The Gifts of Tongues, Prophecy, and Healing | 1 Corinthians 14

A Spirit-Led Church

Timothy "TA" Ateek concludes the series on the Holy Spirit by talking about the gifts of the Spirit that have controversy surrounding them; specifically, the gifts of speaking in tongues, prophecy, and healing.

Timothy "TA" AteekMar 24, 2024

In This Series (8)
The Gifts of Tongues, Prophecy, and Healing | 1 Corinthians 14
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 24, 2024
A Spiritual Checkup | 1 Corinthians 12
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 17, 2024
The God Who Unifies | Ephesians 4:1-16
Kylen PerryMar 10, 2024
Is There a Spiritual Power Outage in Our Lives? | Acts 16:6–10
Timothy "TA" AteekMar 3, 2024
How Does the Holy Spirit Minister to Believers? | Galatians 5:16-26
John ElmoreFeb 25, 2024
What Part Does the Holy Spirit Play in Salvation? | John 3 and Romans 8
Timothy "TA" AteekFeb 18, 2024
Who Is the Holy Spirit? | John 14:16-17, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Timothy "TA" Ateek, Oren Martin, Antoinette Davis, Emily Hope, Dave BruskasFeb 11, 2024
Why Talk About the Holy Spirit? | John 14:16-26
Timothy "TA" AteekFeb 4, 2024

Key Takeaways

It is important to realize that there is a spectrum of beliefs regarding these gifts.

The tendency is to believe that there are only two positions: charismatic or non-charismatic. On one hand, non-charismatics might believe that they are faithful and charismatics are crazy. On the other hand, those with a charismatic bent might believe that they are truly free and spiritual, while the non-charismatics are shackled.

So it is important to realize there is a spectrum of belief. There are five potential positions regarding the gifts of tongues, prophecy, and healing (i.e., word-sign gifts). But first, it’s important to note that the Greek word charismata, where we get “charismatic” from, simply means “gifts of grace,” which is what all the spiritual gifts are. Here are the five positions:

  • Ceased without exception – The charismatic gifts have totally/completely ceased, and those who believe in and practice the gifts are either deceived or under demonic influence.
  • Ceased with exception - The charismatic gifts have ceased except on rare occasions, especially in unreached or hard-to-reach places for the gospel.
  • Active but rare - The charismatic gifts haven’t ceased (they continue), but God only seems to give them on rare occasions, especially in unreached or hard-to-reach places.
  • Active with care - The charismatic gifts haven’t ceased (they continue). God gives them to people in the church but if they are practiced, it must be with a lot of care and for the edification of the body.
  • Active without restraint - The gifts haven’t ceased (they continue). If you don’t have them something is wrong, and we should practice them without restraint in the church. The freer we are, the more spiritual we are.

Which one best describes you? Identify why you land where you do. What has shaped your understanding of gifts like tongues, prophecy, and healing? Here is where we want to be:

We want to be people whose positions are rooted in and informed by Scripture.

When you look at the five positions, there are three that have strong biblical support for them and two that clearly go beyond the bounds of Scripture. Do you know which two go beyond the bounds of Scripture?

  1. Ceased without exception
  2. Ceased with exception
  3. Active but rare
  4. Active with care
  5. Active without restraint

It’s the two on the ends. To say that the gifts have ceased without exception is to speak with a confidence that the Scriptures don’t give. And to believe the gifts are active without restraint is to blatantly ignore the instructions that the Scriptures give regarding practicing these gifts.

Let’s identify where there is agreement and where there is disagreement, and how each position supports it biblically.

Tongues

The biggest debate about tongues is not so much whether they have or have not ceased. The greatest debate is really concerning whether the Bible speaks of different kinds of tongues.

Where there is agreement is that tongues refer to human languages that are unknown by the speaker but known to the hearer. In Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, the day the church began. Here is what it says:

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language (Acts 2:4-6).

There is wide agreement that tongues in the Scripture are known human languages that were spoken by people who didn’t know that language. And it was a beautiful reversal of the tower of Babel in Genesis 10 and a demonstration that the Spirit had come and that the gospel is for all nations.

Now, there are those who say that the gift of tongues existed during the first century to jumpstart the spread of gospel. But then they would say that we just don’t see God moving in that way anymore. The Bible is being translated and missionaries are going to language school so they can share the gospel in other languages. There are stories from the mission field of people being able to share the gospel in a language they don’t speak but those stories are more rare. So either the gift of speaking in human languages unknown by the speaker has ceased with exceptions or it is active but rare.

To reiterate, scholars aren’t spending most of their time debating whether God is still giving people the ability to speak known languages today or not. The real debate concerning tongues is whether 1 Corinthians allows for a different kind of tongues than Acts.

For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 14:2)

The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. (1 Corinthians 14:4)

So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? For you will be speaking into the air. (1 Corinthians 14:8)

This is where the real debate is. People like John Piper and Wayne Grudem believe that 1 Corinthians 14 is talking about a different kind of tongues. That in addition to human languages, there can be utterances or unintelligible vocal sounds that do not conform to a known human language but are utterances understood only by God or by someone to whom God gives an interpreting ability. These tongues can be known as a private prayer language. This is a common view among theologically conservative scholars writing on 1 Corinthians 14.

And yet other New Testament scholars such as Tom Schreiner hold the view that tongues are always known languages, not a private prayer language. He would say that even in 1 Corinthians 14, Paul isn’t talking about different kind of tongues (languages) than Acts, but a different situation than Acts. So people in the church are being given the gift of speaking in other languages and since no one in the church understands and no one is interpreting.

Scholars from both positions give compelling arguments. So where do we stand on speaking in tongues? I grew up in a church that believed tongues were strictly known human languages and that the gift had ceased. The seminary I attended taught the same thing. I have had very little exposure to people praying in a private prayer language. And Tom Schreiner’s explanation of 1 Corinthians 14, that the tongues in 1 Corinthians 14 are still referring to human languages, has been really compelling to me. And yet, I acknowledge that what I have known could be wrong. Godly scholars interpret 1 Corinthians as referring to a private prayer language.

So here are some parameters to put in place:

We should not divide over tongues.
As elders, we believe that the nature of tongues as a private prayer language is not a hill we will die on. Watermark has our core beliefs statement, which are our non-negotiables, and then we have our full doctrinal statement. Our full doctrinal statement shares that we are a church that holds the conviction that tongues are known languages. But that is not one of our non-negotiables. So it should be possible for people who hold all three middle positions to be members here at Watermark. That means people who believe that tongues are only known human languages as well as people who believe that tongues can be a private prayer language.

At Watermark, a private prayer language should be kept private.
If you believe you have a private prayer language, we would ask that you let it remain private and not bring it into the corporate gathering. Some of you might hear that and think we are outright disobeying 1 Corinthians 14:39:

So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. (1 Corinthians 14:39)

Here would be my response: Remember the goal of spiritual gifts? The goal is to build up the body. And spiritual gifts should be fueled by love for one another. When Paul wrote this letter, the spectrum of beliefs concerning what tongues even are didn’t exist. But it does now. And here at Watermark, we have people who hold different positions. Which simply means that to bring tongues into the corporate gathering will cause unnecessary division. And then remember what Paul says in verses 27 and 28:

If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. (1 Corinthians 14:27-28)

He says “if,” not “when.” His point is that the only time that tongues should even be considered is if there is someone to interpret. And there should only be 2 or 3 people who speak in tongues and then time is to be provided for interpretation. This is why it is not biblical for churches to have a time where all the worshippers are invited to speak in tongues at the same time.

Tongues aren’t for everyone.

Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. (1 Corinthians 14:5)

Just because Paul wants them to all speak in tongues doesn’t mean that all will.

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:29-30)

Each question assumes a negative response. The answer is “no.”

Here is why this is important. Some believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is something that happens at some point in the life of a believer after conversion which enables them to speak in tongues. Therefore, anyone who is genuinely a Christian will eventually speak in tongues. How do we respond to this belief?

The expression “to baptize in/with the Holy Spirit” is found six times in the New Testament: four times in the Gospels (Matt 3:11; Mk 1:8; Lk 3:16; Jn 1:33) and two times in Acts (Acts 1:5; 11:16). In the Gospels, it describes the future salvation-historical event of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. In Acts 1:5 it too refers to Pentecost and does not refer to an experience believers must go through after conversion. In Acts 11:16, it deals with the conversion of Cornelius and the coming of the Spirit upon the Gentiles (again, a unique redemptive-historical moment). Therefore, we believe that baptism in/with the Spirit happens to every believer at conversion and isn’t something to be sought after conversion.

Prophecy

What is prophecy?

Wayne Grudem: “The reception and subsequent transmission of spontaneous divinely originating revelation.”

Tom Schreiner: “We should not, however, conclude that what happens in charismatic churches today is demonic. It is better to characterize what is happening today as the sharing of impressions rather than prophecy. God may impress something on a person’s heart and mind, and He may use such impressions to help others in their spiritual walk. It is a matter of definition; what some people call prophecies are actually impressions, where someone senses that God is leading them to speak to someone or to make some kind of statement about a situation…The difference between cessationaists and continuatists is in some ways insignificant at the practical level when it comes to prophecy, for what continuationists call prophecy, cessationists call impressions. As a cessationist, I affirm that God may speak to His people through impressions. And there are occasions where impressions are startlingly accurate.”

It’s important to see what Scripture teaches about prophecy:

Prophecy and teaching are different gifts.

Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? (1 Corinthians 12:29)

See also Acts 13:1 where prophets and teachers are distinct.

Prophecy reveals something hidden.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Prophecy is often a spontaneous revelation from God.

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2)

Prophecy is often encouraging.

On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. (1 Corinthians 14:3)

In these passages, God uses His people to speak to His people. Here at Watermark, we can be an even greater encouragement to one another. Here is what this looks like:

  1. Pray for and listen on behalf of one another.
  2. Test anything you believe you hear with Scripture.
  3. Share humbly with one another knowing you are a fallible human being. My encouragement is to not say, “God told me to tell you.”
  4. Evaluate what is shared with you with the Word and in community.
Healing

Do people still have the gift of healing today or not? Some say yes and some say no. In the end, the application is the same. Believe that our God is healer, and pray fervently for God’s healing work in peoples’ lives all the while knowing that there are times God miraculously heals and there are times He doesn’t. We can hope and trust that one day He will finally heal His people when Christ returns to make all things new.

Discussing and Applying the Sermon

  1. Of the five positions on gifts, where do you fall and why? Charitably and patiently discuss the relevant biblical passages on the gifts (e.g., Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12-14; Eph. 4; 1 Peter 4:10-11).
  2. Of the five positions on gifts, why do the first and last positions go beyond the bounds of Scripture? What are the similarities and differences between positions 2-4?
  3. From Scripture, are you able to define tongues? prophecy? healing?
  4. What does Scripture say about prophecy in the Old Testament and in the New Testament? Are they the same or different, and why? Why is this important?
  5. Where is there agreement on the gift of prophecy (Hint: God often speaks to His people through His people)? Why is this important in our relationships with others?
  6. What is the purpose and goal of spiritual gifts in the context of the church?
  7. How can you grow in encouraging others with God’s true and authoritative Word?

Series Conclusion

  1. Don’t confuse being passionate and Spirit-led with being charismatic. We don’t want to be a Father, Son, Holy Bible church. We want to be a church marked by the Holy Spirit.
  2. The Spirit is in you and has gifted you to build up this body. Membership matters here. And serving is absolutely an expectation and a privilege as members of one another in Christ. When we signed the membership covenant we were committing to see this place as a family and as a body we belong to. We were committing to serve and to build this place up because the Spirit has gifted us to serve one another together.
  3. It’s the Holy Spirit that awakens us to the beautiful realities of Jesus Christ.

About 'A Spirit-Led Church'

We study the work and person of the Holy Spirit so that we can more fully understand and experience the Spirit in our lives.