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Particulars of Christianity:
310 Pentecostalism,
the Charismatic
and Faith Movements



Preliminary Proof: Counterargument 3

Preliminary Proof: When the Gifts Would Cease
Preliminary Proof: Counterargument 1
Preliminary Proof: Counterargument 2
Preliminary Proof: Counterargument 3
Preliminary Proof: Counterargument 4
Preliminary Proof: Conclusions
Preliminary Proof: Additional Commentary

Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3 | Section 4
| Section 5



Counterargument No. 3 - Cessation was a Cessation of Distribution not the Phenomena Themselves.

The basic premise of this proof is that when Paul spoke of cessation in 1 Corinthians 13, he was speaking of a point in time when the distribution of the gifts would cease rather than the phenomena themselves. The idea is that instead of having prophecy, speaking in tongues, and other gifts cease occurring, Paul's teaching here is merely meant to indicate that the apostles would cease to distribute the gifts to anyone while those who already had the gifts would continue to operate in them.

With regard to the original proof, If Paul was talking about a cessation of the distribution of the gifts rather than a cessation of the phenomena themselves, then it would be very easy for Paul to perceive of such a cessation prior to the return of Christ even if Christ came during their own lifetimes. For, the apostles would simply stop distributing the gifts at some point during their own lives when the Church hypothetically became mature. So, no matter if Christ came before they died or after they died, a cessation of the distribution prior to the return would be compatible with either scenario.

On the other hand, if the cessation Paul describes was to be a cessation of the phenomena themselves and not just a cessation of the distribution of the gifts, then it is not possible for Paul to have taught a cessation would occur prior to the return of Christ. For, so long as cessation was a cessation of the phenomena and individuals with the gifts retained those gifts for their entire lives, if Christ returned in their lifetimes the gifts would continue until his return. Since at the time Paul understood Christ might come back before the deaths of that first generation, his teaching regarding cessation would have to be compatible with that possibility, which existed in his understanding. Consequently, Paul could only teach of a cessation that occurred at the return, since only a cessation at the return would work whether Christ returned in their lifetimes or after their deaths. Conversely, Paul could not have placed the cessation of the phenomena prior to the return of Christ, nor is there room for such a concept in his understanding, for Paul thought it was possible for Christ to return in their lifetimes, in which case no such cessation of the phenomena would take place prior to the return.

So, in order to sidestep the original proof, the cessation would have to be a cessation of distribution and could not be a cessation of the phenomena themselves, such as the phenomena of prophecy, tongues, etc.

The first point worthy of note here is this. Given that Justin Martyr establishes that the gifts were being distributed by others after the apostles had long since died, the basic premise of this counterargument would do nothing to demonstrate that the gifts were supposed to pass away prior to the return of Christ. For, theoretically Paul could have been speaking of a cessation of distribution, but that cessation of distribution clearly did not occur when the apostles died or even 30-35 years later in the time of Justin Martyr. Thus, there is no reason to think that this cessation distribution would come at any time prior to the return of Christ.

Secondly, it is very significant to note that there is no mention whatsoever of the idea of distribution in 1 Corinthians 13 itself.

1 Corinthians 13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

As can be clearly seen from verses 8 and 9, Paul only uses language here that indicates the phenomenon themselves. He says nothing about the giving of or distribution of prophecy or tongues, etc. He simply says prophecy itself will cease and speaking in tongues itself will cease.

So, how can one interpret the cessation mentioned in these passages as a cessation of distribution of the gifts when distribution is not mentioned here at all? The nearest mention of distribution of the gifts comes in chapter 12, some 27 verses earlier.

1 Corinthians 12:4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

The clear mention of distribution of gifts in the above verses from chapter 12 stands in stark contrast to the total absence of any reference to distribution in chapter 13 when Paul speaks of cessation. The only way to include distribution in chapter 13's discussion of cessation is to infer into chapter 13:8-12 a concept that appears some 27 verses earlier. One might even make the argument that since Paul's entire discussion of the gifts in chapters 12-13 begins with a discussion of distribution, the entire discourse that follows is also about distribution and therefore it is distribution that Paul has in mind when he discusses cessation in chapter 13.

But there are several problems with this kind of argument.

First, Paul's entire discussion in chapter 12-14 is not about distribution of the gifts. He may discuss distribution of the gifts as a part of his instructions, but Paul's overall discussion is about the disagreement between two groups in the Corinthian local church. One group was practicing the gifts out of balance and making another group of the believers in that church begin to doubt the godly origin of those "out-of-balance" gifts. When Paul speaks of the gifts being a work distributed by the Holy Spirit in verses 4-11 of chapter 12, he is not setting up his entire topic for the next few chapters. Instead, he is addressing one aspect of the issue. Paul is reassuring the second group that the gifts were indeed from God. This is evident by his remarks prior to verse 4.

1 Corinthians 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

With these words, Paul is reassuring the Corinthians that the gifts were from God and his follow-up comments in verses 4-11 are a further explanation of that fact. Paul is not setting distribution as the main premise of his comments for all of chapters 12-14. Instead, distribution is merely one aspect of a discussion that covers many aspects of the issue of the gifts.

Second, after distribution, Paul goes on to discuss the practice of the gifts and it is AFTER he has shifted to a discussion of the ongoing practice of the gifts that Paul speaks about cessation, as we can clearly see from the opening verses of chapter 13. Because Paul has shifted his discussion so that his topic is no longer distribution but ongoing practice, we cannot infer that distribution is still in view when Paul discusses cessation.

1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Notice that in verses 1-3 Paul is talking about speaking in tongues and prophesying and understanding all mysteries and all knowledge. He is not talking about receiving those gifts initially but rather that AFTER they are received they must be practiced in love. Thus, with these opening 3 verses of chapter 13, Paul is shifting from talking about receiving and distributing of the gifts and moving instead to a discussion of the ongoing practice of those gifts and how they should be practiced by those who have them.

Therefore, in light of this shift, when Paul discusses cessation, he is discussing the cessation of the ongoing practice of the gifts, not their distribution. And since distribution is only one aspect of the overall discussion rather than the theme of the entire discussion, it is unfair and inappropriate to read that one aspect into every other aspect that follows it, particularly since chapter 13:1-3 makes it very clear that Paul has left the topic of distribution and moved on to the topic of practice. By discussing the topic of practice he is addressing the first group of Corinthians, those who practiced the gifts out of order and out of balance, just as in distribution he addressed the group that was becoming suspect of the gifts origin. And the reason Paul speaks of love in the midst of these passages is in order to pacify the growing division between these 2 groups in the Corinthians church.

To assert that distribution is the main theme in view throughout all of chapters 12-14 when in reality it is merely just one of many aspects under discussion is a clear case of mistaking a minor point for a major point and interpreting everything afterward under that mistaken impression that it is a major point. Instead, we must understand that the cessation Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 13 would most certainly be a cessation of the occurrence of the phenomena of prophecy, tongues, and the other gifts and not just a cessation of their distribution after which the phenomena themselves would continue for a time.

Third, it must be noted that our proof in no way prohibits the inclusion of the distribution of the gifts in the cessation that Paul is teaching about in 1 Corinthians 13. In fact, the view that the gifts would cease at the return of Christ and not prior to it maintains that both the operation and the distribution of the gifts would occur at the return of Christ. For it would not make sense for the Church to mature and the operation of the gifts to cease at Jesus' return and yet uphold that the gifts will continue to be distributed after this point. Therefore, to state that the phenomena themselves such as prophecy and tongues, etc. would cease automatically implies that the ability to distribute these phenomena would also cease. Thus, we don't need to infer this from 27 passages earlier. Effectively, if the cessation of the phenomena is in view then distribution is automatically included under that broader heading WITHOUT even needing to infer distribution from 27 verses earlier.

In clarifying this, it becomes apparent that this third argument against our proof is not just an argument for including the distribution of the gifts in the cessation the Paul is discussing in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12. Instead, this third argument must be understood as an attempt to completely EXCLUDE of the phenomena of the gifts in the cessation that Paul is discussing. And this is not permissible within sound hermeneutics. While it may be allowable to incorporate the distribution of the gifts into the cessation even though distribution is not directly mentioned, what cannot be permitted is EXCLUDING what Paul DOES specifically mention in the text of 1 Corinthians 13, and that is the actual operation, occurrence, and practice of the phenomena of prophecy, tongues, etc. This would effectively result in substituting something Paul DOES NOT mention to the exclusion and removal of that which Paul DOES mention.

So, while the cessation that Paul is talking about will certainly include the gifts no longer being distributed after the maturity of the Church, we must understand that the wording of 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 expresses that the gifts themselves would no longer operate after the maturity of the Church. To suggest otherwise, as this third counterargument does, is to both contradict and deny Paul's own teaching in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 and the sound hermeneutic practice demanded by the grammatical-historical Method. Therefore, 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 must be taken as clear Biblical teaching that the gifts would NOT continue to operate after the maturing of the Church. And since Justin and Irenaeus clearly attest that the gifts did continue after the death of the last apostle we cannot assert that the Church matured before the death of the last apostle or that Paul knew the church would mature before Jesus' return. So, again the original proof still stands.

Fourth, as we pointed out earlier, there is absolutely no reference to distribution anywhere in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 when Paul teaches about cessation. The only way to turn that passage into a discussion of the cessation of distribution instead of a cessation of the phenomena themselves is to reach back to 27 verses earlier where distribution is mentioned and infer it into 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 where it is absent. The argument in support of such an inference is that when Paul associates one concept (such as gifts) with another concept (such as distribution) in the beginning of his argument, that this association can be inferred throughout Paul's entire argument because it is the theme of his discourse.

We have already shown that this is not the case with 1 Corinthians 12 and 13. But, for the sake of argument, anyone who hold this position with regard to an association made 27 verses earlier to a passages where that association is not mentioned, could have no objections with the following interpretation.

1 Corinthians 1:6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As we stated earlier, from Paul's point of view when he wrote about cessation of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, there were two distinct possibilities concerning the return of Christ. First, Paul believed that Christ might return before the deaths of the apostles and those they had laid hands on. Second, Paul understood that Christ might return after the deaths of the apostles and those they laid their hands on. And, given that Paul's teaching regarding the gifts MUST be consistent with his own understanding, Paul's teaching regarding cessation would have to work for both of these two possibilities that existed in Paul's understanding.

Here in 1 Corinthians 1:6-8, Paul tells these Corinthians that the effect of the testimony of Christ being "confirmed" in the Corinthians was "so that [the Corinthians] come behind in no gift." This is the same Greek word "confirmed" that is used in Mark 16:19-20 when it talks about the Lord confirming the apostles' testimony with signs and wonders. So then, the use of this Greek word confirmation in the context of the gifts refers to the use of miraculous signs as confirmation. (Just as Hebrews 2:4 restates Mark 16:19-20 and tells us that God "bore witness" to the apostles' word via miraculous signs and the spiritual gifts). In both cases, the gifts ARE a confirmation of the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Of course, in verse 8, Paul also tells the Corinthians that this confirming (which occurred via the gifts) would continue in them "unto the end." This phrase "unto the end" is a reference to the end of the age and the return of Christ Jesus. This is evidenced by the fact that "unto the end" is here sandwiched in between the two phrases "coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" and "day of our Lord Jesus Christ." The use of the phrase "unto the end" as a reference to the end of the Age originates from Jesus himself during the Olivet Discourse in his use of the phrase "unto the end" in those passages with regard to his return. (Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13.)

And additionally, we not only have precedent of how the phrase "unto the end" originated as a reference to the end of the Age by Jesus Christ himself, but we also have proof from the context of this passage that "unto the end" refers to the end of the Age and not some other vague "end" of some kind. For, in 1 Corinthians 1:6-8, the phrase "unto the end" is sandwiched between the phrases "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ" and "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." These are both obvious references to the end of the Age when Christ returns and the occurrence of the phrase "unto the end" in the middle of these two phrases provides contextual proof that Paul is talking about the end of the Age.

Now despite this obvious precedent, some might assert that the phrase "unto the end" could refer to one of two concepts. It could refer to the "end of the Age" or it could refer to the end of the lives of those particular Corinthians to whom Paul was writing. Christians with the gifts would then retain those gifts for their entire lives.

Notice what this assertion does to the counterargument that Christians did not retain the gifts until the end of their lives but ceased operating at the gifts during their lives when they became mature. This is a catch-22. For, if Christians who had gifts retained them for the rest of their lives, then Paul could not have taught that cessation would occur prior to the return of Christ. Since Paul thought it was possible for Christ to return before the deaths of himself or the other apostles or those Corinthians to whom he was writing, his teaching regarding cessation would have to work with that possibility. But, from Paul's perspective, if Christ were to return before the death of the first generation Christians, then the gifts could only cease at the return of Christ so long as Christians retained their gifts for their entire lives.

The only way around this is to suggest that Christians did not retain their gifts for their entire lives but would cease operating in the gifts on an individual basis some time during their own lifetimes, possibly when they became mature. As we have already shown, this flies in the face of early Church history as recorded by Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. But, there is another problem with this assertion. If believers who had the gifts did not retain them to the end of their lives, then we must accept "unto the end" in verse 8 as a reference to the "end of the age."

So, if believers did have the gifts to the end of their lives so that the phrase "unto the end" could refer to the end of their lives, then the original proof stands. On the other hand, if believers did not have the gifts to the end of their lives, then "unto the end" in 1 Corinthians 1:6-8 would mean that Paul taught that the Church would continue to have the gifts "unto the end of the Age" and would therefore not mature before Jesus' return.

The result is that in 1 Corinthians 1:6-8 Paul is telling those Corinthians that they would retain the gifts unto the end of the Age when Christ would return on the day of Christ (should they live that long). The point is not to extend the Corinthians as transcendent stand-ins for the rest of us (although later we will discuss how that factors into this discussion). For now, it is not necessary to make this statement to the Corinthians transcendent in order to disprove the notion that cessation would occur prior to the return.

It is obvious that according to the grammatical historical method, Paul is talking to the Corinthians here. So, if Paul here tells them they will have the gifts to the end of the age, then later when he instructs them about cessation, we would have to conclude that cessation is necessarily at the end of the Age at the return of Christ and not before. That would require Paul to contradict his own previous teaching to the Corinthians in the very same letter. And, when we consider Paul's teaching about the cessation of the gifts in chapter 13 to this very same audience, given their prior understanding from chapter 1, there is no way Paul could have been teaching them that they would lose the gifts via a cessation prior to the return of Christ.

So, it is not that our interpretation here requires the notion that Paul's comments to the Corinthians in chapter 1 transcend to us. The notion of transcendence does RESULT from our interpretation. But our view does not assume transcendence. Rather, since Paul told these Corinthians they would retain the confirmation via the gifts to the end of the Age in chapter 1, there is no way any of Paul's teaching regarding the cessation of the gifts in chapter 13 could place the cessation at any time before the end of the Age at the return of Christ.

Therefore, either way that one goes regarding whether individuals retained the gifts for the rest of their lives, the result is a contradiction with the notion that the gifts were suppose to cease prior to the return of Christ. If one says that individuals did retain the gifts for the rest of their lives, then Paul's teaching must be compatible with his understanding that Christ could return in their lifetimes. Therefore, Paul could not have taught those same individuals about a cessation of the gifts prior to Christ's return. If one says that individuals did not retain the gifts for the rest of their lives, then "unto the end" in chapter 1 must refer to the end of the Age. Therefore, Paul could not have taught these Corinthians that the gifts would cease prior to Christ's return in chapter 13 when he just taught them in chapter 1 that they would retain the gifts until the end of the Age.

Let's return to 1 Corinthians 1.

1 Corinthians 1:6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: 8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, some might argue that even though the confirmation in verses 6-7 comes by the gifts, that the confirmation in verse 8, which occurs until the end, occurs without the gifts. In other words, it is clear that in verses 6-7 the gifts are the confirmation of the testimony of Christ within the Corinthians, just as was the case when the same Greek word for "confirmed" is used in Mark 16:19-20, which record the Lord confirming the apostles testimony with signs and wonders. And just as Hebrews 2:4 restates Mark 16:19-20 and tells us that God "bore witness" to the apostles' word via miraculous signs and the spiritual gifts). In both cases, the gifts are a confirmation of the testimony of Jesus Christ. By suggesting that the confirmation in verse 8 occurs without the gifts, the goal is to find a way around the obvious fact that Paul was promising these Corinthians that the gifts would continue until the end of the Age.

As we pointed out earlier, there is absolutely no reference to distribution anywhere in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 when Paul teaches about cessation. The only way to turn that passage into a discussion of the cessation of distribution instead of a cessation of the phenomena themselves is to reach back to 27 verses earlier where distribution is mentioned and infer it into 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 where it is absent. The argument in support of such an inference is that when Paul associates one concept (such as gifts) with another concept (such as distribution) in the beginning of his argument, that this association can be inferred throughout Paul's entire argument because it is the theme of his discourse.

Consequently, if Paul's opening remarks in 1 Corinthians 1:6-7 assert the gifts as the confirmation of the testimony of Christ, then we can and should assume according to the 1 Corinthians 12 and 13 model regarding the inference of distribution, that Paul continues this association throughout his statements in verse 8. Therefore, we can and should infer that the confirmation that takes place to the end is a confirmation by the gifts just as it is when Paul initially mentions this just 1 verse earlier in verses 6-7. This is even more striking given that this inference only spans 1 verse while the inference regarding distribution spans 27 verses.

Consequently, if the confirmation that was to take place until the end was a confirmation by means of the gifts, then at the very outset of this epistle Paul is making a very clear statement that the gifts were supposed to continue as confirmation of the testimony of Christ Jesus until the end of the Age, the coming of Christ, the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, there would be no room in Paul's perception and understanding for him to teach later on in that same epistle that cessation would occur prior to the return of Christ.

So, either one is forced to give up the ability to infer distribution into 1 Corinthians 13 or one is forced to accept the inference of confirmation by means of the gifts until the end of the Age in 1 Corinthians 1. And since the original proof stands so long as the cessation includes a cessation of the phenomena and is not just a cessation of the distribution of the gifts, either way the original proof still stands.