Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Christianity, It's A Lifestyle. (?)

The other day, a relative of mine posted one of those posters with a catchy statement that keeps getting reposted on Facebook, and this is what it said.

"Attending Church every Sunday does not make you a Christian. How you live your life outside of the walls and off of the pews tells the whole story. It's a lifestyle." I immediately made a comment on that statement, then my curiosity got the better of me and I started scrolling down to look at the other comments. I only read about eighty of them, but with the exception of two others who said what I said, people focused on two different aspects of the statement. Most seemed to focus on the subject of church attendance and defended how important it was that attending church was necessary if people were Christians. The second aspect was that if you are a Christian, it should not be just a Sunday thing, but be a lifestyle.

What occurred to me was that all of these people had completely missed the point. Being a Christian does not have anything to do with church attendance, nor does observing a lifestyle necessarily make you one. A person can still be a Christian and not attend church. Many people have had to do that over the millennia, as they had to stay in hiding about their faith or be killed. Many still have to do that in some countries. As for the second aspect, I have seen many people in a number of denominations and even cults, who live a lifestyle that is moral and Christian-like, and these people are not necessarily saved, because they either believe in a works salvation, or they do not believe that Jesus is God incarnate who died for their sins. Yet their lives are very pure, even moreso than some Christians'.

What everyone missed, with the exception of two other people, was the fact that becoming a Christian only comes about through one way. That way is having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A relationship is not dependent upon regular attendance at a church, for this is an impossibility for some people in certain situations. We are not to forsake getting together with other believers to encourage and exhort each other, but that is not the same as attending an organized church on a weekly basis for formal services. If the church is in apostasy, it is far better to not attend and just gather with those who are like-minded for home services or Bible studies.

As for the lifestyle part, yes, a true Christian's lifestyle should reflect their faith, but the reverse is not necessarily true. You cannot make the statement that a person who has a moral lifestyle is in truth a born again believer, for some cults deny Christ, yet they live very moral lifestyles, attend their church regularly, and do good works. Even some people who do not have any religious beliefs may live moral lifestyles and do good works, simply because that is how they were brought up, or how they choose to live.

The only thing that determines whether or not you are a Christian is whether or not you have a personal relationship with the Father through Christ Jesus. This is the only definition of a Christian. So the statements "Attending Church every Sunday does not make you a Christian. How you live your life outside of the walls and off of the pews tells the whole story. It's a lifestyle," are misleading statements. The first part is true, as church attendance does not determine whether or not you have accepted Christ as your Savior. Church attendance is not even a gauge, for many devout Christians are walking away from the churches due to the apostasy there. The second part, as to how you live your life outside of church tells the whole story, is a false statement. Many people live perfectly moral lives totally outside of the Christian faith. The third part, that it is a lifestyle is ambiguous. The believer should  live a lifestyle that reflects God, but a lifestyle does not determine whether or not the person is a believer.

The fact that out of eighty responses, I only saw two that realized the error in this message and what the truth really was bothered me. It means that only two and a half percent of the people reading that post (of those that I read), who consider themselves Christians, understood what real salvation is based upon, a relationship. Neither church attendance nor a lifestyle will make you a Christian. It is now much easier to understand what Christ meant when He said, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me, ye that work iniquity." Matthew 7:21-23. Many people who believe they are headed to heaven may not get there, for they are counting on the church (and their faithful attendance) or their lifestyle (of being a good person) to get them there. They do not really know Christ, for you can only know Him when you have a relationship with Him. In that day  He will not recognize them.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Gift of Tongues - Good or Bad?

I have tackled a lot of controversial issues in this blog, but until now I have not felt led to write on one which has been controversial since the beginning of Christianity. What prompted me to write now was that God brought it to my attention, via a video that someone had made, that it was a subject that I needed to address, so I will address it. That subject is one of the gifts of the Spirit. I have already discussed the gift of prophecy in my article on the existence or not of prophets today, and I will address the others gifts in time, but for today I want to address the subject of tongues. Of all the gifts, this is the one about which there seems to be the greatest controversy. It is odd in a way that this should be, for of all the gifts, and there is a fair list of them, this is considered to probably be the least valuable. Yet it is the one which so many clamor to get, proudly declare they have, insinuate that people aren't saved if they don't have it, practitioners get bashed by others who say it no longer exists, and no matter who is talking about it, is controversial. Why is this gift, which Paul suggests as less important than others, such a hot button? Why has it reached an elevated status above all other gifts?  For that answer we need to look at what the Scriptures have to say about it.

The first mention of it is by Christ when He appeared to the disciples after the resurrection and was sending them out to evangelize the world.  Mark 16:17 "And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues."  This is a reference to the new ability which would first occur with the giving of the gift of tongues at Pentecost. Acts 2:3-4 "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 began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance,"  From that point forward the disciples (who would then be apostles) would carry the gospel out into the entire world, including countries with languages which they did not speak. Having the gift of tongues was a necessity to spread the gospel as quickly as possible. When Christ said believers would speak with new tongues, He meant tongues of other known languages. Acts 2:8-11 "And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God." 

Now so far, the indication is that the only tongues they are speaking are known tongues. Not ones learned by the apostles, but known to the world. Nothing is said about the tongues being a heavenly language which nobody can understand. These are all established languages which people are miraculously speaking having never studied them. And the purpose at this point is to enable the gospel to go forth into all the world as per the great commission given by Christ to the apostles. These tongues were understood by someone. They were not gibberish.

The next time we see tongues, it is again in the book of Acts 10:44-47 "While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.  And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost.  For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter,  Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?"

In this incident, the Holy spirit gave the gift of tongues to some Gentiles who believed. The purpose of this seems to be for a sign. In particular it is a sign for the Jews, who were astonished that God was accepting the Gentiles as equal believers along with them, for Peter states what the result of them hearing these people speak in tongues is - their acceptance of them. It is the evidence that the Holy Spirit is doing the same for the Gentiles as He did for the Jews, so the Jews must accept the Gentiles as equals. Had there not been some sort of sign from God, there is probably no way the Jews would have accepted them as equals and heirs of salvation, because they were astonished that God would do so. There had to be a sign from God for them to accept the Gentiles. 1 Corinthians 1:22 " For the Jews require a sign," and  1 Corinthians 14:22a "Wherefore tongues are for a sign,"  Now as we must only interpret what we read within the parameters of what we have already learned, we have to still conclude that these are known or recognizable languages that these people are speaking. Had they not been, the apostles would probably have accused them of faking it by just speaking gibberish or being demonically controlled. They recognized that these people were indeed speaking other languages, which they could not have known, and thus they were being indwelt by the Holy Spirit just as they had been at Pentecost. So now we can conclude that tongues have two purposes. They were for the purpose of spreading the gospel quickly to people of other nations and languages, and they were a sign for the Jews that God was accepting the Gentiles as equals in His kingdom.

The next case of speaking in tongues is found in Acts 19:1-6 "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples,  He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost.  And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism.  Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.  When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied." Paul finds some disciples and asks if they have been indwelt by the Holy Spirit, since they believed. His question indicates that the normal thing has now become that when a person accepts the Lord, they are immediately indwelt by the Spirit at that time. As this is the normal understanding that we have as to what happens upon receiving the Lord today, this seems a little strange to us that it had not happened, but note that these people had never heard about the Holy Spirit, so would not have understood what was happening. They needed to have understanding first, so the Holy Spirit held off indwelling them until they could learn. I also want to point out that at no time yet has this been referred to, as is common upon some churches today, as a "baptism of the Holy Spirit" as in a separate manifestation beyond being initially indwelt. This has merely been the normal receiving of the Holy Spirit to be indwelt, even though it came later than the belief. The only baptisms going on so far are water baptisms: John's and in the name of the Lord. The Holy Spirit is given to them along with the gift of prophecy when Paul lays hands upon them. What occurs for them at this point is the receiving of the Spirit that one normally gets upon believing. Now notice too, that it is not just tongues which are given, and again there is no indication that these are anything but known languages as previously stated, but they are also given the gift of prophesy, which Paul later says is the most valuable gift.

In Corinthians 12 we finally come to the passage that most people are aware of when speaking of tongues. I will put in bold print the things which will be addressed below.

"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant.  Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.  Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;  To 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:  But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.  For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.  For 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.  For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?  If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?  But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.  And if they were all one member, where were the body?  But now are they many members, yet but one body.  And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:  And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.  For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:  That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.  And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.  Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.  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.  Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?  Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?  But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way."

In this passage we find Paul talking about the gifts of the Spirit. The first thing he says is that we should not be ignorant concerning them. He does not just mean ignorant as to what the gifts are, but ignorant as to how to use them, or how to treat them. In other words, they are to be used properly and according to the rules which we will see later, and they are not to be treated as if one is all important and the others are not.

The next statement of note is that Paul says there are diversities of gifts. In other words, not everyone is going to get the same gift. Again I repeat, more loudly, NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO GET THE SAME GIFT. There are many gifts and many means of administrating them, and many ways of them operating. He then states that the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given to everyone. So everyone is going to have some kind of manifestation, but not everyone is going to have the same manifestation. Now as we have already been told that there are many gifts, and then that the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in every believer, we must conclude that the Holy Spirit will manifest Himself in each believer through a different gift upon belief. So there should be no theology in which people say that if you don't receive a certain gift  (namely tongues), you have not been "baptized" in the Holy Spirit.

There is one indwelling whether you want to call it an indwelling, a manifestation, or a baptism.There is one time at which the gifts are given according to what we have read so far. The one time that it is mentioned that it was not given at the time of belief, it was because they did not know about the indwelling of the Spirit and needed to learn about it first. Supernatural gifts may manifest immediately as above, or possibly it might take a particular situation for it to manifest, however not every gift has a supernatural manifestation. They will manifest as people involve themselves in the congregation and that gift becomes needed. Teaching will not be a miraculous manifestation, nor will most gifts. One thing is certain, people should not expect a miraculous manifestation of a particular gift (tongues) beyond the gift they are given, to prove they have been indwelt. If you are going to be "filled," as the term is applied to differentiate it from being indwelt, you will be filled with your own gift. Your gift is your gift not someone else's and you receive it when you are indwelt at the time of belief. You may manifest it at various and multiple times and you obviously should, but you are not given one gift to use, and then given another to prove you are saved.

Nothing in Scripture indicates there is a special outpouring of only one gift (namely tongues) weeks, months, or years after salvation which signifies that someone is filled with the Spirit. We will manifest our own gift in power when we are "filled" with the Spirit. When we realize what our gift that we have been given is, we should not expect to see that gift in every other believer. We might find it in some, for these gifts are given to each congregation for a reason, but we may be the only person in our local assembly with that gift. The reason being that God gave gifts as it pleased Him to do so, so that the entire body might be whole. Paul points out that the foot, hand, ear, and eye are all part of the body, and the body needs all those parts. The foot can't be the hand nor should he want to be. The ear is not the eye, nor should he want to be. But if there were only feet or only hands or only eyes or ears, what kind of body would it be? Not a useful one, that is for certain. We need all the parts of our body to function properly, and the body of Christ needs all the parts to function properly too. And it is not just the body universal that needs these gifts, the local assembly needs to have a diversity of gifts, so that it can function. They cannot all do the same job. What good would a hospital be if everyone wanted to be the administrator? Every gift plays its part, and all are important in the whole.

Paul first lists some gifts in the middle of this passage. They are word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, and interpretations. Then at the end of this passage he gives a list of gifts apparently in the order of their priority. I hate to say in importance, because all parts of the body are important, but some will take more precedence in the functioning of the entire body as a whole, while some serve smaller parts of the body at a time. He lists apostles as the first in priority. The original apostles were the missionaries who had known the Lord personally and carried the gospel to all parts of the world. As the apostles brought the gospel to the world, this was and is the first priority gift, as spreading the gospel was and still is the main priority. This is followed by prophets or the gift of prophecy. These were and are the people to whom the Lord gives the ability to 1) see sin before others see it 2) who know the Word well, so that they know when it is being twisted or corrupted, 3) are given God's warnings to pass on, and 4) might be shown some things of the future. These things are crucial gifts for the local body, so that they might keep deception and sin out of the church and warn the congregation if God is going to punish them for some sin, so they can repent. The next important gift is teaching. Everyone needs to study the Word of God, so that they might learn the Word and be discerning Bereans to rightly divide it to avoid error, and be able to give a defense for their belief,  and most importantly learn about God's prophecies of the Second Coming. There are some gifted with teaching these things, as not everyone is a scholar, but you would not want a church with nothing but teachers. After those are the gifts that would be applied individually or to smaller situations, unlike the previous three which are for the entire body. There are the gift of miracles, healing, helps, government (administrative talents) and finally tongues. In both lists tongues is listed at the end of the list. This is probably because it is the least useful in terms of edifying the church, regardless of what some churches today want to believe. Now this is still only a partial list of the gifts, but they will be covered in another article.

The next mention of tongues is when Paul continues on from the last verse which said, "and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way." He is about to talk about love being the greatest of all the gifts, for all these other gifts will cease one day, but love will never cease. But within this passage he still talks about tongues, so it is necessary to look at those two verses

1 Corinthians 13:1 "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."

1 Corinthians 13:8 "Charity 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,

The first verse talks about the tongues of men and of angels. We know man has a diversity of languages, but here we are told that their is a language that the angels speak. In this verse Paul is not saying that he does or we can speak with that language. He is saying that if even he were to speak with a diversity of tongues including that of the angels, and did not have love, they would be useless for even if they were understood, nobody would hear anything that was being said, for people watch what we do before they listen to what we say. It is not a definitive statement that he or any person can talk in the tongue of the angels. He is saying if he were to do so, for if you take the "though" as a definitive that he does, then you must also take as a definitive that he does not have charity or love, for the connecting word is "and," not "but" or "or."  He is making the hyperbole that if his gift were even so great that he could understand and speak in the tongues of the angels (which would be quite a gift, for only the angels would understand and benefit from it, man would not), it would be worthless without love.

In the next verse, he states that the gifts will eventually cease, and tongues is one of them. Some people believe that they already have, for the next two verses say "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." These people believe that "the perfect" that was to come was the completion of the Bible with the New Testament. This does not work however as an interpretation, because we are told that in the end times people will prophesy, and since prophesying is included in this verse, it cannot mean the completion of the Bible. Acts 2:17 "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God,I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams." Therefore we know that the gift of tongues is still in existence and will be until "the perfect" or the Lord's Kingdom comes.

Now in the next chapter, which is the last discussion the Bible has on tongues, Paul makes some comments that make it apparent that he is somewhat frustrated with them, and sets out some rules about the use of the gift of tongues. Apparently the church at Corinth was abusing it in several ways. Again, due to the length of this passage, I will put some highlights in bold print.

1 Corinthians 14:1-28, 33, 39 "Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying. Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine? And even things without life giving sound, whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air.  There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification. Therefore if I know not the meaning of the voice, I shall be unto him that speaketh a barbarian, and he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me.  Even so ye, forasmuch as ye are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek that ye may excel to the edifying of the church. Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue pray that he may interpret.  For if I pray in an unknown tongue, my spirit prayeth, but my understanding is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also. Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at thy giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest? For thou verily givest thanks well, but the other is not edified. I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all: 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. Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. 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. Wherefore 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. If 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? But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not, or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all:  And 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.  How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, everyone of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.  If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at the most by three, and that by course; and let one interpret.  But if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church; and let him speak to himself, and to God.... For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints......Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues."

The first thing Paul does in this passage is to tell them that they need to do everything in love, for this issue was apparently becoming a matter of disagreement among them. Then he tells them that they should desire to have spiritual gifts, but more importantly they should desire to have the gift of prophecy. Prophecy is the most edifying for the church. Right here, this statement should stop people from making tongues a hallmark of being filled by the Spirit and desiring it for themselves and pressuring others to want it as a sign of being filled by the Spirit.  Paul says the gift they should be desiring is prophecy, for it is the most useful for the church, which is the point of the gifts in the first place. The purpose of gifts is for the edification of the church, not for the edification of or more commonly today, the puffing up of an individual due to pride.

Tongues in particular is the topic under discussion, and his comments make it clear that it has become a problem. First he clarifies that when you speak in an unknown tongue (now note he means unknown in that nobody is a native speaker or has learned the language, not that it is a non-earthly language that nobody would know) nobody understands (unless there is a native speaker of that language or an interpreter), so he who speaks in tongues is not speaking to men, or for the edification of the congregation, but only to God, for the only one in the congregation that understands it is God. What the Spirit is saying is a mystery to anyone but God, under these circumstances. This basically means that God is talking to Himself, which does not hold much edification for man, nor would there seem to be any purpose in God doing that. The only man who might be edified is the man who is doing the speaking in tongues. But now we have to consider, how is that edifying to the person if they do not understand a single thing they are saying? Well, to just experience the filling of the Spirit would be an uplifting experience emotionally and spiritually in the sense that you realize the presence of the Lord, but other than that, you would not learn anything or get any answers to questions you might have, or have any intellectual input whatsoever. The experience would be more one of feelings of elation than anything else. The problem with this is that if a person gets addicted to the feeling, they might start manufacturing an experience to get a rush of feelings, so that they can have a "high" as they say. Coupled with that is the danger of pride creeping in and the person beginning to think that somehow they are superior, because they are having this supernatural experience which others are not having. And indeed, this seems to have been one of the problems that this church was experiencing. People were all wanting to have this experience and it appears it was becoming the "in" thing to do it.

Then Paul makes a comment that people quickly refer to, to defend wanting everyone to speak in tongues. Paul says that he wishes that they all spoke in tongues. Unfortunately people stop there and do not read the rest of the sentence, for he also says that he would rather that they prophesy. His meaning is not that he wants everyone to talk in tongues, because that is the greatest gift. He is saying that he wishes that everyone would at least have this minor gift, so that they would at the very least have personal edification, however, he would rather that they have the greater gift which would edify the entire church. He makes one caveat as to the gift of tongues having any edification for the church and its usefulness as such and that is if there is someone there to interpret. This would require that someone understand the tongue, which still indicates it is a known language, not some unknown gibberish that nobody could comprehend. Today many people think that if they simply speak in tongues, that is the whole point of the gift. Paul says that if you speak in tongues, (and it must be interpreted) it is only of any profit if it gives a revelation, knowledge, a prophecy, or doctrine. Otherwise it is not of any use whatsoever. Unless what is being said is understood and has some content of importance, you might as well just be talking into thin air, for it is completely useless.

Paul continues by saying that there are many languages in the world (now again here when he is referring to the gift of tongues, he is speaking of known languages which someone speaks), but unless someone can understand it, you have no communication at all. You merely appear to be a barbarian to the person listening, speaking a bunch of gibberish. They were apparently zealous to have spiritual gifts, but most particularly tongues, so Paul tells them, that if they are so zealous for the gifts, they should want to get the one which will edify the church. If they do get the gift of tongues, to make it of any use, they should pray that they also get the gift of interpretation. Paul now mentions tongues in the context of having it manifest during prayer. This is the first time that it is mentioned that tongues manifests through prayer and not just when one is speaking. Up until now, tongues manifested to allow them to preach to people of other languages, when people heard the word and believed, or by the laying on of hands. So now we know that tongues can manifest during prayer. Now when Paul refers to speaking in tongues while praying, he has just said that they should pray that they can interpret, for he now says that if one prays in tongues, the spirit may be praying, but the mind is unfruitful. He then tells them that they should instead pray with the spirit and the mind, so that there can be understanding. We are to prefer to pray normally than in tongues. It is preferable to do so. This would negate the idea that some people have that praying in tongues is a far more spiritual and superior way to pray. The reason for tongues not being preferable is that nobody can be edified except perhaps the person speaking. 

Paul declares that he is glad he speaks tongues more than any of them. Why would he say this, if he feels that tongues is not that useful a gift? It is for the same reason that occurs today. People who speak in tongues (or think they are speaking in tongues) tend to get an attitude of superiority over other Christians who do not speak in tongues. It causes a lot of division and hard feelings, which obviously was happening in this church. He is glad he speaks in tongues, because he cannot be accused of being jealous and saying those things our of resentment. He is saying tongues is not all that valuable as a gift in the church, because it is the truth,  not because he is jealous. To make the point clear, he says that in church he would rather speak five words that people understand than ten thousand words that they don't. Clearly speaking in tongues is something that he really does not put much importance upon, as far as serving the church. It appears to be at this point a self-edifying gift, more than a missionary tool, or a sign to the Jews, which then makes it of no use to the church. As the original intent of the gift was as a missionary tool, or as a sign to the Jews, it is not pertinent or useful for it to be a gift within a local assembly. They all speak the same language, and they were by now understanding that Gentiles and Jews were both equal in God's eyes when it comes to salvation. Therefore it was not of much use unless, as he said earlier, it was interpreted and had a prophecy or doctrine or something useful such as that to relate to the church.

Now Paul chastises them and tells them to not be like childish in their understanding. He then takes them back to the Old Testament Scriptures which say that God has prophecies that with people of other tongues He would speak to His people, yet they would not hear Him. This is what was happening. Israel was rejecting the gospel, so the gospel was going forth into other lands and languages to the Gentiles, and would eventually have to come back to Israel via these other languages and nations or via the Gentiles. Paul is emphasizing that when God speaks about tongues, He is talking about the gospel being preached in other languages, and that tongues was given to serve that purpose, not really as some sort of personal experience to get worked up over. Tongues was not to be a sign for believers, (that they were saved),  but as a sign for those who did not believe, in other words as previously mentioned, the Jews, to show that God was working through the Gentiles. Then he again reiterates that prophecy was the gift for believers.

Now Paul mentions another problem that this is causing. Everyone in the church was apparently trying to speak in tongues (just as today people can "manifest" this through faking it due to peer pressure). This was creating chaos and he says that if someone who is an unbeliever or does not know the Scriptures comes in, and they are all talking away in tongues, it will merely make the visitors think that they are all crazy. However, if someone comes in and hears prophesying, the things that are said will convince and convict and thereby bring them to salvation. Therefore when they come together everyone should bring their own gift (and he does include tongues in here) and exercise those gifts for the edification of the church. And here he lays down some rules about tongues. If someone does speak in tongues, if that truly is their gift, then at the most there should only be two or three that do it at a service, and only if there is an interpreter there to make known what is said. And then they should not do it at the same time, but take turns in an orderly fashion. If there is no interpreter, then they are to keep their mouths shut. If even just this last rule were followed, this rule alone would shut down a tremendous amount of the speaking in tongues that is going on in some churches.

Finally Paul relents and says that they should not forbid anyone to speak in tongues, for it is a gift, and it does have its place as long as the rules are followed, however, he says that instead of wanting this gift, they should really be desiring that God would give them the gift of prophecy.

So in covering all the verses in the New Testament about the gift of tongues we see that 1) they are known languages  2) it is the least important of the gifts, unless there is an interpreter and the message is one of knowledge, prophecy, doctrine or revelation 3) it is only one of many gifts, so will not be given to everyone 4) it is really a missionary tool, either to spread the gospel or to be a sign to the Jews, and of not much use for the edification of the church 5) it is really a personal edification gift if you pray in tongues, and even then if you can't interpret you probably shouldn't be doing it as it is far preferable to pray with understanding 6) there are rules for its use 7) it is not a sign for the believer, so therefore it should not be used as one - do not judge a person's salvation status by whether or not they speak in tongues and 8) while Paul mentions that there is an angelic language, there really is no indication that this is a language available for speaking in tongues. It would serve no purpose as the angels do not need the gospel and that was the purpose of tongues - to spread the gospel. Nor do they need a sign to recognize that someone is accepted by God, as they are not unbelievers. So there is no such confirmation in Scripture that speaking in tongues is a heavenly unknown angelic tongue called "prayer language" as people like to call it.

As a last warning, I have personally been aware of the fact that speaking in tongues can be demonic, as well as from the Holy Spirit. This may be another reason why Paul said that if there is no interpreter they should keep their mouths shut, for if you speak or pray with no understanding, and you are not sure of whom spirit is which is talking, you have no idea what garbage may be coming out of your mouth. A true incident I would like to relate is when the brother (who was a pastor) of my college roommate was visiting a church that practiced the gift of tongues, because he was curious about it as it was not a practice of his church, he heard at least one person speaking in a tongue he was able to understand. And what that person was saying was that Satan was their god and they were cursing Jesus and the Father. And all around this person people were praising God for this person speaking in tongues. He did not interpret for them, as he was very disturbed by it, and rightfully so. Their lack of discernment was causing the entire congregation to blaspheme God. This is the problem with desiring a gift that you have not actually been given. Satan will use your desire and pride to give you what you want, and blaspheme through you. If you speak in tongues and cannot interpret, then be very aware that the thrill you feel when you do so might not be coming from the Lord, but be a feeling that Satan is instilling in you to make you do this over and over, so he can mock both you and God. Do not think you are above being deceived, for pride goeth before destruction and it seems that this particular gift causes many to have pride in it. If you speak in tongues, pray that you might interpret or be very careful. Remember it is preferable to pray with understanding, rather than to get a "high" off of it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What Are Christians To Do About These New Gender Neutral Laws?

In America there has recently arisen a huge controversy over gender specific bathrooms. I do not know how the rest of the world handles this problem, but let me explain how things used to be in America.

Public bathrooms mainly take the form of gender specific, being fairly non-private once inside the gender specific room. The men's room has multiple urinals on the wall with a few stalls with doors that have toilets in them. The women's bathroom have multiple stalls with toilets and both bathrooms have several or a row of sinks. Now these stalls are not what you would call completely private. They do not begin at the floor, but about a foot or so above it. The tops of the stalls end at about six feet from the floor, so just above a woman's head height. There are small gaps between the doors and the door jambs where they are hinged together, so that one can glance in to see if a stall is occupied, without having to test the door.  One can look under or over the stall without too much difficulty if one is inclined to do so. One can even crawl from stall to stall by sliding underneath the partitions. So privacy is a relative term here.

There are some places who have created separate family/handicap/non-gendered bathrooms in addition to or in place of the gender specific bathrooms. These are rooms large enough to accommodate wheelchairs and a few people comfortably (so a parent can take in multiple children),  which simply have a single handicap facilitated toilet, sink, and baby changing station, rather than multiple toilets and sinks. This is your basically like your home bathroom. But these kind of bathrooms are the exception and unusual and not the rule.

The ruling has come down that now there should be no such thing as gender specific bathrooms and that you can choose to go into whichever one you identify with, regardless of the gender of body you are actually inhabiting. Needless to say the LGBT people are very happy about this, but the vast majority of people are not, especially parents of small children.

In addition to this, the schools (and public gym type businesses) are opening the locker rooms (where in many schools there are rows of showers with no curtains) to either gender, so girls/women can go shower with boys/men and vice versa. It does not take a rocket scientist to see where there might be a problem with this. 

So where is a Christian supposed to stand on this issue? Many are speaking out about it and saying that we should not be tolerating this. They are concerned that this is going to lead to abusive situations with voyeurs and pedophiles. In fact it already has as men are going in with cameras and taking pictures. Parents are terrified of allowing their children to go into a bathroom or locker room alone, and with good reason. Pedophiles are naturally going to take advantage of this and use it to provide resources for their sins and perversions. How some people can ignore the safety of children to force people to cater to their "feelings" is beyond my comprehension.

Other Christians are on the fence saying that we should just pray and do what is "right." By being "on the fence" I mean that they aren't sure that these issues are sins, so therefore they do not want to judge or be less than loving toward these people with these issues as they feel that tolerance toward their sin is the preferable way of representing Christ. Funny that I don't remember Christ ever telling people that their sin was okay with Him. He forgave them, yes, and we should not hate the sinner ever, but He also always followed offering forgiveness with the command to "go and sin no more." He didn't tolerate the sin, He forgave it, but warned them to not continue in it. So Christians who are equating tolerance with love are sadly mistaken in what they are doing. We cannot tell them that their sin is not a sin, for that is not honest. We need to tell them that their sin is a sin, but that Christ forgives sin and that we all have sins that need forgiving. Our problem has become that we are no longer labeling certain sins as sins, and in that we cross from being loving in Christ to being an enemy of Christ, for we no longer stand for what He stands for.

The second thing that these people say, and I can agree with this, for prayer is a mighty and powerful weapon against the enemy, is that prayer is necessary. The problem has become, that while they give this lip service, people are not really praying. How can I know this? Because this country is not changing. God has said in 2 Chronicles 7:14 "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."   If Christians really were on their knees praying, we would see change in this land. But the only change we see is that things are getting more ungodly every day. That would force the conclusion that Christians are not praying at all. Or the alternative to that, which might be the more accurate conclusion, is that their prayers are hindered and not heard. Why is that? Because when we have sin in the way, God cannot hear our prayers for they are hindered by our disobedience. The Church today is in great apostasy. God is not hearing the prayers of those who so disregard His Word and His standards.

The last problem is when a Christian says that we should do what is "right." What exactly is meant by that? Do they mean do what is tolerant? Or do they mean do what is right in God's eyes? Which one is the "right" way? Which one is truly the loving way? Is condoning sin loving? Or it is more loving to tell people the truth, that what they are doing is sin and if they don't repent of sin, it will lead them to hell? It may seem more loving to be tolerant, for when one is tolerant, one will find that people who want to sin will react back in a loving manner, for they are not feeling that their behavior is coming under condemnation. As love is being returned to the Christian, they feel that they have been loving themselves. But this is not the definition of real love. On the other hand, a Christian who stands up and proclaims God's Word, which is the most loving thing you can do, and condemns sin will always be hated. For we are told that the world will hate us, if we choose to stand for God. I think that is the real situation here. Christians are afraid. They are afraid of taking a stand for Christ, because that will bring persecution. How much easier to stay quiet and be seen to be tolerant and loving so that you do not have to fear the hate that the world will give you for standing for Christ.

Matthew 10:22 " And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved."

Matthew 24:9 "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake."

Mark 13:13 "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."

Luke 21:17 "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake."

John 15:18 "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you."

There are many Christians who say that we should not judge others, for we ourselves are not without sin. Well, there is judging and there is judging, as they say. It is not our place to decide the motives of another person's heart, nor are we to absolutely declare that a person is going to hell, for many have had deathbed conversions in spite of the life they have led. And we are not to worry about an unbelievers particular sin, for the objective is to share the gospel. With believers that changes. We are supposed to watch their behavior and if it needs correcting, we are to speak to them about it. God lays out a procedure for how to handle that starting with a one on one conversation to removing them from the church.However, we can say with absolute authority and without judgment that there are behaviors that are called sins by God and we are to state what those are regardless of whom we are addressing. We do not just condemn others in doing that, we condemn ourselves as well, for none of us are without sin. What is happening is that people are not distinguishing between condemning the sin and condemning the sinner.

Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Romans 3:10 "As it is written, there is none righteous, no, not one."  There is not a single one of us that is without sin, so we should not act with a self-righteous attitude toward the sinners when we speak out against sin. But we are to speak out against sinful behavior. What is happening nowadays is that sin is no longer being labeled as sin in some cases, and the main subject where that is happening is where sex and gender come into question. Christians are buying into the lie that these behaviors, which God calls perversions and the depravity of man, are being said to be genetic problems, not the sin nature of man or the giving over of oneself to demonic control. They are making excuses for these perversions in complete disregard of what the Scriptures clearly teach on the subject. (See my articles on transgenderism and homosexuality in the archives.) Even when shown what the Bible says, many will cling to the "evidence" and I use that term very loosely of "science" and I use that term very loosely also, as being the last word on the subject, and therefore they must act in tolerance of these sins, so that they are being Christ-like. They see those who take a stand against these sins as being very hateful and unloving, and very unChrist-like. I think they have forgotten what Christ did in the temple when He overthrew all the tables of the merchandisers, because they were robbing the people blind. He was also not very nice to the Pharisees. Somehow His behavior in the face of blatant sinners who would not acknowledge that what they were doing was a sin has been swept under the carpet. Yes, the sinners who fell at His feet in repentance got a loving response from Him, although it was followed with a warning. But they acknowledged their sin. They knew they needed forgiveness. They were not arrogant in His face. The Pharisees and moneychangers were. And He reacted quite differently to them. If we are to act in the same manner as Christ, we are not to tolerate blatant sin that is going on with no acknowledgment that they are doing anything wrong. We are to cry out, "The Emperor has no clothes on." (For those of you who don't understand that, check out the children's story The Emperor's New Clothes.")  It is the non-politically correct thing to do, but it is the truth. And we will stand out for saying it. And we will be hated for saying it.

In a public statement that I made, I suggested that as we are being ignored and our voice is not heard in this matter, that to be heard we must carry out the passive (not aggressive) actions of withdrawing our support of those institutions who are taking up this cause. We need to boycott the stores, we need to pull our children out of the public government assisted schools (for their government assistance is based upon their enrollment numbers). One reaction I received to this was that we needed to pray and do the RIGHT thing. (Caps were the commenters, not mine.) So as I said above, if what I suggested is not the right thing, to speak out to keep the genders as created by God separate, to protect the modesty, privacy, and safety of adults and especially children, and show our passive disapproval in our actions, then what is the RIGHT way?

It was once said that "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." By sitting back and saying we are praying (when many really aren't, they merely are saying that to look more righteous - and the proof of that is that nothing is changing) and then taking no action, because to do something is seen by the world as being hateful and intolerant, we are doing nothing.  Evil continues to triumph because Christians are mistaking tolerance (out of fear for their safety) in place of real love, which is to proclaim God's love and God's wrath. I fear evil is triumphing, because Christians tremble in fear. If they fear reprisals from the LGBT group for not approving gender neutral bathrooms, what will they do in the face of the antichrist and his demands and wrath?