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  I am considering joining a church that requires I believe in speaking in tongues. Please give me some advice.

  I am physically handicapped, and feel as though God has forgotten me. What should I do?

  How can I learn how to speak to people about Christ?

  What do you think of the revivals that are happening in pentacostal churches?

  I'm looking for a better understanding of what Jesus meant when He said "ye are gods".

  Could not the Law really be kept, thereby obtaining eternal life?

See Questions Page #9

I am considering joining a church that requires I believe in speaking in tongues. Please give me some advice.

It is important that we refer to "tongues" in the same manner and with the same words that God did in His Word. He at no time made this a requirement of any sort, or in any way. Wherever the legitimate gift is found in Scripture, God gave it, and the people were not seeking it. There are no exceptions to this. It is never made a test of fellowship, never proclaimed as applicable to all believers, and is never said to give personal advantage. This in no way condemns those who say they have the gift. It does confirm they are also in no way superior to the rest of the body--at least not because of the gift of tongues.

The only instruction we have on "tongues" is given because there was a problem with them, and distorted understanding. In his exhortation to pursue spiritual gifts, Paul admonishes us to seek the "BEST" ones (1 Cor 12:31). He also says there is even a more excellent way--that of spiritual love (12:31b-13:1-13). With firm words, the Spirit affirms "Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, but ESPECIALLY that you may prophesy" (1 Cor 14:3). Lest there be any question about what he means by "prophesy," he explicitly explains what He means. "But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men" (14:3). He is not, therefore, speaking of foretelling events, or unfolding the future. Rather, prophesy, in this sense, brings definite advantage to the saints, whatever is said.

He further says, "I would that ye all spake with tongues, but RATHER that ye prophesied: for GREATER is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying" (1 Cor 14:5). It takes an extraordinarily biased mind read this insist that other believers either speak in tongues, or acknowledge them to be a sign of spiritual superiority.

In delineating spiritual gifts, the Spirit declares why they are given. "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all" (12:7). They are given for the body, and not for the individual alone. Secondly, they are addressed to the understanding, which is the means God uses to edify, or strengthen His people. He categorically says that tongues could bring no profit to the saints unless it could be understood; i.e., either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching" (14:6). He then expounds the necessity of understanding with extended teaching. When, for instance, a musical instrument is played, there must be an understandable distinction of sounds, we we will not know what is being played (14:7). Taking the trumpet as an example, he says, "For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle?" (14:8). If the trumpeteer is does not blow understandable notes, the army will not know whether they are to go to battle, go to bed, retreat, or get up. The sound has to be understood to be of profit. Speaking in words that cannot be understood by the hearers, he affirms, is "speaking into the air" (14:9). Interestingly, speaking to God's people in a language they cannot understand violates both of the reasons given for spiritual gifts--profiting everyone, and speaking in understandable words.

Not content to let the matter go, he elaborates even more. He reminds us that there are many languages in the world, and all of them have significance, or are meaningful. A language that cannot be comprehended cannot advantage those to whom it is spoken. The person hearing, yet not understanding the language, becomes "a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me" (14:10-11). Anyone contending this is an advantage has surely missed something. Believers are then told to seek to excell in edifying the brethren--something, he has affirmed, is accomplished through the understanding.

The individual speaking in tongues is admonished to pray that he can interpret what he is saying--not to himself, but to the body. Remember, the gift was given to profit the brethren, not for self-gain. The aim is to excell in edifying the people of God--giving them something understandable that will strengthen them in the faith. Paul says he spoke in tongues more than all of them in Corinth. Yet, in the assembly, he would rather speak five understandable words than ten thousand that could not be understood (14:11-19). In rather extensive involvement with people and congregations who hold this gift to be superior, I have rarely, if ever, seen this attitude portrayed.

God's people are then admonished to grow up in their understanding (14:20). Paul cites a test from Isaiah to support his teaching. "With men of other tongues and other lips I will speak to this people; And yet, for all that, they will not hear Me" (14:21; Isaiah 28:11-12). He concludes, upon the basis of this text, "Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe" (14:22). This is a most arresting argument. Isaiah's prophecy was not of a blessing, but of a curse. The prophet foretold the Babylonian captivity, which was a chastening judgment upon Israel. God had spoken to them, but they had not listened. For with stammering lips and another tongue He will speak to this people, To whom He said, "This is the rest with which You may cause the weary to rest, And, This is the refreshing; Yet they would not hear. But the word of the LORD was to them, Precept upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little, That they might go and fall backward, and be broken And snared and caught" (Isa 28:11-13). Because they refused to hear understandable words from God, God would bring against them a nation whose words they could not understand. When they heard the foreign language, they would have their sign: they were being judged for their unbelief and refusal to hear God.

Moses told Israel this would happen to them if they were not faithful; i.e., a nation would come against them whose language they would not understand (Deut 28:49). Jeremiah foretold exactly the same thing (Jer 5:15).

Following the reasoning of Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah, if , in the congregation, people began to speak in a language that was not understood, it would be a sign of judgment, not of blessing. If people doubt this to be the case, we have the events at the tower of Babel to confirm this is the effect of God's judgment. There, in the plain of Shinar, God brought the work to a grinding halt by confusing their language--i.e., they could no longer understand each other (Gen 11:5-9).

This is how the Spirit reasoned on the matter. It simply is not possible to have but a cursory understanding of his words, and conclude that one has to believe in speaking in tongues, or needs to do so, or is to assume they are in any way superior or make the individual more blest than other members of the body.

Again, this does not mean we have to deny the profession of someone that says they speak in tongues. They are, however, under obligation to edify their brethren by saying things that are understood. Their personal persuasion is their business, but it cannot be bound upon God's people, in any sense, or at any time.

I am physically handicapped, and feel as though God has forgotten me. What should I do?

There are some things in life that are very hard to bear. A physical handicap is one of them. Did you know the Apostle Paul had a phsyical handicap? We do noty know exactly what it was, but suspect it was deficient vision. He wrote one time with very large letters (Galatians 6:11), and reminded some of the believers in Galatia that they had been willing to give him their eyes (Galatians 4:15).

At any rate, Paul called this handicap a "thorn"--like a painful brier sticking in him. He asked the Lord to take it away from him, because he felt it handicapped him in his Apostolic work. The Bible tells us he asked the Lord on three different occasions to do this (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). This means three different seasons, or periods of time, in which he pled with the Lord to take the handicap away. For a long time, he received no answer.

Finally, Paul tells us, Jesus answered him. He did not take the handicap away, but said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9). What Jesus meant was this: he would make Paul strong enough to hold up under the handicap, and still do everything Jesus had asked him to do. Jesus made Him stronger, giving him more strength than the ordinary person has. When Paul's strength ran out, Jesus' strength would come in, making him greater than his handicap.

When Paul understood this, he changed his mind about his handicap. Here are his words. "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). He realized Christ had empowered him to leave a greater impact upon people than he had ever dreamed possible. He did not like handicaps, any more than you do. But while other people rejected him, Christ had received him, and made him equal to the extraordinary challenges of life.

How can I learn how to speak to people about Christ?

You will recall that our blessed Lord always knew how to reply to people, be they enemies or hungry seekers.He can also direct in knowing how to answer people, and to initiate conversations about the Lord Jesus. Scripture provides the secret to this direction in 1 Peter 3:15-16. "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed."

As we dedicate ourselves fully to the Lord, making room for no one but Him in our hearts, we become directable, so to speak. He will enable us to have right words--words that will reveal the individual's real attitude toward the Lord. Unbelievers, if seeking the Lord, are first attracted by our lives, then our words carry power, by the grace of God.

Everyone Jesus spoke to did not rush to Him in thankfulness. Neither will they do so with you. If you continue to seek the face of the Lord and live for Him, you will obtain the same response from people that Jesus would. That is really what you want.

What do you think of the revivals that are happening in pentacostal churches?

Something of significance is occurring--like a ground-swell in preparation for a great move of God. People are being made more conscious of God and sin, and that is good. As with all works of God, there are those who seek to exploit them for their own gain. There are also those who view preliminary things as fundamental things. Such will not be prepared for the greatest blessing. Those, however, who have been moved to seek the Lord, declare war on sin, and become more productive in spiritual life, have gained much from these preliminary happenings.

I'm looking for a better understanding of what Jesus meant when He said "ye are gods".

It is important to note that Jesus did not say, "ye are gods," but rather, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, "You are gods"'? The difference is that Jesus was not teaching them they were gods, but showing them how their view of Him violated the manner in which their own Scriptures spoke.

The occasion of this reference was a time when the Jews sought to stone Jesus. Their charge was, "You, being a Man, make Yourself God" (John 10:33). He had not categorically said He was God, although He was precisely that. Rather, the Jews were angered by the way He spoke of the Father and Himself. The particular words to which they objected are found in verses 27-30. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one."

Christ's quotation reminded them of what God had said about Jewish leaders, which some of them claimed to be. The quotation is from Psalm 82:1,6,7. "God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. . . I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes." The point of of the Psalm is that those who spoke for and judged in God's behalf, stood as His representatives. In that sense, they were "gods." They were not, however, "gods" by nature -- like Jesus is.

But there is something important to note here. These judges are themselves judged by the one true God: i.e., "he judgeth among the gods." Also, even though God has referred to them as "gods," they would all "die like men"--not exactly an attribute of Deity.

Jesus alluded to this passage because He had said He was God's Representative. In His case, He was God's EXCLUSIVE Representative (Heb 1:1-2). Unlike those to whom He spoke, Christ would not "die like men." He would die in behalf of men, and because of their sin. It would be an atoning death. Beside this, the Father's testimony of Jesus was quite different than that of the judges in Psalm 82. it is written, "But to the Son He says: "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions" (Heb 1:8-9). In Psalms, the statement was one of accommodation, and acknowledged the inferiority of the earthly judges. With the Son, it was one of affirmation, declaring the Deity of the Son, and the everlasting nature of his kingdom.

The term "gods," even in the accommodating sense, is never applied to men in general. Rather, it was only applied to judges, because they stood as God's representatives. Although not identifical, an exalted way of looking at God's representatives is also exressed by Paul. "And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus" (Gal 4:14).

Those who insist on using the term "god" in reference to men do well to rethink what they are doing. Adam, you will recall, is identified as "the son of God" (Luke 3:38). However, when Adam sinned, he thrust the entire human race into sin and a fallen state. He was called "the son of God" because God made him in His own image. That image, however, has been marred by sin. It is written, "All have sinned and COME SHORT OF THE GLORY OF GOD" (Rom 3:23). The point is that Scripture emphasizes our dissimilarity to God. No Apostle ever calls men "gods" -- and they are the appointed interpreters of Christ's words (John 14:26). The reason is that they opened to us the depth to which mankind fell in sin. The Psalmist was indicting religious judges for standing in the place of God, yet failing to recognize they would die like men.

In redemption, we are being restored to that Divine image (Col 3:10), and become "the sons of God" (1 John 3:1-2). While it is true that we become "heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:17), we do not become co-equals with God, as Jesus is. Christ is over us (1 Cor 11:3), and we are under Him. Our life is derived, Christ's was not. In act, Jesus is called "that eternal life which was with the Father" (1 John 1:2). That makes Him God (with a big G). The redeemed, however, are not "that eternal life which was with the Father." Our eternal life is the "gift of God" (Rom 6:23).

The first commandment was "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me" (Ex 20:3). Would your friend suggest there really were other "gods"? That term is applied to idols (Ex 12:12; 1 Kgs 9:6; Isa 36:18; Jer 10:11, etc., etc.). That does not mean, however, that they were really gods. Concerning the reality of the matter, God said, "You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one" (Isa 44:8). Additionally, Paul said, "But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods" (Gal 4:8).

You are correct in being suspicious of the manner in which your friend is speaking. He has taken a comment made in sarcasm, and treated it as though it were an official doctrine taught by Jesus. That is not the case, nor did the Apostles so represent mankind. His position is more like that of Satan, when he said to Eve, "For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Gen 3:5).

Could not the Law really be kept, thereby obtaining eternal life?

One of our readers write, ". . . but we should not make the mistake of thinking that the law *could not* accomplish these things. It seems clear from these passages that it *can* accomplish salvation to eternal life; and if it can, we should in no way disparage it."

The Scriptures are clear about what the Law could NOT do, and WHY it could not do it. It was not because of any inherent flaw in the Law itself. The Spirit witnessed, "For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom 8:3-4). Man is not capable of keeping the Law. That is the point of this text. When God removed the Old Covenant, replacing it with a new one, He made clear it was because He found "fault" with the people (Heb 8:8-13).

Elsewhere, the Spirit reasons that righteousness CANNOT be achieved through law--any law. "I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain" (Gal 2:21). Again He says, "For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law" (Gal 3:21).

The point of the statement, "Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD" (Lev 18:5; Rom 10:5; Gal 3:12), was NOT to affirm the possibility of this occurring. The Law, in this way, was our schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ. Man soon found he could not keep the Law flawlessly, and therefore needed a Savior. That is why it is written, "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19).

As to Ezekiel's words, they by no means convey the message that a person can, in fact, keep the law perfectly. This is seen in the word Ezekiel spoke with great firmness. "Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezek 18:31). If they could make themswelves a new heart and spirit, they could keep the Law perfectly. It seems to me that it is obvious this was beyond their capability.

If men CANNOT be saved without Christ, grace, or faith, then they cannot be saved by the Law. The Law had none of those things, and did not itself require faith, without which it is impossible to please God (Gal 3:12).

See Questions Page #9

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