Speaking in tongues is a prominent image in today’s religious landscape. The presence of “tongue speaking” in the New Testament has convinced many that they should speak in tongues today. Many will go so far as to say that unless one “speaks in tongues,” he or she isn’t saved. There are three positions on the question of modern miracles: charismatic (miraculous), functional cessationist (cautiously hopeful for a miracle), and cessationist (miracles have ceased).
History of Movement
Historically, the presence of miraculous gifts in the New Testament is undeniable. However, the majority if not all realized that miraculous gifts were not expected to continue. This expectation that gifts were to cease is seen in the rise of a recognized heretic named Montanus in Anatolia during the middle of the second century. Montanus claimed that he was able to speak from God just as the apostles and prophets did in the first century. His false claims were recognized as false. Sermons were preached against the heresy. Pamphlets were written against the heresy. The Montanus churches were burned. Montanus followers were driven from their houses. Thus the attempt to rekindle “inspired speech” was defeated severely.
Centuries later, John Wesley encouraged miraculous events in the lives of his followers. He called these events “second workings of grace” produced by the Holy Spirit. While Methodists (founded by the Weasleys) do not typically practice miraculous gifts today, the practice is continued by the Church of the Nazarene (they are essentially Methodists with miraculous abilities.) The influence of the Wesleys on the religious landscape of early America is incredible.
You may be surprised to learn that the Cane Ridge Revivals held by Barton W. Stone were also “charismatic” in nature. Stone recounted how those who wanted to make their salvation experience known would go so far as to shake down trees and other things. There are accounts of people practicing in the woods before coming into the main arena to have their “conversion experience.”
The next major supposed miraculous event began at the Azuza Street revivals. These “revivals” were led by African American Pentecostal preacher William J. Seymour in Los Angeles. He was a former Holiness (Wesleyan) preacher.
Why I Am a Cessationist
Those who hold to modern miraculous gifts typically love the Lord and hold to the Bible. However, that does not mean they are correct in their interpretations and actions. The supposed experiences of an individual cannot trump the teaching of Scripture. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9). The question is not about different experiences, the quest is to know and agree upon the message of God.
The Proof of Miraculous Gifts is Non-Existent
When Jesus performed miracles, no one denied that he had performed a miracle. They accused him of performing miracles by the power of the Devil (Matt. 12:22-32). Everyone saw the proof. Today, miraculous gifts are only performed when there can be no proof. Supposed healings are impossible to confirm. This is why the gift of tongues is so prominent. The speech itself is supposed to be the proof. However, the speech is not real speech. It is a “heavenly language.” The New Testament tongues were not “unknown to anyone” they were “known to someone.” They were real languages with a real purpose—to teach the lost who spoke a different language.
The Bible Has All the Inspired Words We Need
First, remember that the Bible teaches we have all the inspired words we need to be saved and to live as saved people. God has spoken, “in the last days through his Son” (Heb. 1:2). This last message is “the faith once and for all delivered to the saints’ (Jd. 3). The church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets” (Eph. 2:20). We are not to give accept another Testament of Jesus Christ or another revelation (Gal. 1:6-9).
The Purpose of Miraculous Gifts Has Been Completed
Hebrews 2:3-4 tells us the message was “declared first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” Since the message has been confirmed, we no longer need miracles to confirm the message. The words of Scripture are still confirmed by the perfection of Scripture in everything to which it speaks (especially powerful are the fulfillment of prophecies concerning Christ).
There Are No Apostles to Pass on Miraculous Gifts
Remember that miraculous gifts were given directly to the apostles and then only through the apostles. Acts 8:17-18 tells us that the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were given through the apostles’ hands. There are no more apostles. No one living since the 1st century can fulfill the requirements. Paul said he was the last apostle (1 Cor. 15:8). The apostles were not replaced after they died (Acts 12:2). The apostolic age included miraculous works (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 3:5; Eph. 4:11). However, the apostolic age is gone and so is the miraculous age.
What About the Baptism of the Holy Spirit?
The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred twice in all the New Testament. The first account is in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit gave miraculous gifts to the apostles as Jesus promised. The second time occurred in Acts 10 as a sign to Peter that Cornelius and the other Gentiles should be baptized. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is not available today. Ephesians 4:5 says there is one baptism. That one baptism is the baptism “for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38) in which one is “born again” (Jn. 3:3, 5) and adopted into the family of God (Gal. 3:26-27). Since there is only the one baptism available today, no one should expect or demand a baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts which accompany it.