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Are Tongues For Today

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Are Tongues For Today?

Are Tongues For Today?

       I know you are wondering why I have this on, it represents the nine tools that you get when you are baptized in the Holy Ghost.  God impressed upon me to use this to keep us focused on what He has given to us.  Please ignore it for now, but I’ll talk about it later.

       You have heard about the boy who falsely cried wolf so much, until when the real wolf appeared, it devoured him—because nobody paid any attention to his cry.  Well, pastors and church people can do the same thing with the will of God or the impression of God.  If God tells us everything, then the importance of the voice of God is soon lost, and nobody believes us.  Therefore, I do not run around saying that God told me everything or has impressed everything upon my heart or mind.  I just say true things like, “This came to me while I was reading the Bible and I believe it is the Lord” or “I feel strongly that this is the Lord.”  These statements have more truth to them and should leave room for stronger or weaker statements.  Well, I believe that God has impressed upon me to do some teaching on the subject of “Tongues,” on Sunday morning.

       Back in 1997, when we begin to restudy the passages of the Bible that deal with “Tongues” and other Pentecostal things, I preached fifty-five (55) messages in that series, but all of that was done on Wednesday nights.  So, some of those who left the church because of my change in doctrine, never heard me preach one message of that series, because 75% of the church doesn’t attend Wednesday evening service.  Yet, Wednesday evening service is where I usually will cover the deeper teachings of the Bible and do so in more depth.

       Please keep in mind that many of the people who left were leaders and they too missed most of that teaching, because leaders were allowed to miss Wednesday nights with no accountability.  Well, that’s going to stop.  All leaders of this church are going to attend on Wednesday or keep up by tape, if they have to work, or they are not going to be leaders of this church.  You can’t be a leader of this church and miss 50% of the teaching that goes on in this body.

       The point is:  “Most people in this church, because of their attendance patterns, have never heard me do a series of messages on Tongues!”  So, I believe that God said to me, “It is time to bring this teaching to the Sunday morning crowd.

       If you are listening carefully, you will notice that I called the gathering on Sunday morning a “crowd.”  I do this, because there are at least three levels of people in any church:  1) the crowd or people that gather on Sunday morning; 2) the congregation, i.e. those who are committed to the church at some level; and 3) the core, i.e. those leaders who have made a solid commitment to the ministry of the church.

       So, after today, the church will have at least some teaching on things that they have believed they understood all along.

       Please keep in mind that during that series and during this ongoing paradigmatic transition or model shift:

1.     Our attendance never went down, but continued to grow.

2.     Our offerings never went down, but continued to grow.

3.     Our praise and worship went to another level.

4.     There was an increase in miracles of healing and deliverance.

5.     We began to lead a growing network of churches who feel that God wants them to be in an accountable relationship with us.

(So, I would like to begin a three-part series today that will answer three questions, “1) Are tongues for today? 2) Why do I speak in tongues? and 3) What are the Biblical guidelines for speaking in tongues?”  We begin this series by answering the first question, “Are tongues for today?”)

       In any discussion of “tongues,” there is always the question of “Are tongues for today?”  This question is raised because of the teaching of the Fundamentalists, which were the forerunners and theologians of Evangelicalism, i.e. those of us who preach the Gospel and believe that the Gospel, i.e. the euaggelizomai, i.e. the Good News of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, should be preached to the whole world for a witness, and the end shall come.

       The Fundamentalists led a “Back To The Bible” campaign in the early 1900’s, in reaction to some of the excesses of Pentecostalism, particularly the Azusa Street Revival and claims of miraculous healings all over the world.  This movement grew out of the work of B. B. Warfield, a Princeton theologian, who wrote a book entitled:  Counterfeit Miracles, which, incidentally, I have read.  Warfield’s response was used as a basis for a position statement by many who did not believe in tongues and Fundamentalism was born.  The tenets or beliefs of Fundamentalism are too many to cover here, so let it suffice to say that one of it’s major tenets is cessationism, i.e. the teaching that tongues ceased with the passing of the last apostle and are therefore not for today.

       Please keep in mind that I believe God wants us to learn something from every religious movement that He allows.  He allowed the Pentecostal movement, because there was a lack of fire and enthusiasm in the Church world at that time.  He allowed the Fundamental movement to teach the Church to stay rooted and grounded in the Word of God.  When any of these movements become polarized and pushed to an extreme, their teachings become extreme and dogmatic.

       Remember, we are more than Fundamental or Evangelical and less than Pentecostal.  We are Biblecostal.  I’ll give you a definition for that, probably in the last message.  Just keep in mind that it is more both/and than either/or!

(All right, back to Fundamentalism.)

       The doctrine of cessationism rested mainly on the interpretation of

1 Corinthians 13:8-10 (NASB-U), “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. [9] For we know in part and we prophesy in part; [10] but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away” (emphasis mine).

The doctrine is based upon the meaning of the term “perfect” and a rigid, noncontextual interpretation of the Greek terms translated “done away” and “cease.”

(I do not intend to do a major teaching on this today, because it is too long and involved.  Besides, I have already done it, as a part of 55 messages entitled “The Tongues TrilemmaÒ.”  Today, I only intend to generally prove that tongues are for today, by removing some general obstacles.

      So, let me comment briefly on 1 Corinthians 13:8-10.)

       I want to briefly deal with the phrase “the perfect.”  Cessationists maintain that it means or refers to the completed canon or list of books of the Bible.  The interpretation of these verses are crucial, because they are the only verses in the Bible that seem to directly state that tongues have ceased.

(Well, let’s touch on three possible views concerning what “the perfect means.”)

·        One view is that this phrase refers to the Rapture.  Well there will at least be knowledge and probably prophecy (or the gifts of knowledge and prophecy) after the Rapture, so this—plus a number of points, that I will not take time to right now—disproves this view.

·        Another view is that this phrase refers to the completed canon of the Bible.  This view sees “... ‘the perfect’ as referring to a full revelation given in the NT itself, which when it would come to completion would do away with the ‘partial’ forms of charismatic revelation.  Given its classical exposition by B. B. Warfield, this view has been taken over in a variety of ways by contemporary Reformed and Dispensationalist theologians.

This is an impossible view, of course, since Paul himself could not have articulated it.  There is nothing in this passage even remotely referring to the completed canon of the Bible.  What neither Paul himself nor the Corinthians could have understood cannot possibly be the meaning of this text.”[1]

·        The third view is that this phrase refers to the eternal state.  This is the easiest and simplest interpretation.  It requires no tenuous exegesis for it merely states that when the eternal state arrives the gifts of prophecy, tongues, and knowledge will no longer be needed.

Consequently, with that very, very short explanation, and after much study of the word of God, I see no verse in the Bible which states that tongues have ceased.  As a matter of fact, more and more, those who previously held this position are surrendering it.  The vocabulary seems to be just various ways of saying the same thing.  Tongues, knowledge, and prophecy will be done away with, when “the perfect” comes.  You will be hard pressed to find any major scholar who maintains that the phrase “the perfect” refers to the canon of the Bible.  And those who insist upon that interpretation do so from arguments from silence—because that is not the context of the passage and nothing concerning this is directly stated in the passage.  Most scholars, believe the phrase “the perfect,” in the NASB or “that which is perfect,” in the KJV, refers to the eternal state or the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

       Therefore, we must affirm that “Tongues” are for today.

(Okay, we have affirmed that tongues are for today, by showing what the Bible does not say about them.  Are there any Scriptures that positively state that they are still for today.  The answer is, “Not explicitly,” but there is verse from which can draw a very strong inference.)

       Luke wrote in

Acts 2:38-39 (NASB-U), “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. [39] For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.’”

These are the words of Peter to the crowd that gathered after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Great Day of Pentecost.  He affirms that the promise of the Father or the promise of the Holy Spirit, which they had just received was for the Jews, their children, all who were far off, i.e. the Gentiles, and as many as the Lord our God would call to Himself, i.e. all believers in the New Dispensation of the New Testament.

       Now some of you will say, but I don’t see tongues there.  If you go back a few verses, you will see how Peter characterized the promise of the Holy Spirit.  He said in

Acts 2:33 (NASB-U), “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.”

Peter characterized the promise of the Holy Spirit as that which they both saw and heard.  What did they see and hear?  Just go back a few more verses to

Acts 2:1-4 (NASB-U), “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. [2] And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. [3] And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. [4] And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.”

They saw tongues that looked like fire distributing themselves and resting on each one of the 120.

They heard 1)  A noice like a violent rushing wind; and 2)  Each one of the 120, in the upper room, speak with tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

       Therefore, Peter affirms that what they saw and heard was for today.

       I can hear some of you, but there is no more noise like a wind and visible tongues of fire being experienced today.  It was only experienced one time.  You are right!  It only occurred at the initial advent of the Holy Spirit to the world in this advent, in this way, but tongues continued to occur after Pentecost.

       Well, that is enough, because if there is a predisposition towards disbelief, no amount of proof will do.  It is like saying, “I have made up my mind!  Don’t try to confuse me with the facts!”  And please hear me, “I understand that position and have empathy for those who hold it, because I in the same position, until I had a Damacus Road epiphany!”  You too will need an encounter with the Holy Spirit and an inbreaking revelation from God!!!

       Praise God that He has given us a tool belt with nine tools on it.  [Illustrate].  This is seen in

1 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NASB-U), “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. [8] For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; [9] to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, [10] and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.”

(We only want to consider two tools in this short series:  the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues, i.e. the hot line to heaven!!!)

       As I read the New Testament, particularly Acts and the writings of Paul, I see two kinds of tongues.  If there are not two kinds of tongues, then Paul’s writings don’t seem to make sense.  There are times when he exhorts everyone to speak in tongues and then states that everyone won’t speak in tongues.  I believe that is because he is talking about the grace of tongues and the gift of tongues.

       The grace of tongues is a part of the inspired speech that tends to accompany the baptism in the Holy Spirit and I believe is available for all who receive that experience.  Keep in mind that just because something is available does not mean that we all shall experience it.  Salvation is available to all, but all will not experience it.  Freedom from guilt is available to all who receive salvation, but not all will experience that.

       The gift of tongues is the gift of speaking a prophetic message to the church, which must be interpreted to equal prophecy.  Paul asked, “Do all speak with tongues?”  I believe he is talking about the gift of tongues, and the obvious answer is, “No, all will not speak prophetic messages to the church in tongues, because all do not have that gifting.”

(I will cover this a little more, as we go along.  Right now, let me stab at answering one more question, “If tongues are for today, then why haven’t I spoken in tongues?”)

       That is a great question!  Let me suggest some answers.

1.     Uncritical acceptance of the cessationist doctrine.

This precipitates a predisposition against tongues with many people, and God doesn’t usually work against our wills.

2.     The history of the Church, which moved to institutionalize speaking in tongues and move it away from the people.

Because of some abuses in the early church, which are always a part of any revival movement, the Church tried to move speaking in tongues away from the people and into the leadership hierarchy of the Church.

3.     Bias against tongues, because of past abuse.

The abuses and extremes that plagues tongues in the early 1900’s continue today in some circles.  These abuses have biased people against tongues.  Therefore these is no desire for the gift or grace of tongues, or even worse, there is a disdain or scorn.

4.                Because of all of these eventualities, there is little biblical teaching on tongues—and this lack of teaching does away with any expectation of speaking in tongues.

5.                Personality Issues.

The cultures and personalities of the Hebrews are quite unlike the culture and personalities of people today.  The Hebrews were a much more feeling and experience oriented people.  Jewish scholar and Christian, Alfred Edersheim wrote, “…Galilee was the great scene of our Lord’s working and teaching, and the home of His first disciples and apostles…  …the character of the people is described to us by Josephus, and even by the Rabbis, they seem to have been a warm-hearted, impulsive, generous race—intensely national in the best sense, active, not given to idle speculations or wire-drawn logico-theological distinctions, but conscientious and earnest.”[2]  This is the direct opposite of American people.  We are much more like the Greeks who lifted intellect above feeling and experience.  The Bible highlights the heart, i.e. intellect, emotions, and will.  The personality issues that flow from our culture and personalities are:

1)    Issues of intellectualism.

Intellectualism lifts the intellect above emotion and is anti-emotional and anti-supernatural.  Those who lift up intellectualism often have an inability to get in touch with spirit.  Intellectualism does not refer to people who use their intellects, but people who lift up and almost deify their intellects over their emotions.

2)                Issues of pride.

Pride can often accompany intellectualism—both human pride and religious pride.  I was quite proud of my doctrinal beliefs and positions.  I was doctrinally arrogant.  Well, God took care of that!

3)                Issues of misunderstanding.

Because of intellectualism and pride, there are invariably going to be issues of misunderstanding.  Why?  Because with these two positions comes a closed mind.  Even though I believe in life-long learning and continued to study the issue, there was an intellectual smugness that was not open to anything different from what I had already learned.

4)    Issues of control.

People who live their lives through the perspective of intellectualism often do so in an attempt to establish familiarity and control in their lives.  They reduce everything that they can into a proposition, position, or statement.  They don’t seem to realize that there are many spiritual things in God’s Word and with the God of the Word that cannot be explained or adequately captured by propositional statements.

       The Bible and the people of the Bible dealt with stories!

5)    Issues of abuse, which have deadened, suppressed, or repressed the emotions.

This may be more prevalent than most people are aware of.  The preference for the intellect over the emotions is probably connected to personality, but it is often taken to an extreme because of issues with abuse.  I have a natural personality preference for the intellectual, but I have not taken that to an extreme, and since about 1982, I have worked to develop the emotional part of my personality.  Those who have been abused tend to bury their emotions deep inside.  This makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to put emotions in their proper natural and biblical context.

       In my Tuesday morning quiet time (11/31/98), I came across this Scripture in my Bible reading.  This is in the NIV.  Listen to it carefully.  The Bible says in

Ephesians 4:17-19, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”

Doesn’t this sound like what I am describing.

6)    Issues of fear.

All of these things seem to be connected to and lead to a fear of emotion.  This fear of emotion sometimes manifests itself as a fear of emotionalism and fanaticism that keeps people far away from the many legitimate emotions that are talked about in the Bible.  Many people now fear emotionalism and fanaticism more than they fear being spiritual dead.

7)    Issues of God’s sovereignty.

We are not in control of what God does.  We can ask in faith believing, but we don’t need to demand God or feel tricked, cheated, or inferior if God chooses not to bless us immediately with what we asked for.  We must assume that God has a reason why He is not immediately giving us what we desire and continue to seek Him and live in submission to His will.

I want to let Jack Hayford give us some final warnings:

·        “We reject simplistic categories which seem to suggest our experience with God is invalidated without tongues.

·        We suspect manipulative means which goad toward tongues without focusing on Christ Himself.

·        We doubt the practicality of having an emotional experience if it doesn’t contribute to some lasting benefit or worth on the long road of Christian discipleship.”[3]

Let’s end with this final exhortation:

1 Corinthians 14:39, “Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.”

(Now is the Day of Salvation!  Come to Jesus, Now!)


Call to Discipleship


[1] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle To The Corinthians, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1987, p. 645.

[2] Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 1994, p. 39.

[3] Jack. W. Hayford, The Beauty Of Spiritual Language, Thomas Nelson Publishing, Nashville, Tennessee, 1995, p. 50.

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