1 & 2 Thess.
1 & 2 Timothy
1 & 2 Peter
Gifts of the Spirit
Section D - The Spirit Gifts
To get a true understanding of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in its present application, it is necessary to consider in as much detail as is possible, the miraculous ministry of the Spirit in its historical contexts. Once this is done, the student will become aware of the widespread distribution of the gifts, and will be able to understand with clarity many passages which before were obscure and hazy.
Care must be taken not to confuse the various "manifestations of the Spirit" with the inter-ecclesial offices. This distinction was termed by Paul
"diversities of gifts" and
The most complete list of the "gifts"1 is in 1 Cor. 12:8-10.
The most complete list of the differences of ministries2 is contained in 1 Cor. 12: 28. Our knowledge of the movements of the Apostles (m particular), plus the statement "God hath set some in the ecclesia", shows us that some of these ministries were definitely inter-ecclesial in function. The offices were
While it is fairly obvious which gifts would be required for the ministries of prophets, miracles and gifts of healings; it is not so obvious which would be required by a couple of the other ministries like helps and administrators. However, we do know that Paul the Apostle was a prophet (Acts 20:29, 28:28), a worker of miracles (Rom. 15:18), and spoke in tongues (1 Cor. 14:18). We also know that the Apostles ordained by Christ had the ability of passing on the gifts by the laying on of hands. It is quite possible that those who were appointed by the Spirit to be elders3 in an ecclesia were given gifts that would enhance the personal qualifications they already had developed. Perhaps their office was "governments" (the seventh).
See Section E, Inter-Ecclesial Offices for more details.
AN EXTRA BURDEN TO HOLINESS
"For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required"
This statement by Christ illustrates a principle that operated with those who had the Spirit gifts or those who witnessed its operation. Also, those who have in their hands the main product of the Holy Spirit have an added responsibility. Several examples will illustrate this personal responsibility.
Moses (who had a sufficient measure of the Holy Spirit to enable the LORD to give some of it to seventy elders) had this added responsibility.
Because he had neglected to have his son circumcised, "the LORD met him, and sought to kill him" (Exod. 4:24-26). In performing the miracle of bringing water out of the rock he did not give God the glory so was not allowed to enter the land (Num. 20:8-12).
Samson was a Nazarite who defiled his separation, and was eventually punished, by having the Spirit removed. Samson’s case illustrates how a person who had the Spirit could still possess the gift for some time even though he neglected his personal responsibilities. Eventually, however, when the sin became great, the gift was removed. (Judges 16:20).
A prophet was slain by a lion because he had disobeyed the word of the LORD. The additional responsibility is seen clearly here because the "man of God" was led into disobedience by one who claimed to be "a prophet" who had received an additional revelation (1 Kings 13:9-26).
This is a tremendous example to us because those who claim to have received additional revelation are liars because their instructions to us contradict the instructions the LORD has already revealed to us through His Word.
Saul disobeyed the LORD and so "the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul" (1 Sam. 16:14).
David, after his crimes of adultery and murder, prayed fervently that God would not take away "thy Holy Spirit from me" (Psa. 51:11). He recognized that his actions would require God to take away the gifts of prophecy, teaching and revelation, which he had.
Israel "rebelled, and vexed his Holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them." (Isa. 63:9-10).
The first century ecclesia at Ephesus because of its misconduct, was warned by Paul "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are (R.V. were) sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30).
THE GIFTS COULD BE AND WERE MISUSED
We have already pointed out how that Moses misused the gift of miracles (Num. 20: 8-12). The disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritans because they did not receive Jesus. (Luke 9:54).
Tongues were obviously misused at Corinth, otherwise Paul would not have written at length to them about that subject (1 Cor. 14).
THE GIFTS COULD BE AND WERE4 IMITATED
There were many false prophets in Old Testament times and Christ prophesied that there would "arise false Christs, and false prophets, and (these) shall shew great signs and wonders; so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect" (Matt. 24:24).
In Exodus 7 we have recorded the imitations of the magicians of Egypt. Paul in his opening statement, records the fact that the Gentile converts at Corinth formerly believed that they were led by the spirit of dumb idols. (1 Cor. 12:2). With this warning in mind, he shows them the criteria to determine between the imitations and the true. It was what the claimant said about the gospel that determined the issue.
Because one of the gifts was the "discerning of spirits" we are left with no alternative than to understand that it was to discern between the true and false manifestations. If the gifts could be imitated in the first century, then they can be in the twentieth. This then is the explanation for what is claimed today since the true gifts are not available today.
CONTROL OF THE GIFTS
Paul’s detailed comments in his epistles to the Corinthians and Ephesians outlined the proper use of the gifts. Tongues, being the most common and one of the most spectacular gifts, was often misused, hence Paul’s instructions on the subject in 1 Cor. 145.
"Prophecy" was a gift that was despised because it convicted those who heard the message. It could be compared in effect, to a straightforward exhortation today. Few people like to be told to improve. This caused those in Thessalonica to suppress this most spiritual gift. Therefore, Paul commands that they:
"Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings."6
Timothy, a timid and introverted person, suppressed the use of the gift that he had. Paul in writing to him, rebuked him three times because he controlled his gift to such an extent that he did not use it when he should have. Paul exhorted him to:
"stir up the gift of God" (2 Tim. 1:6)
These three examples show that the gift was controlled7 by the person who possessed it.
THE GIFTS WERE A SIGN
The gifts were a sign to the unbelievers that Christ was working through the person who possessed the gift. Christ stated (in Mark 16:17) that
"these signs shall follow them that believe".
He then listed five things that would be an actual sign.
The eight signs of John’s gospel demonstrated that Christ was indeed the Messiah. Thousands of years before, Moses had used the gift of Miracles to convince the Pharaoh that God was with him. His serpent, which became a rod and his hand becoming leprous, were the first two signs. Then followed the famous ten plagues.
GIFTS USELESS WITHOUT FRUITS
As Paul demonstrated in 1 Cor. 13 unless one manifested the fruits of the Spirit, the gifts were nothing, and comparable only to clanging brass or a tinkling cymbal.
DIFFERENT MEASURES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Moses had sufficient of the Spirit that the LORD "took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders; and it came to pass, that, when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease" (Num. 11:25). Here it can be seen that Moses had more than seventy times the measure of the Spirit of the elders. Elijah possibly had half as much power as Elisha (2 Kings 2:9), but this is difficult to verify.
Christ received the "Spirit without measure" (John 3:34), yet we know that his disciples did not receive this amount. In turn the Apostles could impart the Spirit but others could not (Acts 8:12, 14-15).
We see from these examples that the Spirit was given in different measures, "as he will".
THE GIFTS8 WERE POSSESSED
The gifts given at Pentecost and afterwards were a direct transfer of one or more aspects of Holy Spirit power from God via Christ to man. They were a distinct entity given and received as a possession. This is clearly evident in that the gifts could be and were misused. Such misuse cannot be blamed on God, any more than other moral evils can be blamed on God (even though He created us).
EPOCHS OF SPIRIT GIFTS
We find in the Bible various epochs in God’s revelation to man. There are three main epochs:
These epochs of Spirit are evidence that the needs of the time required a more direct control by God of the process of salvation for His creatures.
1.In the time of Moses.
The experiences of the children of Israel during the time of the plagues in Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea mark a certain era in this revelation. When the Israelites were safely in the wilderness there was no further need of these particular miracles. The record of Numbers 11, when part of Moses’ Spirit was transferred to the seventy, clearly indicates that the gift of prophecy operated at that time.
Before Moses died, he laid his hands upon Joshua so that "Joshua the son on Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom" (Deut. 34:9 cf. Num. 27:18-23).
Another unique example of the Holy Spirit gifts, was in Bezaleel who was filled with the spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and workmanship so that he could construct an edifice where God could dwell. (Ex. 35:30-31). Once this was complete there was no further need of this particular manifestation of the Spirit.
Apart from these manifestations, we see the gift of Prophecy operating in a few righteous men such as Enoch, Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah and in all the prophets. One result of this manifestation is the books which bear their name (cf. 2 Pet. 1:21). Shortly after the return from captivity in Babylon there was a long silence of the prophets as Micah had predicted.
"The sun shall go down over the prophets" (3:6).
2.In the Time of Christ and the Apostles.
The second major epoch occurred with the ministry of God’s Son, which brought the gospel to both Jew and Gentile. Christ was begotten by the Spirit and filled with the Spirit of God at his baptism. He manifested by this power that Isaiah’s prophecy (61:1,2) was fulfilled. After choosing twelve disciples, he imparted to them temporary capabilities that enabled them by the Spirit to have authority over mental and physical diseases (Luke 9:1-2). After Christ led captivity captive he gave gifts unto men. This we know of as "Pentecost" when unschooled Galilean fishermen spoke in at least 15 different languages and/or dialects. Paul in 1 Cor. 12 describes the purpose9 and scope of this manifestation. These miracles and signs formed a special epoch in God’s revelation and manifestation. In this regard the New Testament manifestation was no different than the previous epoch. Once the manifestation had fulfilled its purpose, the gifts ceased just as they had before. They will not be in evidence again until the resurrection era.
3.Latter day outpouring of the Spirit.
As must be expected, this third epoch will see the greatest outpouring of the Spirit gifts that the world has experienced. It will be part of that grand consummation which will eventually see all the earth filled with Spirit-beings. This was obviously God’s purpose in creating man in His own image. Apart from the fact that the righteous will receive incorruptible Spirit bodies, there is the little understood work of God with His people Israel. The latter rain of the Spirit on converted mortal Judah (primarilyl0) will have for its primary purpose a witness to the unrepentant ten tribes of Israel in their dispersion. These Jews will recognize that Christ is the Messiah as witnessed by their brethren. They will then become prepared to be Christ’s soldiers in the destruction of the wicked11. Prophets other than Joel speak of this pouring out of the Spirit upon Israel in the future:
"upon the land of my people shall come thorns and briars… until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high ..." (Isa. 32:13, 15).
If we regard Zechariah chapter 4 as having a future application, then the work of building (v. 9) and the work of levelling opposition (v. 7) will be initiated "not by might nor by power but by My Spirit, says the LORD of Hosts." (v. 6).
This epoch will last 1,000 years. Once this is past, there will be no need for the gifts in mortals as there will be no mortals.
We see, therefore, that each epoch of outpoural accomplished defined tasks of limited duration. It was a direct power which the possessor was able to clearly manifest so that all knew he had the gift.
EVIDENCE OF DECLINE IN THE FIRST CENTURY
All the occurrences in Acts of the Holy Spirit being poured out indicate that all the people involved spoke in tongues. Yet within 20 - 25 years of Pentecost we have a clear indication that no longer did everyone speak in tongues. In 1 Cor. 12:30 we have the rhetorical question of Paul "All do not speak with tongues, do they?" The withdrawal of this gift can be further seen in that after the writing of the first letter to the Corinthians, it is never mentioned again. In its place came the written word, the collection of New Testament writings.
"Our whole information (concerning the supernatural gifts) must be derived from Scripture, because they appear to have vanished with the disappearance of the Apostles themselves, and there is no authentic account of their existence in the Church in any writings of a later date than the books of the N.T."12
GIFTS NOT AVAILABLE TODAY
1. Acts 2:17 ("And it shall come to pass in the last days saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh") is almost always quoted by modem Pentecostals, as evidence that what occurs in their assemblies is biblical. However, a study of the context of Joel 2:28 (from which Peter quotes), clearly shows that the primary application of the prophets’ words are still future.
"Ye shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the Name of the Lord your God ... And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel… And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit."
Clearly this prophecy will be fulfilled by the Jewish people in the future, since they do not recognize that God is "in the midst of Israel".
2. If God planned that His true followers would have the Holy Spirit today, then we would see plain indisputable evidence of it. To have to argue about the possession of the Spirit is the very disproof of the validity of the claim.
Any explanation of the remarkable phenomena associated with the claim today must be sought in fields not associated with the Word of God13.
Today’s "faith healers" can only cure psychosomatic illnesses, in contrast to the power manifested in the first century to raise the dead, for example. Add to this the fact that the same "cures" are claimed by most pagan religions, and you see that the "faith healers"14 are a hoax.
3. The ability to pass on the Spirit gifts was the special privilege of the Apostles only15. This is indicated by the fact that although Philip’s preaching was accompanied by Miracles (Acts 8:7), the Apostles at Jerusalem sent Peter and John to transmit the Spirit gifts by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-18). With the death of the Apostles, there was no one able to transmit these gifts, so they ceased.
4. 1 Cor. 13:8-10 is clear evidence that the gifts are not available today.16 The two word pictures in v.1116 and 1216 are additional evidence that the gifts were only childlike and partial. Maturity would come when the completed scriptures came.
1 See "Grace", Section B - footnote 4, for a tabular comparison of the gifts mentioned in the various books.
2 See Section E - "Inter-Ecclesial Offices".
3 "Presbyters", "bishops", "elders" and "overseers" in the AV are all covered by two Greek words: episcopoi and presbyteroi. The Ephesian brethren who met Paul at Miletus are called "elders" (Gk.: presbyteroi) and also "overseers" (R.V. bishops: Gk.: episcopoi) in the same narrative (Acts 20:17, 28). The two Greek words are therefore synonymous in the New Testament, and the various translations of them cover one office only. It is possible that Jewish Christians preferred to use presbyteroi since this word was commonly used of the elders in the Jewish synagogues and city communities, while Gentile Christians would prefer episcopoi, which was a title common throughout the Roman world of business and law.’ (Test. Vol. 43, P. 256).
4 See Modern claims to Holy Spirit.
5 This is enlarged upon in the analysis of this gift. See verse by verse notes, Section C, and the Gift of Tongues.
6 1 Thess. 5:19, 20.
7 see also "The Spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" (1 Cor. 14:32).
8 See section F, Word Studies - "Gift".
9 see notes on 1 Cor. 12 and Section A - "Purpose".
10 The incipient fulfilment of this at Pentecost was also an essentially Jewish affair. The Spirit was only subsequently poured out on Gentiles.
11 see Micah 5: 8-15; Esther 9:5.
12 Conybeare & Howson, "Spiritual Gifts", P. 334. Life and Epistles of Paul
13 See The Gift of Tongues - "The Modern Glossolalial Utterance Analyzed", Modern Claims to Speaking in Glossolalia.
14 See "The Gift of Healing".
15 cf. notes on Acts 9:17.
16 see notes on these verses in Section C.
MODERN CLAIMS1 TO THE GIFTS
While the majority of "Christians" talk about the descent of heavenly "grace", there is a growing minority which claim to possess the gifts2 of the Spirit. Those who claim thus, engage in the ad circulum fallacy of argumentation. They only assume what they must prove. Their authority is nearly always extra-Biblical (i.e. "guidance" or "an experience").
Christ predicted that miracles and prophesying would be done in his name, apart from his sanction or power (Matt. 7:21-23; cf. 2 Thess. 2:9). Therefore an experience or a miracle cannot be appealed to as the sole judge of the source of that event. Both Paul3 and John4 clearly demonstrate that the claimant must undergo a test5. Does he teach the correct doctrine?6 The answer is "no"! Since the doctrines taught are unscriptural the claimant is therefore subject to the severe condemnation of Scripture:
"If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that which ye have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8,9).
Heb. 13:8 ("Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today, and forever") is often advanced as evidence that the gifts must be available today.
1 This subject is covered specifically under the various gifts.
2 as outlined previously.
3 1 Cor. 12:1-3.
4 1 John 4:2-3
5 If the inspired teaching of Paul was put to the test of Scripture (Acts 17:11) how much more the statements of latter day claimants to Spirit gifts?
6 This is enlarged on in "the gift of Tongues".
CLASSIFICATION OF THE GIFTS (at Corinth)
An exposition of these gifts follows.
1 See Section B - "Grace, for a complete list.
2 The words of the prophet would be based upon the future, presenting a vision of ultimate glory, while the teacher (1 Cor. 12:29) would be more gifted in providing a systematic presentation of basic principles. The difference can be seen today in the exhorting brother and the lecturing brother.
THE GIFT OF THE WORD OF WISDOM
"For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom" 1 Cor. 12:8.
1 TEST, Vol. 43, P. 258.
2 TEST, Vol. 43, P. 258.
4 LXX pneuma sophias.
5 see Luke 13:17; 14:6; 20:40.
6 The figure HENDIADYS is employed meaning the Holy Spirit gift of wisdom.
7 NEB has "inspired wisdom" which understands that the figure HENDIADYS (parallel structure) is employed.
THE GIFT OF THE WORD OF KNOWLEDGE
"to another the word of knowledge by the same spirit" (1 Cor. 12:8)
It was second in Paul’s list of spiritual gifts following the "word of wisdom". This indicates its relative importance.
A. What was this gift?
It was the supernatural impartation of facts that the individual at the moment had no way of learning by natural means. It was termed the "word" of knowledge because without the power of expression, such gifts would only be valuable to the possessor. It was not something learned through the process of education. Nor was it knowledge obtained through a direct study of the scriptures. However, that is a necessary part of obtaining knowledge of God even for those who possessed the gift.
-Jesus said: "Search the Scriptures" (John 5:39).
-Paul added: "Study to shew thyself approved of God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).
-Daniel, who had many prophecies revealed to him, was required to refer to the scriptures to learn that the captivity would be seventy years.
"I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem" (Dan. 9:2).
The gift of the word of knowledge was, therefore, in no sense to take the place of regular study of God’s word.
THE WORD OF KNOWLEDGE USED WITH OTHER GIFTS
The raising of Lazarus provides an example where at least four gifts were used in succession to the glory of God. While Christ and his disciples were beyond Jordan word came to them that Lazarus was sick.
The following section demonstrates that this gift had varied purposes. It was used to:
B. OLD TESTAMENT
While the Old Testament does not contain the phrase "Word of Knowledge" yet there are many examples of something almost the same as that2.
(1) To avert disaster.
- Daniel - Had not God revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to Daniel when He did, both he and his companions would have been slain (Dan. 2:13).
Here we see two gifts operating together. It was probably the word of knowledge that enabled Daniel to know the dream and probably he interpreted the meaning of the vision by the gift of prophecy. If in fact it was not, then it was something very similar. Certainly it was a prophecy and God revealed it to Daniel.
- Elisha 2 Kings 3:6-26
Elisha, by divine revelation, was able to provide the means of securing water in the desert. If it had not been provided, the Army of Judah and the Army of Israel (and Edom) would have been "delivered into the hand of Moab!" This, however, was not all. Divine knowledge foresaw what would happen when the morning sunshine fell on the scene. When the Moabites arose they "saw the water on the other side as blood. And they said . . . The Kings . . . have smitten one another: now therefore Moab, to the spoil." When they "came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote" them.
(2) To Reveal the Secrets of Men
(3) To Impart Necessary Facts
(4) To Give Encouragement
And he said: "I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." (1 Kings 19:14).
But then came "the Word of the LORD to him" (v. 9, NASB):
"Yet I have left seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him".
It was also revealed that the Baal worshippers would be destroyed because Elijah was to anoint Jehu king over Israel, Hazael king over Syria and Elisha was "to be prophet in thy room". "And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay". (1 Kings 19:17-18).
This verse was used on 9/9/2012 by a senior Christadelphian brother to say the “still small voice of God is still actively working in our midst to bring about the fulfilment of God’s will in our individual lives.”
(5) Detection of Evil
"Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it among their own stuff." (Josh. 7: 11)
Joshua was also able to determine without error, by some process of elimination, who was at fault.
Elisha then employed the gift of MIRACLES to smite Gehazi with leprosy for his sin.
"It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments." (1 Sam.15:10,11).
Divine knowledge was revealed to Samuel that enabled him to discover the sin of Saul.
C. CHRIST and the WORD OF KNOWLEDGE
"But Jesus did not commit himself to them, because he knew all men. And needed not that any should testify of man, for he knew what was in man" (John 2:24-25).
(1) By the Word of knowledge Jesus knew what was in the heart of His own disciples.
(2) By this gift Jesus knew that His disciples were in danger while crossing the Sea of Galilee. He arose from His prayer and "went unto them walking on the sea" (Matt. 14:25). Here is an example of the word of knowledge and the gift of miracles being used together to save people.
(3) The Word of Knowledge during the Last Week
Although the gospels are full of evidence that Christ used the word of knowledge during his ministry, the closing days of His mortal life give very pronounced evidence:
"From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day." (Matt. 16:21).
To synchronize his movements to enable him to fulfil the many prophecies during his last week, Christ certainly had access to divine knowledge. The following examples elucidate the use of this knowledge that he had.
This was to fulfil two prophecies as Matthew shows in verses 4 and 5.
D. PURPOSE IN NEW TESTAMENT
Paul and the Word of Knowledge
The life of Paul gives many purposes for the "word of knowledge":
The Word of Knowledge and the Parakletos
The Apostles possessed the gift and were, in accordance with the promises of Christ in John 14-16, able to retain infallibly in their memories those things that Christ had said unto them. They also were taught "all things" in accordance with that promise.
Following the Old Testament precedent (1 Pet. 1:12), the New Testament prophets would not always be able to grasp the full meaning of the revelations which came through them. Those who had the gift would "open" it up (Luke 24:32; Acts 17:3).
It is reasonable to conclude that this gift would be widely distributed among the "teachers" (Acts 13:15; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11). In the early days of the ecclesia before the Scriptures were written and circulated, this gift would contribute to the oral doctrines described variously as "that form of teaching" (Rom. 6:17), "the form of sound words" (2 Tim. 1:13), "the tradition" (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6), "the doctrine" (1 Tim. 6:3), and "the truth" (2 Tim. 2:25; Tit. 1:1).
It would seem highly probable that this gift, (in conjunction with the 'Word of wisdom' and the 'gift of prophecy') was the means of revelation of a lot of NT scripture.
1 John 14:26
2 1 Kings 19:9 "The word of the LORD came to him".
3 See Acts 10:5-6.
4 Here we see an overlapping of the "word of knowledge" with "prophecy". This may even be considered the latter rather than the former.
5 Notice how prophets and teachers are mentioned, thus distinguishing between them.
THE GIFT OF FAITH
"to another faith by the same Spirit" 1 Cor. 12:9
1 "God has allotted to each a measure of faith". (Rom. 12:3) (This chapter is concerned with the gifts).
2 Acts 11:24 is an example. Barnabas had the gift of faith.
3 See also Acts 4:13; 9:27; Eph. 6:19.
THE GIFTS OF HEALINGS
The "gifts of Healings" 1 Cor. 12:9
1 cf. Preliminary Points No. 9.
2 Isaiah 35:5,6; 61:1.
3 cf. 2 Cor. 12:10.
4 see 2 Cor. 12:7.
Modern "Faith Healing" (so called)
In this subject we are concerned with three things:
1. God has, and still can, if He wishes, answer the prayer of faith to heal the sick. We do not deny the power of prayer.
2. We do deny that the 'gifts of healings' operate today. There is no evidence anywhere to support the theory that they do. However, to deny the present existence of the Spirit gifts is not to deny that "cures" are effected at faith-healing meetings. Given sufficient mental excitement "miraculous" cures are not impossible, but this is not evidence of God’s intervention, but rather to the "faith" of the patient.
Roman Catholics and Pentecostals, with mutually antagonistic teaching, both claim miraculous1 healings, and both have admitted that some "miracles" claimed divine are, in effect, not so. This is a significant admission. Recourse to divine healing is not needed to explain these claims.
What then is responsible for the phenomena? The answer is that they are not genuine miracles at all, but a phenomena well known to science - the triumph of mind over matter.
"Faith" healing is the psychological result of mind over matter. Most doctors, whatever their persuasion, recognize the need for "faith" in effecting cures, for they recognize the power of mind over matter. "Faith" in their vocabulary does not necessarily mean to acknowledge God, but expresses a condition of blind acceptance of the patient in the one (whether he claims it to be of God or man) who is to effect the cure.
The power a 'doctor' has over the patient is sometimes remarkable. The power that the witch doctor has over the Australian Aborigine is an example. In a ceremony called "pointing the bone" (which is well known and attested by science) the bone is pointed at the victim who dies a lingering death. Fear of the witch doctor has caused the death. In many cases medical science is powerless to stop it. On the other hand the medicine man can effect a cure that will elude his more knowledgeable white brother. Both death and cure have been brought about by psychological processes. It involves the 'faith' of the victim or patient in the potency of the magical means of death or cure. It does not involve any miraculous powers.
The powers of hypnotism and masmerism are also well known. Men can be induced to do all sorts of strange things so long as they commit themselves completely to the one under whose spell they have voluntarily given themselves2. It has been used to cure certain nervous disorders and to dull pain.
Similar psychological processes can be induced by the dramatic stimulus of an emotional revival meeting, in which a form of mass hysteria is often deliberately encouraged. Under the influence of enthusiastic singing, arousing oratory, the emotions of the audience are whipped up until a high degree of excitation is developed and many find themselves en rapport with the speaker. By such means all inhibitions are released and the mind can be brought to such a state as to drive pain from the body, or to effect minor temporary cures.
Such emotionalism is of the flesh and not of God. The evidences are quite as convincing that the "Dervishes of Arabia and the Theosophists of India" are now possessed of the "miraculous powers of God", as are those of the so-called Christian claimants.
3. Pentecostals often catalogue Testimonies of paralytics, the deaf, and drunkards as indications of the curative powers of the "Holy Ghost". The following comments by a medical doctor indicate that such examples are not proof of divine healing:
"Diseases may be divided into three classes: first, those which are entirely mental; second, those which are physical but tend to cure themselves; third, those which are physical but do not tend to cure themselves. Eighty to ninety per cent of all diseases belong to the first two classes. A man with a paralysis of his leg of mental origin (or) with a head cold… gets well under the attention of a faith healer, a chiropractor, or even by taking patent medicine, and all but the paralytic will get well if nothing were done. On the other hand, such diseases as diphtheria, malaria, syphilis, cancer, diabetes, tuberculosis, and pernicious anaemia do not get well with faith healing, chiropractic treatment, or psychoanalysis... Under the ministrations of a faith healer these patients would die. But even if they didn't, the faith healer’s result would be still 80 or 90 per cent effective,"3
"None of the parts of the body is superlative or independent; they are all dependent and correlated. Each organ of the body when disordered manifests a characteristic disturbance, and this disturbance involves all of the parts of the body which are dependent upon the functioning of that organ… 4 The basis of faith healing lies in the influence of the mind on the activity of the body. The mind is a function of the brain and through the brain is in constant communication with every part of the body by means of the nerves that extend to and from the brain. The activity of every organ of the body is controlled by the nervous system."5
"Paralysis of a limb and lameness are common symptoms of hysteria; the limb may be drawn up in a deforming contraction, or palsied. Persons with hysteria ay become mute or blind, their sensations may be perverted, they may vomit obstinately or lose their appetite and waste away. Hysterical women may believe themselves pregnant and show all the signs of that condition, suppression of the menses, colostrum in the breast, morning sickness, and swelling of the abdomen. This may continue until the time for delivery has long passed and their minds have turned to some other manifestation."6
"Not all men and women who have responded to faith cures are hysterical. There are numerous cases of bedridden invalids crippled by rheumatism and unable for years to put a foot on the ground, who nevertheless under some great stress, such as the house burning down around them, have shown remarkable returns of activity. The rheumatism which had crippled them had been real in the beginning, but during a long illness they had got into the habit of believing themselves crippled even after they were well. They had lost confidence in themselves."7
4. Apparently "miraculous" results have been reported without the patients affirming belief in God. Some warts may be "charmed away" by pretending to pass under a ray, or simply suggesting to the patient that they will go away.
5. Even in the time of the apostles, some who failed to understand the truth in Jesus Christ, did not hesitate to falsely claim miraculous powers in his name: "Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth." (Acts 19:13). Warning that such would be the case is explicitly indicated in the following references:
6. Modern ‘faith-healers’ cannot tell which of their patients will be healed and width will not. The miracles of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles were not apparently subject to any such doubt.
7. When the gospels and the epistles were written and circulated, the written evidence was far more important than the unexpected recovery of a sick person could be. Sudden recovery may prove nothing at all.9 It was far better that new converts should base their faith on the story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ than on some miracle they might chance to have witnessed.
1 The question really is what do we mean by miracles (other than as in 1 above)? To answer this we quote a M.D., A. Rendle Short, "The Bible and Modern Medicine", P. 127.
"Doctors, like other people, make mistakes and are not infallible prophets. If we are to attempt some kind of definition of a recovery that would be miraculous, it must be sudden, complete and long-lasting. The patient must have been suffering from organic bodily disease with structural changes of a kind that do not normally get well. The element of suddenness is important. No doubt this definition is rather arbitrary, and some of the miracles of the gospels would fall outside it, though others would be included. The medical profession with few exceptions would agree that sudden, complete, and long-lasting recovery from such afflictions as the following, without ordinary medical or surgical treatment, might fairly be called miraculous: a histologically proved ulcerating cancer of the breast or tongue; life-long blindness with gross corneal opacities; blindness due to optic atrophy; a paralysed leg of long standing with great muscular wasting; a traumatic dislocation of the hip joint. On the other hand, most doctors have seen cases of recovery, even sudden recovery, of such a character that laymen would be sure to regard it as miraculous if they did not know all the facts. Two personal experiences may be quoted as illustrations.
Shortly after the first World War, a young man walked into my out-patient department complaining of paralysis of the arms. He had been discharged from the army with complete flaccid paralysis of the right arm following a bullet wound through the neck in the region of the brachial plexus, that is, the main bundle of nerves supplying the arm, and he produced papers giving full particulars and the names of eminent specialists who had treated him. But this morning, he had been taken with complete flaccid paralysis of the left arm also. I told my class of students that it was obviously functional, and when I held his arm vertically over his head and let go, it did not drop, but he brought it down gradually. We arranged for suitable treatment to be started tomorrow. He went to his lodging, got his landlady to feed him with a spoon and light a cigarette for him, and as he smoked it, he recovered the full use of both arms. We had been so impressed by the names of the specialists, and the deep scars over the nerves, that we had barely looked at the right arm, but it now became clear that the paralysis was functional on both sides.
Fairly recently, I operated on a woman with symptoms characteristic of cancer of the colon. At operation, there was a mass in the colon with the usual look and feel of a cancer, and a nodule in the liver that seemed clearly to be a secondary growth. Both were irremovable, so we did nothing and gave the husband a gloomy prognosis. Three years later, she came to see me, perfectly well. It was not a miracle. It was merely an error of diagnosis. What an advertisement either of these patients would have been for Lourdes, or Christian Science, or a faith-healing mission!
The alleged cures after the ministrations of one or the other of the above are by no means always permanent or even longlasting, and they fall almost always into one of the following categories. Perhaps the patient was a chronic invalid, liable to ups and downs, and only too anxious to convince himself that he was better. Or, a patient who had been making the worst of an ailment decided to make the best of it. Or, there had been a medical mistake as to the diagnosis. Or, the condition was functional, and the excitement of a big meeting highly charged with emotion, or the promises of an enthusiastic healer, effected a sudden cure. That is to say, nearly all the cases can be simply explained, by suggestion."2 The methods employed by the Nazis under Hitler, the Chinese Communists, the Catholic Jesuits, the Voodoo cult in Haiti, the Methodists under John Wesley, and modern Evangelicals to indoctrinate the unsuspecting are remarkably similar if not identical. William Sargant in his ‘Battle for the Mind’ (Pan Books Ltd, 33 Tothill St, London, England, 1959) demonstrates how politicians, priests, psychiatrists and police forces the world over achieve their ends by the science of brainwashing.
3 Howard W. Haggard, M.D., Devils, Drugs & Doctors: The Story of the Science of Healing from Medicine-Man to Doctor, (Pocket Books, Inc., New York, 1959), P. 305,306.
4 Ibid., P. 304.
5Ibid., P. 296.
6 Ibid., p. 300
7 Ibid., p. 301
8 Some rather sensational claims are made in Pentecostal publications. In an article, "They Let God Be Their Dentist!" A.A. Allen reports the testimonies of six persons who allegedly had their teeth miraculously filled. "God filled four teeth for Beulah Clark as she sat in the audience", the article states, and "James drove all night in faith that God would do the work. He did! God filled three teeth." Miracle Magazine, 14, No. 9, (June 1969), P. 6. Only in small print in Allen’s Miracle Magazine can a reader find the careful demurrer: "... A. A. Alien Revivals, Inc. and ‘Miracle Magazine’ assume no legal responsibility as to the degree of permanency of reported healings, deliverances or miracles..." Ibid., P. 3.
9 An example is that of Adriana de Reichstein of Zacapa, Guatemala pictured overleaf [below]. Mute for more than a year, she regained her speech the night of the earthquake, Feb. 4, 1976. (From National Geographic, June 1976, P. 828.) Obviously the condition was only functional.
THE WORKING OF MIRACLES
"to another the working of miracles" (I Cor. 12:10)
A. This gift enabled the possessor to perform spectacular deeds of many different kinds. In contrast to the 'word of wisdom', which was used when there was a spiritual danger, this gift usually was performed when there was a physical danger or problem at hand.
The working of a miracle had two results:
Because of this, the gift was never to be used for personal convenience.
e.g. Christ could have used the gift to turn stones to bread but this would have been a misuse of the gift (Matt. 4:3,4).
Also the gift was not to amuse or entertain.
e.g. Christ would perform no miracle to satisfy Herod’s curiosity (Luke 23:8,9).
Nor would he produce a sign for the unbelieving Pharisees.
Various Kinds of Miracles
If it were possible to imagine such a thing as a Divine spectrum then miracles would possibly fit between the 'gifts of healings' and Divine intervention. The 'gifts of healings' did not involve creative action and were less dramatic. The 'gift of faith' by contrast was passive.
Divine Intervention should not be regarded as the gift of the "working of Miracles". This gift operated through human beings. There are, however, many events recorded in scripture that happened apart from human agency.
These events were the result of Divine intervention, not the 'gift of the working of miracles'.
Raising of the Dead
This miracle was much less common than the "gift of healing". It required that the condition causing death be corrected plus the breath of life (spirit) had to be restored. After decay has set in resurrection necessitates re-creation.
The following examples illustrate the 'gift of the working of miracles' used to raise the dead.
In the four N.T. examples a command was given indicating the person had the 'gift of the working of miracles'. As would be expected no command was given in the O.T. examples, indicating the prophet had less authority and, therefore, less of a part in the miracle. In all examples the miracle caused God to be glorified.
Miracles of SUPPLY
We note from these miracles that they begin with what is at hand, and God multiplies it. It seems possible that a wrong effect may have been possible (cf. John 6:26).
Miracles of JUDGEMENT
In the New Testament these types of miracles are termed binding and loosing. Peter was given the authority to "bind" a person because of their sin:
"... whatever thou bindest ... shall be having been bound in the heavens" (Matt. 16:19, NEST). Note that the decision had already been made in heaven, so Peter was given the Keys to perform on earth what had already been decided.
Later the same authority of judgement was extended to all the disciples (Mt. 18:18; John 20:23). This authority meant the ability to inflict physical punishment upon an intractable brother. If this had the desired effect, then those who had the 'miracles of judgement' would be called in to "loose"1 the brother.
The first recorded gathering of the disciples in this binding capacity was when they "retained" the sins of Judas (Acts 1:18,19).
The brethren who made a drunken feast of the Lord’s Supper were "drinking judgement to themselves" (1 Cor. 11:29 RV). This offence caused a widespread "chastening2 by the Lord"
"For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep" (died) (1 Cor. 11:30; cf. 15:6).
The reproaches that Paul levels at the ecclesia contained the threat of more than mere verbal reproof:
"Let such an one think this, that, such as we are in word (supernaturally inspired) by letters when we are absent, such will we be also in deed (supernaturally empowered) when we are present" (2 Cor. 10:11).
"... our authority… for your destruction" (1 Cor. 10:8; 13:10). cf. 1 Cor. 3:16-17.
The following from Gal. 6:1 indicates (along with James 5:14-15) how this sin was forgiven and the infliction removed:
"Brethren if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are Spiritual (empowered with Spirit gifts capable of removing the "binding") restore such a one in the spirit (attitude) of meekness."
Miracles of Deliverance
Miracles Affecting Nature
B. The Old Testament records many miracles:
C. Christ performed countless miracles:
These miracles all gave glory to God.
D. In fulfillment of the promise by Christ the first century scene was one of abundant miracles. In this way the truth was established in a godless and antagonistic environment - Acts 4:29,30; 19:11; 1 Cor. 2:4 are some examples.
The gift could be:
These gifts were necessary in the first century (and before) to give glory to God. They are not required now because we have a written record of these things.
1 see James 5:14-15
2 see 1 Cor. 5:3-5.
3The reader is referred to the book "Counterfeit Miracles" by B.B. Warfield (Box 652, Carlisle, Pa. 17013 U.S.A.) which clearly shows that those who claim the same charismata as occurred during the apostolic age, cannot prove their claim.
THE GIFT OF PROPHECY
"to another prophecy" (1 Cor. 12:10)
A. This gift, like the others, was supernatural in function and those who had it could demonstrate it.
Prophecy was one of the best gifts for edification (1 Cor. 14:39), and was closely allied with discerning of spirits (1 Cor. 14:29).
Prophecies could be:
- long term (Rev. 1:3) or
Its varied operations make it more difficult to define than some of the other gifts.
In the O.T. prophecy was primarily foretelling, whereas it was in the N.T. primarily forthtelling - revealing God’s will to man. However this does include the former.
It was an utterance gift and possibly was a vehicle for the manifestation of the 'Word of wisdom' and the 'Word of knowledge'.
A prophet may prophesy and lose his reward. Prophecy may operate through an unrighteous person.
- Balaam - Num. 24:3-24; 31:16.
B. In the O.T. most prophecies carried the element of predicting the future. The revelation of God was received in various ways:
The relationship of a prophet to the source of the prophecy is illustrated by Exodus 7:1,2 where the angel (LORD) "said to Moses, 'See I make thee as a god to Pharaoh and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet'."
To understand the full range of the gift of prophecy we must begin in the Old Testament.
Peter sums up O.T. prophecy1 in his epistle:
"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." (2 Pet. 1:19-21).
C. In fulfillment of Deut. 18:15 Christ was a prophet and exercised that gift. He was recognized as such:
"This is the prophet Jesus" (Matt. 21:11).
Christ had visions (Luke 4:5) and heard a voice from Heaven (John 12:28).
D. In the N. T.
Both prophecy itself and the act of prophecy carry the basic meaning of "public exposition" (Y). There are however several specialized categories of the gift of prophecy:
After a token fulfillment of Joel 2:28,29 at Pentecost several members of the ecclesia received visions: e.g.
Paul probably heard "a voice" in Arabia which made known to him the mystery (Gal. 1:12). In any event both 2 Cor. 12:4 and Acts 27:23 demonstrate that Paul did receive revelation by hearing a divine voice.
Instructions for use of the gift (l Cor. 14:29-38).
The O.T. records numerous examples of false prophecies3. Moses gave the test of a true prophet to enable others to evaluate prophecies:
"If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Deut. 13:1-3).
Because the gift of prophecy was so subject to imitation, the Spirit in the Apostolic age provided the 'gift of discerning of Spirits' to enable the ecclesia to determine what was true and what was false.
When a man (prophet) forsook God and gave himself over to falsehood, God permitted lying spirits to deceive him or in some other way strengthen that position. (1 Kings 22:17-22).
The following examples from the N.T. demonstrate that false prophecies were to be expected:
"For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders;" (Matt. 24:24).
"Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, aril doctrines of devils (1 Tim. 4:1).
"Likewise also these filthy dreamers" (Jude 8.)
In Apostolic times the gift of the Spirit was required before any could prophesy, for the complete revelation of God was not yet given.
Today, the gift of the Spirit is not required (or available) for that purpose. One can in the proper sense of the term prophesy by understanding the written word. The Bible is a complete record and provides in the words of Paul:
"the revelation of the mystery which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest" (Rom. 16:25).
No additional prophecies have been made since "the Revelation" that was given to John on the isle of Patmos.
1 see Section E - "Prophets".
2 Acts 21:10.
3 e.g. Jer. 28:2-3; Jer. 14:13-14.
THE GIFT OF DISCERNING OF SPIRITS
"to another discerning of Spirits" (1 Cor. 12:10)
A. By this gift, the brethren in an ecclesia could unmask all false claimants to the preaching of "the Truth". The very fact that this gift was necessary shows how easy it was to imitate one of the other gifts. Like "healing", this was a multiple gift as indicated by the plural text "discernings of Spirits".
B. This gift enabled the true prophets to distinguish from the false. Jeremiah was able to detect
that "the prophets prophesy falsely" (5:31).
Jeremiah determined that Hananiah was a false prophet (Jer. 28:15).
C. "And immediately Jesus, perceiving in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves." (Mark 2:8).
D. The following four scriptures illustrate how this gift was used:
"And let the prophets speak by two or three, and let the others discern (discriminate)." (1 Cor. 14:29 RV).
"Despise not prophesyings. But1 prove all things; hold fast that which is good." (1 Thess. 5:19-21).
The Thessalonians had a tendency to despise the 'gift of prophecy', so as a result, they tried to quench this Spirit gift. Paul instructs them not to quench it altogether but only that which is not "good". They could make this test by employing the 'gift of discerning of Spirits'.
"Beloved, believe not every spirit2, but try the spirits2 whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1-3).
This instruction by John is similar to that given by Paul to the Thessalonians.
"Thou hast tried them which say they are apostles and are not, and hast found them liars" (Rev. 2:2).
Here the Lord commends the ecclesia at Ephesus for having followed the injunction given by John.
The need to exercise this gift is evident in the following scripture.
Be not "quickly shaken from your composure or disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us" (2 Thess. 2:2).
Paul used the gift as is evident in Acts 16:16-18 and 13:8-10.
1 R.V. footnote adds "Many ancient authorities insert But". 2 Clearly this refers to Spirit gifted brethren or those claiming to be such.
THE GIFT OF TONGUES
"diversities of tongues" 1 Cor. 12:28
This manifestation of the Spirit was the capability to speak in foreign languages and dialects without prior knowledge of that language. It was transmitted by the sovereign act of God or [after Pentecost of the Gentiles (Acts. 10:40-48)] through the laying on of the Apostles’ hands. It was one of the least important gifts1 but because of its spectacular nature, soon became abused and threatened to wreck the ecclesial services by confusion.
One of the primary differences between the Apostolic age and the Mosaic age was the ability to speak in tongues. This is to be expected because the Mosaic order was only concerned with one nation, which spake Hebrew. Christianity embraced a much larger area and included the many languages of the Gentiles.
It was to partially reverse the incident of the tower of Babel, so that foreigners could hear the gospel message spoken in their mother tongue. Along with the other more spectacular gifts, "Tongues" was a sign to "them that believe not2."
Regulations concerning this gift (1 Cor. 14)
An analysis of these occurrences seems to indicate that the content of the message was from God rather than from the person’s general knowledge. The gift had a wide distribution. The NASB makes it quite clear, however, that not all believers had this gift: "All do not speak in tongues, do they?" (1 Cor. 12:30).
This rhetorical question expects ‘no’ to be understood as the answer.
1 See the order of the gifts and the relative importance attached to them by Paul in 1 Cor. 12:10 & 28.
2 (i.e. the Jews. Acts 2, 10, 19; 1 Cor. 14:21 all prove this point.)
Modern Claims to Speaking in "Glossolalia1".
There is no lack of examples within Pentecostal groups that some special vocal phenomena occur during their services.
Their strategy in argumentation is that since something occurs during their religious services, it must be "speaking in tongues". However, a claim to have spoken in "tongues" is not in itself proof of the source of the event. Even Pentecostals recognize that tongue speaking is easily simulated. A prominent American Pentecostal, A. A. Allen, comments:
"I wouldn’t give you two cents for what you call a Holy Ghost experience, if the only action you got was a few minutes of stammering lips: ‘Bla, bla, bib, gah, gah, goo!’. My children said that when they were six months old! I have seen people do that when they were drunk... I have seen many people whom I believe were merely ‘trained’ by those who prayed for them, to seemingly receive the Holy Ghost... I believe Pentecostal denominations are full of people who have never had the baptism in the Holy Ghost experience. They have just been patted on the back and shook on the chin, and told what to say, until they couldn’t say anything, but, ‘Bla, bla, gag, gag, goo!’ and then somebody said, ‘You’ve got it!’ The only action they got was when somebody shook them under the chin."3
The validity of their claim must, of course, depend on whether or not it can be proved by Scripture4. The word of God is the basis for us to distinguish between the false and the true.
Three fundamental points would have to be scripturally established before such a claim would have any validity.
We will analyze these in order.
While it is true that Greek was the most widely known language in the first century, it is also true that many other languages and dialects were spoken8 in the "oikoumene" (the then known world) and indeed even in Jerusalem9 Jesus lapsed into his native Aramaic in moments of stress (e.g. Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.) From this we understand that some knew their native language much better than they knew Greek (if in fact they knew it at all).
2 Corinthians 10:13 ("within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us" NASB) is quite clear evidence that Paul had been given a distinct sphere within which he was to preach the gospel. His sphere was "from Jerusalem and round about unto Illyricuml0" and westward to Rome and Spain11. He was forbidden to speak in Asia and Bithymal2. Paul even hoped to speak to the "regions beyond"13 (which in this context referred to the barbaric tribes to the north, probably as far north as the Danube). Greek certainly was not spoken .in that area. Nor was it spoken in Spain, where a pre-Latin dialect would have been the language. Paul’s comments in Col. 3:11 about the "barbarian and Scythian" demonstrate the many languages that would have been a requirement for preaching in the first century.
The ability to give a message in a foreign language would therefore be a tremendous asset in preaching the truth.
Examples of speaking with "Other Tongues"
On the day of Pentecost a mighty miracle occurred in which the twelve apostles14 collectively spoke in at least fifteen foreign languages (Gk. dialectos: v. 6, 8). Some have supposed that the Apostles spoke one language and those who heard them did so in their own language. This theory disagrees with the record, which states
"they ... began to speak with other tongues" (v. 4).
At least part of those present accused the disciples of drunkenness (Acts 2:13) indicating that a corresponding miracle did not overtake them. If it had done so then the accusers would not have attributed the disciples’ action to drunkenness. Therefore, the miracle was one of speech - not of hearing.
It is important to carefully analyze the reactions to these "tongues" because several invalid theories are held by Pentecostals because they have not done so. There were many "Jews" "from every nation" gathered at Jerusalem for Pentecost. They heard the Apostles speaking in their "own language".
A few15, however, did not understand any of the languages spoken; possibly because they were native Jews who only understood Greek or Aramaic.
"Only by disturbing the text is it possible to draw the conclusion that the gift of tongues at Pentecost was either the ability to speak in classical Hebrew (how then could the tongues be many as the text suggests?) Or the ecstatic glossolalia of modern Pentecostalists (how then could they be immediately understood?). The recorded facts clearly point to a miracle of speaking known foreign languages and/or dialectsl6."
Acts 10:44-47; (cf. Acts 11:15)
"Now there was a certain man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, a centurion of the band called the Italian band." (RV)
From this verse we learn that Cornelius was a Roman. He would be bilingual and possibly some of his house would be also. Therefore the setting was not unlike the first Pentecost. Again we see the accuracy of Paul’s statement:
"Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not". (1 Cor. 14:22)
Those that "came with Peter" "were astonished, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit". "They of the circumcision" did not believe that God had "also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18), so tongues here was a sign to the Jews that He had done so.
Acts 11:15-17 states that the gift in chap. 10 was identical with that in Acts 2. This fact demonstrates that the gift was the ability to speak in foreign languages.
There is nothing in this context to suggest or even imply that tongues here was anything other than that which occurred on Pentecost in Acts 2. The method of imparting the Spirit was indirect by the laying on of hands in contrast to directly as in the other two examples.
1 Corinthians 1417
The word ecstasy does not appear in this chapter. The adjoining of the word "unknown" by the AV translators to the word "tongue" in this chapter is often misleading to the reader. The word is not found in the Greek text and this is indicated of course by italics. The implication is there, of course, because Paul was using the word "glossa" (tongue) to refer to languages that were unknown to the natives of Corinth. The glossa was an unknown tongue to them but was not unknown in an absolute sense.
One of the purposes of the 'gift of tongues' was that it was to be a sign to unbelieversl8. This is illustrated, as we have already mentioned, at Pentecost and in Acts 10. However if the tongue spoken in an ecclesia was not one which the "unlearned" understood, it would be of no use to him because:
This chapter shows that the tongues were not to be used unless someone interpreted19 the message for the benefit of the congregation.
If tongues was not the ability to speak foreign languages, then v.18 and 19 loses all significance. Of what use would ecstatic utterances be to Paul if he could not use them in the ecclesia? Very little; and therefore there would be no point in thanking God especially for something which was of very limited use. If, however, tongues was the ability to speak in foreign languages, it would have been of immense value on his missionary journeys.
Verses 7-11 are devastating evidence against the view that tongues were incoherent ecstatic utterances. The whole argument of these verses is to show that unless the speaker spoke clearly in a language that the audience understood he would be a barbarian (foreigner) to his audience. Not only must the words be clear and in a known "language" (RSV) but they must be arranged in such a way that everyone knows the meaning of the message.
This analysis has shown that "tongues" was the God given ability to speak in foreign languages20. Since Pentecostalists can not do this, then an explanation to their utterances lies in the field of psychology and not with the scriptures.
1 "Glossolalia" a modern Latin word derived from (Grk.) GLOSSA (tongue) and LALIA (to speak) of echoic origin (Webster’s unabridged).
In Christian cultures today it is characterized by unintelligible gibberish uttered in an emotional state. In Public meetings it is usually accompanied with tears, heavy breathings, groans, and utterances of joy and rapture.
2 see The Modern Glossolalial Utterance Analyzed which identifies that true source of modern "tongues".
3 The Book of Acts is Holy Ghost in Action quoted from MIRACLE MAGAZINE, Vol. 14, No. 9, June 1969, P. 20).
4 cf. (Matt. 7:21,22).
5 see Christendom Astray (available from TCM or LOGOS).
6 see Glossolalia in Non Christian Religions.
7 see The Modern Glossolalia Utterance Analyzed.
8 15 tongues (Grk. dialectos v.8) (languages v.6) were spoken at Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2. The Lycaonian language also was spoken in the first century (Acts 14:11).
9 If all in Jerusalem had understood Greek perfectly it would seem unnecessary to record the superscription also in Latin and Hebrew (unless it was a legal requirement) (cf. Luke 23:38).
10 Rom. 15:19
11 v. 24.
12 Acts 16:6,7
13 2 Cor. 10:16
14 Eleven plus Matthias (1:26), who were all Galilaeans (v. 7) cf. 1:11)
15 An overall view of the context suggests that there were only a few who mocked in contrast to the many who were amazed.
16 TEST, Vol. 43, P. 300.
17 see the verse by verse exposition on this chapter.
18 The context implies that this refers to the Jews.
19 If the person speaking in tongues was the one who interpreted (cf. except he interpret. v. 5) it would seem that he would not have to actually interpret, but only restate in the language of the congregation what he had already said in a tongue.
20 see notes at Acts 2; 1 Cor. 13:1; 14:21.
A survey of glossolalia in non-Christian religions
The following quotation is of immense value in proving that the modern tongues movement within Christianity is from men and not from God. Since pagan religions claim and perform the same phenomena, as do Pentecostalists, it is obvious that the source is non-Christian.
‘Glossolalia’ and similar speech-phenomena occur in various forms during shamanistic rites of the New, and especially of the Old World.
It is entirely probable, moreover, that sorcerers of India and China contemporaneous to the Samaritans, spoke incoherently while divining, curing and communing with the spirits. Glossolalia in the Later Han Dynasty indicated the antiquity of the phenomenon in China.
Among nonreligious examples of glossolalia is the famous case of Helene Smith (pseudonym). In 1892 this woman became acquainted with a group of spiritualists in Geneva and thereafter had frequent trances that gave rise to verboauditive, vocal, verbovisual, and graphic automatisms. A second case is that of Albert LeBaron, (pseudonym), an American. Like Helene Smith he came in contact with spiritualists. During a meeting at a summer resort he had a vision followed by automatic movements and speech. Sometime later he involuntarily spoke an unknown language that he was unable to identify after extensive research. Other nonreligious instances of glossolalia have been reported.
Speaking in tongues has been analyzed in psychological terms by Lombard, Cutten, Mosiman, and others. The following represents a resume of their more outstanding findings. The glossolalist speaks in tongues while in a state of ecstasy or emotional exaltation and shows symptoms, depending upon the individual and his social environment, associated with one or more of the following: somnambulism, hypnotism catalepsy, or hysteria.
The Language of Spirits
Speaking the language of supernatural beings while entranced or religiously exalted occurs frequently in divinatory and curing ceremonies. Rasmussen reports that among the Hudson Bay Eskimos a shamaness spoke to the spirits in their language amid sounds of trickling water, rushing wind, snuffing of a walrus, and the growling of a bear. A spirit language is also present in the shamanistic complexes of the Chukchee, Northwest and Southwest Koryak, and Asiatic Eskimo… Bogoras states that many words of the spirit language employed by Asiatic Eskimos are analogous to the spirit language of Eskimos in Alaska and in the Atlantic area. According to Lehtisalo the Tungus shaman is supposed to learn the entire language of nature during his trance. Batchelor, in his description of Ainu religion, reports that the self-hypnotized shaman becomes the mouthpiece of his inspired gods but, as they "do not speak to him, but only through him, he often does not know that he had spoken."
The hala, or shaman, of the Semang pygmies speaks to the celestial spirits in their own language, and, among the Papar, Putatan, and Tuaran groups of North Borneo, the priestesses of the Gusi cult offer incantations to a gusi (sacred jar) in a language known only to the spirits and themselves. In the Mortlock Islands of Micronesia Wallis asserts that following convulsive twitching of the hands, nodding of the head, and other dynamic stigmata frequently accompanying glossolalia, spirits open the priest’s mouth and speak through him in a language very different from ordinary speech. In the Solomon Islands, the male or female religious medium falls into a trance and speaks with a voice of a ghost which declares itself in possession of the medium. The Tshi-speaking priests of the Gold Coast, during a religious performance frequently utter words or sentences spoken in a croaking or guttural voice. The words and the person’s unnatural voice were said to be those of a god.
The Language of Animals
Eliade and Lehtisalo have described the use of animal language by religiomedical functionaries and state that this medium of expression is widely adopted, especially among Siberian shamans. The practitioner imitates the cries and sounds of animals, birds, and natural phenomena as a sign that he can transform himself at will into a non-human embodiment and circulate freely among the three cosmic zones: hell, earth, and heaven.
The occurrence of this in non-christian religions is often accompanied by sounds ranging from animal cries and ventriloquism to whistling and shrieking. The Chaco magical rites described by Metraux consist of a monotonous repetition of a melodious theme interspersed with meaningless words or syllables. On occasion the priest’s conjuration includes a short sentence requesting the evil to go away. Among the modern Quillancinga and Pasto groups of the Andean region studied by Ortiz, the curanderos or tribal doctors intermittently recite unintelligible prayers as they chew drugs and suck the area of the patient’s affliction. No description of the prayer itself is given, but it was ostensibly delivered while the priest was in a semi- or unconscious state. In North America we may note Espinosa’s description of a Caddo harvest ceremony, during which an old man delivered a harangue of pure jargon in a hasty, high-pitched voice without saying an intelligible word… Ethnography of the Wintu tribe also contains illustrations of glossolalia. The shaman, Albert Thomas, who was half Wintu and half Achomawi, sang in Wintu in the middle of the night but was said to be ignorant of this language when he was awake. DuBois tells of another Indian glossolalist, Nels Charles, who attended a white school. Charles is quoted as saying, "I can’t even talk Wintu well, but when a spirit enters me the spirit talks and they say I talk Wintu perfectly well. It is just like talking with unknown tongues and getting the spirit in the Pentecostal church."
According to Corlett, the Warraus medicine man of Guinana, after hours of shaking his rattle and addressing the spirits, finally converses with them in a language unintelligible to the Indians present. Furthermore, because of the Zapotecan illustration of rudimentary glossolalia, it is conceivable that speaking-in-tongues… were part of the elaborate ceremonial life of the Mayans, Incans, Toltecs, and Aztecs. In African religions xenoglossia has a wide geographical distribution and is a rather frequent occurrence.
Speaking in tongues and similar behaviour have been seen to be highly variegated and widespread in their incidence, but with few exceptions they appear to be mainly Old World phenomena. Ecstatic vocalization is reported in Moslem Malaya and in many areas of the East Indies. China and Japan enter into the picture with examples of spirit language… Korean sorcerers are known to utter incoherent sounds...
Religious explanations (of glossolalia) include that of Buddhism and that of the Dancing Religion of Japan, the former being based on the idea of transmigration of souls, and the latter upon specific spirits possessing the glossolalist.
This survey has shown that speaking in tongues is widespread and very ancient. Indeed, it is probable that as long as man has had divination, cursing, sorcery, and propitiation of spirits he has had glossolalia. Almost all forms of vocalization presented appear to be largely derived from learning ...1’
"Such agreement of pattern despite linguistic and cultural differences, to my mind, can be explained only if we assume that the glossolalia is not simply uttered while in dissociation but is an artefact of the mental state… It is thought… that in epilepsy the cortex is driven by discharges from subcortal structures. I am proposing that something similar is happening during glossolalia…"1
Goodman has shown that kinetic behaviour associated with "tongues" can be conveniently arranged by intensity:
- trembling and shaking
In this light the glossolalia utterance is seen as an artefact of a hyperaroused mental state.
1 L. Carlyle May (American Anthropologist, 1956), P. 75-96.
Modern pentecostal practice
In 1 Cor. 14, the following differences from Pentecostal practice are noteworthy:
1 F. D. Goodman, Speaking in Tongues (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972), P. 123. She also states that glossolalia was spoken by a chronic schizophrenic and also can be induced by L.S.D. 2 IBID., P. 127.
Tongues were to cease1
In the middle of his instructions concerning spiritual gifts, Paul digresses in Chapter 13 to "shew unto you a more excellent way". This way was the acquisition of agape, the highest of spiritual virtues (as people soon discover when they attempt to emulate it in their lives). The miraculous gifts were to pass away because they were fragmentary or "in part". They were specifically designed to establish Christianity. Once this was achieved, the gifts (including of course tongues) were to "vanish away".
"When that which is perfect (complete or mature. cf. 14:20) is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." (v.10) By contrast the spiritual virtues of faith, hope and agape would abide.
It is invalid to say that the "perfect" refers to the coming of Christ as some do. Since faith and hope will be realized at that time, their abiding can only refer to the present time. The "perfect" refers to the completed scriptures.2 This occurred when Christ gave John the Revelation. As that record shows the truth became apostate after that and as the early "fathers" testify, the gifts did cease at that time.
1 See Spirit Gifts are not available today. 2 See notes on 1 Cor. 12:10 - 12.
Farrar in his Life and Work of Paul (P. 96, 97) lists several objections to "tongues" being foreign languages.
1 See Background on Tongues.
Facts about tongues
It is impossible to deny that the miracle recorded in Acts 2 consisted of enabling the Apostles to speak in foreign languages they had never learned. The interchange of the expressions, new tongues (Mark 16:17), other tongues (Acts 2:4), and tongues (Acts 10:46, 19:6) in reference to the same event demonstrate that the last mentioned has the same sense as the former expressions which can only mean to speak new languages. Only the above interpretation satisfies all the facts of the subject. These are:
In conclusion we see that the current tongues movement is an epidemic which rages over disturbed humanity. A clear indication of this is that heathens, Christians, possessed people, tribal dancers, witch doctors and spiritists all claim to speak in "tongues". However, the tongues movement is only an expression of a delirious condition and must not be equated with the "gift of tongues" found in the Scripture which was the God given ability to speak foreign languages.
THE INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES
"to another the interpretation of tongues" 1 Cor. 12:10
A. This was the God-given ability to interpret languages that he had not previously learned. By doing this he was able to edify the ecclesia (1 Cor. 14:5). The very designation given to this gift shows that it was manifested only in conjunction with "tongues".
A person could have both gifts or only one. There could be no interpretation if there were no tongues and Paul commands that no one was to speak in tongues unless the utterance was interpreted. (1 Cor. 14:28).
Obviously the purpose was to repeat the message (that was given by the tongue-speaker) in the language of the ecclesia, so that the general audience would understand and be edified (1 Cor. 14:5). e.g. If the Assembly were mainly Greek and a tongue-speaker spoke in Egyptian, the interpreter would speak in Greek not some other language.
Instructions for use of the Gift
B. The gift was not available or necessary in the O.T. as salvation was limited to Israel that spoke either Hebrew, Greek or Aramaic.
C. Christ’s mission was to the lost sheep of Israel, so there is no record of him using the gift.
D. A person who spoke in tongues on a missionary journey could be understood by his audience, but unless he had the 'gift of interpretation' he would not know what the audience said to him.
EXAMPLES of VARIOUS GIFTS used together
Here we see several manifestations of the Spirit through ELISHA in a single context all operating to save Israel (2 Kings 6:8-7:1).
It can be seen by these examples that the various manifestations of the Spirit merged and complemented each other in their operations.
A New Testament example is evident in the gift of tongues, which required the gift of interpretation before it could be exercised (when the tongue was "unknown").