"The Gift of Tongues - Part 1"
by Pastor John Waldrip,
Calvary Road Baptist Church, Monrovia, CA
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1. This evening I am bringing a message entitled "The Gift Of Tongues." Since this message will be somewhat longer than most of the messages I have preached from this platform, I'm going to assume four things of you folks, in light of the grave importance of the preaching of God's Word, as we learned in this morning's study.
First, I'm going to assume that you will not get up and walk out. If you are not resolutely committed to sitting through the delivery of this message from beginning to end, and if there is any doubt whether or not you will find some piddling excuse to walk out during any part of this message, including my final remarks and the invitation that God may lead me to give at the end . . . then I humbly ask you to leave now. Good.
Second, I'm going to assume that you are a Christian who reads his or her Bible. This is because we will be dealing with a variety of different passages in the New Testament, as well as some in the Old Testament, which you really ought to be familiar with to some degree if you have been saved for more than a year. The reason for this assumption is so that I can move as quickly through this material as I am able.
Third, I will trust that you will write down the Scripture verses in the appropriate spaces provided in your handout so that we can have a good question and answer time at the conclusion of the service. Ladies, write your questions down on a piece of paper so that your husband can present the question to me and we can search God's Word for the answer. Husbands, don't be too bullheaded to ask me a question your wife wants answered but which you cannot answer on your own. It is no threat either to your manhood or your leadership to pose a question for me to answer. Ladies, if your husband refuses to ask me the question you handed to him, assume that he knows the answer and is waiting until you get home to fully explain it to you. Finally, I welcome and am delighted to have children present in our Sunday night service. However, tonight as well as any other night in which children are in attendance with their parents is a training time. Please do not hesitate to remove children from the auditorium who need to be reminded of their responsibilities to be silent and attentive during the preaching of the Word of God, and sit with them in the back of the room when they are ready to be brought back inside. Now, let us stand as the little ones make one last visit to the rest rooms before I preach and we sing one more song. A six point message from God's Word on the spiritual gift of tongues.
1A. FIRST, THE REVIEW OF TONGUES
This will be enough of a review of the gift of tongues that even those among us who are quite unfamiliar with the controversy that rages in Christendom over this gift will become familiar enough with the subject that this message will be profitable even for them.
1B. First, It's Initiation In The New Testament
1C. By way of first mention, the gift of tongues was first initiated into the New Testament scheme of things by the Lord Jesus Christ. It was in Mark's account of the Great Commission, in Mark 16.15-17, that He said, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues . . . ." Note: If, according to Matthew 7.22, casting out demons can be simulated, is there any reason why we should not think that tongues can not be simulated, as well?
2C. By way of first use, tongues was a part of the great Pentecostal spectacle which resulted from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the 120 believers who had tarried as Jesus had commanded them. Acts 2.1-4 reads, "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and begun to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance."
3C. This, then, is how the gift of tongues came on the scene of Biblical Christianity. First, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of it shortly before He ascended into heaven, then, just a few days later, along with the baptism of the Holy Ghost, tongues came on the scene through the lives and the ministries of the 120.
4C. Though this is by no means the initiation of tongues in the Word of God, it is the initiation tongues into Christianity and in the New Testament.
2B. Now Let's See If We Can Determine The Importance Of Tongues In The New Testament Just how important was the gift of tongues during New Testament times? We think we know very well. As a matter of fact, we think the entire matter is so obvious that we hesitate to examine the Bible, but instead we just assume we know the answer. But do we really know how important the gift of tongues was? Why don't we just decide right now to allow the Word of God to affect our opinion regarding the importance of the spiritual gift of tongues? Let's determine the importance of the gift of tongues during the first 35 years of Christianity, or from the time Christ was crucified until the time the apostle Paul was martyred. There are two ways in which the importance of tongues during this period of time can be ascertained:
1C. First, we will attempt to determine the importance of tongues by the frequency with which the gift is known to have occurred. I think the results of this determination will surprise some of you.
1D. On the day of Pentecost, Acts 2.4, we know for sure that men and women spoke in tongues at what turned into an outdoor evangelistic service in which 3000 men were saved. However, reading the passage will show that only those who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit could have spoken in tongues, as many as 120 people. That is one occurrence of tongues at one time in one place. There is no evidence that any who were saved on that day were baptized in the Holy Ghost or spoke in tongues. Just the 120.
2D. The next occurrence of tongues is recorded in Acts 10.46, some 10 or so years later than the Pentecostal occurrence [Read]. This occurrence, in the house of one Cornelius, a Roman centurion, is the second occurrence, at a second time, at a second location.
3D. The third Scriptural reference to tongues is found in Acts 19.6 [Read]. This is the third occurrence, at a third time, at a third location.
4D. The fourth reference to the gift of tongues is found in First Corinthians chapters 12, 13 and 14. This long passage refers to tongues in a fourth location, Corinth, but without any clue as to how many more times tongues was spoken.
5D. Now, don't get me wrong. I believe that tongues quite frequently occurred during this 35 year period of time in early Church history which was covered by the book of Acts and Paul's first Corinthian letter.
6D. But the fact that the Holy Spirit records tongues as having occurred only four times in a span of 35 years, and in only two books of the New Testament, makes me wonder if perhaps the importance of tongues back in those days has been somewhat overblown by those of us who are living in the here and now.
7D. That's what we come up with when we attempt to determine the importance of tongues by examining how frequently tongues is referred to.
2C. Second, we will attempt to determine the importance of tongues during this period of time by examining the priority attached to the gift of tongues. We will be reading from First Corinthians chapters 12 and 14.
1D. 12.1 - "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant." This establishes that a Christian can possess a spiritual gift and still know little, if any, of the Biblical truth related to that gift.
2D. 12.28 - "And God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." Of the gifts listed by Paul, tongues is listed lowest in priority.
3D. 14.1 - "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy." The spiritual gift that Paul directs the Corinthians to desire is not the gift of tongues, but prophecy. Why is that so hard for some 20th century Pentecostals and Charismatics to understand?
4D. 14.19 - "Yet in the Church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue." How unimportant tongues is shown to be in comparison to the gift of prophecy. Amen?
5D. Folks, looking at this matter from two entirely different viewpoints, the number of times tongues is referred to and the value placed upon tongues by the great apostle Paul, the gift of tongues, we clearly see, was not one of the big gun spiritual gifts during the first 35 years of the Christian era.
3B. But What About The Importance Of Tongues In Church History?
1C. I think just a comment or two will suffice.
2C. Throughout the course of Church history the spiritual gift of tongues was not mentioned, not advocated, or not practiced by the following giants of the faith: Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Zwingli, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Dwight L. Moody, Albert Finney, and the list goes on.
3C. Who would deny that these anointed men of God, spanning a time of some one thousand and four or five hundred years of Church history, were not Spirit-filled men of God? Yet the gift of tongues played no part in their lives or their ministries.
4C. That is a brief review of the gift of tongues.
2A. SECOND, THE REASON FOR TONGUES
Again, there are methods we can employ to discern the reason for tongues:
1B. First, We Can Attempt To Discern The Reason For Tongues From Biblical Observation This is done by observing what happened when tongues were spoken in the Bible and then drawing our own conclusions concerning why tongues was given. Obviously, this requires a subjective evaluation.
1C. Acts chapter 2. Observations of the gift of tongues and the effects it had on others on the day of Pentecost are quite easy to make, since Luke recorded the events of that day in detail.
1D. The Holy Spirit came, with supernatural signs and evidences, of which the gift of tongues was a part, verses 2-4. The miracles and the signs drew a large crowd of Jewish men who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Pentecost, an annual observance required by the Law of Moses. Those Jewish men then heard Simon Peter's anointed message and 3000 of them trusted Christ to the saving of their souls.
2D. From a careful observation of this occasion one might draw the conclusion that tongues was good for drawing a crowd of Jewish men, which is quite correct.
2C. The occurrence which took place at the house of Cornelius is more difficult to analyze, since Luke doesn't give us nearly the detail in chapter 10 as he did in chapter 2.
1D. Leaving all of chapter 10 for you to study privately, let's read verses 44-48 together [Read].
2D. If you connect chapter 10, which is Luke's record of the actual encounter Peter had with Cornelius, with chapter 11, which records Peter's testimony to the home crowd in Jerusalem of what happened in the house of Cornelius, another conclusion can be drawn.
3D. Remembering two things, that Peter had Jewish Christians with him when he traveled to the house of Cornelius, and that Jewish Christians initially doubted whether or not Gentiles were eligible for salvation, the fact that Cornelius and his band of merry new converts spoke in tongues was critical.
4D. Critical because the Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem knew that tongues, a mani- festation of the Holy Spirit according to First Corinthians 12.7, could not legitimately be exercised by an individual unless that individual was indwelt by the Spirit of God, Who, by the way, was responsible for giving the gift.
5D. It might be observed, then, that tongues was an evidence that Cornelius was genuinely saved.
3C. Our final opportunity to observe tongues being spoken in New Testament Scripture occurs in Acts chapter 19.1-7 [Read].
1D. Paul encountered these men who were not saved. He then preached the gospel of Jesus Christ and they were saved, whereupon they were baptized in the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues.
2D. This apparently gave the apostle Paul a wonderful opportunity to go into the synagogue and preach to those who had seen the supernatural events take place, for in verse 8 we read, "And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months." Note: By the way, should you doubt that these men in Acts chapter 19 were lost before Paul dealt with them, ask me to show you during our question and answer time.
3D. Okay, we can surmise all we want from observing the impact tongues had on folks, but observation is never going to show anything of this nature to us in a conclusive way.
2B. Which Is Why We Must Turn To Biblical Declaration A much more reliable way to discover the reason for tongues is to simply allow the apostle Paul to tell us. Being more objective, it is more accurate in pin pointing the real reason for tongues.
1C. The apostle tells us that tongues were given for a sign. First Corinthians 14.22 starts off, "Wherefore tongues are for a sign . . ." And doesn't this fit in with what our Lord Jesus told His disciples in Mark 16.17? "And these signs shall follow them that believe . . . they shall speak with new tongues." Therefore, the clear declaration of the Word of God is that tongues are for a sign. I wonder how many preachers and supposed Bible teachers ever bothered to mention that to you. It's important.
2C. And the reason it's important that tongues are for a sign is because tongues are for a sign . . . to Jews only. That's right. A couple of verses to show this:
1D. First Corinthians 1.22 [Read]. "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom." Now, what are tongues declared to be, wisdom or a sign? A sign. But there's more.
2D. First Corinthians 14.21 [Read] "In 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." Here Paul refers to Isaiah 28.11-12.
3D. The words that Paul quotes are the words of the prophet Isaiah speaking on behalf of the Lord God Jehovah. But to whom did the prophet speak? Two phrases are conclusive.
4D. The phase, "In the law it is written" must refer to the children of Israel, since Romans 3.19 teaches us that "whatsoever things the law saith to them that are under the law." Only the children of Israel, which the Jewish people living in the kingdom of Judah most certainly were, were under the law.
5D. The other phrase is in the middle of the verse. "This people." Who is the "this people" Isaiah referred to? Jewish people.
6D. As Paul explains the purpose of the gift of tongues to the Corinthian Church, he points out that tongues are for a sign, but that signs are for Jews. Therefore, through Christians possessed the gift of tongues, the gift of tongues possessed by Christians was possessed for the benefit of Jews. That is, the gift was given to have an impact on Jewish people.
3C. But notice another verse. First Corinthians 14.22 says, "Wherefore, tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not." Wow!
1D. Folks, a man's observations can be tricky. Sometimes we think we observe things correctly and sometimes we draw improper conclusions. But when the Bible states something in the form of a declaration you can be sure that you are on track . . . and you'd better make sure that the conclusions drawn from observations conform to the declarations of Scripture. Amen?
2D. What does Paul declare? What is the reason for the gift of tongues? What is it's purpose? Simply this . . . the gift of tongues was given as a sign to Israel, to the unbelieving nation of Israel. Tongues was for unsaved Jews only!
4C. Let me substantiate Paul's declaration with some Old Testament Scripture.
1D. Deuteronomy 28.45-49 [Read]. Read the entire chapter to get the context, but Moses is telling the Israelites that there will come a time that God will tire of their rebellion and will use a sign to warn them of impending judgment. And what is the sign? Tongues.
2D. Isaiah 28.11-12 [Read]. This is the precise passage quoted by Paul in First Corinthians 14.21. Read the entire chapter yourself and you'll see that the prophet warns the people to repent in the face of judgment. And the sign of judgment? They will be spoken to with stammering lips and another tongue.
3D. Read Jeremiah 5.15 [Read]. See? Same thing. It has always been God's plan, from the earliest days of dealing with them as a nation, to use tongues as a sign, as a warning if you will, to repent in the face of certain judgment.
5C. Folks, that's the reason for tongues. To use tongues in any other way and for any other reason doesn't make Biblical sense. Tongues are a sign to unsaved Jews of the coming judgment of God from which they must be delivered by repenting of their sin.
3A. THIRD, THE RESPONSE TO TONGUES
Understanding what tongues are for goes a long way toward determining what a person's response is to the gift of tongues. You see, if you use tongues for what tongues are for you may get a favorable response. But if you use tongues improperly the response will certainly be quite unfavorable. To illustrate this, let's examine the response to tongues of four different kinds of people.
1B. Group #1 Is The Earliest Believers
1C. Remember, beginning with the day of Pentecost and continuing forward for several decades, virtually every believer was a Jewish believer. And before you write that off as unimportant, remember that Jewish believers normally had a lifetime of Bible teaching in the synagogues under their belts before they were saved. They both knew the purpose of tongues and the roper response to tongues before they knew Christ.
2C. We know the 120 used tongues correctly on the day of Pentecost. Not only was it likely from the fact that they were Jewish believers who knew substantial amounts of Old Testament truth, but also because they were able, with God's help, to draw at least 3000 Jewish men to Simon Peter with the use of their newly acquired spiritual gift.
3C. And if Paul's instructions to the Corinthians is any indication, when tongues were spoken in the house of Cornelius, and when tongues were spoken in Acts chapter 19 by the newly saved disciples of John, in all likelihood, unsaved Jewish people were close enough by in both instances that the tongues were spoken in a way that would have substantial impact on them.
4C. So, the response of early Jewish believers to tongues was good, since they apparently used the gift properly and with at least some fruitful results.
2B. Group #2 Would Be Unsaved Jewish People
1C. It is quite obvious that the early response to tongues, by Israelites, was good. Three thousand men were saved on Pentecost and many thousands more were saved in the short months that followed. But what was the long term response of the Jewish people to the gift of tongues?
2C. Our only reliable source of information on that is the Word of god. First Corinthians 14.21 is the verse I read from: "In 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."
3C. My friends, the Lord God of Israel Himself, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, predicted that the Jewish people would not respond to tongues properly, that is, with repentance.
4C. That means, except for what we saw happened on the day of Pentecost and perhaps just a few other occasions, tongues has been an ineffective tool for evangelizing Jews. But that's what it's for! That means it is a mostly ineffective gift.
3B. Group #3 Would Be Unsaved Gentiles
1C. Well, if tongues is mostly ineffective for reaching unsaved Jews, perhaps it could be used in a way God did not intend to reach unsaved unsaved Gentiles.
2C. Would that it were possible. Unfortunately, Scripture is very clear concerning the normal and typical reaction of an unsaved Gentile who hears tongues.
3C. First Corinthians 14.23 reads, "If therefore the whole Church be come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those that are unlearned (that is unlearned in the Old Testament, which can only refer to a Gentile), or unbelievers (that is, unsaved, but having been taught some Old Testament truth, again referring to a Gentile), will they not say that ye are mad?"
4C. Notice, if you will, that the typical reaction to be expected from an unsaved Gentile who was rather versed in Old Testament, perhaps having attended a synagogue from time to time, is exactly the same reaction expected from one who was totally ignorant of Scriptural truth . . . negative!
5C. Why would Gentiles have a negative reaction? Why would they think those speaking in tongues were stark raving mad? Why shouldn't they? Tongues was never intended to be used for their benefit in the first place. They should only rarely have had opportunity to hear the gift exercised, and then under controlled circumstances.
6C. Is God bound to bless the use of a spiritual gift in a manner God never intended to be used? No. And folks, don't think the reaction of people nowadays isn't exactly the same as it was then, by and large. When an unsaved person hears someone supposedly speaking tongues, unless they have been coached into thinking it's a wonderful thing, they do not like it. My observation on numerous occasions has been that the so-called speaking in tongues initially either makes them afraid or makes them mad.
4B. We've Looked At Early Christians, Unsaved Jewish People, And Unsaved Gentiles. With Each Group We Have Been Able to See Clear Evidence In God's Word Of Each Group's Reaction To The Gift Of Tongues. Our Final Group Is Christians Living Later In The First Century, When Most Believers Were Saved Gentiles.
1C. Remember, this is the situation we live in today. The vast majority of believers are come from Gentile backgrounds, with little Bible training before salvation, and having none of the perspective the early Jewish believers had.
2C. What kind of response to tongues can be expected from Christians like us? Well, what kind of response did Christians like us have in the later half of the first century? The answer is so obvious that many people look right past it. First Corinthians chapters 12, 13 and 14 tell us.
3C. That Church, composed almost exclusively of Gentile believers, knew almost nothing about spiritual gifts in general and the gift of tongues specifically. Had they known Paul would not have needed to instruct them so thoroughly, after having told them that they didn't even know what they didn't know.
4C. It was this tremendous and harmful ignorance, just like the ignorance that exists in the minds of Christians today, which caused the Corinthians to think that tongues was a gift for self edification rather than a gift for Jewish evangelism.
5C. Additionally, such ignorance caused then, and causes Christians now, to think that tongues is a very prominent gift, rather than an unimportant gift in a Gentile Christian congregation, and caused then, and causes Christians now, to think that tongues is an enduring gift rather than one which was to have only limited usefulness in history, according to First Corinthians 13.8.
6C. So, of the four groups that we've examined, Jewish believers early on, unsaved Jews, unsaved Gentiles, and later on Gentile believers, we could rightly say that only one group responded properly to the gift of tongues, understood where it ought to be placed in God's framework, and was profited by it's use . . . the Jewish believers in the first three or four decades of Christianity.
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