Introduction to the Ministry Module
.... Among the elementary principles of Christ, which are listed for us in Hebrews 6:2, we find the concept of ‘the laying on of hands’. This unusual description requires a basic explanation. As mentioned in a previous lesson, the primary purpose for laying on hands is to vouch for someone, and the primary application for this vouching is to commend them to the Lord for the work of the ministry. For example, let’s look at the apostolic calling of Barnabas and Saul:
.... "As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away."
.... In this passage, the two apostles were commissioned and sent on their first missionary journey. But of course, their real journey had begun much earlier, when they had first proven themselves faithful in smaller things:
.... "He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much."
By this time in his life, Paul had been a Christian for many years but he had not always been an apostle. Following his conversion, he labored as a teacher and an evangelist in Damascus, and then again in Jerusalem (Acts 9:20
). Years later, we find him at the church in Antioch where he was now serving in a higher role, as a teacher and a prophet (Acts 13:1
). Finally, in the passage we have just noted, he was commended to the Lord as an apostle, according to the Lord's calling. So the rise of Saul fits an easily recognizable Biblical pattern:
.... "And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues."
(1 Corinthians 12:28)
.... Because Paul had proven faithful as an evangelist and teacher, he was promoted to prophet and teacher; and because he was faithful in that, he was promoted again to the ministry of an apostle. This is the concept we’ll discuss in this module, amd we will also discuss the concept of authority within the church.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Ephesians 2
The Gift of Faith
.... The last spiritual gift in our series from 1 Corinthians is simply referred to as ‘faith’. We have discussed faith in a previous module, and it is really very simple: God has spoken to man, and man has responded by believing God – and if necessary, by stepping out on that belief. The Bible tells us that God has granted to each of us a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). Yet in referring to the spititual gift, Paul seems to be speaking of something more.
.... The obvious intention of faith, as a spiritual gift, is that it will carry us much further than the average level of faith would be able to. This extraordinary ability speaks of extraordinary need, but it is not necessarily because the Lord has called us to some miraculous undertaking. For even our average level of faith would be enough for that:
.... "So the Lord said, ‘If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you’."
.... Instead, the gift of faith seems to refer to a dauntless level of faith, supernaturally granted in cases where extreme personal fortitude is required:
.... "And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren’."
In this example, Jesus prayed that Peter might have faith to stand; but Peter responded, instead, with self-confidence, which is the opposite of faith. We all know the outcome as he denied the Lord three times. Peter was miserable when this occurred, though he was eventually restored; yet Jesus was intimating that he may not have made it back at all
unless this dauntless core of faith had not been granted by His own request on Peter's behalf.
.... Like Peter, many of us may be tempted to boast of our zeal for the Lord, saying that we would stand for His sake until the end. But like Peter again, we would be making a terrible mistake to trust in ourselves in any way, especially in an hour of severe personal trial:
.... "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."
(1 Corinthians 10:12)
.... In an hour of severe personal adversity, an attitude of humility and trust would be far more suitable. In the final extreme, we may even find that matters have gone far beyond our natural fortitude or ability to bear them. It is in this hour that the gift of faith is given, that our faithfulness may not fail. As such we find the best example of this gift when Jesus acknowledged and exhorted the church at Pergamos to endure the trial that would come to them:
.... "I know your works, and where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is. And you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days in which Antipas was My faithful martyr, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells."
Let us note in this example (if this is indeed the spiritual gift of faith), that the ultimate purpose of a spiritual gift is thereby maintained: that we should be witnesses for Jesus (Acts 1:8
). In fact, the Greek word for ‘martyr’ literally means ‘witness’..
Therefore when our own hour of trial comes, let us gird up the loins of our minds, be sober, and rest our hope fully upon the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ. For this grace will be given in response to our faith, and if needed, through the super powerful level of faith that is bestowed on us by this spiritual gift, by the Lord's own faithfulness and prayer on our behalf. (1 Peter 1:13
; Romans 4:16
You have now completed the Gifts of the Spirit Module. To proceed to the Ministry Module, please click hereDaily Bible Reading: Ephesians 1
Discerning of Spirits - Part 2
.... In our previous posting we discussed how the gift of 'discerning of spirits' is so widely misunderstood, and in particular, the erroneous belief that it should be used in judging prophecy. In this posting we will address a second major theory about this gift, which, unfortunately, is equally wrong: that the gift pertains to the discerning of demon spirits and other forms of demonic activity within the kingdom of darkness.
.... According to this theory, a person who has received this gift can discern what types of demon spirits are involved in any situation, especially a case of demon possession. But in the New Testament there is no evidence of anyone using a ‘spiritual gift’ for such a purpose -- no, not a single example. On the contrary, that sort of conclusion was reached on the basis of factual evidence, even if questions needed to be asked in order to determine it:
.... ‘So He asked his father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood".’
.... Paul says that we are not to be ‘ignorant’ of Satan’s devices, not that we have need to discern them (2 Corinthians 2:11). As far as we can tell by Biblical examples, there was no actual gift at work in any case when the presence of a demonic spirit became known. It was simply a conclusion based on evidence, which even unsaved persons could correctly determine. But to prove the point further, let’s talk about the types of ‘demons’ that the proponents of this theory claim to be mentioned in Scripture:
.... When the Bible speaks of ‘a spirit of heaviness’, or a ‘spirit of fear’, etc, it is not talking about a demonic spirit at all (Isaiah 61:3; 2 Timothy 1:7). But rather, it is merely talking about a natural mood or an attitude that may appear within our own human spirit.
.... For example, on a much happier note, we might examine the Scripture that speaks of ‘the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit’ which clearly defines a God-fearing Christian woman (1 Peter 3:4). Or when the Bible speaks of a ‘contrite and humble spirit’, it is clearly referring to attitudes within our own spirit, for those who have pleased God (Isaiah 57:15). Or on a less happy but still godly note, we might look to Hannah who said, "I am a woman of sorrowful spirit." (1 Samuel 1:15).
.... In fact, it is in this sense in which the true gift of discerning of spirits may finally be understood. For the only Scriptural examples of a gift in which spirit may be discerned have to do with the spirits of men:
.... "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you’. And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, ‘Why do you reason about these things in your hearts?’
Or another example:
.... "So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, ‘Arise and stand here.’ And he arose and stood."
Or a third example:.... "Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, ‘This man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ And he said, ‘Teacher, say it’."
.... ... And another:
.... "And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? ‘Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have’."
And one more example:
.... "This man heard Paul speaking. Paul, observing him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, ‘Stand up straight on your feet!’ And he leaped and walked."
.... Is the gift of discerning of spirits in operation through these examples? Let's consider the outcome. The ultimate purpose of every spiritual gift is to allow us to be witnesses to Jesus. In each of these cases, with or without a miracle taking place in conjunction, a testimony of Jesus Himself went forth.
....Let’s contrast this with the theory we’ve just mentioned, whose purpose is to discern demons. In that ‘ministry’, more and more powerful ranks of demons are constantly envisioned, and the tangle of bondage seems ever deeper and more intricate, to make him constantly seem more and more formidable and menacing. The contrasting testimony is jarring, and should speak for itself.
.... We will discuss this further in the ‘comments’ section, and also in the break-out module entitled Spiritual Warfare Revisited.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Galatians 6
Discerning of Spirits - Part 1
.... Of all the spiritual gifts that Paul mentioned, the one called ‘discerning of spirits’ seems to be the least understood. (1 Corinthians 12:10). What, exactly, is this gift, and what purpose does it serve? You are likely to hear one of two popular theories, and both are wrong. Nevertheless, let’s start by explaining them and then we'll address the problems they present.
.... The predominant theory (as it would appear in the best Bible commentaries today) would offer an explanation by elaborating on the context in which the gift is mentioned:
.... "Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit."
(1 Corinthians 12:3)
.... Based on this context, it has been theorized that the gift of ‘discerning of spirits’ was used for the purpose of judging prophecy, to determine whether the prophet spoke by the Spirit of God, by a demon spirit, or even by his own spirit (see Ezekiel 13:3). This is a brave correlation and it is usually a good practice to look to the context of a passage for pertinent clues. But in this particular case, they have entirely missed the point. .
.... Here is the first problem that their theory presents. How could a prophet, filled with the Holy Spirit, speak alternately for God, for himself, and for the devil? "Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring can yield both salt water and fresh." (James 3:12). Or as Paul would state rhetorically:
.... ". . . For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial . . . ?"
(2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
.... No one speaking for God would alternately speak for the devil, and then be trusted again! But even beyond this fundamental consideration, their entire argument defeats itself. We have only to think for a moment and it becomes apparent. For if they fear that a demon could infiltrate the church through a false prophecy, and if they believe that discerning of spirits is the protection mechanism to prevent this, then our next most logical question must be, Who discerns the discerner? What is the protection mechanism to insure that they got it right?
.... If the devil was really intent on infiltrating the church through false prophecy, would he not find it even easier to infiltrate with a false discernment, and control the final outcome of the utterance in that way? For which is easier, to give an utterance or to simply say 'yes' or 'no' in response to it? Or maybe he could use a false prophecy and a false discernment together, to pass off the false message as true in a 'tag-team' effort? Wouldn’t that be even more to his advantage? But in truth, judging prophecy is performed otherwise:
.... "Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge."
(1 Corinthians 14:29)
.... As we discussed in an earlier posting, prophecy is actually judged by other prophets, and not by a gift called discerning of spirits. The qualification for judging prophecy, among prophets, is very simple yet stringent: "in the mouth of two of three witnesses let ever word be confirmed." In other words, two or three prophets must hear God's message independently, and afterward come together for the purpose of comparing their notes. When this comparison is made, their prophecies must agree in order to pass in the judgment. Any part of their messages that cannot be verified in this manner must not be presented.
.... This procedure offers the protection mechanism that the predominant theory, described above, lacks. Furthermore, a prophecy needs to be judged on the basis of whether or not it is Scriptural, and not by the exercise of a spiritual gift:
.... "And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts."
(2 Peter 1:19)
.... For if the prophecy is a gift that must be safeguarded against one's own subjectivity, then the same human weakness would certainly effect the gift of discerning of spirits as easily. But the word of our God stand forever that we may never be ashamed. We will continue this discussion in our next posting. To proceed to the next lesson, click here
Daily Bible Reading: Galatians 5
Gifts of Healings
.... Each spiritual gift is given by the will of the Holy Spirit, on each and every occasion, rather than becoming an entitlement or an ability to be used at our own, human discretion (1 Corinthians 12:11). So while God allows us to flow in certain spiritual gifts very freely (speaking in tongues being the best example), He keeps the usage of other gifts much more directly under His control. These particular gifts are the ones that have the most dramatic impact on other people’s lives. We discussed the working of miracles in our previous two postings, and in this posting we’ll discuss gifts of healings:
.... "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all . . . to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit . . . but one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills."
(1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
At once, you may have noticed the 'double plural' that is used in describing this gift. For it is not called the ‘gift of healing' as though a spirutal ability had been limitlessly delegated, or ‘gifts of healing' as though it could be used many times in a single type of application, or ‘the gift of healings' as though it could be used just once with multiple effects, but rather it is described with a very clear emphasis on the singular nature of each and every occurrence: gifts
.... Each time a healing is given it is a separate, distinct gift in itself, granted by God, even if He works through the same person often in ministering this gift, and even if He uses them in many different types of healings. Therefore this minister must always regard his ministry as a partnership in which God is by far the senior partner, and they must always seeking to please Him.
.... "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed."
Healing takes us into the realm of the miraculous, so let's also remember (from our previous posting
) that miracles are always designed to carry a testimony
. And since all healing has been purchased through the stripes that Jesus received, a miraculous healing of any type provides an opportunity for the gospel
to be proclaimed..
.... Simply to know God’s heart in this matter, we may readily understand that He would not want this correlation to be missed, nor would He want the opportunity to proclaim the gospel to be wasted:
.... "Go into all the world and preach the gospel . . . and these signs will follow those who believe: In My name . . . they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."
.... Conversely, if it is known in advance that a healing will be needed, a wise minister would seek God about it in prayer and do his best to tailor his message to address this need. This would set the stage for gifts of healings to follow as a confirmation to the word that is preached.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Galatians 4
False Signs and Wonders
.... In our previous posting we discussed the divine correlation between teachings and miracles, as God endorses specific messages with corre- sponding signs of power (as in Mark 16:20). In some essential way, the concept of the teaching and the concept of the miracle will match to powerfully 'prove' that the message is true; and ultimately, this will reveal something more about the character or nature of God Himself, who is the Divine author of both.
.... But at the risk of diverting our attention from the true spiritual gifts, we should note that in the end times the correlation between teachings and miracles will also appear in a negative sense:
.... "The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders."
(2 Thessalonians 2:9)
.... "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect."
In both of these passages we see deception
at work with miraculous manifestations of power, as signs and lying
wonders occur (2 Thessalonians 2:9
). So if true signs are an endorsement over true teachings, to prove they are true, then what is a lying
wonder supposed to be? It’s a lawless but miraculous sign that points to an untrue
teaching, as if to endorse it as true!.
In a key passage, Paul tells is that one day we will see demonic teachings and false miracles paired together, just as true teachings and true miracles are paired together (1 Timothy 4:1
). However, the false teachings will point us away
from God, rather than helping us draw closer to understand Him better. They may point to the devil, to another person, or even to ourselves, as long as it means turning our hearts away from God. And again, this is nothing new for the Lord our God has allowed this in order to test our hearts:
.... "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’-- which you have not known– ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul."
So be mindful
when you see a miracle taking place! Be diligent, and consciously strive to connect it with the associated teaching, then prove the whole ‘package’ together according to the Scriptures
. For better or worse, the teaching and the miracle should match, with the teaching
as the key for understanding both
in a way that will ultimately point us back to God.
.... So then, is it pointing us to a relationship with God to serve Him, or has it been flip-flopped to make it look like His purpose in life is in serving us? Or is it pointing to a fancy preacher who seems to stand in God's shoes as a mediator? And is the teaching itself true to the Scriptures? If the teachings points us to God and is true to the Scriptures, then the teaching and the miracle are true. But if otherwise, they are not. We will only know the difference by checking it out in the Bible to make sure, and this will help us discern the source from which both the teaching and the miracles have come.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Galatians 3
The Working of Miracles
.... Now let's discuss the spiritual gift known as 'the working of miracles' (1 Corin- thians 12:10). As we've noted in an earlier posting, all miracles are designed to carry an associated testimony. In some unique way they are supposed to tell us who Jesus is, or provide us with an insight into His character if we will consider them thoughfully.
.... For example, let’s recall the occasion when Jesus fed 5,000 men (about 20,000 persons in all) and He did so with only five loaves of bread and two small fish (John 6:4-13). If we'll consider this miracle thoughtfully, we'll find that it illustrates a closely associated teaching; and comparing the miracle and the teaching allows a testimony about Jesus Himself to emerge with power:
.... "And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst’."
.... Let's start by think about the teaching carefully. Someone may have heard Jesus claiming to be the bread of life and wondered if it could be true. At the time itself, many were offended at this teaching and left Him. But then in hindsight they would have to consider the miracle that occurred in close correlation, and make the obvious connection. "Well," they might eventually admit to themselves, "This Man did multiply five loaves among twenty thousand people, so He certainly knows something about bread! So maybe there was a spiritual truth behind His words. Maybe, in that sense, He really is the bread of life! Hmm, maybe I need to think about this further, and how He really meant it to apply to me . . . "
.... We, too, can see the intended correlation with a little thoughfulness. The miracle became a proof with power that the teaching was true, and it got us thinking about His significance in our lives. And in turn, this will help us understand a little more about who Jesus is.
.... Or again, let’s recall the story of the man who was born blind, whom Jesus healed, which was quite a notable miracle; for "since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind!" (John 9:32). And with this miracle came a message for us all, so let's think about that message as well:
.... "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
.... Perhaps someone over heard Jesus claiming to be the light of the world and wondered if it could be true. But then they saw the miracle of granting sight to the blind, and made the obvious connection: "Wow, anyone who can open the eyes of a person who was born blind must really be the light of the world!" So once again the miracle became a proof, with power, that the teaching was true, gave us something to think about, and helped us see the significance of Jesus in our lives more clearly.
.... Or in another familiar story, let's recall how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. And what teaching did He offer at the same time?
.... "Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live’."
.... Someone may have heard Him saying this and wondered. "Jesus said that He is the resurrection? That is a very tall claim!" but then the miracle quickly followed and Lazarus did come forth. "Well!" they would have to acknowledge in dismay. "If He can raise the dead like that, I guess He knows what He’s talking about! He really is the resurrection, so I guess I really should believe in Him!" The teaching and miracle have matched once again to testify, with a little thoughtfulness, of who Jesus is and how we should relate to Him.
.... Because miracles and teachings go together, we would naturally conclude that, in the context of spiritual gifts, there is no exception in God’s mind. Thus we should most naturally expect to see this gift in conjunction with a teaching ministry, especially that of an evangelist (1 Thessalonians 1:5), or perhaps a prophet:
.... "For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power."
(1 Corinthians 4:20)
.... For let us remember that the overall intention of this gift, as with every spiritual gift, is to make us witnesses for Jesus, of who He is, and of His amazing significance to each of us in our lives. Therefore, miracles will always be a testimony with power of His greatness and of His relationship with us all.To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Galatians 2
.... To many Christians today, the very suggestion of using tongues in an 'orderly' manner seems problematic. How can we be expected to 'flow' in the Spirit if we are also trying to follow instructions? But let us consider the bigger and truer picture:
.... The Scriptures provide us with instructions for 'processing' this gift in our own minds each time an utterance comes our way. They also provide instruc- tions for expressing the gift aloud within the church. The Holy Spirit Himself is the author of these Scriptures, just as He is the author of the utterance, so in fact they should go together naturally. If there seems to be a conflict then our own misunderstanding is the source -- which proves, in itself, that those Scriptural instructions were necessary, in this case, for the purpose of correction (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
.... Therefore we must respect those instuctions as a part of the Holy Spirit's leading in this gift, to help us flow in the gift as He intended, so we can be sure to get it right:
.... "For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints."
(1 Corinthians 14:33)
.... In the church, an interpretation should always follow when a tongue is spoken out loud by an individual. In fact, two utterances in tongues should be given in turn, or at the most three, by different individuals, and one other person should interpret each of them in turn (1 Corinthians 14:27). If a person speaks in tongues and it turns out that no interpreter is present, they are to pray that they, themselves, might interpret for the church (1 Corinthians 14:13). But if it is known in advance that there is no interpreter there, they are to speak softly to themselves and to God, without speaking aloud to the church (1 Corinthians 14:28).
.... One of the reasons it is important to observe this order is for the sake of unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22). When tongues are exercised in an orderly manner, they become a sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence (Mark 16:17). When an interpretation comes forth as well, it shows His supernatural governance within that body of believers. Think of how astonishing it is to them that two or three unknown languages may be spoken, yet one person interprets each of them in turn! What common themes might be woven between them, and find expression? And the very process speaks a greater presence, the true and divine author, who is orchestrating all. But when tongues are used in a disorderly manner, which sets His divine counsel aside, the whole purpose behind the sign is ruined. In their hearts, even an unbeliever will perceive that folly has found a place: "Will they not say that you are out of your mind?" (1 Corinthians 14:23).
.... Another reason for an orderly use of this gift is that a person speaking in tongues is always edified, but the church is not edified unless an interpretation follows. In other words the utterance may degenerate into a disruption, a selfish 'feel good' imposition on the rest of the church if an interpretation does not follow. But the interpretation would bring a beautiful, uplifting and edifying word, as the reading of a psalm would be, so the whole body of believers might rejoice together. And for this very reason, too, let the speaker be mindful of the task he is leaving for the interpreter:
.... "Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle? So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air."
(1 Corinthians 14:7-9)
.... In this passage Paul seems to be saying, very simply, that we should take our time with an utterance. Try not to speak in such a rush. Also, we should meditate on the utterance and do our best to articulate the syllables clearly, with true inflections, to pronounce each word as well as we possibly can. For example (in English) if the word is ‘speaking of which’, then take some time to feel it out and pronounce it correctly, instead of blurting out something like ‘speegginawidge’ which is obviously garbled. You don't want your 'notes' or syllables to sound uncertain, like you're babbling or 'speaking into the air'; even if your utterance is in someone's native tongue, they may not recognize it in this form.
.... In fact, remember that the utterance you are given may actually be the native tongue of someone present, and God may wish to use it as a sign to them. This was the case when tongues were spoken on the Day of Pentecost, for example, and it opened the door for preaching the gospel as the disciples became witnesses for Jesus. Therefore if spiritual gifts are the means, then evangelism is the end of the means, for in this and countless other ways spiritual gifts are always used for the purpose of God's ultimate glory.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: Galatians 1
Tongues and Prophecy - Part 2
.... In our previous posting, we addressed the common misperception that the interpretation of a tongue will take the form of a prophecy, and we described why this would not actually be the case. In order for that to be so, the tongue itself would have had to have been a prophecy, and in it's simplest form that would have been contrary to its underlying purpose:
.... "For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God . . ."
(1 Corinthians 14:2)
.... But no doubt someone will object on the basis of their experience. Why then, they will say, have we always heard the interpretation of a tongue come forth as prophecy? There are several possible answers. The first of these (and to my mind the most likely) has to do with our human ‘grid of reasoning’.
.... In an earlier posting, we gave an example of a person who prophesies using King James English. This is because he probably reads the King James version of the Bible, so he has interpreted the utterance through the grid of reasoning he is accustomed to. The essence of the message is pure, but his own understanding has cast it in the form of ‘thees’ and ‘thous’.
.... In a similar way, through well-intentioned but misguided experience, many Christians have now acquired a grid of reasoning that tells them to expect the interpretation of tongues to appear as prophecy. So the essence of their message may be correct, but their own understanding has recast it into a different form. For example, let’s say the utterance was this:
.... "By awesome deeds in righteousness You will answer us, O God of our salvation, You who are the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the far-off seas."
.... But because the interpreter believes that the meaning, in English, will take the form of prophecy, his own understanding may have re-framed the utterance this way:
.... "Yes My children, by awesome deeds in righteous- ness I will answer you, for I am the God of your salvation, the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the far-off seas."
.... This example has been chosen because it contains a special element. When we see the phrase, "in righteousness You will answer us," we actually do see a prophetic element contained in the psalm. Sometimes, spiritually inspired praise can be prophetic! In like manner, when we pray in tongues and express confidence in God, we may utter, through the spirit, elements that are prophetic, even though our words are spoken from man to God.
.... "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little."
.... The passage above is the context in which God foretold the gift of tongues, back in the Old Testament (v 11). So let’s remember that the gift fell into disuse through many centuries of unbelief in the church, and we are all facing a learning curve in 'restoring' it by our faith today. Rather than being offended at our possible mistakes along the way, we must humbly accept Biblical correction in order to learn a little more about this gift and to excel in its proper usage. Everything works better when used as it was designed to be! Therefore when we utter a tongue, let us focus on God Himself instead of worrying about how it applies to men, and then we will see the purest intention and benefit come forth. The utterance itself will suddenly be filled with an ecstatic joy, which will foster a clearer reception of the tongue itself, as it comes to us by the Spirit. And this, in turn, will help the interpretation of the tongue to flow as freely and purely as possible when the Holy Spirit works through the human interpreter.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 13
Tongues and Prophecy - Part 1
.... In our previous posting we described how an utterance in tongues will essentially takes the form of a psalm. This brings us to a controversial point regarding the interpre- tation of tongues (which, I am sorry to say, may offend some Christians; but if you’re one of them I ask you to please hear me patiently.)
.... In the modern church, when the interpretation of a tongue is given, it will often be vocalized in the form of a prophecy: "Yes My children, thus says the Lord . . ." but a fundamental mistake is being made in doing this. It’s not totally wrong, but an adjustment is needed.
.... When a tongue is given, we know that the underlying message is not a prophecy, so the interpretation can not be a prophecy either:
.... "For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God . . ."
(1 Corinthians 14:2)
.... If the original message was not spoken to men, but to God, then how can the interpretation be: "Yes My children, thus says the Lord . . ." with a message spoken to men? This would be entirely backward and would miss the underlying intention. So, where does our modern misunderstanding come from? Many Christians believe the interpretation of tongues will appear as prophecy based on the following passage:
.... "I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, that the church may receive edification."
(1 Corinthians 14:5)
.... Paul is telling us that the interpretation of tongues is equal to prophecy, but this does not make them the same thing. For example, let’s say that two people had $1,000 each, and one used his money to buy a fishing boat. The other bought a computer. Each object is of equal value; each is worth $1,000; yet they serve two very different purposes. Such is the case with prophecy and the interpretation of tongues: they are equal in value yet different in purpose. We will continue this discussion in our next posting.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 12
The Interpretation of Tongues
.... When the Holy Spirit grants an utterance in tongues, what sort of a message is being spoken? It would help to know the basic nature of that message because an interpretation must follow, and a true interpretation will present the same type of message and reflect the same basic meaning.
.... In our previous posting we described how an utterance in tongues is primarily address to God Himself, and it is only meant for man in a secondary sense, when it is overheard (1 Corinthians 14:2,21). So let’s work within those parameters to find some additional clues, beginning with the Day of Pentecost itself:
.... ". . . we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."
.... In this passage, tongues were spoken as a miraculous gift and there was no mention of interpretation of tongues; yet those same tongues were actually translated through the natural ability of certain persons who were present and overheard, and recognized the languages as their own, native tongues -- which for our purposes amounts to the same thing. And when this was done, we found that the wonderful works of God were being proclaimed through each utterance. In other words, in this particular instance, tongues were used for the purpose of praising God, which other men were able to overhear.
.... Later, Paul would give us another clue:
.... "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful."
(1 Corinthians 14:14)
.... Here we see that tongues may be used to express prayer to God. In a similar way, they may also be used to bless in the spirit, as when Daniel blessed the God of heaven (1 Corinthians 14:16; Daniel 2:19). And in still another passage, we see them used for the giving of thanks:
.... "For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified."
(1 Corinthians 14:17)
.... Furthermore we may sing in tongues, which carries clear connotations of praise and celebration:
.... "What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding."
(1 Corinthians 14:15)
.... In praise, in prayer, in giving of thanks, through blessing or through celebration in spiritual song, the person speaking in tongues is obviously addressing himself to God directly, and not mankind (1 Corinthians 14:2). Our primary focus is clearly sustained. So when these tongues are interpreted, what form will they assume and how will they benefit those who are overhearing them?
.... Taking the evidence collectively, it is most likely that an utterance in tongues would be very closely patterned after a psalm. For the psalms meet all of the criteria mentioned above, they are spoken aloud to God primarily, yet they may also bring edification to the speaker or to anyone else who happens to overhear them. And as such, they would find a very natural place in our time of worship:
.... "How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification."
(1 Corinthians 14:26)
.... Remember that both the tongue and the interpretation came through the agency of the Holy Spirit, whose ministry is to point us to Jesus, promote fellowship with Him, encourage us to rely on Him, and make us more like Him. These themes that are constantly presented in the Psalms as well. With this understanding, the interpretation of a tongue could very naturally cause our hearts to rejoice in the Lord as one:
.... "I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together!"
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 11
The Gift of Tongues
.... In our previous posting we introduced the gift of tongues and it’s initial significance as we are baptized with the Holy Spirit. But what about the gift itself? What is it’s purpose and effect? And how can speaking in other tongues promote our relationship with the Lord?
.... To place this gift in it’s proper context, we must first understand that each utterance, each time, proceeds from the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:4; 1 Corinthians 12:11). Even if He allows us to flow in the gift very freely, virtually at will, it is not something He has actually relinquished to our control. So operating in the gift always depends on Him, and is primarily designed for communicating with Him:
.... "For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries."
(1 Corinthians 14:2)
In the passage above, we see that God Himself is the intended recipient of each utterance. It is designed to be heard, first of all, by Him, because it was never meant to operate independently of the relationship;
but at the same time, God has designed the utterance to be overheard
by others, and when this occurs it can benefit them as well:
.... ‘For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, to whom He said, "This is the rest with which you may cause the weary to rest," and, "This is the refreshing"; yet they would not hear.’
The gift of tongues was foretold by the Prophet Isaiah in the passage above, and in the same passage we see it’s broader purpose. It is meant as a rest and a
refreshing, an edification and a method of renewing for those who believe, and also to open a testimony to those who do not believe.
The first person to benefit from this perspective will be the speaker himself, who receives the utterance and expresses it. Even if he doesn’t understand the words, a mystery will be received that contains a revelation of God’s character, and He will fully connect with this in his spirit
; 1 Corinthans 2:10
). The very fact that this communion takes place between the Holy Spirit and the person's own spirit will bless and edify him, and cause his heart to soar each time:
.... "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit . . ."
is something unbelievers may perceive in us as well. Even if they don't understand the words either, they are perfectly capable of perceiving the ‘mood’ or attitude that shines through the utterance as it is seen in us (1 Corinthians 13:1
). When our attitude is proper, they will realize that something spiritually beautiful is happening, and that a connection with God is being made – and this is even more so when the tongues are interpreted. We will describe the message itself in our next lesson, in which the interpretation of tongues will be addressed.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 10
Introduction to Tongues
.... Fifty days after the Passover when Jesus was crucified, and a week after His ascension to heaven, came the Day of Pentecost. On this day, the baptism in the Holy Spirit was given to about 120 of His disciples, as Jesus foretold to them:
.... "for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
.... Immediately, all 120 disciples began to speak in other tongues, in languages unknown to themselves, though they were known to some of the other men who were present in the city at that time. In fact, men from every nation were in Jerusalem for Pentecost, and heard them speaking:
.... "And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? . . . we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God."
On several more occasions in the Book of Acts, groups of new believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit when they believed, and they, too, spoke in tongues. So it is evident that speaking in tongues accompanies this baptism very closely, but in all fairness we must present a balanced picture:.
.... If you’ve been part of the church for any length of time, or watched much Christian television, you’ve probably heard the phrase: ‘the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues.’ This phrase is based on the examples we’ve mentioned, yet the Bible itself never uses the phrase.
To many Christians, tongues have become the definitive ‘proof’ that a person has received the Holy Spirit, and when they actually do appear it is certainly a true sign (Mark 16:17
). But if someone does not
speak in tongues initially, it does not mean that they were not filled with the Spirit! For not everyone who receives the baptism will receive this particular gift:
.... "Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?"
(1 Corinthians 12:30)
Paul offers this rhetorical question in the context of his discourse on the body of Christ. Basically, he is telling us that different members of the body serve different purposes, and some parts will be able to do what others cannot (1 Corinthians 12:7-30
). Through this, he implies that not all Christians will be able to speak in tongues because God has decided to bestow them with a different
.... "And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied."
.... Again let’s emphasize that speaking in tongues is the most common gift to be received when Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit. If more than one person receives the baptism at the same time, we will almost certainly see most of them, if not all of them, speak in tongues. But there could still be exceptions. In the example above, as twelve people were filled with the Holy Spirit, two spiritual gifts appeared. Both tongues and the gift of prophecy were manifest, and it’s possible that still others could have been present. Since this topic is long, we’ll continue our discussion in the ‘comments’ section.
To proceed to the next lesson, click hereDaily Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 9