Rolling Right of the Tongue(s): or, a Few Thoughts on Arguments on Tongues Being Human Languages and Cessationism

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On page 2,129 of the Reformation Study Bible (a fine study Bible) there’s a note on 1 Corinthians 12:10 that ends with: “There is no reason to conclude that the “tongues” of 1 Cor differ from the “tongues” of Acts 2”. This is possibly the worst note in this entire Bible. The first glaring reason we have for thinking it’s wrong: the tongues of Acts did not require an interpreter and were simply understood by the audience at Pentecost, since it was in their own language(s). The tongues of Corinthians require someone with the gift of interpreting tongues, something we see two chapters later in 1 Corinthians 14:

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No Spirit, No Salvation, or Salvation Apart from the Spirit?

The role of the Holy Spirit in salvation is well-attested in Scripture, as John Piper helpfully catalogs. He rightly says, ‘no Spirit, no Salvation’. There is however a curious little story in Acts (Acts is full of curious little stories) that jarred me a little bit when I first read it, because it seems to contradict, or at the very least complicate, the Spirits role in salvation:

 

‘And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. And finding some disciples he said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” So they said to him, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said to them, “Into what then were you baptized?” So they said, “Into John’s baptism.” Then Paul said, “John indeed baptized with a baptism of repentance, saying to the people that they should believe on Him who would come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied.  Now the men were about twelve in all.’ (Acts 19:1-7)

 

This is quite an interesting situation. It’s not referenced again in Scripture, and the tone doesn’t strike one as overly urgent. Paul doesn’t appear to question the disciples’ salvation, and he acknowledges that they have believed, nor does the Bible call them anything but ‘disciples’. Paul’s action isn’t to lead them to repent and believe the Gospel but to lay hands on them, whereupon the Spirit comes on them and they prophesy. The number of disciples mirrors the number of disciples at Pentecost, and both events resemble each other in that the end result of the Spirit coming upon them is tongues and prophecy. 

 

So what’s going on here? Clearly, there can’t be salvation wholly apart from the Spirit. John Piper is correct here. However, this passage does seem to lend credence to the Pentecostal idea of a ‘second filling of the holy spirit’ or a ‘second blessing’ , often mentioned in the context of a baptism of the Holy Spirit where tongues is seen as the evidence of a second filling (this is distinct from the Wesleyan doctrine of ‘second blessing’’). This is perhaps a topic for another time, though. 

 

At any rate, it’s clear that while there is no salvation apart from the Spirit, there appears to be a sense in which believers in Christ can be believers without even knowing that there is a Holy Spirit or without what might be called the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It would even appear that knowledge of the Spirit isn’t necessary for the salvation of believers in the New Testament; this would make salvation even more monergistic in the sense that one can be saved and be counted a believer without any knowledge of key aspects of salvation, even continuing into the Christian life. Salvation is an act of God through and through, perhaps to an extent whether the believer knows it or not. Is there salvation apart from the Spirit? No. Does salvation require anything of us, even knowledge of the Holy Spirit, even continuing on into the disciples life? No. Salvation requires God and nothing else. God’s mighty act of salvation and continuing work of sanctification in the Christian life are contingent on God alone, and now what the believer does or doesn’t know.

James K.A. Smith On Peter Enns Method of Biblical Interpetation

Here: http://www.colossianforum.org/2012/04/24/book-review-the-evolution-of-adam-what-the-bible-does-and-doesnt-say-about-human-origins/ – a bit dated, but still worth reading.

”While Enns affirms the inspiration and authority of Scripture, this sort of hermeneutical approach functionally naturalizes biblical interpretation.[3] Because this sort of account of biblical meaning is tethered to the intent of human authors, there is no functional role for divine authorship in determining meaning—which is precisely why Enns treats these books and letters as discrete entities rather than parts of a whole canon (more on this below).’

‘Enns’ approach leaves little room to recognize such recontextualization within the canon—nor does he accord any positive, constructive role to tradition (cf. 114). In fact, if it becomes a contest between “the authors of Genesis” and Paul, Enns sides with “the original meaning” of Genesis as the determinative meaning: “what Genesis says about Adam and the consequences of his actions does not seem to line up with the universal picture that Paul paints in Romans and 1 Corinthians […]. I do not think the gospel stands on whether we can read Paul’s Adam in the pages of Genesis” (92). To use Enns’ language, Paul attributes something to Genesis that the “authors of Genesis” are not trying to give us. Again, this account is entirely “from below,” as if it is Paul alone who “invests Adam with capital he does not have either in the Genesis story, the Old Testament as a whole, or the interpretations of his contemporary Jews” (135).

But now the problem above comes home to roost: what if there is an Author who is the author of both Genesis and 1 Corinthians? What did he intend? And could he intend meanings in Genesis that outstrip what the “authors of Genesis” intended? The church has always staked its reading of the Bible on the conviction that Scripture’s meaning exceeds what the original human authors could have intended. So we can’t neatly and tidily settle the cross-pressures we feel at the intersection of Genesis and contemporary science by simply limiting the meaning of Genesis to what was intended by its Ancient Near Eastern authors.’

 

N.T. Wright on Repentance

‘Repentance’, in a good many texts, was what Israel must do if her exile is to come to an end. Though the Greek word metanoia and its cognates, which occur in the gospels with this meaning, are rare in the Septuagint – and when they do occur, they refer, more often than not, to YHWH himself ‘repenting’ – the first-century sense of the word encapsulates a range of meanings expressed in other ways in the Hebrew scriptures and their Greek translations. Deuteronomy spoke of Israel ‘returning’ to YHWH with her whole heart; this would be the condition of her forgiveness and of the return from exile. In Deuteronomic terms, this would mean a return to the shema, to the love of YHWH alone with all the heart. The prophets regularly used the term ‘repent’ to denote the turning to YHWH which would result in restoaration, return from exile. Indeed, the word shub and epistrephein, since they mean ‘return’, hint constantly, particularly in Jeremiah, that for Israel to ‘return’ to YHWH with all her heart is the crucial thing that will enable her to ‘return’ to her own land. The whole point of passages like Daniel 9, Ezra 9 or Nehemiah 9 is that these great prayers of repentance – and we must be careful not to confine our thinking simply to occurrences of shub and epistrephein – are prayers precisely designed to bring about the return from exile. (We may note once again that all three books are clearly ‘post-exilic’ in the normal sense, and yet still seeking the real ‘return’.) (N.T. Wright, ‘Jesus and the Victory of God’, pp. 248-249)