In our previous sermon, we ended our sermon on the topic dealing with the Spiritual Gift of Discernment or distinguishing of spirits. Once again, we know that spiritual gifts are given to us when we are born again. They are:
From the Father: James 1:17; 1 Corinthians 8:6
Provided by the Son: Ephesians 4:7-8, 11
Given and administered by the Spirit: 1 Corinthians 12:11
This morning, we will resume by looking at what I consider the most controversial gift today, the gift of tongues. I can tell how excited you are, and it seems like we have a much fuller house. From what I’ve seen, heard and experienced, the emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit and the extra emphasis on the gift of tongues seem to supplement what the charisprobra believe they need to fulfill their Christian life. Without this phenomenon with its attendant emotional high, they seem to be incomplete, unless, of course it is topped by “speaking in tongues.” Has it ever occurred to you or have you ever wondered why many or all of (I’m now generalizing here), all of the charisprobra speak “in tongues” but yet somehow ignore the other gifts? They make it seem as if the other gifts of the spirit that are not showy in nature are reserved for others, not them.
In Ephesians 4:11-16 we learn of the reason why Christians have been given gifts. We also learn of some other gifts that are not mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. Let us look at Ephesians 4:7-16 as it will serve as another backdrop for us, especially since we are now going to look at the gift of languages. Ephesians 4:7-16,
7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
By the way “ascended” and “descended” in vv 8-9 simply means or respectively refers to Jesus’ ascension which we read about in the Book of Acts, Ch. 1 and Jesus’ incarnation, you know, when He was born as a man, when He came down from His home above in heaven into the earth. Interestingly, the charisprobra have some outlandish teachings on these verses. When Christ came to earth, He suffered harshly so that we can have these gifts and when He rose, He led captivity captive meaning that through His crucifixion and resurrection He conquered both satan and death. And in that triumphant victory over these archenemies, He released and returned to God the Father those who were once sinners and prisoners of satan (Colossians). He then, according to v.8 gave gifts unto men. After His ascension came all the gifts and, all of these gifts are empowered by the Holy Spirit. You remember what Christ said, that if He doesn’t go, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come? So in all, do you see how important these gifts are? If these gifts didn’t come cheap, why should we so abuse them?
Our passage in Ephesians also tells us that each believer is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Amen! In addition and as we have been learning, the purpose of these gifts was and is still of primary significance. According to vv.12-13 of our passage, they were, and still are 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
You recall what we learnt about the body, that no one part is better than another and that all the parts of the body are necessary for it to function properly. But no, look at the “speaking in tongues” people and how they manipulate this unbiblical mutterings and utterings that they call “tongues.” What they are doing is no way close to obedience to the Word of God, no way close to respecting God, no way close to uplifting the Name of the Holy Spirit; fact is, no way close to anything that glorifies God.
Anyway, what are the gifts mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4? They include:
4:11 – apostles. The word means “sent,” and is used of the 12 disciples who had seen the risen Christ (this includes Matthias who replaced Judas, and Paul who met Christ on the road to Damascus). These apostles were chosen directly by Christ and were given these 3 key responsibilities:
Lay the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20);
Receive, declare and write God’s Word (Ephesians 3:5, Acts 11:28; 21:10-11); and
Confirm the Word through signs, wonders and miracles (Acts 8:6-7; 2 Corinthians 12:12 and Hebrews 2:3-4).
In a way, we are all, as Christians, apostles (i.e. “sent”) and so there is a more general sense in terms of the meaning of the word “apostle.” This general sense is used in the early church of people like Barnabas (Acts 14:4), Silas and Timothy (1 Thessalonians 2:6) and of others (Romans 16:7, Philippians 2:25). In this case, they are referred to as “messengers (i.e. apostles) to the churches,” (2 Corinthians 8:23). So they are those who open up new mission territories to the gospel. I know that today, certain preachers who look for authentification from others carry around the label “apostle so-and-so.” It is not an office as they claim and want to be thought of. Stay away from such.
4:11 – prophets – we already saw this word but to reiterate, prophets foretell and tell forth; they are those who apply the Word in spiritually compelling ways and the best definition is 1 Corinthians 14:3 But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort.
4:11 – evangelists – are men who proclaim the good news to unbelievers (Acts 21:8; 2 Timothy 4:5); they have a special ability to share the gospel in a way that often brings a positive response from unbelievers. Today, we refer to itinerant preachers as evangelists; and
4:11 – pastors and teachers – the word “pastor” normally means “shepherd” and the term “pastors and teachers” is really best understood in the context of a single office of leadership in the church. The phrase can be read, watch this, “pastors, in particular, teachers”. They are those who communicate the Word so that believers are built up in their faith. That is a key difference between the evangelist (preach to unbelievers) and pastor and teacher (preach to believers). One who holds such office is also called an “elder,” (Titus 1:5-9), “bishop” or “overseer” (1 Timothy 3:1-7). Acts 20:28 and 1 Peter 5:1-2 ties them all together. Let’s read these passages:
Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
1 Peter 5:1-2 1 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
Now, Ephesians 6:17-20 has three very interesting things that I would like to share with you. They are responsible for motivating you and I as Christians. These three things allow:
God to speak us. “Take…the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.” (v. 17)
Us to speak to God. “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…” (v. 18)
Us to speak to the lost, unsaved. “…and for me…that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” (v. 19)
Let me repeat myself, again. The goal an purpose of the use of these gifts is that Christians will be what? Made “perfect” in their faith and move on to maturity. When we effectively use our gifts, we create a unity, which bears witness to the reality of Christ.
What drives you as a child of God? Reading the Bible? Prayer? Serving the Lord? Leading others to Christ? Loving God? Obeying God? These should excite you when it comes to your relationship with God our Father. Amen!
We now have a healthy background or context so l think we want to move on to the text that is before us. The issue, as we move on is about tongues or languages.
Now we have before us this verse 1 Corinthians 12:10 and Chapters 13-14, all of which deal with the issue of tongues. But these verses and chapters are not the first reference to tongues. There is a whole biblical context, which we have to look at in order to get a good grasp of 1 Corinthians 12-14. To get the biblical context as to what the Bible says about tongues, we need to journey back to chapter 16 of the Gospel of Mark and also look at the Book of Acts 2, 10, 19. Prepare yourselves for a Holy Spirit-led journey of illumination.
So what is “tongues?” Our verse, 1 Corinthians 12:10 says to another speaking in different kinds of tongues and to still another the interpretation of tongues.
8. v.10 The gift of tongues (glossolalia, glossa)
The Greek word, “glossa” means “tongue,” or “language”. Did you hear that? The Greek word, “glossa” means “tongue,” or what? “Language.” I want you to get that right off; it is very important. Now when you pick up a book, particularly academic books, you will notice that in the back they have what is referred to as “The Glossary.” This word “Glossary,” also known as a vocabulary simply means a listing of words, an explanation of words in an alphabetical order.
Now, the charisprobra constantly talk about “speaking in tongues” and always utter gibberish as the evidence but in actuality the gift of tongues is the ability to speak a language that one has never learnt and this gift is really two different gifts:
The ability to speak in tongues, and
The ability to interpret tongues
Now I said that the word “tongues” actually means language so the gift of tongues is a supernatural gift given to praise God in a foreign language that the individual has never learned; it is the ability to speak, or interpret a language that you have never learned. It is not the ability to learn or understand a language quickly but speak a language that you never learnt or probably never even heard. For example, on the Day of Pentecost, the apostles began speaking and praising God and people from every nation under heaven understood them. Watch this carefully and don’t forget it. The Bible says they were what? Praising God and secondly, it was NOT in an unknown tongue but in known tongues. It was unknown to the apostles but known to their hearers.
Now, we know that the word “unknown,” used in 1 Corinthians 14:2, 4, 13-14 is not in the original and therefore I’d like you to know that it was supplied by the translators. So with this knowledge, we are better able to understand in reading Acts 2 why the Bible says that the people were impressed, asking, “How did you learn these languages?” For them to ask this question reminds us that language is an agreement between parties, where it is either understood or agreed that certain sounds represent certain objects or ideas. The apostles spoke and the people were able to understand. If they had uttered nonsense, the people would have walked away or pelted them with stones! But they spoke real languages.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
But here is a question to ask yourself: if speaking in tongues is such an important gift, why is it not prominent in the New Testament? What are we to learn from this fact? You know as a refresher, I’d like to touch briefly on the Old Testament. Remember that right from the start, in Genesis 10:5 we read that 5 By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations. We see the same in Genesis 10:20, 31, and also Genesis 11:5-7. Genesis 11:5-7 is about the Tower of Babel. There we read:
5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. 6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. 7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.
Beloved, from these verses that we read, it is clear that the word “tongues” simply meant and means “languages.” The people speaking spoke in their own tongues, which basically meant that they were speaking in the language of their land of origin. So as is very obvious to us, everyone spoke the same tongue (language) prior to the Tower of Babel, as such there wasn’t any problem communicating with each other.
But then in Genesis 11:5-7, which we just read, we learn that God confounded or confused their tongue (language), so that they could not communicate with each other. As a result, the construction of that great tower had to come to a grinding halt. And next, mankind was scattered across the earth amongst their own, what? What? Tongue, (speech).
Language was originally given by God to man so that God and man could communicate with each other. Then, communication with other people was secondary as there was no “other people.” Yes, there was no one else until Eve was created. So God, who invented and gave language to man exercised His right to change man’s language at Babel. It is clear for us then that here at Babel, God not only gave each man a new language; He seems to have removed the old language from each man’s memory as well.
Now, much later after the Israelites disobeyed God, He told them that something was going to happen to them. In Deuteronomy 28:49 the Bible says ‘The LORD shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand.’ What does that tell you? That at this time and in confirming the Genesis 11 account, the whole world was now populated with different people all of whom spoke different what? Tongues (languages). It also confirms for us that this other nation would be speaking in a known language, not as some claim today, some so-called “heavenly” ecstatic utterances. By the way there are also other references to tongues in the Old Testament, in Ezra 4:7, where reference is made to the Syrian tongue and Daniel 1:4 where reference is made to the tongue of the Chaldeans.
Now let us look at all the references to tongues in the New Testament.
THE NEW TESTAMENT
First, the Gospels
The four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the backbone or the foundational books of the New Testament. Yet only Mark mentions tongues and even at that, his was a quick and short mention and it is made at the end, in the last chapter, Chapter 16 of Mark. In Mark 16:17, Jesus says: 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; There it is, new tongues. And do you know that the earliest manuscript does not have Mark 16:9-20? If so, that whittles down the references to tongues in the New Testament by one verse. But we have it in our Bible so we will not ignore it but work with it. And look at this, Mark 16:17 simply mention tongues as one of the gifts that would be expressed in the time of the apostles’ ministry. This is the first reference in the New Testament.
Second, the Book of Acts
Remember, there are twenty-seven (27) books that make up the New Testament and the second mention after Mark’s single verse reference is made in the Book of Acts. Well in Acts, reference is made to tongues only three (3) times and those occasions refer to 3 different cases. And in each of these 3 cases, it is about a first, unique and historic occasion in the church:
When the Holy Spirit first descended on the Church on the Day of Pentecost, Acts 2
When Peter first shared the gospel to the Gentiles, Acts 10:46
When Paul founded the church in Ephesus, Acts 19:6
These occasions also represent important signs directed specifically at the Jews and also in general at the world. In Acts 2, this sign meant that the Spirit of God had come and that God was speaking His truth. It was also given as a sign gift on the day of Pentecost and also, it was a sign to unbelievers of the power of God. In Acts 10, it was a sign indirectly to others just as it was to unbelieving Israel that if they wouldn’t listen in the language they could both speak and understand, then in judgment, God would begin to speak a language they couldn’t understand. This is something that Paul states in 1 Corinthians 14, which we will see when we get to Chapter 14.
When we look at the three occasions in the Book of Acts that I just mentioned, we can also see that those occasions were those times when believers were being added to the Body of Christ. Moreover, they were receiving the same Holy Spirit since they were being born again. Further, in Acts 2 where it first occurred, 16-18 different languages are specifically mentioned as being languages that the apostles had NEVER learned! I don’t know if they had ever heard those languages before but certainly they had never learned them. And also, I might add, the languages spoken by these early Christians were intelligible.
There is a reference made in Revelation, and its meaning is very obvious to all. It is found in Revelation 7:9; it says: “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.” This plainly informs us that out of the multitude from the Great Tribulation God would give some people the gift of speaking in the language of another nation to further the gospel message that Christ said would be preached to all nations.
So in total, we see five references made in the New Testament, and even the one in Mark 16 is debatable. Then after, the only other reference is what we see here in I Corinthians 12-14. What does this mean? It means that Paul does not mention tongues in any of his other epistles besides 1 Corinthians and none of the other writers like the author of Hebrews, Peter, John (besides the reference made in the Book of Revelation) or Jude mention this gift. Doesn’t it mean or imply that it was NOT important or, the church didn’t place much focus or a strong emphasis on this gift? So, why are so many churches and people today so obsessed with tongues?
Yes, why are so many churches here, in the States, Australia, Africa, the Caribbean, and “new” frontiers like Russia teaching that every believer must have the gift of tongues? Why do they teach and force everyone to “speak in tongues?” And you know, as a result, many of those who attend those churches force themselves to “speak in tongues.” And those of us in non-charisprobrum churches who do not seriously walk with the Lord are easy prey to the charisprobra. What do I mean? They are easily able to make you feel that if you don’t demonstrate the gift of tongues, you don’t have the Holy Spirit. Some even say that you are not a Christian! But if you study the Word, you will be able to evangelize them. Yes, evangelize and teach them what the Bible says about spiritual gifts and tongues.
Now, I want us to have a closer look at the reference in Acts 2.
Acts 2 – The Day of Pentecost
The English word “Pentecost” is a transliteration of the Greek word pentekostos, which means “fifty.” Pentecost is also referred to as the “birthday of the church” and signifies the coming of the Holy Spirit. The first thing we learn about tongues in Acts 2, is that the speaking in different languages (tongues) occurred on the Day of Pentecost. This is significant because Jewish men were required to observe three feasts, each once a year, Deuteronomy 16:16. “Three times in a year shall all thy males appear before the LORD thy God in the place which He shall choose; in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and in the feast of tabernacles: and they shall not appear before the LORD empty.”
These feasts were the:
Feast of Unleavened Bread (called Passover), the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is a high Sabbath, is a seven day feast to the Lord
Feast of Pentecost (Pentecost is also called the Feast of Weeks)
Feast (Festival) of Tabernacles
Note this, that all three of these festivals are agricultural harvest Festivals.
Passover is the barley harvest.
Pentecost is the wheat harvest.
Festival of Tabernacle is the fruit harvest
So the word “Pentecost,” which today is the label for a denomination simply means “fifty.” This name comes from an expression in Leviticus 23:16, which instructs people to count seven weeks or “fifty days” from the end of Passover to the beginning of the next holiday and what it meant was that it was a celebration fifty days after the Feast of First fruits. I won’t be elaborating on these but just know that there is information on the Feast of First Fruits in Leviticus 23:9-14. During Passover, the day following the Sabbath is called the Feast of First Fruits (Leviticus 23:10-14). Christ is the first fruit of the resurrection, fulfilling Scripture by His resurrection. Says 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.”
Determining the Holy Spirit’s Arrival
So 50 days after the Feast of First fruits, as promised by the Lord, the Holy Spirit came among the disciples thus initiating a new dispensation. Christ had told them to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit came; let us read two passages, Acts 1:4 and Acts 2:1.
“And being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father which saith he, ye have heard of me” (Acts 1:4)
“And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1)
So right away, we see that it was the Lord who promised the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come and He will only come after He, Christ, had gone back to Heaven. Here in John 16:7 we read:
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you“ (John 16:7).
“Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen” (Acts1:2).
Now, look at Christ’s last instructions to His Apostles:
“And, behold, I send the promise (Holy Spirit) of my Father upon you, but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
Also, notice carefully the following that those who were baptized and filled with (in other words controlled by) the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) spoke with other tongues (i.e. languages). Beloved, slowly we are getting there; I don’t want to rush this. I want us to get it well so that when you meet your Pentecostal or charisprobra friends, you will be well armed in defending the gospel, alright? You know, Pentecostal Christianity used to be a small segment of Protestantism, but today it has spread throughout the world like wildfire and is the fastest growing form of Christianity.
And many Pentecostals are nothing but glorified aladura churches. I recall in Ghana how these aladura or spiritual churches used to be shunned because of their erratic and very questionable religious practices and heavy emphasis on witchcraft in everything; now they are mainstream. You know these aladura churches are Nigerian (the word is Yoruba and means “Praying People” or “Owners of Prayer”) in origin, started in 1918 by some prophet-healer, Joseph Babalola who was influenced by literature from small U.S. divine-healing churches like Faith Tabernacle Church of Philadelphia. And look at it now, how today, they have metamorphosed and call themselves Pentecostals, Charismatics, etc.
Anyway, back to where we were, do you see what I see here? What I mean is that this infilling and speaking in other languages was NOT the result of ASKING, SEEKING, or BEGGING for the Holy Spirit. It was a gift given to the disciples through the Holy Spirit, as Christ had promised earlier. And when they were gathered in the upper room, they had no clue at all in that they didn’t even know what or if anything was going to happen. In fact they were afraid and kept hiding from the authorities, sort of ‘being on the run’ so this new phenomenon wasn’t expected at all. It was simply a matter of the Holy Spirit coming at the appointed time, in the fullness of time as the Bible says, to fulfill God’s promise, that, after Christ had ascended back home to our future home, heaven, He (Christ) would not leave them comfortless; by the way I am referring John 14:17,18. So the Holy Spirit came as a result of a promise! Hallelujah!
As I draw to a close, here’s another question to ask ourselves: Is the manifestation of what we see today the same as what was manifested in Acts 2, which we just saw? And a question linked to this is, how can we know if a manifestation of “tongues” is true or untrue, legitimate or illegitimate, or truthful or fraudulent?
Well to answer these questions and more like them, we will have to wait until the next time we get together, by God’s grace, and we will feast on what the Lord has for us. Amen!