Monday, September 04, 2017

Speaking in Tongues

I've been asked about speaking in tongues a couple of times recently, and I thought I'd go ahead and post my thoughts publicly.

I think tongues is a wonderful gift, and from what I can tell in the scriptures it's been used differently for different purposes. In the early church, in Acts, speaking in tongues was primarily a supernatural gift used to proclaim God to people who spoke other languages. In Acts 2, the apostles (not all believers) began speaking in tongues, which was a matter of them "speaking the wonderful works of God" in the languages of the other people from other countries who were either living in Jerusalem or visiting there. In Acts 10, the gift was also given to the Gentiles, who were magnifying God in other languages. This wasn’t a "prayer language." It was a practical matter of evangelism, done supernaturally.

Then in 1 Cor 12, 13 and 14, it talks about different uses of tongues in the church. In 1 Cor 14, Paul says, "he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries." Then it says, "He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church." So in this case, it doesn't appear to be used for the sake of others, but rather for self-edification. The word "mysteries" means "secrets" or "hidden things."

Self-edification is a good thing. Speaking mysteries, hidden things or secrets to God in the spirit is a good thing. But it's even better, according to Paul, when one prophesies (1 Cor 14:5). But yet they're both wonderful things. The main caution that Paul gives is that since others can't understand what you're saying when you're speaking in tongues, if I may paraphrase Paul, "speak in your own language when around others (the language that they understand), unless there is someone there to interpret your tongues."

Again, speaking of the public use of tongues, Paul says, "If I come to you speaking with tongues," it doesn't profit you. In a gathering, this use of tongues doesn't profit others. However, "if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful." It's great for my spirit to pray. It's a matter of self-edification and speaking hidden things in the spirit, which is good, so I pray in tongues privately. But I pray both in tongues and with my understanding. (1 Cor 14:13-17)

Do I think that everyone must speak in tongues? Do I think that tongues is a necessary evidence of salvation or that someone has the Spirit? Not at all. Not all have the gift, and that’s absolutely the way it’s meant to be. In Acts 2:4 and 19:6, it does indeed say that people were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began speaking with other tongues. But this does not in any way mean or suggest that this is what must happen with all people. In fact, there are other passages that talk about people receiving the Spirit, with no mention at all of tongues. And nowhere in the NT epistles, where the message of salvation is clearly given, is tongues attached to it in any way.

Back to 1 Corinthians. In Chapter 12, Paul is talking about various gifts that God has given to members of the body of Christ for the benefit of all. Tongues is one of these gifts, among many other gifts. Paul asks rhetorically, "Do all speak with tongues?" The implied answer is "No." His point in the chapter as a whole is that the body of Christ is made up of many different parts. Not all members of the body of Christ are the same, and they don't all function in the same way. The gifts are diversely spread throughout the body. Not everyone has the same gifts... and it’s set up that way by God Himself, all for the good of the body as a whole.

God has blessed the body of Christ with the gift of tongues - one gift among many gifts, just as with all the other gifts. The body works well when all the parts aren't doing the same thing, but are doing what they were individually called to do! On top of all this, Paul says there is something even greater than walking in any of the gifts, even the "best" gifts. He is, of course, speaking about love. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal." (1 Cor 13:1) No matter what our individual view of "tongues" is, or if we use it in the same way or not... it all means nothing apart from walking in love.


I also posted this as a Facebook note, and there is a good conversation going on about all of this here:

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The Answer Is Always B - 8/2/17 - Temporary or Eternal Life

What is the correct wording of John 3:16?

A. "God gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should be given temporary life, until that person sins again, and then that person loses that life until he confesses and repents and starts doing good again, and then he'll be given temporary life until he sins again. And if at the time of his death he happens to have even one sin that he hasn't confessed and repented of, then it's curtains for him and he perishes, but if he did manage to confess and repent, then and only then will he be actually given eternal life."

B. "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

C. "Am I only dreaming or is this burning an eternal flame?"

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Communion Isn't for Remembering Our Sins - It's for Remembering Christ!

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes." 1 Cor 11:26

Communion, or The Lord's Supper, isn't for the purpose of remembering our sins. It's for the purpose of remembering Christ, who took away our sins!

But you say, "Let a man examine himself!" Yes, Paul said that, but what was he referring to? He has just finished telling the Corinthians that when they come together for the Lord's Supper, some are eating ahead of others, letting others go hungry. And some are getting drunk. He tells them, "Don't you have your own houses to do that in?!?" This is the "unworthy manner" in which they were partaking of the Lord's Supper. This is what he was telling them to examine themselves about.

Again, the true meaning of Communion is to proclaim the Lord's death. The Lord's Supper is meant to be a celebration - or at the very least, a remembrance - of what was accomplished through the Lord's death. Jesus Himself said, "Remember ME." Not "Remember your sins." Through His death, our sins were taken away once and for all! In remembering Him, and proclaiming His death, we remember that through His blood our sins were cast into the sea of forgetfulness!

It certainly would be worth examining ourselves if while we were getting together to do this, certain people were eating all the food and others were getting drunk. That manner of remembering the Lord's death would certainly be unworthy of the majesty of all that we're gathered together to celebrate! But when we're eating a wafer or a tiny piece of bread, and a thimble-sized shot of wine or grape juice, how is it even possible for us to do what the Corinthians were doing? ;)

"God demonstrates His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Rom 5:8). This is what we are remembering in celebrating the Lord's Supper.

Here's a video I did on this:

The Gospel Reveals the Gift of God's Righteousness

"I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, 'The just shall live by faith.'" Rom 1:16-17

The gospel isn't the power of "I cleaned up my act." It's the power of God. The gospel isn't about "I now do righteous things." It's about God's very own righteousness given to us as a gift.

The gospel is contrasted with the wrath of God, of which Paul speaks for several verses following the above passage. He writes that the wrath of God is revealed against all the ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind. But, he says, the gospel is the answer to it all. The answer is not "keep the law of God," because nobody keeps it! The answer is not "change from doing bad to doing good," which, like keeping the law, is a form of self-righteousness.

The answer is the gospel, which reveals the gift of God's righteousness, given freely, "through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe." (Rom 3:22). It's for anyone and everyone, not by works, but simply by faith.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Let Your Confidence Be in God, Not in What Others Think of You

God alone is the judge (discerner) of your heart and ministry. Let your confidence be in what God thinks, not in what others think. People can provide constructive criticism or destructive criticism. People can provide good advice or bad advice. You can take or leave what others think or say, but no matter what, listen to what God says to you in your heart and you won't have to be concerned with what others think or say about you. Paul said he doesn't even judge himself (!), never mind being judged by others. He leaves it all up to God. (See 1 Cor 4:3-5)

Elsewhere, Paul also says that the body of Christ is a single unit, made up of many diverse parts. You are the part that you are, and others are the parts that they are, and God has placed each part exactly where He wants it. (See 1 Cor 12:4-31) The part that you play may be very different than the part that someone else plays, but God places us where we are individually for the good of the body as a whole. So be the part that you are and let others be the parts that they are, and celebrate (rather than judge) what God is doing through each and every one of us in His body.