A Symposium on the Tongues Movement Part I: The Purpose of Tongues -- By: Zane C. Hodges

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 120:479 (Jul 1963)
Article: A Symposium on the Tongues Movement Part I: The Purpose of Tongues
Author: Zane C. Hodges


A Symposium on the Tongues Movement
Part I:
The Purpose of Tongues

Zane C. Hodges

[Zane C. Hodges, Assistant Professor of New Testament Literature and Exegesis, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

No question is more crucial or determined for a proper understanding of the gift of tongues than the problem of the basic purpose of this gift. It should be clear that the issue of whether miraculous speaking in tongues is a genuine modern-day charisma or not will be decided largely by whether or not its Scripturally revealed purpose is likewise a divine purpose for the day in which we live.

The Principle of Temporary Gift

Too often it is incorrectly assumed that the existence of a given spiritual phenomenon in the days of the primitive church must automatically presuppose that the same phenomenon should be apparent today. But no matter how often this assumption may be made, it is patently false. Strangely enough, its falseness can be demonstrated from the case of the supreme charisma—the spiritual gift par excellence—the gift of an apostle. That to be an apostle was itself a spiritual gift is clearly revealed in such passages as Ephesians 4:7–12 and 1 Corinthians 12:28–31, although through inattention to these Scriptures apostleship is often thought of as though it

constituted a category entirely separate from the other spiritual gifts. But the inclusion of apostles along with prophets, teachers, miracles, and tongues in a list of charismata like that of 1 Corinthians 12:28 can leave no ground for question on this point. Accordingly, inasmuch as Protestant theology generally has clearly recognized the cessation of the apostolic gift in the first century, at the same time that it rightly denies any form of apostolic succession, all such Protestant theology becomes basically committeed to the principle of temporary gift. For clearly the apostleship was itself temporary, and, if the principle be established, it is perfectly legitimate to inquire whether there may not be other first-century gifts which were likewise temporary.

No problem arises in the minds of most Christians as to why apostles should appear only in the beginning stages of Christianity and not in its subsequent years. For however desirable their modern presence might conceivably seem to be, the fact remains that the purpose for which apostles were originally given has been fulfilled. It is evident, for example, from Eph...

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