I have a hard time limiting the ability of God to allow someone to speak in tongues or prophesize. The whole Bible demonstrates various ways that the Holy Spirit moves. None of them are identical.
Robert – God is capable of doing anything that is not contradictory to Himself. Allowing these powers to continue on today is not a contradiction to any Bible verse. If God wants people to speak in tongues, He can and will make that happen.
Kevin – Rest assured. No one is trying to limit what God can or cannot do – You or I certainly could not even if we tried. Beyond that, I’m not sure what you are trying to say here. Of course the Holy Spirit does things differently with different people, just look at 1 Corinthians 12:4-6: Gifts are used in different ways to serve the Church and those different means of service are worked out differently by each individual. I have a hard time getting my brain and heart around the concept of Hell… Does that make it any less real… any less biblical? Of course not. God said that tongues and prophecy would cease – Why because He couldn’t sustain them… Again, of course not!
No one is questioning God’s ability to give the gift of tongues or prophecy to people, rather the question is whether He does give people the gift of prophecy and tongues. God could give people any number of abilities… the question is not can He, but why would He? The same has to be asked of tongues and prophecy, especially in light of the fact that (in spite of your dismissing 1 Corinthians 13:8-10) He said He would stop giving those gifts at some point.
One more thing that needs to be pointed out… we need to clarify what we are talking about when we mention prophecy… I am NOT talking about the simple bold proclamation/preaching of the Word of God, but rather the supernatural ability to accurately predict the future – i.e. reveal an, before unforeseen portion of God’s plan. Claiming that gift is still needed is, in essence, claiming that the Bible is incomplete and inadequate – it is saying that God has not sufficiently revealed His plan and intentions for mankind and the earth. I have a hard time limiting the completeness and perfection of the Scriptures that way.
Omission of the prophecy/tongues gifts from the Epistles is NOT admission they have stopped.
Robert – My understanding of the Epistles is that they are not a complete look at God. They were written to answer very specific issues for the growth of specific churches that allow us to learn. There is theology involved but it is specifically aimed at specific circumstances. Paul wrote ad nauseam about tongues in 1 Corinthians (Chapters 12, 13 and 14). Then it seemingly disappears. That to me is not an indication that tongues ceased… rather, to me it could indicate Paul instructed his students so well that it was no longer an issue.
This issue ties in with the previous issue in my mind. How about this… Perhaps there was no need for tongues or prophecy during those previous revivals. I mean let’s be honest here… what would have happened during the medieval age if someone was speaking in tongues? They would have been drawn and quartered or tried as a witch. Would it make more sense for the Holy Spirit move in a way that was conducive to the environment? My answer would be yes.
Kevin – Robert brings up an interesting point… Why did Paul quit talking about how the sign gifts should be regulated? Why do the other NT writers not address the topic? The burden of proof is upon Robert to demonstrate why this topic drops off the face of the earth after Paul says that tongues will cease, if it’s not because they HAVE ceased.
Robert – To answer your other question… Why do the other NT writers not address the topic? Speaking of hermeneutics you of all people should know that the Epistles are not a complete theology. These books are Paul and Peter addressing specific theological issues as they arose. To say that because there is an absence of issue there is an absence of power is insane. I may not talk to my wife about a communication for months…it doesn’t mean that we aren’t communicating. Seriously, Kevin! Your Pastor may not talk about regeneration for a year…it doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit has stopped! Burden of proof is on you Kevin because neither of us contest that tongues were there. You say they simply stopped because they were no longer talked about…Prove it.
Kevin – I never said that they “simply stopped because they weren’t talked about”. I said that Paul said they would stop, THEN shortly after, he stopped talking about it. This is a classic attempt at twisting my words. I’m not going to hang the entire debate on an argument from silence. There’s any number of possible reasons as to why God didn’t speak about these gifts elsewhere, but the silence coupled with 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 and history make it pretty clear as to why. You have to take the argument in context and in light of the rest of the debate. Also, shame on any pastor who would not talk about salvation for a whole year… they’d be completely ignoring the Great Commission – I’d not be a part of a church like that – that’s ludicrous.
1 Corinthians 13 does not mean that tongues/prophecy stopped in the apostolic era.
Robert – There is no date or time stamp assigned to 1 Corinthians 13:8. There is only the vague reference offered in verse 9 that states when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. There is only one perfection: God. Since perfection has not come… then one could argue that these gifts have not ceased.
Kevin – If “tongues and prophecies will (have) ceased” is not what 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 says, then, what does it say? One cannot say that something with seemingly plain meaning doesn’t mean what it plainly seems to mean without offering a plausible suggestion as to what it DOES mean. The text clearly states tongues (one of the “sign gifts”) will cease – the questions are when and why?
You say that the only thing that is perfect is God. What about God’s word (i.e. the Bible)? I would suggest that in light of Hebrews 2, the “perfect” thing spoken of in 1 Cor. 13 is the canon (i.e. the 66 books we call the Holy Bible). Once all the books of the Bible were written and in circulation there was no need for miraculous validation of what was being taught, because by and large early church leaders exclusively taught from the writings that soon after became the “Holy Bible.” These teachings (and the letters from which they came) had already been validated and accepted as truth. Given your high view on the Bible (see your previous post on biblical inerrancy) I am surprised you do not consider the Bible perfect!
Robert – Kevin you want to talk about putting words in someone’s mouth! I said God was perfect. I figured that you would know this… that if God is perfection, his word is also. Lets not be ridiculous.
Kevin you can’t have it both ways. Did tongues and prophecy end with the apostolic era (approx 33 A.D – 100 A.D) or did they end with the canonization of the New Testament (approx 374 AD)? If you believe that it ended when perfection came (canonized bible) then that is well beyond the apostolic era. If you believe they ended with the apostolic era then what is perfection and when did it come?
Kevin – Actually, I’m not trying to have it both ways. The epistles and books that became the Bible were in wide circulation well before the formal settling of the cannon. The cannon was settled upon (through God’s direction) the miraculous and wondrous signs that helped confirm the validity and authority of the apostles and other church leaders, was no longer required, because they were already accepted as scripture (check out 2 Peter 3:15-16). The acceptance of the cannon supports the idea that prophecy had ceased because the church fathers in 374 AD determined that there was no further revelation that was required past Revelation (widely considered the last of the biblical books to be written), and they therefore closed the canon. Further “revelation” and “prophecy” had not occurred from the end of the apostolic era (approximately 85-86 AD) through 374 AD when the canon was finalized – this is STRONG evidence for the cessation of the type prophecy you are advocating.
Why again would it cease? Because we have the only source needed to know with certainty what God wants and requires. There is no need for further “prophesies” (foretelling of the future of the Church), or revelations, etc. Because God has already given us enough material to chew on and apply in our lives – the Bible is complete, and perfect and sufficient for one to study without supplement – all other theological instruction should be commentary upon God’s Word, not addition to it – this is where many cults get in trouble (i.e. Mormons, Muslims…) by saying that the Bible is insufficient and needs to be added to and/or correction – that is what both Joseph Smith and Mohamed claimed. But hey, if you think the Bible is inadequate for instruction and that God needs to reveal more prophecies, knock yourself out – I just can’t go there.
The lack of historical evidence of prophecy/tongues/healing in historical revivals does not mean that they have ceased, it only means that perhaps God had no use for it then.
Robert – I look at it this way… If historically a group of people thought that the earth was flat, would they live their lives according to that idea? If, historically, men are closed off to the idea that there is healing/prophecy/tongues would they exist? The fact that tongues/prophecy was not used previously for revivals does not mean that they no longer exist. As I have already established…There is no repetitive nature to the Holy Spirit. What is good for one age/revival may not have been good for another. God knows what will work and when it will work. Not you.
Kevin – This argument of Robert’s doesn’t hold water. God predicted that at some point sign gifts would cease. Then they disappear off the scene for like 1800+ years only to be resurrected and we are supposed to just accept that God has suddenly, without reason or precedent decided to start granting the gifts of tongues and prophecy? In Acts, tongues were used to validate certain movements of the Spirit and yet there are no records of tongues during the Reformation or prophecies of that movement beforehand. One would think that these would be immeasurably useful to legitimize the massive changes taking place in Christianity… And yet, nothing. Strange.
Another thing Robert fails to answer is: Why tongues now? Why additional prophecy now? Robert’s only defense is “Why Not?” I don’t know why God chose to inspire Paul to write 1 Corinthians 13:8-10. I don’t know why God has done or refrained from doing a lot of the things He has, and I don’t worry myself with much of it – His ways are higher than mine. However, in light of Christian History, Scripture, and the history of the manifestation of spiritual gifts and the circumstances surrounding the relatively recent resurgence of tongues and prophecies these current manifestations are dubious at best.
HOLY WAR (but NOT Jihad)!!!
God’s Word makes it very clear that all Christians are in a very dangerous and deadly battle – we are called to MAKE WAR! That is why we are given instructions on how and who and with which weapons we are expected to fight. Check out what Eph 6:10-18 has to say about it:
10Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
Not only are we expected to fight, but we are expected to WIN – BIG TIME (cf. Romans 8:37).
Over the coming days we are going to look at the various aspects of the Armor of God… and see how each to be used to increase our effectiveness for our Supreme Commander-in-Chief. But before we strap on the Armor and go out Rambo-style to kick tail and take names I think it’s important for us to examine just exactly who who or what is/are the enemy.
Far too often I see Christians assuming that we need to fight against people and their messed up thinking… their ideologies (aka their politics), but it seems to me that verse 12 above makes it pretty clear that this is not the case. Let’s take a peek at what God says about it elsewhere (Ephesians 2:1-3):
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
One can derive from this passage, and the one from chapter 6 above, that Christians have three basic enemies: the World (culture), Satan/the Devil, and our own wicked Flesh… NOT other people!!! Nowhere does it talk about political entities… Hmmm…
Now for those of you who know me you know that I personally have a massive disdain for certain political views and that most of these views are held dear by a certain political party here in our country. This, of course, leads me to have VERY strong negative feelings about that party. But I have to stop and ask myself are rage… frustration… outrage… disgust… against a political party (and thus many of the people in it) a good use of my time and energy?
If our enemies are the World, our own flesh and Satan, aren’t we already fighting on 3 fronts? No military expert would tell you that is a winning battle plan… So why on earth would we want to add a 4th? It is a losing strategy, it is harmful to other people, the reputation of Christ and when you get down to the bottom of it, in almost every instance, fighting against other people it is downright sinful…
When I studied this out to teach it on our recent youth retreat I think I found that, we can reduce this fight to a two front battle. I deeply believe that if we will rightly focus our efforts it will make us more effective for the cause of Christ – I welcome your comments on whether or not the following makes sense.
In spiritual warfare we often (rightly?) begin by focusing on Satan as the primary enemy. Let’s look at some of his names (characteristics) to understand him better and fight him better. As I studied out his names I saw a pattern or progression unfold that made a lot of sense to me and helped me focus my battle efforts – hope it does the same for you.
In simplest terms the Devil is God’s enemy… Satan HATES God and would love nothing more than to replace Him. We see this in these names: Satan (which means Adversary) 1 Peter 5:8; 1 Timothy 5:15; Enemy/Opponent – Matthew 13:28; Evil One – John 17:15…
He is not powerful enough to oppose/fight God directly so he employs a round-about attack by going after God’s people and doing everything in his power to keep others from becoming God’s people… To do this Satan has masterfully influenced the culture toward greater and greater depravity and evil. God recognizes this ploy and has warned us in other names that have been given to Satan: Prince of the Power of the Air (which means he controls unbelievers) – Ephesians 2:2; Ruler of Demons – Mark 3:22; Ruler of this World (which means he rules the world system/culture) – John 12:31; God of this Age (which means he influences the thinking of this world) – 2 Cor. 4:4; Beelzebub (Lord of the Flies) – Matthew 12:24; Belial (which means that he is worthless – just like the corruption he has brought to the world) – 2 Cor. 6:15
Satan then uses the Culture/World to provide temptation for our flesh (the second enemy listed above). We see this in his names: Tempter – 1 Thes. 3:5; Serpent of Old – Deceiver in Garden – Rev. 12:9, 20:2
God warns us from falling to these schemes in 1 John 2:15-17 when He says:
15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
However, Satan is stubborn and will not give up… through the World/Culture will try to tell you that certain sins are OKAY… he’ll try to convince you that they are not that bad… He’ll provide you with every kind of justification from “I’m just wired/born this way” to “God wants me to be happy and this will do it” to “I/they deserve this”… But I’m here to tell you IT’s NOT OKAY…
Satan is a masterful liar (cf. John 8:34) – Though he tries to make it look good, pleasing and harmless, sin is an affront to God and His Holiness and it is harmful to our soul and damaging to our lives and relationships! Sinning is telling your heavenly father that you know best – it’s basically giving God the finger… and though God is loving and forgiving that is a dangerous game to play…
Once Satan has trapped you in one of his schemes and he has hooked you with some type of addictive sin, he then capitalizes upon our temptations and failures. God calls him the Accuser (Rev 12:10) because Satan bad-mouths you to God, in your mind and to other people. He is called the Dragon/Destroyer (Rev. 9:11; 12:3, 7, 9) because he uses your sinful mistakes to ruin your life. He is called a Roaring Lion (1 Peter 5:8) because he wants to swallow you up in the consequences of sin and keep you from experiencing fellowship with God. He is a Murderer (John 8:34) because he leads people to eternal death (aka Hell). The term “Devil” actually means “slanderer” ( Matt. 4:1) because If he can’t get to you any other way, he’ll try to destroy your/God’s reputation.
So, what I see from all this is that if Satan is the deceiving force that is corrupting the culture we only truly have to fight the battle on two fronts… We need to Submit to God and resist the devil (James 4:7-8). And we need to MAKE WAR against our sinful nature (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27, Galatians 5:16-26). John Piper would say that the war against our own flesh is the most important aspect of this… but I’d have to respectfully disagree… I think both prongs of our counter-attack are equally important… If we fight directly against Satan (and we’ll see how to do that in coming posts) then the culture will be effected which will minimize temptations as much as possible, making it easier to fight against our sinful desires…
I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen sin’s painful effects on a lot of people’s lives and I’m hopping mad about it… I’m ready to strap the armor on and get it on with Satan in God’s mighty power… Will you join me?