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Who is the first resurrection?? JESUS!! He said "I am the Resurrection and the Life...." When we are "in" Jesus, we have a part "in the first resurrection". We have been raised to sit in heavenly places. 

Revelation 20:1-6 is one of the most ambiguous texts in all of the Bible. It is set in the apocalyptic book of Scripture, which is the record of a vision, not the dictating of a dialog. It is a sort of animated Gospel, in pictures rather than in words, where the character of the personalities is emphasized.

The first resurrection is related to the "souls" (not bodies) of those who had been beheaded for their witness of Christ (verse 4). The employment of the word "FIRST resurrection" signifies that it is a different manner of resurrection--of another order. It is not a bodily resurrection, like that of the Lord Jesus Himself, or the final resurrection of all who are in the graves (John 5:28-29). The "FIRST resurrection" is like the "SECOND death" (Rev 2:11; 20:6,14; 21:8). It is spiritual, not a resurrection the body.

My understanding is that the Revelation text (which is the only place "first resurrection" is mentioned), refers to the revival of the truth for which the martyrs died. In their day, their word brought death. however, that Gospel will again surface with power, resulting in the knowledge of the Lord covering the earth as the waters cover the sea (Isa 11:9; Hag 2:14). 

The parallel to our experience in Christ is that we experience this kind of life on an individual basis. The Lord will, however, significantly expand this, ushering in a period when Satan will not be able to deceive the nations, keeping them from embracing the truth. I understand there is much disagreement in the Christian community about this, and it is certainly not something that should spawn division among the saints. It is enough to know that no word of God, particularly the Gospel His Son, will fall to the ground. It will have its day. The precise duration of this period may or may not be a literal thousand years. I do not believe its duration is the point. Rather, it is that the cause for which Christ's faithful martyrs died will yet triumph.

I am Catholic and currently involved in a relationship with a Baptist. I am willing to learn more about his faith, and am willing to spend the rest of my life with him. My question is whether or not this relationship is forbidden by his faith and considered a sin?

You must know that God and Christ do not recognize people as Catholics, Baptists, or any other humanly devised identity. Those are all terms created by men, and refer to theological persuasions they have created, not God. I have no doubt that both saved and lost people are in both groups. However, their acceptance by God is not on the basis of whether they are Catholic or Baptist. Nor, indeed, is what either group teaches the final criterion of judgment.

Your aim is to see things from God's point of view, and as one who has been reconciled to Him through the Lord Jesus Christ. The basis of your judgment is to be the Word of God, not the traditions of men, however hallowed they may be.

The word "faith" has to do with our trust in the Living God, not the doctrine of a particular group. Your relationship to this man must be upon the basis of your trust in the Lord. That is how you should approach it. God will save both of you upon the basis of your acceptance of His Son. That acceptance is founded upon the Gospel, or record God has given of His Son in the Scriptures.

The real question is not about "interfaith marriages," but whether or not both of you have real faith in God and Christ. If you desire assistance in these things, I will be glad to help you.

What is your viewpoint on church membership? I don't see the significance nor the Biblical basis though I am very aware of the emphasis churches place on it. Since we are called to serve why would a membership plan predetermine one's permission to serve in a local assembly.

The matter is not quite as simple as it may appear. It is true that many churches place an undue emphasis on what they call membership. I fear that too many times churches, in their quest for membership, are more interested in planning their budget and obtaining consistent income.

Shortly after Saul of Tarsus was converted, he "attempted to join the disciples" at Jerusalem (Acts 9:26). In his case, the disciples were a bit skeptical, not yet convinced he was a disciple. In fact, the Scriptures say they were afraid of him. Whatever one may think of that incident, some effort was made to be formally identified with the disciples in Jerusalem. Just being a member of the universal church did not appear to be satisfactory to Saul.

In public identity of some sort, there is a formal commitment to be of service to the saints, and to be available for ministry. While it is not a matter of law, or one in which one believer should judge another, it is not wrong for some form of formal identity with the local assembly to be made. 

In my judgment, leadership roles must be embraced by people who have demonstrated their commitment to the people in the local fellowship. The way that demonstration is made may be open to question, but some form should be required. I know people who have formally identified themselves with the local congregation, yet have shown no genuine interest in it. Others have not made a formal commitment, yet it is evident their hearts are with that congregation.

If a local church required formal affiliation in order to be considered available for leadership, no one should be intimidated by making that commitment. It must be done with a pure conscience, with no shame in being publicly identified as belonging to that body. Onesimus was one of the members at Colossae, as well as Epaphras (Col 4:9,12). How that determination was made is an area of liberty. But there should be some positive way of removing all doubt about being identified with the assembly to which we have devoted ourselves.

I have studied about God's children. Some have told me that even as god's child we will be here on this earth through the many horrors to come...and I read in 1st Corinthians 15;51,52 that we will be glorified ---in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, Will this be before the last trumpet?? Then we'll be here in this mess through the first trumpets? I know that our Lord and savior will not cause his faithful to go through such things. Or will we. what do you think??? 

The Scriptures do not promise the people of God will not go through horrors in this world. In fact, it records how some have passed through unspeakable hardship and sorrow. The children of Israel suffered in Egypt. There were Jewish mothers that suffered when their newborn were slaughtered by Pharaoh and Herod's edicts. Hebrews 11:36-39 tells of many who, by faith, refused deliverance, and experienced sorrows of a most unusual order.

Secondly, to be "glorified" does not mean we do not suffer in this world. Glorification is when we will l become immortal, made perfect, and are forever with the Lord. It is when we will be fully conformed to the image of God's Son--like Him (Rom 8:29-30; Phil 3:20; 1 John 3:1-3). Glorification takes place at the end of time, when the temporal has been put away. All of God's people will be glorified together (Rom 8:17; Col 3:4). 

John saw a vast multitude of redeemed--the saved. They were from all nations, tribes, peoples, and languages. He was told, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rev 7:9-14). They came out of it, and were not moved away from God by it.

There will be a grand climax to history. When it occurs, many things will take place "in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye." It will, from one point of view, happen simultaneously, at the same time. Jesus will appear. The angels will come with Him. He will shout the dead from the graves. The voice of the archangel will sound. The dead in Christ will rise from the graves, and those who are alive and have remained unto Christ's coming will all be changed--given their new bodies. The last trumpet, or trumpet of God, will sound an end of all things temporal, and the beginning of all things eternal. Both the saved and the lost will be gathered. Jesus said the tares would be gather "first" (Matthew 13:30,39-43). This is what is revealed in 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10, and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-8.

The Lord has promised He will not allow us to be tempted above what we are able to bear--Something that He alone knows (1 Corinthians 10:13). Some of God's people, for example, had to go through the destruction of Jerusalem, which was a sort of miniature end of the world (Luke 21:20-23). 

The events depicted in the first six trumpets are declared in symbolic language, with very few details. You must take care not to allow what men have said about these trumpets to cause you to fear, or shape your thinking about the end times. Take what God has clearly said about the end of time, and view the book of Revelation through those words. Remember, in Jesus you have nothing to fear, whether you are thrown into a furnace of fire like the three Hebrew children, a lions den like Daniel, are stoned like Stephen, or beheaded like John the Baptist. God can also deliver you from such things. That is all in His hand, and you must be willing to leave it there. He will take care of you, whatever is going on in this world.

I need help in locating scriptures that deal with leadership conduct and also scriptures that will help with keeping our focus on God more than the "business" of the church.

First, I commend you for your sensitivity about main things. In the early church, before all of this corruption had crept it, church "business" consisted of caring for widows (Acts 6:1-7), sending help to poor saints (1 Corinthians 16:1-3), assisting those who were doing the work of the Lord (Romans 16:2; Philippians 4:16), and giving double honor to the elders who worked hard in the Word of God and teaching (1 Tim 5:17)--to name a few. But even these things were not the main things, and were not to distract from the main things. In fact, taking due care of them allowed the church to get to its real ministry, which is being the "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

The Spirit tells us Jesus returned to heaven and gave gifts, or ministries, to His church. The gifts were teaching and leading ministries, including Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. He tells us what they were for, which is the REAL business of the church: "for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head; Christ; from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:8-16).

Other Scriptures that point to the main work of the church can be found in prayers for the churches -- what the apostles asked God to produce in them. These prayers reflect what God wants to be found in His people, and are the main, or fundamental, things. Here are some of these Scriptures. Ephesians 1:15-20; Ephesians 3:14-20; Colossians 1:9-11; Hebrews 13:20-21. 

So far as the conduct of the leaders is concerned, the following Scriptures should be of help. 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:7-9; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Matthew 20:27-28.

I am sharing with two Mormons that Satan is not Jesus brother. That Satan is an Angel and that Jesus is above the Angel. They said they would get back to me with the scripture where the Bible says that Jesus is Satan's brother. Can you share with me what scripture they will attempt to share? Also can you share with me the scripture that says that Satan is an angel?

The Scriptures nowhere state or suggest that Satan was Jesus' brother. They do tell us something about Jesus before He came into the world. He as "with God and was God" (John 1:1). He was "in the form of God" and humbled Himself to became a man (Philippians 2:6-8). He came from eternity (Micah 5:2). Even after Jesus had died, been raised from the dead, and returned to heaven, God Himself said to Him, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom" (Hebrews 1:8).

None of these things have ever been said of Satan or of any angel. That completely rules our Jesus being a brother to Satan at any time. Even when He humbled Himself by coming into then world, God said "let all the angels of God worship Him' (Hebrews 1:6). That was never said of Satan.

While Jesus was in the world, He confessed He and Satan had absolutely nothing in common: "I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me" (John 14:30). The statement that Jesus and Satan are brothers is not only a lie, it is a stupid lie that betrays an astounding level of ignorance.

Scriptures that might be used to affirm Satan was somehow related to Jesus would be Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 38:12-18. Both of these texts address worldly rulers who had the character of Satan. They do speak of Satan before he fell, showing him to be in some high position. Not only are the texts somewhat vague, they make no reference at all to any equality or relationship with Jesus.

Satan is called "the angel of the bottomless pit" (Revelation 9:11). He also transforms himself into an "angel of light" in order to deceive people (2 Corinthians 11:14). The Bible also classifies him with the fallen angels by referring to "the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41; Revelation 12:9). 

You mentioned that the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ. What version were you using. The NASB says "kingdom." I understand this to have happened when Jesus sat down at the right hand of God. The kingdom of this world is now the kingdom of Christ.

I was using the NKJV. I do understand that the word "kingdom" is used in the singular, as one domain under Jesus. I further see no conflict of that with the use of "kingdoms" as used in the several other versions (KJV, NKJV, Websters, etc). The plural form is from earth's view, i.e., the vast divergence of earthly dominions, while the singular emphasizes they have been gathered into one in Christ. The point of the text is that the Lord Jesus is the solitary King, which allows for the former divergence of earth's kingdoms. 

I do no understand the affirmation of Revelation 11:15 to be referring to be the commencement this great day of salvation, but to its conclusion, when Jesus "has abolished all rule and all authority and power," as taught in 1 Corinthians 15:24. Now Jesus is "taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name," making them one in Himself, as you have stated (Acts 15:14). The kingdoms out of which they are being taken, however, still remain.

Christ's Kingdom is, indeed, the stone that crushed the world kingdoms, and will "fill the whole earth." That filling has not yet occurred, even though believers have proliferated throughout the length and breadth of the earth. The Scriptures apprise us that Jesus is currently reigning, and is in absolute dominion. They also declared, "For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death" (1 Cor 15:25-26). That has not yet occurred, and thus Jesus has not yet returned. God has placed Him at His own right hand where He is waiting in expectancy for the open subjugation of all His enemies. Hebrews 10:12-13 states it this way. "but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET." 

God has declared His eternal purpose is "with a view to an administration suitable to the fulness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth" (Eph 1:10). He has further determined "that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:10-11). That, in my understanding, is when "the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. While He is surely reigning now, that reign will become apparent to every created personality. The Father will bring this about at "the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which He will bring about at the proper time-- He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tim 6:14-15). Until that time, only those in Christ know He is reigning. In that day, when Jesus is revealed in all of His glory, all will know it, acknowledge it, and confess it in both deed and word. Those who have not bowed to Jesus here, will bow to their own condemnation there.

Christ's kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, unseen to those without faith. But it is not ONLY a spiritual kingdom. It is a kingdom in every sense of the word, with both men and demons, servants and kings, in subjection to Him. But this will yet be openly seen and declared to the glory of God. it will not always be concealed. The day of that revelation is, in my understanding, when the kingdom of this world becomes the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.

Have a friend that claims to have died and came back to life after seeing a light and being in a place with a lot of joy. He was not a Christian when this happened, but is one now. Can you share scripture that would support his view. He really believes it was God who he was with.

There is no Scripture that supports this view. Nor, indeed, is there any indication that a person out of Christ is given a glimpse of heaven, then allowed to return to earth. If that could have happened to anyone, it would have happened to the rich man at whose gate Lazarus was placed daily. He was a Jew, called "son" by Abraham. When he died, he lifted up his eyes in hell, being in torment. He did see Lazarus being comforted in Abraham's bosom. Yet, he knew he could not return to earth, so asked that someone would be sent to warn his brothers. Abraham told him that was not possible either (Luke 16:22-31).

I am glad your friend is a Christian now. I do not know whether he is giving an accurate appraisal of what happened or not, and do not need to know. In the last analysis, what happened to him will be made known in the day of judgment. Until then, he must devote himself to living by faith, not by what he says happened to him. Furthermore, we do not have to affirm or deny the validity of his experience. God has not made us judges of other peoples experiences.

Something peculiar happened to Paul when he was caught up into the third heaven. He said he did not know whether he was dead or alive -- that is, if he was actually transported there or it was a vision (2 Corinthians 12:2-5). He was not only an Apostle, but the premier Apostle, who labored more abundantly the others (1 Corinthians 15:10). Furthermore, he did not refer to what he saw, but what he heard -- then said there was no human speech capable of conveying what he heard. Instead of glorying in what happened to him, he gloried in his infirmities and weaknesses.

I would suggest your friend follow the example of Paul, who only made one reference to his experience, telling us he was not at all sure of his condition at the time.

Are their any Bible translations that you would not recommend? What is the best translation for new believers? 

All translations have their strengths. Some of them are paraphrases -- almost like an abbreviated commentary. I would avoid having one of those as my basic Bible (Living Bible, Good News, etc.).

You should choose a main Bible translation to use. Choose one of, what is called, the standard translations. Some of them are King James, New King James, New American Standard, New revised Standard, New International Version. I personally recommend the new King James Version. Other versions can be consulted for comparison purposes.

Isaiah 14:12 Could you please give me some insight into this prophecy of Isaiah. Jeremiah 4:23. Thank you very much Brother Blakely. My nickname is Jr. I assemble at PLEASANT VIEW CHURCH OF CHRIST AT LISBON OHIO. THANK YOU BRO.& God Bless.

I understand this text to be an allusion to the fall of Satan (Isaiah 14:12-15). The words were addressed to the king of Babylon, and tell of the demise of Babylon because of its iniquity. Because the king had the traits of the devil, an allusion is made to Lucifer, whom I understand to be Satan. It is as though the Lord said, "Satan did not survive his insurrection against Me, and it is certain no king on earth shall do so." 

Since Satan is the ultimate example of sin being frustrated, he is cited in this passage as an example of God throwing down those who rise up against Him. The passage parallels Ezekiel 28:13-18, which was spoken against the king of Tyre. The point in both passages is that those who aspire to be greater than they ought to be will be thrown down like Satan, who has put such thoughts into their minds.

A friend (Joe) a 2nd friend (Al)to do something illegal. Al said no, I will not do that! Joe became mad and said, well you cheated on your wife last year so why won't you do this illegal act for me?? Then Joe said, you must love your job more than your wife. My 2 friends are no longer friends and I have to side with Al. Al was wrong to commit adultery but why would Joe think he has the right to judge and then ask Al to do something illegal? Joe was way out of line and I can see why Al does not talk with Joe anymore. Joe should never have judged nor should he expect a friend to do something illegal. What do you think father?? I appreciate you time and your response.

Both of your friends need to either be converted, or restored to God (if they were converted some time in the past). Both of them desired to sin, for the things they committed cannot be done accidentally. To ask another person to do something illegal compounds the matter of sin, bringing the curse of God upon the individual. Jesus once said, "But whoever causes one of these little ones WHO BELIEVE IN ME to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!" (Matthew 18:6-7). Scripture also carefully instructs us to not pronounce judgment on other people or put something before them that tempts them to do the wrong thing. "Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother's way" (Romans 14:13).

In the case of adultery or fornication, sin is also compounded. Here is what the Lord says about the matter. "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?" (1 Corinthians 6:18-19). In order to commit adultery, a person has to do the following. (1) Ignore the commandment of the Lord. (2) Seek to gratify ones own lust. (3) Look with unlawful desire upon another. (4) Fail to resist the devil. (5) Quench the Holy Spirit. (6) Harden his heart. (7) Seek the consent of the person after whom he lusted. (8) seek an occasion to fulfill his lust. (9) Call his mind, affection, and body into harmony in order to sin. (10) Fail to remember that God is watching him. (11) Ignore his own conscience. (12) Refuse to put on the whole armor of God. (13) Forget about heaven. (14) Put the day of judgment out of his thinking. (15) Fail to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. (16) Refuse to crucify the flesh and its affections.

I respectfully suggest you seek a better class of friends. The fact that these two are not speaking to one another confirms they have not repented of their iniquity.

Can a man who is divorced serve as an elder or deacon?

Your question cannot be answered with a simple "Yes" or "No." Under ordinary circumstances, it is not advisable for a divorced person to be an elder or deacon. This is inferred by the statements found in 1 Timothy 3:2 and 12. "A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife . . . Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife." It is generally understood that this refers primarily to bigomy, and secondarily to unlawful divorce and remarriage. You will note the word "divorced" is not used, although the Scriptures do employ the word elsewhere (Matt 5:31-32; 19:7-9). Under the law, a high priest could not marry a divorced woman (Lev 21:10-14). The bottom line is that God does NOT say a divorced man cannot be an elder. That is a human conclusion, not a Divine revelation.

All of this, of course, is highly ambiguous. That is why I used the limitation "ordinary circumstances." By that, I mean the person was divorced for legitimate reasons, i.e., the infidelity of the mate (Matt 5:32).

I understand that many are of the persuasion that even then (i.e., when divorced in accord with Jesus' single exception), the person should not be an elder. In my judgment, this would only be true if that condition neutralized his influence as an elder. Even if a person had been innocent, yet if the incident, because of misunderstanding, caused others to think less of him, it would disqualify him. That would be covered by the word, "Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil" (1 Tim 3:7).

One must remember that God Himself is divorced. He twice refers to Himself as having put Israel away with a bill of divorcement (Jeremiah 3:8; Isaiah 50:1). Even though God "hates divorce" (Mal 2:16), yet there are occasions when it is legitimate, even though it is painful. The Lord Himself is an example of that circumstance.

All of this means the matter of divorce cannot be addressed from a mere legal point of view. Each case must be evaluated with godly judgment. It should also be mingled with mercy. Anyone who affirms it is not possible for any divorced person to meet the criteria set forth for an elder has gone further than God. The question is not whether the elder has been divorced or not, but if he can effectively do the work of an elder. 

Could you please tell me the number of times Moses ascended and descended MT. Sinai. Could you give me scriptures on his trip up and his trip down.

UP - "And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, 'Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel.'" (Exodus 19:3)

DOWN -- "So Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before them all these words which the LORD commanded him . . . And Moses went down from the mount unto the people, and sanctified the people; and they washed their clothes." (Exodus 19:7)

UP -- "Then the LORD came down upon Mount Sinai, on the top of the mountain. And the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up." (Exodus 19:20)

DOWN -- 'And the LORD said unto Moses, Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish . . . So Moses went down unto the people, and spake unto them." (Exodus 19:21,25)

UP -- "So Moses arose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up to the mountain of God . . . Then Moses went up into the mountain, and a cloud covered the mountain . . . So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain." (Exodus 24:13,15,18)

DOWN -- "And the LORD said to Moses, "Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves . . . And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written." (Exodus 32:7,15).

UP -- "Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin. Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, "Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold!" (Exodus 32:30-31).

DOWN -- It is not expressly said Moses came down after the above event. However, his return is assumed in these words, 'Therefore now go, lead the people unto the place of which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit I will visit their sin upon them. And the LORD plagued the people, because they made the calf, which Aaron made." (Exodus 32:34-35).

UP -- "So he cut two tablets of stone like the first ones. Then Moses rose early in the morning and went up Mount Sinai, as the LORD had commanded him; and he took in his hand the two tablets of stone." (Exodus 34:4)

DOWN -- "And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him." (Exodus 34:29)

The folks that say they are praying in tongues:  would you then agree, that this is jibberish?  If so, what would you recommend as an approach to "wake them up" to the reality of scripture?  They conveniently ignore scripture to the contrary, but say that the "spiritual songs.  Sing[ing] and make[ing] music in your heart to the Lord, ..." (Eph. 5:19) gives a president to pray and speak mysteries to God.  They seem sincere, but I believe they're trying to "one-up" their level of piety, a work of futility; sincerely wrong.

First, it is not our responsibility to determine the legitimacy of the experience of other people. Throughout Scriptural history unusual things were experienced and done by the people of God -- things that could not be satisfactorily explained apart from the working of God Himself.

In the matter of speaking in tongues (I prefer saying "speaking in other languages), there is no question about God placing this gift in the church. There is, as you know, a great deal of controversy about whether it was intended to be temporal or only for a certain period of time. Men have labored to provide finely tuned answers to this dilemma. I do not believe it is our prerogative to determine when God does something, or when it is appropriate for Him to do so. That simply is outside the perimeter of human judgment and responsibility.

The Scriptures do affirm that speaking in tongues, even when it was unquestionably real and legitimate, did NOT make the individual spiritually superior. Prophesy, or speaking unto edification, exhortation, and comfort (1 Corinthians 14:3), is categorically said to be superior to speaking in languages that are not comprehended by the hearers (1 Corinthians 14;5).

The Spirit further goes to great length to show us the superiority of edification, or the building up of the saints (1 Cor 14:3; 10:23; 8:1; 14:4). He also associates understanding with edification, showing that one cannot be spiritually built up by something he does not understand (1 Corinthians 14:6-14).

Some have assumed when First Corinthians deals with the "unknown tongues" it refers to a language the speaker does not know. However, the whole point of the Corinthian discourse was not the understanding of the speaker, but the understanding of those who heard. The speaker was to pray that he might interpret what was said, not to himself, but to his hearers (1 Cor 14:5,13). The prayer that was uttered in another language was a public prayer, not a private one. That is precisely the point of 1 Corinthians 14:13-17. It was so the hearer could say "Amen" at the giving of thanks.

To have an unfruitful understanding in no way gives the person an advantage, regardless of the seeming loftiness of the experience. Thus, Paul determined to pray and sing with his understanding (14:14-15). Even this refers to a public setting, not a private one.

The teaching of Scripture concerning tongues is bound upon those claiming to speak in them. Whether or not they actually speak in a language they have neither learned nor understand is not even the question. What they do privately is between them and God. But when they speak in the assembly, it is no longer a private matter.

God has revealed the purpose for spiritual gifts, so there is no question about the matter. First, they are NOT for private benefits, but for the profiting of the whole church. "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all" (1 Cor 12:7). Second, they are to be used for the building up of the brethren, which is expressly said to occur through their understanding. "Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel . . . How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification" (1 Cor 14:12,26).

A view of "tongues" that considers them to be for mere personal benefit, and which does not bring increased understanding, violates both of these stipulations. If a person cites 1 Corinthians 14:4 to say he is edifying himself, he has missed the point of the text. In that verse the speaker knows what he is saying, but the hearers do not. The text is not speaking of private prayer, but of speaking in the assembly. 

Secondly, the Corinthian text does not say the person speaking in tongues is speaking mysteries to God. The "mysteries" are to men, not God. It seems to me that a modicum of thought should confirm that to be the case. That is precisely why the speaker, in such a case, is said NOT to speak to men -- because they do not understand him. "For he who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God, for no one understands him; however, in the spirit he speaks mysteries" (1 Cor 14:2). That "mysteries" refers to WHAT is being spoken to God, is a fanciful interpretation that men seek to impose upon the passage. The point is that, when speaking in a language the hearers do not know, they do not comprehend what he has said, even though God does. This is a rebuke, not an academic definition of how men speak to God. More precisely it means that even though men cannot judge what he says, God will. This is the Spirit's explanation for the superiority of prophesy -- speaking unto edification, exhortation, and comfort (14:3). The person who insists on speaking in a language he himself does not understand does not really know whether he has cursed Jesus or confessed him, which is precisely the point made in 1 Corinthians 12:3.

The following are bound upon any person professing to speak in tongues. Remember, whether they do or do not speak in tongues is not even the point. They are, by their profession of identity with Christ, bound to honor their Lord by complying with these demands.

1. Covet the better gifts, which do not include tongues (1 Cor 12:30-31).
2. Acknowledge that love is the more excellent way (1 Cor 12:31-13:1).
3. Acknowledge that without love, those speaking in unknown tongues are merely making distracting noise (1 Cor 13:1).
4. Admit there are things tongues cannot do, and that they are not intended to blend with eternity -- they are temporal (1 Cor 13:8).
5. The person speaking to exhort, comfort, and edify the people of God is superior to the one speaking in tongues (1 Cor 14:3).
6. Unless what is spoken is understood, it cannot profit the hearers, including the speaker (1 Cor 14:5.14-15)
7. Among the saints, it is better to speak five words that are understood than ten thousand words that cannot be understood -- an amazing proportion! (1 Cor 14:18).
8. Tongues are a sign for unbelievers, not for believers (1 Cor 14:21). In this passage, reference is made to Isaiah 28:11-13. In that passage God judged Israel because they did not listen to Him. Therefore he brought the Babylonian captivity, during which they heard people speak to them who they did not understand. The point of the prophesy was this: because Israel refused to listen to God, He would speak to them through a people they did not understand. When they heard these mysterious words, they would know they had been judged. Paul uses this passage to confirm that if words not understood are being spoken out in the assembly, it is actually a sign of judgment, not of blessing. He is showing the absurdity of speaking to God's people in words that cannot be comprehended.
9. Speaking in tongues leads those who are uninformed or unbelievers to conclude the speakers are "mad." That certainly brings no glory to God (1 Cor 14:23).
10. When words are spoken that cannot be understood, the speaker is speaking into the air (1 Cor 14:9).
11. The person speaking in tongues is to pray for the ability to interpret what he says to his hearers (1 Cor 14:13).
12. The person must prefer to speak words he understands, using his voice to teach others also (1 Cor 14:19).
13. However the person speaks, edification is to be the result (1 Cor 14:26).
15. Those speaking in other languages, assuming they are understood by the hearers through an interpreter must follow this procedure. Two, or at the most three, can speak, and they must do so in an orderly manner, each in turn (1 Cor 14:27).
16. If there is no interpreter present, they are to keep silent (1 Cor 14:28).

Let there be no mistake about this. These are things bound upon men by the Spirit of God. They are not open to question or discussion. I will tell you that if these things were followed, tongue speaking, as ordinarily perceived, would dry up overnight. That, in my judgment, is precisely why Paul wrote, "Therefore, brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak with tongues. Let all things be done decently and in order" (1 Cor 14:39-40). The matter is not to be settled by an arbitrary law -- "Do not speak in tongues." Rather, the purpose for speaking, which is edification through the understanding, is to be acknowledged and preferred. When this is done, God-honoring results will follow.



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