1 Corinthians 12:13
For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
In our last lesson, we studied the indwelling and leading of the Holy Spirit. Let us continue our study of the working of the Holy Spirit in the normal Christian by learning about His unifying and enabling work in our lives.
In Genesis 11, the Bible says the whole earth was of "one language" and "one speech". Not only did they all use the same language, but the things they talked about were also the same. They were of one mind to build a great tower, but God put a stop to that work through division by miraculously causing them to speak different languages.
Is language still a major cause of division between people?
In Acts 2, God did something equally miraculous and wonderful. Verse 1 says the disciples were in "one accord" in "one place" and God removed the language barrier so that for all practical purposes, they were of one language. At Babel the world was confounded by different languages (Genesis 11:7), but at Pentecost they were confounded because they were able to hear in their own language (Acts 2:6). Division of language would be no barrier for the spreading of the gospel!
What happened at Pentecost? Paul describes this very well in 1 Corinthians 12:13-14, "by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body". The Holy Spirit baptizes each believer into one body thereby unifying us into one. In the body, there is no division of race, social position, language, or purpose. In Acts 2:42-47, the church is described as having "all things common", in "one accord", and "singleness of heart" (see also Acts 4:32-35). We are now brothers and sisters for we are part of one family.
There is tremendous power when people are in one accord. God confused the languages at Babel for this reason, as He says in Genesis 11:6, "nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do". Who can stop a group that is in one accord? Imagine what power our church would have if we were like those in the book of Acts - one heart, one soul, one purpose!
Psalm 133:1 says "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" How truly sad it is when believers can't get along. How it must grieve the Holy Spirit when there is discord (Ephesians 4:30). Gossip, whisperings, backbitings, strife, and envy are all in direct opposition to the work of the Holy Spirit in unifying believers into one body. No wonder "he that soweth discord among brethren" is an abomination to God (Proverbs 6:19). We ought to be careful how we treat one another lest we find ourselves in opposition to God. Bro. Sammy Allen has an axiom called "Church Arithmetic": "believers are added to the church and subtracted from the world; and they either multiply or divide." Paul says, "be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another" (Ephesians 4:31-32).
The world is presently headed toward a one-world government. Europe has already been unified under a common currency. Will they be able to achieve this undoing of God's division at Babel? What is going to happen when the world finally gets together? In Revelation 19:19 John says, "And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army." When the world attempts unification, Jesus is going to return and wipe them out! At Babel, the world tried to build a great tower, but at Pentecost God began to build his own great tower made with believers (Ephesians 2:21-22, 1 Peter 2:5). Only God can restore unity to the earth, and that only through the work of the Holy Spirit.
One of the great promises that Jesus gave concerning the coming of the Holy Spirit was power! In Acts 1:8, Jesus said "ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth". One of the other great works of the Holy Spirit in the life of the normal Christian is to enable them for service. In 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul gives an in-depth discussion on gifts, beginning his dissertation by saying, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant".
It is crucial that we understand the purpose behind this power from the Holy Spirit. Jesus makes it clear in Acts 1:8 that the power was to enable them to preach the gospel to the world. Throughout the Bible, when the Holy Spirit gave power, it was for service (e.g. Bezaleel in Exodus 36:1 and Samson in Judges 13-16). Just looking at the types of gifts in Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 reveals that these gifts are to enable us to do the work of God and not for our own whim and fancy. Ephesians 4:12 is a great summary of the purpose for gifts, "For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ".
Another important fact we need to grasp is that not every one receives every gift. 1 Corinthians 12:11 says the Holy Spirit gives these gifts "dividing to every man severally as he will". Paul makes this point as well using the analogy of members in the body. The great lesson in this for us is that we simply ought to do what God has enabled us to do (1 Peter 4:10-11). If you are a foot, don't try to be a hand!
Today the doctrine of the Holy Spirit has been much confused and perverted especially in the area of spiritual gifts. At Corinth it seems that Paul was having to deal with this kind of problem.
The Charismatic movement (and some others) have made a real mess of the doctrine of tongues. Because of this, many Baptists have either created false doctrines (such as teaching that tongues have been done away with) in a knee-jerk reaction or have become too fearful to even discuss the subject. Let's go back to the Bible and find the truth on the matter of tongues.
1. The Definition of Tongues
When the Bible uses the word "tongues", what does this really mean? For example, at the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:4, the Bible says the believers spoke in "other tongues". To help us understand the meaning of this, the remainder of the passage makes it perfectly clear. Verse 6 says "every man heard them speak in his own language", in verse 8 the Jews asked "how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?", and in verses 9-11 we are given a list of the nations from which these listeners came. Tongues are languages!
What about the unknown tongue that Paul discusses in 1 Corinthians 14? We need to determine whether this language was unknown to man, unknown to the audience, or unknown to the speaker. In verse 28, Paul says to those who desire to speak in an unknown tongue, "if there be no interpreter, let him keep silence in the church."
If the language was unknown to man, how could the speaker know whether there was one present who could interpret?
This unknown language could not be referring to a language unknown to man! No, the word unknown is there to distinguish this language from that which was known by the members of the church. Yet this seems to be contrary to the nonsensical (i.e. unknown to man) language spoken in some charismatic churches.
2. The Delivery of Tongues
Consider again the command of Paul that preaching in tongues should not be done unless there was an interpreter. Is this the common practice found in these so called "tongues-speaking" churches? Paul further says that when an interpreter is present, this preaching in an unknown tongue was to be done by two or three and in order. The bottom-line of his dissertation in verse 40 is "Let all things be done decently and in order". Is this what is practiced by the charismatics?
In charismatic churches, who are more likely to use unknown tongues, men or women?
Look at what Paul says in verse 34, "Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak". Women are not to preach in a known or unknown language! Clearly, there are many churches that have rejected God's commandments concerning preaching in unknown tongues.
3. The Design of Tongues
What is the purpose for speaking in tongues?
You might get the idea from some Christians that the purpose for speaking in tongues is to show off their gift. One of the major points in 1 Corinthians 14 is that preaching is for edifying the body. Speaking in a language unknown to the church does not edify! Verses 5-9 do an exceptional job of pointing this out. In verses 15-16, Paul questions how one could agree with what is said if they cannot understand it. In verses 21-22, he says that tongues are a sign for the Jews who did not believe; but in verses 23-25, he points out what the lost world would think if they came into the church and heard someone preaching in an unknown language. We can find then two purposes for tongues in Scripture: 1. A sign to the Jews (see Acts 11:15-18), and 2. The removal of the language barrier when preaching the gospel to the world.
The other gift of the Holy Spirit that has been so perverted in our day is that of healing. Like tongues, the gift of healing has been promoted to the top of the list of gifts though in Paul's ranking it was definitely not so (1 Corinthians 12:28).
1. Not the Main Thing
Many faith healers seem to have made healing the focus of their life. Meetings are held for the sole purpose of healing. What happened to the great commission given in Matthew 28:19-20. Our main focus ought to be giving out the gospel!
2. Not always God's Will
A faith healer once said, "It is just as easy to be healed of cancer as to have your sins forgiven", but it's not always God's will for us to be healed. Paul had a thorn in the flesh that God would not remove (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). He told Timothy to use a little wine for his stomach problems (1 Timothy 5:23). Sometimes we are called upon to suffer.