Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.
Getting instruction regarding a particularly complicated job is frustrating. Especially when you can’t understand what you were actually told and then the person giving the instructions says “Do you understand?”. There is a good reason why some people want you to either tell them what to do or how to do it, not both. It can get even more confusing when a training video says one thing and the instructor says another. It just makes things more difficult than is necessary.
Sometimes the church is the same way. Especially when it comes to spiritual gifts such as the gift of “tongues”. Don’t get me wrong. I understand that this is a valid spiritual gift. However, there is a problem when a visitor comes to church and everyone is supposedly “speaking in tongues” and yet the visitor has no clue as to what is being said. What is going on here? How can this poor person be expected to understand what is going on?
Lets back up a little. Actually, lets back up by a couple of milleniums. That’s right, lets go back to the first Pentecost. This is the first point at which the gift of tongues occurs. In Acts 2, some of the disciples began speaking in various tongues as the Holy Spirit gave utterance. Now then, this was not, as some denominations claim, some sort of special “heavenly language”. No. Read carefully Acts 2:8 where the question is posed “And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language?”. Put plainly, many who were not native of Jerusalem, or Israel for that matter, were hearing and understanding the disciples in their native language. There is no way that it could be that these people who did not speak Hebrew as their native language were understanding some sort of “heavenly language” as if it were their own native tongue. Indeed, those who heard the disciples were bewildered that they understood what the disciples, all Galileans, were saying and they didn’t need an interpreter.
However, let us go one step further. In 1 Corinthians 14:27~28 it reads plainly “If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret;but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church”. Simply put, unless there is one who can understand and interpret what is being said, the one speaking in tongues should not speak, as it only causes confusion. This type of confusion will drive anyone away from the church. Sadly, some churches actually teach that unless you have the gift of tongues, you are not saved. This teaching is not in the Bible.
I don’t have the gift of tongues. I have seen this gift abused and exploited in so many churches that its not funny. Indeed, many are the seminars I have heard recounted in which the primary focus was on the gift of tongues. Usually these involved a huckster who claimed they could unlock the gift of tongues in anyone. They usually did this by some form of repeating a word or phrase rapidly back and forth until it began to sound like the “manifestation” seen in some churches. At that point, the huckster would proclaim that those in attendance now had the gift of tongues. WRONG!
The gift of tongues is meant to share the news of the Gospel of Christ Jesus. It is meant specifically for those who do not speak the language that a given congregation is using. It is God who enables it. In the United States, if somebody who does not speak English attends an English speaking church in which the gift of tongues is heavily promoted (or even the primary doctrine) and they come away having not heard of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus upon the cross for their sins, they have not heard the gift of tongues. Indeed, such churches should rightly be regarded as heretical.
I am not, as a matter of principle, opposed to the gift of tongues. I am opposed to it being mandatory to demonstrate it as proof of salvation. I am opposed to it being used with careless abandon in the worship service when there is nobody to interpret. I understand that the gift of tongues is not the only gift that is misunderstood and abused, it is just the most obvious. Prophecy is also frequently abused, just not nearly as much. I am a witness to abuse of both doctrines by many churches.
God wants us to share the Gospel. However, we must do it in a manner that is clearly understood. Not through some form of chaotic chanting in some supposed “language” that nobody can understand or interpret. God confused the languages at Babylon in the plains of Shinar, and he began to united them again at Pentecost. His purpose is quite easily understood. Likewise, the gift of tongues is easily understood, but only as the means to speak the Gospel to one who may not otherwise understand our language and needs to hear the Gospel message.
Communicating instructions is important. More important is that they are understood clearly. So too with the gift of tongues. If it is not used to speak the gospel, it should not be used. It will only cause as much confusion as being given instructions that you can’t understand. The church needs to speak the gospel clearly. Likewise, instructions for a job should be given clearly. Nobody needs confusion.
Do you understand?