To listen to some Cessationists (Cessationists generally believe that the miraculous gifts were given only for the foundation of the Church, during the time between the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, c. AD 33 (see Acts 2) and the fulfillment of God’s purposes in history, usually identified as either the completion of the last book of the New Testament or the death of the last Apostle, i.e. John the Apostle.), you would wonder if they were right if you was unaware of how God was moving in the early Church, but to look at history, you can see at not all those who we class as early church Fathers, apologists and philosophers agree.
It is difficult when you listen to someone who appears to be authoritative on the word of God to hear them say things like the tongues Christians speak today are nothing more than, “nonsensical gibberish that characterizes modern glossolalia” and that anyone who speaks in tongues now is deceived by the devil.
I don’t believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit have ceased, and I don’t believe it is a correct interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8 to say Paul meant that tongues would cease at the death of the last Apostle, if this were so, knowledge would also have passed away.
The argument Cessationist use is to say that there is no mention of speaking in tongues or spiritual gifts as in healing, prophesy or speaking in tongues after Corinthians, or after the death of the last apostle (John), however, if we look back at the early scholars, we can see this is not the case…
The last apostle to die was John. He is said to have died in 110AD.
Justin Martyr, an early apologetic and philosopher who was a disciple of Socrates and Plato (Greek philosophers who died 300 or so years BC), was born 100AD to 165AD (he was 10 when John died), he said in 150AD from the Dialogue with Trypho:
“for the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to this present time” (Chapter 22) and “Now, it is possible to see amongst us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God” (Chapter 28)
Quoted Dialogue with Trypho ch 22:
CHAPTER LXXXII — THE PROPHETICAL GIFTS OF THE JEWS WERE TRANSFERRED TO THE CHRISTIANS.
“For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time. And hence you ought to understand that[the gifts] formerly among your nation have been transferred to us. And just as there were false prophets contemporaneous with your holy prophets, so are there now many false teachers amongst us, of whom our Lord forewarned us to beware; so that in no respect are we deficient, since we know that He foreknew all that would happen to us after His resurrection from the dead and ascension to heaven. For He said we would be put to death, and hated for His name’s sake; and that many false prophets and false Christs would appear in His name, and deceive many: and so has it come about. For many have taught godless, blasphemous, and unholy doctrines, forging them in His name; have taught, too, and even yet are teaching, those things which proceed from the unclean spirit of the devil, and which were put into their hearts. Therefore we are most anxious that you be persuaded not to be misled by such persons, since we know that every one who can speak the truth, and yet speaks it not, shall be judged by God, as God testified by Ezekiel, when He said, ‘I have made thee a watchman to the house of Judah. If the sinner sin, and thou warn him not, he himself shall die in his sin; but his blood will I require at thine hand. But if thou warn him, thou shalt be innocent.’ And on this account we are, through fear, very earnest in desiring to converse[with men] according to the Scriptures, but not from love of money, or of glory, or of pleasure. For no man can convict us of any of these[vices]. No more do we wish to live like the rulers of your people, whom God reproaches when He says, ‘Your rulers are companions of thieves, lovers of bribes, followers of the rewards.’ Now, if you know certain amongst us to be of this sort, do not for their sakes blaspheme the Scriptures and Christ, and do not assiduously strive to give falsified interpretations. Cited from: Dialogue with Trypho
Quoted from Dialogue with Trypho Ch 28
CHAPTER LXXXVIII — CHRIST HAS NOT RECEIVED THE HOLY SPIRIT ON ACCOUNT OF POVERTY.
“Now, it is possible to see amongst us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God; so that it was prophesied that the powers enumerated by Isaiah would come upon Him, not because He needed power, but because these would not continue after Him. And let this be a proof to you, namely, what I told you was done by the Magi from Arabia, who as soon as the Child was born came to worship Him, for even at His birth He was in possession of His power; and as He grew up like all other men, by using the fitting means, He assigned its own [requirements] to each development, and was sustained by all kinds of nourishment, and waited for thirty years, more or less, until John appeared before Him as the herald of His approach, and preceded Him in the way of baptism, as I have already shown. And then, when Jesus had gone to the river Jordan, where John was baptizing, and when He had stepped into the water, a fire was kindled in the Jordan; and when He came out of the water, the Holy Ghost lighted on Him like a dove, the apostles of this very Christ of ours wrote. Now, we know that he did not go to the river because He stood in need of baptism, or of the descent of the Spirit like a dove; even as He submitted to be born and to be crucified, not because He needed such things, but because of the human race, which from Adam had fallen under the power of death and the guile of the serpent, and each one of which had committed personal transgression. For God, wishing both angels and men, who were endowed with freewill, and at their own disposal, to do whatever He had strengthened each to do, made them so, that if they chose the things acceptable to Himself, He would keep them free from death and from punishment; but that if they did evil, He would punish each as He sees fit. For it was not His entrance into Jerusalem sitting on an ass, which we have showed was prophesied, that empowered Him to be Christ, but it furnished men with a proof that He is the Christ; just as it was necessary in the time of John that men have proof, that they might know who is Christ. For when John remained by the Jordan, and preached the baptism of repentance, wearing only a leathern girdle and a vesture made of camels’ hair, eating nothing but locusts and wild honey, men supposed him to be Christ; but he cried to them, ‘I am not the Christ, but the voice of one crying; for He that is stronger than I shall come, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.’ And when Jesus came to the Jordan, He was considered to be the son of Joseph the carpenter; and He appeared without comeliness, as the Scriptures declared; and He was deemed a carpenter (for He was in the habit of working as a carpenter when among men, making ploughs and yokes; by which He taught the symbols of righteousness and an active life); but then the Holy Ghost, and for man’s sake, as I formally stated, lighted on Him in the form of a dove, and there came at the same instant from the heavens a voice, which was uttered also by David when he spoke, personating Christ, what the Father would say to Him: ‘Thou art My Son: this day have I begotten Thee;’ [the Father] saying that His generation would take place for men, at the time when they would become acquainted with Him: ‘Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee.’ “
So here we have testimony that spiritual gifts were still in operation after the last apostle died. Another credible source was the early Church Father, Irenaeus of Lyons.
Irenaeus of Lyons
Irenaeus was born 130AD to 202AD (born 20yrs after Johns death).
Irenaeus, along with other Church Fathers is often quoted as a credible source by many of todays Christians including Cessasionists, and since Cessasionists treat Irenaeus as credible, the following should add weight to the argument that tongues did not cease at the death of the last apostle. The reason his testimony is trustworthy is because he is a disciple of Polycarp, who was a direct disciple of John the Apostle.
Irenaeus talks of doing miracles in Jesus name, receiving gifts from the Holy Spirit, driving out demons, having foreknowledge of things to come, see visions, utterances of prophetic expressions as well as healing the sick. He relates these gifts being given to people who belong to the Church and who are Christ’s true disciples throughout the world.
Excerpts from Irenaeus testimony from Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book II”
“Wherefore, also, those who are in truth His disciples, receiving grace from Him, do in His name perform [miracles], so as to promote the welfare of other men, according to the gift which each one has received from Him. For some do certainly and truly drive out devils, so that those who have thus been cleansed from evil spirits frequently both believe [in Christ] and join themselves to the Church. Others have foreknowledge of things to come: they see visions, and utter prophetic expressions. Others still, heal the sick by laying their hands upon them, and they are made whole. Yea, moreover, as I have said, the dead even have been raised up, and remained among us for many years. And what shall I more say? It is not possible to name the number of gifts which the Church, [scattered] throughout the whole world, has received from God, in the name of Jesus Christ,” Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book II, Chapter 32, section 4
“We speak wisdom among them that are perfect, terming those persons “perfect” who have received the Spirit of God, and who through the Spirit of God do speak in all languages, as he used Himself also to speak. In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God,” –Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book V. Chapter 6. section 1.
It is difficult to argue with such a valid testimony that describes spiritual gifts in operation in the Church long after the last apostle died.
Tertullian is another well known early church Father (155 -230AD). He was born 45yrs after the death of John.
We find Tertullian’s testimony of spiritual gifts in one of his letters to Marcion, son of the Bishop of Sinope in Pontus, born c. A.D. 110. Tertullian wrote what is known as ‘the 5 books against Marcion titled ‘WHEREIN IS DESCRIBED THE GOD OF MARCION. HE IS SHOWN TO BE UTTERLY WANTING IN ALL THE ATTRIBUTES OF THE TRUE GOD’.
In his 5th book against Marcion, Tertullian made a challenge regarding spiritual gifts as described by Isaiah the prophet and Joel. Tertullian challenged Marcion to produce the same gifts mentioned, he says:
Let Marcion then exhibit, as gifts of his god, some prophets, such as have not spoken by human sense, but with the Spirit of God…Now all these signs (of spiritual gifts) are forthcoming from my side without any difficulty…
Tertullian’s challenge to Marcion
Now, on the subject of “spiritual gifts,”I have to remark that these also were promised by the Creator through Christ; and I think that we may derive from this a very just conclusion that the bestowal of a gift is not the work of a god other than Him who is proved to have given the promise. Here is a prophecy of Isaiah “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a flower shall spring up from his root; and upon Him shall rest the Spirit of the Lord.” After which he enumerates the special gifts of the same “The spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of religion. And with the fear of the Lord shall the Spirit fill Him. ”In this figure of a flower he shows that Christ was to arise out of the rod which sprang from the stem of Jesse; in other words, from the virgin of the race of David, the son of Jesse. In this Christ the whole substantia of the Spirit would have to rest, not meaning that it would be as it were some subsequent acquisition accruing to Him who was always, even before His incarnation, the Spirit of God; so that you cannot argue from this that the prophecy has reference to that Christ who (as mere man of the race only of David) was to obtain the Spirit of his God. (The prophet says,) on the contrary, that from the time when (the true Christ) should appear in the flesh as the flower predicted, rising from the root of Jesse, there would have to rest upon Him the entire operation of the Spirit of grace, which, so far as the Jews were concerned, would cease and come to an end.
This result the case itself shows; for after this time the Spirit of the Creator never breathed amongst them. From Judah were taken away “the wise man, and the cunning artificer, and the counsellor, and the prophet;” that so it might prove true that “the law and the prophets were until John. ”Now hear how he declared that by Christ Himself, when returned to heaven, these spiritual gifts were to be sent: “He ascended up on high,” that is, into heaven; “He led captivity captive,” meaning death or slavery of man; “He gave gifts to the sons of men,” that is, the gratuities, which we call charismata. He says specifically “sons of men,” and not men promiscuously; thus exhibiting to us those who were the children of men truly so called, choice men, apostles. “For,” says he, “I have begotten you through the gospel; ”and “Ye are my children, of whom I travail again in birth.” Now was absolutely fulfilled that promise of the Spirit which was given by the word of Joel: “In the last days will I pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh, and their sons and their daughters shall prophesy; and upon my servants and upon my handmaids will I pour out of my Spirit.
”Since, then, the Creator promised the gift of His Spirit in the latter days; and since Christ has in these last days appeared as the dispenser of spiritual gifts (as the apostle says, “When the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son;” and again, “This I say, brethren, that the time is short”), it evidently follows in connection with this prediction of the last days, that this gift of the Spirit belongs to Him who is the Christ of the predicters. Now compare the Spirit’s specific graces, as they are described by the apostle, and promised by the prophet Isaiah. “To one is given,” says he, “by the Spirit the word of wisdom;” this we see at once is what Isaiah declared to be “the spirit of wisdom.” “To another, the word of knowledge;” this will be “the (prophet’s) spirit of understanding and counsel.” “To another, faith by the same Spirit;” this will be “the spirit of religion and the fear of the Lord.” “To another, the gifts of healing, and to another the working of miracles;” this will be “the spirit of might.” “To another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another divers kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues;” this will be “the spirit of knowledge.” See how the apostle agrees with the prophet both in making the distribution of the one Spirit, and in interpreting His special graces. This, too, I may confidently say: he who has likened the unity of our body throughout its manifold and divers members to the compacting together of the various gifts of the Spirit ,shows also that there is but one Lord of the human body and of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit, (according to the apostle’s showing,) meant not that the service of these gifts should be in the body, nor did He place them in the human body); and on the subject of the superiority of love above all these gifts, He even taught the apostle that it was the chief commandment ,just as Christ has shown it to be: “Thou shalt love the Lord with all thine heart and soul, with all thy strength, and with all thy mind, and thy neighbour as thine own self. ”When he mentions the fact that “it is written in the law,” how that the Creator would speak with other tongues and other lips, whilst confirming indeed the gift of tongues by such a mention, he yet cannot be thought to have affirmed that the gift was that of another god by his reference to the Creator’s prediction.
In precisely the same manner, when enjoining on women silence in the church, that they speak not for the mere sake of learning (although that even they have the right of prophesying, he has already shown when he covers the woman that prophesies with a veil), he goes to the law for his sanction that woman should be under obedience. Now this law, let me say once for all, he ought to have made no other acquaintance with, than to destroy it. But that we may now leave the subject of spiritual gifts, facts themselves will be enough to prove which of us acts rashly in claiming them for his God, and whether it is possible that they are opposed to our side, even if the Creator promised them for His Christ who is not yet revealed, as being destined only for the Jews, to have their operations in His time, in His Christ, and among His people. Let Marcion then exhibit, as gifts of his god, some prophets, such as have not spoken by human sense, but with the Spirit of God, such as have both predicted things to come, and have made manifest the secrets of the heart; let him produce a psalm, a vision, a prayer—only let it be by the Spirit, in an ecstasy, that is, in a rapture, whenever an interpretation of tongues has occurred to him; let him show to me also, that any woman of boastful tongue6 in his community has ever prophesied from amongst those specially holy sisters of his. Now all these signs (of spiritual gifts) are forthcoming from my side without any difficulty, and they agree, too, with the rules, and the dispensations, and the instructions of the Creator; therefore without doubt the Christ, and the Spirit, and the apostle, belong severally to my God. Here, then, is my frank avowal for any one who cares to require it.
So Tertullian challenges Marcion to operate in the spiritual gifts just as he does himself. The Five Books Against Marcion were said to have been written around 207-208AD. This is almost 100 yrs after the death of John the Apostle.
So here, we have three testimonies which show that spiritual gifts were still in operation after the death of the last apostle.
It is interesting to note that I have seen Cessasionists in their writings quote from the early church fathers mentioned above, but would still accuse people who speak in tongues today or operate in the gifts of the Spirit as mentioned in Isaiah and Joel to be in deception.
“Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order.” I Corinthians 14:39-40