My oldest daughter loves to remind me of an incident during her senior year of high school. On a cross-country trip, she was driving and I was navigating. As we went through Memphis, Tennessee, I was reading the map; and she, the signs. When we came to a fork in the road, I insisted we go left, even though she was certain the signs told us to go right. Within about five miles, the interstate abruptly ended and funneled us off into a very rough part of town. She said, “See Dad, I told you we should go right.” I was sincere and certain, but I was confused.
Many today seem to be sincerely confused about miraculous sign gifts. God intends for us to see that all of them were only given for a temporary time period, for a specific purpose, and to be used in a specific way. During the Acts era, before Scripture was complete, there was a need for super-natural abilities to guide the early church. I Corinthians 13:10 promised, “when that which is perfect [or complete] is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” Verse eight explains that “prophecies,” “tongues,” and supernatural “knowledge” would “fail” to continue, or “cease” and “vanish away.” Once the revelation of Scripture was complete, all sign gifts ended. The primary purpose of these sign gifts was “not to them that believe, but to them that believe not” (I Corinthians 14:22). When unsaved people in the early Acts era witnessed believers with genuine miraculous abilities, it was a powerful tool in leading them to Christ. While some of these gifts, such as prophecy [meaning to proclaim God’s truth], were used for a time to “edify,” or build up, saints in new biblical truth, the primary purpose of God was to influence the lost. Whenever gifts, such as tongues (meaning an unknown human language), were given, they had to be practiced as God required. Tongues always had to be interpreted to all (vs. 26). They were only done one at a time (vss. 30-31), never by more than three (vss. 27, 29), never leave the one speaking out of control (vs. 28, 32), and women were never permitted to speak in tongues in public services (vs. 34).
Claims today of miraculous tongues do not follow this divine pattern, nor can they achieve God’s original purpose. God is not the author of confusion. If we will only abide by these instructions, confusion on this subject will disappear.
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