What Does The Bible Mean By ‘Speaking in Tongues?’

Chances are you know someone who ‘speaks in tongues.’ If you run in a church crowd or have friends who do, you most certainly know someone. This practice is linked to the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, described in the Acts of the Apostles and by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians.

Though the first instance of speaking in tongues is without a doubt related to known languages … that fact has been lost. In fact, some believe it was lost at the time Paul was writing to the Corinthians.

I came across this YouTube teaching that summarizes the issue very well.

 

This vlogger is not what folks would call a “cessationist,” or one who believes the spiritual gifts described in the New Testament were only for that short period. But he also isn’t one who believes the babbling “spiritual language” of the charismatic movement is genuine.

I don’t believe any of God’s gifts have ceased any more than they had stopped between Elijah and Moses. God decides when and how His power will be shown.

In every instance, God’s power is dispensed according to His will and for His glory.

To illustrate this, look at the healing ministry of Peter in Acts 5:14-15: “And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them.”

Some will argue that the Bible doesn’t say the shadow healed anyone. But, that appears to be the obvious intention of the passage, since there’s a comma after the multitude that is being added to the Lord. And the very next verse says that all who came to him were healed.

But, this power didn’t continue. Paul couldn’t send a hankerchief to his friends to heal them. He couldn’ be healed himself of his “thorn in the flesh.” None of the other Apostles could heal Paul.

It’s obvious from the context that, in contrast to Jesus’ ministry, which healed people apart from the Gospel, the Apostles healing came after the people believed and were added to the Lord.

Does this mean that everyone who repents of their sin and believes on the Lord Jesus as their Savior will have their sickness healed? No.

The point of the healing appears to be a sign, like Elijah’s signs, like Moses, like Jesus. If it became a celebrity status for Peter or Paul, it would no longer be glory for God.

The Almighty doesn’t share His glory. His people give it to Him without holding on to a single bit. And without remorse.

So, think about that when someone talks about the “gifts of the spirit” or of speaking in tongues. Who is being honored? How is God being glorified?

For my part, I believe God can and does perform miracles. He may choose to do so in the presence of a particular person to authenticate their message (as with Moses, Elijah, Peter, Paul, etc.). Or He may do it apart from any human agency. But there is only one who gets the glory.

Amen?

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Do You Need to Be In a ‘Church’ To Grow Spiritually?

Forget about the doctrinal disputes among religion for a minute. Go to any church in America, and probably in most Western nations, and you’ll find they are all pretty much the same: Platform up front, pews, chairs or theater seats down in the auditorium/sanctuary. Sometimes there’s an altar up front. There will be religious icons around in the form of stain glass windows, sculptures or pictures.

The place you go is also recognized as a non-profit (non-prophet?) CORPORATION. That’s right. Churches in America are corporations.

The pastoral staff, elders, whatever they call themselves, are the “professional” Christians who are in charge of the corporation that tells the “lay people” or the customers what Christianity really means.

The church staff mirrors a corporation in many respects. There is one “senior” pastor, or a head bishop, who oversees the location, hires the staff and attracts and retains membership.

Those who attend will look up to the pastor as the authority on all things Biblical. Questioning the pastor is frowned upon and will result in marginalizing the person who attempts this, and possibly the removal of the offending ‘heretic.’

I was thinking about this a lot as I’ve been studying the writings of Menno Simons (the Anabaptist theologian from the early 1500s). Much of what he wrote still applies today, though it wouldn’t be limited to the Romans, Lutherans and Zwinglians.

Then I came across this YouTube video pointing out, Scripturally, the very same issue. It’s 20 minutes, but it’s well done and on-point.

 

 

I don’t know the YouTuber personally. I’ve watched two and a half of his videos. But, he is exactly right in his indictment of the “system” of church as we know it.

The Roman church in the 1500s was a powerful Church/State system that held people’s eternal condition in its filthy hands. When Luther began the reformation, it shook that power. Luther probably assumed he would die for his rebuke of the Church.

But then, he backed off and endorsed the System, which still held the power over the blasphemous infant baptism and the mockery of the Lord’s Supper (embodied in what is known as Transubstantiation, or the idea that the bread and wine are made into the actual body and blood of Christ as the priest holds them up).

Today, people still believe that baptism must be done by a pastor or priest to hold any weight. And that cuts across from the infant baptizers to those who practice believer baptism (though not all, just by consensus). Many believe that the Lord’s Supper, or Communion, holds some magical properties when administered at church by a pastor or priest. When I grew up, I was warned about eating the crackers or drinking the wine after the service for fear that I’d be violating the sanctity of the communion bread and making light of the Lord’s Supper!

How absurd! Have we had the teachings of Christ so long and we still elevate rituals and other humans among us so that we blaspheme the Lord?

Taking communion in an unworthy manner means pretending to commune with Christ as his brother while being outside of faith and a traitor like Judas.

Communion is more than unleavened bread and grape juice. Anyone can eat that. But if an unbeliever seeks to blend in with the Lord’s sheep and enter into the intimate communion with the Lord, they are being Judas and it would be better if they had never been born!

The true Pastor, King, High Priest is Christ. He is the Good Shepherd who guides his flock. He is the Groom that prepares His Bride (the ecclesia, the true, spiritual Israel).

Some are appointed Apostles, teachers, prophets…we all have talents. But none of us are to “lord it over another” like the world does. We are not to have corporations of professional Christians as opposed to the unprofessional masses. All of Christ’s purchased souls are Saints in a Holy Priesthood. We have no need of any other instructor outside of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

We should all be seeking the truth and exhorting each other from Scripture. We should wrestle with questions and help each other through it. But we should never believe something because some human with a degree said so.

Doctrine vs. Repentance – Which is more important?

Doctrine camps can be like the border battle of ‘The’ Ohio State vs. University of Michigan, or the Vikings vs. the Packers, or the Bears vs. everyone! Folks will break fellowship and refuse the salsa dip over these things. But here’s a question to ponder — Is doctrine really the biggest issue? Are you collecting all the “facts,” or growing your faith?

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What Does Your Life Say To God?

“The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great.” This was what the Lord told Abraham as they looked out over the valley, past the still waters of the Dead Sea to the lush, quiet cities of the plain. As the sun set in the west, casting it’s long, warm shadows against the sturdy walls and gentle rooftops, illuminating the stately palm trees that rose from amid the buildings, Abraham might have asked, “what cry?”

Creation itself groans under the weight of human rebellion against God. But, each life sends up a cry, betraying the self-satisfied pleasure each one feels in committing both macro and micro evils. What that means is that we may not be committing murder (macro), but we still show hatred, or outbursts of anger (micro). We may not rob a bank (macro), but we rob another’s virtue through gossip (micro).

Each one of our lives cries out to God, alerting him to our sin though we have tried to cover ourselves with leaves and have hidden from His sight.

The cry of the oppressed, the down trodden – the victims of human violence and lust. The cry of the maiden, the wife, and the child. These were the cries which had entered into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth. And each sin has a cry. “The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me” and it will go on crying; unless it is silenced by the yet greater voice of the blood of Christ “which speaketh better things. –F.B. Meyer

Our sin cries out to God, betraying our guilt. No amount of good work or religious leaves will cover our shame and nakedness. Only the sacrifice of Christ can cover it.

What is the cry of your life? Do you have Christ speaking louder on your behalf?

What is the Sabbath and do I keep it?

Two phrases stand out as the most discouraging things Jesus said: “Have I been with you so long…” (John 14:9) and “how long am I to be with you…?” (Matt. 17:17, Mark 9:21, Luke 9:41–granted, all of those references refer to the same incident).

In each case, we might read the words with a tone of exasperation. After all, he was teaching the disciples, but they didn’t seem to get the overall theme. He multiplied the bread and fish, but in another instance, they didn’t look to him for food. He taught them that he was their teacher and they were all brothers. But they argued about who would be the greatest in the kingdom. He taught that his kingdom was not like those of this world, but they continued to think he would overthrow Rome.

Anyone would be frustrated if their followers didn’t get the message. But Jesus wasn’t just anyone. He is fully God and fully man. He lived with every temptation common to each of us, yet without sin.

I believe his words were filled with patience and longing. Like when someone is trying to explain something wonderful, and eagerly anticipates the moment the listener discovers that ah-ha moment.

“Have I been with you so long…?” “Don’t you see?”

In Mark chapter 2 we see Jesus answering a common question from the religious leaders: Why are you and your disciples doing work on the Sabbath?

For the Jewish people, they had rituals and religious observations that they kept, well, religiously. The seventh day was a day of rest! No argument.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8). Again, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11).

Well, actually, there was plenty of argument. What did work mean? What if this? What if that? How about when it lands on Leap Year?

The real irony is that they actually made the day of rest into another “work” to keep them holy.

This makes me think of a period when I was a kid. We were told that we couldn’t change out of our church clothes or play outside on Sunday (because some Christians don’t get Jesus’ teaching, either, if you believe that! And that we changed the Sabbath to Sunday because Jesus was raised on the first day of the week).  So, for a while, we’d sit around reading books and making sure we didn’t play too hard on Sunday. And we’d keep clear of clothes that might imply we were getting ready to play (or work).

Later, we decided that the best way to rest might be to change into clothes that allowed us more comfort.

As I grew up, I struggled with this. We are to obey God’s word. Not just the parts that are easy. The commandments include, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Exodus 20:8). Again, “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11).

“The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28).

There are 28 verses in the books of the Law talking about the Sabbath and the requirement that none among the people of Israel should do any work.

One of those passages was somewhat quoted by the ruler of the synagogue in Luke 13:14 when he tried to keep people from being healed by Jesus on the Sabbath!

This came up a lot. The pharisees didn’t like Jesus’ disciples picking grain on the Sabbath. They didn’t like Jesus healing on the Sabbath. They didn’t like Jesus, frankly. They saw him as a rival to their authority over the people. And the Sabbath violations were a perfect scandal headline for their endless indictments against the Lord.

Stop and think about that for a minute. Someone is healing incurable diseases, casting out demons, restoring people’s mobility … and these religious leaders say, “If you’re going to do something supernaturally wonderful, make sure it’s on Sunday through Friday, not on Saturday, buddy!”

Really?

I’d be tempted, and might just fail in responding with more than just exasperation. I’d throw in some sarcasm. But, God’s working on me with that flaw.

Jesus didn’t have that sin. He responded patiently. He sought to teach the leaders.

He told them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27-28).

What does this mean? Jesus is the lord of the Sabbath … does that mean he gets to decide who observes it and when? Is he above the Law? This was probably what the Pharisees thought he meant.

But there’s a deeper meaning. Think way back to Genesis and the first Sabbath. God had completed creation. He narrates this to Moses in six days, describing the work in terms we’d understand. When the word was complete, He rested.

This is a pattern for us. It is good to rest from our work. We shouldn’t work continuously or we’ll get sick!

And, like we all know, sometimes we need to be forced to take a vacation. For our own good, someone might tell us, “It’ll wait till Monday. Go home.”

That’s a pretty neat meaning. Take some rest. But what about the part in the Law that we are to remember it and keep it holy? And why the emphasis on the Sabbath day in such detail? Couldn’t God have just said, “take a break! Trust me!”

Granted, God didn’t need to rest after creating the cosmos, spacetime and the planets and all living creatures, microbes and atoms. He doesn’t grow tired.

We do.

But that’s not why God created the Law of the Sabbath. There was something that all parts of the Law pointed toward that He wanted us to remember. Something far more important than taking a little vay-cay.

What was this thing that God wanted us to remember and keep close to our hearts? Why does this commandment rest within the 5 commandments that relate to our relationship to God? What’s the meaning here?

The writer of Hebrews points this out: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whosoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.” (Hebrews 4:9-10).

How do we enter God’s rest? It is through repentance and faith in Jesus as the completer of our redemption by His work on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Remember Jesus’ last words on the cross? “It is finished!”

Jesus completed the work of redemption for the world on the cross. Those who believe in Him as savior enter by faith into God’s rest, never to need to work the various requirements of the Law. The Law and the Prophets were fulfilled by Jesus. He did it all for us.

He is the Lord of the Sabbath not because He selectively enforces the law, but because He completed His work and we all enter a perpetual rest with Him.

For the Christian, every day is the Sabbath day because we no longer have a list of requirements to please God. We no longer have sacrifices to bring, or washings and fastings to observe. If you don’t have your males circumcised on the 8th day after birth, you’re fine! No infant baptisms, either. And believer baptism is not a requirement of salvation, either (it’s an act of obedience to Jesus’ words). Communion, too, is not a “work” that we must do to receive the grace of God, as many teach from the pulpit (to their own judgment). The grape juice and crackers are not the body and blood of Christ. They are bread and juice. The fool who holds them and tells you they changed is a bald-faced liar.

We who have been completed in Christ’s work, having claimed that work by our faith (which is also a gift of God) are filled with the new wine (the Holy Spirit) and no longer need the pots of water for ceremonial washing. Jesus launched His ministry at a wedding, performing His first miracle of changing the water to wine. And it was the most amazing wine anyone had ever tasted.

Jesus will conclude all things of this earth at a wedding. It will be the marriage of Him with His people, the spiritual Israel, His congregation, his bride!

We’ve been called out of the old system of rituals that pointed toward Him and we embrace Him alone. He is the sign and substance of our New Covenant. He has purchased us completely out of this world.

We are at rest. We no longer observe new moons, sabbaths or other festivals. They mean nothing.

 

What is the Authority of the Church?

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls 

–Hebrews 13:17

It’s sad how this verse has been the go-to for so-called pastors and elders. I had a man tell me, “I’m your spiritual authority!” And the crazy thing is that he actually believed it. He believed that he “watched over my soul!”

I told him that, contrary to his ego-induced madness, he was not entrusted with my soul and would never steal the authority from Jesus Christ.

While this might be considered an extreme of what I see all over the place in so-called Christianity, it’s just a festering infection as opposed to the unseen cancer that has infected Christ’s congregation since the tares were planted early on.

Consider those who wanted to tack Christianity into Judaism. They insisted that converts had to be circumcised. That was a big battle. Then they swooped in and tried to lead the Galatians away from their freedom from dead rituals.

Others brought heresy of gnosticism, claiming that the body was the flesh and the true person was the spiritual person and not affected by what went on in the body. Basically, a creative way of saying, do all the sin you want, because this body isn’t the true reality.

Some taught that the resurrection already took place. I don’t doubt there were what we’d call universalists back then.

There were those who sought to bring others under control by their ego and personality. They saw the Gospel as a means of gain.

These are all things Paul, Peter and Jude address in their letters. None of this is new.

The first century congregations struggled against all the same temptations as we do. But one was perhaps the most detrimental: Acceptance by the world.

While Augustine and other theologians came to repentance and experienced the grace of God’s salvation, Constantine and his mother-in-law did great violence to centuries of God’s people. They established what we call “church” today. This includes the perversion of the “authority” of the church.

When I was young, I learned that the “church” was the people, not the building. That’s true. Although, a better translation for ecclesia is congregation, not church. Church actually comes from a root word from which we get circus. Interestingly, the two things today are very similar.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Jesus and I know there are congregations of humble, repentant believers who are groaning inwardly at the hell-bent condition of the world around them (and of popular Christianity). But many of those remnant people of God are also held captive in the Babylons of the churches that dot the countryside. They keep quiet under the dubious rule of the Herods and Pilates, Caiaphases and Annases.

But it is interesting how the “church” is the people, but when it comes to so-called authority, the “church” is the pastor and elders.

The truth is that Jesus didn’t leave us authority to use of our own accord. Rather, He is the only authority in His congregation. His Word is left with which we can study and share and encourage and reprove. And when I say “reprove,” I mean to warn our friends from something that is harmful to our glory of God. It certainly is not to re-prove how wrong someone is and how right we are.

Paul, Peter, John, Luke, Jude, etc. wrote letters and accounts under the inspiration of Jesus’ spirit. But, when they weren’t under that inspiration, they disagreed and confronted one another.

What I see in America is what I call Corporate Church. A church is big business (or it wants to be). It masquerades as a ministry, but it is really just designed to bring in paying customers. It does this by providing programs and promises. The programs entertain while the promises imply that people’s lives will be changed and improved.

The Roman church did this without the entertainment because they developed the authority to absurd levels. They held the power of heaven and Hell, having wrested it from Christ’s hands, apparently. Nobody wants to go to Hell, so they will listen to the glittering, pontificating priests in hopes of being granted access to Heaven.

The Reformation shook those foundations … to an extent. While Luther and Calvin stole the issue of personal salvation from the Roman Church, they left the blasphemous ritual of infant baptism alone, allowing the anti-christs to pretend they could ensure children’s entrance to heaven (should anything happen to them).

This is still used in politics today: It’s for the kids!

The true reformation was that of the Anabaptists. These brave, sanctified souls broke from the horrendous, gaudy buildings and blasphemous formalism. They met at lakesides and near rivers. They baptised believers in obedience to Christ. For this they were hunted, driven from their home and land, drowned, burned at the stake or impaled.

Oh, and all these horrors were done by the church.

This is still done. If someone brings up a doctrinal issue to a self-proclaimed shepherd of God’s flock, they castigate the person, the railroad them out of relevance within the congregation. Their e-mails will be deleted, their questioned ignored and their character assassinated. And they’ll do this in the name of peace and unity.

Same as the Roman Church.

So, what is the authority of the people of God, His congregation? Our authority is to exercise clear obedience to His Word through humble faith and meekness. We show this when we share the hope we have for the life to come (not this life). We demonstrate our obedience when we turn the other cheek when we’re struck by the world. We allow the power of God to flow when we boast in our weakness.

God’s people–the true people–will be seen as last in this world. But that’s where Jesus was, too. And yet, through this dark valley of death’s shadow, we’re accompanied by One who has trod these stony paths and come through victoriously.

I walk with Him. His authority is all that matters.

Can Anyone Enter The Narrow Gate?

19, 10, 18, 24, 25, 25. No, that’s not my high-school locker combination. Those are the chapters and verses in Matthew, Mark and Luke that record one of the more popular illustrations that Jesus gave:

It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

I’ve heard that the “eye of the needle” referred to a gate in the city that wouldn’t allow a camel to pass when it had all its baggage on it. Allegedly, the camel would have to be unloaded, get on its knees and then crawl through.

I’m thinking the illustration is more imagination than fact. The meaning is actually worse than the fanciful explanation: No one can enter the kingdom of God through their riches, either moral or monetary. Let’s look at the context.

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