Spiritual Gifts III: Tongues, Healing, and Miracles
1 Corinthians 12:8-10; 14:1-40
November 15, 2009
Main Point(s) of sermon:
· Tongues is still for today, but only given to some (few?).
· Healing and miracles still happen at God’s discretion.
· It is not necessarily our fault if he doesn’t act as we think he should.
Objectives of sermon:
· To give proper instruction on tongues, healing, and miracles that we might seek them properly, and not abuse them.
· Leftovers, BW notes, Driscoll
· 1 Cor 13-14
· Carmen emails
· 093, 078
Scripture reading: 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
As we continue our series on spiritual gifts, we now come to the controversial ones: Tongues, healing, miracles, and (in a couple of weeks) prophecy.
· Because of the controversy and questions, I will go short today to leave more time for questions.
These have been abused and avoided, misunderstood and misused, they have brought fear and division. What God meant for good the enemy has used for ill.
Q What comes to mind when you hear about tongues and healing?
Q Does it involve white suits, tall hair, and pleas for money?
One of my favorite movies is “Leap of Faith” (1992 – before many of your time). Steve Martin plays a con man using this stuff to make money (and he studied a real “faith healer” for technique).
We can all agree that there are charlatans out there, but does that mean we should chuck the whole thing?
· The best response to misuse is not disuse, but proper use.
If God really does still work in spectacular ways, and wants to bless us in supernatural ways, it would be a shame to miss it either because we misused it or disused it.
I say that to myself as much as anyone – we tend to be harshest our own roots, and I grew up Pentecostal. I know my tendency to only debunk errors, so I’m striving encourage proper use.
As reminder, the purpose of this series:
1. To help us become Biblically grounded in what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit and his gifts.
When we come to a clear, Biblically-driven understanding of things such as tongues, miracles, and prophecy, we will remove both fear that hinders us and the abuse that dishonors God.
2. To see The Gathering become more filled with the Spirit, more dependent upon him, and more empowered by him for life and ministry, through whatever manifestation he chooses.
What are tongues?
Tongues is easily the most controversial and divisive gift of the Spirit. Some churches won’t let you join if you do and some won’t if you don’t.
A brief description: To speak in tongues is when a person speaks things unknown to them. (I don’t say “unknown language” because it is not necessarily a language.)
· Some other religions speak in tongues, so cannot assume it is all from God.
It is first seen in Acts:
Acts 2:1-6 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 5 ¶ Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6 When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.
It is mentioned two more times in Acts and then they are listed as a spiritual gift and explained in 1 Corinthians 12-14 (those are the only places they occur).
Are they for today?
The big controversy is if tongues is still a gift that God gives today. In the first sermon in the series, I talked about the three views about the gifts of the Spirit. These three groups have specific views on tongues:
1. Cessationists: Tongues ceased after the completion of the NT.
They say (correctly) that tongues all but ceased after the NT, and then (incorrectly) say that 1 Cor. 13 says they will end with the completion of the NT.
2. Pentecostals: Not only are tongues for today, but they are thee evidence that you have been “baptized in the Spirit,” therefore every believer can and should speak in tongues.
Where do they get this idea from? They say because in Acts it always did accompany the gift of the Spirit. There is no other Biblical basis for it. Two problems here:
a. We must be cautious to take narrative (what happened on this occasion) as normative (what must happen).
b. It didn’t happen every time: Of the 6x the Spirit is given, tongues only explicitly happens 3x, and a far smaller (c. 1/10th) number of people spoke in tongues than didn’t.
Also, in 1 Cor. 12:30 Paul asks rhetorically if all speak in tongues and the Greek makes it clear the answer is “no.”
3. Charismatics: Tongues is a gift still given to some.
The Gathering takes the Charismatic view, and two of the three elders speak in tongues.
So if tongues are given today, how do they function? There are actually three different types of tongues, and each function differently:
1. Xenolalia: Tongues that are actually another language.
This was given as a sign to demonstrate the power of God and to be a witness to non-believers. This is exceedingly rare, even in the Bible; Acts 2:4 is the only clear account in the Bible.
I don’t think the other accounts are xenolalia because 1) slightly different wording (“other” heteros), 2) no repeat of others “hearing in their language,” and 3) they need to “interpreted” not “translated.”
· Does this still happen? There is no reason it can’t and there are some unconfirmed reports of more recent accounts.
2. Glossolalia: Speaking that is not a language and is for private use and personal edification (1 Cor. 14:4)
Paul doesn’t explain the mechanics of it, but the idea seems to be that speaking and praying in tongues is a way to bypass the mind and communicate directly from my spirit to the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 14:14-15 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.
Paul does not discourage this kind of tongue, but it clear that it is only to be used in private, never in a public setting.
This was a major problem in Corinth, in fact chapters 12-14 were basically written to correct an overemphasis on tongues (based on spiritual pride) and a chaotic worship service.
He is not against tongues, but say they must be used properly:
1 Corinthians 14:5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may be edified.
Given the wording and the context, the idea is “it would be nice if everyone spoke in tongues (but that won’t happen), but I would be much happier if everyone prophesied.”
3. Glossolalia that is interpreted for the benefit of the church.
As that verse showed, interpreted tongues basically is in the same category as prophecy, so we’ll talk about it in two weeks.
To sum up this part, if you really want to speak in tongues for your personal edification, then ask God for that gift. If it is his will, he will give it to you, if not, don’t worry about it.
· Don’t think you’re a lesser Christian if you don’t have it, nor better if you do – tongues is no indicator of maturity.
Healing & Miracles
Next we’ll talk about healing and miracles.
1 Corinthians 12:8-10 8 To one there is given ... gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers...
· I’ll address them together as healings are a type a miracle.
First, let’s define miraculous: It’s basically “a direct activity of God” but that definition is pretty broad because it goes from coincidences that seem to be of God to things that are MANIFESTLY supernatural.
This is a continuum, not a “yes or no,” but the less coincidental and more supernatural an even it, the more evidently it is of God.
· Catching all the lights when you are running late may or may not be God, raising the dead probably is.
Are miracles for today?
Does God still work miracles, including divine healing? There are basically three views. They’re similar to the three groups – many people in each group hold the like view, but not all:
1) God doesn’t do miracles or divine healing anymore.
This has been the majority view for the vast majority of church history. They say that they were given for apostolic age, to establish the church.
John 20:30-31 30 ¶ Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Miracles did verify Jesus message, but nowhere does it say that they will cease. There is evidence that God continues to do supernatural things to establish his work.
· Story of orthodox priest and a libation for pagan goddess.
2) God still does miracles and always heals; it is our fault that God doesn’t do the same quantity and quality of miracles in the NT.
There do seem to be less manifestly supernatural miracles today, at least in America. Perhaps part of that is a lack of faith or our materialistic culture.
· There is less supernatural stuff, good and evil, in our culture than others.
The error of this view is to assume that it is always our fault if God doesn’t do miracles. This error is clearest in reference to healing. A common Pentecostal teaching is that “healing is provided for in the atonement.”
· I.e. Christ’s death means that God WILL heal, and if he doesn’t it is our fault.
· FPT gives 7 reasons for no healing, God’s will isn’t one.
While there are some Scriptures that seem to say this, the overall witness of Scripture (especially with Paul and Timothy’s sickness) that not all are healed.
· I am grateful that this is not an error prevalent at TG, because I have seen it do a lot of damage.
· I am also glad that we don’t believe miracles have passed.
3) God does miracles in his time and for his purpose.
This is the view of TG, God most certainly works miraculously, and he most certainly heals. We should pray expectantly, with faith for his mighty hand.
Yet we do not tell God what to do – we know that he is not a vending machine, and he has his own purposes.
Q Why doesn’t God always answer our prayers, especially for healing?
We don’t know. Sometimes we can see his purposes, sometimes we can’t. What we can do is trust his character and understand that his purposes are much higher (and better) than ours.
Seeking miracles and healing
To sum up: God has given some the gift of healing and miracles – they pray and things happen. It isn’t magic and it’s always God doing it in his time and way, but we’re grateful for these.
But it is important to note that not everyone who claims to have these gifts actual do. There are many fakes out there, some well meaning, some not.
· Jesus told some leapers to be examined by the priests – healthy skepticism is not a lack of faith!
For our part, each of us should still pray for each other with faith and expectancy, we will see God’s hand at work.
Q & A