Todd continues in Acts 2 discussing the gift of the Holy Spirit by walking us through 1 Corinthians 12-14. Here, he help us better understand and articulate what God is saying about the baptism of the Spirit and the gift of tongues as they relate to edifying the body of Christ.
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How to Destroy a Shadow: Stephen’s Masterful Defense of Jesus Finished Work
Hellenistic Lives Matter (And So Does the Ministry of the Word)
The Gospel is NOT a Fad
Beauty and the But
Where Does That Come From?
Living Bolder as We Grow Older
What Makes a Man Fit for Judgment, Ministry and a Ready Response - Acts 4:7-23
The Beginning of Persecution and the Proper Reason for It. - Acts 4:1-12
The First and Enduring Attributes of Christ’s Church
The First Savior Exalting Sermon of the Church
The Gift of Tongues Part 2
Baptism of the Spirit, Tongues of Fire and the Beginning of the Church
From Judas to Matthias: How to Choose Leaders and Find Hope in Failed Ones
The King’s Orders for the King’s New Men
The Story Before the Beginning of the Story: Genesis - Acts 1
Well, good morning, Dallas and Fort Worth and Plano! It's a beautiful Sunday out there, and we are excited to be diving into the book of Acts. We're going to do that today by spending a lot of time in 1 Corinthians. Why? Why are we going to do that? If you have not been with us as we make our way through Acts, last week we got to Acts, chapter 2. We talked about this event on Pentecost Sunday, if you're a fan of the church calendar. Last Sunday was actually the Sunday that we call Pentecost, which is exactly the section of Scripture we were teaching on.
Fifty days after the resurrection, there was a moment when the Jews were to bring in the first fruits. After the Passover Feast, there was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, where they celebrated God's provision in the wilderness. Jews were to come and celebrate this event where God brought in the first of the spring barley harvest.
It was the first of the harvest, which interestingly, God matched up with the Feast, Pentecost, when all the holy Jews would make their way back to Jerusalem. During that moment, an event happened which was the beginning of the church, where the first harvest of new believers was brought in. God synced it up so that everybody could see something amazing was happening.
We talked about what happened in that moment. Part of what happened is that devout Jews…who had been spread out all over Asia and Europe and who returned to Jerusalem to worship God…all of a sudden heard people speaking in their own dialektos, their own language. It was their language of origin, not just some foreign tongue, a known language that they didn't grow up speaking, but their own dialect.
So about 15 different nations of people, all associated with Judaism, heard the apostles…or the 12 disciples…speak to them about the mighty deeds of God, that God loves them and is not angry at them, and that he doesn't want them to perform righteousness to be re-associated with him. Rather, God, in his kindness, has become a man, fully God and fully man.
He lived a sinless life, and God caused the iniquity of us all to fall on him. The wrath of God was poured out on him so that you might be forgiven and God would be just and still a justifier of those that he loves. God is good; he has demonstrated his love. The apostles spoke to all the known world that was gathered in Jerusalem at that time, and about 3,000 people believed. The first harvest came in.
Now I talked a lot about what happened during that event called the baptism of the Holy Spirit, an event as impossible to repeat as the creation of the world, an event as unnecessary to repeat as the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Once it's done, it's done. What you saw was that from that moment on, everybody who believes…including, in Acts 2:38, when 3,000 believed…the moment that they believed, they were immediately baptized in the Spirit.
Then you see a little bit later that it's not just Jews who believed, but half-Jews/half-Gentiles called Samaritans in Acts 8. When they believed, immediately they were baptized in the Spirit. In Acts 10, when non-Jews heard the gospel, immediately they were identified with the Spirit; the baptism of the Spirit came upon them. A little bit later in Asia, up in Turkey and Ephesus, when disciples of John…who had heard about the coming of the Messiah but had never heard who the Messiah was…believed, immediately upon believing, they were baptized in the Spirit.
I talked about what the baptism of the Spirit was and what it was not and what tongues were and what they were not. But because we have godly people here who do exactly what I told them to do when we studied 2 Peter… I put up here a Divine General's warning (like on a packages of cigarettes, the Surgeon General's warning): "Be careful little ears what you hear because what you hear from pulpits and Bible teachers can be dangerous to your eternal health."
So when you hear something, you'd better makes sure it's the Word of God. You want to be noble-minded, like in Acts 17:11, when Paul went and spoke in Berea. He said, "…these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica…" Because they didn't reject what Paul said out of hand, but they studied the Scripture. "…examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so."
It so blessed me, the number of e-mails I received this week, saying things like, "Todd, that was incredibly sound exegesis in Acts, chapter 2. What you said there taught me a lot about what happened on the day of Pentecost and what the gift of tongues was on the day of Pentecost. However, you completely ignored 1 Corinthians, chapters 12 through 14, talking about tongues. There, it looks like it's something more than just a known dialektos."
So because you are faithful and desire to understand these things, I'm going to teach them. This is the moment, gang. There's a reason I want to do this. I'm going to read you a rather long e-mail that I've received. I've received many like this over my years in ministry. I'm going to tell you the problem. I'm going to tell you five things that are true, biblically, about tongues.
I'm also going to tell you five reasons I can't, in good faith, tell somebody…even if they don't proselytize (which means become evangelistic) about the idea that they've received baptism of the Holy Spirit separate and apart from Jesus Christ and it's been manifested in their lives by this gift of tongues… Remember when I said to you last week that 99 percent of the people you talk to today that talk to you about this idea of tongues are going to be talking about something called a private prayer language (which I showed you last week is not what was going on in Acts 2)?
Everybody said, "We agree with you, but that's not what Paul appears to be saying in 1 Corinthians 12-14. It looks like there's a private tongue there, Todd." I'm going to show you why that is not the case. I'm going to tell you why I don't…even if somebody says, "I just do this alone. It's spiritually personally edifying for me to have a prayer language"…I'm going to give you five reasons why I cannot encourage you to do that.
I'm trying to equip the saints. If you are a guest that's here today, and you're like, "I came here, Todd, and my heart is hurting. My heart is heavy. My spouse told me that they were unfaithful this week. My kid is wayward. A doctor gave me a diagnosis. I'm overwhelmed with employment. And you want to go on about tongues?" Yes. I'm going to tell you, when you are hurting, you are most vulnerable. When you are most vulnerable, you can be seized upon and led down a road that will not lead to life. So this is incredibly relevant to you.
Let me just start by declaring to you the mighty deeds of God. He knows all about your condition, and part of the reason that you're here today is because God, in his kindness, has made you believe that gathering among the people of God might in some way be edifying to you. I want to let you know something: we love you, and we want to serve you.
There's a Watermark News before you, and there's a perforated section. If you say, "Will somebody here follow up with me?" we will call you personally. We won't have you listen to a message that is going to be edifying to the entire world, but we're going to give you a message directly to you as we listen to you.
In kindness, we will share with you our story of grace and the goodness of our God, who demonstrated his love for you in that while you were still sinners, Christ died for you. If it is true that Christ died for you, will he not also freely, giving his own life for you, give you every other thing? Let me in a very clear dialektos that you understand, tell you this: God cares about you. Today, I want to protect you from error and abuse.
Here we go. I received this letter, like many others, some time ago. I've kept it because I've used it before. Listen: "Let me begin by saying that almost two years ago, I got a pretty bad allergic reaction to some antibiotics that I was taking. I went to the best doctors with no answers. I had multiple tests done to check for everything under the sun. All tests came back normal, and I was told that the hives would run their course and eventually go away. When they continued, I tried alternative doctors, osteopaths, acupuncturists…" She goes on and on.
Listen, when you're hurting and you can't get relief from your pain and your condition, you'll go anywhere you can to find relief. You'll ask friends to pray for you. If their prayers don't work and somebody else tells you, "There's special holy man over here; go let him pray for you," you will go because when you're in pain…I've been in chronic pain…you start to go a little bit crazy. You're like, "I'll take anything anybody says if it will help me."
She goes on, "Going to some of these alternative practitioners was one of the biggest mistakes of my life because they filled my life with all kinds of crazy stuff. I did all their crazy cleanses and nothing worked. Finally, I punted their ideas, though their words still haunt me because they told me a real doctor would tell me that they were wrong. Month after month, infectious disease doctor after infectious disease doctor, I went to try to deal with the fungus that I was told by these alternative doctors had infected my body. The doctors that I went back to said, 'You don't have a fungus,' but I was still in a lot of discomfort."
Then she wrote, "This is where some of my dear friends…whom I know and really believe love God…come into play. One of them invited me to a Bible study that meets at a friend's house where I was prayed over in tongues. I was told that I could command the rash to leave and that it had no authority over me. Many of my friends had said they had seen miraculous healings at meetings just like this, but I left there unhealed. I felt rejected by God.
I was then called to a friend's house where I took my husband with me. I asked him to go because he was a little concerned about the things I was hearing. A book of every imaginable sin was read over me and prayed that it would come off of me. I was asked, in that group, to share every dirty thing I had ever committed. I wanted to just say, 'Lord, if this is because I'm not confessing something, I'm going to tell you this.' I was very vulnerable, my husband thought that maybe a bit too much.
I went back to that Bible study a few times when they told me a special healer was there. They anointed me with oil, but there was still no healing. By then, I had some friends come over and talk to me about being baptized in the Holy Spirit and how it would benefit me to receive my special language, to which I asked you questions just the other day. They were having vision of my childhood and sins my father committed."
("Can I tell you the fear I was experiencing? I felt like I was in another world. I couldn't think about anything else. I was a wreck, not because of my condition but because of all the things I was hearing and being told. I felt like a pathetic wife and mother. I was crying every day. I felt total rejection and unworthiness.
Most of all, I felt like I wasn't doing the right thing by God, I wasn't praying hard enough, or I didn't have the right amount of faith. I was secretly going in the bathroom, trying to command this condition to leave, and sitting in my room trying to talk in tongues. It was like a freaky reality show. I can laugh about it now, but at the time, I was completely saturated in fear and wondering, 'Why can't I talk in tongues?')
I was told that if I was just baptized by the Spirit, then I would have a special communication with God and that I would feel immense laughter, literally, and warmth throughout my body. I felt nothing, and I felt like a crazy loon trying to talk in tongues. I was shown in the Bible where tongues is a special language for special people. I was even told there was a really gifted faith healer who was coming to town. He said, 'Make sure you have your own elders anoint you with oil. Maybe that's why you haven't been healed.'
Let me also go on to say that my husband was tender through all of this, but deep down, I was really embarrassed. I felt like my faith was inadequate, and that I just didn't get it. A few months later, a darling friend of mine asked me if she could disciple me, and I agreed. She was teaching me that my appointed time of healing would come, but that God was trying to teach me and deposit some truth lessons in me first. She gave me a prophetic word. I was given a book called..." I'm not even going to mention the book.
"Mature believers around me were concerned at content in it. I was given the promise that I was now baptized by the Holy Spirit because somebody had prayed that for me. The precious girl that was discipling me said that she was being mentored by a modern-day prophet. She took me back to that Bible study where some weird things happened that I will have to explain some other time. While I was at that Bible study, I got a phone call and suddenly had to leave.
When I saw my discipling friend later that day in the carpool, she told me, 'Oh, I'm so sorry you had to leave because after you left, it really got prophetic and really became amazing." There was this amazing prophetic vision that was given to the whole group about me. I started crying because I felt like I had been left out once again. I realized that was a blessing that they were thinking about me and praying for me, but I wasn't there.
I started telling my friends and husband and others that were concerned about these things that I was subjecting myself to, and they saw red flag after red flag. They took me to Scripture, and they prayed for me. Since then, I've stopped participating in some of those studies. My husband and other mature believers said they wanted me to remove myself from this discipling influence. I'm so very thankful for my husband and other believers around me who were wise and grounded in the true Word.
I'm very fragile, and even a mention that I'm missing out on a blessing sends me back. I had two specific friends praying over me at two different times. One felt warmth, she said, all over her body when praying over me. She gave me tons of examples of instant healings. Others did the same thing. They're not liars. I don't understand this! One said they were glad I wasn't healed instantly because that way I could really learn.
In summary, this is going on all around us in many different small groups in our city by wonderful people that we all know, and who I believe love Christ, but I don't agree with what they're doing. Todd, it was almost abusive. In the back of the mind, I thought, 'I'm going to be condemned because I'm not enough of what they say I should be.'" Then she just went on to thank me and others for being around them through the time, and reminding her of things that were true.
Again, I'm going to tell you the reason that I'm doing this is because I want you to know that the Word of God is an incredible blessing in your life, but there are things written in the Word of God that are difficult to understand and which the unstable and untaught distort to their own destruction.
One of the primary places that they distort the Scripture is in the area of health and wealth and blessing. They often go to books like the book of Acts, which are transitional books in God's redemptive history, and they take descriptive events and make them prescriptive. They take events where God is authenticating his Word and his work, and they normalize them.
I want you to listen. Even if your experience says, "Todd, I've experienced some of these things," let me just say something right up front. God can do anything he wants today. God is not inhibited or limited by this moment in history. God can heal. I pray for his healing all the time, and I believe that there are still miracles happening.
If you are here and you have a private prayer language, if you are here and you believe that you have a gift like prophecy or healing, hear me out. If something is true, no amount of scrutiny will affect it, but please listen and examine the Scriptures daily to see whether these things are so. Let me just say a couple of quick things about the truth about the Spirit of God. Okay? Here we go.
Every believer has all the Spirit. If you don't have the Spirit, then you're not a believer. If when the Spirit comes upon you and you don't change, there's one of two options: you're either Jesus Christ or you're deluded that you really have a relationship with God and the Spirit is on you. Every believer has all the Spirit. The command in Scripture is not to go get more of the Spirit. The command of Scripture is to let the Spirit have more of you.
In Ephesians, chapter 4, verse 30, it says, "Do not grieve the…Spirit…" The Spirit is a person. He's not an "it." He's not a force. The Spirit of God is the way that we fellowship with God and interact with him today. He has been given to us, as it says in Ephesians 4:30, as a gift to seal us and say, 'You're God's boy. His DNA is in you, his Spirit of righteousness and truth, the Spirit of Christ."
You know God is good and you long for deeper fellowship with him. That longing and that desire is evidence that you are God's child. If you don't have a longing for God, that should concern you. If you're not convicted by sin…if you're justifying sin and calling things that God calls sin okay and rationalizing it…that should concern you. If you're not being radically conformed to the image of Christ day by day, that should concern you.
In 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, you are commanded to not quench the Spirit which is in you. Okay? You have been given everything. The command is to let the Spirit have all of you. When you quench or grieve the Spirit, you quench or grieve the Spirit that is in you. In other words…you need to know this, okay? There is not a six-foot-five, about 240-pound guy…Holy Spirit that, the moment I believed, hit me and filled me up completely.
When you talk about the geography of the Spirit of God, you are making a mistake. In the English, the word in can mean one of two things. It can talk about geographical position or it can talk about control. Let me give you an example. When you go, "Todd is in trouble," that doesn't mean that I traveled to Trouble, Texas. When you say, "Todd is in trouble," you're not talking about my geographical position. You're talking about my relationship with that entity.
When you say, "Todd is enraged"…I know that's spelled differently, but the point is that it's the same idea. When I person is filled with lust or controlled by lust, when a person is in trouble, they're being controlled by the circumstances of their decisions or the trouble that is in the world. It doesn't necessarily mean…when you talk about the "whereness" of God, it's like talking about what blue tastes like. It's a non sequitur question.
Is God omnipresent? Yes. That means he is in all places. We believe that, okay? Is God in unbelievers? Um… Well, wait a minute. I just told you that he was everywhere, but he can't be in unbelievers because what's the big deal about him being in believers?
Here's what I'm saying to you. When you come to understand the goodness and greatness of God, what you're doing is you are repenting. Your spirit of disobedience, the spirit of death, the spirit of the Antichrist which rejects God, his goodness, and his Word's truth…you put yourself in a place where you are given over to death in a way which is not of God. When you repent and say, "No, God is good, his Word is true, and I need him," then you are placing yourself under the sovereign, direct leadership of God.
You are under his sovereignty even if you are an unbeliever. He still directs your heart any way that he wants. There is nobody in this earth that can do anything outside of God's permissive, providential will, but when you're a believer, you run to his providential will. You don't look for permission to not do it because you know that God is good. When you are in the Spirit…when you don't quench or grieve the Spirit of righteousness and truth that you have embraced through the kindness of Christ…it means you continue to walk with him. Are you with me?
So don't be concerned that you've sprung a leak and that the geography of the Spirit of God which is in you is leaving. When it talks about being filled with the Spirit, it means being controlled by it, like the person who is filled with rage or filled with lust. We don't want to be filled with the deeds of the flesh; we want to be filled with the deeds of righteousness.
So when I talk about the Spirit of God being in you, that's true of any believer who says that God is good, his Word is true, and Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. The non-Christian can say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, but they will not walk with him. They are not in relationship with him just because they know facts about him. If you know facts but you're not being transformed by them you're deluded about the fact that you think those facts. Questions? I'm kidding.
Here we go. All right, come on. I'm going to say this again. It is clear that for us to be the people that God created us to be we must continually appropriate the power of the Spirit's presence. We are people of God called by his name. I lean not on my own understanding, but in all my ways I acknowledge him.
I am blessed because I don't walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the path of sinners or sit in the seat of scoffers, but I delight myself in the law of God, and on that law, I meditate day and night. Every time I don't do that, I become a scoffer or a rebel or wicked. When I am sowing to the flesh, I reap destruction. When I sow to the Spirit, I reap the things of life.
So I need you to admonish me, encourage me, help me, pray for me, spur me on to love and good deeds, help me yield to the Spirit of God which is in me, and say, "Todd, don't you embrace the goodness of God?"
"Well, then, why aren't you doing what God said?"
"Well, because it's hard. Well, because I'm frustrated. Well, because she's just so cute." Right? All those things, whatever it might be. Okay. You're like, "But hey, bro, I know that seems right, but it leads to death." Walk with me. Remind me of things that are true.
Again, believers don't sin because of the Spirit's absence; they sin in spite of the Spirit's presence. For us to be the people that God wants us to be, we have to yield to the Spirit of God that is in us. Okay. We have to be a spiritual people. We're not just worshipers of the Word of God; we are abiders with the Spirit of God. Therefore, we look at what the Spirit of God has given us in the Word, we tune our hearts to hear his grace, and we stick with it.
In the book of Acts, whenever you see people who are filled with the Holy Spirit, they are always doing the same thing: they are proclaiming the gospel. Let me just give you a few examples. Acts, chapter 2, verse 4: " And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues…" **Again, the word there is glōssa. It is a glossary of a known dialect."…as the Spirit gave them utterance." Chapter 4, verse 8:"Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, 'Rulers of the people and elders,[hear about the mighty deeds of God].'"**
That's what people who are filled with the Spirit do. They speak in psalms and hymns and spiritual thongs…songs… That'll preach, won't it? "They wear thongs there? I'm in! I'll worship with you!" All right. Goodness. They speak in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. They give thanksgiving to God, live humbly, and are subject to one another in love. That's Ephesians 5:19-21. It's what believers have always done.
That's the mark of being a spiritual person. You praise God, you give thanks to God in all things because you know he's sovereign and is going to work it to good, and you are subject to other believers who can encourage you and remind you of things that are true. So being a spiritual person and being a filled-with-the-Spirit person is not a person who does some ecstatic thing, it's a person who continually abides with Christ.
Let me just go where I told you I was going to go, and let's deal specifically with what's going on in 1 Corinthians. I'm going to give you five things that the gift of tongues is not, and I'm going to do that out of 1 Corinthians 12-14. We've already established last week what the gift of tongues was. The word is glōssa . It's where we get the English word glossary , which is an encyclopedia of words that mean something in a specific dialektos, a language that is normative to you. Okay? I don't speak with a French tongue. It's not my dialektos.
So what you need to know…if you'd turn to 1 Corinthians 12 with me…is this. Paul is writing to a church that is struggling significantly with obedience, with understanding, and with faithfulness. That is the context of the book. It's one of the earliest letters that Paul wrote. Immorality, community, care and correction, worldliness, idol worship, misuse of marriage, misuse of singleness, and misuse of spiritual gifts were rampant in this early church.
So all through this book, Paul is trying to teach them and correct them and help them. He's not mad at them. I'm not mad when young believers are trying to figure stuff out. I'm not mad at people when they are desperate for God's healing and somebody says, "Hey, I love you, and God will heal you over here." They want that. I'm just telling you to be careful, because some people take some Scripture, and they distort it and twist it to their own destruction. They mean well, maybe, but it's not okay that they do it.
Now look what's going to happen right here in 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 1: " Now concerning spiritual gifts…" The word for gifts is charisma. It's a gift. It's a gift that is given to you. Gifts aren't earned. They're not deserved. They aren't earnestly sought. They're just given to you. Again, we get the word charity from this same word because the word in Greek, c-h-a-r-i-s, is the word for grace.
The word for gift, it shouldn't surprise you, charisma, is the same root word. It's the word for a provision that you don't deserve. The English word charismatics are people that are excited about the gifts. I'm excited about gifts! I love gifts. I'm a gift giver, and I love to receive gifts. That's fine, but Paul is saying, "Look, gifts aren't the problem. The problem is your understanding of the gifts: their purpose, your use of them, and what they even are."
So he's saying, " Now concerning spiritual gifts…" This is chapter 12; he's finally getting to it. "…I do not want you to be unaware." He's saying, "I don't want you to be ignorant. I don't want you to be uniformed. I don't want you to be deceived. I don't want you to be confused. So I'm going to spend three chapters on these."
"You know that when you were pagans…" **In other words, when you were not understanding the goodness of God."… you were led astray to the mute idols…"** In other words, things that couldn't do anything for you, worthless things, the ways of the world. "… however you were led." You went because you had no shepherd, okay? You weren't spiritually appraised.
Now he says, "I don't want you to be like that." As a loving discipler, he's writing, "Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God…" No one who really knows who Jesus is. "…says, 'Jesus is accursed'; and no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit."
Now watch this. You go, "Wait a minute, Todd. Really?" Go back and look at my verse-by-verse exposition of the epistle of James. In there, at one point, I talk to you, in chapter 2, about the wisdom of demons. What I mean is that if you want to get a good Christology, a good pneumatology, a good eschatology, a good harmatology, a good soteriology…
You're like, "I don't know what any of those "-ologies" are. They're the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of the Spirit, the doctrine of end times, the doctrine of sin, and the doctrine of salvation. Nobody speaks as much truth about who Jesus is and what he's here to do and what he's going to accomplish one day as much as demons in the Gospels.
That's why James says, in James 2, "You believe that God is one. You do well [in your belief] ; the demons also believe…" They have the facts right, and they shudder in their belief, but it doesn't do them any good because the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of God, they don't have to take these things by faith, they know. They've lived in the spiritual realm. They know these things are true.
So when they're talking to Jesus, they go, "We know who you are, holy Son of God. Have you come to judge us before our time?" That's pretty straightforward, right? There are other comments like that throughout the Scripture. What they're doing is they're testifying, "I know who he is," and Jesus tells them to shut their mouth: "I will reveal who I am when it's time to reveal fully who I am."
So all Paul is saying here is, "Look, if you guys are saying Jesus is Lord…if that's not just some fact statement but you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is who he says he was…that's a gift of God." Now in verse 4: "Now there are varieties of [charismas] , but the same Spirit." There are many different kinds of gifts of the Holy Spirit. You have to be very careful. In Acts, chapter 2, it is when the gift that Jesus promised his disciples would get…which is the gift of the Spirit, the Helper…came.
Jesus said, "When I leave you, you're not going to be without God's presence. I'm going to send you the Helper. It will be the gift that Joel prophesied about and that Moses longed for in Numbers 11. He's going to come, and it's going to be the Spirit of God, also called the Spirit of Truth, also called the Spirit of Christ. He will come to you." That gift came in Acts, chapter 2, and from that moment on, anytime anybody came to Christ by faith, they received the Spirit of God and unity with God.
But then the Gift who came gives gifts, and that's what Paul is saying right here: "There are many gifts, but one Spirit." Verse 5: "And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all person. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit…" **Watch this."…for the common good. "**
The first point that Paul wants you to know is that the reason the Gift, the Holy Spirit, gives gifts is for the common good. Spiritual gifts are a skill or ability that has been sovereignly given to you by God that enables you to perform a function in the body of Christ with effectiveness, and what I would call enabled ease, for the good of others.
So John Cox, my buddy who was just up here, planted a church in Washington, DC. He did it for about three years, and he realized it was killing him every week to prepare to teach because one of his primary spiritual gifts is not the gift of teaching. So he was not enabled with a sense of ease to put together messages that were useful to the body.
John can teach, make no mistake about it, okay? Being able to teach is not the same as having the gift of teaching. Being able to teach is what any spiritually mature person should do because they are trained in sound doctrine, have studied, and have equipped themselves. However, God has given me, at some level, the ability to basically have a final exam every week in a way that isn't ruining my life, to where I can stand up here and look at God's Word, study it, and teach it, and it doesn't completely zap all the strength and joy from my soul. In fact, it's life-giving to me.
The weeks I choose not to be here, and instead sit there and take notes, it's not because I need a week off. It's because I'm trying to develop other men. I don't use my gift for my own vainglory and to make you guys every week go, "Todd, that was amazing." I use my gift to train and equip other people. I use my gift to serve the body, not to glorify myself. The purpose of gifts is the common good. So any gift that you have that you think you're using, and the reason you use it is because, "Todd, this blesses me," I'm like, "Well, that's not the purpose of gifts."
1._ The gift of tongues is not normative._ So here we go. I'm going to tell you this. The very first thing that the gift of tongues is not is normative. Why? Because if you keep following this teaching down, you get to 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 30. In 1 Corinthians 12:30, you'll run into this. "All do not have gifts of healings, do they?"
Because what he just got through teaching…in those verses that I skipped through…was, "Look, there is one body. In the body, there are feet and hands, and there are ears and eyes. The ear is not more important than the eye, and the hand is not more important than the foot. Everybody isn't the same thing. We're a body. Christ is the head. The foot, the hand, the eye, and the ear are all there for the head, to exalt the head for the body.
The hand should not be arrogant toward the foot, and the ear should not be arrogant toward the eye. The teacher should not be arrogant toward the servant, the servant should not be arrogant toward the prophet, the prophet should not be arrogant toward the healer, and the healer should not be arrogant toward those who have the gift of hospitality. You guys are one body."
So he says this in verse 30. If you want to know the truth about the gift of tongues…because not everybody has this gift…he says, "All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?"
So even when tongues, the Acts dialektos or glōssa, was being used to authenticate the Word of God…I believe God could still do this today (I'll get to that in a moment), but it was happening more regularly then…even when it was normal, not everybody spoke that way. So for somebody to say, "Hey, you need to have this gift," I would say, "Why?" Even when it was clear that it was used, Paul said that not everybody had it.
2._ The gift of tongues is not necessary._ What do I mean by that? This is important, okay? It's not necessary. Tongues are not necessary, according to Scripture, for spiritual leadership. What do people who talk a lot about this gift of tongues… Again, 99 percent of the people you talk to are talking about a prayer language, which is a sign of the blessing of God that comes on you when you're really baptized in the Spirit, which is a misunderstanding of the text.
Here's all I would tell you. If it really was evidence of the Spirit working in your life, don't you think in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, when Paul talks about spiritual leadership, he'd have made mention of that? Because if there's anything spiritual leaders ought to be, it's spiritual. If the evidence of the Spirit in your life is speaking in tongues, don't you think he'd have said for pastors, for elders, and for teachers, that they ought to be spiritual men? I do.
So whatever the gift of tongues were, not only were they not normative for everybody because not everybody has them, they're not necessary for spiritual maturity. You're not missing out on anything.
3._ The gift of tongues is not never-ending._ What do I mean by that? Well, let's look at 1 Corinthians, chapter 13, verse 8. Paul says, " Love never fails…" I'm going to go back and work from the very end of 1 Corinthians 12, all the way through verse 7 of 1 Corinthians 13, where he's talking about the gift of love.
Again, in the context of the passage, we read that love section: "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…" There it is. I just quoted it to you from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. Okay?
What he's saying…in the midst of all of that, he goes, "Hey, love never fails." In the midst of talking about spiritual gifts, he's saying, "This is what I really want you to know the mark of spiritual giftedness is." This is what Jesus said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you…love…one another."
So Paul is saying, "You're misusing and abusing the gifts. Some of you guys are honoring certain gifts, and what all people who are full of the Spirit should do is bear the fruit (singular) of the Spirit. What is the fruit of the Spirit? Well, according to Galatians, chapter 5, when the Spirit of God is evident in a guy's life, when the Spirit of God is there, love is there. Joy is there. Peace is there. Patience is there. Kindness is there. Gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control are there.
In other words, don't pray for self-control. Don't pray for faithfulness. Don't pray for patience. Pray that you would yield to God, and when you yield to God and let him have his way in you, you'll be loving and joyful and kind and patient. That's what God always is. So when you're not those things, you don't need more of God. You need less of self. "…the life which [you] now live in the flesh [you] live by faith in the Son of God, who loved [you] and gave Himself up for [you] ."
You don't live your life in the flesh. I don't ever feel like being patient, because Todd is not loving. Todd is selfish and self-exalting. I don't ever feel like being good. I feel like doing what I want to do when I want to do it in a way that gratifies my flesh. But hey, " … the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God…" I consider myself dead to sin. I'm not dead to sin; I'm still sordidly tempted by sin, but I'm a spiritual man, not a fleshly man because I know God is good and my flesh is deceived.
Tongues are not never-ending. First Corinthians 13:8: "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away…" That's a passive verb, which means something will do something to the gift of prophecy. "…if there are tongues, they will cease…" That's not a passive verb; that's an active verb. It's a verb, there, that talks about a voluntary action. It's where tongues themselves will intentionally act upon themselves to come to an end. I'll talk about where I think this is in just a moment.
"…if there is knowledge, it will be done away." Again, something will happen to knowledge so it will be done away. Now look, knowledge never goes away in a sense. Prophecy, which is the forthtelling and declaration of who God is, will be done away. What's going to happen that prophecy and knowledge will go away? He tells you a little bit later in verse 10. He says, "…when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away."
So when is the perfect going to come? Well, Paul is going to answer that, okay? I'm glad you asked if you're a good Corinthian. He'll say in verse 12, "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known." When? When we're with him. When we're home. We're never going to have to need more prophecy and more teaching of God's Word. We're never going to have more knowledge when we know all things and are made to be like him.
Then tongues will choose to cease. Why? Because God's going to reverse the effects of the curse when men decided to exalt themselves and God, in Genesis 11, dispersed the nations and put on them different dialektos. I think that in heaven, it's not like we're all going to be so multilingual that we can talk to everybody.
I think there's going to be one tongue that God is going to give us, and we're going to say, "There's no reason for me to learn Spanish to speak to Spaniards, French to speak to Frenchmen, Greek to speak to Greeks, and Hebrew to speak to Hebrews," because we're all going to speak in whatever that tongue is. It's going to be a reversal of the curse that came in Genesis, chapter 11.
Again, the words here are the words glōssa. There's going to be a day when all the different world glossaries, if you will, will cease. I could even make a case that what you're saying there is that all the different words that men think are true are going to be done away with, and only words that are true are going to be spoken, but my point is that tongues, at some point…the word glōssa…it will cease.
4._ The gift of tongues is not nurturing_. What do I mean by that? Go to 1 Corinthians, chapter 14, which is a section in Paul's teaching about what the gift of tongues is. He starts to compare the gift of tongues with other gifts. It's a comparative chapter on the worth of the different gifts, specifically prophecy versus tongues.
If you care, in verse 1 through 19, he says that tongues are of secondary importance to prophecy. I'll tell you why. In verses 20 through 25, tongues are really not for believers. Why are you speaking tongues in the church? They are for nonbelievers to hear about the mighty deeds of God. Then in verses 26 through 40, when you do use tongues in your environment, make sure they are structured and systematic and limited in their use. There's 1 Corinthians 14.
What Paul is going to say here is that they're not really edifying to the body. Remember what the purpose of gifts was, back there in 1 Corinthians 12? Gifts were given by the Gift, the Holy Spirit, for the common good. What he's going to say now, in verses 1 to 3, is, "Pursue love…" There it is again. Do you see that Paul is saying, "Be about love. Don't be about self."
Wouldn't it be cool if you and I went to Haiti together, and we're down there in Haiti and none of us had ever learned to speak Creole? Then I jump up and go, "I got this," and all of a sudden, fluent Creole just comes spitting out of my mouth. People in Haiti who had never heard the gospel hear the gospel and repent and trust Christ. Now they know Christ so they can speak Creole to one another. We come back, and you go, "How did you do that?" I go, "Because I'm the man!"
Then we gather at church that night, and they go, "Hey, Todd, do that Creole thing again." I stand up, and we're all talking English, talking about the greatness of God and all that he had done. I go, "Hey," and I start talking about all God did that day in Creole. All my English-speaking friends, what are they going to do? They're going to go, "That's cool that Todd can do that," but that's not the purpose of the gifts. The purpose of the gifts is to build the body. All that's going to be built up there is me.
In fact, if somebody walked by and saw me speaking in Creole…let's say you went to the Dominican that day and drove back to the other side of the island. Let's say you spoke Spanish up there by some act of God. If you're speaking Spanish while I'm speaking Creole to a bunch of English speakers, then people are going to walk by and go, "Those folks are crazy." Why is he doing that?
What if I spoke my entire message today in Russian to this crowd? Would you go, "Wow, our pastor speaks fluent Russian"? Or would you go, "Sweetie, I love you. I like the music. I mean, Hayden did a good job filling it with John, but I didn't get anything out of that"? Your wife would say, "But did you hear Todd's perfect Russian dialect?" Then if somebody over here stood up and spoke in Farsi and if somebody else stood up over here and spoke in Hungarian, you'd go, "That was impressive, but it didn't edify me or do you any good."
How about if somebody stood up and told forth the Word of God, and somebody reminded you of things that were true and strengthened your heart about the greatness of God? If you went to that church, what would you do? You'd go, "That was strong. That was helpful to me. I want to hear more about the goodness of God." That's all that Paul is saying here.
Do you see why the gift of tongues is secondary to prophecy? Especially when they didn't even have the New Testament back then, when God was using men to speak prophetic truths about the church. Look, you need to know this…well, I'll get back to this because I want to make sure that I get to my piece.
5._ The gift of tongues is not a form of private prayer language._ The last thing I want to tell you us that tongues are not, and never were, a form of private prayer language. Everything I've read to you so far in this text is the same word that was in Acts 2: glōssa. It was known words of known tongues.
If you just go back and look with me at the end of 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 30, there's an interesting little phrase there. Paul says, again, "All do not speak with tongues…" Then he says in verse 31, "But earnestly desire the [greatest] gifts." Listen, I think I can make a really good case that a better way to translate this… This is not Paul giving them an imperative to earnestly desire the greatest gifts. It's not a commentary.
It's more like a subjective statement, like, "Hey, you guys are earnestly desiring these gifts that aren't even the greatest gifts to desire, and I'm going to show you something better." Okay? By the way, it's okay to earnestly desire the great gifts, but what are the great gifts? Well, go to chapter 14. The great gifts are the forthtelling of the truth of God in a way that you can understand.
What Paul is really saying, though, at the end of 1 Corinthians, chapter 12, is "You guys are seeking this things that you shouldn't be seeking. I'm going to teach you something better." So here comes 1 Corinthians, chapter 13. This is what he says right here in 1 Corinthians 13. It's such an important text. He just says this, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels…"
You say, "Oh, there it is, Todd. There's the glōssa of angels. That's what prayer language is." No, it's not. This is Paul speaking hyperbolically for the sake of making a point. What's hyperbolic? Hyperbole is speaking in an exaggerated way. Watch this: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge…" Paul knows he doesn't know all mysteries and knowledge. Paul is not omniscient.
"…and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing." What is Paul doing here? He's teaching them a more excellent way.
They want to speak in glōssa because everybody is like, "When you speak in glōssa, dude, that's something!" and it is. How amazing if I am in Turkey and can speak Turkish. It's awesome! I'm going to be there in a few weeks, and I wish I could. I'm going to be in Greece and in other places, and I wish I could speak that language because it would help me with people.
However, Paul, right here, is saying, "There's a more excellent thing. You go there and you love those folks. You do the best you can." Part of that is going to be trying to learn their language and part of that is having an interpreter to help you. If God wanted me to, he could, but that context right there is not that this is a private prayer language. When he says, "tongues of angels," Paul is speaking in extremes.
There's no evidence…by the way, every time angels speak in the Bible, guess what they speak in? You guys know that angels do speak, right? Every time angels speak in the Bible, they speak in a glōssa, the tongues of men. This is because God wants the angels, who are messengers of God… That's what it means, right? The word aggelos means messenger, and euaggelos, or evangelist, is a good messenger. A messenger speaks things that people can hear.
There is nothing in the Scriptures that ever indicates anywhere that there is a private prayer language, people. This is my exegesis of 1 Corinthians 12-14. I'm not hiding behind a section of Scripture because I'm afraid of that one. Here we go. Five reasons that I, as a pastor, don't recommend speaking in tongues, and this is really, really important.
1._ What's the point?_ I mean, what's the point? Why would you speak… I'm going to read you 1 Corinthians 14:13-19, which says, " Therefore let one who speaks in a[glōssa, a known language]pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a[glōssa, a known language], my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful." Do you see what Paul says? When I go into my closet and pray, I don't speak in Haitian Creole, because I don't know what I'm praying.
What's the point? When you pray, you're speaking your heart to God. Really, the point of prayer is to let God speak his heart to you. Aren't you glad that when the Spirit speaks to you, he speaks to you in your voice? "For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays…" Not the Spirit prays, but Paul says, " …my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful." It doesn't help me.
"What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit…" This is why Paul says, in Ephesians, chapter 6, "…pray at all times in the Spirit…" How do I pray in the Spirit? Jesus says in John 15, "If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you."
Here's how you pray in the Spirit: pray the Word of God. Pray the Word of God. Open the Bible up and go, "I want to seek still more excellent things. So God, show me what the most excellent things are." "Well, Todd, how about this? Turn here. This is excellent. This is true. This is honorable. This is right. This is pure."
"Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the 'Amen' at your giving of thanks…?" In other words, if I pray something up here this morning and you guys go, "So be it, Brother Wagner!" you don't know if I just prayed if you don't know the language. I might have prayed that you get struck with a bad case of acne and that fleas from a thousand yaks infest your sister, and you might go, "So be it!"
I wouldn't do that, okay? I'm not going to say amen. When I go other places and I'm there… If I'm in Uganda and one of the Ugandans get up to pray, do you know what happens? There's a Ugandan in my ear. He's saying, "God, thank you so much that God sent these people from American as servants of Christ who have interpreted the Word of God to teach them things from the Word of God that we should study…" He's whispering in my ear what's being prayed, and it's helpful to me. I can say at the end of it, "Amen!" That's 1 Corinthians 14:16.
So what's the point? This is why, if you tell me, "Todd, I know what you have here, but bro, I just have to tell you that in my own little world, I believe that my private prayer language is good for me," I'm like, "What's the point? It's not good for your mind. You're not really engaging with it." "Well, it feels good." Okay, we'll get to that in a minute.
2._ What's the possibility?_ First of all, 2 Corinthians, chapter 11, verse 14: "No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light." Then 1 John 4:1 says, "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." You need to know that a regular part of pagan practice and worship throughout history has been ecstatic languages and gibberish. It's still true to this day.
There is a possibility… Okay, by the way, the possibility is that you're just being counterfeited. What do we counterfeit? We counterfeit valuable things. What is more valuable that our ability to express to God our deepest longings and to hear from God his deepest desire for us? There's nothing more valuable than intercession with God.
If Satan can convince you that the way to really intercede with God is to somehow vacate your mind and let some ecstatic utterance that you don't know what it means replace substantive relationship with God, if I were an enemy, I'd go, "I'm down with that." What do you think would happen if I go home and I speak with my wife and say, "Sweetie, all this week, I'm going to speak to you in French, a romantic language," and then proceeded to talk in what sounded like French?
It may not hurt our marriage, but it's not going to make it better. She might go, "Todd, I've always dreamt about marrying a Frenchman, but I don't know what you're saying or what you think." Your nonverbals are largely good, all right? We'd burn a lot more candles and drink a lot more wine, but I don't know. It wouldn't really do any good. So the possibility is that I'm just making words up because she doesn't know it, but I'm not engaging.
Here's what I would say to you. If you think you have a private prayer language, then I'm going to beg you to do this. Go into your closet, take your iPhone, and record your private prayer language. Then go and do what the Bible says: take that thing to an interpreter. Go to a church that practices speaking in tongues as a private prayer language and ask for an interpreter. Play that and ask, "What did I just say?"
Then I want you to do this. Test the Spirit. Write down what the first interpreter said. Then go to another church that didn't know you just did that, and ask them what you just said. Say, "Hey, what did I just pray right here?" Then go to a third church and go, "Hey, what did I just pray right here?"
If they have the gift of interpretation, they'll all say the same thing, right? It's the same Spirit who gives the gift of interpretation. I have a feeling they're not going to say the same thing because I don't think you're doing what you think you're doing, and the possibility is that you're being deluded.
3._ What's the primary justification?_ It happened to me last week. There were some people…I'm so glad they came up, but they were angry at me. I mean, they were angry at me: "You can't tell me that what I have and what I'm experiencing is not what God wants me to do!" Their primary justification is, "It is my experience."
I say to them, "Hey, listen. I don't want to argue with your experience, but I going to argue with you what you make of your experience." I'm going to just give this to you real quickly. I'm going to post all this stuff, so don't try to write it down. Here we go. Here's why truth is better than experience. This is why you should test your experience with the Word of God.
A. Experience is inconsistent from person to person. Truth is always consistent.
B. Experience can tell what happened, but it does not always explain why something happened. Truth explains what happened, how it happened, and why it happened.
C. Experience can be misremembered. Truth is always there and can always be tested.
D. Experience can produce arrogance that isolates and separates us from others who have not endured or enjoyed similar events.Truth unites. It's available to everyone and does not discriminate. "Well, you don't know. Until you lose a child, don't you tell me about truth. Until you are divorced, don't you tell me about truth. Until you've been sexually abused, don't you tell me about truth." Experience can isolate you.
E. Experience is varied in its effect and can leave people with scars and burdens. Truth always produces blessing and sets people free.
So when your primary justification for speaking in a private prayer language is your own personal experience, I admonish you to seek something greater than your own experience.
4._ Because of what it prevents._ I think that I already touched on this a little bit when I talked about the potential problem, the possibility. It prevents real intimacy. That's why Paul says, "Hey, I'd rather speak five words with my mind than 10,000 words in a tongue." It prevents real intimacy.
5._ Because of what it promotes._ It promotes confusion, elitism, division, and pride. The very thing that is supposed to bring us together is the Spirit of God, and isn't it amazing that this thing called the gift of tongues and the baptism of the Spirit, which we can see is not what's happening in the Scripture, is dividing congregations, is dividing bodies, and is making people feel like they don't really have all of God's provision for them?
It promotes disappointment. I've seen people, again and again, who have had this thing and then their life kind of craters. They want another thing and a greater thing and more experience, and eventually they just go, "I can't keep up." They're disappointed that God isn't there. I think it's like a person who goes to New York and buys a fake Rolex.
All of a sudden, that Rolex stops. It discolors on their arm. They go, "I'll never buy another Rolex," and I go, "You didn't buy a Rolex. That wasn't a Rolex." Don't abandon God and the things of God. Don't abandon the Spirit of God. Abandon what you thought was the Spirit of God, which was never the Spirit of God.
The gift of tongues: what is it? It's a known language, spoken to people. It's a sign for nonbelievers…that's what the Scripture teaches in 1 Corinthians, chapter 14, verses 20 and following…so nonbelievers can hear. When people in their language don't know the words of God, God sends somebody to speak to them in his words.
It's not for believers. Why are you doing it in the church? If you do it in the church, the Scriptures are very clear: do it this way. If somebody is going to speak in tongues, where it's still happening, when somebody stands up, then everybody be quiet. Let him speak, and somebody should interpret and tell them what it means. No more than three, and don't ever seek that more than prophecy. There you go.
So if somebody wants to tell me that the biblical practice of tongues is happening, so be it. Great. Awesome! But we don't really need people to stand up and speak to you truth in Farsi so I can tell you what that means. I'll just speak to you in English. If God wants to do that, he can, but please, don't be deceived.
Don't make yourself a vessel for something that's less than God wants. Don't feel like if God really loved you, he'd give you this thing. God has given you his Spirit, the Word of God, and the people of God for your common good. I love you guys, okay? That's why I'm taking some time to teach you this stuff, so you wouldn't be prey.
Father, I thank you for this body, and I pray that you'd protect them from any error that came from me today. I pray for our brothers and sisters who I think really love you, some of them, but they're just handling these texts in ways that I think is pastorally irresponsible. I say that in all humility, Father. Help me, help us, to do what the Bereans did, which was to study the Scripture to see if these things are so.
So Lord, I pray that we would be a Spirit-filled church. I pray we'd never put limits on God. I pray we'd always let you do what you want to do in our lives and through us, but help us to have you do what you've always done and not make something up that isn't what you've done so we can think you're doing something.
Help us to be the people of God called by your name. If there's somebody here today that's not a person of God called by your name, would you call them? Would you help them know of your kindness, that you would give them the gift of relationship with you in the person of your Spirit that they could then walk with you in all the fullness of the joy that is the spiritual Christian life?
Thank you, Father, that you're going to preserve us with that Spirit until that great and glorious day when we will fully know and be fully known, and we'll all commune and sing and worship you together. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Save us. Guard us, your people. Clothe us in humility. We pray for the true church of Jesus Christ, wherever it is, and all their little nuances as they seek you. May we do it in love. For the glory of Christ, I pray. Amen.
God bless you. Have a great week of worship.