Tongues, Gifts, and Faith

Disclaimer: This post is from the archives, and may not represent the current views of the author. It also may not be at all interesting to read. Continue at your own peril!

This entry is actually a response to the comment left by Derek in the previous entry. I started to reply, but it started to get pretty long, so I decided to put it into a separate post instead to make up for my lack of content. Try to follow my logical progression and you should understand my dilemma.

Yeah, see that’s the problem I’ve been having with it. Now this pastor wasn’t smacking people’s foreheads, but rather anointing people with oil – a Scriptural procedure – and then laying hands on them. But I definitely know that our church believes in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit at conversion. That’s why, to my knowledge, it has to do with speaking in tongues instead. I think it may simply be a term that they like throwing around, a term describing the point at which the Holy Spirit gives us tongues to speak.

That’s where a little more confusion comes in for me, simply because I don’t know theology well enough. There is likely someone who can explain this for me, but it’s basically a matter of the spiritual gifts. The Bible states that the Spirit gives people spiritual gifts to use:

“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.” (1 Cor. 12:7-11)

The Bible states very clearly that the Spirit gives us tongues to speak, but they are not given to everyone – other gifts can be given instead. But do we receive these gifts at conversion? They don’t usually show up at that point. But do we receive them then and just not utilize them until later, or do we receive them later? I suppose it’s a fine line, but it makes a difference when praying for someone to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Do we pray for the receiving of those gifts, or do we pray for the utilization of those gifts? And if we already have received the gifts at conversion, how do we know which gift we’ve gotten? That question and the wording of the verse leads me to believe these would be given out after conversion.

So here we come to a service with this pastor. People come up to the altar and he lays his hands on them, praying for the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I don’t doubt that this pastor I saw had good intentions – you mentioned about saying you needing a pastor to get the Holy Spirit, and I know that wasn’t what was going on, nor did he think so; it was rather the reception of a manifestation of the Spirit. So, does this “baptism in the Spirit” come when we receive a spiritual gift? But then we come to another dilemma. As I observed this pastor praying with some people, as he prayed for them, some broke out in tongues, some just stood there worshipping God. Of course, this is perfectly fine. But if someone received a gift of healing, how come they weren’t using their gift like the people speaking in tongues were? And how come Pentecostals seem to place such a high emphasis on tongues, whereas Paul seemed to denounce it as one of the more inferior gifts?

“I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.” (1 Cor. 14:5)

“I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1 Cor. 14:18-19)

“Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” (1 Cor. 14:39-40)

Paul seems to say that prophecy is much more edifying to the church, although he doesn’t say speaking in tongues are bad or anything. However, Pentecostals seem to somehow place people who speak in tongues at some sort of a “higher spiritual level” then the rest of the people, when they could have simply been given a less noticeable gift, such as faith or the distinguishing of spirits. I mean, when people at my church speak in tongues, there is always an interpretation, which is very important. But nowhere in the Bible do I find the impression that speaking in tongues is necessary for spiritual growth. Gifts of the Spirit may be a sign of growth, but since tongues are only one of those gifts, they are not necessary.

Yet, how come on the Day of Pentecost, all the believers in the room spoke in tongues? “When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:1-4) I admit that these were very godly people, and therefore the infilling of the Holy Spirit would have given them certain gifts because of their spiritual growth. However, it says that they all spoke in tongues. Now, obviously the Spirit would give gifts that we can use and will not be wasted, according to our unique individuality. But was this speaking in tongues a spiritual gift to the apostles – in which case, I would have expected different people to receive different gifts – or was it a special case? In other words, is the speaking of tongues limited to just being a spiritual gift, or is it also a sign of spiritual growth? Or perhaps, if the dispensationalist view is correct, the speaking in tongues was simply a manifestation of the Spirit during that time, and now has been moved down in importance to simply being one of a number of different gifts for the edifying of the church.

This is the issue I’m struggling with. The problem is that I don’t know enough theology to really make an educated decision on the matter. On the one hand, the Christian school I go to is based on a Baptist background. I mean, it’s interdenominational, but considering the teacher that teaches five of my subjects is a Baptist, the bias is definitely toward that point of view. On the other hand, my church doesn’t seem to have any sort of educational classes on our theology. I could set up a meeting with a pastor, but I’d really just like to know what my church believes in regard to different issues – and also learn about some of the other views that different denominations hold.

It just seems that my church has been stuck teaching the same stuff over and over. I mean, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – we can’t go so far ahead and leave new Christians that come to the church behind. But on the other hand, we haven’t really been doing much growth. There aren’t really that many new Christians in our church. Perhaps if we were growing in Christ more, as we grew closer to Him, we would pull others to Him as well – because we would be more others-centred, as Christ was. It would make more sense to me, anyway. Instead of trying to educate the entire church over and over on basic matters, it should be more of a discipleship thing, where the body of the church helps those struggling in their faith. That would also mean a lot more room for theological growth, where we can discover profound Scriptural truths – stuff that can be applied to life and can also help us to understand God more intimately.

I don’t mean to be critical here – the pastor of my church does a good job, and I don’t fault him in any way. Perhaps it’s more an issue that a lot of the members seem to be content right where they are, a very easy trap to fall into. We should always be striving to grow, and as you get settled with one foot in the world and one foot in Christ (which is really just a fancy way of having both feet in the world and giving lip service to God every once in a while), it becomes easier to just be content with routines and traditions. We need corporate growth, and the only way to do that is to go ahead and do it. I’m sick of people complaining because a meeting isn’t convenient for them. Let’s just take a moment to think here. What’s more important: your job or your golf or whatever you want to do, or God? I think the answer is pretty easy, and yet people still cling to the former choice. I mean, yes, jobs are definitely important. You need money to live in this world. However, if your job is conflicting with your growth in Christ, you have a choice to make. You can either choose to have money and food, which most people like, or you can choose to follow Christ completely and wholeheartedly – which might mean giving up a job that pays well but requires you to work on Sundays. If you truly want to follow Christ, you must give up everything, take up your cross, and follow Him. That’s what the disciples did. They dropped their fishing nets (their job and livelihood) and followed Him. And they barely even knew Him. Yet we have a hard time rescheduling our dinner appointment with that client we need to sway.

Sometimes the excuse is family. That’s a tough call. I mean, doesn’t God even stress the importance of the family? While this is true, the fact is that you need to make time for both your family and God. And if they conflict, God takes precedence. While that doesn’t mean you need to spend all day locked in your room reading the Bible instead of interacting with your family, why not try holding a family Bible study instead? If you can sway your family to following after you toward Christ, then you’ve got the battle won.

The point I’m trying to make is that there is no excuse good enough to put off growth in Christ. If you’ve got a job that makes it impossible for you to grow in Him, then quit it. Stop making your excuses and put your faith in what (or rather, who) you know will never let you down. It’s a choice between trusting your job to always be there to provide you with your needs, like food, clothing, and shelter, or trusting God to reward you for your faithfulness in following Him by providing what you need. I’m reminded of George Muller, an incredibly godly man, who owned an orphanage. One day he sat down at the table with the kids and asked God for the blessing on the food He had provided. The catch was that there was absolutely no food on the table – or in the kitchen, for that matter. He acted solely on faith to provide for his needs, because he did not have any money to provide it for him. Guess what happened, though? A person showed up at the door and said, “Hey, I just had the strangest feeling that you could use some bread. So I decided to drop some by.” A few minutes later, another knock came. It was the milkman – his truck had broken down in front of their orphanage, and if he didn’t get rid of the milk in the back of his truck right away, it was going to go bad. Guess who provided for Muller’s needs? Guess what didn’t? So what’s the important thing: God or money? “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)

Now, I’m not saying to be foolish, waste away your money, throw away your job, and then expect God to make things magically show up at your door. But instead of having a job to provide you with money to bestow upon yourself needless luxuries, try using your hard work to provide for others who can’t provide for themselves. You’re blessing others, and God will reward you for that by providing what you need – as well as likely using your faith to provide for that other person. If you can truly say that you focus your life on helping others, then you can have absolute faith that God will bless you and reward you for your work greater than you can ever imagine.

I don’t say all this stuff like I’ve got it all figured out. Things are, of course, always easier said than done. This is just something that I’ve learned and believe very strongly about. And it was just for free – it was just something I thought up as I revealed my lack of theological knowledge. Since this is my blog, however, I decide what to write on here. But whatever – whether it was on topic or off, it was biblical at least. It was written to no one in particular – well, actually, all believers I suppose. I’m just learning things as I go along and writing them down here. Who knows – maybe it’ll mean that I’ll remember it and not make the same mistake as many times. After all, those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it, but those who do learn from history just don’t repeat it as much. That’s all I have to say for today. Peace out.

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