Category Archives: Continuationism

The gift of tongues is ‘jibberish’

(Photo worship service at Dream City Church, affiliated to the Assemblies of God USA, in 2007, in Phoenix, United States, courtesy Wikipedia)

A contemporary worship team leads the congregation in praise and worship

By Spencer D Gear PhD

This is a fairly standard approach by those who believe in the cessation of the gifts of the Spirit:

In 1 Cor 14 the tongues Paul is talking about are known understandable earthly languages…”many kinds of voices in the world”. Your bias does not allow you to see this.

For example:
1 Cor 14:8-9 “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.”
If someone blows random notes on a trumpet (blows jibberish) then no knows what is going on causing mass confusion. Therefore what is blown MUST BE UNDERSTOOD so people know what is going on. Likewise a tongue must be spoken in a language the hearer CAN UNDERSTAND or it is meaningless jibberish to the hearer, the speaker is speaking to the air, no edification takes place.

How should I respond?[2] These are only a few examples from the early church (after the apostles). A number of others could be cited.

Let the early church fathers speak

I suggest you go searching in the early church fathers to determine if miracles (including the gift of tongues) continued. Here’s a starter:

snowflake-light-green-small Irenaeus (ca. AD 130-202) was a pupil of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the apostle John. He wrote in his book “Against Heresies”, Book V, ch 6.1:

“In like manner we do also hear many brethren in the Church, who possess prophetic gifts, and who through the Spirit speak all kinds of languages, and bring to light for the general benefit the hidden things of men, and declare the mysteries of God, whom also the apostle terms spiritual, they being spiritual because they partake of the Spirit, and not because their flesh has been stripped off and taken away, and because they have become purely spiritual.”

snowflake-light-green-small Chrysostom (ca. AD 347-407), Archbishop of Constantinople, wrote:

“Whoever was baptized [in apostolic times] he straightway spoke with tongues and not with tongues only, but many also prophesied, and some also performed many other wonderful works. For since on their coming over from idols, without any clear knowledge or training in the ancient Scriptures, they at once on their baptism received the Spirit, yet the Spirit they saw not, for It is invisible; therefore God’s grace bestowed some sensible proof of that energy. And one straightway spoke in the Persian, another in the Roman, another in the Indian, another in some other such tongue: and this made manifest to them that were without that it is the Spirit in the very person speaking”….

For as the Apostles themselves had received this sign first, so also the faithful went on receiving it, I mean, the gift of tongues; yet not this only but also many others: inasmuch as many used even to raise the dead and to cast out devils and to perform many other such wonders: and they had gifts too, some less, and some more. But more abundant than all was the gift of tongues among them: and this became to them a cause of division…. (Chrysostom, 1 Corinthians 12, Homily XXIX).

snowflake-light-green-small In the early writings of St Augustine (AD 354-430), Bishop of Hippo, he wrote:

In the earliest times, the Holy Ghost fell upon them that believed: and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:4 These were signs adapted to the time. For there behooved to be that betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues, to show that the Gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a betokening, and it passed away (Homily 6.10 on the First Epistle of John).

snowflake-light-green-small However, in his later ministry he had a change of heart with regard to his understanding of Scripture and its manifestation in his time. In The City of God, he had a chapter titled, ‘That All the Miracles Which are Done by Means of the Martyrs in the Name of Christ Testify to that Faith Which the Martyrs Had in Christ‘ (Book XXII, ch 9). Here he documents the miracles happening in his day. In the same Book he stated,

‘For men whom they knew to be acquainted with only one, or at most two languages, they marvelled to hear speaking in the tongues of all nations’ (Book XXII, ch 5)….

For the canon of the sacred writings, which behooved to be closed, causes those to be everywhere recited, and to sink into the memory of all the congregations; but these modern miracles are scarcely known even to the whole population in the midst of which they are wrought, and at the best are confined to one spot. For frequently they are known only to a very few persons, while all the rest are ignorant of them, especially if the state is a large one; and when they are reported to other persons in other localities, there is no sufficient authority to give them prompt and unwavering credence, although they are reported to the faithful by the faithful.

The miracle which was wrought at Milan when I was there, and by which a blind man was restored to sight, could come to the knowledge of many; for not only is the city a large one, but also the emperor was there at the time, and the occurrence was witnessed by an immense concourse of people that had gathered to the bodies of the martyrs Protasius and Gervasius, which had long lain concealed and unknown, but were now made known to the bishop Ambrose in a dream, and discovered by him. By virtue of these remains the darkness of that blind man was scattered, and he saw the light of day (The City of God, Book XXII, ch 8).

Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (northern Africa), one of the four great fathers of the Latin Church and considered the greatest of them all said: “We still do what the apostles did when they laid hands on the Samaritans and called down the Holy Spirit on them in the laying-on of hands. It is expected that converts should speak with new tongues” (Comments on Acts 8:17-19).[3]


[1] Ernest T Bass#187. Christian, ‘Speaking in Tongues’, true vs false (online), 23 August 2020. Available at: (Accessed 24 August 2020).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen#201.

[3] Cited in Grace Christian Center n.d. Speaking in tongues (online). Available at: (Accessed 24 August 2020). I have not been able to locate the primary source of this quote in Augustine’s writings.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 24 August 2020.

C H Spurgeon’s conflicting views on the gifts of the Spirit

Compiled by Spencer D Gear PhD

A cessationist has the theological view that the gifts of the Spirit ceased when the canon of Scripture was completed. Dr Peter Masters of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London (where Spurgeon preached for 38 years) states:

We believe … that the ceasing of revelatory and sign-gifts in the time of the apostles is very plainly taught in God’s Word, so plainly, in fact, that the opposite view has only seriously appeared in the last 100 years or so.1

A continuationist is a person who is convinced from Scripture that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit, as in 1 Cor 12-14, continue into the twenty-first century. Sam Storms explained:

All the gifts of the Spirit, whether tongues or teaching, prophecy or mercy, healing or helping, were given (among other reasons) for the edification, building up, encouraging, instructing, consoling, and sanctifying of the body of Christ .2

C Peter Wagner’s definition of a spiritual gift is …

a special attribute given by the Holy Spirit to every member of the Body of Christ, according to God’s grace, for use within the context of the body.3

1. Spurgeon the cessationist

Spurgeon preached:

“I have little confidence in those persons who speak of having received direct revelations from the Lord, as though He appeared otherwise than by and through the Gospel. His Word is so full, so perfect, that for God to make any fresh Revelation to you or me is quite needless. To do so would be to put a dishonor upon the perfection of that Word”.4

C. H. Spurgeon the prominent 19th century Baptist preacher and pastor of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, for 38 years, wrote that …

those gifts of the Holy Spirit which are at this time vouchsafed to the church of God are every way as valuable as those earlier miraculous gifts which are departed from us.… As you would certainly inquire whether you had the gifts of healing and miracle-working, if such gifts were now given to believers, much more should you inquire whether you have those more permanent gifts of the Spirit which are this day open to you all, by the which you shall work no physical miracle, but shall achieve spiritual wonders of the grander sort.5

In my preparation of an article on my homepage, Truth Challenge – ‘Cessationists through Church History’,6 I engaged in email discussion with my friend, the late Philip Powell of Christian Witness Ministries.7

2. Spurgeon the contuationist

Philip alerted me to several incidents in the life of Spurgeon which indicate he was not a consistent cessationist. Spurgeon provided these descriptions and an explanation, as supplied by Philip Powell (I have located the following quotes from other sources):

Spurgeon (1834-92) was the prominent Baptist preacher in England during the 19th century, who spoke of a “sermon at Exeter Hall in which he suddenly broke off from his subject and pointed in a certain direction. This incident is told in C H Spurgeon’s Autobiography (1856-1878), vol 3, compiled by his wife and private secretary:

“At the Monday evening prayer-meeting … Mr. Spurgeon related [an]

Incident [from] the sermon at Exeter Hall, in which he suddenly broke off from his subject, and, pointing in a certain direction, said, “Young man, those gloves you are wearing have not been paid for; you have stolen them from you,’ employer.” At the close of the service, a young man, looking very pale and greatly agitated, came to the room which was used as a vestry, and begged for a private interview with Mr.Spurgeon. On being admitted, he placed a pair of gloves upon the table, and tearfully said, “It’s the first time I have robbed my master, and I will never do it again. You won’t expose me, sir, will you? It would kill my mother if she heard that I had become a thief.” The preacher had drawn the bow at a venture, but the arrow struck the target for which God intended it, and the startled hearer was, in that singular way, probably saved from committing a greater crime’.8

“I remember quite well, and the subject of the story is most probably present in this congregation, that a very singular conversion was wrought at New Park Street Chapel. A man, who had been accustomed to go to a gin-palace to fetch in gin for his Sunday evening’s drinking, saw a crowd round the door of the chapel, he looked in, and forced his way to the top of the gallery stairs. Just then, I looked in the direction in which he stood,—I do not know why I did so, but I remarked that there might be a man in the gallery who had come in there with no very good motive, for even then he had a gin-bottle in his pocket. The singularity of the expression struck the man, and being startled because the preacher so exactly described him, he listened attentively to the warnings which followed; the Word reached his heart, the grace of God met with him, he became converted, and he is walking humbly in the fear of God.”

Spurgeon gave further examples of his word of knowledge ministry:

“While preaching in the hall, on one occasion, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, `There is a man sitting there, who is a shoemaker; he keeps his shop open on Sundays, it was open last Sabbath morning, he took nine pence, and there was four pence profit out of it; his soul is sold to Satan for four pence!’

“A city missionary, when going his rounds, met with this man, and seeing that he was reading one of my sermons, he asked the question, `Do you know Mr Spurgeon?’ `Yes,’ replied the man `I have every reason to know him, I have been to hear him; and under his preaching, by God’s grace I have become a new creature in Christ Jesus. Shall I tell you how it happened? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place: Mr Spurgeon looked at me as if he knew me, and in his sermon he pointed to me, and told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I kept my shop open on Sundays; and I did, sir.

“I should not have minded that; but he also said that I took nine pence the Sunday before, and that there was four pence profit; but how he should know that, I could not tell. Then it struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him, so I shut up my shop the next Sunday. At first, I was afraid to go again to hear him, lest he should tell the people more about me; but afterwards I went, and the Lord met with me, and saved my soul’”.9

2.1 How does Spurgeon explain this revelatory ministry?

“I could tell as many as a dozen similar cases in which I pointed at somebody in the hall without having the slightest knowledge of the person, or any idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved by the Spirit to say it; and so striking has been my description that the persons have gone away, and said to their friends, `Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did; beyond a doubt, he must have been sent of God to my soul, or else he could not have described me so exactly.’ And not only so, but I have known many instances in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge their neighbours with their elbow, because they had got a smart hit, and they have been heard to say, when they were going out, `The preacher told us just what we said to one another when we went in at the door.’”10

3. Conclusion

How are we to conclude concerning C H Spurgeon’s ministry in London in the 19th century? Was he a cessationist (he makes statements to confirm this view) or a continuationist – his experience supports the latter view.

Sam Storms makes a helpful conclusion:

My opinion is that this is a not uncommon example of what the Apostle Paul described in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25. Spurgeon exercised the gift of prophecy (or some might say the word of knowledge, 1 Cor. 12:8). He did not label it as such, but that does not alter the reality of what the Holy Spirit accomplished through him. This information could not be found by Spurgeon from reading the Scripture. But surely we do not undermine the latter’s sufficiency by acknowledging that it was God who “revealed” this insight to him. If one were to examine Spurgeon’s theology and ministry, as well as recorded accounts of it by his contemporaries as well as subsequent biographers, most would conclude from the absence of explicit reference to miraculous charismata such as prophecy and the word of knowledge that such gifts had been withdrawn from church life. But Spurgeon’s own testimony inadvertently says otherwise! 11


See Sam Storms (2014); Why I Am a Continuationist. (The Gospel Coalition).

For an opposing view, see Thomas Schreiner (2014), Why I Am a Cessationist (The Gospel Coalition).

4.   Notes

1The Sword & Trowel 2011, issue 2. Cessationism — Proving Charismatic Gifts have Ceased (online). Available at: (Accessed 21 August 2018).

2 Sam Storms 2014. Why I Am a Continuationist. The Gospel Coalition (online). Available at: (Accessed 21 August 2018).

3 C Peter Wagner 2017. Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow (rev ed). Bloomington, Minnesota: Chosen Books, ch 2.

4 Spurgeon from sermon No. 3336, ‘Beauty for Ashes’, published 9 January 1913, delivered by C H Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington UK). It also is available in C H Spurgeon, The Complete Works of C. H. Spurgeon, Volume 59: Sermons 3335-3386.

5 “Receiving the Holy Ghost”, sermon no.1790, vol. 30, Year 1884, p. 386, available at: (Accessed 20 June 2010).

6 Spencer D Gear 2010, Truth Challenge (online), Cessationists through Church History, 20 June. Available at: (Accessed 29 July 2018).

7.  72759 Logan Road Eight Mile Plains, Brisbane, QLD 4113, Australia. See: (Accessed 21 August 2018).

8 C H Spurgeon’s Autobiography, vol 3, Chapter 60, p. 59, Prince of Preachers (online). Available at:,-37,552. (Accessed 29 July 2018).

9  C H Spurgeon 1899, The Autobiography, vol. 2, pp226-227.

10  Charles H. Spurgeon 1973. Autobiography: The Full Harvest , 1860-1892, vol 2. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, p. 60.

11  Sam Storms 2013. When a Cessationist Prophesies, or, What are We to Make of Charles Spurgeon? (online), 25 October. Available at:–or–what-are-we-to-make-of-charles-spurgeon (Accessed 21 August 2018).



Copyright © 2018 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 23 August 2018