11:1, R.S.V.). Therefore,
there must be a period of time after the passing of the Spirit gifts in which faith
and hope "abide". Hence the passing of the Spirit gifts cannot be at the return
of Christ, but must be at some time prior to this.
- The Apostle stressed, "Now abideth faith, hope, charity . . ." (2 Cor.
13:13). This stress indicates that the Apostle did not consider the Holy Spirit gifts
would continue past his age.
- The immediate context to verse 10, ("But when that which is
perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away") is the knowing
"in part" and prophesying "in part", (vs. 10). The term
"perfect" is, therefore, qualified by the subject in the context - the
possession of the knowledge of the purpose of God. The impartation of this knowledge was
dependent in the first century upon the presence of believers with the gifts of
"knowledge" and "prophecy" until the completion of the New Testament.
Since the completion of the New Testament no claimants to Spirit-gift powers have been
successful in adding to the perfected5
(completed) Scriptures. Why this lack of new knowledge, if in fact the Spirit gifts have
been available from the first century until the present day?
- The most frequent use of "teleion" is for the maturity
of believers.6 It is sometimes used in
contexts which imply that the maturity is reached before the judgment at the return
of Christ. Note the following:
- "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect [teleiois, "mature",
R.S.V.] . . . " (1 Cor. 2:6).
- "Let us therefore, as many as be perfect [teleioi, "mature", R.S.V.]
- ". . . in understanding be men [teleioi, "mature", R.S.V.]. (1 Cor.
- "For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is
a babe. But strong meat beIongeth to them that are of full age, [teleion,
"mature", R.S.V.] even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to
discern both good and evil." (Heb. 5:13, 14).
- The purpose of the Spirit gifts was to confirm the word which was spoken (Mk. 16:20),
and to equip the saints for the work of the ministry and for edification (Eph. 4:12), but
when the mature state of the ecclesia was reached with the completion of the New Testament
Scriptures, that which was "in part" (the Spirit gifts, e.g. some had the gift
of tongues, others the gift of prophecy, etc.) ceased.
- An explanation must also be offered for two comparisons which the Apostle makes:
- "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a
child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (1 Cor. 13:11). The
Apostle's personal life illustrated the development of the ecclesia, (the comparison of
the ecclesia to a human body is made in chapter 12, cf. also Rom. 12:4-8) from the
immature state which depended on Spirit gifts, to the maturity reached with the completion
of the Scriptures. There may be a subtle allusion to the gift of tongues ("I
spake"), and the gift of knowledge ("I understood"), and the gift of
prophecy ("I thought", "reasoned" mg.). These would "be put
away" - rendered inoperative by maturity.
- "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part;
but then shall I know even as also I am known." (1 Cor. 13:12). By looking into the
partially revealed Word, man obtained a partial picture of the revelation of God to
himself, but with the completion of revelation, man could then see himself as he was seen
by God in the divine purpose.
- Since Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb.
13:8), the modem tongues movement claims that the Spirit gifts must be available today. It
is argued that Jesus can do today what he did in the first century - send the Comforter to
divide "to every man severally as he will". (1 Cor. 12: 11). Two points require
- It is not a question as to whether Christ can make the Spirit gifts available today. He
obviously has the power to do so. The question is rather is it his purpose to make the
Spirit gifts available today.
- To argue that Christ must do today what he did in the past is to put a limitation upon
his sovereignty. Jesus is immutable (unchanging in his character and person) as is his
Father (cf. Num. 23:19; Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1: 17), but he is not confined to do in the present
and the future what he has done in the past. To argue otherwise is to ignore the history
of the relationship of God and Jesus Christ with men. Two examples illustrate this point:
- The disciples were told not to preach to the Gentiles - Go not into the way of the
Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost
sheep of the house of Israel." (Matt. 10:5,6). After the resurrection of Christ, the
disciples were told to preach the gospel to all nations. (Mk. 16:15). Philip preached to
the Samaritans (Acts 8), and Paul was specifically sent to the Gentiles. (1 Tim. 2:7; 2
Tim. 1 :11).
- Nearly all Pentecostals would agree that Apostles who strike liars dead (Acts 5:3-10)
and raise the dead (Acts 9:40) are no longer in existence. The fact that such are not in
existence, does not reflect on the essential character of God, but rather indicates that
the purpose which they served is now past.
- Today most claimants to Spirit powers stress the gifts of tongues and healing, yet the
Apostle says "And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets,
thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments,
diversities of tongues". (1 Cor. 12:28). Why the importance today on the gifts of
less importance? It is significant that the gift of prophecy is seldom claimed today by
Pentecostals, yet it is the most amenable to the test of truth or falsity. Its greater
value is set forth by Paul, in its great benefit and profit in the development of faith
and character. This would lead one to expect that if any gifts were present, this one
- A reasonable case can be made from the testimonies of Justin
Martyr, Irenaeus, Origen, Chrysostom, and Augustine that in the post-apostolic era
(100-600) speaking in tongues ceased.7
- The Bereans were commended as follows: "These were more noble than those in
Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind and searched the
scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Acts 17:11). If the inspired
teaching of the Apostle Paul was put to the test of Scripture, how much more the
statements of latter day claimants to Spirit gifts! Return
- This foreign god was imported to Egypt where in Alexandria it
was regarded as a protector. A temple was built for Serapis which "rivalled the pride
and magnificence of the Capitol". The god was similar in appearance to Jupiter and it
was confidently affirmed by his votaries that if any impious hand should dare to violate
the majesty of the god, the heavens and the earth would instantly return to their original
chaos. See Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, (New York:
Harcourt Brace and Co., 1960 ed.), pp. 415-417. Return
- The following is a brief outline of Pentecostal belief in these
three areas, as defined by J. A. Synan et. al. (eds.), The Pentecostal Holiness Church
Manual, (Franklin Springs, Georgia: Board of Publications, Pentecostal Holiness
- Christ's Nature - He was "a perfect, sinless human being . . . very God and
perfect man." p. 29.
- Christ's Death - "Christ lived in a mortal body subject to suffering
and death." "He 'dropped out' of the mortal body on the cross." p. 25.
- Christ's Atonement - "We believe, teach and firmly maintain the . . .
doctrine of justification by faith alone . . . We do not believe that any sort or
degree of good works can procure or contribute toward our justification or salvation; that
this is accomplished solely and exclusively upon the basis of our faith in the shed blood
. . ." p. 31. Return
- Note the use of "afar off" for the Gentiles in
Ephesians 2:13,17. Return
- The Greek word translated "perfect" in 1 Cor. 13:10 is
"teleios" which means "ended, complete". Robert Young, Analytical
Concordance to the Holy Bible, (London: Lutterworth Press, 1965). Return
- "Teleion" is used once in reference to the Scriptures
in Jas. 1:25 - "The perfect [teleion] law of liberty". Return
- An excellent historical survey of "speaking in
tongues" is developed in Robert Gromacki, The Modern Tongues Movement,
(Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1967), pp. 50-51. Return