Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 12:1-21

bibleLast week, we took a look at Matthew 11, where we saw Jesus identifying Himself by means of reminding the crowd of who it was they went out to see in the wilderness, John the Baptist. Jesus clearly identified who John the Baptist as the great prophet (and more) prophesied in Scripture to come as the forerunner of the Messiah, Jesus. We closed with Jesus offering rest that only He can provide.

Matthew 11:27-30 (ESV)

27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Beginning here, to what is Jesus comparing His yoke and His burden? What is Jesus offering for those who come to Him? Remember who His audience is, Jesus is speaking to Jews. Jesus is declaring Himself to have authority over all things because His Father, God the Father, has handed all things over to Jesus. That’s monumental, and worth taking a moment to ponder. Furthermore, Jesus is declaring that He alone knows the Father, and that Only the Father truly knows who Jesus is. In this statement, who is Jesus refuting? The Pharisees, the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes who have (and will) rejected Jesus. They hold themselves to be the knowledgeable ones, the teachers, the keepers of the keys to the Kingdom (where the Scriptures are kept). Jesus was offering rest to those who would come to Him. Coming to Jesus meant walking away from the Earthly Temple and its priests, the yoke of the Law and the burden of sin. Jesus the Messiah had come, to fulfill the Law and to take away the sin of the world, so that by His blood we might be made the righteousness of Christ, adopted as heirs to the Kingdom of God. His yoke is indeed easy and His burden is light, for only by Him can we find Life. With this in mind, let us continue into Chapter 12.

Matthew 12:1-21 (ESV) | A Rest Greater than the Sabbath

Matthew 12 | Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

The Pharisees accused the disciples of profaning the Sabbath by plucking the heads of grain and eating them on the Sabbath. Was their accusation valid? Not according to the Law. The Law stated that no one was to do any work on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were not judging by the Law; rather, they held to their own law, the oral tradition that they held equal to the written Scripture. Their oral tradition became the means by which the religious leaders would add definitions, restrictions, and ceremony to the Law of Moses so that they would be the ones who decided on all matters. They added so many rules and regulations to define what constituted “work” and what didn’t so that it was extra difficult and complicated to keep the Sabbath externally. They decided how far you could walk (a Sabbath day’s journey) and the maximum size something you could carry on the Sabbath without it being considered work. Jesus doesn’t blast them outright in this just yet; rather, He points out in Scripture that would constitute greater offenses of the Sabbath if the Pharisaical assertion were kept. David and his men ate the bread of the Presence (1 Samuel 21:1-6 ESV), which was not lawful for anyone but Priests to eat. But if you’ll read the text that I linked, David was in a time of great need and the Temple did not have any other food to provide, no common bread. Thus the ceremonial law of the bread was set aside to meet David’s (whom God had chosen as King to replace Saul whom God now rejected) need. Jesus is greater than David, and His disciples were hungry. But Jesus didn’t stop there, He also points out that the blanket prohibition from work on the Sabbath is set aside for the priests fulfilling their duties in the Temple on the Sabbath. This is huge, for there is simply no way for the Pharisees to wriggle out of this one, everything they did in the Temple is by any measure work. Now something greater than the Temple (Jesus) is here. The earthly temple is a foreshadow of Jesus. His disciples are serving a greater Temple, they serve the Messiah, the Son of God. So not only were the Pharisees wrongfully accusing the disciples of breaking the Sabbath according to the Law, their standards of Sabbath observance didn’t pass the test of Scripture. Their attempt to ensnare Jesus and His disciples in breach of the Sabbath falls flat because the authority of their oral tradition paled in comparison to the Authority of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

Matthew 12 | A Man with a Withered Hand

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

The Pharisees didn’t get it, and persisted in their attempts to ensnare Jesus. Their man-made definitions of work now pitted God’s miraculous works of healing against their own laws of the Sabbath. They didn’t get it. They attributed miraculous healing to being a work performed by men, rather than God. Check out the evil scenario that has unfolded… within the synagogue of the Pharisees who wrongly accused them of breaking the Sabbath already, there was a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees then ask Jesus if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath… imagine what is going on in this man’s heart? Dare he hope for Jesus to heal him? And what if Jesus does, would that act condemn Him under the Law? Where you and I can only imagine what was stirring in this man’s heart, Jesus knew. I read Jesus’ response with a very hard tone of rebuke… I’m surprised we don’t get a “you hypocrites!” here. But I think His concern moved more toward the man with the withered hand than the Pharisees. Jesus looked at the man and told him to stretch out his hand. Praise the Lord. And these Pharisees… so blinded by their sin, their power, their position, they completely missed both the lesson of the Sabbath and the testimony of the Messiah standing in their midst… a man was healed miraculously, in a way that we do not see to this day, and they conspired against Him in how to destroy him.

Matthew 12 | God’s Chosen Servant

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known.17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
    my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
    nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21     and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

At first it might seem odd that Jesus would so plainly demonstrate who He is yet order those whom He heals not to make Him known. The Jews didn’t understand the prophecy of the Messiah, Who He was or what He planned to do. So, Jesus made known to many Who He was, but ordered them not to make it known.  Jesus came first to fulfill the Law, then to suffer and die in our place as the sacrificial Lamb of God, to be raised again on the 3rd day, to ascend into Heaven and send His Holy Spirit to all who believe in Him. The next time He comes to Earth… will be a lot different. He will come in Glory, and in Power, ready to judge both the Living and the Dead. Amen.

Until Next Week…

Matthew’s account takes a shift here in the middle of the chapter. Matthew has made a clear case for who Jesus is, by sharing who Jesus claimed to be. Now we will start seeing more focus on His teaching of the Kingdom of Heaven, on Salvation, and we will also see increased confrontation with the Pharisees and those plotting to kill Him. Until then, be faithful stewards of the Gospel of Grace, and preach the Word. Pray for wisdom and for boldness to speak the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even when it isn’t politically correct or socially acceptable.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 11

bibleLast time, we took a look at Matthew 10, where we saw Jesus appointing his 12 Apostles and sending them out among the lost sheep of Israel to proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven

John the Baptist, More than a Prophet

Matthew 11 (ESV)

Messengers from John the Baptist

When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.

Does it strike you as odd that this account falls here in Matthew’s Account? I have wrestled with its placement here. It seemed like a cut-scene event not necessarily a chronological succession to the events/teaching of Chapter 10. The problem of this passage for me was that I kept treating it as an update on what was going on in John the Baptist’s life… like some voice-over guy would narrate, “meanwhile, back in the prison of John the Baptist”… but that’s not Matthew’s intention. Remember Matthew’s audience is the Jewish reader, the one familiar with the Law and the Prophets (more-so than the Gentile, anyway). Matthew isn’t setting out to record a detailed account of the likes of Luke, he is writing to Jews so that they might know exactly who Jesus is. John the Baptist is a critical figure in prophecy, and being a man in prison about to die, he inquired of Jesus one last time, Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another? Jesus’ answer is two-fold, He tells the disciple to report what he sees and He also points out that everything Jesus is doing is in fulfillment of the prophecies that testify of Him as the Messiah. Let’s continue reading…

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is he of whom it is written,

“‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face,     who will prepare your way before you.’

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

This is a tough passage to get a full grasp of especially for those who treat Jesus as a man or an example for how we are to live. How can John be the greatest of those born of women, wasn’t Jesus also born of a virgin? Yes, but Jesus has no equal for He is the Son of Man, the Messiah, the Messenger of God, God the Son. John is the last great Prophet of men to the children of Israel, and his purpose was to announce the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, the Messiah had come. All of the Law and the Prophets point to Jesus. John the Baptist is His herald and has been imprisoned by violent, pagan men. He would soon be put to death, and Jesus will also suffer and die at the hand of men… the Kingdom of Heaven indeed has suffered violence. For those of you in the Pentecostal camp, this is NOT a teaching on spiritual warfare. This is about Jesus coming, the Kingdom of Heaven preached, and the violent prevailing against Him… to death on a cross.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;     we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

The chief priests and elders who wage war against the kingdom of Heaven, pursue John by one standard and then Jesus by another… excuses for their core sin of rejecting the very Son of God they claim to serve.

Woe to Unrepentant Cities

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Miracles, signs, and wonders do not produce faith. Hearing the word of the Lord and believing it does. Miracles can, however, intensify guilt. Jesus makes it plain here that had He performed the mighty works in Sodom that He had performed in Capernaum, Sodom would have remained to this day, meaning some would have repented (at least 10, for the sake of Abram’s intercession). He knew this, he wasn’t merely speculating or using hyperbole to highlight a point… Jesus knew. That Capernaum refused to repent earned them a worse fate on the day of judgment than that of Sodom. That boggles the mind. When Jesus returns, it won’t be as a silent lamb to preach repentance… He will come to judge the living and the dead. It will be the end for this life, this Earth, under these heavens. The Grace of God can be seen even in the fact that He tarries to return.

Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We talked about Rest in this past Monday’s CTT post. Jesus isn’t talking about coming to make everyone rich so that they’ll never have any struggle. He’s not offering the “easy life”… Jesus is offering rest from the brutal taskmaster of the Law. The Law kills all who are under it, for they cannot keep it. Jesus came to lift that burden Himself, and then to lay down His perfect life as payment for all sin, so that by faith we might join in His resurrection, and enter into His Rest.

Until Next Week…

Be faithful stewards of the Gospel of Grace, and preach the Word. Miracles, signs, and wonders belong to God and are His to work, not ours. We proclaim Christ and Him crucified for our sin. That He was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven at the Right Hand of God the Father, and returning soon to judge the living and the dead. Nothing we come up with, devise, or scheme has any chance of building or granting faith to the unbelievers… only the Word of Christ has that power. Until next week, spend some time in His word. Read in larger chunks, making note of the immediate and general context of what you are reading. Pray for understanding and wisdom from the Holy Spirit. Our household will be very busy over the summer, lots of travel. I will do my best to keep to a steady blogging schedule, but I pray your forgiveness if (like today) things get pushed back some. Thank you for your prayers.

Amen. In Christ Jesus, Jorge

Prophetic Insight or Divination?

propheticWe’ve allowed many to play fast and loose with the term “prophetic” whenever we see folks proclaim “prophetic insights” based on calendars (Hebrew and Modern). Is this Prophetic or merely divination by other spiritual means (numerology, astrology, omen reading).

Let us begin with what will undoubtedly be a season of supposed “prophetic words” that will capitalize on the upcoming Hebrew New Year (Rosh Hashana). It seems every year there is a “prophetic word for 20XX” that never gets reviewed or tested. A prophet of God must be 100% accurate or they are false and need to repent for their blasphemy. There is no in-between.

The Seventh Month

On our western calendar, Rosh Hashana falls on the evening of September 25. While it is called the “Hebrew New Year”, it doesn’t mark the first day of the calendar year as we westerners have come to think of “New Year”. It is in-fact the first day of the seventh month of the year. This is an important month in the Mosaic Covenant, so let us brush up a bit on what Scripture says regarding this month.

Leviticus 23:23-25 (ESV) | The Feast of Trumpets
23 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. 25 You shall not do any ordinary work, and you shall present a food offering to the Lord.

Okay, so this is to be a Sabbath day in addition to the weekly Sabbath (since this calendar is based on both solar and lunar cycles to keep the seasons) the day on which Rosh Hashana falls varies from year to year. Keeping track of Sabbaths the months, the lunar cycles and the holy days was a priestly duty, but all of the people of Israel had to abide by them in order to keep the Law.

Leviticus 23:26-32 (ESV) | The Day of Atonement
26 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 27 “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord. 28 And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the Lord your God. 29 For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people.30 And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. 31 You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places. 32 It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict yourselves. On the ninth day of the month beginning at evening, from evening to evening shall you keep your Sabbath.”

Now in Numbers we see what sacrifices were to be brought for the Day of Atonement:

Numbers 29:7-11 (ESV) | Offerings for the Day of Atonement
7 “On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation and afflict yourselves. You shall do no work, 8 but you shall offer a burnt offering to the Lord, a pleasing aroma: one bull from the herd, one ram, seven male lambs a year old: see that they are without blemish. 9 And their grain offering shall be of fine flour mixed with oil, three tenths of an ephah for the bull, two tenths for the one ram, 10 a tenth for each of the seven lambs: 11 also one male goat for a sin offering, besides the sin offering of atonement, and the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings.

The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) is arguably the most important day on the Hebrew calendar. Lots of sacrifices made to atone for the sins of the people of Israel. It marks the end of the High Holy days that begin on the first day of the seventh month. Let’s look at the historical significance of the Day of Atonement within the Mosaic Covenant.

Leviticus 16:1-10 (ESV) | The Day of Atonement
1 The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died, 2 and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on. 5 And he shall take from the congregation of the people of Israel two male goats for a sin offering, and one ram for a burnt offering. 6 “Aaron shall offer the bull as a sin offering for himself and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. 7 Then he shall take the two goats and set them before the Lord at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 8 And Aaron shall cast lots over the two goats, one lot for the Lord and the other lot for Azazel. 9 And Aaron shall present the goat on which the lot fell for the Lord and use it as a sin offering, 10 but the goat on which the lot fell for Azazel shall be presented alive before the Lord to make atonement over it, that it may be sent away into the wilderness to Azazel.

Okay, so we have now a full picture of what was required as far as sacrifices on the Day of Atonement. It was quite the bloody affair, and it was the only day when the High Priest could enter the Holy Place. The High Priest must first offer a sacrifice to atone for himself and his house, then he had to follow God’s commands to make atonement for the Holy Place because of the sins of the people, and then the tent of meeting and the altar. Then he would lay his hands on the live goat and confess over it all of the sins of the people (this is where the term “scapegoat” derives its meaning) so that it will carry away the sins of the people.

Everything we have discussed in the Law is a foreshadowing of the final sacrifice, the final Day of Atonement, the day that Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for our sin forever.

Hebrews 9:19-28 (ESV) 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

This is the significance of the Day of Atonement for those of us who are in Christ Jesus. Plainly taught in Scripture. We now have the great High Priest at the right hand of God the Father interceding on our behalf. No more animal sacrifices, no more waiting for the seventh month of the year, much less the 10th day of the seventh month.

Prophetic Insight or Divination?

There is an unquenchable drive within the community of self-appointed apostles and prophets to always have a “fresh” or “new” word of prophecy. There is very little Biblical teaching in that community. In fact, there is a sense that what is old is no longer relevant, so there is no point of going back to what the Scriptures teach. Oddly enough, when these individuals do go back to the Scriptures, they tend to dive into odd portions of the Old Testament to rip verses or promises out of context. Finally, what is often times presented as a “prophetic word” or “prophetic insight” is really no different from divination.

Numerology and Astrology presented as Prophecy

Why do accept the idea that God is in any way bound to a Calendar (Hebrew or Modern)? Were the feasts and the Sabbaths to be observed by God or by men? Was God bound to certain days on which He could speak to His prophets? No. God spoke when He chose to speak, through whom He chose to speak to whomever He chose to speak. The Lord God is Sovereign. If God is not bound by certain days of the Calendar while the Mosaic Covenant is in effect, He is definitely not bound by those days now that the Truth of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, the Son of the Living God has been revealed. Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, and Paul taught that we, Christians, are now the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. If He dwells within us, then we needn’t wait for the Day of Atonement to approach the mercy-seat, or to confess our sins and be forgiven. So, why… WHY have we adopted the pagan practices of astrology and numerology in an attempt to divine the Will of God for “the New Year”?

We’ve already been dealing with false-prophesy in the form of astrology regarding John Hagee’s “4 Blood Moons” nonsense. The supposed tetrad of lunar eclipses that (depending on how you are trying to sell this ‘prophesy’) spell either doom or an opportunity for unlocking some secret blessing from God. Astrology.

Now, thanks in-part to the Hebrew-roots movement, we get 2 seasons of “annual prophetic words”, one for our modern New Year and another for the Hebrew Calendar New Year. We’ve already seen the Biblical significance of this month and how it points to Jesus, but the Hebrew year is also 5775. We’ll undoubtedly see ‘prophetic’ insights tied to some sort of divine significance of the numbers 5 and 7, and the fact that both numbers are doubled. (Rod Parsley and Chuck Pierce have apparently already done so). Numerology.

Neither of these forms of divination are Biblical nor are they Prophetic. While it is true that God repeats patterns of significance in His Word when He chose to work Creation in 6 days and rest on the 7th, it is God who sets the pattern, not the pattern that sets God. The pattern must point to God, or it is meaningless. For example, if I commit a sin (you pick one), there is no power in the number “7” or “10” that I can invoke to get God to forgive me, but if I remember that the Day of atonement (10th day of the 7th month) points to Christ on the Cross, then I can be reminded that Christ already made atonement for my sin, and that all that is required of me is to confess and repent from my sin. Nothing prophetic about your watch showing 7/7/77 as the date, or 7:55:07 as the time… there is no power of prophesy in the number, nor is God obligated to give a prophetic word just because the Calendar has a certain number or letter on it. Divination points to omens, not to the Living God, and not to Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

Divination is not Powerless

The real problem here is not only that God is not bound by any calendar to give a word of prophesy, but that divination is prohibited. Remember the test of a prophet isn’t limited to whether or not the sign or wonder comes to pass. Both the Law and Jesus tell us that false prophets will also produce signs and wonders. We are NOT to listen to every spirit, but only God the Holy Spirit.

Deuteronomy 18:9-12 (ESV) | Abominable Practices
9 “When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. 10 There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer 11 or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.

Acts 16:16-19 (ESV) 16 As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” 18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. 19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers.

So here we reviewed what was in the Law and then jumped ahead to Acts 16. Notice here there is a slave girl who had an unclean spirit, a spirit of divination. Her owners made money off her divination. She followed Paul and Silas for days and what does the scripture record her crying out? That they were servants of the Most High God proclaiming the way of salvation. Was she telling the truth? Yes. Was she prophesying? No. She was calling attention to herself and to Paul and Silas, but was not seeking to honor the Most High God. For we know that it was a foul spirit. A demon. It was not of God, and that is a problem. I believe this example is recorded in scripture to demonstrate that even if the proclamation sounds right (and this one does seem right in written form) the spirit behind it was wrong. It did not bring glory to God, nor did it edify the Church.

Conclusion

Stop reading omens. Stop searching out others to read omens. Don’t accept divination as a counterfeit for prophesy. Seek first the Kingdom of God by reading His Word, revealed in the Bible. Scripture defines scripture. All scripture is God-breathed. God is unchanging. He will not speak now in a way that runs contrary to Scripture. We are awaiting the Return of Jesus Christ our King, and we have our marching orders, the foundation laid by the Apostles with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. He is also the Head of His Church. Remember, that the Testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of Prophecy (Revelation 19:10). Test the spirits to know if they are of God or of error. The only test we have is Scripture.

One final thought… anyone who claims to speak Prophetically in the Name of the Lord and demands a fee from you in order for you to be blessed by God has flipped the Gospel upside down. Jesus didn’t give His life on the cross for you to earn forgiveness, much less blessing. The sacrifices in the Law don’t translate into “seed offerings” of money commensurate with your faith to believe for miracles from God. The offerings we reviewed for the Day of Atonement didn’t become the wealth of the priests, they were sacrificed to the Lord to atone for their sin. The High Priest faced certain death if he displeased the Lord God on this day. The false teachers of today who seek to sell you false-hope and take advantage of your desperation by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not teach (Titus 1:9-11).

Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Pentecostals|Help Me Help You

helpmehelpyouToday I want to speak to the Pentecostal (and/or) Charismatic audience. If the case for Pentecostalism is truly Biblical, then should we not be fully submitted to Scripture? The 5 Solas of the Reformation serve as a return to the Bible as the only source for Truth. It doesn’t mean that the Protestant denominations fully achieved it, nor does it mean they preserved it, but at least we affirm Sola Scriptura. I grew up as a Christian under the Pentecostal tradition. Sure, the names change and not every Pentecostal denomination calls themselves Pentecostal, but the doctrinal distinctive relating to the Gifts of the Spirit remain.

I’d like to begin by plainly stating that those of the Pentecostal and Reformed camps do a poor job of characterizing each other’s doctrines. Honest research is exceedingly and exhaustively replete with ad hominem attacks, straw-man arguments, and mockery… from both camps.  Both sides engage in some proof-texting while accusing the other of the same. I’ve read a great deal researching Lutheran and Reformed theology from sites like Monergism.com. Pentecostalism isn’t nearly as historic, only dating back to early 1900s, but one resource for that movement’s history is Dixon Pentecostal Research Center. For all of the zealous antagonism between them it can be easy to forget their commonalities: both camps point to the same Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Both acknowledge God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Holy Spirit. Both understand that salvation comes by grace, through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and both hold to the same Bible as the Word of God. There are major differences, and they are not negligible; therefore, we should address them humbly, faithfully, lovingly, and truthfully according to the Written Word of God.

Is the Pentecostal “Speaking in Tongues” the same thing that happened at Pentecost?

No, it isn’t. Pentecostals point to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that took place on the day of Pentecost, and the filling of the room by the presence of the Holy Spirit is central to their form of worship. Let’s look at what took place at Pentecost just before Peter’s sermon:

Acts 2:1-12 (ESV)
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”

The non-Christians (though devout Jews) understood what they were saying. What where they speaking? They were declaring the mighty works of God. They were proclaiming the testimony of God. Some have argued that this miracle was of interpretation, that God opened the ears of the hearers so that they could understand what was being spoken. That doesn’t fit the text. While one of the gifts of the Holy spirit is indeed interpretation of tongues, the Holy Spirit hadn’t fallen on the masses, He filled the saints, the Christians, who were following the Lord’s last instructions before He ascended into Heaven. The miracle here, is in the speaking not in the hearing. Notice in Peter’s sermon when he quotes Joel 2:28-32a:

Acts 2:16-21 (ESV) 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. 19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; 20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. 21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

What happened on the day of Pentecost was not how modern-day Pentecostals should claim as “speaking in tongues”, for Peter recognized it as prophecy. What did they prophesy? The mighty works of God. What did Peter preach?

Acts 2:36-40 (ESV)36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”

Of whom did Peter bear witness? of Jesus the Christ. What was his exhortation? Repent and be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. The key here is not in some hidden meaning of “other tongues”; rather, in that the others understood what the Holy Spirit was speaking through His disciples, the Word of God, Testimony of God’s greatness, leading to the Testimony of Jesus Christ. As we are told in Revelation 19:10 (ESV), “Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Notice that in all of Acts 2, the only thing being taught is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everything else in that section is descriptive, a testimony of what God the Holy Spirit did on that day. God moved through His people, to give testimony of His Son, Jesus. If you want to prescribe any Christian doctrine from this text, let it be the testimony of Jesus Christ found in the sermon uttered by Peter who was filled by the Holy Spirit. To God be the glory.

What is the Pentecostal “Speaking in Tongues”?

What the Pentecostal refers to as “speaking in tongues” comes from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapters 12-14. How does the Apostle Paul describe it? Let’s look briefly in 1 Corinthians 14.

1 Corinthians 14:1-5 (ESV) 1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

So, in a sense, the Pentecostal should desire to prophesy as Disciples did on the day of Pentecost. However, that is not to say that every time the tongue fires off in unintelligible speech that they are prophesying. In fact, if there is no interpretation, they are decidedly NOT prophesying, for no one is being built up. Paul goes on to say that if the Holy Spirit doesn’t grant them understanding of what the Spirit is saying, then their mind is unfruitful. Therefore, Paul explains that he prays both with his mind and in his spirit.

Now, here is the part where today’s title comes into play. While I can see in God’s Written Word the basis and the instruction for the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit, I find it difficult argue on your behalf in most cases. Why? Because of the very same abuses Paul was addressing in his letter to the Corinthians. We cannot wave the first half of 1 Corinthians 14 as a banner of justification while simultaneously ignoring the latter portion of the very same chapter.

Help me, Help you.

While I do plan on eventually addressing doctrinal concerns I have with Reformed and Lutheran theology, but given the current state of the visible church and the pervasiveness of Mysticism and False teaching, I need to first address (biblically) the most obvious problems.

1. “Speaking in Tongues” in a loud voice for all of the congregation to hear (sometimes in a microphone) is NOT prophecy without the interpretation. The church is NOT edified by it. God is NOT glorified by it. It only serves to draw attention to the speaker, whose mind is unfruitful if he is not granted the understanding of what was uttered.

1 Corinthians 14:13-19 (ESV) 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

2. Understanding is not a matter of a level of faith; therefore, there is no benefit to pretending you understand what is being uttered without interpretation. It’s not “a faith thing”. Either God is speaking, or He isn’t. We don’t just accept it as the Word of God without testing it against Scripture. The first test is this, “is there an interpretation?”. If there is an interpretation, is it Biblically sound? Does it point to Jesus Christ?

3. Pandemonium, chaos, and sensuality do not bring Glory to God or edify His church.

1 Corinthians 14:26-32 (ESV)26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.

Why did I include sensuality? Well, it’s the only way I can cover things like the “drunk in the spirit” or the “high on Jesus” or the “holy laughter” manifestations. It is a craving for an experience measured by the senses rather than by the Word of God. I’ve witnessed the full gambit of these experiences growing up, and I’ve never seen discernment exercised. I’ve been in church services where the preaching of the Word of God was cancelled due to 3 hour “Praise and Worship”, where the worship was either the same song being played over and over with long instrumentals, or a lot of “spiritual (tongues) worship” is sung or spoken or declared without interpretation. I’ve seen what amounts to “open-mic night” where everyone is claiming to prophesy, well beyond the two or three limitation provided. Sure, some might say “well, that’s why we have special services apart from church”. Paul didn’t say “when you meet on Sunday mornings”, he said “When you come together…”.

4. God the Holy Spirit is not the only spirit; however, He is the only True God. There are evil spirits, as well as the fact that our flesh is sinful and actively works against the Spirit of God. Even within Christians, the war wages on between our flesh and the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5). The ONLY way we know we are hearing from God is by His Written Word. Your emotions are tied to the flesh, and the flesh is weak and sinful. Faith is a gift from God, and comes by hearing the Word of God. God has given us His Written Word. Start there. You cannot skip over the written Word of God and expect to just “know” or “recognize” the voice of God or to feel which spirits are of God and which are of error. You cannot rely on goose bumps… pagan films can elicit the same response. Without interpretation, you have no idea what is being said “in strange tongues”… none; therefore, you have no way of knowing if it is indeed the Holy Spirit or if it is man, or demon. If it is of the Holy Spirit, He will submit to the Written Word of God, for He is unchanging. John 1 tells us that in the beginning the Word was with God, and the Word was God, and the Word became flesh, Jesus Christ. This isn’t “putting God in a box”, this is identifying what might be God by comparing it to what we know is God (His Word). Refusal to submit to Biblical discernment is a HUGE red flag.

5. God will not reveal something of Himself now that He hasn’t already revealed of Himself in Scriptures. When Jesus walked the earth, He fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, and then He established a New Covenant with His Apostles before ascending into Heaven. He granted John the final Revelation and then warned not to add to or take away from that Book. Any prophecy that makes a completely new claim about God, His Son, His Spirit, or His return that cannot be found in Scripture is false. That excludes the vast majority of prophetic visions turned into marketing campaigns for profit we see today. God the Holy Spirit is sovereign, and may grant a word of wisdom, knowledge, or insight for a specific people. Such a word, however, MUST point to Jesus as God and Savior and must be tested to see if it is true. If it doesn’t come to pass IT WAS NOT GOD. If it does come to pass, but the prophet preaches a different gospel, IT IS NOT OF GOD. If it comes true, is biblically sound, and Jesus Christ is glorified, then rejoice in the Word of the Lord and proclaim His kindness and mercy.

6. God’s primary language isn’t KJV. I say this, because I have heard a lot of “prophecy” spoken in King James English despite the speaker NOT quoting scripture. If you are quoting scripture and you’ve memorized most of it in KJV, fine… but if you aren’t quoting Scripture and are speaking words given to you by the Holy Spirit, why the KJV? It would be like an Arabic-English interpreter putting on an Australian accent to let folks know which words he’s translating from Arabic, and then dropping the accent to signify that he’s speaking of his own accord. Just odd. Additionally, just because a scripture was quoted does not mean it’s God providing the prophecy. Satan quoted scripture in his temptation of Jesus Christ. His twisting of scripture was quite subtle compared to what we hear these days. Which brings me to my final point.

7. If the person claiming to be anointed of God, His prophet, His apostle, or messenger demonstrates an inability to rightly handle Scripture, then we have no reason to believe he is speaking prophetically. The Written Word of God IS the Word of God. One who has mishandled the written Word of God cannot be trusted to rightly handle the spoken word of God. Now, God is still God, and He is still sovereign over His gifts and callings. Yes, God opened the mouth of Balaam’s donkey, but the donkey didn’t deliver the Word of the Lord, the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) did.

Lately, I’ve come to realize that the vast majority of the Pentecostal / Charismatic church has lost its way. Before writing this, I spent some time reading through the Way articles from 1906, and saw so much focus and attention on the “gifts” and so little on Jesus Christ. I read through popular charismatic teacher Facebook pages, and saw so very little scripture. Lots of appeals to “trust the spirit” and “experiencing power” and “soaking in His presence” but so very little teaching from the Scriptures. Is that what Paul would support based on his teaching in 1 Corinthians 14?

The reformed camp has its problems, too. If Pentecostals struggle with mysticism and winds of doctrine, then the Reformed struggle with legalism, particularly of the Law ► Gospel ► Law variety. They preach law to convict of sin, then Gospel for the forgiveness of sin, and then burden the Christian with Law to prove themselves “true” Christians. The error in both camps ends is the same, the error of Peter on the water, the error of taking our eyes off of Jesus Christ and placing them on ourselves, our works, or our own righteousness.

This ended up being much longer than I had intended. If you feel I’ve misrepresented Pentecostalism, feel free to contact me. In closing, I leave you with the exhortation of the Apostle Paul in the closing of his first letter.

1 Corinthians 16:13 (ESV) 13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

May the Lord Bless you and keep you,
In Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,
Jorge

God the Holy Spirit | His Gifts

doveWhile this post isn’t exactly a “part 4” of a series dedicated to the Person of God the Holy Spirit, I wasn’t comfortable concluding that series without taking the time to discuss the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit as laid out by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the church at Corinth. Once again, I’d like to emphasize that I am not following any guides or commentaries in this series, this is simply how I read the Scriptures and what I feel is the simplest, most direct interpretation of the written Word. The following 2 statements of faith, however, must be accepted as fundamental truths for this discussion to have any real meaning:

  • The inerrancy of the Bible as the Word of God. In it we find that which God has revealed of Himself, His Nature, His Will, and His Love for us. While we cannot claim (nor should we) to know and explain everything about God (for we are only created beings) we can (and must) aim to know what He has given to us to know about Him, that which He has chosen to reveal about Himself by giving us His Word and His Spirit.
  • The Trinity. There is only One God. He exists eternally as 3 distinct persons, God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Spirit.

If this is your first visit to the blog and you feel you’d like to read the rest of the series, I encourage you to follow the links on the Welcome page. In this series, we’ve looked at the working of God the Holy Spirit filling men and women of faith throughout Scripture (Old and New Testaments). It was not an exhaustive look by any means, but I just wanted to present the case that being filled with God the Holy Spirit was not a completely new concept to the New Testament Jews. The only thing that changed in the New Covenant, is that Jesus promised to pour out the Holy Spirit onto all who believed and were baptized in His Name, not just select few as He did before the cross. We took a close look at how Luke highlighted the work of the person of God the Holy Spirit while working with God the Son Jesus Christ. An attentive reading of the book of Luke will show that Luke took great care to prepare us for what we would see in the Book of Acts. Finally, we looked at the fulfillment of the promise Jesus made to send God the Holy Spirit to those who believed and were baptized. We see the Holy Spirit empowering the early church. In our conclusion to Part 3, I was heavily burdened to draw attention to a crucial element of doctrine, the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit are of God, not of men.

Let us begin our study in 1 Corinthians 12:

1 Corinthians 12 (ESV)
1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.

What an interesting way to open this topic, don’t you think? Remember that Paul is talking to Gentiles, so he needs to cover all of the bases. While they had already received the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and were believers and no doubt had the Scriptures taught to them, this is all still new. The Jews grew up honoring the Sabbath, keeping (or attempting to) the Law and studying the Prophets and the Psalms. We Gentiles did not (sadly, many of us whose testimony is that we grew up in the church, still fall woefully short of studying the Scriptures of even the lost Jews) thus we are exceedingly grateful for the Grace of God working through His Apostle Paul. Notice here that he begins by reminding them that when they were pagans they were led astray to mute idols. While the rational argument against the worship of mute idols, made by men is one Paul engages in frequently, he makes it clear here that this discussion is less on the idol, and more on what led them astray to the idols. No one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed”... is our first lesson here in Spiritual discernment. Paul is not interested in providing a completely lesson on identifying each evil spirit by which men might speak; rather, he’s clearly defining a means of identifying one who is speaking in the Spirit of God. But Paul isn’t just speaking of his own here. Let us look first to the Law

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 (ESV)  1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says,‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.

I believe that Paul is explaining Spiritual Discernment in 1 Corinthians 12 as it was already laid out in the Law (Deu 13). Notice here that the test is not of whether the man is speaking of his own will (that test can be found in Deuteronomy 18:18-22); rather the Lord God is talking about a false prophet/dreamer whose sign or wonder comes to pass. If a sign or wonder comes to pass but the individual points to anyone other than God (the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit) the individual is a false prophet who is listening to unclean spirits, the spirit of error,or the doctrines of demons. Jesus also warned that we shouldn’t also be wary of false christs in Mark 13:21-22, “And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” So, it is not enough for someone to just use the Name of Jesus Christ, if who they teach is not the real Jesus Christ, God the Son (Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, etc…). Let us continue in 1 Cor 12:

1 Corinthians 12:4-13 (ESV) 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills. 12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

I truly believe that the Apostle Paul is trying to make it absolutely clear that regardless of the manifestation of God the Holy Spirit, it is all empowered by Him as He wills. It is not about us, or even about the Apostles, it is all about God the Holy Spirit. We are all baptized in One Spirit and made to drink of One Spirit… God the Holy Spirit. There is only one God the Holy Spirit. Any manifestation that is not of God the Holy Spirit is either falsified by the flesh (illusion, deception, fraud, vanity,presumption) or of unclean spirits, more commonly known as demons (again, 1 John 4:1-4). I believe that a blanket prohibition on these manifestations serves as a prohibition on God the Holy Spirit working in these ways among His people. I’ll revisit this view later on, for now let us continue.

1 Corinthians 12:14-31 (ESV) 14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way.

What we see here is a discussion of a wide array of problems that can arise out of a selfish or self-centered misunderstanding of the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit. The very first lie Paul addresses here is the, “Since I don’t move in that way I must not really be a part of the Body of Christ” lie. How does this play out? I happens a lot in even the most biblical of Pentecostal/Charismatic churches. Many feel that since they do not speak in tongues or have not spoken a word of wisdom, knowledge, or prophecy that maybe they aren’t really in the Body of Christ, or worse, that they aren’t truly saved. This is a lie of the enemy. Paul immediately flips the coin and demonstrates the utter fallacy of telling someone else that since he is not manifesting the same Spiritual Gifts (gifts, not fruit) that somehow he isn’t really a member of the Body of Christ. Relying solely on a particular manifestation to determine his membership in the Body of Christ is insidious because it is not judging the fruit of the Spirit; rather, it is judging him by a Gift of God the Holy Spirit who chooses at His discretion how He will move in each individual. So, if you’ve decided that speaking in tongues is required proof of salvation, you are adding to the Scriptures, for no such determination can be found in Scripture. If you’ve decided that speaking in tongues was only for the Apostles, you’ve made the same error, for no such connection is in scripture. God the Holy Spirit determines His gifts. We are told to judge them by their fruit, and to test the spirit behind the person to see if they are of God the Holy Spirit.

That last statement is important. Paul began this discussion with discernment. Once it is clear that God the Holy Spirit is working, then he addressed the need to keep focused on the fact that regardless of the service or gift or manifestation, it is God who is working, not men. We also see that as a body of believers, not everyone will serve the same functions or even look the same, yet we are all part of the same body and necessary. It is not up to the body to decide who belongs or who serves which function, that is up to God. Thus far, we’ve been able to demonstrate bad theology regarding the Gifts of the Spirit, but now Paul wants to address the heart of the issue. I believe, that at the heart of what Paul is addressing here in Corinth, is a body of believers who have drifted in the faith away from the Greatest Commandments to comparing their spirituality based on the gifts of the spirit. What is that more excellent way? Love. 1 Corinthians 13 is devoted to the centrality of love as the foundation for the Law and the Prophets. If you’ve not read our discussion of Christian Relationships, I recommend doing so very soon. If you’ve never read 1 Cor 13, please take a few minutes to read through it now before continuing on to Ch 14.

Before we get into chapter 14, let’s at least acknowledge that of the Gifts of God the Holy Spirit, the most feared, mocked, maligned and faked, copied, counterfeited gifts are Prophecy and Tongues. Few have any problem with knowledge, wisdom, faith, or even healing (though I hear many who reject that God heals anymore). How interesting that Paul, by the guidance of God the Holy Spirit, dedicated the next chapter to these Gifts.

1 Corinthians 14 (ESV) 1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.

With love as both the foundation AND the goal, we are told to earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that we may prophesy.  In Luke 11:13, Jesus tells us to ask God the Father for the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Based on what we’ve seen in chapter 12, we know that we are to look to God the Holy Spirit for these gifts. Why does Paul want everyone to speak in tongues? Does he want people to speak in foreign languages fluently without studying them? Well, that would be awesome, but that is not really the context he set up here. He has already established that he is talking about those who speak in tongues building up himself and speaking to God uttering the mysteries in the Spirit… for no one understands him. This isn’t the miraculous instant-Rosetta-Stone of languages we saw in Acts 2 that Paul is talking about here. Notice also that within this context, tongues with interpretation are equal to prophesy; tongues without interpretation is inferior to prophecy, since the church isn’t built up by tongues without interpretation the way it is with prophecy. Let us continue…

1 Corinthians 14:13-25 (ESV) 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue. 20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. 21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” 22 Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 23 If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? 24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.

Another command, that those who speak in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. That, however, is up to God the Holy Spirit. So what does Paul do? He prays with his spirit and his mind also, he sings praises with his spirit and sings with his mind also. Notice, he doesn’t abandon speaking in a tongue that is unintelligible. He trusts that God the Holy Spirit who dwells in him is faithful and just to activate his spirit in prayer to God (not men), while Paul also praises God and prays to God in his mind. And he does this more than all of those to whom he is writing this letter. Settle that in your hearts, because we are about to shift gears a bit in verse 19. Nevertheless… while all of what he said is absolutely true, in church, he’d rather speak five words of instruction than 10,000 words that will only benefit him in prayer to God. The gathering of believers is not about catching up on your personal prayer time, it’s about building up the Body of Christ. Primarily through the reading of God’s Word, but also through the ministering of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given for the Body of Christ. While his focus has shifted now to start thinking less about our individual moving in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, Paul has not yet established any rules, he is merely highlighting the needs of the body are different from the needs of the individual members. As an Apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul does establish in his letters the order and structure of the church (Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy bear it out extensively), but in the interest of time now I want to stay focused on the order of service as far as Tongues and Prophecy are concerned. Let us continue on…

1 Corinthians 14:26-33 (ESV) 26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what is said. 30 If a revelation is made to another sitting there, let the first be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all be encouraged, 32 and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets. 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.

I’d like to make mention of a couple of observations. Here, it seems Paul isn’t just talking about praying in tongues and being overheard, he’s talking about someone launching into speech as though it were a “Thus says the Lord” prophecy. The idea here is that there will be an interpretation and the Body of Christ edified. If that doesn’t happen, then the speaker got carried away and was simply being disorderly. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets serves as a reminder that God the Holy Spirit isn’t in the business of creating confusion in the church, so the prophet can wait for his turn to share what God the Holy Spirit has to say. When we gather together, there should be a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue &  interpretation or a prophecy for the edification of the Body. In order, so that all can be encouraged by what God the Holy Spirit has to say. But remember, again, that there is only One God the Holy Spirit. God gives the utterances, the messages, and manifestations. God is a God of peace. If the speaking in tongues and prophesying devolve into frenzied chaos, that is either the work of the flesh or of unclean spirits. Test the spirits, and weigh what is said. I’d also like to highlight, that verse 32 applies also to speaking in tongues. If you don’t have an interpretation. The speaking of unintelligible tongues is for praying to God, not for edifying the Body of Christ. There is no benefit or need to do so loudly. God the Father hears the prayers from your Spirit as well as your Mind, so unless God the Holy Spirit is compelling you to proclaim something specific in another tongue with the interpretation, or asking you to speak so that another can interpret, keep your prayer language quiet as you pray with your mind and your spirit just as Paul said he did in verse 15. I’d like to close this post by looking a how Paul closed this discussion on Tongues and Prophecy:

1 Corinthians 14:39-40 (ESV) So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But all things should be done decently and in order.

All things should be done decently and in order. This is not a prohibition on prophesy nor tongues. While it is absolutely true that nothing will be added to Scripture, that does not mean that God the Holy Spirit does not still give prophesies, tongues, interpretations, or any other of the gifts we’ve discussed in God’s Word. We know that God the Holy Spirit is unchanging, and that His role is to point us to God the Son Jesus Christ, and who gives us access to the Throne of God the Father. Refusing the gifts of the Holy Spirit to avoid “getting carried away” or the task of discernment is not unlike rejecting music to avoid sensuality. Sure you can get buy without music, but why not discipline yourself so that you can enjoy the gift of music in your life? Similarly, while God the Holy Spirit is Sovereign over His Gifts, why not allow Him to move in your life as He Wills, rather than force him to only use you to speak English? I know you will be spending daily devotional time in prayer and reading Scripture, so allow the Holy Spirit freedom in your life. Test the spirits always, but know that the Holy Spirit is God and the Spirit of God will not lead you astray. God is so very good, and His Gifts are His to give to those whom He saved, by grace, through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the Gift of God.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,
Jorge