Question #1: I have prayed the "prayer" for salvation a while back; but I have not joined in any church "family." My question is: what is the baptism in the Holy Spirit? and the evidence of speaking in tongues. I truly want every good and perfect gift and the fruits of the Spirit. I know there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors. While I am "not inclined to any Denomination" they appear to be really into "their traditions." Can you shed some light on why Presbyterians are taught they are predestined to salvation? I thought we had to pray and give or surrender our hearts to God through the drawing of the Holy Spirit. I used to make fun of God and the Bible, and was an atheist until my life started falling apart and I truly believe it was the Holy Spirit that drew me to the point of surrender of my life. I could ask questions about Methodists, et al., but to the same conclusion. Why and what is the way to Jesus Christ. They all pray, but live just like people who don't believe. I only mention Presbyterians because they are the ones I have the most contact with. They curse, lie, internet porn, sex tapes, smoke, drink. What's up with all this? I am only a young Christian, but already and starting to wonder and wanting to seclude myself from the "nuttiness" all around me.
Response #1: Good to make your acquaintance. First of all, on the issue of the baptism of the Spirit and how it is distinct from speaking in tongues (which gift has been in abeyance since the first century), please see the following link:
The baptism of the Holy Spirit as distinct from speaking in tongues.
I certainly agree with your perspective on all this. I too do not want to "miss out" on anything that God has for me, but I also do not want to get involved in anything that is not truly legitimate. The promise on the part of individuals or groups that they will be able to deliver something from God that has otherwise not come our way is suspect on the face of it, and, in fact, as the information in the above link will show, every single person who puts their faith in Jesus has the Holy Spirit:
But you are not under the control of the flesh, but under the
control of the Spirit - if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in
you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, that
person does not belong to Him.
Most of us have a particular or several denominations in our background, and I am no exception. But, as you say, a lot of what denominations believe is traditional and sometimes only very tangentially related to scripture. Ultimately, every Christian needs to be relying on the Bible and what it actually says and means, and that requires personal study, the ministry of the Spirit, substantive orthodox Bible teaching from a vetted source, prayer, and consistency. For example, you mention Presbyterians, and it is the case that many Calvinist groups have gone farther than Calvin himself in over-emphasizing the doctrine of predestination. In my view while scripture does indeed make a point of the sovereign choice of God, it also has just as much if not more to say about the importance of all of our choices, including the one which involves putting our faith in Jesus and determining to follow Him faithfully throughout this life (i.e., most of the Bible is trying to appeal to our consciences so that we will act in a certain way – a very strange thing to do if there is no true free will). To human logic, the idea of God choosing us in eternity past and of us choosing here and now may seem contradictory, but as is often the case when we are dealing with the Creator of the universe both of these realities are true. Therefore it is incumbent upon us as believers, even as we take heart in our predestination and God's choice of us, that we don't let down on our commitment to Him, because if we turn back and deny Him, well, He cannot deny Himself (2Tim.2:11-13; please see the link: "The False Doctrine of 'Positional Security'").
This brings us to the end of your question. As the parable of the sower relates, there are those who receive the Word with joy, but later fall away under the pressures of this life (Matt.13:20-21), and there are those who in the course of life are distracted and stunted by the weeds of life, lusts and worries et al. (Matt.13:22). Only the good ground ends up producing for the Lord an abundant crop, 100, 50, and 30 fold (Matt.13:23; please see the link: "The parable of the sower"). If our number one priority is as it should be to give a good report to our Lord when we stand before Him on that day of days, then we have to order our lives accordingly. That means conducting a good offense in this battle we are waging as well as a good defense. The good defense involves sanctification, the process of becoming more Christ-like in our Christian walk, turning away from sin but also from other things which while they might not be outright sinful are either distracting to our primary purpose or a hindrance to others. The good offense involves first and foremost our own spiritual growth, then, when we have gained a measure of spiritual maturity, aggressive engagement with the ministries to which we have been called by God, the complements to our individual and unique spiritual gifts, with the purpose of helping our brothers and sisters in Jesus grow up spiritual as well.
Ichthys is a Bible study ministry dedicated to helping Christians achieve the spiritual maturity necessary to put these things into practice. You are certainly most welcome here.
Please feel free to write me back about any of this.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I am sorry to bother you, but I have a question and could really use some help. I am contemplating marrying a person who belongs to a charismatic church. They speak in tongues and do other such things that seem to me quite bizarre. I am not a perfect person (I have some weaknesses), and I haven't been to church otherwise for a long time, and I am serious about a relationship with the Lord, but there are many things in this particular fellowship which I find quite troubling and unnatural. I am hoping that after we are married, these problems will all melt away. Still, I am troubled about the attachment my future husband and his family has to a church that is involved in what I consider some very strange goings-on. They certainly seem very committed and enthusiastic, but something about it all disturbs me. Is speaking in tongues wrong? I would very much appreciate any help you might be willing to give me in this matter.
Let me say a few things and also make a couple of important distinctions by way of introduction. First of all, there is no need to apologize for asking help and guidance; we all need this from time to time, and the Church, that is the true Body of Christ, exists in no small part precisely in order to render help to one another according to our gifts. That said, as I often also say, of course while I can share certain things with you by way of giving you the biblical perspective as I see it, no one really can (and no one should) tell you precisely what to do in any area of general application. Clearly, there is no way for me to know whether or not the Lord wants you to get married at all, let alone to any particular person. So while I am happy to discuss these things, please do keep in mind that the only person who has any chance of making a correct judgment call on life-changing decisions such as marriage et al., is the person who has to make such decisions in the first place, namely, you yourself (with the help of the Spirit in prayer and in seeking scriptural guidance as well – as you are in fact doing).
I mentioned important distinctions above, and there are two of them I should very much like to underline here before getting to the question of tongues, charismatic churches, and the issues these may cause for relationships. The first is that issues of you Christian walk on the one hand and marriage on the other should be seen as separate issues. Generally speaking, marriages, even good marriages wherein the match really does seem to be one that God has blessed, complicate people's lives rather than simplifying them, and often to a very problematic degree. Whatever problems a person has going into a marriage are not going to disappear because of the fact of being married. Often to the contrary they are usually magnified, because now we have two people with problems (and we all have our problems) rubbing against each other. This is not to say that there are not some potential advantages to marriage, but in my view from careful consideration of the Bible and personal observation and life-experience backing this up is that marriage requires additional sacrifice, more self-discipline, and greater concentration on the truth in order to be successful in terms of handling it like a good Christian should (and certainly not less of the above). My advice to any Christian contemplating matrimony is to resolve whatever serious personal issues and problems they may have first, before entering marriage, rather than expecting these to somehow miraculously disappear after saying "I do". In my judgment, that is not a realistic expectation. If it is hard, for example, to stay away from some particular sin or weakness now, it is probably going to prove even harder to do so under the unique pressures which marriage brings to bear. This may not be obvious during the honeymoon, but later on it is likely to be so.
The second distinction I should like to make is that just because a person's church experience in their particular church or denomination is unsatisfactory (for whatever reason) does not at all mean that a different church experience or denomination is thus automatically a good, right, or positive one. You certainly do not seem to be laboring under any such illusion (indeed, your qualms about charismatic behavior are what have prompted your e-mail), but you would be surprised how often well-meaning good Christians fall into just this trap, and the fact that you are being pressured here at least on some level leads me to the necessity of pointing this out. In my opinion, the vast majority of main-line denominational churches in the U.S. are lukewarm from the standpoint of true spirituality. However, that is not because they lack emotion (they may or may not), but because they are disinterested in the Bible – at least in studying and teaching it in a substantive, orthodox way. God's truth found in scripture and mediated by the Spirit and then believed on in the individual Christian's heart is the way that the power of God is unlocked and made manifest in our lives. Most groups have fallen away from this basic and essential principle and most contemporary Christians are little interested in any true Bible teaching (which explains among other things why this ministry finds itself on the internet rather than within four walls). However, this fact does not at all mean that because traditional churches are largely spiritually dead that therefore the very enthusiastic and emotional genre of churches often called charismatic are therefore spiritually alive. Nothing in fact could be further from the truth. Emotion which flows from a genuine experience of drawing closer to the Lord through His Word is a wonderful thing, but that is a result of spiritual growth rather than a means to it. On the other hand, artificially working oneself up into an emotional lather through any sort of activity, even otherwise legitimate activities, such as singing or praising God or whatever, may "feel good" for a while, but it will not sustain a Christian through the personal tribulations that come the way of all in the course of the Christian life.
From the above, and from what I have written elsewhere at Ichthys (see the links below), I think it should be fairly clear that I do not find speaking in tongues and other charismatic behaviors to be either helpful or spiritually healthy. You ask, "is speaking in tongues wrong?"; to which I reply, not if it comes as a result of a gift of God and is done in a godly and biblical way. The problem is, of course, that if God has not actually given a person or group of people the true gift of tongues and yet they claim to have it anyway and engage in some weird behavior designed to seem as if they are really speaking in tongues, that is in my view at best a profound self-deception; if it is done in true knowledge of the illegitimacy of it, it something far worse (especially if the true motive is to ensnare the unsuspecting). For a variety of reasons (outlined in the linked studies), my view is that the Spirit is not giving the gift of tongues today and most likely has not since the days of the early Church. And it is a question of fact whether or not He has or has not. It is true that I cannot "prove" He has not, but I think your experience speaks volumes about the likelihood of anything you witnessed, for example, being legitimately of God. The Church exists for the purpose of mutual encouragement through the Word and mutual edification by means of the Word. Emotional excess in the case of charismatics accomplishes neither, any more than motivational, pop-psychology sermons in successful mega-churches do. In either case, it is merely a question of what brand of entertainment a person wishes to substitute for the hard work of true spiritual growth through personally studying and being taught the Word of God in a legitimate, substantive, and orthodox way. We can argue about which is worse, but both pose their dangers.
Finally, looking ahead, in my experience and observation, religious differences are important vis-à-vis marriage, but mostly only when the "religion" in question is really important to one or to both parties. If neither husband nor wife really gives a fig about "church", then even if both are from widely disparate traditions, I suppose this might not prove a fatal flaw in a marriage. Generally speaking, however, marriages especially under the pressures of modern life are difficult enough to maintain, and if there is an important difference on one of the "big three" (i.e., age, cultural background, or religion), the difficulties are compounded. With the issue of faith, if this doesn't surface at first, it often does when children come.
From your e-mail you seem to me to be someone who is genuinely trying to find her way back closer to the Lord. It is true that this requires sanctification, but sanctification is "defense" and even this sort of good defense requires a good "offense", that is, personal spiritual growth through Bible study. For it is the truth of God understood and believed in the Christian's heart which gives the power and guidance and the spiritual fortitude for "being good" and "deciding right" and "walking straight". These things can't be done in a vacuum – the truth is the Spirit's fulcrum, the leverage He uses to use us. Therefore I would encourage you, whatever you decide about any of these things, to continue along the good path you have striven to find, to make it a point to dedicate yourself to learning and believing and applying the truth of the Word of God as the first principle of all you do and all you are. This is how we found Jesus in the first place – how He found us: we sought out (were led to seek out), came to understand, and firmly put our faith in the truth of the good news of His gospel. And that is precisely the same way we are meant to advance in the Christian life and serve Him as long as we are on this earth.
But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on
advancing in the same way!
So then, exactly as you [originally] received Christ
Jesus as [your] Lord, be walking in Him [in the very
same way], rooted and built up in him, established in the faith
just as you were taught, overflowing with thanksgiving.
Here are those links I mentioned:
All Things Charismatic
The baptism of the Holy Spirit as distinct from speaking in tongues.
Is "speaking in tongues" a sin?
Is "speaking in tongues" biblical?
An Extended Conversation about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit
"The baptism which now saves you": 1st Peter 3:21.
Tongues: does 'no man' understand?
In the hope of your spiritual growth and great reward as we stand before our Lord on that great day of days.
My question is this: Why is it so hard to believe in the gift of healing? Christ has give me the gift and revealed within my spirit the way it should be used. This gift does not have to be put out there to be ridiculed. Like you said this is a gift that uses prayer and most of all faith. I have prayed for people who are sick and they have been healed. If we have true faith in God there is nothing we can't do that is within His will. You don't have to lay hands on people in order for them to be healed and they don't have to always be aware that you are even in prayer for them. God tells us to pray one for another, but he didn't say tell them that we are praying for them. God is a good God and as his example we must be humble and meek. Not a show off.
I thank God for your faith and your faithfulness! What you have described to me is exactly what I understand to be proper procedure during this time in the history of the Church. I believe wholeheartedly in the method you describe and what you are doing – praying for people, not to get credit, but for their benefit in the service of the Church of Jesus Christ. I also praise God that you have been so effective in this ministry!
I certainly apologize if I have given you the impression that I ridicule, belittle, or disbelieve in the power of prayer or even in a "gift of healing" – how can I since the scriptures definitely confirm its existence? My problem has been with those who claim the gift of healing by touch and don't have it, and also with the motivation behind the false exercise of gifts they really do not possess: "showing off" as you put it so well.
However your gifts are best classified (i.e., they do differ in some respects from the more overt and direct type of healing ministries practiced by our Lord and later by the apostles), if you have been led to pray for healing and have had success in this, there is certainly nothing I or anybody else can say but "amen!" as we delight in the many-faceted Body of Christ. The Spirit gives everyone of us gifts, and our Lord leads everyone of us to a field of ministry (if we are willing), and our heavenly Father determines the effects of our efforts according to His supreme wisdom for the building up of the Church of Christ and the furtherance of His wonderful plan (1Cor.12:4-11). The very last thing I would wish to do is to discourage someone with an effective ministry for our Lord from continuing to be a blessing to my brothers and sisters in Christ. Following the Lord's lead, ministering tp others rather than self, praying in faith and seeing those prayers answered, these are just the hallmarks of what I would expect to find in a ministry that is definitely of God, from God, and for God.
In reflecting upon what I have written elsewhere on this subject, I hope that you will see that my criticisms are directed toward activity which is entirely contrary to everything you are doing. Whatever healing the Lord is ministering today through individual members of the Body, I am confident that it is taking place in the very way you describe rather than in the way with which I find fault. Not because God cannot give apostolic-type powers of dramatically supernatural direct healing to us, but because as I read scripture and observe the signs of the times He isn't doing so now for very understandable reasons, and there are few things worse than claiming things that aren't true – especially for anyone who purports to be a minister of the Lord.
I am happy to discuss this with you further, but as I say I only wish to offer you encouragement and continued success in this ministry of yours. I know a lot of people who could benefit from it!
May the Lord continue to lead you into all truth and to multiply your fruit for the benefit of His Church.
In Jesus Name,
Sir I read where you talked about it being hard to believe in these things today in this time period.
Sir they do happen today, God's spirit is being let out and if we remember Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; So how could any of God's Word not be used for the time period of today? How can we take the Bible and say, "Well, times have changed; Let us take it from our own understanding." - Should we not say, "Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow; Therefore so is his Word." Seek spiritual gifts my friend, seek to let God divinely heal people through you, to do wondrous works from God. Remember, my friend- These things do happen to this day for the ones who have faith; God's Word will always be the same.
I love you, In Christ Jesus, God Bless!
Thank you for your e-mail, and especially for what seems to be on your part a genuine Christian desire for the well-being of your fellow believers in Jesus Christ. This is what we should all desire. After all, we are here for Jesus, and that means we are here to grow up in Him spiritually and to help others do the same. Both of these primary functions rest upon the truth as it is contained in the Word of God and illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Therefore I hope you can appreciate that everything I do and say in this ministry is (ideally) with that goal in mind of understanding and of spreading the truth of the Word of God, for that is fundamental for everything in His plan.
I believe you have me wrong on one crucial point when you say: "We must truly believe that God still today works in very supernatural ways". I certainly do believe that. But I am not currently building an ark because I do not think that God is about to inundate the world again as He did in the days of Noah. I certainly believe that He could do it, but I don't happen to think that this is currently part of His plan. And even if I offer prayer for Him to do it – and after all the world today is filled with every sort of vile evil, some things so abased that they would no doubt even shock Noah – I still don't think that it would happen. What? Do I lack faith in God? Not at all. I have it from scripture that He isn't going to do judge the world in that fashion again (cf. Gen.9:11-17). God can do everything and anything – I firmly and unalterably believe that. But God isn't doing absolutely everything – and I thank Him for that! It is true that He answers our prayers, but He does not answer prayer that is not in His will (1Jn.5:14 cf. Jas.4:3).
I have absolutely no doubt but that God can give whatever gifts He wants, and, further, no doubt but that He can heal anyone He wants instantly. Indeed, I do absolutely believe that He answers prayers for healing, and that He heals, that He is our Healer. But that can be and is all accomplished apart from the giving of a gift of healing, to take this example. God can give any believer He wishes the gift of tongues too, for example. The question is not and has never been God's ability but rather what in fact God is doing at this present time.
Take prophesying, just for example. In my interpretation of scripture, prophesying is the forth-telling of God's actual words (2Pet.1:21) . How marvelous to receive direct communication from the Lord! This was, for Paul, the preeminent spiritual gift for that very reason (1Cor.14:39). However, it is clear both from his discussion in 1st Corinthians 12-14 and from 1Cor.14:39 itself that not everyone was endowed with this gift (hence the need to seek it and treasure it). So prophesying should be sought and highly valued. But how dangerous, how utterly horrible either to 1) claim to be prophesying if one is truly not or 2) accept someone as a prophet if indeed their words are their own and not a direct communication from the Lord. Once again, it is an issue of truth, the truth of the actual situation. Making it about faith or about God's ability is a very dangerous "red herring". I want to rejoice in and accept all true gifts and their functions, but I am also warned by scripture not to be taken in by charlatans. There are many abroad in the church visible who would do almost anything to increase their influence and fame. There are many abroad in the church visible who are more concerned with the high of emotional experience than with the truth of the Word of God. These are just facts. Given the times in which we live, a certain amount of skepticism is not only acceptable but necessary and sanctified, skepticism not about the Lord, or His power, or His goodness, or His Word, or His ability to give gifts and work miracles – no, rather, skepticism about every Tom, Dick and Harry who claims they are a prophet and endowed with who knows what supernatural powers. In my reading of scripture as put forward on this site, the end times are rapidly approaching. One of the major trends of the Tribulation will be the deceptiveness of false teachers and false teaching, and of the apostasy of believers who are seduced by the same (the worst of which will be antichrist and his false prophet). These too are prophesied to produce all manner of miracles (2Thes.2:9; cf. Matt.24:24). If we are ready now to put our faith in the results rather than the One who produces them, if we are yearning now to see things that are not there so that we see them, how much more liable will we not be then to be drawn in when the "miracles" are real enough, only done in the power of evil?
There are good and pressing reasons to understand the apostolic gifts as being in abeyance at the moment (since the passing of the apostles). There is no lack of faith if a person fails to see a spiritual gift where one does not in fact exist. God can do anything, but it is very presumptuous to assume He has given a gift He has in fact not given. That is really all that I am saying. I am not judging individual cases, merely stating that in my observation, experience, and understanding of the scriptures most if not all of the gifts we would characterize as "overtly miraculous" are in fact not operational today – not because God is unable or we are not worthy or lack faith, but because for His own reasons in the prosecution of His plan He has sought at this time to exalt His Word over all such things, now that His Word is complete (Ps.138:2).
In Him who is the only truth, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Hi, thanks for the reply! Much love to you my brother.
I would just like to address the issue that I felt what you were saying is, "God does not divinely do these today;" -as for healing and the such. I have seen it with my own two eyes, and while I do recognize the fact that we must be weary of false teachers and prophets- if any circumstance presented does not go against God's Word- and in that fact is perfectly aligned with his Word; Then we must assume it is from God.
So when someone stands up and prophesies they feel someone has a pain in there right side and someone screams out saying, "Its ME! Right here! It's me!!" - And then this person is prayed for and it is instantly gone..
Or when a person who is prayed for in Jesus name',with a broken leg; and in fact the leg being broken one day prior; is prayed for and instantly healed.. Takes the cast off, runs around - Goes to the doctor the next day and the doctor is completely dumbfounded..
Or when someone in a dorm has a black eye, is prayed for in the name of Jesus' and the black eye instantly goes away..
(I think you get the point)- But I felt like what you were saying was these healings and things don't happen today as I have just ascribed.. When in fact they do. And if you are not saying what I felt, then please forgive me for I am very wrong in my feelings. But as for these things happening, we know it is not us who have the spiritual gift of healing- for not everyone will be healed; only as you said if it agrees with God's will to who he wishes to proclaim himself to will it happen. But if it is in his will, because we know God wants everyone to come to repentance, then why should we not believe these things happen?
And for the Noah's Ark, (that was a bad example to use =P- Because we know God said that would never happen again)- It goes against scripture and we know God doesn't contradict himself, but as for healing, prophesying and the 'supernatural' as the world would call it in fact says that these things will happen. To say that scripture doesn't say these things would happen would be contradicting scripture.
As for prophesying, today it would not be of things like certain rules as the Bible states for we know God already has established his Word but it would be more of things that are more personal and the such instead of his broad Word. We know they are from the deceiver if they go against God's word, but I am speaking of dreams, visions and the sort of other 'communication' we receive from God. (such as the example I mentioned earlier of a friend I know receiving information from God that someone's right side was hurting ).
And I'm sorry if I have misinterpreted what you said; although again I felt like you were saying our God is a God who doesn't act in these ways today but has only established his Word for his sign to us. When I myself, came to Christ by him appearing to me in my room, by leading me to his ways through dreams, visions, visual and audible sounds. Not only have I received these for information about myself, but for his communication to others too.
Don't get me wrong, his Word is the most important because it establishes how I can defer what is right and wrong. I have had visions and dreams to throw me off too; But by using his Word I have been able to depict what comes from him and what is presented by the deceiver. Much love and God Bless in Christ Jesus.
Hallelujah =).. All the Children singing Glory Glory Hallelujah He reigns!
Thanks for your e-mail. I think I understand where you are coming from on this and it appears you understand my point of view as well. I do believe in the power of God. I also believe that He can do any of these things you speak about. Most of the responses at Ichthys deal with the specific issue of spiritual gifts. For example, my understanding of the gift of healing as scripture presents it is that it is a gift which allows the possessor to heal by touch anyone and everyone who believes in God's power to heal. This is something quite different from me being sick and you praying and me being healed in a dramatic way. God is our healer and He answers our prayers for healing, sometimes exactly as we ask, sometimes in a way we didn't anticipate, sometimes immediately when we ask, sometimes after some time – in all such matters His will and His plan are supreme. But I have never seen or heard of a Christian in our day and age with the gift of touch-healing who healed as Jesus did, as Peter did, etc. On the other hand, I know of many cases where unscrupulous individuals have faked this sort of thing. Maybe they came to such fakery out of originally well-meaning intent, but such things never end well.
I understand what you are saying about divine guidance via dreams et al. as well, and I especially appreciate your prudent and sanctified understanding that scripture must take precedent in all such matters. That is always what I tell people in this regard, namely, if your dream, vision, premonition, or coincidence agrees with the scripture and what you would know and understand and decide from God's Word without it, then praise the Lord. If it does not, then you have to disregard it . . . which brings us back to the Bible as the true and proper focus of all Christian faith and practice. My major "beef" in this respect is that I have seen far too many groups where the focus on individual experiences is so extreme that scripture gets left in its wake – not in terms of lip-service, but in terms of actual practice. As for prophesying, I stand by my understanding of what the Bible means by the gift of prophesy. What you are describing I would rather put into the category of a gift of "discernment" or "knowledge" – or maybe not even a gift at all if it is not a regular occurrence: just as the Spirit might give a believer the ability, opportunity and occasion to work a miracle of healing once but not the gift of healing, so also such a communication might well be a one time only or very rare occurrence. Contrast the same situation with Elisha who at 2nd Kings 4:27 is surprised that the Lord has hidden from him the reason for the Shunamite's distress: I think we have to understand from this that the Lord gave Elisha the ability to know what was happening around him all the time, not as a one time event; that is more likely to respond to the gift rather than the one time miracle.
Yes, Noah's ark is a deliberately bad example as I myself pointed out; but as with the ark, there are scriptural indications that, while God has and will always perform miracles, the giving of the dramatically miraculous gifts has been in abeyance since apostolic times – and that is the key point of comparison (see 1Cor.13:8-12 and voluminous discussions on the site).
I suppose one might say "well, then what's the difference then?" In my view, the difference is extreme, because if we assume that the gifts themselves are still being given, then we are likely to assume that we should have them when we may not or, possibly even worse, that someone with ulterior motives who claims he/she does have one actually does when he/she does not. And not only that, but we may erroneously assume that we (or someone else) can heal, speak in tongues, proclaim communication from the Lord, know precisely what we should do all the time without exception. The result can be (and often is) a very spiritually dangerous over-emphasis on the experiential function of [non-present] gifts instead of on the Bible, where well-meaning believers who have plenty of faith are putting that faith in the wrong things. Indeed, if such a mis-informed mind-set does nothing else detrimental except distract from studying and teaching and learning the truth of scripture, then the damage in my view is significant. In your earlier e-mail you castigated churches where in your view they were not really interested in Jesus and I would heartily concur. But one can only really know something true about our Lord from understanding the truth He has given us in His Word. Everything and anything that distracts from this primary purpose of Christian fellowship is a negative. There are many activities in which the church visible is involved that fit into that category. Over-focus on the function of spiritual gifts (which in my view are not gifts at all in very many cases and so not even being empowered by God at all) certainly is one of these things. I am certainly not judging you or your individual experiences - we have to sort these out for ourselves. But in my considered opinion, within the community of genuine believers in Jesus, the extent of and the danger from misplaced faith in things false is the genuine problem, not some assumed lack of faith in the power and goodness of God because of being prudently skeptical in such things.
Yours in Him who is the truth, the way, and the life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
After viewing your web site I have some questions. Recently I have had an old friend re-enter my life after being gone many years. I'm concerned about his perspectives. He claims he has the gift of healing with his hands, he rebukes visible demons and dragons, can see a person's aura, among other "claims". He speaks freely of these "gifts" almost to a boastful tone. He has shared knowledge about me and my life that absolutely no one else knows but me. I don't think I want to judge or test his claims but am looking for a way to communicate with him in my Father's name and with biblical backing. He believes there are other spiritual gifts that will develop as his current gifts grow in strength. He does read the Holy Bible every day, is not part of any organized faith, and is in the process of divorcing his wife because she couldn't deal with his "gifts" and found someone on the web who is willing to make a new life with her. My friend is now looking for someone who will share his life and support his beliefs. Which unless I can be certain are from Heaven, it won't be me. But at the same time I'd like to influence his life for the better and the Heaven's gain.
I was raised to believe that indeed our heavenly Father does give spiritual gifts to his children but I also believe that as the master of confusion that the devil himself can manifest the same gifts. My gut feeling is that he's entered the supernatural world and is treading on dangerous ground. Is there any way that I can distinguish the difference between a gift from God our Father and one that is from the depths of Hell? Any insight that you can share would be most welcomed.
Your e-mail betokens a mixture of skepticism and hope. I am afraid that I am going to have to come down on the side of the former rather than the latter. I believe that what you have said, "as the master of confusion that the devil himself can manifest the same gifts", is the true essence of the issue you are addressing here. You will find a great number of people out there, some of them truly believers, who are convinced of the legitimacy of present day overtly miraculous gifts. I am not among them. This is not a question of having sufficient faith. Faith, true faith, has to have an object, and the only valid object of faith for true Christians is Jesus Christ, the living Word and the written Word. Since at present Jesus has "gone to the Father and you see Me no more [at present]", the Bible can be our only true standard of faith and practice (not the claims of human beings, no matter how persuasive they may be). So we must believe whatever the Bible truly says, and we are not only within our rights but, indeed, commanded and commended to be "wise as serpents" when it comes to the world and to the human beings who populate it, who by very nature are far from perfect (please see the following link: Read your Bible: Protection against Cults).
For a variety of reasons, my understanding from scripture of the purpose of overtly miraculous gifts (such as healing, tongues, apostleship, miracles, etc.) was as a necessary bridge between the early, apostolic Church and all that followed. For one thing, there was no completed New Testament until the apostles passed from the scene; for another, the Church had need of initial rapid expansion in a day when miracles et al. were certainly helpful in gaining a hearing for the gospel among the gentiles for what amounted to the first time (for most intents and purposes). And in no small part, these exceptional gifts established the authority of the apostles whose ministries were essential in the incipient Church. All examples of the overtly miraculous gifts in scripture take place either at the hands of apostles or by those closely associated with them (both personally and in close geographical proximity). This is not to say that God is somehow incapable of giving someone today such gifts – of course He can. The question really is has He indeed done so? Please see these link: Are miraculous gifts operational today?
We don't have Apostles today either – there were only 12 (with a capital "A", at any rate) – and the reason must be that more are not necessary in God's plan. This explains why what was temporary was to be "done away with" once the scripture was complete and the Church had gathered enough momentum to concentrate on what was really important, namely the truth of the Word of God and the virtues of faith, hope and love which grow therefrom (1Cor.13:8-12). Given that there are good scriptural reasons for understanding a ceasing of gifts such as healing (see the link: The gift of healing), I believe that the burden of proof lies with those who claim to have such a gift – not only to show that they can "heal" (for even without the devil many individuals are deceptive and shrewd enough to make it appear that they can do certain impossible things – world history if filled with the like), but to show from scripture that we should expect it and accept it. In the Bible, periods in which astounding miracles take place are rare, and usually herald or celebrate some great event (Elijah and Elisah prefiguring our Lord; our Lord's ministry itself and that of His 12 and His 70; the apostles commencing the Church age; and in the future Moses and Elijah and the 144,000 on the threshold of the 2nd Advent). At other times, miracles wrought through the hands of individuals are very rare.
It would be very hard indeed to find any significant and demonstrable evidence of true miracles in the history of the Church after the apostles (Roman Catholic saints notwithstanding), and I have to say that all such claims which I have personally investigated have always disappeared at the first touch. Not that there is any lack of people who claim to have such power, but there is a definite lack of unquestionably miraculous deeds. When Jesus and the apostles healed people, the event was always so amazing and undeniable that the entire town or city was thrown into an uproar. In our day of ubiquitous media exposure, any true miracle would surely make the news, and the people who are claiming they have such powers are inevitably not camera shy (another indication that they are not legitimate). Jesus, you will recall, on more than one occasion told the person who had been healed not to tell anyone else, so that He could continue to minister without undue celebrity. Therefore people who are seeking attention while claiming to have such gifts ought to arouse our intense suspicion immediately.
There is much more to say on such a topic, but this e-mail is getting long. Please see the above links which will take you to other relevant studies as well. I will close with two final points. First, Jesus told us "by their fruit you will know them" (Matt.7:16; 7:20). If you really want to know whether there is a chance something like this may possibly be true, all you have to do is take a careful, considered, objective look at the life of the person making the claim (i.e., the sum total of his/her words and deeds generally). None of us is perfect, of course, but it should be very easy to tell if there is hypocrisy or corruption in other areas of the life. At the very least anyone would have to admit that if there are individuals with such powers they are very rare indeed, so that we can safely assume that they would have to be spiritual giants, well above the rest of us in their lives in every genuine and godly way (like a Peter or a Paul, an Elijah or an Elisha). Secondly, we are also warned to be very careful of association with people who are in any way going astray from the truth (cf. 2Pet.3:17; Jude 1:23). More than one well-meaning Christian has in his or her attempt to minister to someone gone astray found the riptides of that person's spiritual decline or apostasy so strong that he/she was sucked in him/herself.
I hope this answer is of some use to you. Please do feel free to write me back for clarification or further discussion.
In the Name of the One who is the only truth, the only way and the only life, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Some of my friends have told me that tongues are still in existence today and those who disagree are putting God in a box, but another friend wrote:
"Seems God is the one who put Himself in this box:
1 Corinthians 13:8-12 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
Just because you don't believe the Bible or understand it, doesn't make those who actually base their theology on it wrong. This passage quite clearly teaches that the sign gifts will be done away at a certain point. What is that point? At the return of Christ? That doesn't fit for several reasons: The first one is that "that which is perfect" is in the neuter, not masculine (which it would be if it was referring to God). Perfect in the King James Bible means "complete" - not "sinless". By comparing all the verses/related passages together, the glass refers to the Word of God (in all three NT passages), and the reference to something being completed or perfected only fits the Word of God."
Is his exegesis correct?
I would certainly agree that tongues appear to have been discontinued as a gift being given by God at the present time, and I also make use of the 1Cor.13 argument to explain this. I see "the perfect" as the entire system of an up and running Church with all the elements necessary for spiritual growth in play, first and foremost of which is indeed the Bible. Further, I think the fact that this description in 1Cor.13 is sandwiched in between the two lengthy sections on gifts/tongues in chapters 12 and 14 is a very significant point which is often overlooked in such discussions: chapter 13 is responding directly and particularly to an over-emphasis on certain "spectacular" gifts in chapter 12. But our main "tools" for negotiating this life before we "see face to face" are not our gifts but rather the virtues of faith, hope and love: these are our spiritual "eyes", and it is the truth of the Word that feeds, empowers, and fills them. For more on this subject, the exegesis in particular, please see the following links:
An extended conversation on the baptism of the Spirit
The baptism of the Holy Spirit as distinct from speaking in tongues.
Is "speaking in tongues" a sin?
Is "speaking in tongues" biblical?
"The baptism which now saves you": 1st Peter 3:21
Confession of Sin, Fellowship, and the Filling of the Holy Spirit
Is water baptism required for Christians today?
How does being "slain in the Spirit" relate to being baptized in the Spirit?
Sin, Baptism, Resurrection and the Book of Revelation
Being Born Again and Baptism