Beyond Tongues: It’s All About Love

November 9, 2005 — 15 Comments

The topic of Charismatic vs. Cessationists is being discussed across the blogosphere, and I just wanted to throw my views out there. It is not meant to be an attack on anyone whatsoever. I know most will disagree with me on this topic, but please make sure that you read all the way through. I pray that everyone realizes that the greatest gift is love. It’s all about love. It is not intended to divide believers.

On this blog I’ve looked at spiritual gifts before, and wrestled with tongues, and have even been mentioned on Adrian Warnock’s blog when I opposed his “Simple Gospel” when he listed receiving the Holy Spirt as a seperate step in Salvation. I still oppose it, and I think my opposition is in need of an explanation that was deeper than that explanation of gifts that I offered my readers early on in my blogging career.

When one is looking at spiritual gifts, he needs to define it very clearly. This step is essential to discussing and exploring further gifts, especially speaking in tongues. “Walking by The Spirit” in Chapter 5 defines a gift as “a Spirit-given ability to edify other believers to the glory of God.” Gifts are given by the Spirit, as seen in 1 Corinthians 12:4, 7-11:

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit…Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.”

Furthermore, these gifts that are given by the Spirit enable us to minister on a “spiritual level.” To put it simply, any non-Christian can communicate to another being who is saved or unsaved, but they cannot minister spiritually to the another person. A gift is different from a talent, which is a skill that is used on a physical level, whereas a spiritual gift is used on a spiritual level. A spiritual gift matters much more than your average talent such as writing, speaking, sports, or art.

And as I stated above in the definition, the gift is used for the edification of believers. In Ephesians 4:12, Paul states that the gifts are for the “perfecting of the saints” and for the “edifying of the body of Christ.” Edifying someone is building that person up, and helping them grow as a Christian, and really rooting our faith in Christ. We as believers are to increase each others knowledge of the Scripture, and work together to minister to one another.

And finally, all of our gifts are to glorify God. That is one’s true goal: to glorify God in all that he does. And by using your Spiritual gifts correctly, you are glorifying God.

In Scripture, there are many passages on Spiritual gifts. The main passages are Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 4:18-16, and 1 Peter 4:10-11.

These passages of Scripture are extremely informative in evaluating today’s claims of spiritual gifts. In the first passage, we read:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

What can one learn from this?

* 1. There are different gifts, yet no one gift is more important than another. Notice how Paul did not rank the gifts in any way. All he does is list 7 gifts and how to use the certain gift in the correct manner. He makes no comparison whatsoever.

* 2. Paul reminds us that spiritual gifts are of grace. We do not earn these gifts–they are of the Spirit, just as Salvation is of grace. There is no way to earn your way to heaven, and there is no way to earn a gift.

One can also take out of this passage the significance of equality in the body of Christ. A person should not become proud of his gifts and begin to think his gifts are greater than another, especially when these gifts are of grace. Each gift is essential to the body of Christ and it’s productivity. If one gift is missing, the body does not function properly.

* 3. And that is the third point. Each member’s gift is essential to the proper functioning of the body of Christ. Each member is like the members of a person’s own body. Even when the smallest part isn’t working, one’s body feels the effects of that. Also, we must remember that Christians are to use their gifts to glorify their Savior, Jesus Christ. Christians are not to give the glory to themselves in any way. When someone is doing that, he is not obeying God’s Word.

1 Corinthians 12-14 gives five “major assertions.” These five assertions according to “Walking by the Spirit” are:

* 1. Spiritual Gifts Have one source (12:1-11). That is the Spirit of God. There is much diversity to the gifts, yet there is one source. The Spirit alone gives these gifts, and they are not of man. Each Christian has at least one gift. It is not earned.

* 2. Spiritual gifts promote unity, not division (12:12-23a). As was stated before, each gift works for the good of the body. When a gift is not functioning properly, the body as a whole does not function properly. This is a serious problem in the body of Christ. We are not to divide the body, but to unify it. Christians are a body, not a one-man team like Terrell Owens of the Philadelphia Eagles football team.

* 3. Christians must remember that Spiritual gifts are to be exercised in love, which is the greatest “necessity” for edification (see 12:31-13:13). We cannot use our gifts without love. There is just no way. When no one is built up, no one profits. The greatest gift is love.

* 4. Tongues–Speaking in a different language is not profitable to the body when a church does not understand the language (14:1-19). Paul makes clear that it is better to prophesy so the whole church understands than it is to speak in tongues and have no one understand the message. (vv. 1-5). How can one be edified if he does not understand the message given to him? If the gifts are to edify the church, then the church must understand the tongue being spoken. When a person hears a foreign language, he does not understand nor can he be lifted up. Paul would rather state five words a congregation can understand than ten thousand that they cannot understand.

* 5. Spiritual gifts must be governed by orderliness. Paul gives specific rules at the end of chapter 14. In the area of tongues no more than one or two may speak at one time, they must speak one at a time, and there must be an interpreter present. Women are not permitted to speak in tongues nor are they permitted to prophesy before the church. “God is the author of orderliness.”

Other interesting facts about gifts include the fact that pastors and teachers are actually gifts themselves (Ephesians 4:8-16). Also, gifts are put into two categories: speaking and serving (1 Peter 4:10-11).

Speaking in Tongues

In general, Charismatic are those who usually take spiritual gifts seriously, and have named their movement the “gifts movement.” They teach that tonuges did not cease, and had resurgence in the 20th Century. Some also teach that tongues is evidence of true salvation, and speaking in tongues is ecstatic speech, where the person speaking in tongues is not aware of what he is saying. Finally, Charismatic often allow multiple people to speak in tongues during a service, and women are permitted to speak in tongues.

First of all, the claim that the gift of tongues has not ceased is hard to refute to a degree, due to the fact that the Bible never states a date of cessation. However, if one looks at 1 Corinthians 13:8, Paul states that three gifts will cease: prophecy, knowledge, and tongues. Both prophecy and knowledge (the ability to receive direct revelation from God) has obviously ceased since the end of the apostolic age. Logically, one would conclude that the gift of tongues ceased when the apostles died. Since all three gifts are linked together, one cannot disrupt the passage by giving a differing ceasing point for one gift and not the other two.

Also, one must look at the history of tongues (see http://www.bible.ca/tongues-history.htm, see quotes from John Macarthur), and conclude that they have in fact ceased. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th Century that a person claimed that he had spoken in tongues. That was only 1800 years after the apostles! The only claims of speaking in tongues came from small heretical groups. Historically, tongues had ceased.

Secondly, many Charismatic claim that speaking in tongues is evidence of one’s salvation. This is a dangerous teaching, that many have fallen prey to. There is no evidence in Scripture to act as an indication that tongues is evidence of one’s salvation of spirituality. In Acts, we see many accounts of those saved without speaking in tongues. True proof lies in “victory over sin or increased Knowledge of God.” It is possible for Charismatic to elevate experience over the Word of God. One cannot “manipulate God’s Word” to fit his practices.

As Jerry Vines states in his book Spirit Works, “”It is vital for Christians to approach the Bible as the final source of authority. There is a tendency today to elevate one’s personal experience above truth as revealed in the Bible. Our culture tends to place trust in man’s feelings as the prominent feature in making decisions about truth. Our feeling-oriented society wants to go by how it feels about a matter in determining what the truth of a matter is.”

Third, they claim that tongues are ecstatic speech, when it is clearly not so. Acts 2 shows us that tongues were foreign languages:

“every man heard them speak in his own language.”

The Greek word for language in that passage is dialectos, which signifies a language group, or dialect, though it is mainly used to refer to a language such as English or Spanish. It is evident that tongues are KNOWN foreign languages.

Lastly, some Charismatic allow for an unlimited number of speakers in a service. This is clearly evidence that modern groups are elevating experience over God’s Word, and are not following the rules laid down in Scripture. Women are allowed to speak in tongues as well. These are all disobdience against God’s Word (1 Corinthians 14). Even if the gifts of tongues had not ceased, the chaos found in the modern spirit of “tongues” is not the Spirit of God. God is the author of order, not chaos.

I believe there are many Christians in the Charismatic church. But I believe many a number of their teachings are not in line with the Word of God. Experience must not be placed above the Word of God.

Love

As I close, I want to urge every reader to move on, really, to what is truly the essential gift. And that is Love. The action of Love. The Biblical Love. Love is what it’s all about. The greatest gift is love.

J.I. Packer in Knowing God explains the importance of Love:

“To the Corinthians, who had taken it for granted that the more tongues the merrier, and the godlier too, Paul had to insist that without love–sanctification, Christ likeness–tongues were worth precisely nothing.”

Packer continues saying “Paul would undoubtedly see reason to issue a similar caveat today. It will be tragic if the concern for revival that is stirring at the present time in many places gets diverted into the cul-de-sac of a new Corinthianism.”

As Paul said to the Ephesians, “May you be strong to grasp, with all God’s people, what is the breadth and length and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know it, though it is beyond knowledge.”

Walking by the Spirit says, “As we examine each of these actions [of love found in 1Corinthians 13:4-7] we need to humbly inspect our own hearts to see if we truly love other members of Christ’s church.”

Are you showing longsuffering? Are you denying yourself? Are you putting down pride? Anger? Envy?

Are you avoiding being “rude” and “self-seeking” (something teens supposedly are supposed to be)?

Are we humble?

“[Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Do we resolve not to be provoked? Do we determine in our hearts not to think evil about a person? Do we rejoice in good, and not in evil?

It’s all easier said then done. Yet love is the ultimate gift. It is essential in the exercise of gifts–yet how many of us work on this greatest gift? All people seem to fail each and every day, and we don’t work to correct it in the least. Let’s all get back in line with the Bible, and work on the greatest gift, which is Love.

I’ll be honest here. This greatest gift is not my best–I have failed so many times, especially when it comes down to thinking bad things about other people, especially those in the family of God. I make excuses and try to say that it’s acceptable to not like people, and it’s daily life, but I know deep down that it’s not so.

So, are you working on loving your brother?

Tim Sweetman

Posts

Tim Sweetman is a 22-year-old writer, blogger, and student who lives near our nation’s capital, Washington D.C. He has been much more widely known by his “code-name,” Agent Tim. This name also served as the name of his popular blog, which received over 750,000 visits between 2005 to 2007. In 2005, he quickly rose to become a leading teenage spokesperson and cultural critic within the booming blogosphere, taking on issues such as MySpace, alcohol, homeschooling, pride, racism, tolerance, and other topics relating to our culture today. His blog has come to the attention of people such as Albert Mohler, C.J. Mahaney, Alex and Brett Harris, and La Shawn Barber. Tim’s written work has appeared in Lifeway’s Living With Teenagers (February 2012), Lookout Magazine, FUSION Magazine, The Brink Online, The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Virtue Magazine, Regenerate Our Culture Online Magazine, and on many other blogs and websites across the internet like Marry Well and the Lies Young Women Believe Blog. He has also been featured in WORLD Magazine, The Towers Magazine, and Maryland Newsline. He is scheduled to have an article appear in Veritas Magazine this December. Most recently, his work can be found on Focus on the Family’s Boundless Webzine. His personal interests include writing (surprise!) and sports, both watching and playing. He is a die-hard Washington Redskins fan.

15 responses to Beyond Tongues: It’s All About Love

  1. Yep, love is my mission. I liked your post a lot.

  2. Excellent reminder to all of us. Great post!

  3. You said, “I opposed his “Simple Gospel” when he included the need for speaking in tongues as a means for Salvation.”

    Just as a point of claification and correction, Adrian has never taught or stated, that Tongues are required for Salvation or that they are a means for gaining Salvation.

    Blessings in Christ Jesus!

  4. Ah yes, I need to fix that. What it needs to say is that:

    “Adrian believe that receiving the Holy Spirit is a seperate part of salvation.”

    You can read the post here. Thanks for pointing that out.

  5. “However, if one looks at 1 Corinthians 13:8, Paul states that three gifts will cease: prophecy, knowledge, and tongues. Both prophecy and knowledge (the ability to receive direct revelation from God) has obviously ceased since the end of the apostolic age. Logically, one would conclude that the gift of tongues ceased when the apostles died.”
    No, your conclusion does not follow – it’s a fallacious argument. 1 Cor 13:8 is clearly about gifts ceasing in the context of the return of Christ. To make any inference that gifts cease some point prior to this is purely conjecture. There may be other scriptures to back up a essationist view, but 1 Corinthians 13 isn’t one of them.

  6. Excellent Post! I heartily agree. I think, however, that you are mostl concerned with the excesses of the Charismatic movement. My own church has gone through all the different stages of charismatics, so I have seen and heard a number of the things you have mentioned.

    What I am wondering is: How is it obvious that prophesy and knowledge have ceased with the apostalic age? My dad has been studying church history and has talked about the montanists (I may have confused the name). This movement was very widespread and looked much like the charismatic movement. It had much error and excesses, but people like Origen seemed to have no problem with the movement. Not alot is known about what all the beliefs were, but it appears that some church authorities grew alarmed at the excess and called all of it bad. In fact, I believe it was around this time that the apostle John’s writings were looked at warily because of he talks of the Holy Spirit. So basically what I’m saying is don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
    Another thing is: if tongues and prophesy have ceased, why did Paul tell us how to use them? If they were only for the apostolic age, why did he not write a letter concerning these things for the people at that time and not worry about putting it in for us ages down who don’t need to see it? Another thing, Romans 12:6-8 mentions prophesy along with ministry, teaching, exorting, giving, leading, and showing mercy. Why would Paul mention a gift we cannot have with ones we can unless, suppose some of us do have a gift of prophesy (by which I mean God shows us things not as he did the prophets of the old testament but like Agabus [Acts 21:10-11] who prophesied but not infallibly).
    Ok, I know, a long comment, and who will take the time to read it anyway, but I just am a wondering person who’s not sure about all of this either. And I really do think this post was great.

  7. A couple issues:

    1) When do the gifts cease? According to Ephesians 4, there will be Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors and Teachers…UNTIL (key word) the Body of Christ reaches maturity and unity in the faith. Has the Church reached that point yet? No.

    2) If we are to no longer prophesy or speak in tongues, then we must reject the rest of the gifts also (evangelism, mercy, healing, etc.).

    3) Women are not forbidden to speak in tongues or prophesy in the congregation (1 Cor 11 clearly allows prayer and prophesy when done appropriately). In the context, Paul appears to be speaking about teaching, thus reaffirming what he says in 1 Timothy 2:12.

    4) Tongues vs. languages: Some have argued (and I am not clear here) that there is a difference between the tongues mentioned in Acts 2 and those in 1 Cor 12 & 14. The former is obviously languages, the latter *may* be interpereted as “spiritual language.”

    1Co 14:2 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. (ESV)

    Does the “no one understands him” refer to no one in the congregation, or no one period?

    Now that I have said that….

    I definitely think that many Pentecostals place experience above Scripture. It is a shame. And I agree 100% that we should love one another. But until we reach the point where we are perfected in love, the gifts are still for use. :)

  8. some points that came to mind while reading over the post:

    1 Cor 13:8 is not looked at closely enough here. Perhaps one might look into “knowledge” more deeply if that is used as a cessaionist argument. Furthermore, the “prophesying’ described in the NT, different from the apostles’ work, may well be around, still. This would then also have implications on the interpretation of the mentioning of “tongues”" in this verse. Wayne Grudem, wo, by the way, is an excellent example that if one has a charismatic theology cc. gifts and the Holy Spirit that doesn’t hinder him from solid and even scholarly thinking, Reformed doctrine and a Bible’based (as opposed to the infamous “experience based”) view of the Christian life, has written an entire book about the gift of prophecy in the NT, that sheds some helpful light.
    I have found that the “if we’re going to speak up more positively on miraculous gifts instead of retreating to a position of ignorance toward verses that mention them” – fear ceases when one sees how a charismatic theology lived out will not necesssarily contradict serious thinking and theology.
    By the way, speaking of necessary: if one acknowledges that the gift of tongues is still around then it is no problem at all to say that, if it comes from God and meets the tests of scripture, is an “evidence” of God doing his work of salvation in this person. The problem starts if some, on the fringe of the charismatics or “charismaniacs”, start to require it as “Necessary” evidence. A clearer distinction there would be helpful.

  9. Awesome responses everyone…keep them coming because I plan on doing a response in a post, due to the fact that my response will be a bit long for a comment. So, if you have more objections or questions, get them in here!

    I’m sure you don’t want to miss an 15-year-old take on the objections, right? :)

  10. i know for sure that the gifts you mentioned have not yet ceased.

    how?

    i’ve seen them in action. i’ve seen prophecy, for sure.
    and i speak in tongues.

    yes, i belong to one of those churches you might call “pentecostal” or “charismatic.” i never heard anything about spiritual gifts being necessary for salvation or being “a separate part” of salvation. i agree that the gifts are just that, gifts. and i absolutely agree that none of them mean anything without love.

    but i think it’s way out of line to say that the gifts have ceased just because the apostles are dead.

    and not every pentecostal church places too much emphasis on the gifts of the spirit.

    otherwise, great post. adios, brother in christ.

  11. Thank you for your comment Jon. I hope to do a final post on this issue on Monday (Lord willing.) I really want to look deeper into these verses, and really examine the context, and claims more closely.

    “i never heard anything about spiritual gifts being necessary for salvation or being “a separate part” of salvation.”

    Glad to hear that. As I said, many, not all. :)

  12. My question of the cessationist viewpoint is when exactly? When the last apostle died, it just ceased? What about all the people in the church of Corinth. When the apostles died did they loose the ability. What about the whole household of Cornelius. When they witnessed to people did they witness of their “experience” and if they did, did they stop speaking and teaching of it when the last apostle died. Lastly, Acts 2:39 talks about the gift of the Holy Spirit being for them, their children and all that are a far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call. Why not say until the last apostle?

    Finally, as for woman. I believe there were at least two woman at the day of Pentecost. If they were all in one accord in one place…. They were all filled….

    Just things to think about.

  13. Steve,
    I did a response a few days ago on when certain gifts ceased. You can read that here.

  14. Great post Tim….One issue that I have and this may not be this way for all charismatic churches….but i have been to a handful that actually preach this….for example one that my wife and attended in Connecticut….we were visiting the church and unaware of their beliefs. We had heard good things about the church, but it was obvious when we got there that we had different views. The pastor was speaking on the Holy Spirit. Towards the end of the message he asked all who would come down and be baptized in the Holy Spirit. He said that evidence of this would be speaking in tongues….My wife and I didn’t go down and here is my issue. The Bible clearly states in 1 Corinthians 12 that there are diversities of gifts, but the same spirit. Some are given the word of wisdom, some are given the word of knowledge, some are given faith through the same spirit, some are given gifts of healings, some are given working of miracles, and some different kinds of toungues…Key part here….”but one and the same spirit works all these things, distributing to each one INDIVIDUALLY as HE WILLS”….so, does the pastor have the right to have everyone in his church come down and receive the baptism of the holy spirit and tell them they will speak in tongues. It seems to me the Holy Spirit (God) does that and gives them to individuals as he wills. Even if that gift still existed, according to this verse, not everyone would receive it. But “MOST” penecostal and charismatic churchs that i have been to, preach that everyone should receive this gift and it is essential to living a POWERFUL christian life. Doesn’t match up with God’s word to me. Any thoughts?

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Agent Tim Online » Blog Archive » The Gifts Return (Or Cease?) - November 14, 2005

    [...] It’s evident that what finally needs to be presented is a better defense of the cessationist viewpoint. But before I present these defenses from various sources, I want to make it clear that I look at this discussion as I look at the Calvinist vs. Arminist debate. It truly does not affect our salvation, unless you are a hyper-Charismatic, or believe that speaking in tongues is essential to salvation. [...]

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