The Gift of Tongues

 •  22 min. read  •  grade level: 11
It is most important when speaking of this subject that we realize two things. What was the purpose of the gift of tongues? Were they languages that were spoken in the world, or were they merely ecstatic utterances? Now the Scriptures quoted above answer these questions very clearly.
First, they were given as a sign to unbelievers and not to believers.
Second, they were languages understood by those whose tongues they were.
If we bear these two things in mind, then all the Scriptures dealing with the subject become clear at once. As to whether they still exist today, then, if they do, we must expect them to be the same as those spoken of in the Scripture. God gave signs to confirm the Word to unbelievers that is, before the New Testament had been written (Mark 16:2020And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. (Mark 16:20), Heb. 2:3,43How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; 4God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will? (Hebrews 2:3‑4)) Alas, today we find two things that alarm us in the present tongues movement.
First, they are not used to proclaim the wonderful works of God to unbelievers in their own language.
Second, they are very often associated with some very serious errors as to the Person and work of Christ, as well as other unscriptural practices.
These things ought to place us on guard before getting involved in such movements, for we are -told to, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." 1 Thess. 5:2121Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The way we prove them is by the Word of God. It is a solemn thing to look for a power that is not according to God's Word.
Let us consider the three passages in the Acts that speak of tongues. In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down according to the promise of Acts 1:4,54And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. 5For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:4‑5) (see also John 7:39;16:739(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:39)
7Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7)
). Up to this time God had been dealing with a particular nation, and the Lord Jesus, when here upon earth, said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matt. 15:2424But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 15:24). He also told His disciples, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any of the cities of the Samaritans enter ye not: but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Matt. 10:5,65These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: 6But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matthew 10:5‑6). But now on the day of Pentecost, a new thing was about to commence. The Lord Jesus had said, "I will build My church" Matt. 16:1818And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18), and this church was to be composed of Jew and Gentile (1 Cor. 12:1313For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:13)). The middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile was to be broken down (Eph. 2:1414For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; (Ephesians 2:14)) and what more apt sign of this new thing could be given than the gift of tongues? The message of the wonderful works of God, without previous education on the part of the speakers, goes out in many different languages. God was showing that He was reaching over the bounds of Israel, for He was about to break down the middle wall of partition that divided them.
The next time we read of the gift of tongues is in Acts 10:4646For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, (Acts 10:46). Here it is a company of Gentiles in the house of Cornelius, for again I say we see God introducing this new thing by the bringing in of the Gentiles to form the Church of God on earth. They received the Gospel proclaimed by Peter, and when the Holy Ghost fell upon them they spoke with tongues and were added to the church. In rehearsing what took place in Acts 11:4-184But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, 5I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: 6Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. 7And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. 8But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. 9But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. 10And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. 12And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man's house: 13And he showed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; 14Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. 15And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. 16Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. 17Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? 18When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (Acts 11:4‑18), Peter said, "the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning." This makes it very clear that they also spoke in intelligible tongues (languages spoken in the world), for this is the way the gift of tongues was given at the beginning. Again we can see that this was in harmony with the ways of God, to show that He was reaching out beyond Israel to the Gentiles. Those in the assembly at Jerusalem were led to confirm this, for they said, "Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." Acts 11:1818When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (Acts 11:18).
The third time we read of the gift of tongues is in Acts 19:66And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (Acts 19:6), when Paul came to Ephesus. Here were a company of disciples who have never heard the gospel of the grace of God. They had accepted John the Baptist's message telling of the coming of the Messiah, and in repentance had been baptized by him. Now they hear of the Lord Jesus who has died and risen again, and that the Holy Ghost has come. John had said that the Lord Jesus would baptize with the Holy Ghost (Matt. 3:1111I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Matthew 3:11)), and this had already taken place on the day of Pentecost as the Lord Jesus had said it would in Acts 1:55For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:5). Now it was no longer necessary to wait for the baptism of the Holy Ghost, for He had come, and so when Paul laid his hands on them they received the Holy Ghost. They too bear witness, by speaking in tongues, that Christianity was not like John's message to the nation of Israel, for the gospel message in Christianity reaches out to the Gentile. Paul's epistle to the Ephesians does not mention the gift of tongues, but clearly brings out how the middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile has been broken down, forming one body in Christ (Eph. 2:14-16;3:614For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: (Ephesians 2:14‑16)
6That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: (Ephesians 3:6)
).
The only one of all the epistles which speaks of the gift of tongues is 1 Corinthians. Here we are told that the Corinthians came behind in no gift, and yet they were carnal Christians. (1 Cor. 1:7;3:17So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ: (1 Corinthians 1:7)
1And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:1)
). Now "the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" Rom. 11:2929For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (Romans 11:29), and God does not withdraw a gift from a person to whom He has given it, even though the person may not use it according to His mind as revealed in His Word. It is possible to use a God-given gift in the wrong way, or for display and self exaltation. Moreover it is important to notice that all the believers at Corinth did not have the gift of tongues, (1 Cor. 12:3030Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:30)) but some who had been given this gift, were not using it in love nor for profit, and this is why Paul exhorts them not to act as children who like to show off (1 Cor. 13:11;14:2011When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
20Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. (1 Corinthians 14:20)
). When he speaks of the tongues of men and of angels it is in the same way as he speaks of angels preaching another gospel (Gal. 1:88But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)), for we may be sure angels can speak any earthly language, and the elect angels are ministering spirits. caring for all the children of God regardless of nationality (Heb. 1:13,1413But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? 14Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation? (Hebrews 1:13‑14)).
There is no thought here of a so-called "heavenly language", for how could a language unknown to any people or nation on earth be a testimony to unbelievers. Yet Scripture shows us, as we have already pointed out, that tongues were given as a sign to unbelievers. Tongues will not be needed when "that which is perfect is come" (1 Cor. 13:8-108Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (1 Corinthians 13:8‑10)) so they will cease in the coming glory.
Notice here it does not say "the gift of tongues", but simply that "tongues" would cease. In heaven prophecy will not be needed, and knowledge will no longer be in part, and since all will be of one mind and speak the same language, then tongues will cease. The various languages began at the tower of Babel when man in his pride sought to put up a building of bricks whose top would reach to heaven. Now God is building a spiritual house, of which all believers are part as living stones, regardless of nationality or tongue. Again we see the wisdom of God in introducing this new thing by giving the gift of tongues. To use this gift without love, and simply for display was not in God's purpose.
Therefore in the fourteenth chapter of Corinthians, the apostle follows on with this subject, and regulates its use in the assembly. On the previous occasions recorded in the Acts, they were not used in the assembly as gathered together, but only as a sign in keeping with God's purpose in giving them. Now since it was a God-given gift, its use was not forbidden as long as there was an interpreter. It would, when used in this way, be a reminder to the assembly of God's grace in working among other nations in blessing, and gathering them into one body in Christ. Even today, we may be prone to forget, in an assembly where all speak in one language, that God is saving souls and giving them the Holy Spirit as members of the one body, from every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation. Very often when some of another tongue come in, and we have to interpret for them, we are reminded of how, on the day of Pentecost, every one heard in his own tongue wherein he was born, the wonderful works of God. (Acts 2:88And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? (Acts 2:8)).
Sad to say the Corinthians were using the gift of tongues for display, and so Paul had to tell them not to speak in another tongue, unknown to those present, unless there was an interpreter. They could, however, "speak to themselves and to God" in another tongue, for He understood every language. If I were in a meeting where no one understood English, I would speak to myself and to God in English. But verses 21 and 22 of this chapter make it clear that it was not some ecstatic utterance that is referred to, but the tongues Paul was speaking about, were other languages which would be a sign to unbelievers of the power of God and of how the message of salvation now goes out to all nations. If there was no one present in the assembly who understood the language and no interpreter it would not serve its God-given purpose as shown in Acts 2. Moreover it would seem foolish to strangers coming in, who could not understand what was spoken. It would be confusion, God would not be glorified and no one would be edified (1 Cor. 14:21-2521In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord. 22Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe. 23If therefore the whole church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned, or unbelievers, will they not say that ye are mad? 24But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: 25And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth. (1 Corinthians 14:21‑25)).
But the question is often asked whether we have the gift of tongues today. To ask the question is to answer it, for there is no person or group who would claim to be able to do what took place in Acts 2, gathering a group of people from "every nation under heaven" Acts 2:55And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. (Acts 2:5), and then speaking to them in their own tongues the wonderful works of God.
This brings us to an important consideration, not only as to the gift of tongues, but also as to all the sign gifts. The Scripture does not promise that the gifts of tongues, healing and miracles, even to the raising of the dead, as wrought by specially gifted ones in the early church, would continue. We know they existed in the early church as is clearly recorded in the Acts and in Corinthians, as signs to confirm the Word which had not yet been written. There is, however, the promise of the continuance of the gifts of ministry for the edification of the church (Eph. 4:7-167But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 8Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. 9(Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? 10He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:7‑16)). Now we have in the written Word, the foundation of Christianity laid by the apostles and prophets (Rom. 16:2626But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith: (Romans 16:26), 1 Cor. 3:1010According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. (1 Corinthians 3:10), Eph. 2:20-2220And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:20‑22)), and the continuation of the gifts of ministry, "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine." Eph. 4:12-1412For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; (Ephesians 4:12‑14).
As mentioned before, there are those who profess to have the gift of tongues and other "sign gifts" today. As we test their claims by the Word of God and by actual facts, we find they are not the same as in the book of the Acts. They do not use the gift of tongues as a sign to unbelievers, nor can a group of sick ones be called together and every one be healed. (Acts 5:12-1612And by the hands of the apostles were many signs and wonders wrought among the people; (and they were all with one accord in Solomon's porch. 13And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them. 14And believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.) 15Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them. 16There came also a multitude out of the cities round about unto Jerusalem, bringing sick folks, and them which were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed every one. (Acts 5:12‑16)) Even as regards the healings recorded in the Acts, there is no assurance that those who were healed were believers, but rather every indication to the contrary. It was a sign to confirm the Word to unbelievers, for true believers do not need to have the Word confirmed to them, for they have received it as the Word of God. (1 Thess. 2:1313For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13)). Also it is important to see that healing has to do with the world or age to come. (Heb. 6:55And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, (Hebrews 6:5), Isa. 33:2424And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity. (Isaiah 33:24), Psa. 103:33Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; (Psalm 103:3)). It was especially a sign to those who had rejected their Messiah, and to others as well, that He is the One who will later bring in the kingdom blessings on the earth, and that He is now risen and these mighty works were done in His Name (Acts 4:9,109If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; 10Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. (Acts 4:9‑10)).
It is very important that we distinguish the two distinct spheres of blessing of which the Lord Jesus will be the center in the coming day. (Eph. 1:1010That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: (Ephesians 1:10)). There will be the heavenly scene to which the church belongs (2 Cor. 5:11For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Corinthians 5:1), Col. 1:55For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; (Colossians 1:5), 1 Peter 1:3,43Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, (1 Peter 1:3‑4)) and there will be the earthly scene of which Jerusalem on earth will be the center (Isa. 4:3-5;65:183And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem: 4When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning. 5And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence. (Isaiah 4:3‑5)
18But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. (Isaiah 65:18)
). Since we, as part of the church, are a heavenly people, we await the moment of His coming when we will be changed and have bodies of glory fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body (Phil. 3:20,2120For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (Philippians 3:20‑21)). In the meantime "in this tabernacle we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven." 2 Cor. 5:22For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: (2 Corinthians 5:2).
In connection with this, it is most interesting to notice carefully the mention of sickness among believers in the epistles, that is among those who belong to the heavenly company. We read in Rom. 8:2323And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23) that we "which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body." There is no mention here of healing, but rather of waiting for the redemption of our bodies. The Spirit in the meantime "helpeth our infirmities", but it does not say He removes them.
Then later in 2 Cor. 12:7-107And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7‑10), we find that Paul had a thorn in the flesh, called an infirmity in Gal. 4:1313Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. (Galatians 4:13), yet the Lord did not heal him, but taught him dependence upon Him through it. Timothy had "oft infirmities" but Paul did not suggest a healer, but rather a remedy for his infirmity (1 Tim. 5:2323Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities. (1 Timothy 5:23)). Again in 2 Tim. 4:2020Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick. (2 Timothy 4:20), though Paul had healed many in his gospel work, (as recorded in Acts 19:11,12;28:8,911And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: 12So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. (Acts 19:11‑12)
8And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him. 9So when this was done, others also, which had diseases in the island, came, and were healed: (Acts 28:8‑9)
) he left Trophimus at Miletum sick.
In James 5:14-1814Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: 15And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. 16Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. 17Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. 18And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. (James 5:14‑18) we have the case of one who is sick and he calls for the elders to pray for him. It is not the sick man's faith that restores him to health, nor is his faith even mentioned, but rather faith exercised on the part of those who pray for him. Nor is it the gift of healing in exercise, but rather answered prayer, suggesting that the one who is sick recognizes that he must be upright and confess known sin. The ones who pray discern the Lord's mind in connection with the sickness, and praying according to God's will, He answers their prayer. There is no mention here of a miraculous sudden healing, but of the Lord raising the sick man up again. In those days too, there were elders appointed by the apostles, whereas today there are no apostles or apostolic delegates, as Titus was, (Titus 1:55For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: (Titus 1:5)) to appoint them. The local assembly never appointed its own elders even in Scripture times, though no doubt in these days of ruin and failure, God is faithful, and so as Paul looked on to those days when grievous wolves would (and have) come in, he spoke of those elders at Ephesus, not as appointed by himself, but by the Holy Ghost (Acts 20:28-3028Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:28‑30)). There are no official elders today, but no doubt there are, even today, those raised up of God to take the oversight of His people, in the spirit of humility and love for the flock of God. This is no doubt why James mentions the case of Elijah, a prophet in the days of Israel's failure and division, and shows how he was intelligent as to the Lord's mind in his prayers. He first saw the need of discipline on God's people in withholding the rain, and then God in grace answering the prayer of Elijah in sending rain. How often we have seen the Lord answering prayer in our day in many difficult situations, and in restoring sick ones to health, but let us have an understanding of the times and discernment as to His will in these things (Eph. 5:1717Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:17)).
We can see from 1 Cor. 11:3030For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. (1 Corinthians 11:30) how God uses sickness in His governmental ways with us, for we read that because of unjudged sin, God had allowed many in Corinth to be "weak and sickly" because they had not judged themselves for their careless ways. John also speaks of these things in his epistle (1 John 5:14-1714And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him. 16If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. 17All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. (1 John 5:14‑17)) showing how the Lord might remove one in death because of his careless ways. While the Christian is eternally secure as to his soul's salvation, he comes under the governmental ways of God, and God sometimes uses sickness to deal with His own. If we refuse to listen, we may lose the privilege of living here as a testimony for Christ, even though the blood of Christ has made us fit for heaven. Of course this does not mean that all sickness is chastisement, for it may be simply because our bodies are part of a groaning creation and we may have inherited some weakness as such, or it may be God's schooling, like pruning a vine so there will be more fruit. This was the case with Paul in 2 Cor. 12:7-107And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7‑10).
It is most important for us that our expectations do not go beyond the Word of God (Psa. 62:55My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. (Psalm 62:5), Num. 23:1919God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)). Those who are looking for these sign gifts today, have allowed their expectations to go beyond the Word of God, and this leaves them open to "every wind of doctrine" and to the power of the enemy (Psa. 17:4,54Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. 5Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. (Psalm 17:4‑5); 2 Tim. 2:24-2624And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2 Timothy 2:24‑26)). False prophets will do signs and wonders in a coming day (Matt. 24:2424For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. (Matthew 24:24)) but they will be done by Satan's power, and the only way that we can be sure that a thing is of God is that it is according to His Word. All the Scriptures that speak of the last days of the church's history, speak of departure from God and weakness, not signs and wonders. Look at Paul's description of the last days of the church in 2 Tim. 3, or John's description of the last days of the church as seen in Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-2014And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God; 15I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. 16So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. 17Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: 18I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. 19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. 20Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:14‑20)), and Peter's warnings in 2 Peter 3:3,43Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. (2 Peter 3:3‑4). Joel's prophecy in Acts 2 which some have used to support signs and wonders in these last days of the church's history, refers to a future day for Israel (the last days for them, Joel 2:21-3221Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the Lord will do great things. 22Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. 23Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. 24And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the fats shall overflow with wine and oil. 25And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. 26And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. 27And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed. 28And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit. 30And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come. 32And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call. (Joel 2:21‑32)). The day of Pentecost was of that character, for Israel as a nation were Then given the opportunity to repent of their guilt in crucifying their Messiah and thus receive the promised blessing which will be theirs in a later day when they do repent. (Acts 3:17-2617And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers. 18But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. 19Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; 20And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 21Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. 22For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. 23And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. 24Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. 25Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 26Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities. (Acts 3:17‑26)).
The Holy Ghost was given on the day of Pentecost, and now, as a divine Person He indwells the bodies of believers (1 Cor. 6:1919What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? (1 Corinthians 6:19)) and He is also in the professing house of Christendom (Eph. 2:2222In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)). The Lord Jesus spoke of this (John 14:16,1716And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:16‑17)) and told the disciples, prior to the day of Pentecost, to wait for His coming at which time they would be "endued with power from on high" Luke 24:4949And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. (Luke 24:49). In Corinth the believers were not told to wait for "the power" to come upon them, but rather to use the gifts of the Spirit God had given them, intelligently as directed by His Word, in holy liberty as led by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-114Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (1 Corinthians 12:4‑11)). Another has said, "The Spirit and the Word cannot be separated without falling into fanaticism on the one hand or rationalism on the other." It is a dangerous thing to wait for a further outpouring of power beyond that which we have as indwelled by the Spirit of God. There are two powers above man, and they are the power of God and the power of Satan. The charismatic movement leads people to look for displays of power that are not according to the Word of God and therefore are not by the Spirit of God. Mr. Edward Irving who began this movement in England in the last century taught some of the most shocking things about the Person of Christ which one does not like to repeat (see Coll. Wr. J.N.D., Vol. 15, pages 1-51 Morr.), yet there were great displays of power and tongues at that time which caught even real Christians in the snare. (see Spirit Manifestations, Sir Robt. Anderson, pages 19, 20). Even today the display of this power and tongues is too often associated with evil doctrine as to the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and other unscriptural practices, for Satan can take the form of an "angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:13-1513For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13‑15)) as well as a "roaring lion" (1 Peter 5:8,98Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. (1 Peter 5:8‑9)). His great aim has always been to attack the glorious Person and the finished work of our ever blessed Lord and Savior.
For this reason we can see the importance of first testing this modern charismatic movement by the Word of God. Let us not look for "the power", for if one is a true believer on the Lord Jesus Christ, he or she is indwelled by the Spirit of God who is the power for our walk as children of God. In Luke 11:1313If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him? (Luke 11:13), before the day of Pentecost, the Lord Jesus told His disciples to ask for the Holy Spirit, for He had not yet been given (John 7:3939(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:39)), but now He indwells the bodies of all those who have believed the gospel (Eph. 1:1313In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13)). There is no record of anyone being told to wait for the baptism of the Holy Spirit after the day of Pentecost. There is the exhortation to be "filled with the Spirit" Eph. 5:1818And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; (Ephesians 5:18), which means that we are to allow Him to lead us in all that we do. It is placed in contrast with being drunk with wine, for such a person would be out of control, whereas one who is filled with the Spirit would be under control, for one of the fruits of the Spirit is temperance or self control. (Gal. 5:22,2322But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22‑23)). Where the Spirit of God is leading there is liberty and intelligent service.
As we walk close to the Lord in dependence and obedience, there will be, by the power of the Spirit of God, the enjoyment of Christ and of our portion in Him, for the Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself, but guides us into all truth and glorifies Christ (John 16:13,1413Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. 14He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. (John 16:13‑14), Eph. 3:16,2116That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; (Ephesians 3:16)
21Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. (Ephesians 3:21)
, Col. 1:8-148Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit. 9For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; 12Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: (Colossians 1:8‑14)) He will also enable us to render a true testimony for Christ before others (Phil. 2:15,1615That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. (Philippians 2:15‑16)). If we see displays of power about us, we will be more concerned about whether they are according to God's Word than whether the sign or wonder comes to pass (Deut. 13:1-41If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; 3Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. (Deuteronomy 13:1‑4)).
In closing one would commend these remarks to the Lord that they may be used to help the people of God to discern the path of faith in these last days. We rejoice to see God working in grace in saving souls, using His precious Word by whomsoever it may be preached (Phil. 1:1818What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:18)). But God would also have those who are His to "come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:44Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:4)). The path of obedience to His Word is the only safe and truly happy path, and in that path, as another has said, "there are no disappointments and no deluded hopes." Wisdom's ways are "ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." Prov. 3:1717Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. (Proverbs 3:17). The Scripture does not tell us to look for a second Pentecost, but rather to know how to act and how to gather to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ in obedience, when Christendom has become a great house with "vessels to honor and vessels to dishonor in it." 2 Tim. 2:16-2616But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. 17And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymeneus and Philetus; 18Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. 19Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honor, and some to dishonor. 21If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work. 22Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. 24And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. (2 Timothy 2:16‑26). The Lord had to say to Peter on one occasion, "Get thee behind Me, Satan, Matt. 16:2323But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. (Matthew 16:23), showing how even a real and useful believer can be led astray and used of the enemy.
May we know what it is to enjoy our portion in Christ now, by the Spirit, having, as another has said, large hearts (to love all the true children of God) and narrow feet (to walk in the narrow way of obedience to God's Word) while we look forward to that blessed day when we will be with Christ in that glorious Home above. Then the church will be presented "a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." Eph. 5:2727That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:27). All that will really count then will be to have His approval as to our pathway home to the Father's house.
G.H.H.
"Lord, haste that day of cloudless ray,
That prospect bright unfailing;
Where God shall shine in light divine,
In glory never fading."
L.F. 169.
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