Thursday, May 11, 2017

Reading Review: Calvinism in Baptist Churches

This is a short reading review that I did in Theology 2 Class for my undergrad at Central Baptist College. The article we had to review dealt with the history of Calvinism and Predestination as taught in the American Baptist churches.

I found Steve Lemke’s article “History or Revisionist History?” interesting and yet dizzying at the same time. With all of the various flavors of Baptists mentioned in the article—Southern Baptists, Calvinistic English Particular Baptist, General Baptist, etc.—I couldn’t help but think of the scene from Forrest Gump where Bubba describes the various recipes of shrimp!
            It’s a bit of an irony to me that a Baptist would write concerning other variations of the Baptist denomination in regards to who is more Calvinistic. What Lemke might want to research in regards to “History or Revisionist History” is the fact that John Calvin and his early followers persecuted the Anabaptist and Lollards. The act of “Anabaptism” or “re-baptism” of adults by immersion was a capital crime. Typically, Catholics condemned these sects to be burned at the stake, whereas Lutherans and Calvinists condemned them to drowning—apparently much more humane. John Calvin, himself, was instrumental in the condemnation of Michael Servetus, a modalistic Anabaptist who was burned at the stake for practicing “re-baptism” and authoring the book On the Errors of the Trinity. So, a Baptist’s appeal to Calvinism is just beyond me. It seems to me, if Baptists want to appeal to the roots of their denomination, they would reject the teachings of their forefathers’ persecutors, and line up to the theology of their martyrs.
            The whole Calvinism—Arminianism, East coast—West coast, mentality is just superfluous to me. Personally, I’m not concerned with how many points Calvin’s TULIPS have, or what the Philadelphia Confession or Second London Confession adopted. My theological views are based upon the Scriptures alone, not a creed or confession. If I understand correctly the history given in the article, the American Baptist churches have been at odds with one another concerning the doctrines of Calvinism and Arminianism since their beginnings. Some Baptists only teach three or four points of Calvin’s TULIP doctrine, whereas other Baptists (I’m assuming the BMA is one of them given what I’ve heard from professors at CBC) teach all five points as “the minimal threshold for Calvinism.” Lemke expressed, “Furthermore, many significant five-point Calvinist thinkers express nothing but disdain for four-point Calvinism” (p.230). This is kind of an oxymoron when you compare it to all five points of Calvinism. If the five-point TULIP doctrine is indeed the TRUTH, then the “irresistible grace” will draw all those who are predestinated to be saved into this “truth.” Which on the flip side would mean that those who never embraced the full five-point TULIP doctrine are/were apparently predestinated to be lost. This revolving proposition also opens the door to the question, “Does ‘irresistible grace’ allow for denominationalism?” In other words, does the “irresistible grace” call some believers to be Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, or even Oneness Pentecostals? Or do those that have been predestinated to be saved eventually become one of the five-point TULIP flavored Baptists? It seems like a circular proposition to me.
            I, of course, reject Calvinism i.e. the TULIP doctrine. I don’t claim to affirm Arminianism either, whether what I believe concerning the Scriptures is in harmony with this doctrine or not. Again, the theology I believe is not based upon creeds or confessions, but upon sola Scriptura—the Scriptures alone.
            The TULIP doctrine is an acronym or acrostic for: Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance of the saints. I will briefly examine each of these points from a Scriptural perspective.
TOTAL DEPRAVITY: In Calvinism, Total Depravity doesn’t just mean that mankind is depraved in the sense of being sinners or that all are sinners. Rather, Calvinism teaches a form of “Total Inability” in that man cannot come to God of his own free will for salvation. This totally denies the Scriptural aspect of Obedience to the Gospel. 2 Thess 1:8 clearly teaches that when Christ returns He will take vengeance upon those who have not obeyed the Gospel. Acts 6:7 describes those who were “obedient to the faith.” Whereas Romans 10:16 describes those that are not obedient to the Gospel. This is the same word (hupakouō) used in regards to servants obeying masters and children obeying parents (Col. 3:20-22). Salvation is a free choice (Rev. 22:17).
UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION: Calvinism teaches that God has already chosen those who are to be saved, and those who are predestinated to be lost. To borrow a political statement, according to Calvinism: “Some lives matter!” 2 Peter 3:9 states that God is not willing that ANY should perish, but that ALL should COME to repentance. The active voice in chōrēnsai (come) puts the action upon the person to repent, not an “unconditional” reaction. According to Calvinism, God is not only willing that some should perish, but has actually predestinated that some will perish! Acts 17:30 says that God has commanded ALL men to repent – not just those that He has predestinated.
LIMITED ATONEMENT: Calvinism teaches that Christ died only for “the elect.” This totally contradicts 2 Cor. 5:14-15 that Christ died for ALL. 1 John 2:2, Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, and NOT for ours ONLY, but also for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD. This is not a limited atonement only for an “elect,” but is an atonement available for all.
IRRESISTIBLE GRACE: Calvinism basically teaches that Grace is a force that cannot be rejected no matter if you want to be saved or not. This goes hand-in-hand with total depravity in that supposedly man does not have a choice in salvation. Again, this contradicts the Scriptures that we are to OBEY the Gospel, and those who do not obey the Gospel will be judged (2 Thess 1:8; Acts 6:7; Rom. 10:16). Acts 7:51 specifically mentions those that “resist the Holy Ghost,” thus Grace is something that can be resisted.
PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS: This is commonly known as the “once saved, always saved” doctrine. 2 Peter 2:20-21 clearly describes conditions of people who AFTER they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are AGAIN entangled therein. It would have been better for them no to have known “the way of righteousness” than to have known it and to “TURN AWAY” from the holy commandment delivered to them. This is explicit proof that once a person comes to “full and accurate knowledge” (Jameson, Faussett, Brown) of Jesus Christ that they can then “turn away” from Christ and “again” be entangled in the sin or pollutions of the world. The word epignōsis (full knowledge) is used all throughout the NT in the reference to “knowing” Jesus Christ through salvation.
            Thus, I would personally reject Calvinism as being unbiblical, and given that Calvin persecuted modalistic Anabaptist (Servetus) I wouldn’t appeal to any of his teachings.

The Absolute Deity of Jesus Christ

Here is a link to a video of a Power Point presentation I made for Theology 1 class in my undergrad at Central Baptist College.

Anthropology: Dichotomy or Trichotomy

This is a paper I wrote in Theology 2 class in my undergrad at Central Baptist College.

Biblical anthropology is the study of human beings as they relate to God. The main aspect of biblical anthropology is the nature or constitution of man—both the outer and inner man. Genesis 2:7 states, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” The phrase “became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7) does not refer to the inner, immaterial aspect of man. Rather, “soul” (nephesh) is used in this passage to describe the entire person or that man became an animated being, cf. Numbers 19:13 where “whosever” touches a dead body (nephesh), “that soul (nephesh)” was cut off from the congregation of Israel. Nevertheless, this passage also illustrates a difference between the idea of the physical, material aspect of man—that which was “formed,” and the inner, immaterial aspect of man—the breath of life. The physical and spiritual natures of man are also indicated in Job 33:4, “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life,” and Job 32:8, “But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding.” Jesus also noted the distinction between the material and immaterial person in Luke 24:39 where He encouraged the disciples to handle his hands and feet because a “spirit hath not flesh and bones.”
            The physical, material aspect of man is that which is discernable by sight and touch (Luke 24:39). This nature of man is referred to as “flesh” (John 3:6), “flesh and blood” (1 Corinthians 15:50), body (Matthew 14:12), and “outward man” (2 Corinthians 4:16). The material aspect of man is also used to refer to the complete being of a person. For example, in Acts 2:17, when God says that He will pour out His Spirit “upon all flesh,” the term “flesh” is used regards to the entire person not just the skin that covers the body. This is easily understood given that Spirit is said to “dwell in” believers (Romans 8:9). The term “flesh” can also refer to the inner desires of a person specifically in regards to sin. The idiom “lust of the flesh” is not limited simply to those desires that appeal to the natural flesh, but also include inward desires such as lust, hate, envy, etc. (Galatians 5:19-21).
            The physical, “outward man” is distinguished from the immaterial “inward man.” The distinction between the material and immaterial aspect of man is described as “soul and body” (Isaiah 10:18; Matthew 10:28) or “body and spirit” (Daniel 7:15; 1 Corinthians 7:34). The question, then, in regards to the study of biblical anthropology is this: are there two parts of the immaterial, inner man—soul and spirit, or do the terms “soul” and “spirit” refer to the same immaterial nature? These two views are referred to as Trichotomy—man is made up of three parts: body, soul, and spirit; or Dichotomy—man is comprised of two parts: material (body) and immaterial (soul/spirit).
            Among early church theologians, the “trichotomic conception of man found considerable favor with the Greek or Alexandrian Church Fathers,” however leading theologians in the Latin Church “distinctly favored the twofold division of human nature” (Clark). The Dichotomy view also gained much support among both Roman Catholic and Protestant Reformers. In the nineteenth century, Trichotomy became favored among German and English scholars such as Olshausen, Beck, Delitsch, White and Heard. Modern scholars and theologians are equally divided concerning this issue of biblical anthropology.


            Trichotomy understands humans as being composed of three parts or natures: body, soul, and spirit. The foundation of the trichotomy view is the idea that “Man is made in the Image of the Triune God” (Stewart). Stewart argues that Trinitarian theology is the “single greatest reason to believe in our tri-part nature: God is Three in One. Man in God’s Image is three in one.” This idea can be traced back as far as Augustine who reasoned that if God is triune, then the best reflection of His triune nature would be found in humans who were created in the image of God (Erickson). However, this is not an adequate parallel because even if we understand a tri-part nature in man, the body, soul, and spirit are not three separate and distinct persons as Trinitarians distinguish between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. At best, the body, soul, and spirit can be described as “modes of being” of one person. Thus, a Trichotomist comparison of body, soul, and spirit to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit would lead to one of two possibilities (1) each person in the Godhead is only 1/3 God, given that body, soul, and spirit each comprise a “part” of the complete man, or (2) the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three separate and distinct persons, but are three “modes of being” (Erickson, Christian Doctrine).
            Trichotomist appeal to 1 Thessalonians 5:23 as their greatest Scriptural proof for a three-fold nature of man. In his final address to the Thessalonians, Paul stated, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” On the surface this passage appears to teach a three-part division of the whole man: body, soul, and spirit. However, given that this passages is simply a final prayer of Paul towards the Thessalonians, these words should not be regarded as a detailed treaty on the material and immaterial man. Philip Schaff commented, “Language thus used should not be too closely analyzed” (Schaff, Popular Commentary on the New Testament). Marvin Vincent agreed, “It is useless to attempt to draw from these words a technical, psychological statement of a threefold division of the human personality” (Vincent). Most commentators simply recognize this statement as being a literary repetition i.e. using synonyms for effect. We might compare this to the way Paul distinguished adultery from fornication in Galatians 5:19, yet the same term fornication includes adultery in passages such as Matthew 19:9; Acts 15:20; and 1 Corinthians 6:18. Taken to extreme, the Trichotomist interpretation of 1 Thessalonians 5:23 would lead to the conclusion that Mark 12:30 in fact teaches a four-fold division of man: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
            The only other passage in the Bible that seems to teach a distinction between the soul and spirit is Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” However, the term “soul” (psyche) can easily be understood to refer to the entire person, including the material man. In Acts 2:27, speaking of the resurrection of Christ, it was prophesied, “For you will not abandon my soul to Hades.” The word “soul” in regards to Christ’s resurrection can only refer to the complete person—both material and immaterial. Thus, in Hebrews 4:12 the dividing of “soul and spirit” seems to indicate the division of the immaterial (spirit) from the complete person (material—soul).


            The Dichotomy view understands man as being comprised of two parts—material (body, flesh), and immaterial (soul/spirit). According to the Dichotomy view, the terms “soul” and “spirit” are used synonymously to refer to the same immaterial nature of man. A careful study of the Scriptures shows that the terms “soul” and “spirit” are used interchangeably. For example, Job 7:11, “Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” The final clause “complain in the bitterness of my soul” is simply an emphatic repetition of the proceeding statement, “speak in the anguish of my spirit.” The same is true with Isaiah 26:9, “With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” Isaiah was not saying that he sought the Lord at night with one aspect of his inner being, and in the morning with a different aspect. In Luke 1:46-47, Mary used this same parallelism in her song of praise, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”
            What is said of the soul is also said of the spirit. The Scriptural formula for humans in some passages is “body and soul” (Isaiah 10:18; Matthew 6:25), while in others “body and spirit” (Daniel 7:15; 1 Corinthians 6:20). Death is described as the soul departing (Genesis 35:18) or “gave up the ghost” (ekpsychō—out of breath from psyche i.e. soul). Yet in other passages death is referred to as giving up the spirit (Psalm 31:5; Acts 7:59). In addition, the dead in heaven are referred to as both “spirits” (Hebrews 12:23) and “souls” (Revelation 6:9). Any distinctions seen between the terms “soul” and “spirit” may be explained as “the word ‘spirit’ designates the spiritual element in man as the principle of life and action which controls the body; while the word ‘soul’ denominates the same element as the subject of action in man” (Clark).



            The Scriptures seem to indicate a two-fold division or dichotomy of man: material (physical body/flesh) and immaterial (soul/spirit). The ramifications of this conclusion play an important part on our view of the humanity of Christ. The Trichotomist are faced with the question of whether or not Jesus had a human “soul” separate and distinct from His divine Spirit, given that they distinguish the soul from the spirit. However, to the Dichotomist this is no issue at all, and is confirmed by the fact that Jesus could say “Now is my soul troubled” (John 12:27), yet later read that Jesus was “troubled in spirit.” Thus, the Dichotomy view better explains the dual nature of Jesus Christ: the immaterial Deity (spirit) manifest in material flesh (humanity) cf. John 1:1, 14; 1 Timothy 3:16.


Work Cited

Clark, R. Scott. Reformed Basics on Dichotomy and Trichotomy. 14 March 2014. Web. 22 November 2016.

Erickson, Millard. Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001. Print.

—. Making Sense of the Trinity. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000. Print.

Schaff, Philip. "Popular Commentary of the New Testament." Excursus A. On the Pentecostal Miracle. New York: T&T Clark, 1890. E-Sword Module.

—. Popular Commentary on the New Testament. n.d. E-Sword Module.

Stewart, Spencer. Dichotomy versus Trichotomy. El Dorado: Project one28 Publishing, 2010. Print.

Vincent, Marvin. Word Studies. n.d. E-Sword Module.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Modalism in Early America

This is a thesis paper I wrote for American Nation in my undergrad at CBC. In this paper I acknowledge the history of Modalistic (early Oneness) believers in the American colonies.
Early America was settled by Europeans looking to start a fresh life. Some families looked to the New World as a place of opportunity to own land and raise a family. Others, however, sought refuge in the American colonies from religious persecution in Europe. Several religious groups, such as the Puritans and Pilgrims, are usually highlighted in the pages of text books. However, one thing that is commonly overlooked is the Modalistic view of many of these early American settlers.
            Modalism is an anti-Trinitarian view not to be confused with Unitarianism. Unitarianism is a doctrine that not only denies the doctrine of the Trinity, but also rejects the deity of Jesus Christ.[1] Modalism, however, is a name that has been ascribed by historians to those who reject the Trinity and “believe in both the individual oneness of God and the full deity of Jesus Christ.”[2] Modalism (now referred to as “Oneness”) understands the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as manifestations, modes, or relationships that the one God has displayed to man.
            Prior to the colonization of American, Modalistic Anabaptist suffered persecution in Europe at the hands of both the Catholic Church and the Reformers. Martin Luther disputed against Modalistic Anabaptist over the issues of the Godhead and baptismal formula:
“The practice of baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is no new phenomenon in the history of the Church. Martin Luther encountered a dispute over the formula in his day.”[3]
John Calvin was instrumental in petitioning the tribunals to sentence Michael Servetus, a Modalistic Anabaptist, to death, as a heretic for re-baptism and for publishing his book On the Errors of the Trinity. On October 26, 1553, “the court found Servetus guilty of anti-Trinitarianism and anabaptism . . . and condemned him to be burned at the stake.”[4] Anabaptist described themselves a pious Christians who had been baptized into Christ and “speak with tongues.”[5] Likewise, various sects of the Quakers or Friends movement also “denied the received doctrine of the Trinity.”[6] The Early Quakers saw no distinction between the pre-Incarnate Christ and the Father. In addition, the Quakers understood the distinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as “defined in terms of operation and manifestations rather than of Persons.”[7] Both Anabaptist and Quakers suffered persecution from the Church of England.[8] Therefore many of these Anabaptists and Quakers sought asylum in American colonies.
In 1681, King Charles II awarded a charter to a large piece of land in America to William Penn as payment for a debt the king owed Penn’s father of sixteen thousand pounds sterling.[9] Penn was anxious to secure this land as a both a retreat to those who suffered religious persecution, and to establish a form of government which would serve as an example to other nations.[10] William Penn was well acquainted with religious persecution, having priorly been imprisoned in England for attending Quaker meetings, and for publishing several tracts including The Sandy Foundation Shaken in which he condemned the doctrine of the Trinity as being a tradition of man and nowhere found in Scriptures.[11] Penn was falsely accused of denying the deity of Jesus Christ and confined to the Tower of London unless he recanted his doctrinal beliefs. Later, Penn answered this charge from prison with his tract Innocency with Her Open Face in which he stated that Jesus Christ is “the same one holy, just merciful, Almighty, and eternal God, who in the fulness of time took, and manifested in the flesh,”[12] thus further affirming his view of the deity of Christ.
Penn’s desire was for a colony free of religious persecution. Although many Quakers had immigrated to North American, New England Puritans were equally hostile to them as the Anglicans were in England. Early Quaker meetings are described as members “quaking” or “trembling” under the influence of the Holy Spirit.[13] William Penn alluded that he had been baptized into Christ’s name[14] and baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire.[15] Thus, modalism and early forms of Pentecostalism made its way into North America via the Quakers, the German Anabaptists, and other similar sects.
Shortly after the Great Awakening of Jonathan Edwards and other Congregationalist, Unitarian churches began to form in America.[16] However it may be that many of these congregations were unwarrantedly regarded as Unitarian, when in fact they recognized the deity of Christ.[17] Denominational beliefs were not as distinct from one another as they might be today. For example, early Baptist churches declared in their articles of faith that believers must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.[18] Likewise, the early Plymouth Brethren “in some of their numerous ramification, and other sects, have grounded upon the words, ‘be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ,’ a tenet that baptism should not be conferred in the name of the Trinity, but in that of Jesus alone.”[19] So, it is highly probable that various congregations or Christians sects in early America were in fact Modalist.
It is interesting that whereas Quakers were active in converting Puritans, Anglicans, and other denominations to Quakerism, Pennsylvania was a sanctuary to all religious beliefs. The Christological views of early American Quakers may have been eclipsed by William Penn’s political aspiration of a colony or state with religious freedom, nevertheless, the religious freedom he granted to all belief systems set the standard that would shape our Constitution and our Nation. Likewise, the Modalistic views of early American settlers helped pave the way for anti-Trinitarian or Oneness Christian revivals of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Work Cited
“A Brief Confession or Declaration of Faith, 1660.” 1999. The Reformed Reader. 16 April 2016. <>
Bernard, David, The Oneness of God (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame, 1993)
Blunt, John Henry, ed., Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties and Schools of Religious Thought (London: Rivingtons,1874)
Braght, Thomas J. van, Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians, trans. Joseph F. Sohm (Waterloo, Ont.: Herald Press, 1938)
Hughes, Mrs. (Mary), The Life of William Penn (Boston: Monroe & Francis, 1828)
Penn, William, A Collection of the Works of William Penn volume 1 (London: J. Sowle, 1726)
             The Sandy Foundation Shaken (Trenton, NJ: Francis S. Wiggins, 1827)
Slick, Matt. “What is Unitarianism?” n.d. CARM. 16 April 2016. <>
Stokes, G.T., The Acts of the Apostles (New York: Armstrong, 1893)
Synan, Vinson, Aspects of Pentecostal - Charismatic Origins (Plainfield, NJ: Logos Int., 1975)
Weisser, Thomas, Anti-Trinitarianism of Early Quakers (n.p., 1985)
Williams, G.H., The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962)

[1] Slick, Matt. “What is Unitarianism?” n.d. CARM. 16 April 2016. <>

[2] Bernard, David, The Oneness of God (Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame, 1993) 15

[3] Synan, Vinson, Aspects of Pentecostal - Charismatic Origins (Plainfield, NJ: Logos Int., 1975) 158

[4] Williams, G.H., The Radical Reformation (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962) 614

[5] Braght, Thomas J. van, Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians, trans. Joseph F. Sohm (Waterloo, Ont.: Herald Press, 1938) 400

[6] Wallace, Robert, Antitrinitarian Biography (London: E.T. Whitfield, 1850) 1:115

[7] Weisser, Thomas, Anti-Trinitarianism of Early Quakers (n.p., 1985) 7

[8] Wallace., 138

[9] Hughes, Mrs. (Mary), The Life of William Penn (Boston: Monroe & Francis, 1828) 51

[10] Ibid.

[11] Penn, William, The Sandy Foundation Shaken (Trenton, NJ: Francis S. Wiggins, 1827) 10

[12] Hughes, 55

[13] Blunt, John Henry, ed., Dictionary of Sects, Heresies, Ecclesiastical Parties and Schools of Religious Thought (London: Rivingtons,1874) 464

[14] Penn, William, A Collection of the Works of William Penn (London: J. Sowle, 1726) 1:268

[15] Ibid., 238

[16] Blunt, 606

[17] Ibid.

[18] “A Brief Confession or Declaration of Faith, 1660.” 1999. The Reformed Reader. 16 April 2016. <>

[19] Stokes, G.T., The Acts of the Apostles (New York: Armstrong, 1893) 140-41


Monday, October 31, 2016

The Work of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament Church

This is a paper I wrote concerning "pneumatology" for my Theology 1 Class for Central Baptist College, Conway, Arkansas. I added some color to the text to make the quotations stand out.

The Work of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament Church
Jason L. Weatherly (C) 2016
             The gift of the Holy Spirit was first poured out upon New Testament believers on the day of Pentecost following the crucifixion of Christ. The book of Acts describes this event as “suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:2-4). This phenomenon was first prophesied of in the Old Testament by Isaiah who spoke, “For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear” (Isaiah 28:11-12).
            The “baptism with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 1:5) was manifested by the supernatural manifestation of “speaking in tongues” as the Spirit gives utterance (Acts 2:4; 10:46; 19:6). Although “speaking in tongues” is not specifically mentioned in the revival in Samaria, Simon the sorcerer saw a visible manifestation of the Spirit when the Samaritans received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:18 states, “And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money.” A.T. Robertson commented on this passage, When Simon saw (Idōn de ho Simōn). This participle (second aorist active of horaō) shows plainly that those who received the gift of the Holy Spirit spoke with tongues. Simon now saw power transferred to others. Hence he was determined to get this new power” (Robertson). In fact, “speaking in tongues” was how the Jews knew that the Holy Spirit had fallen upon the Gentiles. Acts 10:45-46 records, “And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.” The word “for” in the statement “for they heard them speak with tongues” is from the Greek preposition “gar” which denotes “cause or reason” (Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich). In other words, the Jews knew that the Holy Spirit had fallen upon the Gentiles because they heard them speak with tongues. Notice that it was unbelievers who spoke in tongues in the presence of believers, and not the other way around. This shows that speaking in tongues was not for the purpose of miraculously preaching the gospel in foreign languages, but was the evidence of the Spirit being poured out upon individuals. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown concurred, “The tongues used on this occasion were clearly not intended for the preaching of the Gospel, but merely as incontestable evidence that the Holy Spirit was resting on them” (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown).
            On the day of Pentecost, the supernatural manifestation of “speaking in tongues” was heard by unbelieving Jews in their own native language (Acts 2:8). That is, the ones who spoke in tongues spoke in languages unknown to the speaker, but native to those who heard them—at least 15 different languages, possibly more as implied by the statement “in the parts of Libya about Cyrene” (Acts 2:10). However, this was a special phenomenon on Pentecost and does not necessitate that “speaking in tongues” is always in an actual language recognizable to the hearer as is evident by the fact that the infilling of the Spirit on Pentecost was also manifested by a “rushing mighty wind” and “cloven tongues of fire” (Acts 2:2-3) which are never again mentioned in any other occurrence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In fact, Paul described speaking in tongues as speaking “not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:2 ESV). Philip Schaff acknowledged that the phenomenon of Pentecost differed from other occurrences of speaking in tongues, “The miracle of the ‘gift of tongues,’ as described on that memorable Pentecost, really differed in few particulars from those strange manifestations of the Spirit St. Paul writes of in his First Corinthian Epistle. The ‘tongues’ in the Corinthian Church needed an interpreter, either the speaker himself or else some other inspired person, as the utterances were in a language not understood by the bystanders. At that ‘Pentecost,’ however, no such interpreter was needed. The inspired ones spoke then as the Spirit gave them utterance, in new languages certainly; but on that occasion each new language was addressed to groups of pilgrims and travellers familiar with the sounds” (Schaff). Bauer’s lexicon also acknowledged that “a special problem in posed by the technical term glōssai, gene glōssōn, en glōssē(-ais) laein 1 Cor 14:1-27, 39; 12:10, 28, 30; 13:1, 8 Ac 10:46; 19:6. Always without the article. There is no doubt about the thing referred to, namely the broken speech of persons in religious ecstasy” (Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich). In 1 Corinthians 14:18-19, Paul contrasted speaking with tongues with words that could be understood, showing that speaking in tongues is not necessarily a language that is understood by the hearers—hence the KJV translators (as well as others) translate lalōn glōssē as “speaks in an unknown tongue.”
            In the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians, Paul illustrated the supremacy of love in that whereas one day the miraculous gifts, such as faith, prophecy, speaking in tongues, and a word of knowledge, will one day cease (1 Corinthians 13:8), love will never cease. The word “cease” in 1 Corinthians 13:8 in Greek is the future indicative pausontai, which simply expresses that in some future time from Paul’s day speaking in tongues would cease. When that time is, is nowhere implied in the verb itself. The context of 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 is that the miraculous gifts (those things “in part”) will fail, cease, and vanish away “when that which is perfect is come.” Cessationist, typically, view these miraculous gifts (which includes speaking in tongues) as having ceased at the time period of the completion of the New Testament canon. However, this does fit the context of 1 Corinthians 13:10. Paul declared that the miraculous gifts would cease when that which is perfect is “come” (erchomai). The Greek verb erchomai (come) is used over 125 times of Jesus Christ, but never of a completed canon. First century believers lived in expectation of the second “coming” of Jesus Christ, not the coming of a completed New Testament. Secondly, the conditions of “when that which is perfect is come” is described as seeing “face to face” not “face to book!” The expression “face to face” (prosōpon pros prosōpon) is from a Hebrew idiom that means “to see one’s face, see him personally” (Thayer). Likewise, Paul expressed that when that which is perfect is come, “then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). Thayer noted that this phrase “undoubtedly refers to the knowledge of God, and Nösselt has correctly rendered the passage: there we shall all know perfectly, even as God perfectly knows us” (Winer). This describes events that can only be fulfilled in the Second Coming of Christ—“ when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as he is” (1 John 3:2), that is “face to face.” Even noted Cessationist, James Burton Coffman, understood that “face to face” can only occur at the Second Coming of Christ: “Then face to face . . . In the resurrection, we shall behold the face of the Beloved. ‘We know that if he shall be manifested, we shall be like him; for we shall see him even as he is’ (1 John 3:2)” (Coffman) [ellipsis his – JLW]. Thus, the phrase “when that which is perfect is come” cannot refer to a time of the completion of the New Testament canon, but describes “the perfect state of all things, to be ushered in by the return of Christ from heaven, 1 Co. xiii. 10” (Thayer). Therefore, the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, including speaking in tongues, are to remain in the church until “that which is perfect is come” i.e. the return of Christ from heaven, when we shall Jesus “face to face,” and know even as God knows us for we will be like Him.
            Some object that the phrase “that which is perfect” can refer to Jesus Christ because the phrase to telion in Greek is neuter singular, and not masculine. However, the fact that to telion (that which is perfect) is neuter singular disproves the idea that “that which is perfect” refers to the completed Scriptures because the Greek words used to describe the New Testament writings (law—nomos and writing—graphē) are masculine or feminine singular, whereas Christ is referred to several times in the neuter singular: “that holy thing” (Luke 1:35); “that which was from the beginning” (1 John 1:1), and “lamb—arnion” (Revelation 5:6, 8, 12-13; 6:1, 16; etc.). Therefore, there is no valid grammatical or contextual reason not to understand “that which is perfect is come” as the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Thus, the gifts of the spirit, including speaking in tongues, are to continue in the church until the return of Christ from heaven.
            Recently, some Cessationist, such as John MacArthur, have expressed that “that which is perfect” in 1 Corinthians 13:10 is a reference to the Second Coming of Christ, however, they teach that speaking in tongues (and apparently other miraculous gifts of which they pick and choose) ceased at the end of the First Century – around the time of the death of the last apostle. MacArthur’s proof of tongues ceasing before the Parousia of Christ is, “It should be noted that 1 Corinthians 13:8 itself does not say when tongues were to cease. Although 1 Corinthians 13:9-10 teaches that prophecy and knowledge will cease when the ‘perfect’ (i.e., the eternal state) comes, the language of the passage – particularly the middle voice of the Greek verb translated ‘will cease’ – puts tongues in a category apart from these gifts. Paul writes that while prophecy and knowledge will be ‘done away’ (passive voice) by the ‘perfect,’ the gift of tongues ‘will cease’ in and of itself (middle voice) prior to the time that ‘the perfect’ arrives” (MacArthur, The Gift of Tongues). However, D.A. Carson fully addressed this grammatical fallacy that the middle voice indicates that tongues will cease sometime before “that which is perfect is come.” Carson noted, “it (cease – middle voice) never unambiguously bears the meaning ‘to cease of itself’ (i.e., because of something intrinsic in the nature of the subject); and several passages rule out such overtones as the automatic semantic force of the middle voice form of this verb” (Carson). Carson points out that cease (middle voice) is also used in Luke 8:24 where Jesus rebuked the wind and raging water and they “ceased” (middle voice). Clearly the wind and raging water did not cease “in and of themselves,” rather they ceased in obedience of the command of Jesus. In Acts 21:32 the rioters “ceased” (middle voice) from beating Paul, not “in and of themselves,” but because they saw the soldiers and centurions. In like manner, tongues will “cease,” not in and of themselves, but like all the rest of the spiritual gifts – “when that which is perfect is come” (1 Corinthians 13:8). The change from passive to middle voice in regards to cessation of the spiritual gifts may indicate the reason these gifts cease. Prophecy will “fail” (passive) because there will be nothing left to prophesy and everything that has been prophesied will have been fulfilled. Word of Knowledge will “vanish away” (passive) because we will no longer have a “word” of knowledge, rather we will “know even as we are known” (vs. 12). However, with the gift of tongues there may not be any underlying “reason” why they are done away other than they simply “cease” (middle voice) when that which is perfect is come.
            Therefore, there is nothing in the grammar of 1 Corinthians13:8 to indicate that tongues will cease prior to the time that “that which is perfect is come.” In fact, 1 Corinthians 1:7 Paul stated, “So that ye come behind in no gift (charismata); waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:” Several translations (CENT, ISV, LEB, etc) render this, “So that you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly await the revelation (apokalupsis) of our Lord Jesus Christ.” There will never be a time when one of the miraculous spiritual gifts ceases to function in the church while others continue. The church is admonished to not lack any spiritual gifts (charismata) awaiting the coming of Christ. God placed the spiritual gifts in the church (1 Corinthians 12:28) and they will remain in the church until the church is caught up at the Parousia of Jesus Christ. There is NO passage in the Bible that indicates any spiritual gifts would cease before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Work Cited
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Carson, D.A. Exegettical Fallacies. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996. Print.
Coffman, James Burton. Coffman's Commentary on the BIble. n.d. Internet. 26 October 2016. <>.
Jamieson, Robert, Andrew Fausset and David Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. 1871. E-Sword Module.
MacArthur, John. The Gift of Tongues. 2001. Internet. 26 October 2016. <>.
—. The MacArthur Study Bible. Word Publishing, 1997. Print.
Robertson, A.T. Word Pictures of the New Testament. Vol. 3. Grand Rapids: Baker , 1930. Print.
Schaff, Philip. "Popular Commentary of the New Testament." Excursus A. On the Pentecostal Miracle. New York: T&T Clark, 1890. E-Sword Module.
Thayer, Joseph. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1977. Print.
Winer, G.B. A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament. Ed. Joseph Thayer. Philadelphia: Smith, English, & Co., 1869. Print.