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When Did the Gift of Tongues Cease?

by Pastor Dennis Kiszonas

No one was more “charismatic” than the Apostle Paul. He wrote to the Corinthian church that “they came behind no other church” when it came to the gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 1:7)—no church had more of the gifts of the Holy Spirit than the Corinthian church, yet Paul says that he spoke in tongues more than all of them (1 Cor. 14:18)!

No one was more charismatic than Paul, yet the Lord revealed to him that those sign gifts were going to cease:

“whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away” (1 Cor. 13:8). 1

Here Paul writes of the gift of tongues, the gift of prophecy and the gift of knowledge (see 1 Cor. 13:1-2) and states that the Lord Jesus had revealed to him (1 Cor. 11:23; 15:3; Gal. 1:11,12) that a time was coming when these sign gifts were going to cease to operate.

The question has always been: when? When would these gifts cease?

This study focuses on that question—when did the sign gifts cease?

Arranging Paul’s letters in the order that he wrote them

We begin by setting up a time line of Paul’s ministry. Paul was saved in Acts 9 when the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Paul would go on to write 13 letters in the New Testament—from the Letter to the Romans to the Letter to Philemon. When we remember that Paul is the subject of at least half of the Book of Acts, we realize that half of the 27 books in the New Testament are either about him (The Book of Acts) or were written by him (13 letters).

Paul’s letters are arranged in our Bible by two principles: The letters to the churches are put first—nine letters from Romans to 2 Thessalonians, then the four letters written to individuals—from 1 Timothy to Philemon.

The letters are also arranged by length—Romans is longest and is first, then the Corinthian letters, then Galatians, etc. Longer letters are first, shorter ones later.

But to understand when the sign gifts ceased, we need to read Paul’s letters in the order that he wrote them. When we arrange the letters in the order that they were written, all becomes clear!

Paul’s Letters in the order that he wrote them:

The first 6 of Paul’s letters can be fit into the Book of Acts—we can read Acts and then read Paul’s letters and we can see where Paul was when he wrote these letters.

THE LETTER TO THE GALATIANS IS FIRST

In Acts 13,14 Paul and Barnabas went on their first apostolic journey which took them into Galatia—cities like Antioch, Lystra, Derbe, etc. Soon after Paul returned from this journey he wrote the letter to the Galatians (see Galatians 1:6 where Paul writes to the Galatians and says, you are “so quickly turned.”). Galatians was written soon after Paul returned from that first journey—soon after Acts 14:27. That makes Galatians the earliest of Paul’s letters.

1 AND 2 THESSALONIANS

The next letters Paul wrote are the two letters to the Thessalonians. In Acts 17, Paul, on his second apostolic journey, came to Thessalonica and preached there. Many were saved, but Paul was driven out of town. Paul continued on to Corinth where he wrote the two letters to the Thessalonians. Timothy’s return from Macedonia mentioned in Acts 18:5 is also reported in 1 Thessalonians 3:6. And in 2 Thessalonians 2:5 Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his teaching, as if it had not been very long since he had been with them. So the writing of 1 and 2 Thessalonians can be placed into Acts 18 during Paul’s ministry in Corinth, and that makes them the second and third letters that Paul wrote.

1 AND 2 CORINTHIANS

The next two letters that Paul wrote are the two letters to the Corinthians. In Acts 18 Paul spent a year and a half ministering in Corinth—see Acts 18:11. He later returned to his home base at Antioch (Acts 18:22), and later in his third apostolic journey he arrived in Ephesus (his ministry in Ephesus extends all the way through Acts 19—a period of more than two years, see verse 10). It is here in Ephesus during Acts 19 that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians—see I Corinthians 16:19. Shortly after that Paul traveled to Macedonia (see Acts 20:1 and 2 Cor. 2:13) and that is where he wrote the second letter to the Corinthians.

ROMANS

In Acts 20:2,3 Paul arrived in “Greece,” i.e. in Corinth again, and spent three months there enjoying the hospitality of a believer named Gaius (mentioned in 1 Cor. 1:14). In Gaius’s home, in Corinth, Paul wrote the letter to the Romans (see Rom. 16:23).

This is the last letter written during the Book of Acts. In Acts 21:33 Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, and would spend the next 5 years in prison, right through the end of the Book of Acts.

So, to sum up what we have seen so far, from Acts 9 through Acts 28 we read of the earlier ministry of the Apostle Paul and find that during these years he wrote 6 of his 13 letters. The order of these first six books is:

Galatians—end of Acts 14
1 Thessalonians—Acts 18
2 Thessalonians—Acts 18
1 Corinthians—Acts 19
2 Corinthians—Acts 20
Romans—Acts 20
In Acts 21 Paul was arrested and remained a prisoner through to Acts 28, and beyond.

THE PRISON EPISTLES—EPHESIANS, COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, AND PHILIPPIANS

Shortly after the end of the Book of Acts, while he was still a prisoner, now in Rome, Paul wrote four letters—the “prison epistles”: Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians. In each of these letters he writes of his “chains”—see Ephesians 6:20, Colossians 4:18, Philemon 13 and Philippians 1:13.

THE PASTORAL EPISTLES—THE LETTERS TO TITUS, FIRST AND SECOND TIMOTHY

Paul was released from this imprisonment and continued his ministry for a few years, perhaps 3 years. During this time he wrote the three letters known as the “Pastoral Epistles,” because these letters were written to Paul’s co-workers—Pastor Timothy and Titus. Finally at the end of his life he is again in prison. This time he anticipates being beheaded for the Lord and writes the last letter, Second Timothy.

Summary:

We have surveyed the 13 letters written by the Apostle Paul, arranging them in the order in which Paul wrote them:

During the Book of Acts—6 letters:

1. Galatians

2. & 3. The Thessalonian letters

4. & 5. The Corinthian letters

6. Romans

Then after the Book of Acts ends—7 more letters:

The 4 Prison Epistles:

7. Ephesians

8. Colossians

9. Philemon

10. Philippians

Then the 3 Pastoral Epistles:

11. Titus

12. 1 Timothy

13. 2 Timothy

Now let’s read the letters in the order Paul wrote them

Finish Article HERE

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