Tongues Will Cease


Paul says that tongues “will cease” (1 Cor. 13:8, ESV). How and when? “Cease” is from pauo, “stop, cease; cease from, be done with” in the middle voice. (Concise Greek-English Dictionary, s. v. παυω). The verb, pausontai, is in the middle voice. The middle voice talks about action performed by itself. Hence, “cease” (pausontai) can mean a direct cessation–“to take one’s rest, a willing cessation.” (W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996, 93). Or it can indicate an indirect cessation–action performed for or by itself.  Hence, tongues will stop by themselves.

This grammatical construction indicates the manner of the cessation of tongues. It means that tongues will stop by itself. It will cease and be done with by itself.

Notice Paul included tongues in the list of 3 gifts in v. 8. But in v. 9, he cited only 2 gifts—prophecies and knowledge—leaving out tongues. Why? The reason is that something will stop prophecies and knowledge. However, tongues will stop by itself. It will not be stopped by something else. It will just stop by itself. That is what the middle voice means.

If you study history, tongues really ceased by itself “at the end of the apostolic age” (MacArthur, 1750). There is no mention of its use in the rest of the New Testament, except Acts and Corinthians. Significantly, Acts is a transition period from the promise of the Spirit to the pouring of the Spirit. It signalled a shift from Israel, as the instrument of redemption, to the church. It marked the beginning of the church, wherein believing Gentiles were joined with believing Jews into the one body of Christ, the church. In this context, tongues-speaking then functioned primarily as a sign gift with the birth of the church (Acts 2:1-4). Further, it signified the coming of the Spirit upon groups of believing Gentiles (Acts 10:44-46; 19:1-6). When the purpose of this sign gift was fulfilled, tongues as an authenticating gift ceased by itself.

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Disclaimer:  I’ve tried to give credit to whom credit is due.  If there is any original thought or reference which I failed to footnote, please call my attention.  Once validated, it will be corrected immediately.


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