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CHAPTER 3-section 8

Paul does not forbid speaking in tongues, nor does he prohibit prophesying. He does insist, however, that if there are those who speak in a language, then let them do it one at a time and only then if an interpreter is present. If this is not the case, then let them speak only to God, that is, without involving the congregation. He laid down basically the same rules for the prophets. Prophesying was to be done one by one to teach and to comfort. This sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Speak in tongues one by one only if there is someone who can translate; prophesy one by one and let the others judge, using it to teach and comfort the church. Nowhere does Paul advocate that tongues are to be spoken within the church nor that prophesying was to be proclaimed outside of the church, neither does he give any indication that the tongues he was describing had undergone a change in linguistic structure since Pentecost.

In his entire letter, Paul spoke as the voice of God to an erring church. To those who still questioned his authority he warned: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order." Verses 37-40.

And with those final two adverbial qualifications Paul gave his closing exhortation to the members whose indecent behavior had brought discredit upon the church and whose disorderly conduct had greatly impeded its growth.

During the centuries following the death of Christ, the Pentecostal experience of the apostles as recorded in the book of Acts became less and less needful. In the beginning the apostles needed the gift of tongues to reach people of other languages. Next, their converts continued to carry the gospel to far-distant lands. In later years whole countries learned of the revolutionary message of love, either by missionaries or by believers who relayed the story of Christ to their home countries. As a result, the need for glossolalia greatly diminished, for the language barrier was slowly coming down. An obstacle to the spreading of the gospel had been surmounted. The gift of tongues had been given to humanity to do a specific job, and this was accomplished. Now it was up to mankind to act and to improvise.

In the earlier writings of the church fathers, tongues speaking is mentioned. Irenaeus (A.D. 120-202), a scholar of stature, studied under Polycarp of Smyrna, who is reported to have been a personal protégé of the apostle John. Irenaeus, in "Against Heresies" (chapter VI, sec. 1), wrote this commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:6: "Terming those persons ‘perfect’ who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God." 1

The Christian apologist, Justin Martyr (A.D. 110-165) supports this in Dialogue With Trypho, chapter LXXXVIII, where he states: "Now it is possible to see amongst us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God." 2

Even Tertullian (A.D. 160-220), in his "Against Marcion," Book V, chapter VIII, writes concerning his acquaintanceship with the gift. In his argument with Marcion, he penned the following statement: "Let Marcion then exhibit, as gifts of his god, some prophets, such as have not spoken by human sense, but with the Spirit of God, such as have both predicted things to come, and have made manifest the secrets of the heart; let him produce a psalm, a vision, a prayer—only let it be by the Spirit, in an ecstasy that is, in a rapture, whenever an interpretation of tongues has occurred to him…. Now all these signs (of spiritual gifts) are forthcoming from my side without any difficulty, and they agree, too, with the rules, and the dispensations, and the instructions of the Creator; therefore without doubt the Christ, and the Spirit, and the apostle, belong severally to my God." 3

There was every reason in heaven—and on earth—to keep glossolalia active so long as the gospel had not reached the strategic locations of the known world. Once this was accomplished and considerable inroads had been made, the gift of tongues quickly diminished.

Not until the third century after Christ did scholars and historians begin to question the whereabouts of the preaching tongues.


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