One of the most controversial doctrines in the church (it will split a church right down the middle) is in regards to the gift of tongues. Right now, even as you read these words, some of you are saying, “If he says anything about the gift of tongues, or tries to make me believe that it’s a gift that is in operation for today, I’m through. This guy is simply too much.” That, indeed, is the common response in the minds of many sincere otherwise Bible-believing Christians. My question is, who has placed this thought in their minds?
Before I become “didactic” on you – defending the gift of tongues from the Scriptures – I will share you with a very interesting experience I had. One day, during a Christian meeting, I went to the front to receive prayer. There were probably at least 500 people in that meeting, and many people went to the front to receive prayer. The meeting was a fellowship service that was held at a Vineyard family camp. The person praying for me was a woman. As was my habit, I closed my eyes when she prayed for me and raised my hands facing my palms upward as if to say to the Lord, “Go ahead, Lord, I will receive what you want to show me.” She prayed for about twenty minutes solid, “in tongues,” as it were, as she put her hand gently on my head. Nothing happened (that I could discern) for those first nineteen minutes or so, but when roughly the twentieth minute came, something like a peaceful spiritual waterfall was poured out upon me, starting from the top of my head down into my being. What on earth could this be? There was no denying that something like a pure cleansing stream had been poured into me. I didn’t understand it, but it felt very good.
Because of this experience, and how many of them I experienced (not exactly like this, but other ways I received blessings through prayer), it is hard for me to simply tell people, “believe and you will be healed”. The nine months I was with the Vineyard was an entire training experience in the things of the Spirit. These things are not necessary learned in a day. In part, there are means to learn them, on-line, and this is why I recommended in a previous article that you visit www.sidroth.org and listen to about 100 of those testimonies in both video and audio format. And, I’m not joking when I say 100. If you are serious about the Lord, get serious with those who have something to teach about the Lord. For God did not raise up these teachers so that you would ignore them. Sid Roth, a Jewish believer in Messiah Jesus, has the greatest wealth of testimonies on line of anyone that I can think of. From there, as you listen to the testimonies of the different people, you can “Google” those people individually, and find their respective websites, and you will have a plethora of information at your disposal. It will be hard for you – in fact, impossible for you, I would say – not to receive from God blessings untold if you truly pursue this. There is no reason to miss out on what God has to offer you, even if you cannot find an immediate church in your area.
Now does this woman’s prayer “in tongues”, as it were, validate the gift of tongues? No, it does not. It is simply an experience. It should, however, provoke an investigation, I would think, though. Tongues was always a very controversial thing with me. Because of the environment I had been raised in as a brand new Christian, tongues was not given it’s rightful place, and so I naturally resisted it. It’s easy to read a passage like 1 Corinthians 12 or 1 Corinthians 14 through a different set of “eyes” depending on which church you attend. To the one (the more conservative), the generally accepted teaching is that the gift of tongues has ceased. But to the other (such as the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Partners in Harvest, Pentecostal Churches, etc.) the gift is still in effect today. Who is right? Surely God is not so unclear that we need to argue about it, is He? To answer that, may I remind you that the Jews have been denying Christ for about two thousand years, even though both the Old as well as the New Testaments are very clear as to exactly who Christ is. The Bible says that a veil is over their eyes. So, too, a veil exists over the eyes of all those who say that the supernatural gifts of revelation, dreams, visions, prophecy, etc, have ceased.
The classic passage used by the more conservative Christians to “back up” that supernatural gifts have ceased is 1 Corinthians 13:8, “Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.” When will this occur? Paul goes on to write, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away”. (1 Corinthians 13:9-10). Thus, the answer is, “when the perfect comes” these things will cease. The question then arises, “what is the perfect that Paul is referring to?” What is this “thing” called the “perfect”? Paul describes it two verses later, when he says, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) Thus, the answer to the question, “When will the perfect come?” is, “It will come when I know fully.” Read the last verse I quoted (1 Corinthians 13:12) and you will see this is the case.
When will I know fully? Not in this life, that is for sure. However, so-called conservative Christian expositors of the word of God, who claim to know how to rightly divide the word of God in contradiction to the very hermeneutical principles established in the word of God and esteemed by their very own kind say that the “perfect” refers to the completion of Scripture. This is a critical “bend” in the Scriptures that is condemned by God. Thus, by saying that the “perfect” refers to the completion of Scripture, they allow themselves to remain fruitless in the area of interpretation of dreams, visions, tongues, and prophecy. Such have emasculated themselves in the church. After all, if it is true that the “perfect” refers to the completion of the Scripture (synonymous with saying that “the canon of Scripture is closed”), then, of course, tongues have ceased, and pretty much every other miraculous gift, including the gift of prophecy, and dreams and visions included must have ceased as well. So it makes for a compelling argument (in the minds of some – which I say now as I said before includes about half the church) that it is simply all right to safely ignore anything having to do with the miraculous. The argument is, “You’re okay, because, after all, Scripture teaches us that these things have ceased and are done away with.” And that is very good reason for concern!
At least not all conservative teachers of the word of God agree with that assessment, however. John Walvoord and Roy Zuck, esteemed conservative Christian scholars from Dallas Theological Seminary, concede, “What Paul meant when he referred to the coming of perfection is the subject of considerable debate. One suggestion is that perfection described the completion of the New Testament. But verse 12 makes that interpretation unlikely.” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, p. 536, (c) 1983, John F. Walvoord & Roy B. Zuck, Victor Books.)
Indeed, verse 12 is God’s “no escape clause” for all those who think they have a valid Scriptural excuse for ignoring dreams, visions, and prophecy today. They do not.