7

This question is prompted by an answer in C.SE claiming that the very wording of the bolded text below within 1 Cor 13:8-12 implies that prophecies, tongues and knowledge are available in the time of Paul as well as in our time, since both periods are before the time "when the perfect comes".

ESV translation:

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

My question is: does responsible exegesis of the bolded text (taking into account the larger context of the text, Paul's allusions to the OT, etc.) necessarily proves the radical Continuationist view that the 3 miraculous gifts mentioned in 1 Cor 13:8 (prophecy, speaking in tongue, and word of knowledge) are meant for all Christians in every age (view #3 below)? Please show your exegesis.

Four possible answers (please show your exegesis):

  1. It is best used to prove Classical Cessationism ("miraculous" gifts such as prophecy, healing, and speaking in tongues ceased with the apostles but God occasionally works in supernatural ways today; the view of Reformed and most of Anglicans).
  2. It is best used to prove Cautious Continuationism ("miraculous" gifts including prophecies, tongues and knowledge, are not necessarily promised in every place and time in church history; the view of Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists).
  3. It is best used to prove Radical Continuationism ("miraculous" gifts including prophecies, tongues and knowledge, are meant for all Christians in every age; the view of Pentecostals).
    • See wikipedia article Pentecostalism - Spiritual Gifts that says "Just as fruit should be evident in the life of every Christian, Pentecostals believe that every Spirit-filled believer is given some capacity for the manifestation of the Spirit" based on Foundations of Pentecostal Theology which in turn quotes the Foursquare Declaration of Faith that says (emphasis mine):

      We believe that the Holy Spirit has the following gifts to bestow upon the believing church of the Lord Jesus Christ: wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation; that, according to the degree of grace and faith possessed by the recipient, these gifts are divided to every man severally, as He, the Holy Spirit will; that they are to be earnestly desired and coveted, in the order and proportion wherein they prove most edifying and beneficial to the church.

  4. The context doesn't allow it to be used to prove any of the above (i.e. the verse talks about something else, or it doesn't inform us about post-apostolic period, etc).

Note to guide expected answer:

I purposefully phrased this Q to ask for exegesis of the bolded text. To further focus the requested exegesis I phrased options #1 to #4 so the answer can choose only one. I also purposely phrased option #1 to #3 as "best used" so that the view does not have to rely on that verse alone. Option #4 is for exegesis that cannot be used to support either Cessationism or Continuationism.


Resources:

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  • 1
    I'm not sure whether this is on-topic or not. You are asking not for an hermeneutic analysis but as to whether a particular doctrine is 'proved' or not. I shall hold back any vote until I see how the community as a whole responds.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 14 at 18:53
  • 1
    @NigelJ I modified the question so that it explicitly asks for exegesis, which they then can use to show either a "yes"/"no" answer on a specific doctrinal position that is narrower than before (i.e. radical Continuationism, as defined in wikipedia: "arguing that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are meant to be experienced by all Christians in every age.") Hopefully this makes the question more "on-topic" for BH.SE since it starts with a passage. Aug 14 at 20:57
  • 2
    1 Corinthians 13:8-10: "[If] there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect (N/T) comes, the partial will be done away." I suggest these verses are stating: 1) gifts of prophecy, tongues, etc. will cease; 2) during the time this was written, the N/T was incomplete, imperfect; 3) when the "perfect" (N/T) comes, these partial gifts will cease (unnecessary to convey God's Message). I would maintain that #1 in the list is correct.
    – Xeno
    Aug 14 at 21:20
  • 1
    @GratefulDisciple - would it be fine if I copy and paste my C.SE answer here? Aug 14 at 22:30
  • The passage you have chosen does not talk about global cessationism - you will need to show why it might!
    – Dottard
    Aug 14 at 22:36
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Your question is, "Does responsible exegesis of the bolded text (taking into account the larger context of the text, Paul's allusions to the OT, etc.) necessarily proves the radical Continuationist view that the 3 miraculous gifts mentioned in 1 Cor 13:8 (prophecy, speaking in tongue, and word of knowledge) are meant for all Christians in every age (view #3 below)?"

My answer is, "There is no responsible exegesis that necessarily proves the radical Continuationist view."

My exegesis is based on two observable facts that nobody can dispute. The first is demonstrated amply in the six answers (so far). People from various 'sides' of the question have put forward exegesis, to their own satisfaction. Their stance appears entirely reasonable, and scripturally 'proven' - to them. But that's the problem. A truly sound exegesis should allow for but one conclusion. The fact that many conclusions are arrived at (regarding the three stances you highlighted) simply shows that we are dealing with various interpretations. In this case, about one particular scripture, but the entire subject requires all related scriptures to be collated. And a book would be required for that. Numerous books have been recommended by the different people taking different stances. There really is a much quicker way to cut to the chase than to compare a dozen or more books.

My second observable fact is how, once all the arguments about interpretations of scripture are done and dusted, the radical Continuationists show what their real reasons are, and the real ground of their practices. Confident of having established (to their satisfaction) an interpretation of scriptures that gives them the green light to practice various spectacular gifts, they stop citing proof-texts and enthuse about arguments and evidences that are not biblical. Call this 'simplistic exegesis' if you like, but the basic premise includes examining what proponents of the radical Continuationism school do NOT say, and what their arguments therefore boil down to.

I'm going to start with claims from non-Continuists (i.e. cessationists) that radical Continuists say they have proof of such practices going back in history to acclaimed Christians, like Jonathan Edwards. This is from Peter Glover who believes those practicing radical Continuationism have a position that is "logically untenable, as it is wholly irreconcilable with one of the key Reformation solas - sola Scriptura, and that:

"...the cessationist view of the sign-gifts (or more extraordinary gifts of the Spirit) has been the clear teaching of historic Christianity down through the ages. It was the view held by all of the Reformers and Puritans, all the great saints of history and has been the prevalent view of Protestant evangelicalism for over four hundred years. Only during recent decades has the non-cessationist view held any kind of ascendancy within orthodox Christianity. Given the frequency with which that great saint Jonathan Edwards is used today by charismatic leaders to support the case for all kinds of strange phenomena it may come as a surprise for 'rank and file' charismatics to learn that Edwards (as we shall see) was an unequivocal cessationist. As regards Edwards and his beliefs charismatics are more than a little economical with the truth." Christian Research Network Journal Summer 1998, Issue 3, page 16.

"Member of the Team at the Airport [Toronto] Vineyard, Guy Chevreau has done more than anyone to link the manifestations such as laughing, shaking and falling over, to the ministry of Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening." T. Tillin, Mainstream magazine 1994 winter, page 11

Are such claim true? This is the evidence from a charismatic, tongue-speaking author:

"In his monumental work, The Christian in Complete Armour, the Puritan writer William Gurnall draws us to an honest appraisal of our commitment to spiritual warfare. He says..." then quotes bits that have nothing to do with those spectacular gifts yet concludes, "I quote from Gurnall's great work because I believe it is essential reading for believers intending to be God's Voice to this generation... Yes, I too can say, 'I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way of the Lord'... John the Baptist articulated God's Voice and so peoples' reaction to the Lord was expressed in their reaction to John!" Sword magazine, May-June 2017, Vol. 12 No. 3 pages 22-23. In Vol. 12 No. 3 2018 this author, Chris Hill, said that all Christians should/will/must speak in 'tongues' and showed he believes in Continuationism.

Guy Chevreau's book on this is called Catch The Fire, and he also held regular sessions at the Toronto Vineyard to teach on Edwards and give readings from his books, "in rather the same way that some churches have Bible readings", according to T. Tillin's article.

The point is that such Continuationism arguments have fallen through very thin ice, because the Puritans were cessationists, but people without sound knowledge of church history will accept their claims without question (especially if negative reactions to modern, claimed 'voices of God' equates with disbelieving God today.)

Another argument vitally important to radical Continuationism is that of experience. It can soon be seen that experience over-rides theology even though it is openly admitted that such charismatic experiences are closely allied to spiritistic contacts and influences (which the Bible denounces). Mike Fearon, a Christian journalist with an interest in Indian religions, wrote A Breath of Fresh Air (a book published in Britain) where he sees all gifts of the Spirit as psychic phenomena. The different author of the chapter 'Medical Perspectives on Manifestations' says that what is going on in some charismatic worship is an "altered state of consciousness" which he considers a "normal part of charismatic faith" and "the key to making sense of Christian experience" and "vital to dynamic Christian faith". He believes people are slipping into ecstatic states or hypnotic reveries but commends this. The only difference between charismatic worship and a voodoo ceremony being the setting and the intent. Similarly, Fearon believes that prophetic gifts are psychic in origin. He quotes Tom Houston (City Temple, International Director of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelisation) as saying:

"My basic view of the gifts of the Spirit is that they are programmed into us from birth... the gifts, whatever they are... can be used neutrally, evilly (as in sorcery and witchcraft) or spiritually."

Cessationists note radical events, such as in the context of the Toronto manifestations, include the invitation to "drink" deeply of spiritual power - the power to enter into altered states and psychic activities. What cannot be proven on paper or by exegesis is the source of such power. Is it of God, or is it demonic? One strong indicator of it being of God would be directing all attention to God and his Christ, with the Holy Spirit never drawing attention to himself, but to Christ, as Jesus said would happen (John 16:13-15). It might be worth adding here that charismatic tongue speaking is considered fairly old-hat now, with much more spectacular stuff doing the rounds in their quarters. Which leads to a final point - the weight of experience as 'proof'.

The all-important ‘proof’ of the radical Continuationists is experience. It is so vital to their conviction that nothing anyone else says from the Bible will move them from their position. When push comes to shove, it is personal experience that counts. The editor of Christianity Today received a letter from a tongues speaker saying “You cannot give fair treatment to a gift from God which you neither believe in or have experienced.” Meaning tongues speaking is not subject to critical examination in the light of Scripture, and that subjective experience of what is taken to be a gift from God trumps objective exegesis.

Finally, Morton Kelsey, a leading spokesman for the charismatic movement, has written Encounter With God: a Theology of Christian Experience. He believes the Spirit-filled life to be ‘mysticism’ and hastens to add that it is evidenced by speaking in tongues (pp. 154, 157, 165). The last two paragraphs come from the booklet Charismatic Confusion by Dr. Ernest Pickering, 1980. That is enough to show what the real ground of radical Continuationism is, and it’s not the Bible.

EDIT at your request: “It would be great if you could add the contextual interpretation of what Paul meant by "but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away" in contrast with the claimed meaning in the first paragraph” – The contextual interpretation of that phrase has already been given by different answerers, taking different interpretations according to context, as they see it. That was a point I made in my answer. It’s pointless to reiterate what has already been set forth by those who agree with me. However that phrase is taken, nobody will be convinced by it alone as to the correctness or error of their present interpretation. A whole body of scripture must be collated. But, in itself, that verse cannot be used to prove that radical Continuationism is necessarily true, and all the answers here demonstrate that.

It took me five hours to gather my relevant quotes and points, and to form my answer. I would only add that when an OP stipulates that answers must conform to this, that or the other stance, I’m not inclined to readily fall in with the requirement. Trying to analyse your Q quite gave me a headache, so please forgive me for not getting it exactly right as you anticipated! But thanks for confirming from you own experience that you’ve met some Christians who insist the ‘word’ of those claiming to ‘speak for God’ these days must be taken as if it was God speaking; I’ve met such people too.

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  • Regarding experiences, I would say that we shouldn't discount them so long as we can be very confident they truly come from God. Christianity is founded on the basis of experiences, and the eyewitness accounts of those who claimed to have them. The apostles claimed to have had the experience of witnessing the resurrected Christ, and they were so convinced of this fact that they were willing to die for it. How can we know for sure that they weren't tricked by their own minds or deceived by some deceitful supernatural power? Aug 16 at 15:52
  • 1
    You argue for option #4. It would be great if you could add the contextual interpretation of what Paul meant by "but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away" in contrast with the claimed meaning in the first paragraph. About "especially if negative reactions to modern, claimed 'voices of God' equates with disbelieving God today" I actually met several Christians who believe this, causing (I think) unnecessary suffering from doing things they thought coming from God. As though working out our salvation (by repentance and growing in love) is not hard enough already! Aug 16 at 18:37
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First, I am always deeply suspicious of any doctrine of the church, generally, that arose "recently" such as in the 16th century. How did the church get along before this? There are a number of such doctrines such as cessationism, futurism, etc.

Second, I do not believe that 1 Cor 13 can be used to prove anything about cessationism because there have been other periods in history where there have been (for example) no prophecies such as:

  • 1 Sam 3:1 - And the boy Samuel ministered to the LORD before Eli. Now in those days the word of the LORD was rare and visions were scarce.
  • The inter-testamental period of about 400 years between Malachi and Matthew.

Thus, the gifts of the Spirit are neither continuous nor uniform but always according to the will and discretion of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:11).

Lastly, the church of God cannot function without the gifts of Spirit because we read that:

  • 1 Cor 12:3 - Therefore I inform you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
  • Rom 8:9 - You, however, are controlled not by the flesh, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

Thus, there can be no Christian community without the gift of the Holy Spirit!! The experimental evidence for this is abundant:

  • Did Martin Luther and William Tyndale really translate their Bibles without a special gift of the Spirit?
  • Did the Missionary/apostolic explosion of the 18th and 19th centuries occur without the impelling power of the Spirit?
  • Did William Wilberforce and his helpers really outlaw slavery and the slave trade without the guidance of the Spirit?
  • Lots of well-documented cases of people with gifts of healing (at least for a while), speaking in new languages, etc. (There are many charlatans in this space as well!!)

Can anyone image that the modern church does not have real people who are supernaturally gifted in things like teaching, helping, administration, and perhaps even music, preaching, interpretation of language, etc, etc.

Frankly, I cannot find any data anywhere in the NT that suggests that the church after the 1st century was to operate in a completely different way from the way it did in the NT times. The church is either Spirit empowered or it does not exist - there cannot be a middle ground. See appendix below for more details.

The verse in 1 Cor 13:10 is simply discussing periods of time when there was no prophecy (as quoted above) and the time when a prophecy is fulfilled and so it "ceases". Messages delivered by tongues similarly come to an end before the next time they are required.

On the basis of the "perfect" to come, it is also possible to interpret this same passage eschatologically by saying when Jesus returns, there will be no need of prophecy and tongues because we will all speak the same heavenly language and be able to talk to God face to face (Rev 22:3-5).

CONCLUSION

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly await the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 1:7.

Of the options offered by the OP, I believe that #3 (I am no Pentecostal! - but not all gifts to each person, but by the decision of the Holy Spirit - we all get something but not everything) and #4 are both true. [Note - each person gets at least one gift but no body gets every gift. Who gets what is the decision of the Spirit.]

APPENDIX - The Function/work of the Holy Spirit

Jesus bequeathed the Gift of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22, Acts 1:8, 2:1-4) to His church for several reasons:

  1. To produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22 & 23, see especially v24-26) and so to sanctify (make distinct) the church members.
  2. The above changed life is to be a distinguishing sign or seal of God’s ownership of our lives and a guarantee of better things to come (Eph 1:13, 4:30). See Seal of God.
  3. To provide specific guidance for the church (John 16:7-12, 14:17, 15:26) namely
  • Convict of sin
  • Instruct in righteous (= right-doing)
  • Convict of judgement to come
  1. To build up the church with spiritual (supernatural) gifts and abilities, 1 Cor 12:7, 14:12, and to influence/teach others John 7:37-39. See Rom 12:6-8, 1 Cor 12:8-10, 28-30, Eph 4:11, 1 Peter 4:10, 11, 1 Tim 4:14, Ex 35:30-33, etc.
  2. To strengthen the members in their daily walk to live the Christian ideals, Eph 3:16, 17, Heb 2:4, and maintain unity in the Christian community (Eph 4:3-6). The Christian must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5) by receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38) and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:25, John 6:63, Phil 3:3, John 4:24). In fact the whole life of Christian is to put aside the “psychical” mind and live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:44-46, Gal 5:17, Jude 19, John 6:63, 1 Peter 3:18). In short, the Holy Spirit is the only way we can know God, 1 Cor 2:10, 11, 14, John 16:13.
  3. To teach the church more of the character and work of Jesus and thus, imitate Jesus, John 7:38, 39, 15:26, 16:12-15, Rom 8:4, 11, Eph 3:17, 18, 4:3-6, 1 Thess 1:6, 4:8, 1 Cor 2:14.
  4. The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets to write Scripture, and explains such spiritual truths to us. John 14:16, 17, 15:26, 1 Cor 2:6-16, Eph 1:17-19, 2 Peter 1:21, 2 Tim 3:15, 16, 1 Thess 1:5, Heb 9:8, 1 Peter 1:12, Ps 119:18. All these functions are summarized in the five instances recorded in the book of Acts of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:1-4, 4:28-31, 8:15-17, 10:44, 19:6. Again, the Christian’s reception of the Holy Spirit imitates Jesus’ reception of the Holy Spirit. John 3:34, Matt 3:13-17, 4:1, 12:28, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-23, Acts 2:1, Heb 2:4, 9:14.

Do cessationists really think that this work of the Holy Spirit was either stopped in 100 AD or was severely curtailed? I find no Scripture to support that assertion.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 16 at 5:05
  • “I am always deeply suspicious of any doctrine.. ‘recently’... How did the church get along before this?” Amen Dot. How can the otherwise fantastic RC Sproul and progeny say all the church fathers were wrong about the supernatural gifts? And augustine/aquinas/francis etc^10. And what a coincidence that it matches the advent and rise of monist materialism strangling all thought and spirituality in the West. The view is 25% of the way to atheism imo. ‘Oh God exists, he just never talks to anyone, cant be used to deliver, or know, or speak. Nothing. Just a positive feeling making you better’🙄
    – Al Brown
    Sep 10 at 14:03
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Note: I am the author of the C.SE answer (and the question) that prompted the OP's question.

OP: Can 1 Cor 13:8-10 be used as to prove that radical Continuationism is necessarily true?

I would answer most likely yes, in the sense that 1 Cor 13:8-10 offers no reason to think that the Holy Spirit would change His modus operandi before the arrival of the perfect. Paul teaches that the spiritual gifts are intended for the common good of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:7), and he doesn't wish anybody to be lacking in any gift (1 Cor 1:7), and the only major event that would render (at least some of) the spiritual gifts obsolete is the arrival of the perfect (1 Cor 13:10). Therefore, before the perfect comes, there is no reason to think the Holy Spirit would lose His interest in empowering the saints and equipping them for the common good.

For the interested reader, my C.SE answer presents a deductive argument for Continuationism based on 1 Cor 13, but here is the essence of the argument:

1) There is a time T when the perfect will come and, as a consequence, (at least) some spiritual gifts will cease.

I think the chapter asserts very clearly -- and most would agree -- that there is an instant T in the timeline of history when the perfect (whatever that means) will come. And as a consequence, at least three specific gifts (tongues, prophecy and knowledge) will become obsolete and cease. Why? Because they are regarded as partial, imperfect. They only provide a partial experience, a forestate, of the supernatural kingdom of God. This effect is made clear in verses 1-3:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

In his 'thought experiment', Paul exaggerates to the extreme the supernatural qualities of the spiritual gifts, making the point that they can in fact be quite spectacular, and possibly become a distraction from what is most important: love. But spectacular and everything, they are imperfect, they are partial, they are simply a foretaste and a shadow of the real deal: the perfect (which is to come). In other words, the spiritual gifts are useful, are there for a reason, they have their place in the body of Christ (the Church), but there will be an instant T when the perfect will come, and these spiritual gifts, though useful in the meantime, will have accomplished their temporary purpose, will no longer be necessary, and, therefore, will cease and be replaced by the perfect.

In short:

  • There is a time T when the perfect arrives.
  • Before T, the spiritual gifts are useful and available for the body of Christ.
  • After T, the spiritual gifts are obsolete (because the perfect is much better).

2) The time T when the perfect will come is most likely the time of the establishment of the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21)

Point 1 is fairly uncontroversial. To the best of my knowledge, most cessationists and continuationists accept it. However, what is often subject of heated debate is the placement of instant T in the timeline. Cessationists typically claim that T is situated at the closing of the canon at the end of the 1st century (let's call this hypothesis 1, or H1). Instead, I believe that a better candidate for T is the moment of the establishment of the New Heaven and New Earth (Rev 21), which hasn't happened yet (let's call this hypothesis 2, or H2).

So, in order to make a case for H2, I will present an abductive argument for why H2 makes more sense than H1, given the data we have.

H2 makes more sense than H1 in light of 1 Corinthians 13 itself

Let's read verses 8-12:

8 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

When the perfect comes:

  • We will have perfect knowledge (no more partial knowledge).
  • We will see face to face (no more unclear, mysterious revelations).
  • We will achieve full maturity (no more childish ways).

All these descriptions make perfect sense under H2. When Jesus returns and establishes his kingdom in a New Heaven and a New Earth, those resurrected to eternal life will:

  • enjoy supernatural, glorified bodies (like the angels),
  • be free from the flesh and its sinful tendencies,
  • have the opportunity to literally see the Lord face to face,
  • have an entire eternity to learn all the mysteries of the kingdom of God.

In contrast, under H1, these descriptions make much less sense:

  • Are we really seeing face to face now? If that's the case, I invite those who believe this to post an answer to the question When shall we see “face to face”? 1 Corinthians 13:12
  • Do we really have access to the full knowledge and understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom of God now? Do we really have answers to all the questions? Even with the Bible at hand, there are lots of disagreements, ambiguities, controversies, conflicting interpretations, mysteries about God, the spirit realm and even the physical realm that we currently have no clue about.
  • Have we really achieved full maturity? Are we in glorified bodies now? Are we beyond the sinful tendencies of the fallen human nature?

H2 makes more sense than H1 in light of the historical and testimonial evidence

If H1 is true, there should be no evidence of spiritual gifts operating in the Church after the apostolic age (full cessationism). On the contrary, if H2 is true, we should be able to find (at least some) evidence of the spiritual gifts still in action after the apostolic age. Thus, the evidence seems to favor H2 over H1. For example, see:

3) Conclusion

If we accept points 1) and 2), then it follows that now <= T, i.e., that the perfect has not yet come and, therefore, that we are still in the period of history where the gifts of the Spirit are available for the common good of the Church (1 Cor 12:7). This is consistent with the New Testament's overall positive attitude towards the spiritual gifts and the power of the Spirit:

  • 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. [Acts 1:8, ESV]
  • 29 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, 30 while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. [Acts 4:29-31, ESV]
  • 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. [1 Cor 12:4-7, ESV]
  • Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. [1 Cor 14:1-5, ESV]
  • 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order. [1 Cor 14:39-40, ESV]
  • 2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. [Hebrews 2:2-4, ESV]
  • 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. [1 Cor 2:4-5, ESV]
  • 18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; [Romans 15:18-19, ESV]
  • 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, [Ephesians 5:18, ESV]

Answers to objections

Objection. This does not cover the fact that signs cease (when the thing signified appears). Miracles, tongues and prophecies are signs which are given. Gifts which are qualities (mercy, love, patience) do not cease. This distinction is being ignored.

Answer. Paul explicitly said that tongues and prophecies would cease with the arrival of the perfect. Has the perfect arrived? See the answer above. Furthermore, Paul explicitly encouraged these gifts:

1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. [1 Cor 14:1, ESV]

5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. [1 Cor 14:5, ESV]

39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. [1 Cor 14:39, ESV]

Tongues edify the speaker, prophecies edify the hearers. These are gifts useful for the common good of the Church (1 Cor 12:7). Did the need for common good suddenly stop existing after the 1st century? Of course not. According to Paul, the only reason why tongues and prophecies (and knowledge) would cease was the eventual arrival of the perfect. Again, has the perfect arrived? See the answer above.

Regarding miracles, I'm not aware of a single passage affirming that miracles would cease after the 1st century. The closest to that is faith that produces miracles (1 Cor 13:2 ... and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing), but has faith ceased? Of course not.

If you are aware of some compelling deductive argument for Cessationism, you are welcome to post it here.

Objection. Good argument for favoring H2 and for bringing other verses to support for the claim of "overall positive attitude towards the spiritual gifts and the power of the Spirit". But you haven't made the case why you go with option #3 (radical: gift for every believer) instead of option #2 (cautious: up to HS's discretion), esp in light of 1 Cor 12:7 ("to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good") and Heb 2:4 ("... distributed according to his will"). Even the other subtypes of Cessationism (such as the concentric) support contemporary spiritual gift in new areas.

Answer. Good catch. No, I never meant to say that each believer will necessarily have access to all the gifts, everywhere, at all times. It is theoretically possible, I can concede that, but as the verses you cite indicate, the distribution of the gifts is ultimately subject to God's will. This is further stressed in 1 Cor 12:27-30:

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

That said, I don't see anything wrong if a believer decides to ask God for more, as Paul himself exhorted Christians to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts. If you earnestly desire gift X but the Holy Spirit doesn't want it for you, at least there is some hope that you will receive an answer as to why, just like Paul received an answer when he asked the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh: 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:8-9, ESV).

8
  • 3
    This does not cover the fact that signs cease (when the thing signified appears). Miracles, tongues and prophecies are signs which are given. Gifts which are qualities (mercy, love, patience) do not cease. This distinction is being ignored.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 15 at 8:54
  • @NigelJ - I added a response to this objection at the end of my answer. Aug 15 at 14:52
  • Good argument for favoring H2 and for bringing other verses to support for the claim of "overall positive attitude towards the spiritual gifts and the power of the Spirit". But you haven't made the case why you go with option #3 (radical: gift for every believer) instead of option #2 (cautious: up to HS's discretion), esp in light of 1 Cor 12:7 ("to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good") and Heb 2:4 ("... distributed according to his will"). Even the other subtypes of Cessationism (such as the concentric) support contemporary spiritual gift in new areas. Aug 16 at 2:03
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator 1. Can you please clarify whether by radical continuationism , you mean that the three are available to all groups and times, but not to every individual. Some people will do one or another, some none. Not every individual can, but in every place and time all three can be manifested. (This take is not listed in the question). (??) 2. The idea that prophesy opens the canon needs to be let go of. (there are LOTS of prophesies not in the bible - Bible mentions that there had been some prophesies made, without detailing them).
    – Al Brown
    Aug 16 at 2:52
  • @GratefulDisciple, see the last edit. Aug 16 at 5:36
1

The Text

Focusing only on this section of text, what does it say about the partial and perfect? That is the only question I will address. There are others, but that one is both key and assailable.

1 Cor 13:9-12 (ESV)

For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

The Partial

The partial, true at the letter’s writing, is the following state of affairs:

we know in part and prophesy in part

now we see in a mirror dimly

Now I know in part

The Perfect

The perfect will be the following state of affairs:

the partial will pass away

we see.. then face to face.

then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Assessment

Within First Corinthians, that is our knowledge of the partial and the perfect.

The term “I” refers to the Apostle Paul, and the word “now” refers to the year 53 or 54 AD, some twenty or so years after his conversion. “We” refers to either the authors, Paul and Sosthenes (1 Cor 1:1, ESV); or the authors and the letter’s recipients; or occasionally one might use “we” to refer to some larger group that includes either the authors or both the authors and the letter recipients. The recipients are:

1 Cor 2

2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Because we “see dimly” at the time of the writing, this has to end before the perfect has come. Furthermore “we see.. face to face” must occur. It doesn’t say directly whom is being seen face to face, but any reasonable interpretation would eliminate the possibility that this was achieved by “the books of the bible being finished up and collected together”.

Also, Paul himself at the writing “know[s] in part”, which must change to “I shall know fully”. One might wonder about Paul’s post-death change in knowledge, but that would miss the point, because he is clearly talking about something that’s happening to more than just him and to more than any other single person.

Final Questions

Death aside, what occurrence, which happens to more than one person, would make a Paul see face to face if he can only “see in a mirror dimly” at age ~50? What would make him “know fully even as [he has] been fully known” when presently he only knows in part?

This appears to be a monumental, even existential shift in the state of affairs. Has this really taken place? I cannot see a case that it has.

0

Can 1 Cor 13:8-10 be used as to prove that Continuationism is true?

Short Answer: No.

Let us begin with the verses in question:

1 Corinthians 13:8-10: "[If] there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."

What follows is a rebuttal to the claim that spiritual gifts: tongues, prophecy, special knowledge from God, etc. continue to this day.

First, suppose we break down the three verses from 1 Corinthians 13:

  1. Gifts of prophecy, tongues, etc. will be done away.

These gifts will cease. When is that? When the "perfect" comes. Everyone should at least agree that God's Word is a masterpiece of perfection. During the time these passages were written, the N/T did not yet exist. Upon completion, the "perfect" had arrived. A passage from the Letter of Jude helps to confirm its completion:

  • Jude vs. 3: "Beloved... I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (emphasis added).

By the time Jude wrote his Letter, the perfect had been accomplished.

  1. When First Corinthians was written, the N/T was incomplete, that is, it was imperfect. The gifts of prophecy and tongues were temporarily necessary in the absence of God's Word. Such gifts helped to confirm that God was fully active with the apostles, in their quest to spread the Word, and, indeed, to document Scripture for all to appreciate.

  2. When the "perfect" (N/T) comes, these partial gifts would cease. The gifts were merely a "band aid" satisfying a much greater, sophisticated need: God's perfect Message. Spiritual gifts were a stopgap to the revelations that would progressively follow; their use was temporary (and sometimes unwanted "clanging cymbals" (13:1)) to convey certain truths.

Author Wayne Jackson had this to say in the matter1:

Certain things are necessary for the child-stage development of one's existence. When that phase is outgrown, the youngster's "toys" are laid aside. The Church needed miraculous gifts during its infancy period; when the revelation factor was completed, it was time for more mature development. [Second,] the era of partial, bit-by-bit revelation, was similar to seeing one's image in an imperfect brass mirror. When the full revelation of Scripture was completed, the sharp, face-to-face view would be so much richer. [And,] while the supernatural gifts are temporary, faith, hope, and love will be operable even after the completion of the cannon of Scripture.

  1. Some of the Corinthian saints were gloating in their gifts, exploiting them without the needs of others being paramount. One final argument, therefore, is this: The gifts are temporary in the divine order of things. Love must abide. It is the all-encompassing regulator of moral conduct... The gifts of knowledge and prophecy came incrementally through the different ones possessing these gifts, but when the "perfect" (literally, "the complete") has been accomplished, "the partial" will be needed no longer. The partial was the piece-by-piece revelation; the "complete" was the revelatory process brought to its goal.1

A miracle is roughly defined as that which is not explicable by natural or scientific laws. Therefore, it is considered to be the work of divine agency. In the first century, these were necessary to:

  1. Prove the validity of Christ's authority over nature, and thus, the veracity of His teaching, and,

  2. To continue with the apostles, since, absent N/T Scripture (and the arrival of the "perfect"), this too was necessary to demonstrate the authority bestowed on these men hand-selected by God. Their miraculous attributes could be passed along to disciples through the "laying on of hands" (Acts 6:6, 1 Tim. 4:14, 5:22).

Commentator James Burton Coffman had this to say regarding modern "miracles":

During the childhood age of the church, miracles authenticated the message of the inspired preachers (Mark 16:20). Miracles were to confirm the word of God. "No miracle today could confirm the word of God [because] it is already confirmed. Men need simply to believe and obey it."2

The burden of proof must rest upon those who suppose the age of miracles is still upon us. If there are super-natural gifts, where are they?... This writer believes that there are no miracles being performed today by any persons whomsoever. Paul said they would cease; and they have ceased! That there are marvelous providences, so singular and astonishing as to startle people, is not surprising; for it may not be denied that God is still working in the world, and especially in his kingdom; but that quality of miracles bearing witness as a confirmation of God's word is not discernible in such merciful providences. What about the answer to prayer? Yes indeed God answers prayer, and sometimes in the most astonishing ways; but such a thing bears no likeness to the supernatural and visible wonders of the apostolic age. (Emphasis added.)

If the intended meaning of "cessationism" by the OP is defined as: "the concept among Christians that the works of the Holy Spirit: speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing, and miracles all ceased upon the death of the apostles", then based on the considerations outlined above, the correct number in the list of the OP alternatives would be #1.

Addendum

It should be added that when we read and study Scripture, we are internalizing the Mind of God. There is no example of any human text ever having such an effect on one's spiritual discernment (unless it is demonic). The Holy Spirit does indeed open the minds of those who are willing to accept the truth and to progressively abandon their worldly attitude and lifestyle in favor of faithful obedience to God.

Some can study and research Scripture "until the cows come home" and derive absolutely nothing: no spiritual insight or understanding whatsoever. These people are legion. Most who devote themselves to conscientious thought and deliberation, those open to the truth God has conveyed, will, indeed, be deeply affected by what they receive.

This is because they are replacing their old, worldly selves with the mind of Christ. There seems little doubt that the saints have been deeply influenced by what they have cultivated, and this is reflected in the profound transformation that ultimately occurs in their life.

This is not a phenomenon that can be explained away by ignoring the effects of the Holy Spirit (in Scripture) on their consciousness:

Hebrews 4:12: "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (emphasis added).

We would never read any such passage if it were not true, and had no such effect.

1 Jackson, Wayne. A New Testament Commentary (Stockton, CA.: Christian Courier Publications, 2011), p. 330.
2 DeHoff, George W. Sermons on First Corinthians (Murfreesboro, Tennessee: The Christian Press, 1947), p. 96.

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  • It would really be helpful if you were to rewrite this answer as a formal deductive argument. Aug 14 at 23:15
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Thanks for the advice. However, it seems to me that I've laid out my case in a very concise form. It's not clear to me that rewriting this work would be at all helpful to the points I've made, moving from one logical premise to another throughout. Honestly, if I had the time, I would gladly attempt to accommodate your request.
    – Xeno
    Aug 14 at 23:38
  • But if you look at an analysis of the state hes describing in the perfect as in my answer can there be any way to claim it?
    – Al Brown
    Aug 29 at 6:19
-1

There are two scriptural reasons given for the miraculous gifts that I am aware of:

  • They were the sign/evidence of the apostles:

[2 Corinthians 12:12 NKJV] (12) Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds.

  • They were the sign of the last days, as given to Joel:

[Acts 2:17 NASB20] (17) 'AND IT SHALL BE IN THE LAST DAYS,' God says, 'THAT I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT ON ALL MANKIND; AND YOUR SONS AND YOUR DAUGHTERS WILL PROPHESY, AND YOUR YOUNG MEN WILL SEE VISIONS, AND YOUR OLD MEN WILL HAVE DREAMS;

So the outpouring had to last until c. 70 AD/CE and then they were discontinued because the last days were over and the new age had begun. In fact, their absence provides perfect evidence that these days we live in are NOT the last days, since Joel's signs are not occurring now (regardless of what Pentecostals, Charismatics or televangelists teach or testify).

The passage in the original question, then, is then to be understood as teaching cessationism, not continuationism:

[1 Corinthians 13:8-10 NKJV] (8) Love never fails. But whether [there are] prophecies, they will fail; whether [there are] tongues, they will cease; whether [there is] knowledge, it will vanish away. (9) For we know in part and we prophesy in part. (10) But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

9
  • regardless of what Pentecostals, Charismatics or televangelists teach or testify - what about post-apostolic age early Church Fathers? link, link Aug 15 at 15:04
  • Completely bogus.
    – Ruminator
    Aug 15 at 15:08
  • How do you know claims of miracles during the apostolic age weren't completely bogus too? Aug 15 at 15:09
  • I don't! But I know what Joel said. Well, actually what Luke said that Peter said, because Peter tweaked Joel to say what he wanted it to say!
    – Ruminator
    Aug 15 at 15:31
  • Oh, I kind of remember you saying that you don't believe in the book of Acts. Is that right? Aug 15 at 15:33

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