The confirmation of a fresh message (cont)
Two aspects of the early sign gifts were addressed in the previous article. A further two points can be made:
They (tongues) were elementary
That is, they were like childrens toys which are cast off as the child becomes older (1 Cor 13.11). So elementary are they that they are always mentioned last in the list of gifts; so temporary are they that the only letter in which they are named is 1 Corinthians, all reference to them being omitted in later and other epistles. They had to be compared with a state of immaturity, and those who "played" with them revealed that they had not "grown up". Their behaviour was childish.
They were temporary
As a consequence, they these sign gifts were temporary. However we interpret 1 Corinthians 13.8 it is apparent that what Paul is saying is "prophecy" (i.e. inspired preaching resulting from direct revelation), "tongues" (i.e. the ability to speak a known language known elsewhere but not known to the speaker or the company where it is exercised), and "knowledge" (i.e. knowledge apart from written New Testament communications) were to pass away. Faith, hope, and love abide, but these sign gifts pass away. It would hardly be necessary to tell the Corinthian believers that these sign gifts will not be necessary in heaven. It would be stupid to tell a person you would not need an oil lamp when the sun had arisen, but it would be sensible to say you would not need an oil lamp when the electricity was laid on. No doubt 1 Corinthians 13.12 refers to the heavenly state, but it appears that the writer is emphasising "now" and "then"; the enigmatic with the clear: the partial with the whole. It is admitted that Paul does not say precisely when these sign gifts shall cease, though he does indicate it will be "when that which is perfect is come". Just as when the flower is in bloom the bud has been "done away" so when Christianity had become fully established then its initial stages lapsed. The object of 1 Corinthians 13 is not so much to assert when the cessation of sign gifts will take place as to affirm their temporary nature. The personal pronouns are used, it would appear, impersonally, the singular pronoun being used illustratively. If so be what we have said is correct, then 1 Corinthians 14.39 must be interpreted in the light thereof. We must seek to derive the principle underlying the verse as in so many other cases where the local and temporary application has passed away. The principle of this verse (14.39) is that we must not forbid the operation of the Spirit of God but the "manifestation of the Spirit" must accord with the times in which we live.
If this be not so, we must ask ourselves many awkward questions, such as: why fathers in the west do not give their daughters in marriage to men of their choice; why the Lords supper is separated from family meals; why men do not greet men with a holy kiss; why widows are not a charge on the local church; why priority is not now given to the Jew, and so on. Moreover, one sign gift is "prophecy" which is dependent on revelation (see 1 Cor 14.6, "revelation" preceding "prophesying", and "knowledge" preceding "doctrine") and this certainly has passed away, for were anyone to claim to speak today by direct revelation saying that which is not contained in holy Scripture he would rightly be rejected in view of Colossians 1.25. Whatever was later written by Paul or the other New Testament writers was but a development of truth already known, not the disclosure of hitherto unknown "mysteries".
Further, Acts 2 records the
Proclamation of a merciful offer
It should be borne in mind that we do not get true and pure Christianity before, at least, Acts 8. Up until then God was doing two things: (1) tapering off His dealings with the Jews who, because of their unbelief, are now set on one side, and (2) inaugurating and developing the new "mystery" which is the Church which is the body of Christ. The Church did not commence after the end of the book of Acts as is asserted by some: a sufficient repudiation of that idea is found in the fact that the "church" is spoken of in the book of the Acts (5.11; 20.17-28) and it was "the church" of which Paul made havoc in his unregenerate days (Gal 1.13).
Until the end of Acts 7 the Lord Jesus was being presented to the nation of Israel for their acceptance of Him. The gospels record their rejection of Christ incarnate; the book of the Acts records their rejection of Him as Christ risen. But it was a merciful offer to that guilty people when Peter said, "Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (2.38). Note the order: repentance, faith, baptism, and then the reception of the Holy Spirit. This is the order of Acts 8.1-25 and Acts 19.1-6 where a Jewish or a quasi-Jewish ground must openly be abandoned and such abandonment proved by their being baptised. But in Acts 10, where Cornelius and his company occupied no such Jewish ground, the order is faith, reception of the Holy Spirit, and baptism which is the true and now-obtaining Christian order (see Eph 1.13).
Let us hear the conclusion of the matter as the writer of this article understands it, and he thinks he has the mind of Christ. It is this: that the Pentecostal sign gifts served their God-appointed purpose and have no need to be continued; that the baptism in the Holy Spirit is not an experience to be sought by Christians, but is a thing in which all true believers inevitably and inescapably share. "Let us, therefore, go on unto perfection", and not remain in or revert to babyhood conditions which indicate spiritual immaturity.