Blogtext : "The Tongue is a fire"

  ”And the tongue is a fire”

A few notes on the issue of the speaking in tongues.

It may seem odd to start a discussion about the vexed matter of ’glossolalia’ from the letter of James. But I think that you will see the sense of that when you read again what he said.
Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.

See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” James 3:4-6

A few fairly straight forward insights can be culled directly. Firstly: what we allow our mouths to say does not only reflect what the heart is full of, ( Matt 12:34 ”For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. ”) but it determines our way of wandering over the sea of life. Secondly: what is spoken is very difficult to call back and ’unsay’. It starts unquenchable fires and sears all who come near it. Every iniquity has a voice, speaks in a tongue, and one word defiles the whole body of them that use it. A lie travels the world before the truth gets the shoes on. Every division in the Church begins with a fight about the meanings of words. And the words about ”the speaking in tongues” most eminently so. 

The connection between the ”tongue setting a whole forest aflame” and the treatment of the issue of ”tongues” is most seriously connected by another passage in Matthew. Having performed the spiritual task of ”casting out demons” Jesus meets total opposition from the rulers of the day. They accuse Him of doing this in the power of Satan, since they cannot imagine that such a strange ”gift” would be an act of God. Jesus rebukes them most solemnly. ”
But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

 He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
Note well: to call any working of the Holy Spirit into question, and even calling it a work of Satan, is a direct attack on the Holy Spirit and constitues the unpardonable sin.

You will, I trust have noticed that in the gospel narrative of Mark there is a connection between the casting out of demons and the speaking in tongues. Both are said to be part and parcel of the evangelization of the world. ”And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18

It follows from that portion and from subsequent events as spoken of in Acts that the ’charismatic’ operation of the Spirit followed what was written in Mark. I am totally aware of the discussions about the last part of Ch 16 in Mark being less well attested by the earliest manuscripts. But as the Ministry of the Church unfolded all these things accompanied the advance of the Word of the Lord. I therefore believe them to have been original and as Mark, or someone equally well aquainted with the work of Christ, sets them out, they are totally in line with what the events prove to be true. ”
And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, and confirmed the word by the signs that followed.

And they promptly reported all these instructions to Peter and his companions. And after that, Jesus Himself sent out through them from east to west the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.”Mark 16:20

That is not where the problem lies. It is rather this claim: those ’charismata’ have since ceased to be available to the Church. They came to an unspecified and unpredicted end somewhere between the last of the Apostles and the constitution of the faith as a state religion in the fourth century AD. When the last Apostle had died, then the Holy Spirit, so it is claimed, withdrew these spectacular and controversial gifts. This is what is believed in a large section of the existing Churches. But in opposition to them there have arisen many more assemblies who not only believe in them but actually are unthinkable without them. There is a corollary between ’little biblical teaching and uncontrolled freedom of gifts”, and ”strong doctrinal emphasis and very little of the gifts”

It may be a trite statement to say ’The word said that these signs would follow them that believe, but nowadays the believers follow those signs” But only a fool would dismiss the reality of it. Rather than saying that these gifts have passed away it is true to say that they have actually eliminated the need for sound doctrine and sound teaching about the very gifts. And so the gifts become the enemy of the sound mind. The free and uncurbed exercise of the gifts sets aside every instruction given along with them. That alone should ring every alarm bell in the world. ”Not good if detached” That goes for the limbs of the body as separated from the head, as well as the gifts without the given checks against the abuse of them. 

They spake with other tongues”

But I am running ahead. I intended to speak of the most inflammable gift of them all. ”
The speaking in tongues.” And you know why. James warned most solemnly that our mouths may condemn us and make us sin against the world and God and the holy Spirit. We are enjoined to speak only what is true and wholesome and which builds us up. The confession by the mouth of what is believed in the heart is of the salvation order. It is an anomaly for the same mouth to curse one moment and then bless the next. A wellspring of both salty and undrinkable and sweet and wholseome water does not exist. So speaking is not a harmless matter. The speaking in a tongue is then not a matter of brushing aside ’a small gift’ but actually to miss the connection between the Word of God and the word of God as spoken by us.

Proper speech is a sign of maturity. Listen to him who spoke in tongues more than all the Corinthians: ” Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Eph 3:29-32 Earlier in the same chapter he has put a solemn demand on Christian conduct by stating that we must put aside all falsehood in order to speak the truth, each with his neighbor as we are members of one another. When angry, do not sin while being so, or else you give the devil an opportunity. 

The speaking in tongues has often been characterized as something immature and primitive, and as many who claim to be speaking in tongues have given ample fuel to such a pyre, it is easy to see how the abuse of the gift has made it so disreputable. But I repeat, Paul, the most erudite and most thoroughly converted man of the NT continued to speak in tongues all his life. And at that signal, which acts as a red cloth to a bull to those who want it done away with, the claim is made that the gift of tongues is only a speaking of foreign languages not learnt by the ordinary means of language study, but a direct intervention by God into the minds of men. It may of course also be an intervention into the minds of the hearers of a language rather than one in the speaker.

This claim needs to be examined in detail.

Xenolalia and glossolalia

The greek word for tongue is ”glossa”. It is used about 50 times in the NT. In about ten of the occasions it refers directly to the physical tongue. As when the rich man wails and desires a drop of water to slake his thirst in Luke 16:24. Or when the mute again is given free speech. But the remaining forty times refer to that ’which is contained in the tongue’ that is: language. Especially one not naturally aqcuired. ( So James Strong in his concordance) (The money bag held by Judas is ”glossokomon”. It is derived from the greek word ’kosmos’, meaning something ordered, organised, properly arraigned. Orginially it referred to the small box that contained the reeds of wind instruments. Without the reed the oboe has no sound, no language, no ’glossa’.) 

Of the references to tongue as language we are told that, in about another ten cases, the known languages of people are meant. Such as in the phrase ’peoples nations and tongues’. And of course in the event on the day of Pentecost when people, who apart from knowing enough hebrew to partake in one of the annual feasts convened in Jerusalem for the diaspora, the scattered jewish people, they came from lands where other languages were the ordinary means of communication.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.

Now there were Jews living in Jerusalem, devout men from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the crowd came together, and were bewildered because each one of them was hearing them speak in his own language. They were amazed and astonished, saying, “Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we each hear them in our own language to which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya around Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.”

A mottely crew of original jews and of proselytes to Judaism from the entire mediterranean world all heard their languages from the mouths of galileean men of whom such liguistic prowess was neither expected nor even likely. But the thunderstruck visitors at the great Harvest feast of the Jews clearly heard the wonderous works of God expressed in their own languages.

The full significance of this event must be understood in the light of three other events from the Old Testament. Scripture must be allowed to explain scripture. Nothing happens anywhere on a whim or by chance or by accident. From the outset of mankinds existence a globalisation was foreordained. ”Multiply and fill the earth.” But then the fall occcurred and men clumped together instead of spreading apart. Their hearts were in the sight of God only wicked from childhood onwards. They congregated to make themselves a name against God They built a Ziggurat with heaven as it’s goal. A proverbial middle finger raised into the face of God, a finger of defiance and stubborn refusal to do what God had commanded.

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” Gen 11:5-7 Language is most important for cohesion within a nation. What wars over use of language has the world not seen! But their cohesion was for evil, not for the good of either God or creation.

So the event at Babel’s tower split mankind into what has become a palette of over 6500 languages. 2000 of them have fewer than 1000 actual speakers of the language. The image is daunting. How to unite mankind with such monumental hurdles to overcome. Ever since Babel men have attempted to reunite. But their every effort at reunion have always only brought about the same as that for which God separated them: their sinfulness and refusal to let God be God. Antichrist will eventually make them all one, and any dissenters will be subjected to the sword.

God does not mind globalisation, but He minds it if it is on the conditions of fallen man. His form of globalisation is the next thing on the major agenda of Grace: the blessing given to Abraham. ”In you shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Through the promised Son of Abraham. Who is of the seed of the woman. Who will be of the House of David. But it will not again be a physical, sociological unity only, but a spiritual unity. And in order to bring that about the old order of law and outward formal religion must give way to a new and living way. It will be established by the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh. That is the touchstone! And the Church is the little flock preparing the way for the ultimate great flock before His throne. The small hand of a cloud on the horizon promising the rain of blessing. The Pentecost is the celebration of the final harvest of the year. The outpouring of the Spirit on that day was for the calling together and equipping of those ’harvesters’, ’those workers in the vinyard’ for whom the disciples were asked to pray. And, incidentally, they became the answers to their own prayers.

The speaking of ”unlearned” languages on the very day of Pentecost by the direct inspiration of the Holy Sirit is the antidote to the poison of selfwilled, sinful unity at Babel. They who were dispersed at Babel also suddenly knew langages previously untaught! The disunity caused by the dispersion on account of language differences is repaired by the spiritual unity of those who have forsaken the kingdom of selfwill and become the forerunners of the kingdom of God. And the overriding of the natural divisions of language is the outward sign of that inward unity. They all spoke foreign languages as the Spirit gave them utterance. What the flesh cannot do at Babel, the Spirit does at Jerusalem. True: only a token as yet, a foretaste of what will be when the plan of God has gathered together all his people from every tribe and nation and tongue. The book of Revelation uses the phrase 7 times. Does not get more complete than that.

The dispersion at Babel was a one time event. The outpouring of the xenolalia in Acts is equally a ”one off.” But here is the follow through on that. Jesus said to them before leaving them that they would receive power from on high for a very specific reason: ”.. but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The gospel spread from Jerusalem in concentric circles in that order.

The persecution of the Church in Jerusalem dispersed them to Judea and Samaria and where they went the good news was preached and where it broke through a barrier, such as from the Jews to the Samaritans, or from them onto the gentiles, it experienced a similar event as that of the day of Pentecost. ” And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ ” As the first Roman was brought into the Church the ’pentecost’ of the gentiles began in a similar manner as in Jerusalem. The harvest among the jews had begun and now the harvest began among the gentiles. The beginning event was not a continuos ongoing thing. But it reoccurrred as a new frontier was opened up for the kingdom of God. The history of the mission of the Church retells that similar ”starting grace”, where the preaching of the Gospel is accompanied by signs and wonders confirming the Word is almost to be expected as a norm.

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.  All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.”

When Peter returns to the remnant of the Church in Jerusalem he brings this report: ”And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ Therefore if God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God, saying, “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” 

Foreign and unknown
Foreign in greek is ”xenon” and in combination with ’glossa’ it becomes a term for this kind of spiritual polyglott ability: ”the speaking in a foreign tongue.” ”Xenolalia”. There are few who deny this aspect of it. But there are many who then go on to state that all other occurences where there is mention of a ’speaking in tongues’ mean only that same thing. The term glossolalia that is commonly used for the speaking of an unknown tongue is based on ’lalein’ : to speak and ’glossa’. It is a theological short term for ’speaking in a language no one knows’. Foreign languages all have those who know them and if spoken in the presence of those ignorant of them a translation is needed. But for the unknown tonge no such translation is possible. The unknown can only be interpreted. It is unknown to all but the Spirit of God who will need to give both the speech and it’s interpretation.

If you recall that the event on the day of Pentecost was a speaking 
of known languages you will take note that glossolalia never refers to ’known tongue/languages’ but is always called ’ an unknown tongue/language’. I list a few prime examples here. Any greek lexicon will give all the texts.

Acts 19:6 ”And when Paul laid his hands on them the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. There are no foreigners speaking other languages here to whom a message was given. The tongue was a sign confirming the message given.

1 Cor 12:8-11 ” For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.  But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. Notice how interwoven all the gifts are. I rarely hear anyone say that these gifts are no longer neccessary in the Church. Gifts of Faith for specific tasks, the gift of healing, the gift of discerning between Spirits. All these the Church has always needed. Should they have disappeared then we are bereft of vital functions within the Church. Notice also: speaking in various tongues is given alongside with the interpretation of them. In fact. Where the gift of interpretation is not present, the one with the gift of speaking must be silent.

1 Cor 14:5 ”
Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying.”

1 Cor 14:13-14 ”
Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.”

1Cor 14:18-19 ”I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.” To believe that Paul was here talking about speaking, say French in a Greek church, is to press the borders of credulity beyond all reason.

Here the charismatics have gone off the rails. These demands made on the one speaking in an unknown tongue are almost entirely ignored and set aside. The order imposed on the Church by the words of Paul are not heeded. That is also to go against the Spirit of truth by whom Paul wrote.

The wrong use

Several serious transgressions are done in many pentecostal and or charismatic circles. I have lived and worked among such for many years. I know what I am talking about.

First it is wrongly alleged that the evidence for being a child of God is the speaking in tongues. Whereas the Word claims this to be one gift of many,and given to some only, it is elevated to the equivalent of the ”Shibboleth” of Judges 12:6. A password that only the ’right’ sort of church memmber could pronounce. Without the speaking in tongues, it is said, you have not been baptaized in the Spirit. The Word in no way ever says that. I would venture to say that the evidence that someone speaking in a tongue is not a true child of God is in their refusal to obey the demand for inerpretation.

Secondly, the claim is made that as the speaking is for ’the building up of the Church’ the whole church can all speak in tongues at the same time. It ignores that the one speaking in tongues, unless there is interpretation, only speaks to himself. Not even a million voices all speaking unknown tongues build up the Church. Those who are truly built up will also obey the instructions of God in order to bring glory to God by the proper use of the gift. Collective tongue speaking is not the work of the Spirit of order and peace.

Double importance
It is apparent that this rather spectacular gift must be important. For two reasons: first it has an important role in the front-line of the church in evangelism. It is a sign to the unbeliever of the transcending presence of God in the church. ” 
Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord. So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.”

The second reason is that it is easily counterfeited and therefore is useful in dividing the Church. There is a lot of devil supported ”man-made” counterfeit. And it has been very effective in doing great harm to the Church throughout the ages. The greatest harm the abuse of the gift has done is in ignoring and forbidding it altogether. It should be a warning sign to all that when something is forbidden then there is something hidden behind that which is used wrongly, but could be used rightly.. A poisonous mushroom will grow side by side with a delicacy. The unaware, ignoring the signs specific to the good will pick both and die from a ruined liver or other organs of the body.

(There is a specific member of the girole family, the funnel chantarelle, which grows in huge stands in fall, but in among them, favoring the same habitat, is a lethally poisonous member of another family which looks almost identical in color and basic form. The Deadly Webcap is the English name. But the real funnel chantarelle has always an indentation in the middle of the crown, the false a slight hump. The unwary who pick the wrong will feel the effects in a few days time, but then it is too late.)

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” James 1:7 Every gift of God, being pure and good when given, can be corrupted and turned into poison. There then is the root of the fear of the gifts: their heinous effects if abused. But the answer to that is not to forsake and throw out what God calls good, but in delivering the bitter water of the poison. Several incidents are given as illustration of such cleansing of waters. The bitter waters at Mara in Exodus 15. The saving of the pot of stew during the ministry of Elisha as in 2 Kings 4:38ff. Or as promised by Christ in the farewell to the disciples: ”and if they drink anything poisonous it will not harm them”. Mark 16:18.

Division in the body

In the larger perspective the Churches are divided along a very sharp ridge. On the one hand the absolute Cessasionists who are convinced that the gifts have been drastically reduced by God and simply do not exist anymore, and on the other hand those who accept them all. But in varying degrees and with fewer or more limitations put on them.

Explain this to me: That which was given by the unchanging and immutable God was neither unchanging or immutable?
The theological division is so sharp that they call each other by the foulest nicknames ever invented? On the one hand those who call everything charismatic to be ’ruses’ of Satan? And the other side calling them ’entirely bereft of the Spirit, blasphemers’? Paul was in the Spirit when he wrote 1 Corinthians. He sandwhiched his paen of praise for the agape of God between the two chapters on the gifts in the Church. He never put love and the gifts in contradiction to each other. He believed that the love of God needs the gifts of God to build up the body to live in that love.

Gifts are not forerunners of Love. Love does not eliminate the gifts, it gives them their necessary framework. Because if the gifts are used without love then they are merely clanging cymbals. And if a gift of God divides the Church then not only has the gift been abused, but Love has been trodden under foot. Repent! To maintain that the Highest of the trio, ”Faith Hope and Love” can survive if the Gifts of the Spirit are downplayed, is kicking God in the face while begging him for mercy. They are His gifts to His body. He has never rescinded them.

It is a very contrived idea that perfect love makes the gifts obsolete. ”
Pursue love , yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.  For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church.

Note: for no one understands. Without a shadow of possible contradiction it is clear that ’tongues’ means something other than a known language. You cannot claim that the phrase ’no one understands’ can refer to a known language in the world since they are all known by some. And to maintain the point that this is speaking a language known somewhere but not where the speaker is speaking, and therefore needing interpretation by someone in the same place who does not know it either, stretches credulity beyond all limits.

Note: there is a great difference between the concepts of translation and interpretation. Whereas translation follows the language and obeys all laws of grammar and syntax of both languages, interpretation gives the sense and the meaning of what is written or spoken. And the interpreter must often forget the words heard in order to give the meaning behind the words. The Greek word is ’hermeneuo’ and denotes ”to explain, interpret” the meanings of the words spoken. An even stronger word is ”diermeneuo” and is used about the way Jesus interpreted the OT concerning himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. What no single sentence in the OT says in so many words still carries the meaning when it is interpreted. (The speaking in a a tongue is the speaking of a pre-grammatical language of childlike simplicity.)

A third word is ’methermeneuo’. To translate from one language to another.

Note also: Prophesy has fared little better in the hands of the Church. It has been turned into a kind of carneval of soothsaying and future prediction which it almost never is in the NT. So it is also claimed to be extinct along with the prophets. But make a comparison between the tasks of prophesy here in 1 Cor 14 and the role of the minister in 2 Tim 3 and you will notice that edification, exhortation and consolation are to be done by the members of the body to the body and by the leadership also. ”Prophemi” i e to prophesy, is to speak out the word before people. It is applying the word to actual real life situations here and now. No prophet in the Church usurps authority over it. The spirit of the Prophet is in subjection to the prophet and the church never relinquishes authority over the prophet. Never! I have known fellowships under the thumb of tongue-speaking prophets of the wolfiest wool.

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.”

Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets;  for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. ”

The prophetic ministry given to the Church has fared as badly as the speaking in tongues. I suppose that I may be boring some readers by repeating what has become a very well worn cliché: ”When everything else fails, read the instructions.”

Where are the ”charismatic” gifts?

They are conspicuously absent from many a Church. They are totally scoured out from the theology of many. Does that however mean that they are also removed from the source? We agree that they were the gifts of the tri-une God. We believe that God is constant and the giver of every good gift. But we have a problem. We see gifts spoken of in the Bible of which many know nothing but hearsay and often misapprehension. So tell me. When did God stop being God? When did the Church stop needing the gifts of God to become what church is all about? When did the Church body become emptied of all the ministrations and gifts of the Spirit? 

I believe that there are some solid reasons for why the gifts are in abeyance with many. You could say: yes they appear to have ceased: if so than i suggest that for these reasons:

First: they are the gifts of the Head to the Body. However true it is that they are given to individuals, it is also true they are given on condition of respectful reminder that they remain the Gifts of the Holy Spirit always. To be given a gift is to be given a responsibility to use it only within the confines of righteousness. The Gifts of God are not medallions for superior service but prerequisites for faithful service. Taking the gifts and separating them from the Giver is the beginning of their becoming a blot on the shield of faith. 

Second: the gifts are for accomplishing two things. One, to build up the Church, two: to make the Church do the work to which God designed it. We need no gifts if all we are doing is sitting on the premisses waiting for the gifts. The gifts of the Spirit are part of the training and equipment of the army of the Lord. Spiritual pacifists need no armor.

Third: The gifts in the Church presuppose a Leadership with spiritual discernment and ability to test every outworking of the gift. The bearer of any gift cannot be allowed to be a roaming Maverick boastfully showing of their giftedness. Any other boasting than boasting of the Lord is detracting from the Giver.

Fourth: All the gifts are for the whole body. Although they differ among themselves as to visibility and efficiency in operation, they are equally important. That is the lesson taught by Paul as he discusses the various honours shown the body parts. ” For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.  If they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now there are many members, but one body.”

It is to be noted that Churches which on the whole keep the third person of the Trinity out of the pulpit also always keep the gifts out of the Church also. This comes from the fact that the gifts of the Spirit are not forced on anybody. That is the meaning of ’gift’. It is only a gift if it is received. If it’s existence is not believed it cannot be received. Being more afraid of things going wrong by the use of the gifts, they then err in the other direction and allow the abuse of the gifts to determine whether they should be allowed. 

There is considerable fear that the gifts, if allowed , would bring about chaos or worse. The view of the Holy Spirit is so low that there is little faith in either His gifts or his Power to control those gifts. But that comes only natural to a Church that does not walk in the Spirit.

Lastly: how would the Church recognize a gift from the Holy Spirit? It would never be separated from the fruit of the Spirit. It would always glorify Jesus Christ. It would make men and women holy by their work of grace on the soul of Mankind. It would be recognized as the work of no human power alone.

You notice that I have said virtually nothing about the ’technicality’ of the gift of Speaking in tongues. Not because I do not know anything about it, but because I know too much of both use and abuse. And because I would be amiss if I did not focus on the use of the gift rather than on it’s mechanisms. They will be as individual as the recipients are.

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

When the gift is given and received, the bearer knows what it does. And it may be a well-kept secret for the duration of their lives. But he or she is being built up by communicating with God, both in the Spirit and in the mind. And they find that it withdraws from a merely clinical analysis. If the individual believer is seen as a brick, a well hewn stone in the wall, then that which holds them together is the mortar of the gifts. Only a fool would discount the existence of invisible mortar.

It is also a little like that bread from heaven called ’manna’. They ate it for forty years, but never knew it by any other name than: ”What is it”.

Teddy Donobauer March 27 2020/ January 2021


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