We are all aware of the fact that I Corinthians 13 is a chapter about love. We've learned much about it; we know, here at Grace Church, a little about the real meaning of love because we've endeavored to make such a major item out of it. We know that the Scripture teaches that love is the very essence of God because God is love.
We know the Scripture teaches that the highest expression of love is the Lord Jesus Christ. It says in John 13:1 that, "Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto perfection." Jesus was the perfect example of one who loves.
We know that the kind of love that the Bible talks about is a love, according to the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 3, that "passes knowledge," and only by the Holy Spirit can we comprehend the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of love. We know it is a kind of love that, marvelous truth as it is, is shed abroad in our hearts according to Romans 5:5.
So love is very dominant thing. It is the nature of God expressed in Christ, and beyond human understanding. Yet, it is poured through believers. What a tremendous truth that is!
We have defined love; it is not a feeling or an emotion. Love is a spirit of self-sacrifice. It is a willingness to do what is needed by somebody else, even if it means sacrificing something we need or possess.
Love is to be such a dominating characteristic in the life of a Christian, so much is it to be the way of a Christian's life, that a Christian can actually be recognized by virtue of his love. Jesus essentially said that. "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another." In I John 2, along with a couple of other places in that same letter, he says, "He that says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loves his brother abides in the light." In other words, Christians are people who love their brothers. In I John 3:16 it says, "By this perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." And in I John 3:18, John says, "My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth." Our lives, then, are characterized by love.
In fact, it is so much the characterization of a Christian that final judgment can actually be determined on the basis of love. Look with me at Matthew 25:33. Here we have the judgment of the sheep and goats that occurs at the second coming of Christ. It says, "And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left." There is the separation between believing and unbelieving nations. Notice, "Then shall the King say to them on his right hand, 'Come, you blessed of my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.'" Now we get the scene: Christ is giving the Kingdom to some, some special ones, special individuals are granted the Kingdom. On what basis are they granted that Kingdom?
Notice verse 35. "For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, 'Lord, when saw we thee hungry and fed thee? Or thirsty and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in or naked and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick or in prison and came to thee?' And the king shall answer and say unto them, 'Verily, I say to you, as much as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done unto me.'"
What is interesting about this is this: that Jesus determines who enters the Kingdom on the basis of their deeds of love. Is that salvation by works? No. It is simply the fact of what James is saying. It is that true salvation issues in deeds, and they will be deeds of love. You can tell a man by his pattern of living, because the pattern of living is determined by the nature of the man, and a new nature creates love. Love, when a fruit of the Spirit, determines behavior. So Jesus actually judges people on their deeds of love because they are so much a manifestation of the new nature. You see, love is extremely vital to the believer.
This tremendous chapter just overwhelms you with the reality of love. In fact, I was thinking this week that I wish I could just teach this chapter about love, just go right through and celebrate love from beginning to end. You ask, "Why don't you do that?" Because I get stuck at verse 8. The reason I get stuck is because there is a word there, and it is 'tongues', or language, or glossa. You know what? That is an issue today. So, I have to talk about it.
I was wishing this week that I had lived 100 years ago, because if I had lived 100 years ago, I could come and just preach chapter 13 and when I got to verse 8, I would say, "Languages: that was present in the Apostolic Age but is no longer around. So, let's just go on." But I can't say that today, because there's something going on that we have to talk about. It would be nice, I was thinking, if we could just talk about love and leave it at that. But we have to deal with that issue because it is an issue.
It's kind of sad that the world doesn't understand love. I think that we who talk about love and who say we need to live out love not only need to live it out with the world but we've got to understand that there has got to be a loving spirit, even when we talk about an issue like this. It's very important.
The world doesn't understand love at all. When the world says, "I love you," what they are saying is, "I love me and I want you." The world's love is a selfish love. Alan Redpath tells a story about a girl who was totally despondent. She called up her pastor and said, "Oh, what am I going to do? There's a man who loves me so much that he says he'll shoot himself if I don't marry him." The pastor replied, "Don't do anything. Let him shoot himself! Such a threat is not love, it's pure selfishness." That's right, isn't it? That man wasn't saying, "I love you," he was saying, "I love me and me needs you."
The world doesn't understand love, so we have to demonstrate it to them. And it's not as simple as just loving the world; it's as simple as letting the world see that we love each other even when we disagree. We've got to be there. Those who are involved in the Charismatic movement, and the tongues movement, and so forth, many of those people are our brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, love is the eternal thing and gifts are going to pass anyway, aren't they? We must keep our perspective, but we also have to talk about the subject and do what it says in Ephesians 4. We have to "speak the truth in love." We're going to do that, but I wish we didn't have to.
I Corinthians 13 has four parts, and we have already discussed the first two and are in the third one, beginning in verse 8. We discussed verse 8 last time, and we'll discuss it again this time. We thought we might get to verses 9-10, but that will be next time. Verse 8 is loaded with good things.
We are talking about love's permanence. We have discussed love's prominence; that's when he says, "If I have not love, I am nothing." Love is prominent in everything. We have discussed love's perfection; that's where he describes every virtue of love in verses 4-7. Now we look at love's permanence.
What is he saying about love's permanence? He makes a comparison here between the spiritual gifts and love, because the Corinthians had exalted the gifts to a place of high priority. So much so that they had made the gifts everything. They had decided that the real issue in the Christian life was using your gift and really putting it on. Of course, they were seeking preeminence, they were spiritual show-offs, they had counterfeited the true gifts, they were carnally expressing the gifts, they had terrible jealousy over people with certain gifts, so they manufactured a false one to compete. The Corinthian church, when it came together, was absolute chaos.
Paul has to say, in chapter 14, "You'd better let things be done decently and in order instead of everyone yelling, shouting, and doing their thing at the same time." They had pushed the gifts completely out of perspective and to the absolute exclusion of the reality of the important thing, which was love. So Paul says, "You've made such a big deal out of gifts; let me give you a little comparison between gifts and love."
His comparison is this: gifts are just for time; love is forever. You might as well major in the eternal. He says it three ways. Gifts are temporary, gifts are partial, and gifts are elementary. In those three statements, he is really saying, "Gifts are just a part of the passing scene, but you need to anchor yourself to relationships that are forever. They will be anchored on the basis of love." Let's go back to verse 8. Paul is saying basically one thing in the rest of the chapter: love never fails. That is the clear pinnacle, the climax, of all that he has said. That is absolutely the peak. Love never fails. Then he comes down to explain what he means.
"Love never fail; but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away [or 'be rendered inoperative']; whether there be tongues, they shall cease [or 'stop by themselves']; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away [or 'be rendered inoperative']." Then he goes on, "All those things are partial, all those things are elementary. They belong to childhood. But love is eternal." That's the whole message of the rest of the chapter.
Let me remind you of what we discussed last time so that it's very clear in your thinking, because it is a major point. "Prophecies shall be done away," says the King James. They shall be 'rendered inoperative,' in the Greek, or they shall be abolished or brought to an end. Knowledge, at the end of the verse, shall be rendered inoperative, shall be abolished. Those are the same Greek verb, katargeofor you Greek students. The verb simply means 'to be abolished or rendered inoperative.' It is in the passive form. Knowledge and prophecy will be rendered inoperative.
Notice, both of those are the same verb, they're both in the passive, and in the passive tense, the verb receives the action. So something stops prophecy and knowledge. Something is going to stop prophecy and something is going to stop knowledge. They will be rendered inoperative by another thing acting on them; that's the use of the passive. If you were to say, "I was hit," then there has got to be something that hit you. That's essentially the passive use.
It's the same here - these will be rendered inoperative, something will act on them. We found out what it is, it's in verses 9-10. "For we know in part," that's knowledge, "We prophesy in part," that's prophecy, those two appear there, "But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be abolished, rendered inoperative." It's the same verb, katargeoagain. So prophecy and knowledge will be katargeoed. When will they be katargeoed? When the perfect thing comes.
I told you that we'd discuss this week what the perfect thing is, but we won't. We'll have to wait until next week, sorry about that. Because of time, we want to cover some other things before we get to that. There is so much in those white spaces between the verses!
Backing up a little, in verse 8, prophecy and knowledge are rendered inoperative in the passive form. But when you come to tongues, it's a totally different verb. The verb is pauo, which means 'to stop.' It is in the middle voice, which in the Greek is reflexive, which accentuates the active. Tongues will stop by themselves. It is used 15 in the Septuagint and rendered that way: to be brought to a complete halt, to be stopped, to be ended, to be completed, to be finished by itself. Which means nothing stops tongues. The perfect thing does not stop tongues, it only stops knowledge and prophecy.
Look at verse 9. Only knowledge and prophecy are mentioned in verse 9, tongues never appears. Why? It stops by itself before the perfect thing comes. Tongues will stop. We discussed last time whether it has, and I suggested to you the answer is that tongues has indeed ceased, it has stopped.
There were two reasons, and I gave you all kinds of sub-points, but basically there are two reasons we believe tongues have stopped. Number one, the purpose for tongues came to an end. You'll remember that the gift of languages had basically a three-fold purpose. First of all, it was a source of divine revelation; God spoke revelation through that gift. Now, when the Bible was completed, was there any need for further revelation? None. So the revelatory nature of that gift has ceased.
Secondly, it was a miracle sign to authenticate the apostles and the prophets in the Apostolic Age. Since there was no written Scripture to confirm what they preached, God attended them with signs, wonders, gifts, and so forth. It was a sign gift of a miraculous nature to attest to the divine, supernatural power of the apostles and prophets. There are no apostles and prophets authenticating the Gospel today, it's authenticated by virtue of whether a man agrees with what has been written and delivered to the saints. We're not trying to defend apostles by miracle signs anymore, so it has ceased as a sign gift.
The third use of it was as a judicial sign to unbelieving Israel to fulfill Isaiah 28:11. It was a judicial sign to unbelieving Israel of coming judgment. That judgment came in 70 A.D., the nation was destroyed, and that was fulfilled. There is, therefore, no reason today for tongues as a sign to unbelieving Israel. So it has no function as a source of revelation, it has no function as a miracle sign of proving the apostles and prophets, and it has no function as a sign to Israel regarding their judgment. Therefore, its reason to be is no longer around, so we say it ceases for lack of purpose. Secondly, we believe that tongues have ceased because the fact is, history says it did cease, and so does I Corinthians 13:8. It says tongues will stop by themselves; we look at history and they stopped. In fact, up until 500 A.D., from the birth of the church until 500, after the Apostolic Era was over, there is no record of the church ever speaking in tongues, or anyone in the church, except two people: Montanus and his disciple and follower Tertullian.
Montanus, in the second century, believed that he was the Holy Spirit. He was a heretic. He had women who accompanied him and spoke in ecstasy and prophesied. He believed the Kingdom of God was coming to Phrygia and that it would be set up in his village. He was a heretic, and his follower Tertullian was also branded a heretic. They were really disregarded by the church. The mainline of the church had no such occurrence, and I read you many quotes from the church fathers stating that they had no knowledge of that as anything existing for the church.
Then we saw that, throughout the rest of the history of the church until the twentieth century, there is no account of tongues except isolated incidents among heretical groups. It was never a part of the main church, never a part of even Reformation doctrine. It never belonged in the church, and it wasn't begun in a mainstream way in Christianity until 1901. What's interesting about that is that there is an 1,800-year period where tongues had stopped. You say, "But wait a minute. It did exist among those groups." Yes, but those were all heretical groups. Those groups were most likely not even Christian. But in mainstream Christianity, within the confines of the church of Jesus Christ, it hasn't existed until 1901 when it popped up in Kansas, spread to California, and now you know where we are.
What is interesting is that our Charismatic brothers and sisters have to treat this in one of two ways. Number one, and they say this, "We claim Montanus, and we claim Mother Ann Lee," and they claim some of these strange people who spoke in tongues at intervals of 300-400 years through church history. But by doing that, you see, they're putting themselves in a heretical tradition and saying, "Our movement has been a part of the heresy of the church for years." I'm not sure that's what they want to say.
There is only one other alternative for the Charismatics, which is what most of them believe, I think, the ones who seriously think about it. They are saying it did cease, but it is starting again. They will say this, "Because we are now in the last days and God is giving us the last-day outpouring of His Spirit." That's the most reasonable view that they will present. That's the same view that Montanus held. When he was asked why the gift of tongues suddenly started up with him after having ceased many years before, he said, "It's been restored now because these are the last days. The Kingdom of God is coming right away, and it will be in Phrygia and the headquarters will be in my village." So now, we're asking the Charismatics where the gift of tongues has been for the last 1,800 hundred years and their reply is, "It's been restored."
Now, if you ask what Scripture they use to back up this last-day phenomenon of speaking in tongues, they will invariably go to Joel 2:28-29. That is usually what they use to back up their claim that tongues has been restored in the last days. I want you to look carefully with me at Joel and I'll see if I can't help you to understand what it's saying. The verse that they use is also recorded in Acts 2:17 and we'll look at that in a few minutes. Let's look at Joel 2:28. It's repeated by Peter at Pentecost, and that's why they make the connection.
"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and, also, upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit."
The Charismatics say that we are now experiencing the last-day outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Now there are several problems with that and I want to show you what they are. Back up to verse 20. If you look at this prophetically, and I think when you're dealing with this passage, you have to deal with it as prophecy of the future because of the fact that verse 31 says this is before "the great and the terrible day of the LORD." We know the great and terrible day of the Lord is the second coming. He's talking there about signs in the heavens.
So we're dealing with an end-time prophecy, I'm convinced. Look at verse 20. "But I will remove far off from you the northern army, and will drive him into a land barren and desolate." When is it that Israel confronted by a northern army? During the Great Tribulation, Israel will be under the siege of a great northern army, a great northern power. You can read this in the book of Daniel. They will be sieged by this great northern army, but this northern army will be defeated when Christ comes in the great victory of Armageddon. What happens immediately after Armageddon? As far as we know, the setting up of the Kingdom. Christ returns at Armageddon, wins the victory, judges the nations and sets up His Kingdom. That flow is right here. The northern army is defeated in verse 20; immediately, then, verse 21 introduces the Kingdom.
"Fear not, O land. Be glad and rejoice; for the LORD will do great things. Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field; for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree bears her fruit, the fig tree and the vine yield their strength." In fact, we know that in the Tribulation, Revelation 14:20 says that the blood from the Battle of Armageddon will be as deep as a horse's bridle for a length of 200 miles. So the land has been denuded again.
"Fear not, O land, in the Kingdom. Be glad and rejoice for the Lord will do great things. Be not afraid, you beasts of the field; for the pastures of the wilderness do spring." You may not have anything to eat for a little while, but something is going to happen dramatically. The pastures of the wilderness are going to spring, the trees will bear fruit, and the fig tree and the vine are yielding their strength. What's going to happen in the Kingdom is there's going to be a proliferation of crops and growth, and things are going to explode. Read Isaiah where it says the desert is going to blossom like a rose and things are going to spring up, and there will be streams in the desert. All these marvelous things are going to happen in the Kingdom when the Lord puts the land back together.
Verse 23: "Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD, your God; for He has given you the former rain moderately, and He will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain and the latter rain in the first month." Now people make a big deal out of the significance of 'the former rain and the latter rain,' but do you know what the former rain is? It's when it rains in autumn. And the latter rain is when it rains in the spring.
In Israel, you have the former rain in autumn and the latter rain in the spring, and those are the things that secured the crops. But he says, "When you get into the Kingdom, you are going to get the former rain and the latter rain in the first month. You're going to get so much rain when the Kingdom begins that everything is going to grow like crazy. What you normally wait for until seasonal rain, God is going to dump rain and make everything grow. "And the floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmer worm, My great army which I sent among you." In other words, all the crops that were lost during the tribulation will be proliferating in the restoration.
Verse 26. "And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the LORD, your God, who hath dealt wondrously with you; and My people shall never be ashamed." No shame ever; why, that has to be the Kingdom. They're going to praise God, praise the Lord. You know who Israel is currently praising? They're praising the god of might. That's who they're currently bowing down to. The revival hasn't happened. In verse 27, "And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel." When will the Lord be in the midst of Israel? When Christ sits on His throne in the city of David and reigns. "And that I am the Lord your God and none else, and my people shall never be ashamed."
You see, this is the great millennial Kingdom, when the people are in their land, when the crops begin to grow, when the desert has streams and blossoms like a rose, when it rains in the first month as it would rain in a whole year of rain, when everything grows without the threat of pestilence or plague, and when everybody worships and praises God. That has never happened in the history of Israel, that's Kingdom stuff. Now watch.
Verses 28 comes so clearly. "And it shall come to pass afterward," afterward what? After the Kingdom has already begun! "Then I will pour out My Spirit." Listen, people. That prophecy cannot be fulfilled until after the Kingdom is established; that's a Kingdom prophecy. "Then will I pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and, also, upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out My Spirit."
Just so you know what day it is, he goes on to discover how that day will come. He says, "And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come." In other words, all of these signs will follow the great judgment, and then the Kingdom will be set up.
A simple Bible student reading an English Bible could see it. I saw it, and I'm not scholar. I don't know much about Hebrew, but I just read it and checked a few Hebrew words. All I wanted to know was, "Does after mean after?" After means after. It's after the Kingdom has begun, after the day of the Lord with all the signs and wonders have occurred. That hasn't happened. It's after the army of the north has come down and been defeated; after the Kingdom has been set up, after the day of the Lord. Then God will pour out His Spirit.
It's the same thing in Ezekiel 36. In the Kingdom, God says, "For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep Mine ordinances, and do them." It's after they're gathered in the land, after they're gathered in the Kingdom. Read it; it's Ezekiel 36.
People, you can't take that verse and yank it out and make it say whatever accommodates what you want. To me, it's just a closed case. There is just no basis for believing that Joel has anything to do with the present scene. Some of them even say that the former rain was Pentecost and the latter rain is now, that He already gave the former rain, and the latter rain is now. First of all, that rain just plain water. It's not tongues, he's just talking about water. It certainly isn't speaking in tongues.
Some say that it's a metaphor. Now, if there is a metaphor in that verse at all, the metaphor is this: the former rain was referring to Davidic Kingdom and the latter rain is the Messiah's Kingdom. That would be the only picture that Joel could be making, where he says, "You had the former rain moderately." In other words, "David's kingdom was nice, but it had its problems. In the latter rain, you're going to get all the good things." So if there is a metaphor there, it would be between David's Kingdom and the Messiah's, but certainly it has nothing to do with Pentecost and what occurred in 1901. It's fairly clear that this has to be in the future.
You cannot say that the current Charismatic movement fulfills Joel 2:28. When you can't say that, you have no other Scripture to substantiate the current movement; none. There is no Scripture to substantiate that God would do now what He did in the Apostolic Age in reference to the gift of languages; there isn't any. These people who want to claim that this is the age of the outpouring of the Spirit are wrong. This is not the age of the outpouring of the Spirit. All the Bible says about that age is in reference to Israel; don't they see that? God's Spirit hasn't been poured out on Israel yet. Right now, there's only a remnant. We have to wait until the Tribulation is over, until the Second Coming is over, and until Jesus sets up His Kingdom and reigns in Jerusalem. And then His Spirit will be poured out on all flesh.
What interests me is that even then, it doesn't say anything about anybody speaking in tongues. It's very clear about what it does say. Prophecy, dreams, and visions. Tongues? No. Why? Because when tongues ceased, tongues ceased! It doesn't say they're going to stop until a little later, when they'll be back again. No, and you don't see them picked up anywhere.
Let's go to Acts 2 because everyone will ask, "If that's true about the text in Joel, why does Peter quote it on the Day of Pentecost?" I think this is where our beloved friends get confused, and maybe they just need to be taught. Give them the benefit of the doubt, that maybe they haven't been taught properly in this.
In Acts 2, Peter stands up after the occasion of Pentecost and the speaking in tongues, and says, "But this is that which was spoken through the prophet, Joel. 'And it shall come to pass in the last days, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy." They say, "You see, it says right there that Peter identified what happened at Pentecost as the outpouring of the Spirit discussed in Joel." Let's back up a little bit and understand something.
Verse 19. On the Day of Pentecost, were there wonders in the heavens, signs in the earth? Was there blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke? Did the sun turn into darkness, and the moon into blood? Did the great and terrible day of the Lord come? Did all of that happen? Of course not! It's future. He's talking about the coming of the Kingdom, the setting up of the Kingdom. Peter is quoting Joel.
You say, "Why in the world does Peter quote something about the Kingdom on the Day of Pentecost?" What happened on Pentecost, Peter tells them, was a preliminary glimpse of the kind of power that the Spirit would release over all flesh in the Kingdom. It was a little, tiny, localized thing that happened in a little, tiny town called Jerusalem, in a little country called Israel, to a little handful of 120 people. It was to be to them and to surrounding people a sign of what God's Spirit would someday do worldwide. In other words, it was a glimpse of the Kingdom. It is exactly what is meant in Hebrews 6:5, when the writer of Hebrews says to the people who were there, "You have tasted of the powers of the age to come. You got a little taste of the kind of power that will be released in the Kingdom when Christ comes during the great and terrible day of the Lord." Do you understand? It was just a glimpse, just a taste.
One of the great biblical scholars of the 19th century was George N.H. Peters. He put it this way: "The baptism of Pentecost is a pledge of fulfillment in the future, evidencing what the Holy Ghost will yet perform in the coming age." He was right. A current German theologian, Helmut Thielicke, a very brilliant German theologian, holds that same view. He has a very beautiful statement. He says the miracles of the first century, things like tongues (I love this), are the lightning on the horizon of the Kingdom of God. He's right. Those first-century miracles were the lightning flashes which were to draw our attention that beyond the horizon, there is a coming Kingdom. That's exactly what happened at Pentecost. But beloved, that was not the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy. That is yet to be fulfilled in the Kingdom.
You say, "Why are you spending so much time on this?" Because this is the one passage that they hold on to to defend their belief that the pouring out of the Spirit is going to occur. They want to define it as now, but it can't be defined as now. There is no Scriptural evidence, then, to support the continuance of tongues.
Number one, there is no reason for it. We know what the reasons were and they no longer exist; history shows that it ceased. Thirdly, there is nothing in the Bible that supports the fact that it will return in the church age. The verse says it will stop, and 15 times in the Septuagint, when it's used in that form, it means it will stop. There is no reason to believe it will start again. You can't use Joel 2:28 to say that it's coming up again because this is the outpouring for two reasons. One, Joel never said tongues would come back when the outpouring came. Two, this isn't that outpouring. The point of the whole argument is that tongues is going to stop, that's what Paul is saying, and you can wiggle your way around the whole Bible and you just won't find them starting again.
People say, "Well, what about Luke 11:13 where Jesus says He'll give the Holy Spirit to them that ask, and if you ask for bread, will He give you a stone? We're asking for the Spirit and for tongues and He's giving them to us." Yes, but if you're asking for something that God isn't giving in a certain time, then you may get something that isn't from Him. That's very clear. People may say, "Well, I asked the Lord for it." But maybe the Lord isn't giving it! If He's not giving it, and if Satan knows you want it bad enough, and you're having an unqualified request, he may give you a Satanically developed substitute.
You know, you have to be careful of, people, and this is such a dangerous thing. Don't let experience change anything. Don't let someone come along and say, "I don't care about Joel 2:28 or Acts 2. I don't care about I Corinthians 13. All I know is that it happened to me." That's what they say, bless their hearts, "It happened to me; you can't deny my experience." Well, yes, but why do we need the Bible? Bring your experience to the Bible. People are having experiences all over the place.
People are into TA (transactional analysis), TM (transcendental meditation), and all the other strange things going on in our world, in every religion around the globe, and they are having experiences. Drunks have experiences, but they sleep them off. They were never real. The worst judge of reality is human experience.
You say, "Alright, John, if we're going to stick with the Word, then the gift has ceased. OK. Well, then, if what's going on today isn't Scriptural, then what is it? What in the world is going on, because all these people are doing this." Let me give you some suggested answers.
Number one, it is very possible that some of it is Satanic and demonic. Let me illustrate what I mean by that. Every false religion in the world was spawned from the same individual - Satan. The Old Testament says, "All the gods of the nations are demons." There's a demon behind every false religious system. Satan is working in false religion, so you can believe that wherever tongues occurs in a false religion, it's basic source is Satan or demons.
For example, Mormons claim to be able to speak in tongues. The Encyclopedia Britannica cites many instances of tongue-speaking among pagans in their worship rites. Joseph Dillow has written a helpful book on this. He says, "D. C. Graham tells of a girl in the Szechwan province of China who was possessed by demons and 'began to utter words incoherently.' Edward Langston says that in East Africa, many persons possessed by demons speak fluently in Swahili or English, although under normal circumstances they do not understand either language. Junod reports that among the Thonga people of Africa, when a demon is exorcised, the person sings a curative song which he himself composes. Usually the songs are in the Zulu tongue. Even if the person does not know this language, it is claimed that he will be able to use it 'by a kind of miracle of tongues.'
As far back as Vergil (70-19 B.C.) there are references to the tongues speaking of the Sibylline priestess on the Isle of Delos. This is described in his Aeneid. Today, ecstatic speech is found among the Mohammedans and the Eskimos of Greenland. Non-Christian alchemists of the middle ages were reported to have spoken in tongues. This caused them to be popularly feared as men skilled in sorcery. The Bwiti cult among the Fang people of the Gabon Republic has been observed speaking in tongues. The parapsychology laboratory of the University of Virginia Medical School reports incidents of occult speaking in tongues. A Turkish actress claims she learns the 'language of Jacosta' from a black man she sees in her dreams. Joseph Smith, the founder of the non-Christian sect of Mormonism, taught his followers to speak in tongues in the following manner, 'Arise upon your feet, speak or make some sound, continue to make sounds of some kind, and the Lord will make a tongue or language of it.'"
That sounds like it was quoted right out of the manual for the Charismatic people. It is the very same approach. Here you have all kinds of possibilities of Satan and his demons to introduce this phenomenon of speaking in tongues. Just to say that the existence of speaking in tongues validates the practice as being from God is foolish, as foolish as saying that the existence of a religion proves it's of God. There are plenty of religions that aren't. The Corinthians had done the same thing; they had counterfeited it. They were using pagan ecstasy and calling it the gift of languages.
A second explanation of the phenomenon of tongues is that it is just learned behavior. In a sense, it's kind of fake; is not really a supernatural experience, it isn't a miracle; you just learn how to do it. I personally believe that this is far and away the most common explanation for what is happening in the Charismatic movement today, that people who speak in tongues, for the most part, just learn how to do it. One of the reasons I say that is because, after traveling around the country and hearing many different tongues speakers, I have noticed amazing similarity in the terms they have used; they all speak sort of the same thing in the same way. I've heard it enough that I could say those words to you. I'm not going to do that, but I could.
John Kildahl, in his book The Psychology of Speaking in Tongues, says that speaking in tongues is definitely a learned behavior. Incidentally, he was commissioned by the American Lutheran Church and the National Institute of Mental Health to do a long-range study on the phenomenon of tongues with Paul Qualben. Their conclusion was that the vast majority of tongues movement was simply learned behavior; people had learned how to speak in tongues because they were told that it is the right thing to do. They wanted to do it, they wanted badly enough to do it, they learned to do it.
I had a fellow from our church come to me last Sunday and say, "That's the situation with me - I learned to do it." And he took off and did it. He said he could do it anytime he wanted. The things he said, strangely enough (I don't remember if I told him at the time) were the very same terms I'd heard before from others who claimed this is some heavenly language, some private, personal language.
Tongues, also, are deliberately induced. I went to a Children of God meeting one night, to help persuade someone to get out from under their influences and to see what was going on there for myself. As I was sitting in the lobby, there was a guy who supposedly came to Christ and a fellow was trying to get him to speak in tongues. He was just inducing it in a most laborious way, and this poor guy didn't know what to do. He couldn't figure out what the next step was, and he was giving him all these procedures to get into this thing.
You know what happens? Where it is a learned behavior, and where it is so strongly induced by pressure from someone else, it is a potential for a great disillusionment, because once the experience comes and the people get into the movement, they realize it is simply learned behavior. It isn't anything supernatural, it isn't really effective - they have the same problems in their life, the same hangups whether they're doing it or not doing it, and they become very disillusioned. Frequently, say Kildahl and Qualben, the more sincere the person is when going in, the more disillusioned they are coming out. So you have to be very careful about this.
In fact, I remember one person giving a testimony. I think it was on one of those television programs where they do this all the time. Someone was having spiritual problems. This person said, "Have you used your tongue every day? Have you spoken in your tongue language every day?" The person hadn't, and he was told, "That's your problem. You have to use it every day. And it doesn't matter how it starts; because once you get it started, the Holy Spirit will keep it going." That's incredible! If the Holy Spirit wanted it going so much, why doesn't He start it going Himself? I'm sure He can handle it! It just doesn't make sense. So do you see how intimidating it would be if someone said to you, "Your spiritual problems stem from the fact that you aren't speaking in tongues?" I don't know if everyone says that, but it's at least one occasion.
The peer pressure is very great; the desire to belong, to be a part, is strong. The other tests that have been done, and there are many, too many to even quote, have discovered another interesting thing. That is, there is always an attachment to a leader or a group, a strong sense of identification with a group or a leader. When people lose confidence in the group or the leader, these people cease speaking in tongues. Kildahl and Qualben's book talks about that.
So it could be Satanic, or demonic, or a learned behavior. Thirdly, it could be psychological. I think some of the more strange cases might be psychological, where people just flip out. Have you ever watched teenage girls at a rock concert screaming over some freaky musician? In the heat of the emotion, fervor, and loud noise, people sometimes lose voluntary control of their vocal chords and their muscles. And sometimes they even fall to the ground and start flopping around. Why? It doesn't take a doctor or even a layman who has read up on medical science to understand that your brain can do anything to your body, whether it's control over speech or anything else. Psychologically, then, tongues can be explained as motor automatism, which is clinically described as 'radical inward detachment from one's conscious surroundings.'
Motor automatism is a disassociation of nearly all voluntary muscles from conscious control. You just kind of flake out. Some call it ecstasy, which is described as 'a pleasurable state of intense emotion linked with an altered state of consciousness.' The emotion, the fever, the intensity, they swirl around you. We've all experienced moments when we feel a little detached, woozy, and a little faint. Well, that kind of driving, pounding emotion, coupled with the kind of rhythmical music that is often associated with tongues, goes right along with that same kind of thing, tending to drive you away from a sense of control.
Also, the area of hypnosis; whether group hypnosis or individual hypnosis, or auto hypnosis (self hypnosis), Kildahl and Qualben say, "Hypnotizability constitutes the sine qua non of the glossolalia experience." The conclusion they draw is that the people they studied who fell into tongues are usually people who were hypnotizable. And not everybody is, you know. Maybe that's why I've never done it, because I'm not hypnotizable. I don't know why, but I'm not. People have tried to hypnotize me, but they can't do it. Probably because I'm too fact oriented, or too strong in my own mind, I don't give myself to anyone. I don't know what it is, but according to Kildahl and Qualben, people who are submissive, suggestible, and dependent on a leader are the people who fall into tongues. I can see that, because they really want to belong, they hear the power of suggestion, they fall under it, then when the emotion gets hot and the pressure becomes great, pretty soon, it has happened. There are many other psychological explanations.
Now, I can't go around trying to determine the specific reason for each person's tongues experience. I'm just telling you that there are many psychological explanations for speaking in tongues other than the explanation that it's of the Holy Spirit. The gift has ceased; we know that because we studied it in the Bible. What we have today can be explained in many ways.
Dr. E. Mansell Pattison (1933-1989), a believer and a member of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies and an instructor at the University of Washington School of Medicine, made the following observation: "The product of our analysis is the demonstration of the very natural mechanisms that produce glossolalia. As a psychological phenomenon, glossolalia is easy to produce and readily understandable. I can add my own observations from clinical experiences with neurological and psychiatric patients. In certain types of brain disorders resulting from strokes, brain tumors, etc., the patient is left with disruptions in his automatic physical speech circuit patterns. If we study these 'aphasic' patients we can observe the same decomposition of speech that occurs in glossolalia.
"Similar decomposition of speech occurs in schizophrenic thought and speech patterns, which are structurally the same as glossolalia. This data can be understood to demonstrate that the same stereotypes of speech will result whether conscious, willful control of speech is interfered with, whether by injury to the brain, by psychosis, or by passive renunciation of willful control."
To enter into the state of "passive renunciation of willful control" is essentially what is said to those who want to speak in tongues. People are told to release themselves, to give up the control of their voice, to just say words and let them flow without thinking about what's being said. You can speak that way either by having brain damage, psychosis, schizophrenia, or giving up willful control. That's amazing. Dr. Pattison continues, "This corroborates our previous assessment that glossolalia is a stereotyped pattern of unconsciously controlled vocal behavior which appears under specific emotional conditions."
Dr. Pattison's conclusion, then, is that glossolalia (tongues) can occur wherever conscious, willful control of the brain is interfered with, which could either be psychological or physiological.
You say, "But John, why are people speaking in tongues? Why is it happening?" Well, I think there are many explanations for why it's happening. Someone started it, it was kind of exciting, someone else caught on, and off it went.
Basically I think that it comes from spiritual hunger. People are told that speaking in tongues is how to get a great spiritual experience, and that if they haven't done it they haven't arrived spiritually, so they're doing it. They haven't been properly taught, or they feel they need this experience. Or people are seeking for some way to express themselves spiritually because many of them have been attending church for years without any real involvement. Or there is a desire to be thought holy, and people who do this are thought holy, so they want to be thought holy. There is a reaction to a secularized, mechanized, academic, cold, indifferent society. Speaking in tongues is something supernatural, it's not academic, it's not explicable in terms of reason. There is the need to belong, to be accepted, and to be secure.
All of these things drive people into groups where they can be a part of the 'in' group, where they can be among the ones who have it and the rest don't. That can be very satisfying. That's self- actualization, to be able to say, "I am a Charismatic." It makes many people feel that they are something, belong to something, and have something that others don't have.
The Scriptures say that tongues will cease and they have ceased. But love is eternal. This whole chapter is about love, right? Everything I've said to you is to try and teach you the Word of God. I don't have an axe to grind with Charismatics - some of my friends are in that movement. I don't want to talk about that with them all the time.
You want to know something? I thank God for Pentecostal and Charismatic people who believe in the authority of the Word of God. I may think they ought to study it a little more, but I thank God they believe it and hold it up as authoritative. I thank God for them because they believe in the deity of Jesus Christ, His sacrificial death, His physical resurrection, salvation by faith and not works, the need to live a life of obedience, and proclaiming their faith. I thank God for all of those things. I'm sorry we can't agree on this one thing, but they're still my brothers and sisters in Christ and I'm going to love them. Remember, love is eternal and the gifts are just for a little while. Theirs just happens to be around when it shouldn't be. But it's all going to go anyway.
I fear that people are going to try and shove this particular tape series on tongues down the throats of all their Charismatic friends. That's the last thing I want people to do! If you know somebody who believes in tongues or has this experience, the best thing to do is just love them to death, so that they will disassociate love from tongues. They might say, "Oh, I never really loved until I had this experience. I've never felt so good or had such joy." Well, if you show them that you have love, joy, and happiness, they may begin to see that those things aren't connected to tongues. Then, when the day comes, because of the life that you've lived and the love that you've shown, and they come to you and say, "Can you help me with this?" you will say "Yes." And then you can hand them the tape. But love them and earn the right to be heard.
It grieves my heart that there's a rift in the church over this issue. And I don't think there's any point in jamming a bunch of my tapes in the gap just to make it harder. What we need to do is to love those people with all our hearts and to be available to answer their questions when they ask us what the truth is, or when the right moment comes, we can share the truth with them in love. Remember, it's so very important that we love. It's the whole message of I Corinthians 13.
I was accused last week of being unloving, but that is the definition of love. Is it loving to speak the truth? Is it loving to teach the Word of God? I'll tell you one thing right now: I love God and His Word more than I love anything else, so if I love Him, I'm going to proclaim His Word with boldness and after that, I'm going to love people The Bible clearly says that we are to speak the truth in love and this is the truth.
Now I'm not always right (you're not shocked, are you?). But I don't stand alone in what I teach about tongues. I feel firmly that this is what the Word of God is teaching. There are some things that I'm not sure about, but I'm sure about this. There are many, many scholars far better than I who stand on the same ground. This is the truth. I believe it is the most loving thing to do to tell the truth, because then, you put people in the place of blessing, don't you? When they live the truth.
People say, "John, you shouldn't get into those controversial subjects. When there's an issue like that in the text you should just go by it and not deal with it." That's the worst answer. Should I ignore God's Word? Am I doing anyone a favor by not telling them the truth? If I'm in error, I pray that someone will come to me and say, "MacArthur, you're flat wrong. Let me show you why," and I'm the first guy to say, "Thank you!" This is God's Word, I want to deal with it as such. So it's the truth, it's in love I hope, and I want you to carry it from this place to wherever you take it in love. Be available to help, but don't create anxiety and bitterness where you can build a bridge of love. Let's pray.
Father, thank You for our fellowship this morning. Thank You for the clear ministry of the Spirit of God as He takes the Word and makes it make sense, opens it to us. Fill us with love, Your love shed abroad in our hearts, that we might melt the heart of our staunchest enemy because we love so deeply. May our love be in action and not in word only, that we might truly be Your children in the world and in the church. We pray in the name of the One who loved and gave Himself, Amen.
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