A Linguistic Approach to Tongues

I found these two articles by Robert Zerhusen very helpful on the study of speaking in tongues.  He gives compelling arguments to believe that tongues are known human languages in both Acts 2 and 1 Corinthians 14, and not ecstatic utterances.  They were published by the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals:

Perhaps a great question to ask before and while you read is, “Who ever said that tongues has to be a miraculous gift?”  The Bible certainly say that, or really even imply it.

At the end of the day, this debate doesn’t make a lot of difference, as it’s not an essential thing.  However, we are called to know the Scriptures and study them.  Wherever you are at on this issue, I hope these articles are beneficial to you.


Baptism and Fullness

John Stott’s Baptism and Fullness is a short, systematic theology of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of the believer and the church at large.  It was first published in 1964 and since then, as we know, the Holy Spirit’s work has been increasing in interest and controversy with the surging of the Charismatic and Pentecostal movements.

It’s a short work, only 119 pages and four chapters.  Those four chapters cover the promise of the Spirit, the fullness of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit.

On page 24, Stott talks about John the Baptist calling Jesus the “Lamb of God” and the one “who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.”  Stott then sums up the ministry of Jesus saying, “If we put [John 1:29 and 33] together, we discover that the characteristic work of Jesus is twofold.  It involves a removal and a bestowal, a taking away of sin and a baptizing with the Holy Spirit.  These are the two great gifts of Jesus Christ our Saviour.”

I thought Stott’s treatment of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was one of the better I have read.  For reference, Wayne Grudmen would be someone who believes along the same lines as Stott does with this doctrine.  I won’t go into great detail, but here’s a few quotes that grabbed my attention:

The New Testament authors take it for granted that God has ‘given’ their readers the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom. 5:5; 1 Thess. 4:8; 1 Jn. 3:24; 4:13); there is no single occasion on which they exhort them to receive him (p. 38).

Never, not once, do they [the apostles] exhort and instruct us to ‘be baptized with the Spirit’. There can be only one explanation of this, namely that they are writing to Christians, and Christians have already been baptized with the Holy Spirit (p. 45).

In the chapter on spiritual gifts, Stott discusses which gifts are available for today.  He believes that the gifts of apostle and prophet are not available today, but does not even discuss tongues, miracles, and healings.  I was very surprised to say the least that he didn’t touch on these “miraculous gifts” at all!

With seven pages left in the book, however, he says, “Probably at things point something needs to be said about ‘tongues’, a gift much emphasized by some.”  He then said, “There is a strong theological and linguistic presumption that the phenomenon referred to in 1 Corinthians [and Acts 2] is the same” (p. 112).  I agree with Stott on this, but differ in that I think the languages spoken were languages known to the speaker and the hearer (this might shock you, but maybe I’ll address this in a future post).  Whether we see eye to eye on this or not, Stott rightly says that all the gifts were given for the common good and to equip the saints for ministry (p. 115).

This is a solid, thorough work.  I don’t agree with everything; however, I did find most parts very helpful.  The work of the Spirit can be very controversial (for whatever reason), but the most important thing that we, as Christians, must remember and commit to agree on is that everyone who receives the divine call and repents of their sin receives the gift of the Holy Spirit.  As Stott says, “This…phrase [in Acts 2:38-39] is a very clear and striking assertion.  It is that promise of the ‘gift’ or ‘baptism’ of the Spirit is to as many as the Lord our God calls” (p. 28).  Amen.


Spiritual Gifts and the Gospel

When we think about how we should exercise our spiritual gifts, we must remember the gospel. Without the gospel, we would have not spiritual gifts. Without the gospel, there would be no reason for spiritual gifts. The gospel changes lives, spiritual gifts do not. The gospel is of utmost importance, spiritual gifts are secondary.

At the same time, the gospel and spiritual gifts are about a person — the person of Jesus Christ who is the image of God. If we wrongly use our spiritual gifts, we are wronging Christ. There are many people who will do miracles and sings and wonders who will not be saved (Matt. 7:21-23). Just because someone heals or has revelations or speaks in a tongue or does miracles or casts out demons does not mean he is saved. That’s frightening. That should cause us to examine ourselves daily and repent of our evil heart and actions (cf. 10:12; 2 Cor. 13:5; Heb. 3:12-13). It should cause us to believe in the gospel and embrace Jesus.

The gospel is very God-centered. Our spiritual gifts should be God-centered. Still, the gospel edifies people because God gives us a knowledge of the Savior. When we are changed and shaped by the gospel, our minds are renewed so that we can know God’s will.  Our goal is to know God through his Son Jesus, not get a lot of nice gifts (spiritual or otherwise).  We are changed by the gospel to glorify and enjoy God and to spread his fame to other people.

It only makes sense then that our spiritual gifts should be used to edify and build up those who have been changed by the gospel.  They are merely tools to point people to the gospel, namely, Jesus Christ, the blazing center of the universe.


Spirit Baptism and the Body of Christ

Here is a very unique, biblical, well-written treatise of Spirit baptism, and what it is supposed to accomplish in the body of Christ. 

Life Theology

Jesus Didn’t Suffer and Die on a Cross to Make You a Better Person

Last November, for my birthday, Mike Janssen gave me a pseudo-present: a Joel Osteen, Become a Better You daily calender (thanks, Mike!).  For Thursday, May 15, Osteen quotes Proverbs 3:6, “In all your ways know, recognize, and acknowledge Him, and he will direct and make straight and plan your paths.”  Here is Osteen’s motivational thoughts:

I believe one of the best prayers that we could ever prayer is “God not my will, but your will be done.”  I pray it in some form every day: “God open up the right doors and close the wrong doors.”  If you will stay open to His direction and follow your heart, God will protect you.  It says in the Proverbs, “If you acknowledge God in all your ways, He will direct your paths.”  One translation says, “He’ll crown your efforts with success.” 

I’m pretty sure that Osteen’s idea of success is vastly different than God’s.  I’m pretty sure that God does not always crown our efforts with success.  I’m pretty sure that sometimes we even fall flat on our face so that we know the surpassing power belongs to God and not us (2 Cor. 4:7).  Perhaps success, in God’s eyes, is suffering even though you did something right (1 Pt. 2:15-16).  Perhaps success, in God’s eyes, is being beaten five times with 39 lashes so that others will come to experience Jesus as their treasure (2 Cor. 11:24-27). Perhaps success, in God’s eyes, is being persecuted and mocked because that’s the same thing they did to Jesus (Jn. 15:20).

I would like to ask Joel Osteen how that fits into his prosperity theology.  Certainly God will make our paths straight and will lead us to rivers of joy, but that is grounded in his Son Jesus.  Success is not the goal of the Christian.  God’s glory and our joy is.

“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”