Triumphing Over The Storms Of Life: Part Two

 In our last article, we noticed some of the important lessons from God’s Word about dealing with the storms of life. We will continue our study through this passage of Scripture: 
Matthew 14:22-33-Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.

23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.

24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.

25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.

26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.

27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”

31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
You Triumph Over The Storms Of Life When You Remember Jesus Is Your Deliverer 

 Just when it seems that hope is lost, Jesus comes along and helps.  

 Now, we may not always be able to immediately recognize the Lord when He is helping us. A number of years ago, I remember a difficult storm that I was facing. I was contemplating leaving the ministry because of some challenges that had arisen. I had prayed through the storms, but it seemed like I couldn’t find an answer. Then my friend Mike had a talk with me and helped me to see the right path to follow. Like Jonathan did with David, he had strengthened my hand in the Lord (1 Samuel 23:16). It took me a long time to realize it, but Mike and that discussion were God’s answers to my prayers.  

 Sometimes, those answers can take many unexpected forms. Yet the important thing to realize is that when we are facing our trials and storms, Jesus will help us at the right time.  
Romans 8:35-39-35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: “FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE KILLED ALL DAY LONG; WE ARE ACCOUNTED AS SHEEP FOR THE SLAUGHTER.” 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
 If you are facing a storm in your life, keep holding on to God. He will help you through whatever the storms may bring.  
You Triumph Over The Storms Of Life When You Decide To Trust And Obey What God Says To Do 
 Jesus called Peter to come out onto the water with Him. Now, Peter had the evidence that was needed to undergird his trust in Jesus’ commands. After all, Jesus was right there on the water when Peter stepped out!  

 Sometimes we convince ourselves that we know better than God does in dealing with our problems. We delude ourselves into thinking that we know how to work through our storms better than God Himself does. Jesus addressed this with His disciples when He reminded them of the wondrous way that God takes care of the Earth: 
Matthew 6:25-34-25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.  
 The human body has approximately 100 trillion cells. If all the cells in one person’s body were lined up side by side, they would encircle the earth 200 times over. The cells are incredibly advanced and are based on several biopolymers. These are more advanced than anything that we can imagine. Now, what are the odds of just one of those biopolymers randomly coming together and forming correctly without Divine intelligence?   
“At all events, anyone, even a nodding acquaintance with the Rubik’s cube will concede the near impossibility of a solution being obtained by a blind person moving the cubic faces at random. Now imagine 1050 (that’s a number 1 with 50 zeros after it) blind people, each with a scrambled Rubik’s cube, and try to conceive of the chance of them all simultaneously arriving at the solved form. You then have the chance of arriving by random shuffling at just one of the many biopolymers on which life depends. The notion that not only biopolymers but the operating program of a living cell could be arrived at by chance in a primordial organic soup here on the earth is evidently nonsense of a high order.” (Fred Hoyle, “Hoyle on Evolution,” Nature, vol. 294 (November 12, 1981): p. 527). 
Joe White and Nicholas Comninellis have written: 
“Sir Fredrick Hoyle vividly illustrates the probability of spontaneous generation like this: Supposing the first cell originated by chance is like believing a tornado could sweep through a junkyard filled with airplane parts and form a Boeing 747.24 Professor Harold Morowitz puts the chance of spontaneous generation as being much less than even that of Sir Fredrick Hoyle: The probability for the chance of formation of the smallest, simplest form of living organism known is 1 to 10340,000,000. This number is 1 to 10 to the 340 millionth power! The size of this figure is truly staggering, since there are only supposed to be approximately 1080 electrons in the whole universe!25 To further illustrate, this is approximately the same ridiculous probability that an entire high school gym filled with dice could instantly explode and every one of the dice would land on the number one! The renowned atheist of the latter 20th century, Dr. Carl Sagan, estimated that the mathematical probability of the simplest form of life emerging from non-living matter has the unbelievable odds of one chance in ten to the two billionth power (a 1 followed by two billion zeros after it) — even less probability than predicted by Sir Hoyle or Dr. Morowitz. The enormity of this figure is revealed by the fact that it would take 6,000 books of 300 pages each just to write the number!26 Just how likely is an event like this? Dr. Emile Borel, who discovered the laws of probability, says: The occurrence of any event where the chances are beyond one in ten followed by 50 zeros is an event which we can state with certainty will never happen, no matter how much time is allotted and no matter how many conceivable opportunities could exist for the event to take place.27 Dr. Emile Borel explains, in essence, that anything with a chance of less than 1 in 1050 would never happen, no matter how much time there is. So how could an event with a probability of 1 in 10 to the two billionth power ever happen? It is absolutely, emphatically impossible!” (Joe White & Nicholas Comninellis , Darwin’s Demise: Why Evolution Can’t Take The Heat, 325-332 (Kindle Edition); Green Forest, AR; Master Books)
 What’s the point of all of this? Very simply, God knows how to manage our problems and how to direct us through our storms. We merely need to seek His guidance (I.e., study His Word, the Bible) and follow what He says to do.  
Proverbs 3:5-6-Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Hebrews 11:6-But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
 (By the way, on a side note: the complexity of the cell is also another powerful indicator of the foolishness of atheism. Indeed, every cell is a testament to the existence of the Creator!)
You Triumph Over The Storms Of Life When You Consider That It Is In Those Storms That You Will Learn Some Of The Most Valuable Lessons  
Peter (and the other Apostles) learned some very powerful lessons on that night. Think about it!  
 Because of that storm, they were able to learn Who Jesus was.  

 Because of that storm, they were able to see their need for Jesus.  

 Because of that storm, they learned that with His help, they could do incredible things!  
 Have you ever stopped to consider that some of the most important lessons that we can learn in life can be learned in the storms that we go through?  

 I think about Job with this. He was a man who went through unimaginable suffering, yet we see no indication in his Book that he understood WHY God was letting him go through the storms he was. Yet the inspired Prophet James gives us an insight into this: 
James 5:11-Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
 Brother Guy N. Woods’ commentary on this passage is especially fitting: 
“The word translated “end” here, telos, often with the significance of termination, consummation, etc., also designates purpose, aim, design, it’s obvious meaning here. We, in our day, and from our vantage point (James is saying), can now see the purpose and design of God’s plan in Job’s case, which was not nearly so apparent then. The over-all-lesson here indicated ought not to be lost on us today. There is “a divinity that shapes our ends,” and though, for the moment, we are unable to discern the purpose or plan which God has, we should patiently wait for the unfolding thereof, knowing that eventually he will vindicate himself and all matters will turn out for our good…That is, “the end” (design, purpose, plan) of the Lord is to show great pity and much mercy for his suffering saints. In Job’s case, the Lord exhibited the greatest pity and compassion; and, this will he also do for all who similarly endure. The phrase “full of pity” denotes the fact that God is tender-hearted; he is not unmindful of the agonies of his people, nor does he turn a deaf ear to their cries. He abounds in pity (polusplagchnos), he is filled with it. Moreover, he is “merciful,” (oiktirmon), I.e., full of compassion for those who suffer.” (Guy N. Woods, A Commentary On The Epistle Of James, 287; Nashville, TN; Gospel Advocate). 
 Job learned (as have countless followers of the Lord through the ages) that there are reasons why God allows the storms into our lives. While God does not necessarily make the storms happen, He can use them to bring about good (Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18; James 1:2-4).  

 Whatever storms you are going through, trust in the Lord to bring good through them.  
You Triumph Over The Storms Of Life When You Keep Your Focus On Jesus 
 Notice that it is when Peter takes his eyes off of Jesus that he begins to sink deep into the water. We have to learn to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus if we are going to make it through the storms of life. Consider what Paul writes: 
Hebrews 11:24-26-By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, 26 esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he LOOKED to the reward.
Hebrews 12:1-2-Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 LOOKING unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
 The Greek word used there for “looking” is quite interesting: 
“Apoblepein is used in the NT only twice, and aphoran only once, but they are such vivid words that they repay the closest study. They are to all intents and purposes synonyms and both of them mean the same thing and have much the same history…. Apoblepein is used in the NT only twice, and aphoran only once, but they are such vivid words that they repay the closest study. They are to all intents and purposes synonyms and both of them mean the same thing and have much the same history….The important instance of apoblepein is in Heb. 11.26….The one instance of aphoran is in Heb. 12.2, where we are enjoined to run ‘looking unto Jesus’….First, let us look at apoblepein . Suidas, the Greek lexicon, tells us that apoblepein is used by Aeschines as a synonym of thaumazein , which means ‘to wonder’. Philostratus tells us that when Apollonius, the famous sophist, landed in Egypt, as he advanced from the ship the people ‘gazed at him’ ( apoblepein ) as a god. When Xenophon is telling of a man whose services the country was needing, he says, Your fatherland is ‘looking’ ( apoblepein ) to you. Philo describes the builder, as building and all the while ‘looking’ ( apoblepein ) into the pattern of the architect. Xenophon speaks of a person as being so vain that she kept ‘gazing’ ( apoblepein ) at her own reflection. Plato says that it is the aim of the lover to make the loved one so dependent on him that the lover in all things ‘will look’ ( apoblepein ) to him in utter love and complete dependence. An Ephesian inscription tells of one who ‘looked’ ( apoblepein ) to the reverence of the gods and to the honour of the most illustrious city of the Ephesians. Theophrastus in his Characters uses apoblepein to describe the look of the flatterer who gazes with rapt attention at the person he wishes to impress. Now let us look at aphoran . Lucian uses it for one man looking intently at another as they pursued an argument. Twice Epictetus uses it. He uses it in a description of his aims with his pupils. ‘And so now I am your teacher, and you are being taught in my school. And my purpose is this to make of you a perfect work, secure against restraint, compulsion and hindrance, free, prosperous, happy, looking to ( aphoran ) God in everything both great and small.’ He describes the great hero and benefactor Hercules as ‘looking to’ ( aphoran ) Zeus is everything he did. Josephus, describing the death of Aaron, tells how, as he died, the crowd ‘looked wonderingly’ ( aphoran ) upon him. From all this there emerges a wonderful picture of the way in which the true Christian looks at the blessedness of God and the wonder of Jesus Christ. He looks with an utter fixity of concentration; he looks with wondering amazement; he looks as one who looks to a champion and a saviour; he looks as one who looks at the master plan and pattern of life; he looks as a loved one looks with adoration at his lover; he looks as a man looks at his familiar friend; he looks as a man looks to God when God has become for him the only reality in the world. (William Barclay, New Testament Words, 790-823 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)  
 Don’t allow the storms of life to make you lose sight of the Lord. Only by looking to Him and keeping your eyes fixed on Him will you be able to endure.  

 If you are not a child of God, why not become one today? The Son of God died to save you from your sins, was buried, and rose agin the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He promises salvation to all who will believe in Him (John 8;24), repent of their sins (Luke 13:3), confess Him before men (1 Timothy 6:12), and be buried with Him in baptism (Romans 6:3-4). When you live faithfully to Him, even to the point of death, you will receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10). If you are a child of God who has not been living faithfully to the Lord, then I implore you to repent and pray to Him immediately to be forgiven and restored (1 John 1:8-2:2).  

 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

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Triumphing Over The Storms Of Life: Part One

We live in some very difficult times, don’t we? 
 Terrorist threats; sickness; death of loved ones; chemical pollution; food poisoning; the constant threat of international war; marriage problems; weekly and monthly bills; trying to make ends meet; friends and family members in jail, or the hospitals, or in some way or another always in trouble; personal struggles and temptations; political games in Washington D.C….

 On and on the list goes!  

 When we are surrounded and in the midst of the storms of life (and most of the time it often feels like we go from one storm straight to another), what can we do?  

 I want to share with you one of my favorite stories from the Bible about a man who went through a very frightening and terrifying storm. You are probably familiar with the account, but I’m going to go ahead and share it below: 
Matthew 14:22-33-Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.

23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there.

24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary.

25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.

26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.

27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”

31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
 Notice with me some very important lessons from this passage.  
You Triumph Over The Storms Of Life When You Are Aware They May Come At Any Time
 The text tells us that this was the “fourth watch of the night” that these events occurred. What does this mean? William Barclay tells us: 
“Matthew has already told us that when Jesus fed the crowds, he made them sit down on the green grass. By that we know it must have been the springtime. Very likely it was near the Passover time, which was in the middle of April. If that is so, the moon would be full. In ancient times, the night was divided into four watches – 6 pm to 9 pm, 9 pm to 12 midnight, 12 midnight to 3 am, and 3 am to 6 am. So at 3 am, Jesus, walking on the high ground at the north of the lake, clearly saw the boat fighting with the waves, and came down to the shore to help.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel Of Matthew, Volume Two, 2074 (Kindle Edition); Edinburgh, England; Saint Andrews Press) 
 The text goes on to tell us that it was during this time that the wind was “contrary.”  

 Sometimes, the storms of life may hit us when we least expect them. Often, it is when things are going well for us that we find the unexpected storms raging around us. That’s how it was with Job. Things were going very well in his life when we read: 
Job 1:13-19-13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house; 14 and a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided them and took them away—indeed they have killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 16 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 17 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands, raided the camels and took them away, yes, and killed the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you!” 18 While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, 19 and suddenly a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you!”
 What started out as just a normal day for Job quickly turned into a storm of life that would surely have destroyed many others (myself included I believe). God’s Word tells us that we can expect the storms, which is why we need to try and prepare ourselves for them. It is by living with the knowledge that we will have trials in this life (John 16:33) that we are able to prepare ourselves for them.  
You Triumph Over The Storms Of Life By Realizing They Will Be Rough Before They Are Finished  
 Notice also that the text tells us the disciples had been going through this storm for quite a while.  

 Isn’t that how it is with a lot of us? I know personally that sometimes when I go through the trials of life I ask God, “Okay God, how much longer will this go on?”  

 Sometimes we may have to go through the storms of life before things get better. Just because things do not get better right away, does not mean that they won’t improve! Remember what the Apostle Peter (the same one here who had gone through many storms tells us:
1 Peter 5:6-7-6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you IN DUE TIME, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  
 Look at those little words, “in due time.” The idea of the passage is that God will help us and we will make it through the storms “in due time.” Notice some of the different translation is fthe passage: 
1 Peter 5:6 (CEV)-Be humble in the presence of God’s mighty power, and he will honor you WHEN THE TIME COMES.
1 Peter 5:6 (ERV)-So be humble under God’s powerful hand. Then he will lift you up WHEN THE RIGHT TIME COMES.  
1 Peter 5;6 (TLV)-Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may lift you up at THE APPROPRIATE TIME.  
 Our time is not necessarily God’s time. 

 For years, I have heard atheists and unbelievers argue, “Well, if God is all-good and all-powerful, then He would have the will and the power to defeat evil. Yet evil exists! Therefore, God does not exist.” While this ancient argument may “look good” on the surface, it overlooks the fact that God’s Nature shows us that He will one day defeat the powers of evil and suffering. Norman Geisler once wrote: 
“The argument against God from evil makes some arrogant assumptions. Just because evil is not destroyed right now does not mean that it never will be. The argument implies that if God hasn’t done anything as of today, then it won’t ever happen. But this assumes that the person making the argument has some inside information about the future. If we restate the argument to correct this oversight in temporal perspective, it turns out to be an argument that vindicates God. 1. If God is all-good, He will defeat evil. 2. If God is all-powerful, He can defeat evil. 3. Evil is not yet defeated. 4. Therefore, God can and will one day defeat evil. The very argument used against the existence of God turns out to be a vindication of God in the face of the problem of evil. There is no question here that if it has not yet happened and God is as we suppose Him to be, that we simply haven’t waited long enough. God isn’t finished yet. The final chapter has not been written. Apparently God would rather wrestle with our rebellious wills than to reign supreme over rocks and trees. Those who want a quicker resolution to the conflict will have to wait.”” (Norman Geisler & Ronald Brooks, When Skeptics Ask: A Handbook On Christian Evidences, 64-65 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
 If you are facing some storms right now, don’t give up. Keep rowing in the knowledge that deliverance will come for God’s people: 
Psalm 30:5-For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.
You Triumph Over The Storms Of Life When You Learn You Have To Keep Rowing  
 I love the picture of the Apostles. They are rowing with all their might, fighting against the storm. One things this reminds me of is the fact that the only way we are going to make it through the storms is if we persevere and don’t’ give up. Sadly, I have known a lot of Christians who have become so discouraged and disgruntled with the difficulties of life that they have “thrown in the towel.” They say, “What’s the point of even trying?”  

 It is in those difficult times that we need to remember the heroes of faith who have made it through the challenges and storms and have emerged victorious. I think about some Christians I have known who have gone through some of the most horrible tragedies imaginable. They came through the storms! They made it when all else seemed lost! They were able to make it (partly) because they didn’t give up.  

 Have you ever struggled with the storms of temptation and guilt? There have been times when I have, and I have lost the battle and nearly succumbed to the storms. But during those times, I have been blessed to remember the ones throughout time who made it because they did not give up and/or give in: 
Hebrews 12:1-2-Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  
 The “cloud of witnesses” is such a powerful concept! Who are these “witnesses” that Paul is telling us to look to and remember?  
“I thus explain the “witnesses” to mean spectators, watchers, not testifiers. The context seems to me to decide somewhat positively for this explanation. It is an altogether pictorial context; the imagery of the foot-race comes suddenly up, and in a moment raises before us the vision of the stadium and its surroundings. The reader cannot see the course with his inner eyes without also seeing those hosts of eager lookers-on which made, on every such occasion, in the old world as now, the life of the hour. In such a context nothing but explicit and positive reasons to the contrary could give to the word “witnesses,” and to the word “cloud” in connexion with it, any other allusion. True, these watchers are all, as a fact, evidential “witnesses” also, testifiers to the infinite benefit and success of the race of faith. But that thought lies almost hidden behind the other. It is as loving, sympathetic, inspiring lookers-on that the old saints, from Abel onwards, are here seen gathered, thronging and intent, around us as we run…But all this leaves faith in peaceful possession of a fact of unspeakable animation. It tells the discouraged or tired Christian, tempted to think of the unseen as a dark void, that it is rather a bright and populous world, in mysterious touch and continuity with this, and that our forerunners, from those of the remotest past down to the last-called beloved one who has passed out of our sight, know enough about us to mark our advance and to prepare their welcome at the goal.” (Handley C.G. Moule, Messages From The Epistle To The Hebrews, 39-40 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added); London, England; no publisher cited)  
 Remember the ones who have made it through the storms to the shores of eternity. They did it by persevering; by not giving up. So have you sinned against God? Welcome to the club! What do you do? Repent of it and come back to the Lord in repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22). If you have stopped rowing then you need to start back.  
You Triumph Over The Storms Of Life When You Row The Boat TOGETHER


 Something stands out to me in this passage. The Apostles were on the boat, and they were rowing TOGETHER.  

 If I try to make it through the storms of life by myself, I’m going to fail. I needed my brothers and sisters in Christ to help me weather the storms and trials of this world. If I try to do it on my own, I’m not going to make it.  

 Oh, I know there are times when we feel alone. Like Elijah the Prophet, we tell God that are alone and no one can understand what we are facing (1 Kings 19:10, 14). Perhaps we, like the Psalmist, have declared: 
Psalm 142:4 (CEV)-Even if you look, you won’t see anyone who cares enough to walk beside me. There is no place to hide, and no one who really cares.
 When you feel that you are alone, remember that you aren’t. God has promised to never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5), and you have a family in Christ who loves you and wants to do what they can to help and encourage you (1 Timothy 3:14-15; Galatians 6:1-3). Just as importantly, consider that there may be a brother or sister who has been struggling and is also ready to go under the waves because of the storms they are facing, and guess what? They need you just as much as you need them!  

 By all means, strive to work together to face the storms. Don’t try to go it alone. Not only will you make it through the storms you face because of the help of others, but you will help others make it through their storms.  

 Friends, whatever storms of life you are facing, I want to encourage you to turn to Jesus Christ. He is the Son of God Who loves you and gave Himself for you (Galatians 2:20). He died for your sins, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Will you not today believe in Him (John 8;24), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess Him before men (Acts 8:37), be baptized into Him (Acts 22:16), and be faithful to death (Revelation 2:10)? Or if you are a child of God who has turned away from the Lord, won’t you please be restored to Him today by repenting of your sins and praying to Him for forgiveness (1 John 1:9)? Your church family stands ready to assist you in any way we can (James 5:16-20).  

 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

Watch

The Book of Revelation contains some powerful and much needed insights for the church of Christ of our day and age. In this article, let’s consider one powerful lesson in particular: the need to be constantly “watching.”  
 When the Lord directed the Apostle John to write his Epistle to the church of Christ at Sardis, He had these words to tell the brethren: 
Revelation 3:7-Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.
 Notice the warning of the Lord to these Christians: if they will not watch, He will come upon them as a thief at an hour in which they will not expect. 

 When we consider the history of this city, we learn the background behind this statement. William Barclay has written: 
“Seven centuries before this letter was written, Sardis had been one of the greatest cities in the world. There, the king of Lydia ruled over his empire in splendour. At that time, Sardis was a city of the east and was hostile to the Greek world. Aeschylus, the Greek poet, wrote of it: ‘They that dwelt by Tmolus pledged themselves to cast the yoke on Hellas.’ Sardis stood in the middle of the plain of the valley of the River Hermus. To the north of that plain rose the long ridge of Mount Tmolus; from that ridge, a series of hills went out like spurs, each forming a narrow plateau. On one of these spurs, 1,500 feet up, stood the original Sardis. Clearly, such a position made it almost impregnable. The sides of the ridge were smoothly precipitous; and only where the spur met the ridge of Mount Tmolus was there any possible approach into Sardis, and even that was difficult and steep. It has been said that Sardis stood like some gigantic watch-tower guarding the Hermus valley. The time came when the narrow space on the top of the plateau was too small for the expanding city; and Sardis grew around the foot of the spur on which the citadel stood….The rock on which Sardis was built crumbled easily. It was more like close-packed dried mud than rock. The nature of the rock meant that it developed cracks. A certain Mardian soldier called Hyeroeades had seen a Sardian soldier accidentally drop his helmet over the battlements and then make his way down the precipice to retrieve it. Hyeroeades knew that there must be a crack in the rock there by means of which an agile man could climb up. That night, he led a party of Persian troops up by the fault in the rock. When they reached the top, they found the battlements completely unguarded. The Sardians had thought themselves too safe to need a guard; and so Sardis fell. A city with a history like that knew what the risen Christ was talking about when he said: ‘Watch!’…Then history repeated itself. After the death of Alexander, there were many claimants for the power. Antiochus, who became the ruler of the area in which Sardis stood, was at war with a rival called Achaeus who sought refuge in Sardis. For a year, Antiochus besieged him; then a soldier called Lagoras repeated the exploit of Hyeroeades. At night, with a band of brave men, he climbed the steep cliffs. The Sardians had forgotten their lesson. There was no guard, and once again Sardis fell because it had not kept watch.” (William Barclay, The Revelation Of John: Volume One, 123-126 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press) 
 From this incredible background of the passage, we can learn some very important lessons.  

 First, history can be one of the greatest teachers to learn from! The people of Sardis knew their background, and they knew this history of their city. By reminding them of their history, Jesus is teaching them to be prepared in the present so that they will be ready in the future. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why Christians need to be students of history. For example, even though the church of Christ does not live under the Old Testament Law (Colossians 2:14-17; Ephesians 2:15; Romans 7:4), we are admonished to study the Old Testament Scriptures to learn from the history of the nations of the world: 
Romans 15:4-For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.  
1 Corinthians 10:6-Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.
1 Corinthians 10:11-Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
2 Peter 2:6-and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly;
 Christians needs to be students of the Old Testament Scriptures. History can teach us some very important lessons, if we will prepare our hearts to learn.  

 Second (to coin a phrase), the text teaches us that those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.  

 The people of Sardis had failed to learn from their terrible calamity and fall centuries earlier, and so had been forced to undergo a similar defeat years later. We must remember that the devil is on the prowl (1 Peter 5:8) looking for Christians who refuse to learn from their past sins. When we fall into sin (1 John 1:8), we need to repent (Acts 8:22) and learn from our errors. I have seen this in my own life, as well as from many with whom I work. For example, when I work with addicts, I try to encourage them to identify and locate those characteristics which many call “triggers,” i.e., those circumstances, thought patterns, habits, and emotional reactions which can often lead a person down the path of “relapse.” What is true for addicts in this regard is true for every person. We all have “triggers” which can lead us into sin, and we need to learn from our past to help us better be prepared for the present day so that when we face our difficult times and temptations, we will be prepared.  

 We must learn from the past. .  

 Third, this passage reminds us about the fact that sometimes passages of Scripture are better understood by studying outside of the Bible. Throughout the Old and the New Testaments, God’s inspired Prophets and Apostles encourage the people of the Lord to at times study extra-biblical books to gain better understanding of things written in the Word (cf. Joshua 10:13; Acts 17:26-28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12-13). Failure to carefully consider the cultural context of passages of Scripture has often led to extreme positions and teachings.  

 We would do well to study outside of Scripture when such would better enhance our understanding of the Word of God.  

 Fourth, this passage is a powerful reminder that Christians need to keep constant vigil. Here, the Lord is speaking of coming in judgment against this congregation for its’ spiritual lethargy and indifference. They were not being who God called them to be, and so He is giving them time to repent. What happens if they do not do so? Then He will come against them in judgement. The contextual reference to eternal judgment (Revelation 3:5) suggests that the Lord is talking about the fact that if they will not be faithful, their names will be taken out of the Book of Life. Those who maintain that a child of God can never fall from grace are in direct contradiction to the Scriptures (cf. 2 Peter 2:20-22; Galatians 5:4; 1 Corinthians 10:12; James 5:19-20, etc.). 

 Finally, we are reminded here of the fact that the Second Coming of Christ could happen at any moment. The command to “watch” reminds us of the many warnings of Jesus regarding the Second Coming. Consider some of His statements in Matthew 24 and 25:
Matthew 24:36-But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.
Matthew 24:42-Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.
Matthew 24:44-Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
Matthew 24:50-the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him and at an hour that he is not aware of,
Matthew 25:13-Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
 There are many who claim that they know when Jesus is returning, and that the Lord has left signs for us to advertise when His Second Coming will take place. Yet the Scriptures are clear that no signs were left to foretell that Day, and that therefore we need to be ready at all times, “watching” for His Return (cf. 2 Peter 3:9-13).  

 Friend, are you ready for the Return of Christ? He came the first time to go to the Cross of Calvary to pay the debt of sin for all those who will turn to Him (Romans 5:8). He loves you and wants you to be saved (John 3:16). He died, was buried, and rose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). But when He returns, it will not only be to save His people but to bring the Day of Judgment: 
2 Thessalonians 1:7-10-and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. 
 We “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” when we as believers (John 8:24) repent of our sins (Luke 13:3) and are baptized in water with Him (Romans 6:3-4, 17-18) upon a profession of faith that He is the Son of God (Acts 8:37; 1 Timothy 6:12). We continue to “obey the Gospel” by living faithfully to Him, even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10).  

 Friend, if you have not obeyed the Lord’s plan of salvation, won’t you please do so today?  

 If you are a child of God who at one time obeyed His Word but have wandered away in sin, then won’t you please repent and pray to the Lord for forgiveness as the Christians at Sardis were exhorted to do (Revelation 3:3; cf. 1 John 1:9)?  

 Your church family stands ready to assist you.  

 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

Questions And Answers About Speaking In Tongues: Part Four

 By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Question: Were there people in the ancient world who practiced the speaking of gibberish (such as practiced in modern day charismatic churches) as a religious experience to pagan gods and goddesses?  

Answer: Yes.  

 The speaking of ecstatic utterances was well known and documented in the ancient world.

Several sources of this abound. For example, Keener (in his scholarly four volume commentary on the Book of Acts) has this: 

“Ecstatic speech and behavior, by contrast, were a common element in ancient prophetism and many forms of worship. Prophets and other divinely possessed persons were thought to act in ways normally considered insane. [280] Certainly, the possession trance described for the Pythian priestess fits here (e.g., Lucan C.W. 5.97–101); this also applies to Sibylline prophecy (Virg. Aen . 6.77–102) and to (not usually prophetic) Bacchic frenzy (Eurip. Bacch . 298–99). In many ancient conceptions, inspiration displaced the mind. [281] (See further the excursus on prophecy at Acts 2:17.)”. (Craig S. Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary-Volume One-introduction And 1:1-2:47, 36952-36961 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Academic)

 James D. Bales provides much information about this topic: 

“Tongues of a sort have been manifested in pagan cults which existed before Christ came to earth, and in others which have not been influenced by Christianity. Virgil (70-19 B.C.) tells of one who inquired of the Priestess of Phoebus, at the cavern of the oracle of Sibyl.’ ‘They had gained the threshold, when the maid exclaims: Tis time to ask the oracles; lo! The god, the god! Before the doors thus speaking, suddenly nor countenance, nor hue, nor braided locks Stayed in one fashion; but her bosom heaves, her heart swells wild with frenzy; and more vast she seems, nor mortal rings her voice, when now touched by the nearer breath of deity. He made an end of speaking. But the seer, not yet patient of Phoebus, I the cavern storms Immeasurably, if haply from her breast she make shake off the mighty God; but he so much the rather plies her raving mouth, tames her wild heart, and moulds her to his might. In such words from the shrine doth Cumae’s Sibyl chant her awful riddles, and echo through the cave, in darkness shrouding truth; so shakes the reins Apollo in her raving mouth, and plies deep in her breast the goad. Soon as had ebbed her frenzy, and the frantic lips were still.’ ‘Oracular possession of the kind above described is also common among savages and people of lower culture; and Dr. Tylor, in his Primitive Culture, ii. 14 gives examples of ecstatic utterance interpreted by the sane. Thus in the Sandwich Islands the god Oro gave his oracles through a priest who ‘ceased to act or speak as a voluntary agent, but with his limbs convulsed, his features distorted and terrific, his eyes wild and strained, he would roll on the ground foaming at the mouth, and reveal the will of the God in shrill cries sounds violent and in distinct, which the attending priests duly interpreted to the people’ (Encyclopedia Britannica). L.C. May wrote: ‘As a rule, speaking-in-tongues and kindred phenomena are confined to those areas where there is spirit possession and where inspirational shamans hold forth. Glossolalia can be and often is the result of spirit-induced ecstasy making it possible for the inspirational shaman to cure, exorcise, and prophesy…speaking-in-tongues is widespread and very ancient. Indeed, it is probable that as long as man has had divination, curing sorcery, and propitiation of spirits, he has had glossolalia.’ (As quoted by Pattinson, 74). These were manifestations of what these people called ‘spirit-possession,’ and these spirits which possessed them were not viewed as the Holy Spirit, for of the Holy Spirit they either knew nothing; or if they had heard anything about the Spirit they had not accepted Him. Concerning the Shango cult in Trinidad, George J. Jennings pointed out that ‘The induction of possession is at religious feasts or sacrifices where the combination of crowd excitement, singing, darkness, candles, circular rhythmic dancing, and other ceremonial phases are intensified by incessant drumming. The expected and common result is possession by the spirit or ‘Powers’ with a dramatic physical transformation including body vibrations, rhythmic bending of the body forward and backward, dilation of the eyes, and a fixed stare…The spirit then speaks through the he possessed individual in a mixture of genuine language and nonsense syllables-in short, a form of glossolalia.’ (10). This certainly reminds one of some of the meetings in which people get the gift of ‘tongues.’ There are others, of course, that are not so visible in their display of emotional involvement, but even in these cases we find the testimonies, prayers, and the repetition of certain words such as the name of Jesus. Other examples of tongues in pagan religion can be found in the worship of Amon around 1100 B.C., the writings of Plato who died around 347, Pythoness of Delphi, in some of the mystery religions, in Islam, and among Eskimos in Greenland. (Gromacki, 6-9).” (Dr. James D. Bales, Pat Boone And The Gift Of Tongues, 61-63 (Searcy, Arkansas). 

 While many will no doubt be bothered by these facts, the truth is undeniable: what is often practiced in modern day charismatic churches and identified as the gift of tongues has its’ parallel-not with the church that Jesus Christ built and the miraculous ability gifts given to some to speak fluently in foreign languages-but in the pagan religions of the false gods and goddesses of the ancient world.  

 In fact, some modern day Pentecostals have noticed this and have been very disturbed by it.

One Pentecostal newspaper article writer tells us: 

“One sees the man’s body forcibly shaking in spasms, with the hands trembling, the voice quivering in such staccato mumblings as: Je- Je- Je- Jee- sus . . . Jeee- sus . . . Je- Je- Je- Jee- sus . . . aassh . . . aassh . . . ah . . . aassh Jee- sus. Then follows some stuttering tongues- speaking: shlababababa— Jah- Jeey- balika— a syndrome which an American psychologist Peter Brent calls “a born- again fixation,” and an observer brands as “a Pentecostal anthem.” Only recently a reverend minister of an orthodox church queried, “If the possessed voodoo priest says: ‘shiri- bo- bo- bo- boh’ in a staccato stammer over his black whisk he holds, and the possessed born- again Christian rattles: ‘shlaba- ba- bah- shlabalika’ over his Bible, what can be the difference?” (Apostle Kwamena Ahinful, “Modern- Day Pentecostalism: Some Funny Oddities Which Must Be Stopped,” Modern Ghana , September 3, 2011, http://www.modernghana.com/newsthread1/348777/1/153509; ellipses in original)  

 Yet should it really surprise us that this gibberish speaking characteristic in pagan religion is found and practiced in places where the authority of Holy Scripture has been set aside and people are thereby made vulnerable to the seduction of the devil?

Satan, after all, transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). He works mainly through deception in the world (Ephesians 6:10-12). 

Question: Does the Bible teach that the Holy Spirit will so overwhelm a person that he loses his free will and is “slain in the Spirit?”  

Answer: No. Indeed, the exact opposite is clearly taught from God’s Word.  
 Many people in our country identify what they refer to as being “slain in the Spirit.” What is meant by this phraseology?  

“We asked the Holy Spirit to come and fill him up again. Suddenly, it happened. James fell back down to the floor, rolling and crying and clasping his hands over his face. The Holy Spirit had come in a mighty deluge of power, rushing into the wounded places, and filling him with His glory. James laughed. He cried. . . . His face flushed with glory and his body shook under the power of God. And when he finally got off the floor, like on the day of Pentecost, he was drunk with the Holy Spirit.” (Sandy Davis Kirk, The Pierced Generation (Chambersburg, PA: eGen, 2013), 63) 

“Today thousands of people are being “slain in the spirit” in the name of a fashionable and palpable demonstration of Holy Ghost power. Vineyard founder John Wimber, for one, claims to have found ample validation for this phenomenon in Scripture,, church history, and his own experiences. After years of observation, he has determined that while followers fall backward, ward, leaders invariably fall forward. He even claims to have seen a man converted after he was “lifted and flung thirty feet across the floor and slammed against a wall.”; While Counterfeit Revival leaders like Wimber attribute the “slain in the spirit” phenomenon to the Holy Ghost, in reality it has much more in common with Hindu gurus, hucksters, and hypnotists.. Counterfeit Revival leaders use sociopsychological manipulation as well as a variety of Scripture-twisting tactics to dupe their devotees. Even the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements candidly notes that “an entire battalion talion of Scripture proof texts is enlisted to support the legitimacy of the phenomenon, although Scripture plainly offers no support for the phenomenon as something to be expected in the normal Christian life.”4 Despite the pious attribution of this phenomenon to the Holy Spirit as well as the pragmatic addition of “catchers,” multitudes continue to suffer spiritual, emotional, and physical damage from this practice. Some have even died. While the Counterfeit Revival is fixated on sensational manifestations like being “slain in the spirit,” genuine revival is focused on salvation and sanctification in the Spirit.” (Hank Hanegraaff, Counterfeit Revival: Looking For God in All The Wrong Places, 359-367 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Word Publishing). 

 The Scriptures teach very clearly that this phenomenon is not of God.

When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church of God at Corinth, he addressed those in the assembly who truly had the miraculous gifts. What light does he shed on these matters?

 When speaking of those in the assembly who had the gift of tongues, he addressed the circumstance of their use of their miraculous gifts if there were no interpreters present. He says: 

1 Corinthians 14:28-But if there is no interpreter, LET HIM KEEP SILENT IN CHURCH, and let him speak to himself and to God.

1 Corinthians 14:30-But if anything is revealed to another who sits by, LET THE FIRST KEEP SILENT.  

If the Spirit took control of the individual and took away their free will, why would Paul need to command the members of the congregation to keep silent in certain circumstances? Obviously, this shows that the “slaying of the Spirit” doctrine simply is not found in the Word of God.  

 To make his point more clear, Paul writes: 

1 Corinthians 14:32-And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

Question: Does the Bible teach that the miraculous gifts would cease?  

Answer: Yes.  

 The Apostle Paul reminds the Corinthians that the miraculous gifts were temporary. At the end of 1 Corinthians 12:31, Paul encourages the Christians to seek a “more excellent way,” (literally, the way beyond all comparison). He then launches into a discussion regarding the superiority of love over the miraculous gifts. One of the reasons the miraculous gifts would pale in comparison to the way of love is because love is eternal, whereas the miraculous gifts would cease. He writes: 

1 Corinthians 13:8-10-Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.

 Speaking of some of the verbs of this passage, MacArthur writes: 

“Fails (from piptō) has the basic meaning of falling, especially the idea of final falling, and was used of a flower or leaf that falls to the ground, withers, and decays. Never refers to time, not to frequency, and the idea is that at no time will divine love ever fall, wither, and decay. By nature it is permanent. It is never abolished. Love cannot fail because it shares God’s nature and God’s eternity….Done away is from katargeō, which means “to reduce to inactivity,” or “to abolish.” The gifts of prophecy and knowledge one day will be made inoperative. Both forms of this verb in verse 8, as well as its form in verse 10, are passive; that is, something or someone will cause them to stop. As will be discussed below, that something is the coming of “the perfect” (v. 10). Cease is from pauō, which means “to stop, to come to an end.” Unlike katargeō, this verb is here used in the Greek middle voice, which, when used of persons, indicates intentional, voluntary action upon oneself. Used of inanimate objects it indicates reflexive, self-causing action. The cause comes from within; it is built in. God gave the gift of tongues a built-in stopping place. “That gift will stop by itself,” Paul says. Like a battery, it had a limited energy supply and a limited lifespan. When its limits were reached, its activity automatically ended. Prophecy and knowledge will be stopped by something outside themselves, but the gift of tongues will stop by itself. This distinction in terms is unarguable.” (John MacArthur, First Corinthians, 7749-7795 (Kindle Edition); Chicago;; Moody Press)  

 The text here teaches that the miraculous gifts of the first century church would cease when that which is “perfect” had come.

What is that which is “perfect?”

Some have suggested it is talking about the Person of Jesus Christ when He returns at the Second Coming, yet the text clearly shows that is not the case. The word “perfect” is in the neuter gender and therefore does not refer to a person. Instead, it refers to a “thing.” So, what is the “perfect?”  

 To answer that question, notice that the “perfect” (I.e., the complete) is set in contrast to that which is “in part.” That which was “in part” had reference to that which the early Christians knew of God’s Word (I.e., Paul says, “for we know in part, and we prophesy in part”). What was the “knowledge” in context? It had reference to the revealed Word of God (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). When the Word of God would be completely given (I.e., when the New Testament Scriptures had been fully revealed), then that which was “in part” (the miraculous gifts) would be done away with. Since the Word of God has been fully revealed to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16-17), there no longer remains a need for miraculous gifts.  

 This position is also strengthened when we consider that the means by which the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were delivered show that these gifts were designed to be temporary. The only two means through which the miraculous gifts were bestowed were through Holy Spirit baptism (Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-46) and through the laying on of the Apostles’ hands (Acts 8:14-19). Yet Holy Spirit baptism only occurred on two occasions (Acts 2 & 10), and by the time Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesians, it had ceased altogether (Ephesians 4:4-6). Further, the office of Apostle was limited to the first century since an Apostle had to be an eyewitness of the resurrected Jesus Christ (Acts 1:21-23) and He was seen last of all by the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:8). Since only Apostles could pass on the miraculous gifts, therefore (Acts 8:12-19), it follows that the ability to pass on those miraculous gifts ceased with the death of the last Apostle. They would continue on into the second century in a limited fashion, until the last ones upon whom the Apostles laid their hands died. We see in the writings of the early church fathers that these miraculous gifts did diminish, and then they faded away: 

Chrysostom-“[Commenting on 1 Corinthians 12:] “This whole place is very obscure: but the obscurity is produced by our ignorance of the facts referred to and by their cessation, being such as then used to occur but now no longer take place.” (John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians ,
36.7. Chrysostom is commenting on 1 Corinthians 12:1–2 and introducing the entire chapter. Cited from Gerald Bray, ed., 1–2 Corinthians , Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1999)

, 146)

Theodoret of Cyril-“In former times those who accepted the divine preaching and who were baptized for their salvation were given visible signs of the grace of the Holy Spirit at work in them. Some spoke in tongues which they did not know and which nobody had taught them, while others performed miracles or prophesied. The Corinthians also did these things, but they did not use the gifts as they should have done. They were more interested in showing off than in using them for the edification of the church.” (Commentary on the First Epistle to the Corinthians 240. [PG 82:319])

Augustine-““In the earliest times, the Holy Spirit fell upon them that believe and they spoke with tongues, which they had not learned, as the Spirit gave them utterance. These were signs adapted to the time. For there was this betokening of the Holy Spirit in all tongues to show that the gospel of God was to run through all tongues over the whole earth. That thing was done for a sign, and it passed away.” (Augustine, Homilies on the First Epistle of John , 6.10. Cited from Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post- Nicene Fathers , 1st series (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2012), 7:497–98)  

Gregory the Great-“Is it, my brethren, because we do not have these signs that you do not believe? These were needed at the church’s beginning. The new faith needed to be nourished by miracles to grow. When we plant a vineyard, we must water the plants till we see they have begun to grow in the earth, and when they have once taken root we cease to water them constantly.… But true life cannot be obtained by means of these outward signs by those who perform them. For although corporeal works of this kind sometimes do proclaim an inner holiness of life, they do not bring it about.” (Homilies on the Gospels 29. [Cetedoc 1711, 2.29.4, 5, 4.39; SSGF 2:428*; PL 76.])

Question: Does the fact that the miraculous gifts have ceased mean that God cannot answer the prayers of His children in supernatural ways?  

Answer: No, this does not follow.
 
 The miraculous gifts were given to reveal and confirm the Word of God (John 14:26; 16:13; Acts 2:1-4; 10:44-46; Hebrews 2:3-4; Mark 16:17-20; John 20:30-31). Since the Word of God has been fully revealed (2 Timothy 3:16-17), these miraculous gifts have ceased (1 Corinthians 13:8-10).  

 This is different, however, from the answer of God to prayer.

Christians believe that God can answer prayers in many ways different (Colossians 4:2), and that He is able to work in ways far beyond what we can think or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). Like the Apostle John, we know that our prayers are able to produce global repercussions (Revelation 8:1-4) and can even empower the Angels of God to carry out their work (Revelation 8:5-7).

There have been several occasions where I have personally seen God work in absolutely incredible ways, beyond that which modern science can explain. What is important to realize in this context, however, is that the miraculous gifts have themselves ceased.  

Conclusion

 This now brings us to the close of our four part study of “Questions And Answers About Speaking In Tongues.” Much more could be said, and indeed, future studies may delve further into this matter. For now, I would like to leave you with the following observations.  

 First, that the Bible teaching that the gift of speaking in tongues was the miraculous ability for a speaker to speak fluently in a foreign language which he had not previously studied is clear from both Scripture and secular history. This was definitely in contrast to the gibberish speaking of the pagans of ancient civilization, and the pagans themselves were clearly able to see the difference between the two.  

 Second, the teaching of the New Testament is clear that speaking in tongues was for the primary purpose of being a sign to unbelievers and had a secondary effect of edifying the local church assembly. Speaking in tongues was not a gift given to edify the individual Christian, and the Scriptures are clear that not every Christian person was endowed with the gift of speaking in tongues. Therefore, those who have been taught that speaking in tongues is a necessary sign of salvation may be assured that this is not true.  

 Third, the Word of God clearly establishes that the Spirit does not work on an inspired Prophet or Apostle in such a way that the individual’s free will is taken away. Indeed, the New Testament is clear that the spirits of the Prophets are subject to the Prophets. The notion of being “slain in the Spirit” is foreign to the Holy Scriptures.  

 Fourth, there is a clear connection between the gibberish speaking of ancient and modern paganism and what takes place in many contemporary charismatic churches. This should give every person involved in these religions pause to consider.  

 Fifth, the Bible teaches that the miraculous gifts ceased. Therefore, those religious groups today which claim to possess the miraculous gifts are in conflict with the Word of God.  

 Finally, we make this plea: we need to return to the Word of God.

Beloved, if you are part of a man-made denomination which does not abide by the teaching of Scripture, will you not please renounce such today? The churches of Christ encourage everyone to return to the Word of God.

It has the perfect pattern for the church (1 Timothy 3:14-15). If we will allow the Word of God to lead us, we will not have Catholic, Protestant, or Pentecostal churches; we will have Christians, members of the church which Jesus built (Matthew 16:18) and to which He adds the saved (Acts 2:47). This church is built on the Good News that it proclaims: that the Son of God, Jesus Christ Himself, died for the sins of all mankind (1 John 2:1-2). He died to pay the price of our sins (Romans 5:8), was buried, and three days later, He arose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Why not today, as a believer (John 8:24), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess Him before men (Acts 8:37), and be baptized to have your sins washed away (Acts 22:16)?

Determine thus to live for Him an to be faithful even unto death (Revelation 2:10), you can have the assurance that when you stumble and sin in the future (1 John 1:8) the blood of Christ will cleanse you continually as you walk in the light (1 John 1:7) by repenting of sin and confessing them to Him (1 John 1:9).  

 If the churches of Christ can assist you in any way, please call upon us!  

 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

Questions And Answers About Speaking In Tongues: Part Three

By: Mark Tabara (Evangelist)

    Question: Why does Paul spend so much time talking about the gift of speaking in tongues in his first Epistle to the Corinthians? 

    Answer
    : Paul needed to spend a great deal of time talking with the church in Corinth about the gift of tongues because of the ways that the church were misusing this gift.  

     Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul dealt with the problems in the church of Christ located in Corinth. Sadly, there were many problems with this congregation. Among others, they had become horribly divided amongst themselves (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Their divisions into sects over various issues and preachers was a powerful sign of their carnal nature (1 Corinthians 3:1-5). The problems in the church were especially evident in their church assemblies. Several times throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul deals specifically with abuses that were taking place in the church assembly. He used the Greek phrase en humen several times to describe their assemblies of worship (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:10-11; 2:2; 3:3, 16, 18; 5:1; 6:5; 11:18, 19, 30; 14:25; 15:12, etc.). He was especially concerned because of the ways that the practices of the worshippers of pagan gods and goddesses in the heathen temples at Corinth were spilling over into and affecting the church.  

     In 1 Corinthians chapters 10-16, Paul deals specifically with the abuses of public worship in the assemblies of the church at Corinth. In chapters 10 and 11, he deals with the abuses taking place in the Lord’s Supper and with the way that the women of the church were casting aside their veils in the assembly (at Corinth, a woman laying aside her veil was a symbol of temple prostitution). In chapters 12-14, he deals with the ways that the brethren were misusing their miraculous gifts (including the gift of tongues). In chapter 15, he deal with the public false teaching taking place in the church regarding the resurrection of the dead. Finally, in chapter 16 Paul deals with the need to store up the church treasury with free will donations from the members (1 Corinthians 16:1-2).  

     In chapters 12-14, Paul discusses especially how the Corinthians’ misuse of their miraculous gifts was causing great harm to the church. Not only was their misuse of these gifts causing divisions within the body of Christ, but their misuse especially of the gift of tongues was causing unbelievers to continue in their sin and to spread the rumor that the Christians were all crazy.  

    1 Corinthians 14:23-Therefore if the whole church comes together in one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in those who are uninformed or unbelievers, will they not say that you are out of your mind?

    Question: What does Paul mean when he says that one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God (1 Corinthians 14:2)?  

    Answer: The person who has the gift of tongues will only be a blessing to the church if he (or someone else in the assembly) is able to translate the foreign dialect he speaks miraculously; otherwise the church itself is not benefitted in any way.  

    1 Corinthians 14:2-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

     Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul deals with the subject of brethren in the congregation who are misusing their spiritual gifts to cause discord and chaos in the assembly. If that wasn’t bad enough, visitors to the church witnessed the assemblies and became convinced that the Christians were simply insane (1 Corinthians 14:23). There are several factors that Paul points out to the brethren regarding the gift of tongues.  

     First, it is very possible that the person who is speaking in tongues may not understand the language which he is speaking. Notice how the text points this out: 

    1 Corinthians 14:5- I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, UNLESS INDEED HE INTERPRETS, that the church may receive edification.

    1 Corinthians 14:13-Therefore let him who speaks in a tongue PRAY THAT HE MAY INTERPRET.

     Second, Paul teaches that if the man speaking in tongues could not interpret what he was saying, those in the congregation who had the gift of interpretation were to translate for the rest of the assembly:&nbsp
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    1 Corinthians 14:27-If anyone speaks in a tongue, let there be two or at the most three, each in turn, and let one interpret.

     Third, if there were no interpreters in the congregation present, and if the man himself could not translate what he was speaking, then he was to be silent: 

      1 Corinthians 14:28-But if there is no interpreter, LET HIM KEEP SILENT IN CHURCH, and let him speak to himself and to God.

       It is apparent from this that Paul is wanting the Christians to see that the gift of tongues was to be used for the edification of the church and for a sign to unbelievers. It was not primarily about the edification of the tongue speaker.  

      1 Corinthians 14:5-I wish you all spoke with tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is greater than he who speaks with tongues, unless indeed he interprets, THAT THE CHURCH MAY RECEIVE EDIFICATION.

      1 Corinthians 14:12-Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, LET IT BE FOR THE EDIFICATION OF THE CHURCH that you seek to excel.

      1 Corinthians 14:17-19-For you indeed give thanks well, but the other is not edified. 18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all; 19 yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue.

      1 Corinthians 14:26-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 Corinthians 14:40-Let all things be done decently and in order.

      Question
      : Are the “tongues” in 1 Corinthians 14 actually foreign languages, or are they gibberish?  

      Answer
      : The passage makes it clear that the “tongues” in context are referring to foreign languages.  

       There are at least three indicators from this passage that the “tongues” are referring to foreign languages.  

       First, the gift of tongues (as we have seen elsewhere in the New Testament) was a reference to the miraculous ability of some (I.e., the Apostles of Christ and those upon whom they laid their hands and conveyed miraculous gifts) to speak in foreign languages which the speaker had not previously studied.  

       Second, the gift of tongues in this passage is specifically referenced as being tongues with which foreigners would understand (I.e., their own native tongues): 

      1 Corinthians 14:10-11-There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. 11 Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me.  

       Notice the connection between “tongues” and “foreigners,” as well as Paul’s reference to the fact that there are many “languages” in the world. Clearly, there is a link between the “tongues” and the “languages” of “foreigners.”  

       Third, Paul shows from a quotation from the Old Testament that the gift of tongues is actually the gift of speaking in other human languages: 

      1 Corinthians 14:21-In the law it is written: “WITH MEN OF OTHER TONGUES AND OTHER LIPS I WILL SPEAK TO THIS PEOPLE; AND YET, FOR ALL THAT, THEY WILL NOT HEAR ME,” says the Lord.

       Commenting of this passage, Jim, McGuiggan has well explained: 

      “In these two verses he illustrates how the gift of tongues is to function. The law (as in, say, 14:34) is the Old Testament. The passage used is Isaiah 28:11. The setting is clear. The people won’t hear the words of the prophet (who speaks to them in their own language) so God will speak to them in the language of the Assyrians (if you think Israel is in view) or Babylonians (if you think Judah). Had they listened to the prophets they wouldn’t have needed foreign chastisement. But they wouldn’t listen so they will go into captivity. And in captivity they will be reminded of their unbelief by the daily “babbling” going on all around them. It was unbelief that necessitated the lesson of the foreign tongue. As it was with the Old Testament illustration so it is with the present gift.” (Jim McGuiggan, 1 Corinthians: Looking Into The Bible Series, 3498-3508 (Kindle Edition); Lubbock, TX; Sunset institute Press) 
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      Question: If the gift of tongues was the ability to speak “foreign languages,” then why does the Bible say that these were “unknown tongues?”  

      Answer
      : The tongues were foreign languages which were “unknown” to the majority of the congregation at Corinth, which is why there were to be translators present in the assembly.  

       First, please notice that many people have misunderstood the meaning of the text due to the translation of the KJV in this chapter.

      You will notice that several times, the word “unknown” was supplied by the translators of the KJV throughout this passage. Please observe that the word “unknown” is italicized in the text, showing that the word was not part of the original language but was instead supplied by the translators.  

       Second, the phrase “unknown” was not added by the translators to try and suggest that the “tongue” was the gibberish speaking of the pagans of the day; indeed, it was to further highlight the fact that the tongue was “unknown” to the vast majority of the congregation (being a foreign dialect), which was why Paul pointed out that there needed to be translators present.  

      Question
      : What was the main function of the gift of speaking in tongues?


      Answer
      : The primary purpose of the miraculous gift of speaking in tongues was to provide evidence to the unbeliever of the Word of God. A secondary purpose of the gift of tongues was to edify the church.  
      1 Corinthians 14:22-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.

       Friends, God has gone to incredible lengths to provide you the evidences that you need to verify that His Word is true. The miraculous gift of tongues is only one such demonstration.

      The greatest evidences of Hs love for you are found in the Good News that His Son, Jesus Christ, paid the price for your sins by dying in your place, being buried, and rising from the dead on the third day as verified by over five hundred witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

      Why not today submit your life to Him by believing in Him (John 8:24), repenting of your sins (Luke 13:3), confessing Him before men (1 Timothy 6:12), and being buried in the waters of baptism so that your sins may be washed away by the blood of Christ (Romans 6:3-4)? Then live faithfully to Him, even to the point of death (Revelation 2:10).  

       If you have started that journey by being baptized into Him but have wandered away in sin (2 Peter 2:20-22), why not today repent of your sin and confess it to the Lord in prayer (1 John 1:9)? Let your church family strengthen you and encourage you in any way that we can (Galatians 6:1-5).

       The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

      The Great Sadness: Part One

      One of my favorite aspects of the Shack is its’ highlighting of a common problem that all humans face (although some to greater degrees): the problem of depression. In the Shack, Mack’s depression is called The Great Sadness. We read:
      “Little distractions like the ice storm were a welcome although brief respite from the haunting presence of his constant companion: The Great Sadness, as he referred to it. Continue reading The Great Sadness: Part One

      Papa-He Or She ?  

      I remember when I first suggested The Shack to sister Barbara Fields. I told her how impressed that I was with it, and she had read some other books I recommended. (She was totally a disbeliever in Christian Fiction books, until I got her to read Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers; she called me a few hours later bawling her eyes out and telling me she was sorry and wanted to read every Christian Fiction book I had at my disposal). Well, Barb’s first reaction when reading the first couple of chapters of the Shack can only be described as absolute HORROR. She called me and said, “Babes, I can’t read this, it’s sacrilegious!” I said, “How do you mean?” She said, “Mark, this says that God is a fat black woman named Papa! Won’t God be upset by being called a woman?”   Continue reading Papa-He Or She ?