Bitter polemics all too often fill the contemporary conversation concerning the place of miraculous, spiritual gifts in the church. One of the problems with this debate is that both sides of the discussion already have their theological agenda in place prior to approaching the text. By doing so they read their prefabricated theology onto the text. Neither side, then, is able to discern the voice of the text from their own voices. The Reformed and Dispensational theologians have traditionally held to a Cessationist position – that is, that the gifts of tongues, prophecy and knowledge, ceased sometime after the death of the apostles. On the other hand, the Pentecostals and neo-Pentecostals ardently believe that these gifts are for the church today and are normative for the contemporary church.
In the next few posts, most of my efforts will be spent on the Cessationist position as that is the side I am most interested in engaging. I will examine their exegesis of both I Corinthians 13:8-11 and I Corinthians 14:1-25. I will begin with a brief examination of certain Cessationist arguments concerning 13:8-10 and conclude with a much longer examination of their arguments from I Corinthians 14. By the end, it will be demonstrated that, despite the exegetical prowess of so many Cessationist writers, their concerns often steer away from Paul’s and therefore they miss the point of these passages.
Contra Cessationism Post 1: Of Deponent Verbs and Rhetorical Effect
It has been successfully argued that the contemporary Cessationist position goes back at least to the Reformers polemics against the Roman Catholics in the 16th and 17th centuries regarding claims of miraculous events. Combine these fierce debates with an Enlightenment epistemology which denied the existence of miracles as well as the validity of experience as an adequate means of theological formulation and the way is paved for Cessationism to take a strong hold in the modern world. For the contemporary discussion it was the 19th century Protestant theologian Benjamin B. Warfield who, in response to Pentecostalism, shaped this discussion for years to come. Warfield contended that the “extra ordinary charismata” were restricted, quite clearly, to the Apostles. These gifts served as an authentication of Apostolic authority and, therefore, ceased upon the death of the apostles. His position has taken numerous paths in the Cessationist scholarship, especially in relationship to I Corinthians 13.
Cessationists often use I Corinthians 13:8-12 as a proof-text for undercutting the validity of tongues and other gifts for the contemporary church. Many assert that the verbal voice change in vs. 8 indicated the cessation of tongues. That is, in vs. 8-10 prophecy and knowledge are said to katarghqh,sontai, that is, to be rendered powerless. The passive voice is significant here because with tongues Paul shifts to the middle voice, pau,sontai. The middle voice, Cessationists argue, is reflexive, indicating tongues will have ceased in and of itself prior to the arrival of the perfect thing of vs. 10. Tongues will cease on their own as opposed to prophecy and knowledge which will be stopped by an outside force.
There are two major problems with this reading, however. First, it does not acknowledge the likelihood that this word choice is merely a rhetorical tool employed by Paul for stylistic reasons. The structure of the verse quite clearly demonstrates this. The verse is set up in a chiastic fashion, whereby pau,sontai is given meaning in light of katarghqh,sontai :
A. ei;te profhtei/ai(katarghqh,sontai\
B. ei;te glw/ssai( pau,sontai\
A’. ei;te gnw/sij( katarghqh,setaiÅ
In other words, since the “A” envelopes, thus providing contextual meaning for “B”, there are clear structural reasons for concluding that Paul may merely intend a stylistic variation in the switch in verbal voice in vs. 8.
Second, the first critique of this Cessationist argument is reinforced by a much larger concern: the failure to understand the use of this verb in the middle voice throughout biblical literature. The future tense of any verb is frequently accompanied by the middle voice. However, the middle voice quite frequently takes on active force. Known as deponent verbs; these verbs are middle in form, but active in force/meaning. To figure out whether we are dealing with a middle voice verb or a deponent verb we must observe how the middle voice form functions with a specific verb, for “one knows what force the middle voice has only by careful inspection of all occurrences of the verb being studied.” Concerning pau,sontai, the evidence overwhelmingly points to deponent usage, as DA Carson has noted:
In the New Testament, this verb prefers the middle; but that does not mean the subject “stops” under its own power. For instance, when Jesus rebukes the wind and raging waters, the storm stops (same verb, middle voice in Luke 8:24) – and certainly not under its own power.
In other words, that the verb, though in middle form, most often takes an active force as it is most often deponent. This suggests the Cessationist reading of this text leaves much to be desired. The requirement lies with them to demonstrate that this verbal voice shift has any bearing on the argument at hand. They need to show why this occurrence of pau,sontai is not a deponent when the word prefers the deponent nearly everywhere else in the New Testament.
 Through the promptings of scholars like Wayne Grudem, many Reformed theologians are actually abandoning Cessationism altogether. So this is become less of an issue for that movement as time goes on.
 Because of the nature of this discussion it is important to define ones terms at the beginning. By tongues, I mean a spiritual gift given by the Holy Spirit that manifests itself in inarticulate utterances which are directed to God as a prayer or praise, though it may also take the form of song. By prophecy I do not mean sermonic rhetoric, but rather a spiritual gift whereby the Spirit gives particular insight into the life of the community that the prophet would not otherwise have known, which then compels the prophet to speak his word from God for the edification of the community. By knowledge, again I do not mean mere capabilities of retaining massive amounts of information, but rather the supernatural ability to know and understand certain things pertaining to the life of the community and their relationship with God that the person could not have accessed through natural means.
 I primarily critique the Cessationist position, first because I come from the Reformed and Dispensationalist traditions, so I want to engage “my own.” Second, I critique them here primarily because I repeatedly see their exegesis (again, because I have more experience with them) is faulty in that they assume a position prior to coming to the text and that prior theological commitment has bearing on their exegesis. Finally, I do this because once it has been established that these gifts are normative for the contemporary church, it is at that point we can begin to critique the Pentecostal exegesis, which in many ways also needs to be critiqued.
 J. Ruthven, On the Cessation of the Charismata: The Protestant Polemic on Postbiblical Miracles, Journal of Pentecostal Theology Supplementary Series. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993). Ruthven acknowledges that certain church fathers held to certain Cessationist views, but historically speaking he demonstrates that this is a response to the excesses of the heresy Montanism, not solid biblical exegesis.
 It should be acknowledged that prior to Warfield, Thomas Aquinas was the most influential Cessationist in the history of the church. His arguments were not primarily polemics against the Montanists, rather, he suggests tongues have ceased because the decrepitude of the body and the perfection of knowledge in the eschaton. Thomas Aquinas, Super Epistolas S. Pauli: 1 ad Cor., 385, sect. 789.
 Though I don’t have time to go into this, this claim, itself, is questionable. The miracles never authenticated the apostles, the miracles authenticated the message of salvation offered by the apostles. There is a difference, and a failure to discern this is to nearly deify the apostles. I heard a Cessationist preaching on the radio recently and he appealed to Hebrews 2:4 saying that this text demonstrated the connection of these gifts specifically with the apostles. Unfortunately, this is wrong. The passage actually connects the “signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit” to “it,” which in context is “this salvation. (vs. 3) ”“To be sure [the apostles] did signs and wonders, but these signs and wonders did not authenticate them; rather the signs and wonders authenticated the Lord Jesus and the message about Him. There is no scriptural reason, certainly no specific text, that would prevent Jesus from granting an outpouring of signs and wonders to His church in this century or any other century for that matter.” Jack Deere, Surprised by the Power of the Spirit: A Former Dallas Seminary Professor Discovers that God Speaks and Heals Today. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993), 249.
 John F. MacArthur, Jr., The Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978), 165.
 Carson is much more direct here, calling this failure an irresponsible interpretation of the middle voice. D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of I Corinthians 12-14. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), 66.
 Carson, 67.
 Carson, 67.
 This is why most English translations from the KJV to the NASB translate the verb as active: “shall pass away.”