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Doc Kinzo

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John 14:25-26 "These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

Today we are going to start our study of what people often call spiritual gifts, what they are, why we have them, how to use them. People get so excited about spiritual gifts. You get these churches that can’t get enough of them and are

Paul says that right now they are ignorant concerning (spirit things) pneumatikwn: a lot of ignorant teaching about spiritual gifts. Paul says be careful. He says, in verse 1, ”Now concerning these types of spiritual things, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed, or ignorant.”
1) Not All That Glitters is Gold: Not every thing that looks “spiritual” is in actuality from the Holy Spirit. We’re going to look at three important words today that I think are very misunderstood. The important word here is “Pneumatikon.” Spiritual things. This is was not Paul’s favorite word to talk about God’s giftings, but he uses it here because it was a favorite word of the Corinthian church. Paul uses the word more in his letter to the Corinthians than in the rest of the New Testament combined. The Corinthians liked to call themselves spiritual and they gloried in dramatic expressions of spiritually. But remember, there so-called spirituality was a self-deception. The picture here is Pyryte: fools Gold. Don’t be deceived. He reminds them of their background, their story. In Corinth, there were all sorts of religious options they had to choose from. Some of these religious options, were what we call today the mystery religions (because they all held to some form of mystery that only the higher initiates were let in on). These religions all practiced a form of religious ecstasy: a trance-like state characterized by expanded mental and spiritual awareness and is frequently accompanied by visions, hallucinations, and emotional/intuitive (and sometimes physical) euphoria, and ecstatic speech. Religious ecstasy could be and was deliberately induced using a variety of techniques, including prayer, meditation, breathing exercises, dancing, sweating, fasting, thirsting, and the consumption of alcohol or psychotropic drugs. These displays of spiritual frenzy drew people into these religions. It was captivating! What power! Paul references this when he writes in verse 2, “You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.” This is what they were saved out of, not what they should be returning back to. Notice that Paul doesn’t lump what is happening in the church with what was happening outside of the church, but he is saying, be careful because all that glitters and looks spiritual isn’t gold. Jesus explicitly said in Matthew 24:24, “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” a. Make sure you are not running after false imitations So how do you know if this spiritual movement is truly from God or not? Paul gives two tests, one negative and one positive: Verse 3, “Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus is accursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except in the Holy Spirit.” Basically, here’s the truth: people moved by the Spirit should be moving closer to, not further from, the Jesus of the Bible. b. The Spirit points to Jesus: Going back to the upper room where Jesus first promised to send the Spirit to the disciples He said "But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” If your experience of Christianity points you away from Jesus and centers only on the Holy Spirit, you are being pulled into something else. Be careful about Holy Spirit revivals that fail to point to Jesus. So we get people who are seeking the pouring out of the Spirit. We get a guy down in Florida who is preaching about how he got his doctrine from a blue angel and that God told him he should make angels the central proclamation of his ministry because people already know about Jesus. And people go to him from all over the country – thousands – to get caught up in his heresy. Be careful! Not everything you watch on Christian television, or hear on Christian radio, or see at a Christian revival is the spirit’s work. All that’s is gold does not glitter. On the other hand,
2) Not All That’s Gold Does Glitter: I think is was Tolkien who first turned the phrase around and spoke a truth more clearly aligned with Bible teaching than the first. Not all that’s gold does glitter. Speaking in regards to God’s giftings, what I mean is that some of the most glorious gifts of God are the unassuming ones. We have a big problem in the North American church. The words and categories that we use when we talk about spiritual gifts are not the concepts that the Bible uses. So we must read the Bible and let it define things for us. We must broaden our understanding of God’s giftings. The key word here is “Charismaton”. Graces. a. The Dominant North American View of Charismata (Spritual Gifts) God has given each believer at the moment of salvation (or at a specific time after salvation – laying on of hands or at baptism) at least one spiritual gift that they are to identify and use to build up the body of Christ. These are different from the natural talents and cultivated abilities that one possesses before salvation. They read every passage that Charismata is given to the church as Spiritual Gifts. b. Let’s really look at these passages. i. Romans 1:11: Paul longs to impart some spiritual gift. ii. Ephesians 4:11-12 – the gifts are the teachers. iii. Romans 12:6-8: take out prophecy for the time being, the rest are natural abilities or cultivated talents. iv. First Corinthians 12:4-6Gifts, service, activities: Paul is broadening their understanding of God’s giftings. It is God who empowers (a bit strong) ho works in all. c. People are often confused with the difference between natural abilities, cultivated talents, opportunities of service, and spiritual gifts. If we broaden our definition of Charismata, we don’t face this problem d. All given by God: Every natural ability, cultivated skill, personality trait, opportunity for service, and role that one assumes are gracious gifts from God that the believer is to use in building up His church. e. Use everything you have to serve him! There may be times not to: you’ve used your talent in a way that brought you glory not God. You are a talented leader in one sphere but not according to Christ’s principles.
3) Some That’s Gold Does Glitter: We must recognize and understand that at times the Holy Spirit does empower or enable a Christian in a supernatural way, so that he is able to meet a ministry need that could not be otherwise met. 1 Cor 12:7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (ESV)The key word here is “Phanerosis”. Manifestations. Making something clear for everyone to see. These things shine a spotlight on the Spirit – you could not do them by yourself, in your own power. They glitter. They’re gold. Notice an important part, they are given for the common good: Supernatural abilities given by the Holy Spirit to meet a ministry need that could not be met by natural means. Each of these manifestations is related to a sovereign gifting, but goes beyond it in a supernatural way so that He receives all of the glory. In these times we stand back and say, “wow!” because it is evident to all that God had done an amazing work. That’s what this list in 1 Corinthians 11 is all about. These are “wow” manifestations – the Holy Spirit showing up in a way that everyone can see to meet a ministry need that couldn’t be otherwise met. Notice three important things: a. They are given for the common good. They don’t just happen to you to look cool or to say, “hey, I’m spiritual” or even to build up your own faith. They are for the common good. b. Also, while each of these manifestations is related to a natural gifting or ability of cultivated skill you may have, they go beyond it in a supernatural way, revealing the Spirit’s work. c. Finally, we need all these gifts. I believe we still meet ministry needs that we cannot meet, and therefore the Spirit can still manifest Himself in these ways when necessary and when it will bring glory to Jesus.

The Manifestations of the Spirit (in three categories) 1) A word of wisdom: The supernatural ability to make a judgment or bring perspective to a situation through means reflecting the wisdom of God. This is differentiated from the cultivated skill of wisdom in which you learn to apply God’s principles in a wise way. We are all to become wise, but when we reach the end of our wisdom the Spirit may provide supernatural wisdom. Biblical examples: In Exodus 30-31 the spirit of wisdom (some translations call it the spirit of skill) was given to gifted artisans so that they could make Adam’s high priestly garments and a guy name Bezalel who was appointed to construct the tabernacle. Interestingly, the book of Hebrews says that these things were copies and shadows of “the true tent in heaven that the Lord set up”. God gave these artisans wisdom that they couldn’t have come up with themselves.

Joshua, Moses successor was chosen because he was a man known to have the spirit of God in Him, yet when he was confirmed in front of the people, he was given the Spirit of wisdom, so that he could rule and guide the people well. In his spirit-given wisdom, he fought the battle of Jericho by walking around the city for seven days. You don’t plan a military strategy like that!

Pray for our deacons to have this. That they can lead us in God’s wisdom, not man’s wisdom, so that when we see their judgments we may recognize that they came form God, not them.

2) A word of knowledge: Being able to know something that you wouldn’t come to know through natural means. Matthew 16:15-17 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. Acts 5:1-3 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? Mark Driscoll tells a story of how he was invited to speak at a conference and as he was about to speak, God told him that the leaders of the conference were covering up sin. 3) The Manifestations of Faith: This could be supernatural persevering faith. The ability to persevere in situations beyond what could be done through natural means. In times of persecution. Biblical example: Job. Suffering Christians. 4) Gifts of healing: Miraculous healing of the body by the spirit’s power. The Bible does not call someone a healer, but God gives gifts of healing to his church and does so through people. Elisha, was able to heal Naaman. 2Kings 5:3. James 5:13-16 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Acts 8:4-8 Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word. Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ. And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said by Philip when they heard him and saw the signs that he did. For unclean spirits, crying out with a loud voice, came out of many who had them, and many who were paralyzed or lame were healed. So there was much joy in that city. Philip was a deacon, not an Apostle! But for some reason the work was new in Samaria and needed these gifts. 5) Works of miracles: The ability to manipulate natural law through supernatural means beyond what could be naturally done. . Teleportation. Philip. Acts 8:39-40 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. Wigglesworth. Brother Andrew. Peter and Paul both raised people from the dead. There are stories of people being raised from the dead today, not because of the power of a healer, but in response to his people praying, The holy spirit has worked a miracle. 6) Prophecy: The compulsion to speak God’s word into a situation for admonishment, exhortation, and correction in a supernatural way. 1 Corinthians 14:3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. This is what the old testament prophets did. They spoke the word of God into situations in which people had to be corrected, admonished or encouraged. Jean’s facebook ministry 7) Discernment of spiritual things: The ability to discern the lies of the devil and his work in a supernatural way. Paul had this gift. Remember in Acts 16:16 there was a gril following Paul and Silas around, possessed with a spirit of divination, saying that they were servants of the most High God. Instead of making her one of the charter members of the church, Paul cast the demon out of her. Please notice that Paul didn't take her into a special deliverance service and ask her all about her history, he just had a gift of discerning of spirits from the Holy Spirit to know that she had a demon and he cast it out of her that same moment. Also in Acts 13, a prophet named Bar-Jesus was seeking to turn away Sergius Paulus from the faith (Acts 13:6-10). "Then Paul, FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST, set his eyes on him and said, O full of all subtlety and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" But, Paul first discerned that this evil spirit was there before he spoke. I am thinking this is where God wants to increase my faith.. 8) Speaking in languages: The ability to communicate in languages you don’t know to preach the Gospel. We are going to talk about tongues later in the series. Acts 2. I just heard of a man who went to Palistine and he started speaaing in Hebrew and shared the gospel with a jewish guy. What about the other type of speaking in tongues – the prayer language type. We will get to that in a couple of weeks. 9) Ability to interpret languages. You hear someone talking in another language and know what they are saying. Joseph and Daniel, the ability to interpret dreams. Daniel 5:25-26 Daniel the ability to interpret Mene,Mene, Tekel Parsin

The Spirit gives as He wills. 1) You don’t find you spiritual gift by filling out an inventory, you take all of your giftings, talents, abilities, opportunities, roles, receive them as gifts from God, act on them for the good of the church, and when you meet a supernatural ministry need, he will provide. You never say, “That’s not my gift” How do you know God doesn’t want you to cultivate a new talent and he’s giving you an opportunity. 2) You may start to see a pattern of a manifestation arising around your ministry. That’s cool. Thank Jesus for giving you the Holy Spirit and give him the glory.

One Body Many Parts

1) The Spirit makes the Church one Body.
We see in this passage a focus on the Holy Spirit’s role in the local church as the one who brings us together and equips us to serve one another in love. As you look through this passage you see a number of aspects of the Holy Spirit’s work in the church. a. The Holy Spirit directs us to Jesus (12:3) The things he does point the church to Jesus, rather than away from Him. b. The Holy Spirit empowers our charismata service (12:4-6) Remember, we defined charismata as the sum totality of everything God has graciously given you – your natural abilities, cultivated skills, interests, personality traits, opportunities to service, etc. – for you to participate in the building up of the church. The point is that the Holy Spirit gives you all these things and then gives you the strength and the will to use them all in building up the church. c. The Holy Spirit sometimes supernaturally intervenes to build up the church (12:7-11) These are the manifestations of the spirit that we talked about two weeks ago. Words of knowledge, wisdom, healings, miracles, prophecies, speaking in unfamiliar languages, etc. These all are given as the Spirit wills to meet ministry needs that couldn’t otherwise be met, and display the Spirit’s work in our midst. d. The Spirit makes the church one from many (12:12-13) The Spirit does all these things to make us into one body, one family. As written in verse 13:

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

Here’s the point: God loves bringing unity from diversity. Remember all the way back to last fall, when we were studying Genesis 1-3 and I made a big deal about how our Tri-Une God, who himself is diversity unified, the Almighty Three who is One, is most glorified when us, his creatures whom he created in His image, reflect his unity and diversity in our own interpersonal relationships. We’ve talked about on a number of occasions how this plays out in marriage: two individuals come together as one, yet somehow maintain their two-ness in that one-ness. Here, Paul’s focus is not the marriage relationship, but the church relationship, but the principle is exactly the same. Jews, Greeks, slaves, free, men, women, rich, poor, young, old, Chinese, Canadians, whoever else, we all come together in Christ as one, yet somehow we maintain our individuality within that united community. How does this happen? By His Spirit. When you come to Jesus Christ, when you turn from your sin in repentance and turn to Jesus in faith, you receive the Promise of the Father, which is the Holy Spirit, who is the seal of your salvation and who enables you to live the Christian life in holiness, godliness, and truth. There are not multiple Holy Spirits, as Paul says, “all were made to drink of one Spirit” which means that if you are here and have received Jesus as Lord, the same Spirit resides in you as resides in the person sitting next to you if they have also received Jesus as Lord. There’s a connection there. A bond thicker that water, or even blood. You share the same Spirit. Have you ever met someone and known they were a Christian before you could have known? This is what it means to be baptized by one Spirit into one body. It does not mean that you fall down and start shaking. It means that the God, by pouring the Spirit into your heart, has initiated you, baptized you, into his new community of diverse people all united by the Spirit within. You are part of His kingdom, His family, His bride, His church. That’s why Christianity can never be an individualistic undertaking, because His Spirit longs to bring those filled by His Spirit into the community of His Spirit. This also means that if you are not a Christian, maybe you come to this church every week, but you are not truly part of this body, because you have not been baptized into it. Yes you can come and get some benefits of this organization. You may make friends here, or learn some principles that will help you in life. But you’re missing the entire heart of the matter. You can’t understand the beauty of the church because you are not yet part of the church. You can’t experience the equipping and enthusiasm of the Holy Spirit, because he has not been poured into your heart. You’re like a car in a showroom without an engine. You may look like you belong on the outside, but there is no power under the hood. You my friend, need Jesus. And when you turn from your sin in repentance and turn to Jesus in true faith, he will forgive you, adopt you into his family, pour his spirit into your heart and baptize you into his body. You will truly become a part of this most fascinating organism that is composed of such different people coming together as one.

2) Diversity Benefits the Body.
Understanding the unity that God has called us into by the Spirit also helps us to understand the value of God’s wisdom in bringing people of such diverse backgrounds and experiences together in one community. To illustrate, Paul introduces a new metaphor in verse 12: a body.

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.

Just like your body is one entity that requires many different parts in order to function and grow, so it is with Christ’s body, the church. God wants us to understand this analogy so that we can confront two lies that Satan tries to whisper into our ears as we meet together as the church. These two lies cripple the church by getting us to focus on ourselves as individuals rather than as God’s perfectly formed body. The lies are very simple: 1) no one needs me 2) no one needs you. Let’s look at what God has to say about these two lies. a. No one needs me (12:14-20)

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

Think about what is happening here and allow your heart to break for these people. Someone is coming to church looking around and saying, “I am not as gifted as he is, or she is, and therefore there is nothing I can contribute to this body, so I’ll just sit here and warm the pew and hope nobody asks me to do anything.” These people never find their place in the church because they don’t see a place for their gifting in the church. They are endlessly comparing themselves to others in the church and in effect becoming paralyzed because they fail to see how God has placed them in the church to fulfill a particular function. I believe that this is a big reason why people drop out of church. They do not see any future for them here or even how they are to progress in their faith, so they leave. This is why I believe many young adults drop out of the church after graduating from high school or college. When they were in high school or college there role was defined for them. They were part of the youth group or part of the young adult’s group. Yet when they graduate, there is no other group for them to graduate into so they lose their purpose in the community sooner or later come to the conclusion that “if they don’t need me, then they won’t miss me.” We lose generations of young adults from the church because they have not grasped a vision of how they fit into the mission of the church. I am not just talking about adding another program for young professionals, I am talking about providing a comprehensive vision for young adults as to how they make a healthy transition into becoming adult leaders of the church for the next generation. This is why I am excited when I see our young adults beginning to serve in different areas of our church, from Sunday School to Youth Fellowship to the Worship Ministry, but you know what? We haven’t even scratched the surface of your potential in this church. We’re building towards something here, but we’ve nowhere near arrived. I’ll know we are doing well as a body when our youth and young adults actually choose to remain here in Ottawa because they are excited about what God is doing in this church and have begun to comprehend how God could use them and their unique talents to advance the kingdom of God through this church in Ottawa, North America, and the Ends of the Earth. [Illustration for Chinese Congregation: I was talking to one of the members of our Chinese Congregation about this and he said something very interesting. Chinese culture is very competitive, so that it is very natural to rank every one in a community as to where they stand in regards to everyone else. What happens is, if you are not certain that you will be ranked #1 before you try, you tend to not try, because no one wants to humiliate themselves by failing to be #1.] Don’t you see how this lie, “they don’t need me”, cripples the church? As people feel unneeded or unwanted, they drop out of the church, which robs the church of the very diversity that God placed together to strengthen it. You get a body of all hands and no feet, or of all eyes and no ears. I believe this has contributed to a consumer mentality that has crippled the cause of Christ in North America. We tend to get churches which draw a certain type of Christian but make other Christians feel less valued, so they leave and find a church that values their interests and gifts. So you get all the ear people who love rocking worship going to the Ear Church. You get all the heart people who value compassion ministries going to the Heart Church. And you get all the brain people who love to study Theology going to the Brain Church. But where does the body of Christ come together? This is very dangerous, because it leads to the second lie: b. No one needs you (1 Cor 12:21-26)

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Here is where destruction lies. We split off into our cliques, into our ministries, into our churches and into our denominations, and begin to belittle each other. The heads say, don’t go to the Heart Church, their theology is so messed up! The Ears contend that that sort of attitude demonstrates that the heads aren’t listening to the Spirit well enough like they do. And the Hearts complain that both the heads and the ears miss the entire point of Christianity – which is that we are to continue doing the work that Jesus did. It’s easy for me to critique this on an interchurch level, but what about within the confines of a local church? My heart breaks for how this occurs at the local church level. Imagine a little child, listening to the Word of God, coming under conviction of the Holy Spirit, feeling emboldened to serve the body by offering his gift to the building up of the church. He approaches church leaders and offers to share his gift with the body, but the church leaders tell him that his gift is unnecessary. How soon do you think it would be before that person offers themselves in service again? I know people who have been hurt because either consciously or unconsciously someone has offended them by belittling their service to the church. Please, if I or someone else has done that to you, please let us know so we can make amends with you, we may not even be aware of it. On the contrary, Paul says, instead of us belittling one another, we should be coming up alongside of those who are not as confident in their gifting or abilities and building them up, bestowing honour upon them, and recognizing that the service in which they serve is valuable to the church. In this way all are encouraged, all are edified, the church is strengthened and no one feels as though they are not needed or wanted. Understanding the church in this way is essential to our strength because we no longer think of ourselves as individual believers facing our own individual battles and struggles, but instead “if one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together,” meaning that we go together as a team wherever God leads us. When one of us falls, we all are affected, when one of us succeeds, we all succeed. Why? Because, Paul says, in verse 27: “you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

Where do you fit in that body? Have you found your place yet? Are you exercising your faith as you use everything God has given you to help build up God’s Kingdom through the church? Have you become discouraged, because your contributions to the body have gone unappreciated? God sees. He cares. He appreciates.

Last week we focused on one truth and came at it from a number of different angles, and that is, encapsulated in verse 12:27:

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

We spoke of how the Spirit has been poured into each of us who have come to know Jesus as our Lord, incorporating us into one body, the church, so that all of us in all of our diverse giftings, talents opportunities, passions, and perspectives come together under the sovereign hand of God and the empowering of the Spirit to build up the body in love. Comprehending these truths, you are able to confront the lies of the enemy, which try to convince you that no one needs you, or get you to believe that you don’t need others. The point is that we all need each other, for we are one.

Paul closes that section of his thought by again listing off some of the different ways that God brings different types of people together in the church (1 Cor 12:28)

And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

As we’ve seen before, God gives the church people: apostles (whether these be “big A” Apostles – the guys who Jesus sent out - or “small a” apostles – whom we refer to as missionaries and church-planters), prophets (people who proclaim God’s words for encouragement, admonishment, or exhortation), teachers (people able to upon the Word of God and clearly explain its meaning well to others). God also gives the church different types of giftings, whether they be supernatural manifestations like miracles or healings, or be they more commonplace types of abilities, skills or opportunities, such as helps or leadership, or any of the other charismata type of gifts that we’ve been talking about over the past month. The last one Paul includes in this list is tongues, which is significant because this happens to be the gifting that the Corinthian church had become infatuated with. Their infatuation with this one practice was dividing the church and the reason why Paul spends three chapters of his letter addressing spiritual gifts. We are going to spend all next week talking about speaking in tongues, but I want you to notice hear that Paul intentionally lists it last in this list, where the Corinthians would be likely to place it first.

Paul’s explains the point of all this in verses 29-30:

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

We spoke of this last week, but here Paul clearly states it – not everybody has been appointed to function in the same way in the body of Christ. Here’s the message that would have been clearly received by the Corinthians who were so infatuated with one gift: 1) Hey Corinthians, not everybody is going to speak in tongues, so quit making people feel like they are less a part of the body of Christ if they don’t do it. 2) If you want to seek the gifts of the spirit, seek to develop the greater gifts, which are, if I am reading the list correctly, those roles by which you can most contribute to the building up of the church. You want a spiritual gift? Read your Bible, devote yourself to prayer, become a mature Christian and then go and teach Sunday School. Seek to develop the giftings so that someday you can be the apostolic missionary sent out to plant churches. Seek to develop the giftings necessary for you to prophetically speak into the lives of others for their encouragement, consolation, and edification. Those are things to seek after, if your going to seek after gifts, because those things build up the church.

That is a powerful message, Paul. That we should all be seeking not the giftings that build ourselves up and our reputations, but be seeking the gifts that build others up. Wow, think of what our church would be if we carried that out. But wait, Paul says, we’re just getting started. And he says in verse 12:32

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Much has been said and written on this 13th Chapter of 1 Corinthians. It’s the love chapter, often recited at weddings. It is generally regarded as being one of the most beautiful passages in all of literature. But I think it truly comes alive when we read it in the context of God’s entire message to the Corinthian church. Remember our series title for the entire book of Corinthians? Living by Love in a Lustful World. It can be argued that this is the climactic passage in the entire book, the sum total of all that the Holy Spirit through Paul wants the Corinthians to embrace, the proper summary of all that it means to live the Christian life is this messed-up, selfish, lust-driven world. Let’s look at this most excellent way of love.

The Importance of Love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3): If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

There is a simple reason for why the way of love that Paul will describe is better even than the seeking of spiritual giftings or manifestations. Simply put, the practicing of gifts without love as the motive actually undermines the purpose of the gifts and stunts the growth of the church rather than building it up. Paul writes that if you were to all these amazing things you would be an annoying distraction to others. I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Even if God were to anything through your ministry it would not be through you, but in spite of you - I am nothing. And even if you think you could fool others with your displays of spirituality, you can’t fool God – I gain nothing. Without love, everything you do - no matter how successful it may look or how spiritual it makes you look – everything you do actually makes you and the church worse off. Remember what Paul told the Corinthians when they were coming together for Communion without love? When you come together, it is not for the better, but for the worse.

The Essence of Love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

If love is so important, we should have a better understanding of what it is. We are going to quickly look over this famous list of characteristics, but before we do we must make one very important observation that doesn’t show up in your English Bibles very well. In the Greek language that Paul penned this poem in, each of the important words are not adjectives like you see in your English Bible, but verbs. That is, instead of describing what love is, the Holy Spirit is here revealing to us what love does, or more precisely, what a person who has God’s love filling their life does. These verbs are all found in the present conditional sense, that is, these are actions and attitudes which have become habitually ingrained in the person who loves. Again, as Paul is writing to the church, let us imagine if these habits were developing and maturing in our body and see if we wouldn’t be a more glorious expression of Christ’s body. Let me reread the passage in my own translation, bringing out the verbs and the application in the church:

• Love waits patiently for others when the worship team isn’t ready to start the service or the Chinese service goes long, or when they are stuck in traffic before a meeting. • Love acts kindly toward others in the church when they offend you or when they are in need of help that you can offer. • Love doesn’t seek to tear down people who are viewed with more esteem in the church and it surely doesn’t promote itself above others in the church whom are less esteemed. • Love does not claim that people need to listen to you because you have been in the church longer and love also does not allow those younger in the church to treat their elders with disrespect. • Love does not insist on its own way because this is how I like it or how we’ve done it before. • Love does not get irritable because you had a bad week at work and are now taking out your stress on the poor people who have to serve on a committee with you. • Love does not hold onto bitterness or resentment reminding people again and again of their faults until they avoid it completely or leave the church. • Love does not secretly desire to see others in the church come to bad ends, or seek to skirt the rules or procedure for its own good. • Love does always seek the truth and rejoice when the church is acting out its mission in integrity. • Love puts up with a lot, even people whom you find it hard to get along with. • Love wants to believe the best about people, even after it has been hurt before. • Love hopes to see others move forward in their faith and maturity. • Love endures through discouragement, slander, and division.

That’s what the church is to be! That’s how we live by love in this crazy, corrupt world. That’s what God is calling us to. To be so filled with the love of Christ, to so know the God who is Love, to be so controlled by the Spirit who ties us in love to one another, that we exude love in concrete ways as we live together in this body.

The Future of Love
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Before we look more closely at these verses, I need to address one common interpretation of these verses that I was taught early on in my Christian life. There are some people who interpret this verse to say that those supernatural manifestation type of gifts that we looked at a couple of weeks ago have already passed away and the Holy spirit no longer works in those kinds of ways anymore. They argue that the book of 1 Corinthians was written to a church that didn’t have the full scripture and therefore God gave them those types of manifestations, but when the perfect comes – which they read as being the Bible – when the Bible came around the end of the first century, those types of manifestations ceased. People who hold to this view are called cessationists. Now, even when I was a sixteen-year-old kid who’d never read the bible before, I had difficulty buying that explanation. Any guesses why? The perfect is Jesus! When we see Him face-to-face and fully know him and are fully known by Him, then these things will come to an end because then we will all be perfected in love. These giftings the Corinthians are so enamored with now? Once Jesus comes back there will be no more need for them, so instead of focusing on them, why not focus on the thing that is going to remain – love. Prophecy, tongues, words of knowledge, these things are given to build up and edify the church, but when Jesus comes, when we see him face-to-face, we will have no more need to be built up for we will be perfected by our full understanding of the revelation of all that He is. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. I will no longer need to prophesy, for who will there be to admonish? I will no longer need a word of knowledge to meet a ministry need, for all of our ministry needs will have been met in Jesus. I will no longer need to speak in a tongue to share the gospel in an unknown language or to commune with God, for all will already fully know him and all will be fully known by him. So what will remain? Paul names three things: faith, hope and love.

I don’t want to be too hard on my cessationist friends, because I think they actually hit at the heart of Paul’s point better than the other camp, the continualists do, and that is this, as we mature in love, their will be less of a need for these supernatural manifestations, until they ultimately cease with the return of Christ. That is, if we are a maturing church, these things will be ceasing, because we will be doing them in love. For example, wouldn’t it be neat if every Sunday the Holy Spirit enabled me to preach in Chinese! The problem is that if he were to do that, it would rob the body of an opportunity to serve one another in love, for we have people gifted in translation who can lovingly contribute to the body through the use of their abilities. Or take prophecy. Once a people have the scripture translated into their own language, there is less of a need for the Holy Spirit to reveal to us things to admonish or encourage each other about, because if we are serving each other in love, guided by the Sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, then we should be naturally, lovingly encouraging and admonishing one another. As we mature in love, we no longer have as much of a need for those things that we needed at the beginning, which is what Paul says: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. Does that mean we never see the Holy Spirit doing those things anymore? No, because until Jesus comes back we will still encounter ministry needs that we cannot meet apart from a manifestation of the Holy Spirit – you see this especially on the mission field. But we don’t make these things the center of our Christian life, we make love the center.

Speaking in Tongues and Prophecy

You knew we’d get to it sooner or later. Here we are. This has been a very controversial issue in many churches, an issue that has divided the body of Christ in harmful ways. Churches refuse to fellowship with others over whether or not they believe that speaking in tongues is something believers can and should do today.

This was the exact issue that was going on in Corinth. By carefully reading Paul’s response to the Corinthians, we can discern some things about the Corinthian Church. The Corinthian church was, I believe, what we would call today a Charismatic Church. They were enamored by the experience of speaking in tongues and elevated that experience over other expressions of the Spirit. And it is clear from chapter 12 that they were dividing over it. Some of those who didn’t speak in tongues were charging that the practice was from the devil and were actually cursing God in their utterances, while those who spoke in tongues charged the others with not having the Spirit. Some who didn’t speak in tongues felt as if they weren’t fully part of the body, and others who spoke in tongues looked down upon what they regarded as weaker members. Paul’s pastoral answers to them affirmed the place in the body of Christ of all different sorts of members with all different sorts of giftings and all sorts of manifestations and argued that the Spirit sovereignly arraigned such diversity in the church that it might be stronger as it carries out its existence as one body. He told them that it didn’t matter what language they spoke, even if they spoke the language of angels, if they didn’t love each other, their spirituality meant zilch, because love is what will last into eternity.

That is not quite a full answer however, because we still have to consider the experience of speaking in tongues and what place it is given in the church. That’s what chapter 14 is about. Before getting into that discussion, though, I think it will be helpful to consider some definitions of what we are talking about when we speak of the issue of tongues.

When one talks of “speaking in tongues” biblically, one can be referring to one of four different capacities. 1) The first is simply the natural ability to speak a language. The book of Revelation describes people form different ethnicities in heaven as speaking in their own tongues. Most people are gifted in their ability to communicate in their mother tongue, some more gifted than others, and some people we call gifted in language seem to pick up other languages easier. These are natural abilities given by God to all people, whether they are believers or not. 2) A second thing referred to is a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit whereby one is able to speak a foreign language unknown to the speaker for the purpose of proclaiming God’s message. This is exactly what is recorded in Acts 2 as occurring at Pentecost. People from many different nations heard the apostles proclaiming the Gospel in their own native languages. 3) The third experience is a bit more controversial. It seems that a close reading of 1st Corinthians reveals a different sort of experience that the Corinthian believers referred to as speaking in spiritual tongues. This was a sort of ecstatic religious experience in which a person is making utterances not related to any known human language at all. They used it for prayer and in their worship services. They believed they were speaking God’s oracles, even thought they could not understand those oracles. They felt they were experiencing God in a close way, even a direct way. This is what most people today mean when they talk about speaking in tongues. Those who make a practice of this experience tell of how they feel closer to God through it, of how they feel as if they are able to connect to God in a more intimate way through it. We have people who practice this in our church and I believe that this practice is what was going on in Corinth as well which prompted Paul to write to them.

Paul’s focus in this chapter is very pastoral. How does he walk a tightrope between correcting the church in its overemphasis on speaking in tongues, yet not diminishing this practice that admittedly does bring personal benefit to the believer? Here’s the approach Paul takes with the Corinthians: in order to demonstrate the blessings and limitations of speaking in tongues, he contrasts it with the ability to prophesy. In doing so he also gives clear instruction regarding the use of tongues in church.

Tongues Edifies Oneself 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. Paul goes on to say in verse 4, “The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself.”

Prophecy, on the other hand, Edifies the Church
(verse 3) On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation, and in verse 4, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.

Paul gives a quick definition of prophecy here for us, speaking the Word of God into someone’s life for their upbuilding, encouragement and consolation. Again, like the other spiritual gifts we have looked at, this could be a charismata, you admonish people, or preach to them from the word already revealed in Scripture empowered by the Spirit, yet through natural means, or it could be a manifestation whereby you get a strong impression that God has a particular word for you to speak to a person. Either way, the purpose of prophesy is to build up others in the church. Paul’s point is this: If you’re going to elevate one of the things the Spirit does in the church, pray that you can prophesy. See, its good and all if you can speak in tongues and experience that close connection to God and that the Spirit frees you to do that, but it doesn’t help the church all that much and that is really the point of what the Spirit is really trying to accomplish. Instead, pray and seek after giftings that build up the whole church. That’s why Paul goes on to say:

Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

Tongues Isolates Individuals Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me.

Here’s one reason why tongues aren’t that helpful in building up the church. Tongues do not bring us together, they actually isolate you by making you unintelligible to others. You are speaking into the air and make you a foreigner to someone who should be a friend.

Prophecy Unites the Brethren Through prophecy you can bring a benefit to another person. You are united in teaching and concern for one another. You are able to exercise love through prophecy as you admonish, encourage, and console each other with the word of God. Prophecy is messy because it requires us to actually be involved in each other’s lives. Prophecy makes friends from foreigners. So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.

Tongues Lack Edifying Content.

Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray for the power to interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. Notice that Paul says that even in his personal life, he has a need to supplement his tongues-driven prayer with cognitive language-driven prayer, because tongues lack edifying content. He wants to pray in the Spirit, but it really edifies him if he can pray with his mind as well. This is not an either-or but a both-and. If this is true in Paul’s personal life, how much more so in the church: Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say "Amen" to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. If they other person can’t understand the content of your prayer, how can they agree with it and say amen?

Prophecy Contains Edifying Content I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. Five content-laden prophecy words can instruct others and are more beneficial to building others up than thousands of utterances. This is true because there is power in the Word of God. As Hebrews 4:12 says: For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Again, the key question is, who are you building up? We don’t come together as a church to receive individual blessings, but to bless each other. This is the function of prophecy.

Tongues Confuse Unbelievers

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, "By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord." Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?

These verses have given me a lot of trouble in understanding them, but what I think Paul is saying here is that the church should not be driven by confusion. Going back to the context in Isaiah 28:11-12, God’s judgment on Israel was that unbelievers were going to come in and bring confusion to the nation by using unknown languages in their midst. The confusion among God’s people that the strange language caused was the sign for the unbelieving nation that they had conquered God’s people. Thus if today, an unbeliever came into a church and saw chaos, it would be a sign to them that God’s people were still confused and under judgment. Instead of coming to God, they would be repulsed by what they saw. Just as Israel was supposed to be a place of God’s revelation and wisdom, not confusion, so is God’s church.

Prophecy convicts Unbelievers
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.If on the other hand, an unbeliever entered and hears the Word of God proclaimed intelligibly, his heart will be convicted and he will understand God’s gospel and come to faith. That’s why, for all the personal benefit speaking in tongues may bring you as an individual, here in the church we want to stand up and proclaim as intelligible as we can that Jesus Christ is Lord, so that any who enter may hear that message and recognize that God is in our midst.

So . . . What Should We Do?
In the last part of this chapter, 14:26-40, Paul gives some practical application to the Corinthian church:
1) Encourage Orderly Participation in Worship
What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. We should have active participation in worship, but since we meet together in worship everything is to be done to build one another up in the Lord. So this is not the place for ecstatic tongues that edify only the individual. But if you have something that can build up the entire body, than yes we would encourage you to participate in an orderly manner.
2) Test The Content of What Is Taught Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. Here is the principle: we don’t let just anyone get up and share anything they thing God has said to them. Other spiritually mature people in the church should test the content of a message. This is one of the roles I believe God has given church leadership – to be able to test and approve the messages going into the congregation so the body can be protected from false prophecy. So if you come up to me and say, “I have a message for the church,” unless I know you to be a mature saint and an able communicator, I am not going to let you do it without testing what you are going to say first, and if affects the entire church, we will discuss it with our spiritual leaders before passing it on to the church, for the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.
3) Give Respect to the Appointed Leadership
As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. Without opening up an entire can of worms, let me explain this very quickly and easily. We have already seen in this letter to the Corinthians that women prayed and prophesied in the church. So when Paul says that women should keep silent what is he referring to? I think it best to consider this command as pertaining to not the act of prophesying or praying, which women were allowed to do, but to the act of judging the prophecies, which Paul has just discussed in verses 29-33. Paul has just said that every prophesy or teaching given in the church should be evaluated by other leaders in the church. Remember, the New Testament assumes that these leaders be male and it will be those leaders who discern whether or not any teaching or prophecy reaches the church body. I think the heart principle of these verses is to respect those who are appointed to make those evaluations. Understanding these verses in this way provides a smooth transition into the last point:
4) Prophesy With Humility
Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. I can imagine a scenario where someone, either a man or a woman, feels they have received a word from the Lord for the church. However, instead of humbly and carefully submitted the message to the church leadership, they take matters into their own hands and refuse to subject their message to the approval of the church. What Paul is saying is, if you meet any prophets like that, who do not recognize the responsibility of church leadership to evaluate prophesies, than that prophet is a renegade and not to be recognized by the church. So if you have a word that you believe is from God or a message that you feel God has put on your heart for the church, please hold onto it with humility and come and share it with me so that we can discern together its value to the church.

Paul’s Final Words on the Subject
So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy (for it benefits the church), and do not forbid speaking in tongues (for it benefits individuals). But all things should be done decently and in order.

Pastor Dan’s Position on Tongues Speaking

The big question that consumes theologians and divides churches is this: are ecstatic religious utterances (commonly referred to as “speaking in tongues”) to be understood as a special manifestation of the Holy Spirit? This leads to all sorts of practical issues, for if it is of the Holy Spirit, who are we to limit the practice in the church? Also, if it is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, shouldn’t we be encouraging everyone in the church to seek after it?

Here are some things to consider as we seek to understand this practice:

1) Non-Christians also speak in tongues: Mormons do it, Muslims do it, New Age Practitioners do it, Eastern mystics do it, Buddhists do it, Jews do it. The pagan mystery religions in Corinth did it. Remember what Paul wrote at the beginning of the discussion to the Corinthians, in verses 1 Corinthians 12:1-2:

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led.

Paul’s very first word to the Corinthians about tongues is that they should be careful and discerning because other fake religions share the same experiences. Research into the phenomena of tongues speaking has concluded the same thing with Paul. Felicitas D. Goodman, a psychological anthropologist and linguist, engaged in a study of various English - Spanish - and Mayan-speaking Pentecostal communities in the United States and Mexico. She compared tape recordings of non-Christian rituals from Africa, Borneo, Indonesia and Japan as well.[1] Goodman concludes that "when all features of glossolalia were taken into consideration--that is, the segmental structure (such as sounds, syllables, phrases) and its suprasegmental elements (namely, rhythm, accent, and especially overall intonation)-- she concluded that there is no distinction in glossolalia between Christians and the followers of non-Christian (pagan) religions. Moreover, speaking in tongues seems to be a acquirable skill, a “learned behavior.” Goodman concludes that speaking in tongues "is, actually, a learned behavior, learned either unawarely or, sometimes consciously." In one study of 60 undergraduates, 20% of them were able to succeed after listening to only a one-minute sample and 70% succeeded after training.

2) People who speak in tongues are not necessarily spiritually maturing: The Corinthian Church seemed to be the most “Charismatic” church in the New Testament, yet it was also arguably the least mature. In fact, in chapter 3, Paul seems to make a point of telling them that even for all their gifts, he does not regard them as spiritual because they continually were fighting with one another and displaying spiritual pride. Speaking in tongues is not necessarily a mark of spiritual maturity.

3) The benefit of speaking in tongues seems mostly for the individual rather than for the edification of the body: 1 Corinthinas 14:4 says that “the one speaking in a tongues builds himself up.” This is important because as we have already seen and will see again today, the Spirit is most concerned with strengthening the body. As 12:7 states: “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Any practice in which the focus is almost solely on the individual to the exclusion to the body must be carefully weighed. Indeed, it is this individualistic aspect of speaking in tongues which most seems to have concerned the Apostle Paul in his response to the Corinthians.

What do we make of these things? If anything, these three observations should make us pause before we uncritically pronounce that the phenomena of speaking in these sorts of tongues is a manifestation of the Spirit. So how can we consider this practice?

Here is where I believe understanding the distinction between charismata and the manifestations of the Spirit allows us to find come to a healthy understanding. In short, I believe that the experience of speaking in tongues is best understood as charismata.

Remember, we defined charismata as the sum total of all that the Spirit has given the believer to help build up the church, whether that be natural talents, acquired skills, opportunities for service, whatever. If we think of speaking in tongues as a charismata, this protects us from overvaluing its place in the church as so many do as well as keeping us from regarding the practice with derision and scorn like so many others do.

Understanding it as a gifting analogous to other natural talents or acquired skills one might have helps explain why non-Christians and spiritual immature Christians are able to experience it as well. Understanding it in this way also helps us to see the validity of the experience. People who speak in tongues report of how it helps them to connect to God on a spiritual level that they are not able to experience through praying in their own language. They sense the Spirit’s presence in their prayers, ministering to their souls. I believe them. The very act of expressing emotions through the cognitively-intense process of language-encoding is a filter that may deaden one’s experience of prayer and awareness of the Holy Spirit. To be able to express ones heart openly to God without the confines of language is indeed a gift that maybe more of us need to experience.

In saying that I am skeptical that the phenomenon of speaking in tongues is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, I am definitely not intending to diminish the experience the Christian who practices it in the Spirit. In fact, if you were to practice it you may find yourself able to open yourself up in prayer more and more to God and that it would be beneficial to your faith. While non-Christians may be able to speak in tongues and receive some benefit from it, only the Christian can speak in tongues with his spirit properly open to God, praying “in the Spirit”.

In short, speaking in tongues is an acceptable practice for a Christian and may in fact be a means through which your personal faith may grow more deep. However, don’t ever let it become the sum total of your Christian walk.
[1] She published her results in 1972 in an extensive monograph (Speaking in Tongues: A Cross-Cultural Study in Glossolalia by Felecitas D. Goodman, University of Chicago Press, 1972).

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