THE GIFT OF TONGUES – 7

Bible Reading: Luke 11:9-12

Each Spirit-filled believer must exercise self-control in the use of the gift of tongues in a public meeting in order to avoid confusion so that decency with unity may prevail [1 Corinthians 14:40]. Some time ago I was preaching in a church and in the midst of my message someone burst out into tongues, throwing the whole meeting into confusion. This is type of problem was what Paul was addressing when he wrote to the Corinthian Church. Things must decently and in an orderly manner so that confusion and disunity is avoided.

In a meeting recently someone said to me that they had a burden to speak something out. It should be remembered that self-control is an aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit and that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not ecstatic gifts over which we have no control. We open our mouth and the Holy Spirit gives the words to speak. We exercise an act of our will to start and to stop speaking! If you believe that God has given you a message to speak in tongues in a meeting, then you should wait to share it until an opportunity is given in the meeting. It might be that the right thing to do is to share your burden first with the pastor or one of the elders. If it is unclear whether or not there is someone who has the gift of interpretation then the giver of the tongue should be prepared to give the interpretation [1 Corinthians 14:13].

It should be noted that the interpretation is not a translation but an interpretation. Sometimes the interpretation may be shorter or longer than the message in tongues. The person interpreting the tongue will often begin with a few words but as they speak out in faith the remainder of interpretation will follow. The interpretation may come in the form of words, a picture or an inspired thought.

As we draw to these close of these daily devotional teaching words on the gifts of the Holy Spirit I would like to link together two words from Scripture. They are “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” [1 Corinthians 14:1] and, “If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” [Luke 11:11-13]

If God has been speaking to you about using these wonderful manifestations of the Holy Spirit and He has created in you a desire for them, then why not ask Him to give them to you. If your heart is right with God and you ask Him for something good, then He will give you what you ask for. He will never, never give to you something that is not good for you. He wants you to move forward a new walk and ministry in a supernatural dimension with Him. In conclusion, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have the” [Mark 11:24]. God bless you richly.

THE GIFT OF TONGUES – 6

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:1-19; 26-28

It is important that we understand the difference between the public use of speaking in tongues and the personal use. One is for the whole body of Christ and the other is for private prayer, worship and building up the individual believer’s spirit. A wrong understanding of this has led to wrong teaching. Paul made it clear that he wished that every believer spoke in tongues [see 1 Corinthians 14:5] and yet he also made it clear that not all believers speak in tongues [1 Corinthians 12:28-31]. In the first verse Paul is referring to the personal use of the gift of tongues and in the second verse to the public use of the gift of tongues.

Do all speak in tongues in the context of a church service? Certainly not! Should all speak in tongues for their personal edification? Certainly! It seems really strange to me that God would give a gift that enhances a person’s spiritual life and makes them more effective in prayer and then withhold it from some believers. All believers should be using the gift of tongues for their personal spiritual growth.

The passages in 1 Corinthians 12-14 are primarily, although not exclusively, spoken to the church concerning the public use of tongues in the church meeting. In the context of the church when it meets, not all have the gift of ministering a word in tongues [1 Corinthians 12:27-31]. The public exercise of the gift of tongues is a distinct anointing. Bishop David Pytches writes, “The gift of tongues in public is not a permanent ability, but is manifested as the Spirit anoints. Unlike the private use of the gift, the person cannot expect to open his mouth at any time he decides to do so and utter words which, when interpreted will be significant to others present. There must be the anointing.”

The private use of tongues can be used at any time. I remember driving home from Poland to London after a ministry trip. I was alone and spent most of the journey speaking in tongues. When I arrived home I was physically tired after the long journey but I was spiritually invigorated. As a gift ministry in the church meeting, speaking in tongues must be used in an orderly and balanced way. The overarching guideline is, “Let all things be done decently and in order” [1 Corinthians 14:40]. We must be sensitive to what the Holy Spirit is doing in the meeting.

Paul makes it clear that the exercise of tongues is to be limited to sequences of two or three at the most [1 Corinthians 14:27] and a tongue is meaningless as a gift ministry in the church meeting unless it is accompanied by an interpretation [1 Corinthians 14:27-28]. A clear mark of the Holy Spirit’s work in a church meeting is clarity, people understanding and being built up.

Questions:

Why do you think it is important to understand the difference between the private use and the public use of the gift of tongues?

Why do you think that the apostle Paul wished that everyone spoke in tongues?

THE GIFT OF TONGUES – 5

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 14:1-15

We have considered three purposes of the gift of tongues, as sign to unbelievers, with interpretation as equivalent to prophecy and as a powerful form of prayer. Today we consider two further purposes of the gift of tongues.

Fourthly, in just the same way that we can pray in tongues we can also worship and sing to the Lord in tongues. Paul not only writes about praying the spirit but also singing in the spirit. The gift of tongues enables God’s people to be more effective in praising and worshipping Him [1 Corinthians 14:14-15]. Peter and the Jews who were with him heard the Gentiles speak with tongues and magnify God [Acts 10:46]. My wife often sings in tongues and to the tune of old hymns and spiritual songs. It occurs to me that tunes given by the Holy Spirit on earth will just as much be used in heaven as tunes given by the Holy Spirit but never written down and sung in public.

Fifthly, we exercise the gift of tongues for our personal spiritual edification. Writing to the Church at Corinth Paul says,

“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….He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church”

[1 Corinthians 14:2,4]. Why is it that we spend so much time edifying [building up] our minds but spend so little time edifying our spirit? We edify our spirit in two ways – by feeding on God’s Word, which is spirit food, and by speaking in tongues.

Many years ago a godly Malaysian pastor, Doctor Joy Seeveratnam, gave me a timely word of advice. He said, “Get alone in the presence of God and spend an hour each day speaking in tongues. It will do amazing things for your spirit.” It is costly because it means cutting out something from your life in order to give time to be alone in God’s presence. The big question is how much do you want your spirit to grow?

As we have looked at the gift of tongues you may have noticed that it has a two-fold use. It is to be used both in the context of the public meeting in the local church, but also privately for prayer, praise and edifying the spirit. It is important that we make a clear distinction between the public and private use of tongues because many people have made a mistake in misunderstanding these two different purposes of the gift of tongues.

We will consider the importance of understanding the difference between the public and private use of the gift of tongues in our reading tomorrow….

Questions:

How does Paul define the difference between speaking in tongues and prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14:2-4?

When Jesus spent time alone with His Father he had to send the people away [Matthew 14:23]. What are you going to have to send away to spend more time in the presence of God?

THE GIFT OF TONGUES – 4

Bible Reading: Ephesians 6:10-18

Yesterday we considered the gift of tongues as a sign to unbelievers and together with interpretation the equivalent of prophecy.

Thirdly, the gift of tongues was given to enable God’s people to be more effective in prayer [1 Corinthians 14:14].

“Sometimes I feel a burden of prayer: yet I may not know exactly what I should pray for; or I may not have exactly the words to express what I feel. This is the time when I enter my spiritual language and can pierce through my natural inability to articulate to God what I am feeling…” [Pastor Cho Yonggi]

There are times when we just do not know how to pray. I remember in the times that my wife and I lived in a fanatical Muslim community and we experienced something of the darkness in that area. The oppression was so powerful that we did not even know how to pray. Because of this we would go into our house, shut the door, and just pray in tongues until the oppression that we were experiencing lifted. We noticed especially in those times of spiritual warfare that the tongues we used to pray would often become strong and at times be the stern tongue of rebuke to the spiritual forces of darkness.

I dare to say that I doubt whether we would have survived in that situation without the ability to pray in tongues.

It is often assumed that Paul writes to the Ephesians about six items of armour or weapons that are vital for spiritual warfare, but in actual fact there is a seventh weapon that he mentions. He writes, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” [Ephesians 6:18]. Other translations read, “Always pray by the power of the Spirit” [CEV]; “Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer” [J.B. Phillips]; “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests” [NIVUK]. “All kinds of prayer,” includes praying with our spirit in tongues.

Paul makes it clear that we can pray with our spirit and we can pray with our understanding [1 Corinthians 14:14-15]. The meaning of praying with our spirit is literally allowing the Holy Spirit to pray through us with words that we do not understand. This kind of praying bypasses the mind but is very powerful.

In her book, Chasing the Dragon, Jackie Pullinger makes it clear that speaking in tongues had beneficial effects on new converts amongst the drug addicts from the Triad gangs among whom she worked in the Walled City in Hong Kong. Once these new converts began to pray in tongues they experienced some remarkable deliverances.

Questions:

Would you like to be more effective in your prayer life? Why not ask God to give you this gift so that you can pray in tongues? If you have spoken in tongues in the past and have neglected this gift, why not stir up this gift that is in you and begin to use it again?

THE GIFT OF TONGUES – 3

Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?” [1 Corinthians 14:22-23]

Over the next days we will look at the various reasons why God has given us through the Holy Spirit the gift of tongues.

Firstly, the gift of tongues was a sign of God’s presence to attract unbelievers.  The various nationalities gathered in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost heard people praising God in their own language, and as result Peter was able to present the Gospel to them. In this sense it was a sign to unbelievers [see 1 Corinthians 14:22-23]. Paul emphasises tongues as a sign to unbelievers, but it does seem that Paul contradicts himself in these two verses. This is not the case as explained by Jack Heyford in the margin of the Spirit-Filled Life Bible:

“The way the Corinthian Christians were speaking in tongues was helping no one, because believers did not understand what was being said, and unbelievers thought that the people speaking in tongues were crazy. Speaking in tongues were supposed to be a sign to unbelievers [as it was in Acts 2]. After speaking in tongues believers were supposed to explain what was said, and give the credit to God. The unsaved people would then be convinced of a spiritual reality motivating them to look further into the Christian faith.”

In the 1920’s a young missionary named Teddy Hodgson arrived in the Congo. He had only been in the Congo a short time when he visited a village but found that most of the men were not home. He heard that the men were meeting outside the village and he went to find them. He did not realise that they were meeting as a secret society and that an outsider might be killed.

He could not speak the dialect of these people and realised that his life was in danger. He began to speak in tongues, not realising that he was speaking in the exact dialect of these people, and as a result his life was spared and many of the men came to Christ. The gift of tongues had saved a man’s life!

Secondly, together with interpretation of the gift of tongues it was meant to be a blessing to the church [1 Cor.14:5,27-28]. In this case the gift of tongues with interpretation had an equivalent value to prophecy.

We will continue with this theme tomorrow….

Questions:

If the gift of tongues is an effective way for a Christian to communicate with God, then why should God withhold it from any believer?

Why do you think it is that the gift of tongues is rarely used in our church services today? How can this be rectified, whilst still protecting people from the wrong use of tongues and from people with wrong motives?

THE GIFT OF TONGUES – 2

Bible Reading: Acts 8:1-25

Although speaking in tongues is an evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the Bible never calls it the initial evidence or the only evidence. We need to define the term “baptism of the Spirit” because it has created lots of misunderstanding, especially in evangelical Christian circles.

There can only be one baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Greek word ‘baptizo’ means “to immerse,” “submerge”, or “overwhelm”. Interestingly the Greek Orthodox Church baptises babies by immersion because they understood the meaning of the word ‘baptizo’. The Biblical meaning of the baptism of the Holy Spirit therefore is to be fully immersed in and filled with the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said, “for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” [Acts 1:5]. He was obviously referring to the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. However, when it happened the Bible says, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” [Acts 2:4]. It would therefore appear that the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the initial filling of the Holy Spirit are one and the same experience.

The baptism or initial filling of the Holy Spirit should occur at conversion. Sadly we have created a dichotomy, where conversion comes first, and then at a later date there is a second experience of being baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit. It is exciting to hear testimonies of people who are baptised with the Holy Spirit at conversion.

On the Day of Pentecost when the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit they all “began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” [Acts 2:4]. The same thing happened to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius [Acts 10:44-46]. In Ephesus when the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit they spoke with tongues and prophesied [Acts 19:6]. Jesus said that tongues are given as a sign [Mark 16:17]. There were miraculous signs when people in Samaria were filled with the Holy Spirit but speaking in tongues are not specifically mentioned [Acts 8:14-25]. There is no mention of Paul speaking in tongues when he was filled with the Holy Spirit [Acts 9:17-19], but he wrote later that he wanted everyone to speak in tongues [1 Corinthians 14:5]

When I personally was baptized in the Holy Spirit I did not speak in tongues immediately, although I did do so two months later. For me there was remarkable sense of the presence of God, and a desire to worship Him. Perhaps if I had understood what was available to me I might have spoken in tongues when I was first converted. Tomorrow we will continue by looking at God’s purposes in giving the gift of tongues.

A Question:

How would you answer Paul’s question to the Ephesian believer’s, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”

Why do you think that people are not normally filled with the Holy Spirit at the time of conversion although it would appear from Scripture to be the norm?

THE GIFT OF TONGUES – 1

Bible Reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Acts 2:1-13

“…To another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues” [1 Corinthians 12:10]

The gift of tongues is languages spoken through the Holy Spirit but not learned with the normal mental processes. Some have equated learning foreign 04languages with speaking in tongues but this is an incorrect interpretation. In his book, “Come Holy Spirit,” David Pytches says about the gift of tongues, “This a spontaneous inspired utterance by the Holy Spirit, where the normal voice organs are used, but the conscious mind plays no part. The languages spoken or sung are entirely unlearned by the speaker.” Paul defines the gift of tongues when he says, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels” [1 Corinthians 13:1]. It is literally heavenly or earthly languages given by the Holy Spirit.

I was in a meeting some years ago in Indonesia, and standing next to a simple village man who was being prayed for. Suddenly he began to praise God in the most beautiful Oxford English. Even the accent was an Oxford accent. When he stopped speaking, I asked him in English if he understood what he had said. He didn’t understand a word of English, and when I asked the same question in the Indonesian language he confirmed to me that he had never learned English.

Speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues are unique in that they are not found in the Old Testament but are linked to the church of Jesus Christ. All other gifts, miracles, and spiritual manifestations were in evidence during Old Testament times. The first record in the Bible of someone speaking in tongues was on the Day of Pentecost. God ordained the gift of tongues and the interpretation of tongues for use by the church [1 Corinthians 12:28].

All the instances of the use of tongues and teaching about tongues in Scripture are found in only the Book of Acts and the writings of Paul to the Corinthian Church. Acts contains a factual account of God’s Holy Spirit at work. Someone has made the comment that the Book of Acts should be called the Book of the Acts of the Holy Spirit. First Corinthians is a correcting by Paul of certain abuses and misuse of the gifts of the Spirit in the local church.

On one occasion Jesus specifically prophesied that believers would speak in tongues [Mark 16:17], and this began to be fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost.

Questions:

Why do you think that the gift of tongues, although clearly Biblical, has been so opposed by so many Christians?

Read Acts 2:5-8. What was the purpose of tongues on the day of Pentecost?

Why is it wrong to interpret the learning of languages as the gift of tongues?

THE GIFT OF PROPHECY – 8

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:1-16; 5:1-2

Yesterday we looked at two important ways of testing whether a prophetic word is from God or not. Firstly, we must be sure that the word is in agreement with and not contradictory to God’s Word. Secondly, in giving a prophetic word there is safety in submitting it to be tested by other prophetic people. There is no place for a “loner” who does not submit to other believers.

The motive people have for giving prophetic words is important. Sometimes people do give words in order to manipulate or control a situation. That was certainly the case with Jezebel when she spoke to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:1-2. I have often wondered why a man of the calibre of Elijah was almost destroyed by Jezebel’s “prophecy.” It is so clear that Jezebel’s words were not from the heart of God, and manipulative words are often much more subtle. We must be careful to watch that insecure people do not use the giving of prophetic words as a form of attention seeking. I know of a situation where a man sadly gives prophetic words because it gives him a sense of spiritual superiority. Perhaps more sad is the fact that no one has sought to correct him, although it is highly likely that he would not accept correction.

There are other important questions to ask when weighing a prophecy. Does it build up or condemn? Does it glorify Jesus? The Holy Spirit always points to and glorifies Jesus. Does the prophecy promote obedience to God? Does it bring freedom and peace? Bondage, confusion and fear are not the work of the Holy Spirit. Is the word couched in religious language or is it in language that people can easily understand? Does the prophetic word make the hearers feel uncomfortable and wary? We have an anointing that teaches us the truth and warns us of that which is false [see 1 John 2:27].

I remember years ago reading a book entitled “To Corinth with Love,” by Michael Green in which he tackled issues of prophecy. One of his comments concerned the length of a prophecy. He suggested that even if it began in the Spirit, the longer the prophecy is, the more possibility there is that it continues in the flesh.

“The human factors involved in interpretation and application of personal prophecies can be sifted and tested through agreement. If several responsible people are receiving the same or similar words, the accuracy is more probable” [Peter Wagner, Blazing the Way, page 205].

It is vital that we test prophetic words but do not let that make you nervous or afraid to give words that you believe the Lord is giving to you. A healthy local church will give people room to develop their gifts in an atmosphere of love. Even where correction is necessary it will be given in such a way that does not discourage but strengthens, encourages and helps that person to grow. As our Bible reading says to day, we should maintain the unity of the Spirit [Ephesians 4:3], honour Christ’s body, and grow together in love.

Tomorrow we will begin to look at the gift of different kinds of tongues and the interpretation of tongues.

THE GIFT OF PROPHECY – 7

Bible Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22

“Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good” [1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 NLT]

We know that the purpose of prophecy is to edify, exhort and comfort people, and primarily believers. The apostle John says, “… the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” [Revelation 19:10]. In the New Living Translation this verse reads as, “For the essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus.” Prophecy is the revelation of Jesus’ heart for His people.

We must recognise that not all prophetic words are from God. They might come from the human spirit and not the Holy Spirit. A word might also be given that is partially from God and partially human thinking! Although it is possible to speak 100% accurate words from God, it is more often the case that prophecy is a mixture. Some people think that God can only speak through mature people, but this is not true. The manifestations of the Spirit can come through people who have significant unresolved issues in their lives. Paul called the Corinthian Church carnal. They misused the gifts of the Spirit, had wrong doctrines and lacked godly character. There is no suggestion in 1 Corinthians that the misuse of the gifts makes then invalid.

How do you know that a prophetic word is genuinely from God? How can a prophetic word be tested?

In God’s Word the Bible, we have a “more sure word of prophecy” [2 Peter 1:19 KJV].

If something is spoken that is in contradiction to God’s Word then we can be sure that it is wrong.

The Bible teaches that there is safety in numbers “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” [Proverbs 11:14]. The Old Testament speaks of “schools” or “companies” of prophets [see 1 Samuel 10:10; 2 Kings 4:1; 5:22]. Paul writes about this when he writes “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge” [1 Corinthians 14:29]. If you believe that God has given you a word then it is a good thing to check it with mature believers who also move in the prophetic realm. There is no room here for the “loner” who refuses to submit to other believers. In actual fact more mature Christians can help those with less experience to sharpen their listening and discerning skills when prophetic ministry is being developed among believers.

Questions:

How does the thought that prophecy is a revelation of Jesus’ heart for people based on Revelation 19:10 help you to better understand the meaning of prophecy?

Why do you think that prophets operated in “schools” or “companies” in the Old Testament? What would be the equivalent today?

What two safeguards that help us to recognize the correctness of a prophetic word, have you learned from today’s devotional word?

THE GIFT OF PROPHECY – 6

Bible Reading: Acts 21:1-14

We continue today with more simple Biblical truths about the gift of prophecy.

Firstly, we must recognise that personal prophecy is always partial. Paul writes, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” [1 Corinthians 13:9,12]. Each prophecy touches only a small segment of our lives. Prophecy is not only partial, but also progressive in the sense that it unfolds gradually over the years with each word adding new information and revelation. It is also conditional – the fulfilment of a prophecy requires the participation and co-operation of the one receiving the prophetic word.

Secondly, a person who has received a word of prophecy must ultimately make their own decision about what they should do, based on what they sense that the Holy Spirit is saying to them and not what He may be saying to others. One of the most remarkable stories in the Book of Acts concerns a prophecy given to Paul. Paul had been advised by the disciples in Tyre not to go up to Jerusalem [Acts 21:4]. Paul then travelled to Caesarea and stayed there for many days [Acts 21:8-10]. Agabus, a prophet from Judea met with Paul in Caesarea and performed a prophetic act. He took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet with the belt, and then pronounced, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles’” [Acts 21:10-11]. After Paul had received this word the disciples in Caesarea, including Luke, tried to persuade him not to go to Jerusalem [Acts 21:12]. Despite all these voices Paul had to make his own decision. It is important that when a person receives a word of prophecy they weigh it up and test it, and then make their own decisions based on what the Holy Spirit has been saying to them.

In our Bible reading Agabus is called “a prophet.” The office of a prophet was an appointment by the risen Christ [Ephesians 4:11] whereas the gift of prophecy is given by the Holy Spirit and available for all believers to exercise.

A prophet functions as a divinely appointed preacher, predicts future events, and is watchman over the affairs of God’s people. In this sense it is correct to say that a man like Dr. A.W.Tozer was a prophet in his generation.

Over the next two days I want to take a careful look at how a prophetic word should be tested. It is vital that prophetic words are weighed and tested.

Questions:

Why is it important that we make our own decisions concerning guidance?

What might be the dangers for a person making a decision based on a word of prophecy that someone has given them, if they themselves are not in tune with what the Holy Spirit is saying to them personally?

It is clearly Biblical that God intends people to give words of prophecy. What dangers must people who do this avoid in order to keep their hearts pure?