The Gift Of Tongues

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I Corinthians 13:8-13

    We are going to focus on the statement in verse that says, “whether there be tongues, they shall cease.” You may remember that I said to you that it is possible to organize the spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament into three general categories. There are the speaking gifts, the serving gifts and the sign gifts. When you look at all the lists of the spiritual gifts in the New Testament in their chronological order you will discover that each of the lists minimizes or gets smaller as you move along. Finally, when you come to I Peter 4:10 & 11, you will find that the Word of God gathers the gifts together in the speaking gifts and in the serving gifts but no mention is made of the sign gifts. In that connection it is interesting to me that Paul in I Corinthians 13, right in the middle of the section on spiritual gifts, makes the statement “whether there be tongues they shall cease.” The purpose for these particular verses which I have read is to show us a contrast between the permanency of love and the temporary nature of certain of the spiritual gifts. You will notice in verse 8 he says “loves never fails.” The word, fails, was used to describe the dropping of petals off of a flower. He is saying here that love never fades. Love will never die. Love will continue on and on and on. In contrast to the permanency of love he says whether there be prophecies, whether there be tongues, whether there be knowledge - that they are temporary in nature. I’m interested first of all in the statement concerning the matters of prophecy and knowledge. He says 2 specifically that prophecies shall fail and that knowledge shall vanish away. It is obvious to us that he is not talking about the ordinary kind of knowledge. You and I understand, that in the future, we are not going to lose our knowledge. When we get to heaven there will not be an absence of knowledge but the Bible teaches there will be fullness of knowledge. So there is a special kind of knowledge intended. Also, I believe we understand that when you look at the statement about prophecies he is not talking about the preaching of the Word of God. In the larger sense of the use of the word prophecy, every time a man of God stands with the Bible and with the anointing of God’s Holy Spirit upon him, he teaches the Word of God. He is prophesying. He is giving forth the Word of God. He is announcing the Good News of the gael to those who hear. So he must be talking about a specific kind of prophecy and a specific kind of knowledge. It is also helpful for us to understand the tense of the verb that is used in this particular instance. He is using what is known as a future passive. He is saying that whether there be prophecies they shall be cause to fail. That is they shall be caused to render inoperative. They shall be caused to no longer be of value. Whether there be knowledge it shall be caused to vanish away. It’s the same word. What is he talking about here? What does he mean that this specific area of prophecy and specific area of knowledge is going to be done away. The key is found in verses 9 and 10. He says repeating these two spiritual matters “we know in part.” That is we have partial knowledge. We prophecy “in part.” That is partial ability to prophecy in that New Testament day. What is the meaning of this and why does he say that these things are temporary in nature and that one day they will be put out of business. I think the 3 key is found in verse 10 - “but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall done away.” He is saying there is going to come something that will be perfect and when the perfect comes there will be no longer necessity for that which is partial in nature. I believe he is talking about the completing of the New Testament canon. In the New Testament day there were men who were gifted of God to bw abhe to prophecy. They couldn’t stand as I do in this pulpit and say open your Bible to I Corinthians. There was no I Corinthians. There was no book of Romans. There was no book of Revelation. All of these New Testament books were in the process of being written. They were in the process of being put down. So, there were men who were gifted with the ability to prophesy - to speak the very Word of God directly from heaven. But the day would come, God said, when that would no longer be necessary. There were also those who were given the ability, in the New Testament time, the knowledge from God to write down the Word of God. Specifically apostles or those related to apostles. It was a special kind of knowledge. When God inspired men to write down the Bible He gave them knowledge to write down the Bible so that what they wrote is absolutely true, without error. When you and I open up our Bible and we read what these men have written we know it is not merely human knowledge conveyed here but it is knowledge anointed by the spirit of God — a knowledge given to them to write down the literal Word of God. But there came a time when the New Testament canon was complete. There came a time when God’s written revelation was done. I think that’s what he means when he says in verse 10 - “that which is perfect is come.” I think he is talking about the perfect record — the Word of God, the perfect revelation of 4 God. I believe that’s true because of the illustration we find in verse 12. “Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know even as also I am known.” He is using a common illustration to the Corinthians to explain the completion of the Word of God, the New Testament canon. He is comparing the Bible to a glass. In Corinth they were well-known for the manufacturing of polished brass mirrors. That’s the way the women saw themselves to comb their hair. They looked in those polished brass mirrors. They didn’t have mirrors like you have tonight. The reflection they got was a partial reflection - a partial revelation to them. But the Bible predicted that the the Bible was going to come and it would be a perfect glass - a perfect mirror. Turn to the book of James 1:23 - “For if any man be a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass. For he beholdeth himself, goes away, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was.” What kind of glass is he talking about? Verse 25 - “But who looketh into the perfect law of liberty.” He is saying that the Bible - the law of God, the law of liberty, is that perfect mirror of God. When you open up your Bible it’s like a mirror. You see yourself in the Bible. You see yourself as a sinner. When you open up the Bible you have a perfect revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, the Bible is compared to that perfect mirror. II Corinthians 3:18 - the figure of speech is even clearer in this statement. He is talking about what you and I ought to do with our Bibles on a daily basis. “But we all with open face beholding as in a glass (talking about the Bible) the glory of the Lord are changed into the same image form glory to glory even as by the spirit of the Lord.” 5 The Bible is compared to a perfect mirror - the perfect Word of God. So, Paul says there will come a time when that which is perfect would come. When that which is perfect - the perfect Word of Go is come then prophesying in that sense would fall away. Knowledge in that sense would fall away. They were temporary in nature. But now in the middle of that in verse 8 he mentions the gift of tongues. He says, “whether there be tongues they shall cease.” The tense of the verb is a little bit different. It is a future middle. It means that tongues will cease in and of themselves. That’s the crux of our subject. We are going to deal with one of these sign gifts the gift of tongues and the auxiliary gift the interpretation of tongues. In Chapter 12 he has mentioned on two different occasions these gifts. In verse 10 he mentions kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues. In verse 28 he mentions again, diversity - that is kinds of tongues. Verse 30 - do all speak with tongues, do all interpret. Now in I Corinthians 13 he says “whether there be tongues they shall cease.” There are two main themes dealt with in that statement. First of all, it deals with the appearance of tongues and secondly it deals with the disappearance of tongues. Let’s talk, first of all, about the appearance of tongues. The modern tongues movement is a fairly recent development in American society. In the early i900’s in the beginnings of Pentecostalism, tongues became a prominent theme in that particular group. In Los Angeles on Azuza Street was the first documented case of a particular group of people where speaking in tongues was a prominent part of their worship. Out of this Pentecostal movement in the early 1900’s have come very fine denominations. The Church of God, the Church of God of 6 Prophecy, the Assembly of God. All of these wonderful, fine people have their beginning back in those early years in the inception of the Pentecostal movement. Tongues was a yp ,in’.nt feature in the beginning days of Pentecostalism. Then in the 1960’s we had the beginning of the charismatic movement. It differed from the old-line pentecostalism in that the charismatic movement was primarily a movement among the mainline denominations. We have witnessed in the 1960’s and right on up until this day the phenomenon of tongues. So, tongues has made its appearance historically in our day. But the Bible also shows us the appearance of tongues. I have already indicated to you the reference to tongues in the book of Corinthians. But we want to see the appearance of tongues everywhere it occurs in the New Testament. Always keep in mind that when we study any subject we must always go to the Bible. We must always find out what the Bible has to say about that subject. My opinion really doesn’t matter. Somebody else’s opinion doesn’t matter. My experience in that doesn’t matter. Someone else’s experience doesn’t matter. We are always under the authority of the Word of God. We are always captive in our thought to Scripture. So, I want us to see the appearance of tongue, the mention of tongues in the New Testament. First of all, let’s talk about its appearance in the historical books — the four gospels, then the book of Acts. The only time tongues is mentioned in the gospels is in the last chapter of the gospel of Mark. The Lord Jesus Christ is commissioning His disciples. He has given them His specific commission in verse 15. In verse 17 he says, “and these signs.” (authenticating miracles - evidences that the 7 ministry of the apostles was indeed of God. It authenticates their ministry and validates their message) “and these signs shall follow those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they shall take up serpents and if they drink anything deadly, it will not hurt them, they shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” Here is a statement of five evidences that the message and the ministry of the apostles commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ was indeed of heaven. I believe if you will study your New Testament carefully, with the exception of the statement where it says they will drink any deadly thing, you will find that all of the other four evidences are fulfilled and can be noted in the New Testament day. If four of the five we have reference made to it in the New Testament I think we could probably say the same thing would be true about drinking any deadly thing. That was fulfilled in the New Testament era exactly as Jesus Christ said it should be. There are those who want to take this passage of Scripture and apply it to day. If you are going to do make these statements apply to today than you have to be consistent and make it all apply to today. Up in the hills of North Georgia, not too far from where I come from, there are some people who engage in what they call snake handling. From time to time there will be articles written and be televisions specials about them. You may have seen them. As a part of their worship they will involve themselves in the activity of snake handling. From time to time some are bitten. People have died because of this. Say what you will about these individuals, at least they are consistent. At least they are trying to apply this scripture right across the board, all five evidences in this day. You can’t take part of it - have to do all of 8 it. It all has to apply if any of it applies. I personally believe this was fulfilled by the apostles in the early Christian era. The second references in the historical books to tongues are found in the book of Acts the second chapter. We come to the day of Pentecost. It was the day God had predicted. It was the 50th day after the Passover. Pentecost means the 50 th day. On that day the disciples ha gathered themselves into the upper room. They were waiting for the filling of the Holy Spirit of God to come upon them as had been promised in the first chapter of Acts verse 8. In Acts 2 the Bible says in verse 4 that they were all filled with the Spirit and began to speak with other tongues as the spirit gave them utterance. The word tongues there is the Greek word, glossa. Sometimes you hear people talk about glossalalia. That’s two words — glossa which means tongue and lalia which means to speak. To speak with tongues. So, the word here is clearly glossa which means languages. Look down in verse 6 and it says: “and when this was noised abroad the multitude came together. They were confounded because they heard every man speak in his own language.” Different word there. It is the Greek word dialecto from which we get the word, dialect. Dialects in the languages. Then in verse 8 it says how we hear every man in our own tongue. There the word is dialect again. Then in verse 9 and 10 it talks about the countrias fom which folks had come for Pentecost at that particular time and there was amazement on their part because the apostles were standing and testifying and witnessing. It says in verse 11 - Cretes and Arabians we do hear them speak in our tongue (glossa) the wonderful works of God. On the day of Pentecost the apostles were given the supernatural ability to speak in languages which they had 9 never studied. People from those countries who spoke those languages were able to hear them speak the wonderful works of God in their own languages. I don’t know what languages you may have studied. Most high school require that you take a language. I’ve had the opportunity to study some languages. I’ve been able to study latin and some German and Greek and Hebrew. I couldn’t speak a word of those if I had not studied them. I do know a little Japanese. I should have greeted these folks from Japan. We’re glad to have you tonight. But I’m not able to speak languages which I have never studied. But these people on the day of Pentecost were speaking languages that they have never studied. Beyond question it was a supernatural gift to speak the works of God in foreign languages. The second place it occurs is in the tenth chapter of the book of Acts. There the apostle Peter has gone to the house of Cornelius, the Gentile Centurian of the Italian band. When the apostle Peter begins to preach the Word of God to those people in that household it says in verse 44 that while Peter was yet speaking the Spirit of God fell on them that heard the word and they of the circumcision (that is Jewish believers) were astonished as many as came with Peter because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit; for they heard them speak with tongues (languages) and magnify God. Go to the 11th chapter and notice the interpretation that is given. In verse 17 it says “for as much then as God gave them (in Cornelius’ house) the like gift as He did unto us who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, what was I that I could withstand God?” On Pentecost the supernatural ability to speak languages they had never studied. In the household of Cornelius the ability to speak languages they had never 10 studied. The third time it occurs, historically, is in the book of Acts 19. When you come to the book of Acts 19 you have this rather strange experience of Paul going to Ephesus and finding the disciples who had been only baptized with the baptism of John, not the baptism of Jesus Christ. So, when they were baptized in the name of Christ in verse 6 Paul laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spake with tongues (Languages) and prophecied. In every instance I am able to discover in the historical books, every reference to tongues is a reference to the ability to speak a language one has never studied. Here’s something else you need to note about these instances. Every time it occurs Jews were presence and every time one or more apostles were present. Those were the only references in the historical books. Then you move to the doctrinal books and out of all the rest of the books of the New Testament, the only planz it it mentioned is in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. It is mentioned in chapter 12, 13 and 14. Later on we will do a study of the 14th chapter and I’ll deal more specifically with that. But when you study what took place in the church at Corinth you will become aware that what was taking place in Corinth was something different from what had taken place on the day of Pentecost. There seems to be indication in the text in the 14th chapter that what they were doing was not the same thing as had taken place on the day of Pentecost. We raise the question, what indeed had occurred. I ‘11 say more about this later, but let me in a quick way just lay out for you what I believe we are dealing with in Corinth. Keep in mind the background of these Corinthian believers. If you will study the 6th chapter you will find that these people came out of 11 backgrounds of unbelievable sin. These people had been in the depths of sin and they were saved, gloriously, wonderfully saved and sanctified and washed and justified Paul said. Keep in mind that these were very emotionaL peopi . YQu take an old drunk and get him saved and he is so happy- in Jesus Christ he will be a firebalL for the Lord. Somebody who has been in deep sin has such an overwhelming awareness of the joy of sins forgiven and the glory of being set free from their sins that they just bubble over with joy. They want everything God has for them. That is exactly what you find in the Corinthian church. So, they were so happy to be saved, they wanted every thing God had for them and every thing they heard about they wanted. Now on a day there was a man called Simon Peter who came preaching to them. Keep in mind Simon Peter was a preacher and the greatest service Simon Peter had ever been in in all of his ministry was the day of Pentecost. Friends, there were 3,000 people got saved that day. Just suppose next Sunday morning in the 10:45 service Dr. Lindsay preaches and gives the invitation and 3,000 people come forward and are baptized next Sunday night. Then just suppose he is invited to go to Oklahoma the next week and speak, what do you suppose he will talk about when he gets over there. He’ll tell them about the biggg service he had in Jacksonville when 3,000 people got saved, don’t you imagine. Simon Peter has seen 3,000 people come to Christ and he saw tongues as of fire set down on the heads of people and he heard the sound of a rushing mighty wind out of heaven, don’t you think he had a little bit to say about that when he got to Corinth. Those Corinthian believers sat there and heard him talk about the rushing mighty wind blowing and talked about those tongues and they said, we want some of that 12 ourselves, we like that. They probably made the mistake that a lot of us mistake. They mistook the symbol for the power. It’s very easy to do that, isn’t it? When I was a boy preacher, my pastor could really preach. He was just the grandest thing in all the world. My, what a preacher he was. When he preached (I was just a 16 year old boy) he used a handkerchief. He would be preaching and take that handkerchief and wipe it across his mouth. Then he would tear out preaching again. I said, that’s good, that’s what I need to do. When I started preaching I me a handkerchief. You never heard such a mess in your life. Can you imagine an 18-year old boy trying to preach with a handkerchief in his mouth? What I didn’t know was was that my pastor used notes (nothing wrong with notes - I don’t happen to use notes). What I didn’t know was was that was his way of looking at his notes. When he would finish one point and get ready to move to the next, he would take his handkerchief and look at his notes. Then he would tear out preaching again on his next point. I mistook the symbol for the power. I thought it was all in a handkerchief. The Corinthian believers mistook the symbol of the power - the tongues - for the power Himself, the Holy Spirit. Far more important than the ability to speak in languages you have never studied is the yielding of your life to the indwelling Holy Spirit to use the tongue you do have to be a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. So, Paul says specifically that tongues shall ceases. I’ll go into that more when we get to I Corinthians 14. But I believe what we have in Corinth is an attempt to reproduce something that God intended to occur only one time — historically and that was on Pentecost and then in Corinth and then in Acts 19. Then when you study the rest of the 13 books of the New Testament you find that tongues are no longer there. They don’t come up in II Corinthians. They don’t’ come up in Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. They are not in I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James. They are not in I & II Peter, I, II, III John. They are not in Jude nor Revelation. They are gone. The appearance of tongues. Then he says tongues shall cease - the disappearance of tongues. In order to understand why the Bible says tongues shall cease, keep in mind two things. Number one, you need to know what tongues signified. In 14 chapter of I Corinthians 22nd verse we have a very clear statement. In I Corinthians 14:22 it says, “wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe (talking about believing Jews) but it is a sign to them that believe not (unbelieving Jews). The Jews always required a sign. Back in the first chapter of I Corinthians it says specifically that the Jews require a sign. (I Corinthians 1:22) When Jesus came the Jews came to him and said, “what sign do you show us that you are from god?” Greeks required wisdom the Jews always required a sign. So, tongues, Paul says, was a sign for unbelieving Jews. In Verse 21 it says, “in the law it is written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people.” That’s a reference to Deut. 28:49 and to Isaiah 28:11. The context of those statements is this. God is saying if you won’t listen to me in clear, understandable language as God speaks His warning message to his people the Jews, then God says I will speak to you through a people whose language you do not understand. That was fulfilled in the Old Testament when the Assyrians came speaking the language the Jews did 14 not understand they were carried away into captivity. It was fulfilled in the New Testament when in A.D. 70 Titus the Roman general came speaking a language that they did not understand and their city was destroyed. God spoke to the people in languages they did not understand. It was a judgment sign upon unbelieving Jews. So, that’s what tongues signifies. Then, why did the tongues stop? I think there are two basic reasons. Tongues belong to the period of introduction. Tongues was a part of the introductory time in the church. It was in that foundational era. You do not just keep laying the foundation. You move on from the foundation to the superstructure. At the introduction of every major epoch in the plan of God there were always signs and wonders and miracles. It was true at creation. It was true with Moses and his rod. It was true with Elijah and his fiery chariot. It was true of the Lord Jesus Christ with the angel and with the signs in the heaven. It was true of the church when the rushing mighty wind and the tongues as of fire descended upon them. It was a period of introduction. It was also during the time of the church’s infancy. Look at the illustration in verse 11. In I Corinthians 13:11 he says when 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. Childish talk is a thrilling time. When your little baby starts putting words together - why is the first one always dada? Not mama. Dada. Just putting little words together, how cute that is. That’s so essential, foundational. Those little syllables the little ones are putting together are foundational to all the rest of language. But 40 years 15 from now if that little baby, now a grown man, comes in and says, “mama, dada, want milk.” Not nearly as thrilling. They are to move on. Paul is saying this is the infancy period but you have to move on. Go on to maturity in the Lord. In the same context in the 14th chapter and 20th verse, (the context of tongues) he uses the same illustration again. Verse 20. “Brethren be not children in understanding, howbeit it in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” He is saying it’s time to grow up — move on. In closing I want to make just a few statements about the modern charismatic movement and say that I have no intention to be unkind or unloving. I direct these remarks to no person as an individual. I do it will all love and sincerity because there are many people today who are sincere in their involvement in the tongues movement. So there is no animosity, no unlovingness in my heart about it. I’m just making some observations on the basis of Scripture and on the basis of what I see in the tongues movement. The basic doctrine of the tongues movement as I understand it are contrary to the Word of God. Nowhere in the New Testament are we taught that tongues is the evidence of the baptism of the spirit or of the filling of the spirit. If it were Paul would never have said in I Corinthians 12:30 - “Do all speak with tongues?” The obvious answer there is no. If it was an evidence of the baptism all would have to speak in tongues. If we are all commanded to be filled with the spirit then all of us would have to speak in tongues. So, the basic doctrines of the tongues movement are in error. The second thing is this. Whenever and wherever it has appeared it has been hurtful and divisive. It has almost without exception been a 16 detriment to soulwinning and evangelism. I have never seen it occur in a fellowship and be permitted that it did not cause disruption and disharmony. God is not the God of confusion. He is the God of order. As best I am able to determine no great man of God in church history spoke in tongues. D. L. Moody, a layman, shook two continents for Jesus Christ and never spoke in tongues. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, came to St. Simons Island, Georgia and shook this world for Jesus Christ. He did not speak in tongues. Martin Luther, the founder of the Protestant reformation never spoke in tongues. Billy Graham never spoke in tongues. Yet, some modern televangelist, some celebrities — they speak in tongues. You going to tell me that they are more spiritual than these great men of God who have won multitudes and multitudes of people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus never spoke in tongues. One of the finest books that has ever been written on the subject is Evangelist Moody Adams’ little book, Jesus Never Spoke in Tongues. Did you know you can obey every command of Jesus, follow His every example of Jesus, do everything Jesus did, experience everything Jesus experienced and never speak in tongues. Jesus never spoke in tongues. The last thing I want to say is, I fear many times tongues becomes a substitute for the real thing. I don’t know about you, but I want God’s fulness in my life. I want the Holy Spirit to have control of my life. I want Him to take me and use me and fill me with His Spirit. I want God’s power in my life in linhindlred measure. If you are not very careful you will accept a substitute instead of the real thing. I say this kindly and do not mean it in a harsh way. Please do not misunderstand me, but there are some parallels between the modern tongues movement and the drug 17 culture. The drug culture requires larger and larger doses. The drug culture moves from marijuana. After awhile marijuana loses its impact. The person doesn’t get the same thing from marijuana so they move on to speed of heroin. It takes larger and larger doses. To some extent the same thing is true in the modern tongues movement. The individuals moves from tongues, tongues loses its enthusiasm and excitement, into casting out demons. That loses its enthusiasm and excitement and moves on to healings. That lost its excitement and moves on to having visions and prophecies. Somewhere in the future that person faces a crisis. They become depressed, discouraged and they have a decision to make. They either have to fake it or drop out or face reality. I had a young lady I led to Christ in Rome, Georgia, many years ago. She came to know the Lord and was growing, involved in our singles ministry, she began memorizing Scripture. In fact, we had her stand one night and quote from memory the entire Epistle of I John. Then she was influenced by a charismatic group that got her away from these kinds of things and she got off into the other. She went from tongues to casting out demons, to visions and all of that. Then, somewhere out there it ran out. When it ran out she dropped out. The last time I heard she was no longer living for the Lord. When you get hold of the real thing, when you get hold of the spirit-filled life which is available for you in the Lord Jesus Christ, it never runs out. It’s just as real, just as precious, just as fresh as it has always been. Do not accept a substitute for the real thing. Many years ago I read a fable about a dog that was carrying a bone in its mouth as it crossed over a bridge. Crossing over the bridge the dog saw its reflection in the water below and the bone in the 18 reflection was much bigger than the bone in its mouth. So, the dog dropped the bone in its mouth to get the reflection and went hungry. Don’t give up the real thing for a substitute. The main thing you need is to have a personal experience with the Lord Jesus Christ. You don’t need signs and wonders and miracles. You need the new birth which is the miracle of all miracles. You need to be saved.

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