Tuesday, 28 March 2023

Jesus Revolution – A Spoiler Free Review


I watched the new movie Jesus Revolution last night, starring Kelsey Grammer, and to begin with I want to harken back to something I preached on in my sermon on Sunday. In the book of Revelation Jesus rebukes the faithful and strong Ephesian Church, who had defended their doctrine, with this incredible statement, “4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first” (Rev. 2:4). Other translations say, “you have abandoned your first love.”

What is this first love that they have abandoned? That initial love and exuberance for Christ that flows out of a believer and infects others around them. That love for knowing Jesus, sharing Jesus, learning about Jesus, studying his word and letting this overflow into every aspect of your life. The excitement about worship, the joy at seeing others getting to know Christ. That first love is a powerful time in the life of every believer, and it is sad when people let it die down and especially if they let this go too long.

If you are in this bracket, if the joy of your salvation is not what you remember it being, then go see Jesus Revolution. This movie is tailor made to reignite that passion in your heart for who Jesus is, what Jesus can do, and who Jesus can save. And it does it all in a way that can be summed up as beautiful.  

Without going into too much of the plot or story, the movie tells the true story of how revival came to small church in California that was dying. The movie follows the intersecting stories of the Christian hippie Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie, from Chosen), pastor Church Smith (Kelsey Grammer), and youth pastor Chuck Laurie (Joel Courtney).

As a pastor here are the things in this movie that really struck me.

When the pastor is reminded of his need to be a light to the world, not just a manager of people, this really resonated with me. It is easy in ministry to forget what everything is about, and the movie conveys this very well from the perspective of the pastor. You never want to forget this first love, and seeing it rekindled in a man fans the flame of passion in your own heart.  

The reality of drugs, both the highs and lows, is presented very accurately. Drugs have an allure for a reason, as one person I know puts it, sin is tempting, because sin is often fun, or at least feels good…for a time. It then turns towards serious destruction and the movie conveys this in a way that is realistic and not corny at all. Though this does mean that you might not want to take children who are too young.

The presentation of the characters is realistic, inspirational, challenging, and most importantly, interesting. It helps a lot that the acting from everyone in the movie was top shelf. Especially Kelsey Grammer, who is a veteran in the craft. But each character arc is authentic, realistic and engaging. You wanted to see them succeed, you feel for them when they fail, you resonate with them when you see the struggles of their lives, and you laugh when they do something to make you laugh. The movie really does make good use of natural humour.

The story was also very well told. The movie is based on a book by the same name, I have not read the book, so I can’t speak to it. But the movie focuses on story not agenda. Don’t get me wrong, there is no doubt the movie makers want you to know about Jesus, to be inspired by Jesus, to want to seek to know Jesus more. But the movie focuses on its characters and allows their stories being told in an authentic and genuine way to do all the heavy lifting for inspiring you to look for Jesus. It uses the subtle art of story-telling to achieve this rather than the blunt tool of preaching. If you are a pastor you want to be revitalized like Chuck Smith. If you are a believer, you want to be able to engage with the broken like Lonnie Frisbee. You want to see Greg Laurie’s character overcome his challenges. A good way to describe this movie is refreshing. It is powerful, entertaining, interesting, and humourous all at the same time, in the way that so many movies at the theatres are not any more. It is also unique because it tells the story of unique characters.

It’s not just one of the best Christian movies I have seen in a while, it is one of the best movies I have seen in a while. I reminds me of the inspiring tale in Amazing Grace about William Wilberforce, and of the highs and lows of many redemption stories I have seen over the years of various kinds.

Some people might quibble with the doctrine of some of the main characters, or with how the gospel is presented more subtly rather than in a straight up sermon style. But this movie is not a sermon, it is a story, a well told story, and I would like to see more movies like this. I encourage you to go and see it, you will be inspired and encouraged, because you will be reminded about how God saves flawed people through flawed people. One of the best lines in the movie that really stuck with me, which I will paraphrase is this: “Don’t be so arrogant as to think your mistakes can get in the way of God working.” Such is the grace of our God, is it not?

Jesus Revolution is a reminder of what the cinemas can be at their best. Not just Christian movies, but movies in general. They can be heart-warming and inspiring tales of our fellow human beings, flaws and all, overcoming their circumstances. And for Christians this movie especially reminds us of the transcendent cause we are called to: the witness of Jesus Christ, our first love. Don’t you want this first love to be kindled and inspired again?

The movie is out in cinemas on April 20th 2023.   



Monday, 27 March 2023



Image: Unsplash

Gifted to serve part 4: Prophecy

You can watch the video of this sermon here.


Last week we looked at one of the trickiest and arguably most divisive topics in the Bible, the gift of tongues. Our focus was very simple, we saw from the Bible that this is a gift that reverses the divisions between peoples. Not the division of ethnic boundaries or nationality those are good, and are God ordained. But the division of languages that creates barriers between peoples and was not God’s original intention for mankind. The Old Testament looked forward to a day when those dividing tongues would be bridged and nations would be brought together to worship and praise the Lord. And we saw this begin to be fulfilled at Pentecost and we saw that the gift of tongues served the precise role that we should have expected of God giving a supernatural gift to cross language barriers. And if you are seeking to cross language barriers I encourage you to seek this gift. See what God does.

Today we are going to look at another famous gift which also brings a lot of contention in the church, that is prophecy. I think this is a wonderful gift, and it is the most prominent gift in the whole Bible. From Moses to the Apostle John, from Genesis to Revelation, there are many wonderful prophets whom God has used to empower, warn, rebuke and encourage his people. And I think it is still a vital gift for today. Indeed, with the great apostasy we see in the church today we should expect to see prophetic men and women speak out against the great evils in the church.

Paul says this in 1 Corinthians 14:1, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” Which tells us that this is a good gift, a godly gift, and an important gift for being used by God to bless your brothers and sisters in Christ. But I think it is important to understand that there is also a danger for you if you don’t respect this gift and if you treat it in an unbiblical way. I have seen this happen quite a bit, I think all of us have. So, prophecy is a good gift you should pursue, but you also need to be very careful with this gift.

So, let’s examine what the Bible says about prophecy and why it is so important to pursue this gift in the right way.

An Important Gift - Before we go any further, let’s examine why we need to consider this gift. This is simple, it is listed as one of the gifts the Spirit gives to the people of God, and it is an important gift, 1 Corinthians 14:4-10 –

“4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom,…to another prophecy,…”

As we know Paul says to eagerly desire this gift, but other passages speak of its importance as well.

Paul lists it later in the same chapter as one of the most important gifts: 1 Corinthians 12:27-31 –

“27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.”

Paul seems to be implying here that prophecy is one of the higher gifts. Second to Apostleship. When you consider that in the New Testament Apostles appear to be multi-gifted this makes sense.

He then makes this absolutely clear in 1 Corinthians 14:3-5 –

“3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

Here Paul again notes how important this gift is “the one who prophesies builds up the church.” Paul’s entire philosophy of Spiritual gifts is Jesus glorifying and focused towards building up others. So, it makes sense he would emphasize gifts that achieved this.  

Ephesians 4:11-13 –

“11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,…”

Paul notes a similar list here as the one in 1 Corinthians 12, and places the prophets second again in the list. He also emphasizes here how important they are around “…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”

Even Peter acknowledges the importance of the one who speaks the oracles of God. 1 Peter 4:10-11,

“10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Peter’s passages could just as equally be talking about teaching as prophecy, but obviously he held both gifts in high regard.

Again and again the Bible emphasizes the importance of this gift, and notice the focus in many of these passages: It is a higher gift, it is for building up and encouragement, it is for equipping the Church to make it mature, it is one of many gifts for making sure that God is glorified in Jesus Christ.

But what exactly is this gift?

What Is Prophecy? Some people have odd views of prophecy. Some people think prophets are simply word for your day vending machines, with a constant stream of revelations from God. Some think they are able to just sense the word like it is the force and that it is ok to make mistakes when prophesying. I was listening to a weird debate about the trinity and one of the debaters made an interesting point that prophets have the authority to change the law. I am not sure where they got this idea from, but it is not the case. Prophets tend to do the exact opposite: their role is to call God’s people back to God’s revelation and obedience. They do this in two ways, that can overlap: foretelling and forthtelling.

Foretelling is the more exciting version of this gift, and one that we are very familiar with. We read in Deuteronomy 18:18-22 –

“18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”

God gave a simple test to identify a true foretelling prophet: does what they say come to pass? Can they accurately predict the future? If what they say does not come to pass, ignore them. They are obviously not working for the Lord, they are obviously not a prophet.

But, there is more to it than this, because Deuteronomy also says this, Deuteronomy 13:1-5 –

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”

God also warned the Israelites that if a prophet rose up who actually predicted the future, but told them to follow other gods, this was also a false prophet. They should stone this prophet because he was a false prophet.

How were these false prophets able to predict what would come to pass? Because God allowed them to do so to test the Israelites, to test how well they knew the word of God.

But since these false prophets clearly broke the first and second commandment, the people should recognize they were false.

So, a true foretelling prophet is someone who correctly predicts a coming event that they warn people about, but they also stay consistent to the words of Scripture. 

Foretelling is so famous in the Bible. There are many great examples, going all the way back to Genesis 3 where it says, Genesis 3:15 - “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

This prophecy comes directly from God, but was written by Moses, the Prophet of God, and it accurately predicts the coming of the Messiah. The plan was there from the beginning. This sets our model for what a prophet is.

Noah is the next prophet of God, who proved his true prophet gifting, by building a boat, and proclaiming what would happen. His prophecy predicted the future and pointed towards righteousness.

This is a powerful gift.

The foreteller is not sensing the word of God in a force sense, note what Moses wrote, “And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” (Deut. 18:18).

We see this in Jeremiah 1:9-12 –

“9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” 11 And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Jeremiah, what do you see?” And I said, “I see an almond branch.” 12 Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.”

The prophet does not get to be creative with God’s word. They do not get to change it, interpret it, modify it, or deviate from it. As it is given to them, so must they say it, “12 Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.’”

Even a prophet who ended up turning to the dark-side notes this, Numbers 23:5,

“5 And the Lord put a word in Balaam's mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and thus you shall speak.”… 11 And Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to curse my enemies, and behold, you have done nothing but bless them.” 12 And he answered and said, “Must I not take care to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”

Balaam was eventually judged not for his prophecies, but because he encouraged Moabite women to seduce the Israelites (Num. 31:16). He prophesied correctly, but he contradicted God’s law and therefore was false.

Forthtelling – is every bit as important as foretelling, yet it is different. Rather than giving a revelation of the future and predicting events that will happen, forthtelling is being inspired by the Holy Spirit to speak to current circumstances from God’s truth. God still gives the prophet these words. Indeed, even with Old Testament prophets it is not always clear which version of prophecy they are fulfilling: foretelling, a new revelation, or forthtelling, re-emphasizing God’s revelation.

There is no doubt that Jeremiah received direct revelation from God. God spoke to him new Revelations, about the temple and Nebuchadnezzar and many things. But at other times he appears to be taking the Scriptures and applying them to the Israelites sin. For example, Jeremiah 11:1-8,

“1 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Hear the words of this covenant, and speak to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 3 You shall say to them, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Cursed be the man who does not hear the words of this covenant 4 that I commanded your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, from the iron furnace, saying, Listen to my voice, and do all that I command you. So shall you be my people, and I will be your God, 5 that I may confirm the oath that I swore to your fathers, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey, as at this day.” Then I answered, “So be it, Lord.” 6 And the Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: Hear the words of this covenant and do them. 7 For I solemnly warned your fathers when I brought them up out of the land of Egypt, warning them persistently, even to this day, saying, Obey my voice. 8 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone walked in the stubbornness of his evil heart. Therefore I brought upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but they did not.”

God was still inspiring Jeremiah here, as he says, “And the Lord said to me…” But it seems almost as if God is using Scripture to do this. If you read Deuteronomy 28 it says many of the same things. It is almost as if the Holy Spirit were inspiring Jeremiah as he meditated on the word of God to speak forth to Israel about her terrible sins.

But it is still prophecy as it is still the spirit of the Lord inspiring the prophet of God to speak. But he is speaking forth the words of God as they apply in his day.

The law itself even at times predicts the mistakes Israel would make directly, Deuteronomy 17:14-17 –

“14 When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall never return that way again.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.”

It is almost as if this were directed against Solomon, long before he was born.

In fact, when you look at Israel and Judah’s issues, they happen exactly as Deuteronomy predicted they would happen, so specifically some scholars argue that Deuteronomy must have been written after the fact. Deuteronomy 28 reads like a history of the nation of Israel. But it is prophetic.

In other words you can see how many Holy Spirit inspired men, the prophets, would look at the law of God, then look at what was happening in Israel, and then call out Israel to turn back in faithfulness to God. They were forthtelling, speaking the word of God in a Holy Spirit inspired way.

God was directing them to apply his word and call people back to his word.

Indeed, this may be why Peter says when you speak, speak as though speaking the oracles of God. Because the prophets did this.  

Calling Back to God – In fact this calling back to God was the primary role of the prophet. They were God’s instrument to challenge his people when they were in error. We see this in many ways in the Bible.

John the Baptist was an example of this, we see in Matthew how John was called by God to prepare people for the coming of the Lord of lords, we read in 3:7-12 –

“7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

John was considered by Jesus to be the greatest among all men, indeed, the greatest among all prophets. When John says, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” you could say this summarizes the messages and roles of the prophets right there.

The prophets were usually men, but sometimes women, who were used by God to call his people, and other peoples, back to repentance, back to faithfulness. You see this message consistently in their writings. Again and again.

Here comes the rub, because people do not like being told what to do. Rebellious people even less so. So how do people respond to the prophets who call them back to faithfulness? More often than not, poorly.

Persecuted – The prophets who called people back to repentance, were often treated very poorly. John the Baptist was beheaded by one of the Herods. Jeremiah was beaten, imprisoned, ridiculed and castigated by his own people. Moses, the great leader of his people, was constantly being dogged by complaints, rebellions, challenges and more. The prophets of God were often not treated well.

Jesus tells us, Matthew 5:11-12 – “11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

There is great blessing in being a prophet. But for many prophets they won’t experience most of this blessing until the next life.

Are you sure you want this?

Stephen the deacon tells us in Acts 7:51-53,

“51 You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

All of the prophets were persecuted, many of them to death. They were brutally and harshly treated. Why?

Because they were asked to call the hard of hearing back to God. To be a prophet is a great calling, it is an honour, it is a rare, powerful, and remarkable gift. It is also one of the hardest callings you could ever be called to.

Desire it because Paul says to desire it. But know what you are desiring. As Jesus says about Paul to Ananias (the good one), Acts 9:15-16 - “15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

There is an incredible honour in being sent to represent Jesus to “Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel…” But many Gentiles, kings and children of Israel don’t want to hear from you. So, you are going to be rejected or suffer, and often severely.

Even respected prophets like Moses and Samuel had hard times, and they were not persecuted to death.

You might say, I just want to be the kind of prophet Paul talks about that edifies the church, 1 Corinthians 14:3 - “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” A forthteller. But building up and encouragement includes correction and challenge, and many a person’s ministry has come under attack from simply seeking to “build-up and encourage” in the church context.

-        That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it, it is. It is always of value and importance to speak the truth. But most people stay quiet instead, because they know the cost.

-        Know what it is you are asking for. Know that speaking the truth publicly in any capacity is going to cost you. It is going to etch away at you.

-        It wore away at Jeremiah, “7 O Lord, you have deceived me, and I was deceived; you are stronger than I, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me” (Jer. 20:7).

-        The true prophet in the Church, who calls out sin in large measure and points to how to return to the Lord, is often treated like a whistle-blower in a corrupt company. They are maligned. 

Take it from someone who has challenged the church at times from different levels, even at the national level, speaking out is hard, it can cause a reaction that stays with you, I still have the wounds from it, but when you are compelled to speak what you know to be the truth you need to do it.

I don’t consider myself to be a prophet. I am a history guy. But often the prophet’s role overlaps with the teachers role and I do consider myself a teacher.

But be warned if you desire this gift, and it is a good gift, recognize the cost and know what you are asking for. Examine and observe those who have it. Ask yourself are you willing to pay this cost?

Some Questions – Before we finish let me address a couple of things.

Can women be prophets? Absolutely. One would have to deny scripture to deny this. Here just two examples from the Old Testament: Exodus 15:20 - “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.” Judges 4:4 – “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time.”

Even in the New Testament there is Anna the Prophetess who sees Jesus when he is still a baby. But this comes with some important qualifications. In some contexts, prophetess just means the wife of the prophet, for example in Isaiah, Isaiah 8:3, “And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. “Then the Lord said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz;…” Many of the prophetesses in the Old Testament appear to be of this kind.

However, Philip’s daughters definitely prophesied (Acts 19:8-9). And Acts 2 says this,  Acts 2:17-18,

“17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.”

Why don’t we see this gift so much today? I think we do see it more than we realize, 1 Corinthians 14:3-5 –

“3 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”

There is obviously a lot of nonsense out there, and false prophets who predict all sorts of stuff, but notice how few of them, if any, saw the last couple of years of craziness coming?

But, if you understand that God will sometimes inspire someone to inspire, encourage, or rebuke someone with the word, then this likely happens more than we realize, we just are not fully aware of what is happening.

Strict punishments for false prophets (Deut. 13) – remember that false prophets were determined by false prophecies. And in the Old Testament they were to be put to death, in the New Testament they should be ignored. Prophecy is not something you learn, it is something that God inspires. It is not like teaching, though it can overlap with teaching. It is a different gift.

Application – So how do we apply all of this?

-        If you desire this gift weigh up the potential, even likely, When cost.

-        Test prophecies – “19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:19-21).

-        When you speak, speak as though speaking the oracles of God.

-        Ignore prophets who predict things and then direct you away from the true God of Scripture.

-        Allow the church elders to weigh prophecies.

Conclusion – We need God to speak today, we need his word heard more clearly, we need his scriptures preached. There is enough of God’s written word being ignored that we need to be called back to. If you want to hear God speak, read his word and soak yourself in it. He will speak to you, his Holy Spirit will make it come alive to you. If you see this gift of prophecy, just know what you are asking for. Let’s pray.


Sunday, 26 March 2023

Moneyism Is Worse Than Communism

Image: Unsplash

The Anti-Christ's system in Revelation 17-18 reads more like a free trade system, than a communist dictatorship. 

The system creates great wealth and trade for the kings and nations of the earth. That cannot be anything like socialism or communism. Neither of which are capable of that. 

Collectivism* is evil, Marxist communism is one of the greatest evils the world has ever faced. But more people have been enslaved or conquered by traders looking for new markets to exploit than have succumbed to Communism. 

This is a hard message for the conservative to accept. But the free trade system is capable of worse evil than communism, because it is far easier to buy people off to incentivize them to evil, than it is to enslave them with force. You saw this in 2020-22 where the populations of many nations were bought off to stay home and stay safe. Most people accepted this willingly. Because the money flowed, the parcels kept coming, and the pleasures abounded. 

Money is a root of all evil. Jesus, Peter and Paul warned us against moneyism more than collectivism. Yes collectivism is its own kind of evil. But the final peak evil empire will be a trade empire that makes wealth for everyone across the seas. John tells us:

Revelation 18:1-18

"1 After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. 2 And he called out with a mighty voice,

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!

    She has become a dwelling place for demons,

a haunt for every unclean spirit,

    a haunt for every unclean bird,

    a haunt for every unclean and detestable beast.

3 For all nations have drunk

    the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality,

and the kings of the earth have committed immorality with her,

    and the merchants of the earth have grown rich from the power of her luxurious living.”

4 Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,

“Come out of her, my people,

    lest you take part in her sins,

lest you share in her plagues;

5 for her sins are heaped high as heaven,

    and God has remembered her iniquities.

6 Pay her back as she herself has paid back others,

    and repay her double for her deeds;

    mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed.

7 As she glorified herself and lived in luxury,

    so give her a like measure of torment and mourning,

since in her heart she says,

    ‘I sit as a queen,

I am no widow,

    and mourning I shall never see.’

8 For this reason her plagues will come in a single day,

    death and mourning and famine,

and she will be burned up with fire;

    for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her.”

9 And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. 10 They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say,

“Alas! Alas! You great city,

    you mighty city, Babylon!

For in a single hour your judgment has come.”

11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore, 12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble, 13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls.

14 “The fruit for which your soul longed

    has gone from you,

and all your delicacies and your splendors

    are lost to you,

    never to be found again!”

15 The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud,

16 “Alas, alas, for the great city

    that was clothed in fine linen,

        in purple and scarlet,

    adorned with gold,

        with jewels, and with pearls!

17 For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste.”

And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off 18 and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning,

“What city was like the great city?”

Moneyism is evil. Seeing people as only economic markers leads to many of society's ills today. It's a slower poison than communism, but a more fatal one, because it's victims accept it, even defend it, with glee and it entrenches itself in the society as a good and spreads far and wide. Communism never achieved that to the same degree, it fizzled out. 

Another word for money remember is capital, so another word for moneyism is...

Think about it. Think of the great harm that CEO's with budgets as large as national budgets can do to populations. Some of you who were once opposed to even considering this idea, must now be more open to it after seeing in the last few years how corporations really rule the world. And how they can use their vast wealth to control populations the size of which Stalin could only dream of. 

Moneyism is worse than communism, both observably and biblically. Beware Mammon. 

*So is radical individualism, we are created not for collectivism or individualism, but to live in families. 

Saturday, 25 March 2023

The Judges Have Been Restored


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What is the ideal political system from the Biblical perspective? Most people when asked this question think either monarchy or democracy. Younger people tend to say monarchy, older people who grew up in the height of liberal democracy and enjoyed the peak of its benefits tend to say democracy. But neither are the preferred biblical model, rather a theocratic structure where God is King, and he is represented to his people by judges is the preferred model.

We see this model in action in the book of Exodus where Moses sets up the Judges (Ex. 18), and in the book of Judges where we see it in both its good and bad forms, as well as the book of Ruth and well up into the time of Samuel in the book of 1 Samuel. We read there about how this was God’s intention for his people:

“1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:1-9).

God's intention was for Israel to have judges, but Israel wanted to have kings like the nations around them. This is similar today to churches that want to be led by CEO’s and vision casting leaders, instead of pastors, teachers and evangelists, et al. The people of God in rejecting Samuel were actually rejecting God from being their king. Their structure was God as King and men as his representative judges. This was preferred by God for Israel over monarchy.

When you see what happens to Israel, particularly the northern kingdom Samaria, after they establish the reign of kings, you can see why. Most of these men had an authority and power to do evil that was beyond what the previous judges could do. Their increased power led them to be a greater danger to the spiritual state of Israel and also to the people of Israel. That is why God made this prophecy to Israel through Isaiah, “And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Isa. 1:26).

Is this going to be fulfilled in heaven, or in the millennial thousand year reign? Maybe, this may be looking to a complete fulfilment in the future state. But in a real and genuine way this prophecy has already been fulfilled. Paul tells us,  

“6 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!” (1 Cor. 6:1-8).

Paul shows us that the rule of judges has been restored in the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church which enables godly men to be able to exercise wisdom on behalf of God’s people. The judges, the system God always intended for his people, have already been restored.

Our history books tell us that the early church became so good at this role of judging disputes between people that even the pagans began to come before them to have their disputes resolved, rather than go to the civil courts. This increased the Church's stature in the world of Rome, and had a profound impact on the justice system. In the medieval era it was not uncommon for people to appeal to the Church’s judges instead of the civil magistrates, because they knew they were more likely to get a fair and just hearing in the Church.

The church has only one king, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is our ultimate judge. But he has also empowered his people through his Spirit to be able to make judgement calls, settle disputes, and enact justice in various ways. I think there is a greater fulfilment of this in the next life, in the new heaven and new earth, because we will judge the angels. But it is incredible to think that God has already fulfilled this promise. How much of the Church is even aware of this? Paul observed that many his day were not aware, has this been forgotten again? Or maybe the Church is just so degraded today that we need a revival before this can be remembered?

Friday, 24 March 2023

Theologians Worse Than Greta

Image: Unsplash

Greta Thunberg isn't the worst theologian I can think of. 

The "Baptist" theologian that says the gospel requires net zero emissions is worse. 

The "Anglican" theologian that says SSMs are legitimate in God's eyes is worse. 

The "Charistmatic" which plants a person in a crowd to fake a healing is worse. 

The "high-Church" theologian that tells women the woman being sent to grab the disciples means she was a preacher is worse. 

The prominent Church that uses its donations for a lavish lifestyle for its pastors is worse. 

Because they should all know better. Their increased training increases their responsibility and culpibility for such lies. 

I use quotes around the denominations because you could interchange them with examples across the board. 

Oh, and the charlatans that gave Greta her honourary doctorate, aren't that crash hot either.

Tongues: Breaking Down Divisions


Sermon 3. Tongues: Breaking Down Divisions

You can watch the video of this sermon here.


Last week we covered something that is at the core of a lot of debate among the church: have the gifts ceased? Part of the reason that this is such a big debate is because of the most prominent passage about this issue, 1 Corinthians 13 where Paul prophesizes that the gifts would at some point cease. We established last week that they will cease when we finally go to be with the Lord, when we see him face to face. This process will be begin once we die and be completed once the final return of the Lord happens, and we are all resurrected into the new heavens and the new earth. After this we will no longer need such gifts as prophecy, tongues, or knowledge, because we will be with the Lord they point to.  

And this is really our hope isn’t it. This is what we long for. The theological differences, the troubles of this life, the cares of our day and all of this will mean nothing to us when we finally enter into heaven, into the fullness we look forward to. But until that time we need helps, we need the Spirit to empower us, to be with us and to guide us.

Jesus told us, John 14:15-17 – “15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

The Holy Spirit will be with us forever, because he is God, God the Spirit. But in this life he is with us for a particular reason, to equip us for the works that Jesus has recreated us in God to do. Most notably to glorify our Lord Jesus (John 16:13-14). I have already noted this last week and a few weeks ago, but I am going to continue reiterating this key point because it should be our guiding principle as we talk about Spiritual gifts.

The Holy Spirit gives us Spiritual gifts because he wants to glorify Jesus in us and through us. Therefore, at every point of our consideration of the Spiritual gifts we need to ask: how does this glorify Jesus? How does this help us serve our brothers and sisters in the faith? How does this honour the role that the Holy Spirit pours on our life? This includes the gift of tongues, which we are going to examine today. I want to explore in detail what the Bible says about this gift, and what it might signify, how it might work and why we should pursue it, if so desired, because tongues exist for breaking down divisions. Let’s begin.

A Diversity of Tongues – Paul tells us that tongues is one of the Spiritual gifts that the Spirit empowers us with in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 –

“4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone…to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

In fact it is the last gift that he mentions here. Why are we looking at it first then? Why not address the hardest one first, it could be fun.   

To understand how we should think about this gift we need to go all the way back towards the beginning of the Bible to Genesis 10-11. These two chapters are actually out of order. Chapter 10 shows us the division of the 70 nations, and chapter 11 shows us how this division began.

We read in Genesis 10:25 – “25 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother's name was Joktan.” So, chapter 10 tells us that in the days of Peleg the earth was divided. There were different nations before this, but they weren’t divided. And then chapter 11 takes us back in time to show us how this came about.  

We read in Genesis 11:1-9 –

“11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. 2 And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. 3 And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.”

This is one of the most famous accounts in the whole of the Bible. Most children have learnt it by a young age. Most Christians and non-Christians have heard of it. The most common understanding of this passage is that this is where all of the different languages of the earth come from.

In fact, this passage is vital for helping us understand where the human languages originate.   

What is interesting is that if you study the family tree of languages throughout history, you will see that from London to Berlin to Paris to Rome to New Delhi to Washington, you have this large swath of Aryan or “Indo-Aryan” languages that are clearly related, they all have the same root.

Some today call these Indo-European languages. They are the most widely spoken languages in the world. “3.2 billion people speak an Indo-European language.”[1]

Look at these connections: From the English word fire you have French – Feu, German - Feuer, Italian – fuoco, Indian – agni, which is related to ignite, which is another English word for fire, which comes from the Latin word “ignis”.

What you can see here is that across these vast distances there must have once been a common group of people who had the same language that has changed over time. All these languages in other words come from a common source, a common ancestor, we call these people Indo-European or Indo-Aryan.

But if you compare these languages to the Asian languages like Chinese, Vietnamese or Korean there is absolutely no connection. If you compare them to the African languages you will see the same thing. If you compare them to the North American Indian or South American Indian languages you will again see the same thing.

In fact, even in Europe you will see that there are languages which have no relation to any other language, like Basque, for instance.  

In other words, if you study the languages of mankind, you will see they that cannot all be traced back to a common source. They all appear to have developed out of thin air, almost as if they had been created at some point by a divine being, who bestowed them on different peoples.

Which is exactly what the Bible says, “7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech.” 8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.”  

In other words, if you study the development of human languages they lead you back to a “division”, a time when all the people of the earth were suddenly divided by different languages, different tongues, that were completely unrelated to each other. Just as the Bible says happened.  

God created these languages for two reasons:

First, to limit human evil – “6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”

Secondly, to disperse humanity across the earth,

“8 So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. 9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.”

Which was part of his intention originally for humankind.

You could say what God did here was a bit of a double-edged sword because it cut both ways. We would have seen these people as supernatural because they still had long lifespans, and their genetics would have made ours look completely degraded. God limited the ability for these men to achieve in their unity the great evil of their intentions. So, he protected us. But he also created an unfortunate division that we now must live with in this life, our inability to easily communicate across language barriers. The barrier of the foreign tongue.  

The languages of man had been split, sundered, into various tongues, “Old English tunge "tongue, organ of speech; speech, a people's language," from Proto-Germanic *tungō (source also of Old Saxon and Old Norse tunga, Old Frisian tunge, Middle Dutch tonghe, Dutch tong, Old High German zunga, German Zunge, Gothic tuggo), from PIE root *dnghu- "tongue."[2]

And now because of this, there is great confusion among mankind. Confusion that leads to misunderstanding, misunderstanding that leads to hate, hate that leads to conflict, and conflict that leads to war.

Humanity is divided and therefore cursed in a way that humanity was never meant to be. We were supposed to be one humanity. But just like we needed to be kicked out of the garden for our own good, lest we eat of the tree and live forever in sinful rebellion like demons (Genesis 3:22-24), so too are we separated from each other into smaller groups because in our fallen state when humanity unites in large forces it is much more likely to do evil than do good.

So, God created these divisions of languages to protect us.

Instead of being one people and one tongue in the Garden of our God. We are a scattered humanity, sundered in many ways, divided by many languages and spread out over a hostile earth that makes us work hard for everything we have.

This is for our good, but it was never God’s ideal intention for humanity.

So, what does this have to do with the gift of tongues? Well, tongues is just another Old English way of talking about languages. The Latin word for tongue is “lingua” the Greek word is “Glossown”, or “Dialectos”, from which we get our words “Glossary” a collection of words, or “Dialect” a form of a language.

In other words, a discussion of tongues is always a discussion of languages and languages in the Bible represent division.

Languages Represent Division – You probably didn’t realize there was a theology of language in the Scriptures, because it is not a topic which super excites people, but there is, and you can follow the threads of this theology right into the New Testament, and it is highly relevant to the gift of tongues. Scripturally languages represent divisions among the peoples. This is clear from Genesis 11, but also from other passages.

A people of a familiar tongue - for example, we read in Ezekiel 3:4-6 –

“4 And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. 5 For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— 6 not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you.”

Speaking to people of your own language and your own tongue does not inherently encounter a barrier. At least it does not encounter a language barrier. It is far easier.  

A people of foreign tongues, however, does raise barriers, Jeremiah 5:15 – “Behold, I am bringing against you a nation from afar, O house of Israel, declares the Lord. It is an enduring nation; it is an ancient nation, a nation whose language you do not know, nor can you understand what they say.”

The fear of being invaded by the violent alien people was a terror to ancient people as much as it is today. Being surrounded by people you cannot understand, but who can understand each other is daunting.

And yet there will come a day when the Lord God will send a message to Israelites through a people of a foreign tongue, Isaiah 28:11 – “For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people,”

Language inherently refers to division, a division which causes great anguish between the peoples. But God is eventually going to change this around. God is eventually going to bridge the gap between nations.   

There will come a day when the barriers of the tongue shall be broken,

Isaiah 66:18-19 –

“18 For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory, 19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations.”

It is here where the gift of tongues comes in.

Tongues of Fire (Acts 2) – Now that we have explored this background about how the Bible understands languages or tongues, when we read about God pouring out tongues in the beginning of the Church, what should we expect to see? Divisions across the nations being bridged. And what do we see? Divisions across the nations being bridged. We read in Acts 2:1-13,

“1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 5 Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7 And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

This is a very important passage, because it sets the tone for what God is doing in the Church. And what is God doing in the church? He is supernaturally empowering the Church to break down the dividing wall of hostility that has existed between the nations since Babel.

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).

God is not doing away with the nations, nations are good. Nations existed before Babel, ethnic distinctions existed since at least after the flood. But he is breaking down barriers between them, and the most significant barrier between nations is language.

God is here doing a work across language barriers, he is bridging the divisions between nations.

We now know, after all that we have looked at, that “tongue” simply means another language, but to show this one more time, here is Psalm 37:30, “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.” Tongue is just another word for speech in passages like this in the Bible.

What do we see here in Acts 2? “4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” What are these tongues? Are they a secret heavenly language? Or a special prayer language? No, they are simply languages, they are being supernaturally empowered to speak a foreign tongue.

As we read a bit further, these languages are the languages of the others here in Jerusalem,

“6 And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language…8 And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9 Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.”

What these people hearing? “we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” Which is exactly what Isaiah prophesied would happen, “18 For I know their works and their thoughts, and the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues…19…And they shall declare my glory among the nations.”

We see here God’s plan to bridge the gap between nations is starting to be fulfilled in this event in Acts 2. Joel prophesied of this day as well, as Peter also explains.  

So, when we come back to our passage in 1 Corinthians 12:10 which says “to another various kinds of tongues” is given, what does everything we have looked at so far indicates that this means? A supernatural gift that God gives to help someone bridge the gap between different peoples of different languages.

It is also a sign that God is going to send his people out to all nations and all peoples. A people of a foreign tongue will proclaim the mighty works of God.

What would this look like? Let me give you an example. One of my bible college lecturers shared the account of a Jewish man who got saved, because he went with him to a revival meeting. The man had a Christian co-worker who had been bugging him to come to a church meeting, he thought he would go so his Christian friend would leave him alone. During the meeting there was a call for prayer and this man struck by the power of the meeting went up for prayer. A man prayed over him in what the praying man thought was “tongues”, the Jewish man looked at him in shock and said, “How do you know my language?”, the man looked at him and asked what did he mean? The Jewish man said, “You told me in Hebrew that I should repent and trust in Jesus as the Messiah.” Which he then promptly did.

I never forgot this account and it was told to me by someone I respected, one of my Bible college lecturers.[3] But note that it fits with our biblical understanding so far, because the use of “tongues” crossed language and national boundaries to direct someone to the Lord Jesus.

I have no biblical or practical problem with such a gift being still in existence. Imagine reaching someone this way? How incredible.

The problem though is most people understand this gift very differently, they think of it a supernatural heavenly tongue or a personal prayer tongue. Why? Because of a couple of things Paul says.

Personal Prayer Language? – Paul seems to imply that this might be a Spiritual gift for personal blessing in 1 Corinthians 13-14. This is very different to what we have looked at so far. So, what does Paul actually say?

Tongues of Angels – Some think it is a special heavenly language where we speak directly to God in the heavenly tongue, 1 Corinthians 13:1, 14:2, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.”

Some people read this to say that “tongues” is a personal access to the spiritual language of angels, that we can use to pray to God special prayers. But is that what Paul says?

No, what he says is that “hypothetically” if he spoke in an angelic language, it would mean nothing if he had not love.

He also says if you speak in a language no one else understands only God will know what you are saying.

So, neither of these passages support the idea of tongues being an Angelic language. The idea is very tenuous at best.

Another passage used to support this idea is in Romans 8:26 – “26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” The problem with using this passage to support this position is that ‘wordless groans’ is the opposite of tongues which means ‘spoken language’. Which we have proven conclusively.

It is best to just understand Paul as saying: if you pray in a language you cannot understand, as gifted by God, then you won’t know what you are saying, therefore why do it, especially around others? 

Prayer Language – But Paul says he prays in tongues more than anyone doesn’t he? 1 Corinthians 14:18 - “I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.” But when you read this in context you see he says something else entirely, 1 Corinthians 14:9-19 –

“9 So with yourselves, if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said? 10 There are doubtless many different languages in the world, and none is without meaning, 11 but if I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be a foreigner to the speaker and the speaker a foreigner to me. 12 So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church. 13 Therefore, one who speaks in a tongue should pray that he may interpret. 14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my mind is unfruitful. 15 What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. 16 Otherwise, if you give thanks with your spirit, how can anyone in the position of an outsider say “Amen” to your thanksgiving when he does not know what you are saying? 17 For you may be giving thanks well enough, but the other person is not being built up. 18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 Nevertheless, in church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue.”

Paul is talking about foreign languages, which people are empowered to speak through the Holy Spirit. Paul was multi-lingual, he would have known at least Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew, likely Latin, possible more. He was gifted by the Holy Spirit to cross language barriers.

Remember he was the Apostle to the Gentiles for a reason.

But when he spoke to people he made sure they could understand what he was saying. Paul wanted to cross language barriers not cause them.

Paul was not affirming everyone shouting out in “tongues” in worship. He is giving guidance about how you should exercise the gift of speaking a foreign language if you have such a gift. How to make sure you use it in a way that blesses others.

Again we see Paul’s understanding of this gift was to use it to cross boundaries with people of other languages, not create them, not to focus on personal edification, but say things others will be blessed by.

So we can see that our theology of languages under pins the use of this gift, as Paul explains, 1 Corinthians 14:26-27 –

“26 What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up. 27 If any speak in a tongue, let there be only two or at most three, and each in turn, and let someone interpret. 28 But if there is no one to interpret, let each of them keep silent in church and speak to himself and to God.”

This gift should be used to cross ethnic and language barriers. Because it is a supernatural empowering of God to do so.

If you use it privately you also won’t be doing anything wrong.

Application – So how do we apply this sermon? Well, those who believe this gift has ceased, as many good Christians do, would think you should just reflect on how remarkable it is for God to have used this gift to establish the early church. For me, I think it can still happen today, and so here is how I think you should apply this message:

-        If you are going to minister to people of a foreign tongue, ask God to empower you with such a gift to understand and communicate with foreigners across language barriers. You will need his help in many ways, ask for this and see what he does.

-        Consider what Bible translators do. I think they are an extension of this gift. They are breaking down language barriers at a high rate, enabling people of many tongues to dream in their own language about their God.

-        Consider how God could use you to take the gospel across language barriers around the world. I think this is a gift primarily for hard missionary contexts where language barriers are intense. Parts of Rome were like this. Paul would have encountered all sorts of dialects. There is still a call for Christians to become missionaries to difficult places, consider how God could equip you for such a role. If you have a gift for languages this might be why.

-        Pray for God to give the gift of interpreting between men and women 😉

Conclusion – There is still much work to be done to fulfil the ultimate outcome of the gospel, the reversal of Babel, the praise of God in every tribe and tongue, as we read in Revelation 7,

“9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

But we get the privilege to consider being a part of this fulfilment. Let me encourage you to think about how God can use you to reach the people of other nations, and if in that process he supernaturally empowers you to communicate with them, praise God. If he uses you in another way praise God. Either way lets be prepared to tell all peoples about the hope they have in Jesus and may the Lord be praised in every land and in every tongue. Let’s pray.