Perspectives on Pentecost – review part 3

Posted: November 4, 2014 by J in Bible, Book review, Church, Church history, Pastoral issues, Theology
  1. Prophecy and Tongues.

1 Cor. 14: Some controlling Observations.

In this chapter tongues and prophecy are played off against each other, prophecy is clearly superior. However a sharp division between these two isn’t possible, and their partnership in 1 Corinthians 14 underlines this. Both are about the reception and communication of “mysteries” (13:2, 14:2).


‘New Testament prophecy is revelatory. […] The words of the prophet are the words of God and are to be received and responded to as such. […] The prophet reveals the Word of God, the preacher expounds that word.’ They, with the Apostles, reveal the ‘unsearchable riches, the ‘mystery’ of the gospel. It includes both ‘forthtelling’ and ‘foretelling’. There are no levels of authority in prophecy, even between written vs oral prophecy. It’s all revelation. Weighing of prophecy wasn’t ‘sifting worthwhile elements’, but determining if the whole prophecy was from the Holy Spirit or another spirit. Obviously there is spurious prophecy even within the church (eg. 2Thes2:2).



Gaffin begins by dispensing with a common view of tongues which suggests that the Spirit bypasses our minds to produce this vocalization of a ‘volitional, yet non-intellective, preconceptual capacity in man, usually with the emphasis that tongues bring to expression the more primal, deeper levels of personality.’ Gaffin points out the ‘insuperable difficulty’ with this position, that Paul doesn’t see mind and spirit as opposites. In fact, they both have ‘essentially the same reference’ in Paul’s anthropology (eg. Rom1:9). This view comes from a ‘conviction that religious experience is essentially irrational.’

Rather, Gaffin argues for a ‘fully inspired’ view. ‘Tongues are a mode of prophecy.’ Pretty well the only difference between the two is that prophecy utilizes ‘the speaker’s existing language (conceptual) capacities’, while tongues doesn’t. ‘His speech capacities are so taken over by the Spirit that the words spoken are not his’. This reading depends on reading 1 Corinthians 14:14’s ‘my spirit prays’ as ‘the Holy Spirit prays’ (which Gaffin admits ‘is difficult’, at least its initial impression).

He goes on to argue that tongues must be a genuine kind of language.

Tomorrow, arguments for cessation.


  1. J says:

    Hmm. I’m not finding that so totally convincing. Is there no difference in status between a word from God, and ‘The Word of God’ ? I reckon the similarity in the language makes it easy to miss the significant differences.

    And is it inconceivable that a prophecy, since it comes through a human, might be a mixture of true and false? Is there really no place or need for sifting? why not?

    Tongues as a kind of prophecy is hard to get my head around. I would have thought it was more a kind of prayer. The exegesis of 1 Cor 14 you describe seems pretty forced.

  2. dan says:

    Agreed. He basically says that we weigh whether or not the WHOLE prophecy is from the Holy Spirit or some other spirit.

    ‘The words of the prophet are the words of God and are to be received and responded to as such.’ If the words of a prophet really are the words of God without any contamination, then sure.

    And yeah… not convinced by 1 Corinthians 14. Hopefully I’ve represented him faithfully.

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