The Temporary Nature Of Miraculous Gifts

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

Throughout time, God often provided His Prophets and Apostles the ability to perform miracles in order to confirm to the people that what they spoke and wrote was actually inspired and from Him.

Several passages of Scripture bear this out (cf. Exodus 3:12; 4:3, 1-7, 30-31; Judges 6:17-21; 1 Samuel 10:7-10; John 3:2; Acts 2:22; John 20:30-31; Hebrews 2:3-4).

Even the very words used in the New Testament to designate “miracles” show us that the purpose of these signs was to confirm the Word of God. As Norman Giesler has pointed out: 

“Biblical Nature of a Miracle. The three words Scripture uses to describe a miracle help delineate the meaning of miracles more precisely. Each of the three words for supernatural events (sign, wonder, power) delineates an aspect of a miracle. From the human vantage point, a miracle is an unusual event (“wonder”) that conveys and confirms an unusual message (“sign”) by means of unusual power (“power”). From the divine vantage point, a miracle is an act of God (“power”) that attracts the attention of the people of God (“wonder”) to the Word of God (by a sign). The purposes of a miracle are 1. to glorify the nature of God (John 2:11; 11:40); 2. to accredit certain persons as the spokesmen for God (Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:3–4); and 3. to provide evidence for belief in God (John 6: 2, 14; 20: 30–31).” (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 482 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books).  

During the first century, when Jesus first established His church, miraculous gifts were much needed for the revelation and confirmation of the Word of God.

However, was there a continuing need for miraculous gifts throughout the entire church age?

Or, did the inspired Apostles teach that the miraculous gifts were only to continue a limited time?  

In fact, the Scriptures are clear that the miraculous gifts of the first century church were designed to be temporary.    

Let’s open up God’s Word and study together.

One of the most clear indicators that the miraculous gifts of the New Testament church were temporary in nature deals with the way in which those miraculous gifts were received.

Those gifts were only made available in two different ways to early Christians. As we shall see, these two means of conveying the miraculous gifts of the Spirit have ceased; and as such, it is clear that these miraculous gifts have since passed.  

Holy Spirit Baptism 

From the New Testament, we learn several important facts about Holy Spirit baptism.

First, Holy Spirit baptism was an event in which a person was in some way immersed in the Holy Spirit (the third Person of the Godhead-1 John 5:7).

Second, the Scriptures record that Holy Spirit baptism occurred on two occasions: with the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2); and with the household of Cornelius when the Gentiles were first admitted into the church (Acts 10).

Third, the purpose for Holy Spirit baptism on the Apostles was for the revelation of God’s Word to them, as well as for the ability to confirm that Word (John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 2:1-13). In similar fashion baptism of the Spirit on the household of Cornelius was to reveal and confirm to the Jewish Christians that the Gentiles may now be admitted into the church of Christ (Acts 11:14-17).

Fourth, Holy Spirit was always referred to as a promise to be received, and not a command to be obeyed (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5). As such, Holy Spirit baptism could never be a command to be obeyed.

Fifth, Holy Spirit baptism could only be administered by Jesus Himself (Matthew 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33).

Sixth, Holy Spirit baptism was always accompanied by miraculous gifts (Acts 2:1-5; 10:44-46).

Finally, by the time the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, it was clear that there was only “one baptism” (Ephesians 4:4-6). This “one baptism” is clearly baptism in water as instructed in the Great Commission, since it would be the baptism to continue until the “end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).  

From these facts, it is clear that Holy Spirit baptism was a limited experience, for a specific purpose, upon very select individuals, and that this event was only limited to the first century.

Indeed, as the specific texts mentioned above make clear, Holy Spirit baptism was for the purpose of revealing and confirming the Word of God to the people. Since the Word of God has been fully revealed and confirmed (Jude 3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17), there is no more need for Holy Spirit baptism.  
Therefore, miraculous gifts cannot be passed along today through Holy Spirit baptism; and indeed, Holy Spirit baptism has ceased.

In point of fact, the baptism that continues today is Great Commission baptism which is in water (Acts 8:35-38; 10:47-48), for salvation (Mark 16: 16; Acts 2:38; 22:16) of the believing disciple (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15) who, having been taught the Word of God (John 6:44-45; Acts 18:8; Romans 10:17), repents of sin (Luke 24:47), and confesses Him before men (1 Timothy 6:12).  

The Laying On Of The Apostles’ Hands

In the Book of Acts, we are taught that the only other way miraculous gifts could be bestowed was through the laying on of the Apostles’ hands.

But who were the Apostles?

And more to the point, what exactly was an Apostle?  

The word “Apostle” is very important for us to understand. Its’ general meaning was simply “one sent.”

However, it often carried a special meaning in the first century: 

““We saw in Chapter Four that the principle of apostolicity was central to the idea of a canon, and that it stems from the earliest days of the Christian community-indeed from the lifetime of Jesus himself. He appointed the Twelve to be his apostles, his shelichim, a word with very special meaning in Judaism. It meant a representative equipped with the full powers of his principal…“…It is interesting to note that the Jewish shaliach (apostle) could not hand on his commission to anyone else; it was for him alone…There was something unique and unrepeatable about their position. They were the guarantors of the continuity between the incarnate Jesus who walked the streets of Palestine and the glorified Jesus whom the church worshipped.” (Dr. Michael Green, The Books The Church Suppressed: Fiction And Truth In The Da Vinci Code, 84-84; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Monarch Books; emphasis added)   

Christ had twelve Apostles (Mark 3:13-19). One of His Apostles, Judas, betrayed Him and was replaced by Matthias (by Divine appointment-Acts 1;15-26). Later, the Apostle Paul was made the last Apostle of Christ (Acts 26:16; Galatians 1:1-2).

These Apostles had His special authority (Matthew 18:18). Due no doubt to their important position in the church, the Apostles of Christ were able to convey the power to work miracles through the people upon whom they laid their hands:

Acts 8:12-18-But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized.

13 Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

14 Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them,

15 who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.

16 For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

17 Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

18 And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money,

The Apostles of Christ had laid their hands upon Philip earlier in the Book of Acts (Acts 6:5-6). Receiving the power to work miracles (Acts 8:4-8), Philip proclaimed the Gospel message to the people of Samaria and showed them through the accompanying signs and wonders the clear distinction between pagan sorcery and New Testament Christianity (Acts 8:9-10). Many of the Samaritans, including Simon the sorcerer, believed and were baptized into Christ (Acts 8:12-13).  

The text goes on to show us that the only way for these Christians to receive the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit was to have the Apostles of Christ lay their hands upon them. Indeed, Luke is very clear to point out that this the fact (Acts 8;18).

Please notice that Philip had the power to work miracles, yet he could not pass on these abilities; indeed, the only way to pass on these gifts was for an Apostle of Jesus Christ to lay their hands upon that person.  

Several other passages of the New Testament verify this fact: 

Acts 19:6-And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.  

2 Timothy 1:6-Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.

Romans 1:11-For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established—

Many in the second century church clearly understood that only the Apostles could convey these miraculous powers.

Chrysostom-“For it was the power to work signs that they received, not the power to give the Spirit to others. This was the prerogative of the apostles. And note [how they sent] not just anyone but the leaders, Peter [and John]. Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles 18. [NPNF 1 11:115**.]

Origen-“In the Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit was given by the imposition of the apostles’ hands in baptism.” (c. 225, E), 4.252.

Now, here is why this is so very relevant to our study: there have been no Apostles since the Apostle Paul!

You see, in order to be an Apostle, one had to be an eyewitness of Jesus Christ after His Resurrection (Acts 1:21-22).

But the last one who saw the resurrected Christ was the Apostle Paul. He is very clear that “He (the resurrected Jesus, M.T.) was seen last of all by me, as by one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:8).

Since one had to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Christ to be an Apostle of Christ, and since the Apostle Paul was the last eyewitness of the resurrected Christ, then it follows that there have been no Apostles since the Apostle Paul.  

Yet we can go further with this.

Since the only way to pass on miraculous gifts was through the laying on of the Apostles’ hands; and since the Apostles all died in the first century; then it follows that the ability to pass on miraculous gifts ended with the passing of the first century.  
As Warfield explains: 

“The connection of the supernatural gifts with the Apostles is so obvious that one wonders that so many students have missed it, and have sought an account of them in some other quarter. The true account has always been recognized, however, by some of the more careful students of the subject. It has been clearly set forth, for example, by Bishop Kaye. “I may be allowed to state the conclusion,” he writes,^^ *’to which I have myself been led by a comparison of the statements in the Book of Acts with the writings of the Fathers of the second century. My conclusion then is, that the power of working miracles was not extended beyond the disciples upon whom the Apostles conferred it by the imposition of their hands. As the number of these disciples gradually diminished, the instances of the exercise of miraculous powers became continually less frequent, and ceased entirely at the death of the last individual on whom the hands of the Apostles had been laid. That event would, in the natural course of things, take place before the middle of the second century—at a time when Christianity, having obtained a footing in all the provinces of the Roman Empire, the miraculous gifts conferred upon the first teachers had performed their appropriate office— that of proving to the world that a new revelation had been given from heaven.’…Whatever we may think of the specific explanation which Bishop Kaye presents of the language of the second-century Fathers, we can scarcely fail to perceive that the confinement of the supernatural gifts by the Scriptures to those who had them conferred upon them by the Apostles, affords a ready explanation of all the historical facts. It explains the unobserved dying out of these gifts. It even explains —what might at first sight seem inconsistent with it—the failure of allusion to them in the first half of the second century.” (Benjamin Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles, 23-24 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; Charles Scribner’s Sons) 

What should we expect to see in the writings of the second century Christians in regards to the miraculous gifts?

We should expect to see the miraculous gifts tapering off, and then disappearing altogether as the ability to pass on those miraculous gifts was removed with the death of the Apostles of Christ.

Incredibly, that is exactly what we find.

There are references in the writings of the second century Christians of the miraculous gifts occurring (since some of the believers whom the Apostles had laid hands were able to work miracles, at least into part of the second century).

Then, there are references to the miraculous gifts ceasing.

Indeed, some of the early “church fathers” talk about the fact that miraculous gifts had ceased by their time: 

Chrysostom-“[Commenting on 1 Corinthians 12:] “This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place.” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians , 36.7. Chrysostom is commenting on 1 Corinthians 12:1–2 and introducing the entire chapter. Cited from Gerald Bray, ed., 1–2 Corinthians , Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1999), 146)

Chrysostom (Commenting On 2 Thessalonians 2:7)-“One may naturally inquire what is that which restrains the man of lawlessness, and in addition, why Paul expresses it so obscurely. What then is it that holds back, that is, that hinders the revealing of, the Antichrist? Some indeed say, the grace of the Spirit, but others the Roman Empire. I agree with the latter position. Why? Because if Paul meant to say the Spirit, he would not have spoken obscurely but plainly, that even now the grace of the Spirit, that is the gifts, hold back the Antichrist. If not, he should have come by now, if his coming was to occur with the cessation of the gifts of the Spirit; for they have long since ceased….But because Paul said this of the Roman Empire, he merely touched the topic, understandably speaking covertly and darkly. For he had no need to create unnecessary enemies and useless dangers.…(Homilies on 2 Thessalonians 4. [NPNF 1 13:388-89*.])

Theodoret of Cyril-“In former times those who accepted the divine preaching and who were baptized for their salvation were given visible signs of the grace of the Holy Spirit at work in them. Some spoke in tongues which they did not know and which nobody had taught them, while others performed miracles or prophesied. The Corinthians also did these things, but they did not use the gifts as they should have done. They were more interested in showing off than in using them for the edification of the church.” (Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians 240. [PG 82:319])

Augustine-““In the earliest times, the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believe and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. These were signs adapted to the time. For there was this betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues to show that the gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a sign, and it passed away.” (Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John , 6.10. Cited from Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post- Nicene Fathers , 1st series (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2012), 7:497–98)  

Gregory the Great-“Is it, my brethren, because we do not have these signs that you do not believe? These were needed at the church’s beginning. The new faith needed to be nourished by miracles to grow. When we plant a vineyard, we must water the plants till we see they have begun to grow in the earth, and when they have once taken root we cease to water them constantly.… But true life cannot be obtained by means of these outward signs by those who perform them. For although corporeal works of this kind sometimes do proclaim an inner holiness of life, they do not bring it about.” (Homilies on the Gospels 29. [Cetedoc 1711, 2.29.4, 5, 4.39; SSGF 2:428*; PL 76.])

The miraculous gifts of the first century church were temporary my friends. They were to last primarily until the completion of the New Testament Scriptures had been accomplished (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10). With the limited nature of Holy Spirit baptism (Ephesians 4:4-6), and with the death of the last Apostle (Acts 8:13-18), the ability to pass these gifts on has ceased.

Those who claim that the miraculous gifts are available today are in contradiction to the Scriptures.  

Does that mean that we should not pray for God to work in supernatural ways today? Of course not: for the Bible is clear that God can answer the prayers of His people in many ways (James 5:16-18; Ephesians 3:20-21; Revelation 8:1-7).

Yet we must understand that the miraculous gifts fulfilled the task for which they were ordained: the confirming of God’s revealed Word (John 3:2; 20:30-31; Acts 2:22; Mark 16:20; 2 Corinthians 12:12), and are therefore not needed today.

As such, they have ceased.  

Are you building your life on the solid Word of God my friend?

The God of Heaven loves you so very much that He sent His own precious Son to die on the cross of Calvary to pay for the debt of your sins (John 3:16; Hebrews 2:9). Jesus came to the world, ready to sacrifice Himself to save you from eternal Hell (John 10:17-18; 2 Corinthians 8:9). He died for us, was buried, and arose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He invites believers to repent of their sins and to be baptized into Him for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). Why not obey His invitation today? If you are a child of God who has left the Lord in sin-why not come back to Him by repenting of sin and praying to Him (1 John 1:9; Revelation 3:20)? Your brethren stand ready to assist you.   
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  


The Holy Spirit Does Not Give You Gold Fillings

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

The title of this article is not a typo.

Instead, it is motivated by a very interesting headline in the newspapers which described a supposed “movement” of the Holy Spirit.

Supposedly, the Spirit of God was taking people’s cavity fillings and turning them into gold! Continue reading The Holy Spirit Does Not Give You Gold Fillings

Be Filled With The Spirit: An Analysis Of Ephesians 5:18-21  

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Several people that I study and work with have told me that they have been “filled with the Spirit.”

Being raised in Pentecostal type churches, they have often been told that the Spirit operates in a way that requires people to cease rational and logical thought, and that He operates upon them in such a way that will cause them to possibly lose control of their senses and do things which a otherwise reasonable person would never do.

I have known people who have run around church buildings, spoken in gibberish-like “speech,” twitched uncontrollably, danced with serpents, rolled around on the ground, barked like dogs, screamed like banshees, and even slap their family members in the face, all the while claiming that this is the result of being “filled with the Holy Spirit.”   Continue reading Be Filled With The Spirit: An Analysis Of Ephesians 5:18-21  

Questions And Answers About Speaking In Tongues: Part Two

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

In our <last article on this series, we noticed that the Bible teaches the gift of speaking in tongues was the miraculous ability of a person to be able to fluently speak in a language in which he had not previously studied.

Evidence of this was supplied from both Scripture and secular history.

This practice of speaking in tongues is in contrast to the modern concept of speaking gibberish as practiced in many charismatic churches of our day and age and called “speaking in tongues.”

In this article, we will notice more questions and answers regarding the subject of “speaking in tongues.”  Continue reading Questions And Answers About Speaking In Tongues: Part Two

Questions And Answers About Speaking In Tongues: Part One

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Several of the individuals that I have studied with and baptized into Christ have come from backgrounds of charismatic churches where a phenomenon called “speaking in tongues” occurs.

Since the Bible talks much about this topic, it is good and appropriate to carefully study the Scriptures regarding this matter (Acts 17:11). 

By studying the Word of God and heeding the teachings of the Apostles, we will be able to accurately discern between truth and error (1 John 4:6).

After all, much of what is practiced in the religious world in the name of Christ is actually of the devil; for the Apostle Paul reminds us that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light and that we should therefore not be surprised that his ministers appear as ministers of righteousness (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

In this series of articles, we will learn that the Bible teaching regarding speaking in tongues is quite different from what is practiced in many charismatic churches today.

We will also notice the disturbing connection between the modern day definitions of “speaking in tongues” and ancient forms of paganism and witchcraft.

Question: What is the usual definition of “speaking in tongues” according to many modern day believers?  

Answer: Often, sincere disciples teach that “speaking in tongues” is a phenomenon of emotional ecstasy where a person begins to speak in unintelligible gibberish as a supposed manifestation of the Holy Spirit.

To understand the modern denominational concept of “speaking in tongues,” consider the following:

““The next day when I was in my room praying, I could tell that a heavenly language was bubbling up inside me. I opened my mouth and the words spilled out. Ilia skiridan tola do skantama. Or something like that. I had no clue what I was saying. It sounded like gibberish. Yet when I prayed in tongues I felt close to God.” (J. Lee Grady, The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale (Grand Rapids: Chosen Books, 2010), 184.).

““You never know what a tongue is going to sound like. I had an acquaintance who sounded like ‘rub- a- dubdub’ when he spoke in tongues, but he got a great blessing out of doing it.” (Dennis Bennett, How to Pray for the Release of the Holy Spirit (Alachua, FL: Bridge- Logos, 2008), 106.)

According to charismatic Pentecostalism, “speaking in tongues” is speaking in a gibberish and is supposed to be a sign of salvation and of the filling of the Holy Spirit. Our denominational friends teach that when the Bible talks about “speaking in tongues,” it is referencing this phenomenon of speaking in gibberish.

Question: What exactly does the Bible mean when it refers to a person ‘speaking in tongues?’  

Answer: When the Bible talks about a person speaking in tongues, it has reference to a miraculous gift which God gave to some in the first century church. With this gift, a person would be able to speak fluently in the language of another nation without having studied that language. We must be clear: the gift of tongues was the ability to speak in these foreign languages, not speaking in gibberish that no one could understand.

Several Scriptures bear out these facts:

Acts 2:4-13-And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. 7 Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, EACH IN OUR OWN LANGUAGE in which we were born? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, 11 Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in OUR OWN TONGUES the wonderful works of God.” 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “Whatever could this mean?” 13 Others mocking said, “They are full of new wine.”

This passage is pretty clear that speaking in tongues was the ability to speak in foreign languages without previous study.

Please notice that the hearers were able to understand in their own languages what the Apostles were communicating in “tongues.” 

Speaking in tongues amounted to speaking in foreign languages which the speakers had not previously studied.

Again, we see the same in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

While discussing the Corinthian’s misuse of their miraculous gifts (including the gift of tongues), he tells us:

1 Corinthians 14:20-21-Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. 21 In the law it is written: “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.

Paul (quoting from he Old Testament Book of Isaiah 28:11-12) describes how the Lord prophesied about the day in which the miraculous gifts would be available to mankind.

In quoting from this passage, Paul makes a clear connection between the “speaking in tongues” that was taking place within the church assemblies of the Corinthians and languages of other nations. 

Clearly, speaking in tongues amounted to speaking foreign languages, not to speaking gibberish.

Further, it is helpful to realize that when the word “tongues” is used throughout the New Testament, it is in the context of discernible speech and the languages of particular languages.

Even the Greek word glossa usually is translated as language! 

Speaking of the etymology of this word we are told:

“glossa (1100), is used of (1) the “tongues . . . like as of fire” which appeared at Pentecost; (2) “the tongue,” as an organ of speech, e.g., Mark 7:33 ; Rom. 3:13 ; 14:11 ; 1 Cor. 14:9 ; Phil. 2:11 ; Jas. 1:26 ; 3:5 , 6 , 8 ; 1 Pet. 3:10 ; 1 John 3:18 ; Rev. 16:10 ; (3) (a) “a language,” coupled with phule , “a tribe,” laos , “a people,” ethnos , “a nation,” seven times in the Apocalypse, 5:9 ; 7:9 ; 10:11 ; 11:9 ; 13:7 ; 14:6 ; 17:15 ; (b) “the supernatural gift of speaking in another language without its having been learnt”; in Acts 2:4–13 the circumstances are recorded from the viewpoint of the hearers;”. (W.E. Vine, W.E. Vine’s New Testament Word Pictures, Matthew-Acts, 45472-45479 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson)

The other words used in the context of glossa are very helpful in helping us to understand the definition of this word. 

For example, carefully study the connection of “tongue” (or “languages”) with tribes and nations in Revelation 5:9; 7:9; 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; and 17;15. The word “tongues” (languages) is used in connection with definition national and ethnic connotations, showing us that the understanding of the word “tongues” was that of a foreign language. 

Speaking of the close connection between “tongues” and “dialects,” one scholar of New Testament Greek has written:

“Tongue   The Greek word here is the same as what is found in verse 6—dialectos, the common Greek word for “language.” So it definitely should be translated “language” here. In the Greek we have glōssais, “tongues,” in verses 4 and 11, and dialectō, “language,” in verses 6 and 8. This proves conclusively that the speak ing in tongues (v. 4) was not ecstatic utterance but speaking in known, intelligent languages of that day (see v. 11).” (Ralph Earl, Word Meanings In The New Testament, 4107 (Kindle Edition); Kansas City, Kansas; Beacon Hill Press).

There can be no doubt that the Scriptures teach the gift of tongues was the miraculous ability of some in the first century church to speak foreign languages fluently without previous study.

The gift of tongues was NOT speaking gibberish in an ecstasy.

Question: What did the second century Christians believe regarding the identification of the gift of tongues with foreign languages or with gibberish?

Answer: The early church fathers understood that the gift of tongues was the miraculous ability to speak in foreign languages which the speaker had not studied.

Several quotations from the church fathers may be provided regarding this, but only a few will be presented here.

“Cyril of Jerusalem-“John and the other apostles spoke all the tongues of various nations, for the thronging of multitudes of strangers from all parts is not something new in Jerusalem, but this was true in apostolic times. What teacher can be found so proficient as to teach people in a moment what they have not learned? So many years are required through grammar and other arts merely to speak Greek well; and all do not speak it equally well. The rhetorician may succeed in speaking it well, the grammarian sometimes less well; and one who is skilled in grammar is ignorant of philosophical studies. But the Spirit taught them at once many languages, which they do not know in a whole lifetime. This is truly lofty wisdom. This is divine power. What a contrast between their long ignorance in the past and this sudden, comprehensive, varied and unaccustomed use of languages. The multitude of those listening was confounded; it was a second confusion, in contrast to the first evil confusion at Babylon. In that former confusion of tongues there was a division of purpose, for the intention was impious. Here there was a restoration and union of minds, since the object of their zeal was righteous. Through what occasioned the fall came the recovery”. (Catechetical Lecture 17.16-17. [FC 64:106-7*.].

Chrysostom-“And as in the time of building the tower [of Babel] the one tongue was divided into many; so then [at Pentecost] the many tongues frequently met in one man, and the same person used to discourse both in the Persian, and the Roman, and the Indian, and many other tongues, the Spirit sounding within him: and the gift was called the gift of tongues because he could all at once speak divers languages.” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on First Corinthians , 35.1. Cited in Philip Schaff, The Nicene and Post- Nicene Fathers (NPNF) , First Series, 12:209.)

Augustine-“In the first days the Holy Spirit fell upon the believers, and they spoke in tongues that they hadn’t learned, as the Spirit gave them to speak. These signs were appropriate for the time. For it was necessary that the Holy Spirit be signified thus in all tongues, because the gospel of God was going to traverse all tongues throughout the earth. That was the sign that was given, and it passed.” (Augustine, Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John , 6.10. Cited in Augustine, Homilies on the Gospel of John , trans. Boniface Ramsey (Hyde Park, NY: New City, 2008), 97.).

This testimony could be greatly multiplied. Please notice that the early church fathers understood from the Scriptures that the gift of tongues was the ability of a hearer to speak in foreign languages which he had not studied, and was not to be confused with gibberish.

It is also interesting to notice that Augustine (as well as other church fathers) discussed how the miraculous gifts of tongues (along with other miraculous gifts) had ceased by their time.

Question: Does the fact that some on Pentecost thought that the Apostles were drunk (Acts 2:13) suggest that the “tongues” were not truly foreign languages but were instead incoherent speech?

Answer: The reaction of the crowd on Pentecost of Acts 2 shows that the tongues being spoken were foreign languages. Further, the claim that the Apostles were drunk does not discredit the fact that speaking in tongues was the ability to speak in foreign languages; indeed, when we understand the context of the city of Jerusalem in the first century on the Day of Pentecost, the “tongues” being foreign languages makes much sense.

First, please notice that the people on Pentecost identify the “tongues” as being languages which the Apostles spoke which were the real languages in which the hearers had “been born” (Acts 2:8, 11).

The texts here (as well as in other previously cited passages) make it clear that tongue-speaking was the ability to speak in foreign languages.

Second, witnessing several foreign languages being spoken at once can be quite disconcerting and it is understandable how some could think that the Apostles were here drunk! Consider a modern day example.

Some years ago, I was blessed to visit New York City. My friends wanted to go to Macy’s Department Store, and once there they decided to take a restroom break.

As I was standing outside with the baby Elijah, a Chinese man walked out of the restroom behind a tall African-American gentleman. The Chinese man started saying, “Sir, what you have said was not funny!” The African American turned around and started cussing at the smaller Chinese man, and before I knew it, several Chinese men and several African American men were gathered around each other.

The Chinese started yelling in Chinese (I think), and the African Americans started yelling-well, let’s just it was a lower form of English than I (being a Christian) am not going to repeat.

More bystanders gathered around, there was a lot of yelling and videotaping, and it got worse by the second. I said, “Let’s go Elijah,” and as we walked away, the screaming got louder and people started gathering.

Now, how would I describe that scene today? The only word that comes to mind is CHAOS. And those were just TWO languages!

(Fortunately, the police responded and there were no injuries as far as I know, and I learned the dangers of restroom breaks in Macy’s Department Store, which is another reason I will probably never go back to New York City in my lifetime).

Now, you can see the chaos that resulted from just two human languages in a pretty good sized department store.

Imagine being in a huge city like Jerusalem, with huge mobs of thousands of people from several different nations all speaking foreign languages.

Then all of a sudden a group of men get up and begin speaking in all of those languages. They are yelling and preaching, and (while you might hear one or two languages that make sense), just about everything is CHAOS.

I could see how the people thought the Apostles were drunk when they were speaking in all of these other languages.

But look deeper.

Please notice that the ones who were making the claim that the Apostles were drunk were not exactly sincere seekers of truth;
instead, Luke points out that they were MOCKING.

These were scoffers, not sincere seekers of the truth!

So, the sincere seekers of truth were clearly able to understand that the Apostles were speaking in foreign languages; indeed, they were able to understand the Message of God in their own languages in which they were born!

In contrast, those who were in this chaotic city filled with all of these foreigners and who were not interested in truth but who were instead mocking God’s work here said that the Apostles were drunk.

On this close examination, it makes perfect sense why these were saying that the Apostles were drunk: not because the Apostles were speaking gibberish, but because the accusers were not interested in the truth and wanted merely to mock and scoff what God was doing.


We add it all together, and what do we have? The evidence of Scripture and of secular history reveals that speaking in tongues was the miraculous ability of some in the first century church to speak in foreign languages without heaving previously studied them.

The gift of tongues was not speaking in gibberish, as is practiced in many religious circles today.

In our next article, we will consider more questions about the subject of speaking in tongues.

Right now, I would like to share with you the fact that this miraculous ability was one of the many evidences that God bestowed upon some in the first century church to confirm and prove that the Word delivered by the Apostles was truly His Word.

The God of Heaven loves you so much that He has given ample evidence so that you can have certainly of faith (Luke 1:1-4). The Son of God died for your sins on the Cross of Calvary (1 Timothy 2:6). He was buried, and three days later, He arose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). 

Will you not today believe in Him (Acts 16:31), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess your faith in Him (1 Timothy 6:12), and be baptized into Him for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38)?

If you are an erring child of God, why not today repent of the sin in your life and pray to the Lord to be forgiven (1 John 1:9)?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.