Thursday, May 23, 2002

Charismatic Stuff-Holy Spirit 101-I'm going to try to explain my take on tongues and the Gifts of/Baptism of the Spirit without stepping on too many toes. David Heddle rightly points out that the spiritual fratricide that often results from such intra-evangelical dialog isn't the least bit edifying to the outsider. Tounges-do they exist today? It looks like it. I've seen it enough in Pentecostal/Charismatic circles to say that some form of speech that isn't English is being used in the height of spiritual expression. Is it an actual language or just gibberish? I'm not sure. There are a few anecdotal cases where people's prophetic tongues were actual foreign languages that they had not studied themselves. One story I remember hearing was of an Iranian émigré going to a church and hearing a prophetic message in perfect Farsi. The one fellow at Christian Celebration Center who has a prophetic tongue seems to have a consistent linguistic style (to this untrained ear) from episode to episode. If it is gibberish, it's fairly consistent gibberish that sounds like it could be an actual language. When Pastor Stocker breaks into his tongue, it has a consistent (but different from Prophecy Guy) linguistic style as well. Does the Bible back up the AoG idea of evidential tongues?- Only indirectly. Acts 2:4, 10:45,19:6 all have people being baptized in the Holy Spirit and then speaking in tongues. Acts 10:44-48 is the best case study to back up the AoG position.
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have." So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
It looks to be clear to the Jewish believers that speaking in tongues was evidence of the gift of the Holy Spirit. It helped break the Jewish believers out of their insular rut and accept the Gentile believers as equals in Christ. However, while it's an evidence of the Holy Spirit's presence, is tongues the evidence? Nowhere in the New Testament does it require believers to speak in tongues to receive the Holy Spirit. The best breakdown of the supernatural work on the Holy Spirit is in 1 Corinthians 12-13 Here's chapter 12:1-11
Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
Paul lays out the various gifts, but doesn't mention that you have to pass Tongues 101 to get to the other gifts. The Holy Spirit is the one who gets to hand out the gifts on His discression. [Update 5/24- Marc Velazquez points out that my phrasing of this as an AoG position is off a tad, that is would be better labeled a Pentecostal position. Valid point, as evidential tongues is the main theological difference between Pentecostals and charismatics. I almost went with Pentecostal, but was leery of overstating my case.] Am I a second-class Christian if I'm not a tongue-talker?-No. Paul goes on an extended riff in 1 Corinthians 12, starting in verse 12, on the different parts of the Body of Christ and that all of them are needed. He gets down to brass tacks in verse 27
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.
I'm supposing that Marc Velazquez, from what I've read of him the last month, is gifted in teaching and administration, even if he's not a tongue-talker. He's a valuable part of the Body of Christ. Not everyone is a miracle-worker and those of us who aren't the neighborhood Benny Hinn shouldn't feel like we're out to lunch. We should desire the greater gifts, but we shouldn't covet them. It's the people with the showy gifts that get all the props, not the quiet contributors. The gal teaching the pre-Ks downstairs might be changing more lives than Prophecy Guy, but it's Prophecy Guy who tends to get the kudos. This human tendency to want to get our own props makes us want to get the showy gifts for the wrong reasons. Paul makes sure to knock that thought down as we head into chapter 13
And now I will show you the most excellent way. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Charismatic skeptics will go to town on verse 8, but I see that looking at the time of Jesus' return more than a post-canonical era. However, we all often miss the point that love is the biggest part of the Christian walk. The nursery worker who selflessly loves on her charges (Paul has the classic nursery verse in 15:51 "We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed") is following Christ in love more than a well-educated but cocky pulpit-pounder. Love takes work. Love takes dying to self. Love takes sacrifice. Love is unnatural. It is the Fruit of the Spirit that marks the true believer more than the Gifts of the Spirit. If you haven't set foot in a Pentecostal or Charismatic church but yet are bountiful in the Fruit of the Spirit, you're doing just fine.

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