D. A. Carson on Private Prayer Language

I am teaching a course on 1 Corinthians this semester, and one of the textbooks that I assigned my students to read is D. A. Carson’s 1987 work Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14. I required the book primarily because, for all the years I’ve been studying New Testament theology, I still had not taken the time to read it myself. Moreover, Carson is a reliable guide when it comes to studying the Bible, and I had confidence in advance that this book would not disappoint. I was right. His handling of the text and his assessment of the modern charismatic movement was thoughtful, pastoral, and illuminating. I would recommend this book to almost anyone.

That being said, there is one point with which I would like to quibble. As many readers already know, there is disagreement among interpreters about whether or not Paul advocates the use of a so-called “private prayer language” in 1 Corinthians 14. Carson takes 1 Corinthians 14:2 as an indication that the gift of tongues was primarily “directed to God” as “a form of prayer” in Corinth (p. 104). Thus when Paul says in 14:18-19 that he is thankful to speak in tongues more than the Corinthians but that in the church he desires to use intelligible words, he is clearly trying to say that he speaks in a private prayer language when he is alone. Here is Carson in his own words:

“Paul thanks God that he speaks in tongues more than all of his readers. . . If Paul speaks in tongues more than all the Corinthians, yet in the church prefers to speak five intelligible words rather than ten thousand words in a tongue . . ., then where does he speak them? . . . The only possible conclusion is that Paul exercised his remarkable tongues gift in private” (p. 105).

My quibble is with the phrase, “the only possible conclusion.” I would argue that this is not “the only possible conclusion” and that therefore this text does not constitute unambiguous evidence of a private prayer language in Corinth. Carson has overstated his case when he says that “there is no stronger defense of the private use of tongues” than Paul’s words in verses 18 and 19 (p. 105).

Carson’s argument at this point depends on an assumption that has no textual or historical warrant—namely, that tongues were only practiced in one of two places: in private or in church. This is manifestly not the case, especially if one takes into account the evidence from the book of Acts (Carson himself links the gift of tongues in 1 Corinthians to the gift in Acts 2, see p. 83). When the gathered disciples spoke in tongues on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), they were neither in private nor were they in church (at least not in the sense that Paul means “in church” in 1 Corinthians 14:19). Thus when Paul refers to speaking in tongues outside of the church (14:18-19), he may be referring to situations akin to what we find in Acts 2—a situation in which the tongues-speakers spoke of the “mighty deeds of God” in languages that were not their own but that were understood by the foreigners visiting Jerusalem for the feast.

Would Paul have had occasion to speak in an unknown tongue about the “mighty deeds of God” to foreigners during his mission to the Gentiles? It seems likely that he would have, even though we don’t have any explicit evidence saying that he did. But neither do we have any explicit evidence saying that he spoke in tongues in private. All 1 Corinthians 14:18-19 confirms is that he used the gift of tongues outside of the gathered assembly. At the very least, everyone should acknowledge that we are not limited to the two possibilities Carson gives us (either in private or in the church).

There is much more to be said on this topic (not the least of which is my interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:2, 9, 16), but I will conclude with this. Even after reading Carson’s book, I’m still not convinced that 1 Corinthians 14 implies a private use of the gift of tongues. If there is such a gift, I’m not seeing it here.

66 Responses to D. A. Carson on Private Prayer Language

  1. Brett February 25, 2008 at 12:17 am #

    Interesting. I don’t know what I’m surprised by more…Denny the southern Baptist discussing tongues on his blog, or Denny disagreeing with Carson!

    Thanks for the food for thought. I honestly have no idea where I stand on this issue, but would certainly be open to reading what others have to write. It’s a very important issue because there are actually about 3 times more charismatics in the world than there are evangelicals. So, we have to see where they’re coming from and know what beliefs we will encounter.

  2. Kevin Jones February 25, 2008 at 12:56 am #

    1 Corinthians 14:2 (ESV) 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.


    This verse is very complexing to those who believe tongues to be the God-given ability to speak in another person’s native language.

    It is pretty clear to me that the tongues spoken of in 1 Cor. 14:2 is a language between a person and God…not another person. I have not heard a convincing argument from a non-Charismatic that this verse means anything but a prayer language.

    I am looking forward to the rest of the comments on this post.

  3. paul February 25, 2008 at 5:36 am #

    I agree with the distinction you made between the church depicted in Acts 2, by Luke, and church depicted by Paul, in 1 Cor. 14.

    However, there seems to be a distinction between the tongues Paul speaks of in 1 Cor. 14 (where, presumably, we can at least get a sense that the tongues are not understood by people, since that’s the only reason Paul seems to exclude the usage of tongues at church–that it is unintelligible, hence unedifying, at church), and that in Acts 2 (where the tongues are understood by foreigners). I believe Carson is assuming the tongues that are not understood by church members when he wrote what he wrote.

  4. Denny Burk February 25, 2008 at 8:05 am #


    Several items move me away from the interpretation you articulate above (in #2).

    1. For Paul, “mysteries” does not mean gibberish or a language with no meaning. Paul uses the term “mystery” (Gr. mustērion) as a technical term for that which was previously hidden but has now been disclosed through the gospel. In other words, it’s Paul’s way of referring to the gospel of Christ crucified and raised (cf. 1 Cor 2:1, 7; 4:1; 13:2; 15:51; Rom 11:25; 16:25). The term “mystery” must be understood in light of Paul’s use of it elsewhere, and in every case it refers to cognitive, revelatory content.

    2. The NASB’s and the NIV’s “in his spirit” is a really bad translation. There is no pronoun in the Greek corresponding the English “his.” The translators add the word because they understand “spirit” anthropologically—that is, they think it refers to the human spirit. This is a very unlikely interpretation, however, because Paul almost always uses the Greek word pneuma to refer to the Holy Spirit. So the meaning of the phrase is simply that the tongues-speaker speaks by means of the Holy Spirit. It’s not a reference to things going on in his private, inner self.

    3. There are a couple of reasons not to take the following phrase as a private conversation (as it were) between the tongues-speaker and God: “one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men, but to God.” First, it’s not altogether clear that the tongues-speakers in Acts 2 weren’t addressing God. They were speaking of the “mighty deeds of God” (Acts 2:11), and they may have been addressing God in praise. If the gift of Acts 2 is linked in this way to the gift we find in 1 Corinthians 14, then the “private prayer language” interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14 becomes less likely. Second, I think 1 Corinthians 14:9 may give us some insight into 14:2. In 14:9, Paul says, “Unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air.” In other words, “speaking into the air” is not valuable for edification because no one in the gathered assembly can understand the words being spoken. Likewise, speaking “to God” in verse 14 is not valuable for edification when no one in the gathered assembly can understand the word. What Paul is emphasizing in both cases is not to whom the words are addressed but the fact that an untranslated tongue is not edifying to the body and therefore is not as valuable as prophecy.

    Anyway, those are a few of my thoughts. Once again, there’s much more that could be said, but I’ll leave it there for now.



  5. Luke Britt February 25, 2008 at 8:48 am #


    I would like to address your points:

    ‘Mysteries’ does not necessarily speak of the gentile inclusion, which is the ‘mystery’ of which Paul has been entrusted. “The mystery is that the gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).
    It seems strange to me that Paul would be discussing tongues speech as ‘utterances of the gentile inclusion into the covenant community of God by means of the Spirit’.

    This really doesn’t do anything for your argument. The Spirit is inducing a private prayer language in order to communicate to God. This may work well with Paul’s teaching about prayer in Romans 8:26, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” This work of the Spirit may be manifested in private times of prayer and praise.

    For this point I would ask, Where is the interpretation in Acts 2? Why would they need one if they were able to understand? Why does the Corinthian church now need some sort of interpretation in order to validate the tongue speech? It seems that the gifts in Corinthians and Acts are connected, but as you have said, it is’ not altogether clear’ how they are connected and how Luke and Paul explain this spiritual gift.

    Denny, maybe a side not, could you explain your thoughts on the apparent contradiction in vv. 22-25? Paul on one side says prophecy is only for believers, but then exhorts them to prophecy so that an unbeliever would worship the one true God.

  6. Denny Burk February 25, 2008 at 8:56 am #


    I only have a little bit of time, so a quick response.

    1. I am not arguing that “Mystery” equals gentile inclusion. That is not what “mystery” denotes in the verses I linked above. I did not include Ephesians in that list.

    2. All I’m saying with this point is that “in his spirit” may lead people to think that this is some kind of private manifestation. Yet 1 Corinthians 14 is not about private manifestations but about public manifestations when the community gathers. The manifestation of 1 Corinthians 14:2 is “in the church,” as it were.

    3. They don’t need an interpretation in Acts 2 for a couple of reasons. First, they were speaking in the native tongues of those gathered in Jerusalem. You only need interpreters where there’s no understanding. Second, in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul is regulating public worship so that all is done for edification. The situation of Acts 2 probably isn’t the “in church” setting that Paul has in mind in 1 Corinthians 14.


  7. Quixote February 25, 2008 at 9:47 am #

    Disclaimer: I’d like to address Denny’s post before I read the other comments posted previously on this thread so that I don’t lose my train of thought. Therefore, if I’m duplicating a thought belonging to another, I apologize in advance.


    First, I think your final statement says a lot as to how you come to your conclusions (about Carson’s book and about “tongues” in general). You wrote: “If there is such a gift, I’m not seeing it here.”

    That’s a very big “IF.” You write from the position of not knowing (both doctrinally and empirically) if tongues as a private prayer language exists. Thus, anyone trying to explain the *proof* of such existence would certainly find you doubting his proof. You automatically doubt Carson’s proof, because you doubt the gift itself. This isn’t uncommon. Many people saw tongues (in the corporate settings you described) and even in witnessing firsthand the glorious manifestation of God’s Spirit STILL assumed the men were drunk. It stands to reason that people today, thousands of years removed, who HAVEN’T witnessed such a dramatic display of God’s power would also assume a negative position on speaking in unknown tongues. I just think it’s easy for you to doubt Carson’s proof (while embracing the rest of his work, which by the way, should tell you something as to his doctrinal trustworthiness and perhaps lead you to doubt your own conclusions rather than his) because of your personal bias toward tongues in general.

    Second, I think it’s interesting that Paul upbraided the Corinthians on the way they were “using their gift” as if they had control over when and where and how much they would speak in tongues. Many Christians (perhaps yourself among them) will allow that it’s possible for the Holy Spirit to move in this “tongues” manifestation as HE wills…for example, to speak to a unsaved person who is visiting church who speaks another language. In this case, tongues would be a miraculous gift of the Spirit that operates only as the Spirit wills and for purposes of His own that we know nothing about. Yet, Paul writes that the Corinthian believers had personal control over the gift they were using, that it was a gift like me giving you a car (a very carnal and limited example, but hear me out). Once I give you the car, it’s yours. To drive when and where and how you want. Sure, you could abuse the gift, which is what the Corinthians were doing. If the gift wasn’t theirs to use at will, Paul would have been grossly unjust to correct them for something they had no control over in the first place. Yet, Paul doesn’t upbraid the Holy Spirit for his unruly manfestations; intead, he chastises the people of Corinth for how THEY were using the gift the Holy Spirit had given them.

    That said, surely if the people of Corinth could use “the gift of tongues” at will (turning it on and off, so to speak, as they desired) they could do so at home, in the car (camel), or anywhere else outside of their gathering that they so desired.

    As a side note, I put the phrase “gift of tongues” in quotation marks because I think you are confusing two separate experiences/outpourings of the Holy Spirit. The Bible talks about a subsequent baptism following being baptized “into Christ” and “into water”…a baptism into fire, or the Holy Spirit. This subsequent baptism, which began at Pentecost, carries with it a manifestation of speaking in other tongues. In other parts of the Bible, we read about “the gift of tongues” along with 9 other gifts of the Spirit (prophecy, discerning of spirits, healings, word of wisdom, etc.). THIS gift of tongues IS as the Spirit wills and must accompany an “interpretation” (thus it reads in the NT “the gift of tongues and interpretation”); otherwise, the listeners won’t comprehend what is being said. But this gift shouldn’t be confused with the believer’s personal gift that accompanies receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

    More could be written (and of course I wrote without textual citation, assuming you and your readers have a basic understanding of the passages I referenced). I’m up for more discussion, as long as it stays civil. :o)

  8. Kevin Jones February 25, 2008 at 9:50 am #


    Regarding your comments in #4:

    1. Charismatics DO believe tongues as a private prayer language IS revelatory. Therefore, your interpretation of “mysteries” does nothing to refute their position.

    2. Charismatics also believe tongues is the Holy Spirit praying thru their spirit. Thus, their private prayer language IS “by means of the Holy Spirit” (see Rom. 8:26 as Luke noted above).

    3. You start by saying “There are a couple of reasons not to take the following phrase as a private conversation (as it were) between the tongues-speaker and God”. Then you only go on to say that it probably is PRAISE between a person and God. What is the difference? Isn’t praise a conversation as well? To say that it is not edifying to the church on proves further that it is a “private” matter and is only edifying to the one praying. See 1 Cor. 14:4

    1 Corinthians 14:4 (ESV) The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.

    I know I “sound like” a Charismatic but this is an area I have not yet reached a true conviction. Thank you for your help.


  9. Denny Burk February 25, 2008 at 10:01 am #


    A quick response: I don’t think this conversation has anything at all to do with what God can do. He’s omnipotent and can do whatever He pleases (Psalm 115:3). I think we all agree on that much.

    So I’m not wrestling with what God can do but what He does do as He reveals it in His word. The bottom line for me is “What does the Bible teach?” In this case, what does 1 Corinthians 14 teach about “private prayer language,” if anything. I’m just not seeing it here.


  10. Quixote February 25, 2008 at 10:12 am #


    Thanks for your response, and pardon my dullness, but I don’t think I understand what you’re saying. Where did the “What God Can Do” stuff come from? Did something in my comment evoke that line of thought? Again, I may just be very dimwitted this morning, but to me your comment reads like it was written in response to someone else. I don’t see the connection it has to what I wrote in #7.


  11. jeremy zach February 25, 2008 at 10:34 am #

    Like Brett I am blown away that not only Denny is talking about Tongues but is disagreeing with DA.

    There really is a God.

    Has anyone read Jack Deere: Surprised by the Spirit?

    Denny are you against the idea of speaking in Tongues in general, or just against speaking in Tongues in private?

  12. Benjamin A February 25, 2008 at 11:37 am #

    1 Corinthians 14:2 in my opinion does not constitute a prayer language.
    The obvious reason the “one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God”, is that in the gathered church, everyone there would speak the same language (v.11), thus negating the need for the gift of tongues, which means the only one able to understand what is being said would be God. This is why Paul then says “for no one understands”, meaning, no one in the congregation understands what the tongue speaker is saying. It’s a foreign language to them. To those gathered, the tongue speaker “in spirit speaks mysteries”. Again, they don’t know what he is saying. Down in v.9 Paul essentially says the same thing as he does in v.4 and he concludes there by saying, “For you will be speaking into the air.” And from the context the intended meaning to this conclusion is that tongues in that context is useless.

    So in verse 4 when Paul says the “one who speaks in a tongue edifies himself;”, isn’t intended to be a complement. It’s intended as a reproof, to be seen as a selfish act considering the context in which he is using his gift. None of the gifts were given for self edification but for the edification of others.

    So in verse 5 when Paul says of the tongue speaker in the gathering, “unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying”, is more of a concession, realizing that stopping the use of tongues in the church isn’t probable. So, if it’s going to happen, and it is, at least have an interpretation so that it’s not a complete waste of time. So, in order to help, Paul gives them some guidelines that if followed, would at least make the church service orderly and that which is allows for the edification of all (see. vv.26-28).

  13. Quixote February 25, 2008 at 11:43 am #

    Benjamin A,

    If what Paul writes in verse 4 is intended as a reproof for selfishness, then does that mean the Apostle Paul was more selfish than them all? He certainly used his gifts of tongues more than them all, and then wished that they would all speak in tongues as much as he did.

    Do you see the contradiction? Paul talks about both corporate use and private use, the “gift of tongues” and the “prayer language of tongues.” We can’t lump all kinds of prayer together and expect the same principles and “rules” to apply, any more than we can say “sports” and except baseball to be carried out the same as football.

    (Side note in general: #12 is the best news I’ve heard all day. Ooops. Did I say that out loud?)

  14. Benjamin A February 25, 2008 at 12:09 pm #

    Re-read what I have said, and the verses here, and you will see there is no contradiction.
    1 Corinthians 14:18-19 “I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

  15. John February 25, 2008 at 5:49 pm #

    I’ll never forget sitting down with a Pentecostal Holiness pastor and asking him about praying in the Spirit. He said, “John, I am convinced the Holy Spirit knows English!”

    If you read the text you see Paul expected you to understand what you were saying/praying–“I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also…” He also expected any public tongue use to be understood by those listening and required someone to interpret.

    As far as private use I think the key verse in this issue seems to be verse 22, “Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers…” Another key verse would seem to be 12:7, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good…”

    Spiritual gifts are not for individual edification–they are for the “building up the body of Christ” (E 4:12). If a prayer language is a Spiritual Gift how does it fit that description?

  16. Quixote February 25, 2008 at 6:25 pm #


    I agree with you. I was hoping to point out further that (keeping in mind your quoted passages) Paul is talking about different things, and different usages. We can’t lump them all together.

    I also want to add that I don’t think the Corinthians were necessarily doing anything bad per se as in “evil”…Paul was just instructing them on how to use the gift they had received. Much like any good pastor would. Do you know what I mean?

  17. Chris Triplet February 25, 2008 at 7:07 pm #

    Dr. Sam Storms says of this book the following, ” Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14 (Baker), by Donald A. Carson. This is the book that exposed the fallacies of cessationism for me. It is an excellent analysis of 1 Cor. 12-14 but also addresses related themes pertaining to the work of the Holy Spirit and His gifts. ”


  18. Ali February 25, 2008 at 11:42 pm #

    Try reading this for an explanation of verses 20-25.
    I’m not surprised that you are considering this issue. I guess I don’t have the background that tells me Southern Baptists are anti-charismatic (as opposed to non-charismatic). Hard to shake a reputation once it’s earned, I guess.
    My thoughts on this issue are these:
    The division between tongues as a private prayer language, a gift exercised in the Church and a gift exercised elsewhere is unnecessary. It is clear that people are at least able to stop speaking in tongues, and it is strongly implied that people with the gift can start. It is also clear that the same gift can be exercised both in a Church gathering and outside it. Why then is there a problem with the idea that it can also be exercised in private prayer? I don’t see the problem.
    In fact, if we read 1 Corinthians 14:2 as both you and the ESV do, “…utters mysteries in the Spirit”, and acknowledge that such uttering is at least sometimes prayer (as in verse 14 – 15 – though isn’t it prayer every time we address God?), then 1 Corinthians 14 is describing tongues as “praying in the Spirit”. It is therefore not at all out of the realm of possibility that the praying in the Spirit talked about in Romans 8:26 and enjoined in Jude 20 (that, note, does not specify a Church gathering as the context) does not at least include “praying in tongues”. I cannot believe that such “praying in the Spirit” cannot be in private and therefore consist of a private prayer language.
    With that background there is every reason to allow that Paul understands that tongues can be exercised in private prayer, and therefore allow that understanding to influence the interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14. For instance, verse 2 can include private prayer (though specifically I think it addresses speaking in a meeting), verse 4 can refer to benefits of tongues as private prayer, verse 14 includes private prayer, and verse 18 can include Paul exercising tongues in private prayer. There is no reason to exclude it and there is reason to include it.
    By the way, doesn’t Tim Keller talk about the gospel being the A-Z of Christianity? Since the gospel is the various mysteries Paul talks about in different forms, I see no problem uttering mysteries in private prayer – in tongues or not. It’s our bread and butter as Christians.

  19. Ali February 25, 2008 at 11:44 pm #

    Sorry about the lack of spaces between paragraphs. I cut and pasted it from Word. Feel free to edit it.

  20. Jim Vellenga February 26, 2008 at 12:01 am #

    Interesting discussion. This is an area where there is so much baggage that it is hard to dig through it to try to deal with the actual Biblical texts that we are speaking of.

    For example, once a person uses the word, “tongues,” right away it brings up, at least for me, the idea of what the charismatics call tongues. However, the word could simply be speaking of other languages.

    It is very difficult to get past this in any discussion, and until we come to deal with whether what is in mind is different languages or some “tongue” as the charismatics speak of, it seems almost impossible to have a reasonable discussion.

  21. Kevin Jones February 26, 2008 at 12:19 am #


    Am I totally confused or am I making sense in #8?

  22. Kevin Jones February 26, 2008 at 1:38 am #

    Quixote & Ben A,

    I know what both of you are saying. I will compare this gift of tongues to the gift of singing.

    If someone has a gift of singing that does not make it “evil” in itself. But, if the gifted singer were to just stand up in the middle of a congregation and start singing a song that had nothing to do with the congregation then that would be an improper use of their gift. In other words, they would be “showboating” their gift when it should only be used in a proper situation…again, the gift itself was not improper but the use of it was.

    Also, I do not see any convincing evidence that tongues is a gift that cannot (or should not) be used in private. It is obvious from I Cor. 14 that tongues is a gift that can be “turned on and off” by the gifted individuals.

    1 Corinthians 14:17 is an obvious statement that tongues is a proper way to give thanks to God but not in the presence of “outsiders”.

    Is it true that all gifts are only for edifying others? Are we not suppose to build ourselves up in our most holy faith? How can our cup “overflow” to others if our cup is not “full” (edified)?

  23. Benjamin A February 26, 2008 at 11:40 am #


    You said-
    “I was hoping to point out further that (keeping in mind your quoted passages) Paul is talking about different things, and different usages. We can’t lump them all together.”

    It may just be me, but I’m not following your train of thought here. Sorry. Maybe you could elaborate and point to a few verses to help explain what you mean by “different things, and different usages”.

    Also you said-
    “I also want to add that I don’t think the Corinthians were necessarily doing anything bad per se as in “evil”…”
    True, the gift of tongues was not a bad thing, it was a good gift. The improper use of tongues in the church context is what Paul wants to fix. In 14:3 we see that “prophesies” in the church context can accomplish three specific things: edification/exhortation/and consolation.
    And all of this for the benefit of those gathered. Where the improper use of tongues in the church context, see v.4, only edifies the tongue speaker. “But one who prophesies edifies the church.” This is why I believe v.4a is not a commendation but instead a condemnation against the tongue speaker in the church context. And though it’s not “evil” as you point out, in my opinion, it is very selfish and prideful (sinful). As a sign gift it would draw everyone’s attention to the tongue speaker and for what purpose? It only edifies himself. As I said, Paul’s instruction of tongue use in the church “is more of a concession, realizing that stopping the use of tongues in the church isn’t probable. So, if it’s going to happen, and it is, at least have an interpretation so that it’s not a complete waste of time.”

  24. Luke Britt February 26, 2008 at 2:35 pm #

    Ali, the link you gave is not working.

  25. Ali February 26, 2008 at 5:31 pm #

    Sorry Luke. Not sure what happened there. Try cutting and pasting this:


  26. Kevin Jones February 26, 2008 at 9:27 pm #


    That is the same way I would read the passage. That, I believe, is an awesome post.


  27. Luke Britt February 28, 2008 at 9:13 am #


    Sorry I’m so late responding to you.

    In Romans 11 and 16, which you cited, mystery has to mean the inclusion of the gentiles, which is in agreement with the Ephesians passage I included. Romans 11 is all about the inclusion of the gentiles and the state of Israel in light of their hardening. Romans 16:25 is mentioned in a closing doxology and seems that Paul would use the term ‘the mystery’ the same way he would use it earlier in the book.

    In Corinthians it seems that Paul is using mystery in a slightly different way.
    2:7 seems to say that it is a mystery that Christ would rule and defeat all earthly powers through death and resurrection. 13:1 and many of the other you quoted from 1 Corinthians seem to be a polemic against those in Corinth who were seeking a special knowledge. Paul is saying that the ‘special knowledge’ is the gospel and all it entails. Mystery may not be a technical term, but a common word used to combat particular perversions of the gospel and gospel living.

  28. Benjamin A February 28, 2008 at 10:52 am #


    You said-
    “I was hoping to point out further that (keeping in mind your quoted passages) Paul is talking about different things, and different usages. We can’t lump them all together.”

    I was hoping you could elaborate and explain what you mean by “different things, and different usages”.

  29. Andy February 28, 2008 at 1:54 pm #


    Good observation on the private prayer.

    Have you looked into the exegesis of 1 Cor 12-14 by Robert Thomas?

    It seems to be the most thorough exegesis from a cessation perspective.


  30. Quixote February 28, 2008 at 4:39 pm #


    Different things:
    1. a subsequent experience to salvation as seen on the Day of Pentecost: the baptism of the Holy Spirit, with evidence of speaking in tongues.

    2. the gift of the Holy Spirit as listed among the 9 Gifts of the Spirit, which must be accompanied by the gift of interpretion, amounting to the gift of prophecy.

    Different Usages:
    1. private prayer language (controlled at will be the person), for the edifying of oneself (building oneself up on his hoy faith), for praying when we know not how we ought to pray (intercession, groanings too deep to utter), for praying out the perfect will of God (apart from our selfish or finite human will).

    2. public use (as the Spirit will and directs), for the edifying of the congregation, which is why an interpretation must accompany othewise the people won’t understand what was said. Tends to be used by the LORD to speak TO the PEOPLE, rather than by a PERSON to speak TO the LORD.

  31. Quixote February 28, 2008 at 4:40 pm #

    Sorry for the typos:

    BY the person
    HOLY faith

  32. Kevin Jones February 28, 2008 at 11:06 pm #


    You going to answer my questions or have you moved on from this post?

  33. Wordlover February 29, 2008 at 12:12 pm #

    Having prayed in tongues for some fifty years now, my understanding of it is grounded more in experience than exegesis. However, this conversation has prompted me to ponder it some, and I would like to offer my thoughts to those of you who might benefit from them.

    The best way I can describe prayer in the spirit is a volitional connecting of my spirit and my tongue that bypasses my mind. In this sense, it is theoretically possible for anyone to speak in tongues, at least anyone whose spirit is inhabited by some kind of spirit that has something to say.

    Thus the initial act of speaking in tongues can either be learned, or it can be part of an experience wherein a person is unusually submitted to the indwelling Spirit (or spirit). For a Christian, this might be at the point of salvation, or it might be at a later time.

    Regarding the “gift of tongues,” I think it might be rather like the gift of teaching. Just about anyone can teach, but one who is spiritually gifted to teach (as the oracles of God) has an extra kind of empowerment (and commensurate responsibility). In the case of tongues, this gifting could include tongues in a language known to the hearer but not to the speaker.

    Regarding the benefits of prayer in the spirit, I think we cannot entirely know them. One benefit is that of Romans 8:26, the ability to pray beyond our comprehension in matters of spiritual burdens or intercessions. Tongues may be similar to fasting, which is another volitional act. There are certain knowable benefits (e.g. increased focus in prayer, strengthened self-discipline), but there is also an impact in the realm of the spirit we can’t fully understand (Matthew 17:21).


  34. Kevin Jones February 29, 2008 at 5:28 pm #

    It is kinda funny to me that the “objective” thinkers of the Reformed era seem to shy away from the “subjective” tings such as tongues.

    Just an observation…

  35. Benjamin A February 29, 2008 at 6:00 pm #


    Thanks for your reply. You mentioned so many things, all of which seem to have good proof text for, though you didn’t list them, which I completely understand, time is limited. I will sum my end of our dialogue on this topic by saying; I agree to some extent in what you have said (not all) in that tongues did play a vital role in that period of church history. They had a vital purpose. But I believe tongues had a shelf life, I believe the gift of tongues has ceased (1 Cor.13:8 “if there are tongues, they will cease”).
    To delineate on this any further would potentially be divisive, and that is not my intent.

  36. Quixote February 29, 2008 at 7:53 pm #

    Benjamin A,

    The passage you quote for support is an interesting one, for it also lists “knowledge” with “tongues.” Has knowledge also ceased?

    The Church at Corinth is different than those gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem at Pentecost, so we see that tongues was not relegated to a certain group or time.

    That said, I think the biggest problem with the “shelf life” theory is that it implies or requires that the Holy Spirit also have a shelf life. Is He not still infilling believers today? Empowering us? Enabling us? Then why would His manifested power have waned?

  37. JNG February 29, 2008 at 8:13 pm #

    I think it is rather clear that Paul is speaking about two usages of tongues here. He is speaking about a personal prayer language used to edify ourselves and a public gifting used in a church setting. He is clarifying the use of the public gifting, yet makes it clear his personal language is used more than all of the people of the church of Corinth. We can nitpick about whether that means in private or not, but I do not see a reasonable argument for tongues not being used at all in either situation. Quite the contrary in fact.

    Also, if I Cor 13:9 is to be used for the argument that tongues has ceased, then the one using it must also come to the conclusion that prohecy has ceased as well as knowledge and more imporantly that “the perfect has come”(v.10 NAS)

  38. Benjamin A. March 1, 2008 at 2:30 am #


    Your statement-
    “The passage you quote for support is an interesting one, for it also lists “knowledge” with “tongues.” Has knowledge also ceased?”

    Technical point, put notice the different word choice of Paul. Tongues will cease. Prophecy and knowledge will be ‘done away’, and specifically, they will be ‘done away’ when the perfect comes.
    Paul clearly makes a distinction between tongues and prophecy/knowledge.
    Only tongues is said to ‘cease’. That is an important distinction.
    Do a word study on the word ‘cease’ and you will see why I used the term ‘shelf life’.

  39. Kevin Jones March 1, 2008 at 7:50 am #

    Benjamin A,

    Sorry for jumping in here. However, your word study on the word “cease” does not matter if “the perfect” has not come yet. These are all tied together (tongues, knowledge, prophecy) with “the perfect”. To say “the perfect” is referring to the canon of the New Testament is a BIG stretch and would also say that “prophecy and knowledge” have been done away with. The textual logic for cessationism just does not seem to work. (I was a cessationist for my whole life until about 7 months ago – until I learned to study for myself and not just trust what I have been “told”).

  40. Benjamin A March 2, 2008 at 2:10 am #

    Kevin Jones,

    I disagree with you understanding of the passage in 1 Cor. 13. If you look carefully, you will see that knowledge and prophecy are linked together as that which will be “DONE AWAY”. Tongues is not said to be done away when the perfect comes, only knowledge and prophecy.
    v.9 “For we KNOW in part and we PROPHECY in part;”
    Notice, there are only two things that are considered “IN PART”. Tongues is not one of the two.
    v.10 “but when the perfect comes, the PARTIAL will be DONE AWAY.”
    Paul clearly says that KNOWLEDGE and PROPHECY, that which is “in part” or “partial” will be “DONE AWAY” when the perfect comes. Tongues are NOT linked to the perfect coming. Again, connecting this to v.8, “…. prophecy, they will be DONE AWAY… tongues, they will CEASE… knowledge, it will be DONE AWAY.”

    Three manifestations listed:
    1. Prophecy- done away
    2. Tongues- cease
    3. Knowledge- done away
    Again, tongues is NOT said to be DONE AWAY. Only prophecy and knowledge. Again carefully read vv. 9-10.

    How can this be so hard to see???

    This is why it is important to understand the word “CEASE”. Tongues are going to CEASE before the perfect comes, and if we allow words to have meaning, and not spiritualize their meaning, then you and I have to honestly deal with the word CEASE. Some have said, sure tongues are going to cease, they just haven’t ceased yet. 2000 years and counting in no way accurately represents the meaning of the word CEASE.

    It has a completely different meaning than the words “DONE AWAY”.

    To say they mean the same thing is completely false and demonstrates an agenda that goes beyond biblical accuracy.

    Why is it so difficult to simply agree with the fact that Paul said “if there are tongues, they will cease;”

    Clearly, there were tongues, and they have ceased. Just like Paul said they would.

    By the way, I was saved in my early 20’s, and spent my first two years in a Pentecostal church. Every week there were many tongues speakers and I regarded them as spiritual people and I desired to do the same. Every week for over 8 months I went forward asking God for the gift of tongues so that I could have Acts 1:8 power for ministry. Every week I was prayed over by many people, some in the English tongue, and many more in “something they called tongues”. I was shown all the key passages for tongues speaking and was being discipled by one of the pastors on staff.
    I could go on and on, story after story, but to make a long story short, it never happened. As a result I have had well meaning Christians tell me I’m really not born again in that tongues was an evidential reality of the baptism of the spirit. Well, if that’s true, I’m really going to be disappointed, because I’m whole heartedly following Christ. I claim Him as my Savior and Lord. And yes, I have been baptized.
    I have been told a lot of things as to why I didn’t “speak in tongues”.
    I spent the next two years studying this issue as you would say, “for myself and not just trust[ing] what I ha[d] been ‘told'”.
    I have read volumes of books from both sides of the issue and others that are in between.
    I appreciate your encouraging me to study the issue for myself that was nice, but let me assure you, I have.

  41. Kevin Jones March 2, 2008 at 6:49 am #

    Hmmmm, very interesting Benjamin A. I have never noticed that before and appreciate your response. Please be assured that I did not intend to accuse you of not studying it out for yourself. I was only speaking of my experience. I try to not judge anyone’s study habits on a blog because I have NO IDEA who you are or what you study. Sorry if I offended you.

    I will take a longer look into what you have said. Thank you again for your help and God bless!

  42. Quixote March 2, 2008 at 5:08 pm #

    Benjamin A,

    Two things:

    1) What are the two very different meanings between “cease” and “done away”?

    2) Who ever told you that you weren’t born again because you didn’t speak in tongues was very very wrong. They were confusing evidence and baptisms…there are 3 distinct baptisms in the New Testament: Baptism into Christ (salvation), baptism into water (subsequent to salvation), baptism into fire/the Holy Spirit (also subsequent to salvation, with evidence of speaking in tongues).

    But I would even venture to say that a person can indeed receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and NOT speak in tongues (although they ought to eventually)…yes, the speaking in tongues is a genuine manifestation and one that we should desire (according to the Bible), but many people have so much doctrine to UNlearn before they are able to get over the mental hurdles that keep them from speaking in the spirit.

    For example, I have met people who have been taught their whole life either that tongues is of the devil or that it ceased with the last apostle. Imagine all that they have to UNlearn before they have faith to receive and speak. For some, it’s easy. For others, it takes time. But we shouldn’t determine a person’s salvation based on whether or not they speak in tongues.

  43. Wordlover March 2, 2008 at 8:42 pm #

    Still pondering these questions, let me offer the following thoughts. Given the context of chapter 13, it seems that the “perfect” being discussed may well be love itself, fully manifested on earth as it is in heaven. The final verses of the chapter reinforce the idea that the “then” being referred to is that point when we will see Christ face to face and know as we are known. In that day knowledge and prophecy and tongues will be unnecessary, along with the other spiritual activities mentioned in verses 1-3.

    The reason the “in part” qualifier is applied only to knowledge and prophesy may be because both of them, as they ‘pass through’ our minds, become mixed with thoughts that are not those of the Spirit. If (as I see it) tongues bypass the mind, then we don’t have to worry about speaking in tongues “in part.”

    It is my suspicion that most folks who reject the viability of tongues as normal for present-day believers aren’t doing so because of one half-verse in I Corinthians. Rather it is some combination of three things: skepticism about the supernatural, fear of lost control, or the very unpleasant abuses (both theological and personal) that tongues-speakers sometimes dole out.

    As is true of so many things that have spiritual value and power, our enemy tears tongues down from a multiplicity of directions. Tongues are neither vital for salvation, nor are they an empty pretense. As I said in my earlier post, godly speaking in tongues is the yielding of our speech capacities to the Spirit of God resident in us, either as a pure form of prayer (14:14), an expression of praise in song (vs. 15), or a means of blessing (vs. 16).

    I would venture that those who allow tongues to be a vehicle either for pride or for condemnation are not especially submitted to God’s Spirit, but to something else…or at least have absorbed some very faulty doctrine.


  44. Kevin Jones March 2, 2008 at 11:52 pm #

    Yeah, I now see that we can not conclude that tongues have (has) ceased because there is no clear Biblical evidence as to it ceasing before “the perfect” coming.

    Diane…I agree with your interpretation as to “the perfect” being when we see Jesus face to face and our love will be perfected.

    Good stuff!


  45. Benjamin A March 3, 2008 at 8:48 am #

    Cease is from pauo which means “to stop; to come to an end”. Pauo is used here in the middle voice which when used of inanimate objects indicates a reflexive, self-causing action. Meaning, the action comes from within; it’s a built in action (i.e. it has a shelf life).
    When pauo middle voice is used of persons, it describes intentional, voluntary action upon oneself. Causing oneself to come to a stop by one’s own act.
    This is why I say tongues is not linked to the coming of ‘the perfect’. Paul used the word cease [pauo- in the middle voice] to indicate that the gift of tongues had a built-in stopping place. And that by God’s design.
    Also, just a cursory look into the writings of the early church fathers indicates the reality of this ceasing.
    Clement of Rome, who specifically wrote a letter to the Corinthian church in or around 95 made no mention of tongues in his letter. Not of proper use or of misuse, no mention at all.
    Justin Martyr, second century, visited many of the churches of his day; yet in all of his writings he mentions nothing of the use or gift of tongues.
    Origen, third century church scholar, makes no mention of tongues.
    Chrysostom, late second/early third century, writing on 1 Corinthians 12 states that tongues and the other miraculous gifts had ceased.
    Augustine, writing on Acts 2:4, said that tongues has passed away.

    Done away is from katargeo which means ‘to reduce to inactivity; to abolish’. Both forms of katarego in 1 Cor. 13:8 and in v.10, are passive which indicates that something or someone will cause them to stop. Clearly that something is when the perfect comes just like the text says.


    I can see from your last post your personal study of the issue appears to be limited. If you had studied the word for cease on your own, you would see how your statement is completely false. Failing to do your homework, and simply relying on the English language for translation, can sometimes leave you in the dark.

    To recap: Prophecy and knowledge will be stopped by something outside themselves, but the gift of tongues will stop by itself. This distinction in terms is unarguable.

  46. Kevin Jones March 3, 2008 at 9:21 am #

    Benjamin a,

    How is this statement completely false?

    “Yeah, I now see that we can not conclude that tongues have (has) ceased because there is no clear Biblical evidence as to it ceasing before “the perfect” coming.”

    All of the evidence you are pointing to is extra-Biblical and not Biblical evidence. Nothing you have said proves that tongues have ceased…only that they will. You say that 2000 years is a long time but remember that 2000 years is only 2 days in God’s eyes.

    For you to say that my statement is completely false would require that you show BIBLICAL evidence as to when tongues will or have ceased.

  47. Benjamin A March 3, 2008 at 10:08 am #


    Biblical evidence I am providing. These are the very words of Scripture [katargeo & pauo]. Holy Spirit inspired words that have meaning and were placed in a specific context to convey a real meaning to the original reader as well as to us.

    What you call extra biblical evidence, is still evidence to the reality of Paul’s (or shall we say the Holy Spirit’s) word choice [pauo-middle voice].

    To recap the BIBLICAL EVIDENCE: Prophecy and knowledge will be stopped by something outside themselves; Done away is from katargeo which means ‘to reduce to inactivity; to abolish’. Both forms of katarego in 1 Cor. 13:8 and in v.10, are PASSIVE which indicates that something or someone will cause them to stop. Clearly that something is when the perfect comes just like the text says.

    But the gift of tongues will stop by itself. Cease is from pauo which means “to stop; to come to an end”. Pauo is used here in the MIDDLE VOICE which when used of inanimate objects indicates a reflexive, self-causing action. Meaning, the action comes from within; it’s a built in action (i.e. it has a shelf life).
    When pauo middle voice is used of persons, it describes intentional, voluntary action upon oneself. Causing oneself to come to a stop by one’s own act.
    This is why I say tongues are not linked to the coming of ‘the perfect’. Paul used the word cease [pauo- in the middle voice] to indicate that the gift of tongues had a built-in stopping place. And that by God’s design.

    This distinction in terms is unarguable and is straight from the WORDS OF SCRIPTURE.

  48. Kevin Jones March 3, 2008 at 10:17 am #


    I do not want to seem rude but I think you must be blind to what I am saying. Slow down a little and read what I said again:

    “Yeah, I now see that we can not conclude that tongues have (has) ceased because there is no clear Biblical evidence as to it ceasing BEFORE “the perfect” coming.”

    I have not disagreed with you regarding your word study but only that there is NO evidence as to WHEN (again “WHEN”) (did I say WHEN?) this “ceasing” will take place.

    If it was important for us to know WHEN (again – WHEN) tongues would cease then would God not have told us WHEN this would happen?

  49. Kevin Jones March 3, 2008 at 10:43 am #


    I’ll agree that based on your word study that tongues will cease prior to the perfect coming. How does this prove that tongues ceased prior to now?

  50. Benjamin A March 3, 2008 at 11:40 am #

    Back in post #39 you said-
    “Sorry for jumping in here. However, your word study on the word “cease” does not matter if “the perfect” has not come yet. These are all tied together (tongues, knowledge, prophecy) with “the perfect”. To say “the perfect” is referring to the canon of the New Testament is a BIG stretch and would also say that “prophecy and knowledge” have been done away with. The textual logic for cessationism just does not seem to work.”
    Now in post #48 you say-
    “I have not disagreed with you regarding your word study but only that there is NO evidence as to WHEN (again “WHEN”) (did I say WHEN?) this “ceasing” will take place.”
    It seems that you now admit that the word study on the word ‘cease’ does matter. In post 39 you clearly said tongues, knowledge, and prophecy were all connected with ‘the perfect’. Now in post 48 you are agreeing that tongues is not connected with ‘the perfect’. And the only horse left for you to ride on is the question of WHEN.
    I also find it interesting that you so quickly dismiss evidence, albeit non-biblical, that clearly supports the plain understanding of Paul’s word choice[pauo-middle voice].
    As I pointed out using Clement of Rome, Justin Martyr, Origen, Chrysostom, Augustine, just to mention a few of the church fathers. Is their testimony, or silence on the issue of tongues meaningless to you simply because it questions what you personally believe? Clement of Rome was living at the same time as John the apostle. Justin Martyr wrote volumes of documents, letters and books and not once mentions tongues as an activity happening in the church.
    Only God knew WHEN He purposed tongues to cease. My point with the importance of word choice is to show that Paul used a word [pauo-middle voice] that to the believer in Corinth, 2000 years ago, would have indicated to them that tongues had a shelf life. None of them, based on the plain understanding of that word choice would have expected tongues to continue 2000 more years. They wouldn’t have had any idea of what the shelf-life was, but that is not the issue. And if Paul had wanted to indicate that tongues was to remain until the ‘perfect one’ comes as you once believed (post 39), he easily could have included tongues in the list with knowledge and prophecy. But he did NOT.

  51. Benjamin A March 3, 2008 at 12:08 pm #

    Take the plain meaning of Paul’s word choice and then read the text with that in mind. It adds tremendous meaning on his discussion in chapter 14. Chapter 14 is not an argument against tongues, but is an argument for prophecy in the church. His argument is corrective in nature, which, in my opinion, supports Paul’s word choice of pauo in 13:8. Having told them that tongues would cease, his emphasis on prophecy and his regulations of tongues use in the church all point to Paul’s understanding of his own word usage.
    Note 4:19 “however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

    I’ve enjoyed the dialogue. Think I’m going to let this rest until next time….

  52. Kevin Jones March 3, 2008 at 12:18 pm #


    Comment #41 is now “out of moderation” and you can read it.

    I am agreeing with you based on “your” word study. I have not yet reached a conviction on this matter (see post #8).

    Do you think it is possible that the public use of tongues ceased and not the private use? It seems to me to be clear that there is a difference between public tongues and private tongues. If private tongues was used to edify a person’s faith then why would God take that away? Also, if there are millions of people who claim to have a private prayer language and they are blessed by it, then why expend so much time and energy to show them they are wrong?

  53. Ali March 3, 2008 at 6:26 pm #

    Just to spice things up a bit, here is D.A. Carson’s take on the word “cease” from the book originally discussed in this post:

    “…the verb with ‘tongues,’ pausontai, is in the middle; some take this to mean that tongues will cease of themselves. There is something intrinsic to their character that demands they cease – apparently independently of the cessation of prophecy and knowledge. This view assumes without warrant that the switch to his verb is more than a stylistic variation. Worse, it interprets the middle voice irresponsibly. In Hellenistic Greek, the middle voice affects the meaning of the verb in a variety of ways; and not only in the future of some verbs, where middles are more common, but also in other tenses the middle form may be used while the active force is preserved…In the New Testament, this verb prefers the middle, but that does not mean the subject ‘stops’ under its own power. For instance, when Jesus rebukes the wind and raging waters, the storm stops (same verb, middle voice in Luke 8:24) – and certainly not under its own power.” (pp66-67)

    The idea that tongues, in this passage, stops under its own power, is rarely taken seriously by people I have read anymore. Yes, it’s important to do your own study, but for those of us who are not skilled in the study of the original languages, we will always be dependent to varying degrees on those who are. Read widely.

  54. Ali March 3, 2008 at 10:01 pm #

    Oh, I see that it was the second argument was also used. Shall I put in Carson’s response to that? Why not?

    “[Thomas R. Edgar argues:] The passive voice in connection with the cessation of prophecies and knowledge are mentioned, and not tongues. Tongues, he claims, are in a class by themselves, and are not touched by the arrival of “perfection”. After all, only prophecies and knowledge are “partial”: the partial-versus-complete argument does not apply to tongues. Their cessation must therefore happen before the arrival of “perfection”.
    “…againt his proposal weigh the following factors. First, must Paul mention all three – prophecy, knowledge, and tongues – repeatedly throughout these verses? One might as easily argue that in verse 12, where Paul writes, “Now I know in partl then I shall know fully,” that prophecy has so dropped from view that it too must be excluded from discussion. Must Paul be a stylistic pedant? Second, what applies to the content of prophecy, including the partial-versus-complete contrast, surely applies to the content of tongues once it is assumed that tongues are interpreted (see especially 14:5).
    “In short, I do not think that very much can be made of the use of pausontai in verse 8, any more than one can make much of other stylistic features that regularly escape detailed comment (e.g., prophecy and knowledge change their order when Paul moves from v.8 to v.9).”

    Alright, I’ll stop there. I’m close to getting done for illegal reproduction of copyrighted material. I’d suggest you buy the book.

  55. Quixote March 3, 2008 at 10:27 pm #

    Thanks, Ali, for offering an educated lesson in Greek from another view…this is quite enlightening. And you posted a contrasting comment with such nuance and compassion that I’m sincerely impressed. It’s nice to have an opposing voice not sound offensive. Well done!

  56. Benjamin A March 4, 2008 at 12:13 pm #


    In part of your quote Carson wrote-
    “In the New Testament, this verb prefers the middle, but that does not mean the subject ’stops’ under its own power. For instance, when Jesus rebukes the wind and raging waters, the storm stops (same verb, middle voice in Luke 8:24) – and certainly not under its own power.” (pp66-67)”.

    This is great. When Jesus rebukes the wind and waves, “the storm stops”. Now, if the storm had continued, we would say, sure, Jesus told the storm to stop, and it will, but the real issue is WHEN? WHEN did he intend it to stop? But we know that they did stop (“same verb, middle voice”). This is evidence for the use and voice of the same verb, and when used, that which was said to stop did.
    Just as tongues really did cease, as Paul said they would.
    God is ultimately the power behind everything. Tongues didn’t cease simply because Paul used the word “pauo” in the middle voice. But, pauo middle voice does tell us what God is intending to accomplish. From our vantage point it appears that tongues ceased in and of themselves. They simply went away. As church history bears testimony to. From heavens vantage point, tongues ceased precisely when the power of God wanted them to.
    Again, this is why language is important, and the usage of pauo middle voice is very important for what God was purposing to accomplish with tongues.
    God has to be working to make all things happen. So ultimately, tongues ceased because that was what God wanted. His authority and power are at work in the very details of life. Wind and waves not excluded.
    Colossians 1:17 “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
    Matthew 5:45 “…for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
    Thanks for supplying more evidence for the effectiveness of pauo middle voice.

  57. Benjamin A March 4, 2008 at 12:26 pm #


    Do you even agree with your post #54? Or are you simply using it as an alternative view?
    From my read of that quote, and re-read, it is of no consequence. It adds nothing seriously for consideration.
    It simply seems like an attempt to blur the plain reading of the text.
    Just my opinion.

  58. Ali March 4, 2008 at 6:53 pm #

    G’day Benjamin,

    Yeah, it is a little difficult to see the flow between the two quotes because I left out some connecting sentences.

    Basically, the first quote is addressing the argument that the word pausontai alone indicates that tongues stops on its own. The second quote is addressing a similar argument that broadens out to include sentence structure and use (or not) of prophecy, knowledge and tongues in Corinthians 13. Both these arguments have been presented in the comments above.

    Do I agree with Carson? Yes, I think so. I think you need to do more than try to read your preferred meaning of pausontai into Luke 8:24. You seem to be trying to read into Jesus’ stopping the storm the same “stopping action” you read into “tongues will cease” i.e. that the action of something being stopped by someone is the same as the action of something stopping by itself.

    What you seem to have done to get to that conclusion is conflate the sovereign acts of God behind the scenes with a specified act “in front of the scenes”. It’s like saying that a car that “ceases” to move because Jesus held up his hand to stop it is the same as a car that “ceases” to move because of a mechanical failure. Sure, Jesus sovereignly caused both to happen, but acted directly on the car to cause the first, and not the second.

    I’m sorry, I’m not convinced.

    As for the second quote, Carson’s main point is that people read things into differences of word order and choice that can just as easily (more easily according to Carson) be explained stylistically.

    I get the impression you are quite attached to your argument, Benjamin, so I’m not going to try and convince you to let it go. There are millions of Christians who have survived and thrived without ever speaking in tongues, and I trust you’ll be one of them, despite the fact that you and Carson and I disagree.

    God bless.

  59. Benjamin A March 5, 2008 at 9:06 am #

    You said-
    “You seem to be trying to read into Jesus’ stopping the storm the same “stopping action” you read into “tongues will cease” i.e. that the action of something being stopped by someone is the same as the action of something stopping by itself.”
    I was showing that in both occasions, Jesus stopping the storm and tongues ceasing, the one commonality between the two is that they ceased. And that I believe God was behind/in both.
    Pauo used in the MIDDLE VOICE when used of inanimate objects indicates a reflexive, self-causing action. Meaning, the action comes from within; it’s a built in action (i.e. it has a shelf life).
    When pauo middle voice is used of persons, it describes intentional, voluntary action upon oneself. Causing oneself to come to a stop by one’s own act.
    Are you saying that’s not the normal use and meaning of the middle voice?
    I’m saying that is the normal use of the middle voice. With any verb. Not just pauo.
    Simply finding one exception to the rule does not make a rule cease (pun intended). That seems to be your argument. It’s like you are saying, since we have found one exception to the normal language rule, then every other use must follow the exception rather than following the rule.
    Read any Greek grammar on the use of the middle voice. Whatever the action of the verb, the middle voice indicates that the action is self induced. It acts against itself.
    And in 1 Corinthians 13:8 tongues is said to cease [pauo-middle voice]. To argue against the normal usage of the middle voice there is not warranted. The only reason it is, is to make a certain theological system work. Taking the plain, normal reading/usage of the middle voice there, in my opinion is the only honest approach to understanding that text.

  60. Ali March 6, 2008 at 4:22 pm #

    Benjamin, I’m happy for you to take that view. I am merely going by what D.A. Carson says, and I trust his years of study in the Greek language. His understanding of the middle voice is that its use is wider than the use you limit it to. He provided one example. If you want to prove him wrong, you could look up all the occurances in the NT (and Septuagint if you want to go that far) and show that, except for Luke 8:24, the middle voice means self-acting. But even with one example, the door remains open that the same word in Luke 8:24 and 1 Cor 13 both do not take the meaning “to cease of themselves”. Certainly, nothing in the context of 1 Cor 13 demands it reads that way. I will agree, however, that if there are no other examples where the middle voice does not mean acting on oneself it would be unlikely. Still, Greek grammars themselves don’t always have all the information on particular grammatical points that is available.

    Please forgive me if I don’t agree with your doctrine or arguments. I didn’t intend to respond to any more comments, but you seem so intent on getting your point across I thought it rude not. I can’t promise to do so from now on. All the best with your study.

  61. Ryan July 1, 2009 at 6:43 am #

    Just a quick devil’s advocate;
    Luke 8:24 uses “epausanto” , whilst 1 Corinthians 13:8 uses “pausontai”. Although both from the same root verb, “epausanto” is AORIST aspect and indicative, indicating past event, whereas “pausontai” is FUTURE tense, indicating yet to come.

    Any thoughts?

  62. Andrew Cowan July 1, 2009 at 1:17 pm #


    Consult Stanley Porter’s work on verbal aspect. Tense is probably not so neatly tied to time as most introductory grammars suggest.

  63. Ryan July 1, 2009 at 7:47 pm #

    Yeah, that’s probably a good point. Initially I thought I was on to something, however looking at it again, it really was going nowhere!
    I enjoy much of Carson’s work, although I find some of it a little drawn out. E.g. Is leaving out tongues as being partial and also changing the word for cease for tongues only to change it back for knowledge stylistic variation? I’m not too sure.
    John Macarthur offers many sermons on this topic, and I would have to say I agree with him. However, his point of argument builds also on the idea of the purpose of tongues, as being a ‘sign’ and how signs and wonders were required for legitimacy for the foundation of the early church.

    Fascinating topic though, I appreciate all the dialogue.

  64. Ryan July 1, 2009 at 7:52 pm #

    Oh, just another thought.. does the fact Jesus’ action of rebuking the waves change the middle voice of the word? (i.e. because middle voice can be active, passive or neither, does Jesus’ action affect the voice and make it become a passive verb, where as the corinthians one does not have an action upon the verb?)

  65. Bill N. November 5, 2009 at 3:02 am #

    Paul said he thanked God he spoke in tongues more than them all “but in the church”. What if Paul is making an honest assessment of the fact that he speaks in foreign languages he did not learn more than they all do when he is out among the Gentiles establishing new churches? He could validly say that if, when he returned and shared with the churches how God has used him, they would report that God is not at all pouring out that gift among them to the same degree. It’s simple math, no exaggeration.

    Consider the opposite. Given that Paul had to preach a lot in Greek, a widow spending her days in prayer from sun-up to sun-down could easily pray in an earthly language unknown to herself more than Paul. Since Paul is not given to exaggeration he could be speaking as he does in Philippians. In Philippians, he said that all those things he once thought so worthwhile (heritage, accomplishment) are now considered rubbish in order that he may know Christ. Similarly, in 1 Corinthians, sandwiching the love chapter, he gives his testimony as a person many look up to, saying, “Hey, you want to be like me because I speak in tongues. Fine, then listen up: I speak in tongues more than all, but I’d rather speak 5 intelligible words in the church to lift people up rather than 1000 unintelligible ones that don’t, and you should also, okay? ” Pretty powerful testimony and example.

  66. steve small May 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    As a fellow DTS guy, I too was a cessationist with all the arguments. After further study, and help from Sam Storms, D.A. Carson, and others, I began praying for this gift of tongues. On October 12, 2008 I received it.

    I’ve practiced it daily ever since (missing only a few times). God uses this to build me up so that I can pastor more effectively. Although, I haven’t shared it publicly with the congregation for the same reasons a professor would not want to. People growing from our ministries would be too freak out (as I would’ve been). Therefore, I practice it in private, and they receive the benefits.

    I thank God that I speak in tongues.


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