Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What's all this talk about speaking in tongues?

1 Corinthians 12:28-31 states: And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?

 Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."

Probably no doctrine divides churches and denominations more than the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, and in particular, the gift of speaking in tongues.  No doctrine or practice brings confusion to the body of Christ and local bodies of believers more than speaking in tongues.  Recently, our church was a part of an interdenominational meeting that was a good meeting and the messages and music was done in unity and brought comfort to the lives of those present. However, at the end of the service, during the altar call, a man began to pray "in tongues" louder and above everyone else including the pastor who was leading the prayer for those who came forward during the altar call. This brought confusion and even fear to many that were present, so I feel as your pastor it necessary to present you with as clear and concise an overview of this doctrine and what the Bible teaches about it.

Our beginning text was written to a church who lacked in no spiritual gift but were carnal. Their carnality led to abuses of that which God had given to be a blessing to the edification of His church; yet because of this abuse it had brought confusion and disorder instead of blessing and conviction that it was supposed to bring.

Before I get into the text, let me say that for years, the Church seemed to be divided between 2 extremes.  The Cessationist Extreme said that the sign/miraculous gifts had ceased either with the death of the Apostles and/or the Canonization of Scripture. They cited 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 as a proof text, especially verse 10, which states, "And when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." They said that the perfect was an inanimate object, and must be the perfect canon of Scripture. In other words, because we now have the Bible, we don't need these spiritual gifts to confirm the Evangelist.  There are many problems, in my opinion, with this viewpoint. The main one is that it does harm to the context of 1 Corinthians 13 to read the Canonization of Scripture into it. It is talking about love being perfected and coming in perfection, which will happen ultimately when Christ returns.  Now, we can apply this principle of love and preferring others to our practice of spiritual gifts, which I will do in a moment. But for now, that is one extreme. 

The other extreme, is the Extreme Pentecostal viewpoint. This viewpoint states simply that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a 2nd definite work of grace apart from salvation, and it is always characterized by Speaking in Tongues.  They say that 5 times in the book of Acts it says they were filled with the Holy Spirit and 3 of those 5 states they spoke in tongues. Therefore, we can assume that they did the other 2 times as well even though it isn't specifically stated. So, tongues is the initial evidence of being filled with or baptized in the Holy Spirit.  I too believe that this position is flawed in that we must NEVER read into Scripture what isn't there.  We are told specifically in Revelation 22:18-19 not to add to or take away from the words of this prophecy.  So we are left with what Scripture says. Some did indeed speak in tongues while others did not. And from our text that we began with, not everyone speaks in tongues.

Luckily, it seems that in recent years there has been a third viewpoint to arise which is an attempt to find common ground/biblical ground between the 2 extremes.  Unfortunately, it seems to be mainly New Calvinists such as John Piper, David Platt and Mark Driscoll who have promoted this view. But I rejoice that men whom I disagree with on some things, I can fully agree with on others.  This viewpoint is that sign gifts are for today. The baptism of the Spirit in Acts 2 is different than the initial baptism by One Spirit into One Body, which happens at Salvation and is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:13. Yet the Bible gives clear guidelines as to how the gifts are to be presented and operated in a corporate gathering. Also, the baptism, filling, and anointing are terms to describe different aspects of the same thing, which is an "Empowering of the Spirit for Christ Exalting Ministry [Piper's Words not Mine]!"

I believe A.W. Tozer nailed the problem in many congregations when he said “Left to ourselves, we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms.  We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him.  We want a God we can, in some measure, control." We all want to be right, and we want our tradition to be right. Whether our tradition was cessationism, Methodism, Holiness or Pentecostal. So we tend to put God in our theological boxes where we can manage Him and feel good about our traditions whether they were biblical or not. 

And let me say here, "NONE OF US have a monopoly on God, and NONE OF US get it right 100% of the time!"

So, realizing that my theology probably has holes in it, because my understanding is not perfect and will not be perfect until I see Him face to face, I will attempt to give you a brief and biblical view of what the Bible teaches about tongues.

1.   There are diversities [different kinds] of tongues. The word for tongues means languages. They can be known languages unknown to the speaker, or unknown to the hearer. I believe, and I realize some will disagree with me on this, they can also be a Heavenly language as Paul states, "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels." 
2.  In the New Testament it speaks of New Tongues, Other Tongues, Unknown Tongues and the tongues of men and of Angels.
3.  One type of tongues is found in Acts 2, which is God supernaturally allowing you to speak in a known language that you did not formally study in order to evangelize. This type needs no interpretation.  Another type, According to David Platt, who is now President of our International Mission Board as Southern Baptists and you can watch the video here, is unintelligible languages that must have an interpretation.  
4. The most controversial viewpoint or type is that of a prayer language.  Paul does say in 1 Corinthians 14:13-14: "Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret. For if i pray in and unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth but my understanding is unfruitful." In other words, you can pray in a tongue and not understand what you are praying, so you should also pray for understanding and interpretation to get the full edification from that experience. 

Having said this, I do feel it necessary to say there have been great men and women of God who believed many different things about this subject but God used greatly! Corey Tin Boom, William Jethro Walthall, and John Wimbur all believed in and practiced speaking in tongues and God used in great ways as mighty vessels for His glory. Chuck Smith, the founder of Calvary Chapel, also believed that ALL the gifts were in operation today and God used him to give us gifts and soul-winners like Greg Laurie and Jon Courson that bless us with their preaching on the radio, tv and internet. Adrian Rogers, R.G. Lee, and J. Harold Smith, on the other hand, did not practice speaking in tongues but were used of God to see 1,000's if not millions come to Christ. Others, like John R. Rice, taught an empowerment and believed in tongues as far as a supernatural ability to speak languages to evangelize.  

The main point is this, and then we will get to the "More Excellent Way!" Tongues are a gift of the Spirit, but not everyone speaks in tongues.  God gives gifts to man as it pleases Him (1 Corinthians 12:18). We are different members of the same body with different functions, therefore we need different gifts to glorify God in the capacity in which He has placed us.  But as for tongues, since that is the topic of this post, 1 Corinthians 14 gives clear guidelines as to how they are to be used in a corporate worship service.  

1.  Not everyone is to speaking in tongues at once. v. 22  This leads to confusion and turns off the unbeliever that the gift is given primarily as a sign to.
2.  No more than 2 or 3 should do it and none without an interpreter.  V. 27  If there is no interpreter, the one speaking or praying in tongues should go off by themselves, because tongues edifies the individual believer but not the whole body.  
3.  The women weren't to do it but were to learn from their husbands at home.  V. 34 Evidently, the women of Corinth were using this gift to usurp authority in church over their husbands that God didn't give them in the home. So Paul is correcting this with this guideline.
4.  Finally, all things were to be done decently and in order.  v. 40  

While they weren't to forbid people from speaking in tongues (v. 39), they were to emphasize prophecy and speaking words that everyone could understand so all could be edified by them.  When these guidelines are adhered to there will be no confusion and fear.  This brings us to the "More Excellent Way."  Paul said, in the midst of this passage on spiritual gifts that the more excellent way is the way of love.  Agape Love that is unconditional and seeks the needs of others above it's own.


We should always seek the well being of and give preferential treatment to others.  Therefore, I have said all this to say this, "What went on at the end of Sunday Night's service, WAS NOT Biblical tongues." It didn't edify the entire congregation and brought confusion and fear to younger believers.  This could have been avoided if the guidelines of 1 Corinthians 14 and the Principle of 1 Corinthians 13 were adhered to! Tongues along with all other Gifts of the Spirit have their place. But we must test the spirits and operate according to Scripture.  Satan is a deceiver and counterfeiter, and not all that is claimed to be of God's Spirit is. But at the same time, we can't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  We must be mature enough, discerning enough and courageous enough to confront error with truth and speak the truth in love to one another. If someone is disrupting a service, as pastor, I must confront in love and with the truth of God's Word. I must let the Holy Spirit produce self-control in me, so that I don't become a stumbling block to others as well. God's Word is there to comfort and protect us not hinder us or harm us!

Finally, let me say that we DESPERATELY NEED the Holy Spirit! We need his Baptism (to be fully immersed in His Fire); We need His Anointing (to enhance our service for Christ); and We need His Filling (to control us in and produce something supernatural in us)! We CANNOT FULFILL The Great Commission or The Mission of the Church to glorify God WITHOUT HIM! WE CANNOT LIVE the Christian Life without Him! We need whatever gifts He chooses to give us, when He chooses to give them.  We shouldn't grieve Him, quench Him, resist Him, reject Him or blaspheme Him! And we shouldn't judge other believers and the gifts they have been given.  WE MUST WORK TOGETHER IN LOVE AND UNDERSTANDING to fulfill Acts 1:8 until Christ Comes! 


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