The Study of Spiritual Gifts (Sermon 13 of 14)
January 20, 2002 | Andy Davis
1 Corinthians 12:10
Andy Davis preaches an expository sermon through 1 Corinthians 12:10 with a focus on the spiritual gifts of prophecy and speaking in tongues.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
All right. Ephesians 4, just by way of review. Beginning at verse 7, Paul says, “To each one of us, grace has been given us Christ apportioned it.” This and a corresponding verse in first Corinthians gives clear indication that God has given to each one a gift of grace. Here he calls it grace. In 1 Corinthians 12, he calls it spiritual gifts, “Now, about spiritual gifts, brothers, we don't want you to be ignorant.” So either way, they are the same thing. Grace as Christ has measured it out or apportioned it. Now, we know this can't be the grace of God and salvation, because that is given without measure. Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more. This is a different kind of God's grace, and it's the grace, thank you very much, of spiritual gifts. So he has apportioned these spiritual gifts to us, and it becomes clear in verse 8, “This is why it says, when he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.” So there he uses the word gifts. So we've got these grace gifts or spiritual gifts. And then in verse 11, he enumerates some here,
It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers. The purpose is to prepare God's people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the whole measure the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him...
Verse 16, very important, “From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work.” Do you see that last phrase, “As each part does its work”? What that means is, the church will not grow to full maturity until each one of us does the work that God's given for us to do. And I believe that a lot of the work God gives individual Christians to do is done along the lines of this spiritual gifting that he gives us.
Now we've got things to do that are responsibilities of all Christians. You may not have the gift, for example, of intercessory prayer, but we're all called to pray. You may not have the gift of faith in particular, whatever that means. I think I have an idea what it means, but if you don't have faith, what's true of you? You're not a Christian. So clearly these gifts come in areas that all of us have some responsibility in. The gift of giving, well, that's not my gift. I don't need to give my tithe and my offering. I don't need to do that. That's just not my gift. And some people use that for evangelism. I don't. I'm not gifted in evangelism. We're all called to be witnesses, aren't we? But some have that gift of evangelism. So what we're looking at are special abilities given, spiritual abilities given according to the measure of Jesus Christ to each individual Christian for the purpose of building the body up. And if we do not use these gifts, we will not grow up to full maturity as a body. Conversely, if we do use our gifts, the body will grow up to full maturity. Interestingly, as you use your own gift, you're going to grow in maturity, aren't you? You're going to find yourself in more and more ministry situations. You're going to find yourself serving, stepping out in faith, doing things. And so they become a context for your own sanctification. So it all works together.
All right. That's the big picture. And you've got your questionnaire. Please use it. It's a tool. We're not going to be collecting them back, they're just for you. We're going to talk about the gifts, I think, in a big picture, just going through them and talking about what they would look like, God willing, next time, but now we have a little time to look at the gifts of prophecy and of speaking in tongues. Now, 1 Corinthians 12-14 is the most in-depth treatment of these two gifts in terms of the church and how they work in the church, prophecy and speaking in tongues. Now, what I'm going to do here is, I'm going to talk first about prophecy, because Paul himself gives preeminence to prophecy. He says, “I would rather somebody, a prophet speak one intelligible word than somebody speak many words in a tongue that's not interpreted.” So he gives prophecy preeminence. And so we're going to begin by looking at prophecy.
Now, what is the origin of prophecy? The origin of prophecy is in the Old Testament. What is prophecy? Let's start there. Prophecy is the word of the Lord coming to a human being, and then he or she speaks that word, because there were prophets and there were prophetesses both in the old and the new covenant. So it's the coming of the word of God to an individual so that that individual can say, “Thus says the Lord,” thus says the Lord. And so we see the word mentioned for the first time in Genesis chapter 20. You don't have to turn there, but it's referring to Abraham. Genesis 20:7, in that situation with Abimelech, you remember he was sojourning there, and he lied about Sarah. You remember the story. And he said Sarah was his sister, and he was doing that to protect his own life, I think in a cowardly way. I think that's the way that the text presents it. And so trouble comes to the household of Abimelech as a result of the fact that he's really interested, amorously interested in Sarah. Now, he didn't touch her, but he's heading in that direction. He wants to marry her. And the household gets afflicted with diseases, and finally it becomes clear that Sarah is Abraham's wife, not his sister. And so God speaks to Abimelech and says, “Now return the man's wife. It says, for he is a prophet…” So that's the first time we get that word in the scripture, “he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you will live, but if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all yours will die.” Wow, what a warning. And so with all haste, he returned her. But here's the message: Abraham is a prophet. Well, what did that mean? Well, what it meant is, as we see earlier, the word of the Lord had come to Abraham, the word of the Lord. It says in Genesis 15:1, for example, “The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, Abraham, I am your shield and your very great reward.’” This is prophecy. The word of the Lord comes to an individual.
Now, when we think of prophecy, we think of predictions, don't we? The ability to foretell the future. And that is clearly a very distinctive and unusual, a very interesting aspect of prophecy, but it's really just a subset of it, isn't it? Prophecy is any word given directly by God so that the one who receives it can say, “Thus says the Lord.” Now, we see the gift of prophecy developed with Moses in Exodus 4:21-23, “The Lord said to Moses, ‘When you return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders I have given you the power to do, but I will harden your heart so that you will not let the people go. Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says, Israel is my firstborn son, and I told you, let my son go so that he may worship me. But you refuse to let him go, so I will kill your firstborn son.’’" That is a very clear example of prophecy. The Lord says, go tell Pharaoh these words. And Moses doesn't have the right to rearrange them, change them, think about them. There's really no logic involved in his part. He doesn't need to decide what order to put them in or anything. It's just prophecy. He comes and just gives a message directly from God to Pharaoh. He actually has no right whatsoever to rearrange that message. It really is very much like the chef has prepared a meal, and the prophet brings it and lays it on the table. We're not looking when we go to a fine restaurant for the waiter to do anything to that food, are we? Not anything at all. He's not welcome to do that. He's welcome to set it down in front of you, and that's all. And what do you think that very finicky French chef would do if he saw any of the servers rearranging the food? Obviously that's not the server's job. It's the chef's job to prepare the food and the server brings it to the table without any right whatsoever to rearrange. That is prophecy. That's all. It's just a matter of taking a message from the Lord and bringing it to the people. We see it again in Deuteronomy 5:23-29. It says,
When you heard the voice out of darkness while the mountain was ablaze with fire, all the leading men of your tribes and your elders came to me, and you said, “The Lord, our God has shown us his glory and his majesty, and we have heard his voice from the fire. Today we have seen that a man can live even if God speaks with him. But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord, our God any longer. For what mortal man has ever heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire as we have and survived? Go near and listen to all that the Lord, our God says, then tell us whatever the Lord, our God tells you. We will listen and obey.”
"Prophecy is any word given directly by God so that the one who receives it can say, 'Thus says the Lord.'"
This is the people speaking to Moses. They're basically saying, “We cannot handle God speaking directly to us. We won't live. We won't survive. Nobody can hear God's speaking directly and survive.” That's what the people said to Moses. What's interesting is what God says about that. In verse 28 of Deuteronomy 5, “The Lord heard you when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me, ‘I have heard what this people said to you. Everything they said was good.’” Now, that's very unusual. Anybody who knows anything about the history of Israel and God in Israel, it's very unusual for God to put the stamp of approval on everything that the people said, but this time he does it. He said what they said is good, and then he goes beyond that, “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always so that it may go well with them and their children forever.” “I yearn that they would always fear me the way they're fearing me now.” But God granted their request, and so he spoke to the people through Moses, didn't he? Rather than directly himself. He develops this more in Deuteronomy 18:15 and following, “The Lord, your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him, for this is what you asked of the Lord, your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the Lord, our God, nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.’” I'm in Deuteronomy 18:15 and following, “The Lord said to me, ‘What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. I will put my words in his mouth.’” Let me just stop right there. That is prophecy. Do you hear it? “I will put my words in his mouth.” Again, the images of the chef that cooks the meal and just says, take it to the people as is. That's all. No right to rearrange or work on it. There's no logic, no teaching involved. Prophets could be teachers, but I'm saying prophecy itself is, “Thus says the Lord,” and out it comes.
I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods must be put to death.
Wow. So it's very, very serious. If a prophet stands up and speaks anything that God did not command him to say under the title, “Thus says the Lord,” that one is a false prophet, and the death penalty hangs over his or her head.
Anyone who speaks anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
So you had to have a batting average of 1000 basically. Anytime you say, “Thus says Lord,” it's got to be the word of the Lord. It's got to happen just as it is.
So the prophets would be raised up. So Deuteronomy 18 is very important. God says, “I'm going to raise up a prophet like you, Moses, and that prophet is the one that's going to speak to the people.” And he actually raises up many prophets, one after the other. There's a whole series of them in the Old Testament. Prophets end up becoming, in effect, covenant lawyers. They basically bring God's claims back to the people. “Hear oh heavens, listen oh earth, for the Lord has spoken,” said Isaiah, “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows it's master, the donkey, it's owner's manger, but Israel does not know. My people have not understood.” What is happening there? Isaiah is calling heaven and earth back into court, because God made a covenant before heaven and earth, and they were called as witnesses that God would give covenant blessings to them if they obeyed, and covenant curses if they disobeyed. And so in effect, Isaiah is calling the witnesses back in and saying, the covenant has been broken by these people. So in effect, more than anything, the prophets in the Old Testament were covenant spokesman, they were covenant lawyers standing before the people on behalf of God, who is aggrieved at their behavior. And so he raises them up one after the other.
We see the same thing in the life of a little boy, Samuel. Remember when Samuel was called as a prophet? You remember that whole story? It said in those days, the word of the Lord was rare, you remember? And so Eli was the priest, and Samuel is under his training. And so he comes in at night and says to Eli, “You called me, what do you want?” He said, “I didn't call you.” You remember that story. And so it goes on through finally Eli gets it and says, “You know something, if you hear that again, if you hear something again, just simply say, ‘Speak Lord, your servant is listening,’ and then just wait and find out what happens.” And so little Samuel goes back and lays down and hears it again, “Samuel, Samuel.” “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” So clearly there was an auditory or something coming into his brain as though someone were calling him. The word of the Lord came to him. You see what I'm talking about? So the word of the Lord comes, and he knows it's the Lord. First he didn't. It was just like Eli had called him. But he had to get some instruction to find out it was actually God who was speaking directly to him. Now, you remember what message little boy Samuel had to give as his first prophetic message, “Go back and tell Eli, ‘You're finished, because you didn't discipline your sons.’” Wow, that's very, very difficult. I mean, it's always a temptation for the prophet to let some of the words drop to the ground, the unpopular ones. And it turns out at the end of Samuel's life, it says of him he let none of his words drop to the ground. He brought the whole message. He was a true prophet of God, Samuel was.
Jeremiah is another example. In Jeremiah 1:1 and following, it says, “The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin, the word of the Lord came to him…” There's that phrase again. The word of the Lord comes to someone. He speaks. The Lord speaks right into someone's mind. “The word of the Lord came to him in the 13th year of the reign of Josiah, son of Amon, king of Judah. And through the reign of Jehoiakim, son of Josiah, king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the 11th year of Zedekiah, son of Josiah, king of Judah.” So this is an actual historical occurrence that happened in space and time. At a certain moment, the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, and it came repeatedly over a period of time so that you could measure out the history of the word coming to this man, Jeremiah. When the people of Jerusalem went into exile that was the end of it. And then in verse 4, “The word of the Lord came to me saying, before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. And before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Very strong and clear call from God to Jeremiah that he would be a prophet. And so this is prophecy.
Now, in the New Testament, we get some instruction about Old Testament prophecy. Take a minute, if you would, and look at Hebrews 1:1-2. It says there, “In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,” okay? So this is a summary of the prophet's ministry in the old covenants. Hebrews 1:1, in the past, God spoke to us. Now, that's the key to prophecy. It is God speaking directly to the people so that the prophet should say: “Thus says the Lord…” and then out comes the oracle of God. So God did this, and he did it in many times and in various ways. There was a variety to the ministry of the prophets, actually an incredible variety. And God would speak to the prophets in visions, he would speak to them in dreams, he would speak to them in direct words, lots of things. And the prophets were called to do a lot of things, weren't they? They were called to act things out, or make replicas of Jerusalem, were called to marry a prostitute in one case. They were called to act and live out certain things, but all of this was the word of the Lord through that prophet to Israel. And so these were the prophets. And then it says in the New Covenant, or, “in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son.” Jesus also was a prophet, but a different kind of a prophet. Now, they called him a prophet. This is the prophet, Jesus from Nazareth and Galilee. And he was a prophet, but much more than a prophet of course, because he could say, “You have heard that it was said by people of old, but I say to you,” you see what I'm saying? Now, he does say, “I speak nothing but what the Father has told me to say.” So in that sense, he is the definition of a prophet. He gets words from the Father, and speaks only what the Father has commanded him to say. But yet at the same time, he's different than a prophet, because he can say with authority, “You have heard that it was said, but I say to you.” So there's a difference with Jesus, but that's a summary of Old Testament prophecy.
We see the same thing in 2 Peter 1:19-21. Now, Old Testament prophecy, in sum, together points to Jesus Christ. You take all of it together, the spirit of the prophets is Christ. It's all pointing, you sum it all up, all the prophets testify to Jesus Christ in sum, as you put it all together, they're pointing ahead to Christ. And Peter points that out, and he speaks of it in 2 Peter 1:19 and following, it says, “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain…” What does that mean? Well, it's been confirmed now by history. That's all he's saying. It's happened now. We have the word of the prophets now fulfilled. How many times in Matthew's Gospel do you see the word fulfilled, that the word of the Lord that he had spoken through Jeremiah might be fulfilled, or that the prophecy through Isaiah might be fulfilled? Jesus is the fulfillment of so many prophecies. So, “we have the word of the prophets made more certain [or having been fulfilled is the idea] and you will do well to pay attention to it as to a light shining in a dark place until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” In other words, “You should pay attention to prophecy until you come to personal faith in Christ.” That's what he's saying. Once you've come to faith in Christ, you should continue to pay attention to prophets for other reasons, but the prophets were given to you so that the morning star might rise in your heart, that you might come to faith in Christ. And then he goes on from there in verse 20, “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation.” In other words, prophecy didn't come from that individual, that it didn't have its origin in man. It didn't start there. Verse 21, “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Again, this is prophecy. They are speaking. They are people. Men spoke. These are human beings. They're speaking and they're speaking human words. They're living human lives. But the Holy Spirit carried them along like a wind blowing on a sailboat, and moving it very forcefully in the direction that God wanted the prophet to go. Now, it's interesting about prophecy. We have the prophecy, and here its speaking of the Old Testament prophets, but I think it can be extended to the new. I would like you to put a pen or some marker in second Peter. We're going to come back to it in a few minutes, but we're not ready for it yet. So just put something there, and we'll come back to it.
"Once you've come to faith in Christ, you should continue to pay attention to prophets for other reasons, but the prophets were given to you so that the morning star might rise in your heart, that you might come to faith in Christ. "
Now, we see prophecy happening in the gifted sort of sense beginning at the day of Pentecost. So turn in Acts 2, and there we have a promise given to us concerning prophecy. Remember what happens. They're together, they're praying, they're waiting for the gift from on high which Jesus had promised and which the Father had promised, the gift of the Holy Spirit. They're there waiting. And the day of Pentecost comes in verse 1: “they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.” And verse 4 says, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” This is the gift of tongues. And so the gift of tongues comes at this particular moment. We'll keep reading. It says, “Now they were staying in Jerusalem, God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language.” This gives a tremendous insight into what the gift of tongues meant on the day of Pentecost. Everybody who came from all of these disparate places, the diaspora where the Jews had been scattered... Listed in a moment, but all of them coming from all of these different places, they speak their own native tongues, and probably Aramaic too, or maybe Greek as they would come so there'd be a common language, but as they came, they heard them, all of them in their own language. These were human languages with syntax and grammar and vocabulary. It's remarkable. Fully-formed languages, and they were hearing them speaking in their own language. Verse 7,
Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Capadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts of Judaism); Cretans and Arabs- we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
They understand what they're saying. It's languages coming out here. They're speaking in tongues that people are understanding them directly. And by the way, this is without question a reversal of the Tower of Babel and what happened there. You remember what happened there? They're building a tower of Babel, and all the world had one common language. They all spoke in one tongue. And so God comes down to see this tower that they're building, and he confuses their languages because of the heart attitude and the motive that they have in building this tower. They're seeking to exalt themselves, make a name for themselves, glorify themselves, and so God scatters their languages. He confuses their languages, and so immediately you have instantaneously languages. Now, remember when I preached in Genesis that I assumed that God in his grace gave to whole households the same language so that husbands weren't coming back from a hard day building the tower, and unable to communicate with their wives. Now, that would be a challenge. I mean, marriage is a challenge anyway, but how much more? I mean, you come home and you're speaking, suddenly, what are you saying? But that's the origin of languages. And it's remarkable how God is willing to do this, knowing full well how difficult the missionary endeavor would be in the 20th and 21st century as a result. He knew that it would be much harder for people going overseas to other countries, that they would have to take five years or more and learn the language in order to witness to the people. But he was willing to pay that price, I believe, to slow sin down because sin just runs rampant like a wildfire without it. So he's got to slow sin down. He's willing to confuse the languages. That's what he does.
Well, here we have an instantaneous and miraculous reversal of the Tower of Babel, don't we? And so they're speaking, and everyone can hear in their own language. Some made fun of them and said they've had too much wine, then Peter gets up and deals with this, “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet, Joel [and here it is]: ‘In the last days, God says, I'll pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy.’” You see that? So prophecy is going to be widespread. Now, back in the Old Covenant, it was not widespread. There'd be long stretches of time in which there wouldn't be no word from the Lord. The time of Eli was such a time. You remember that? In those days, the word of the Lord was rare. That's what was said. So nobody would get up and say, “Thus says the Lord.” But after the effusion, the pouring out of the Spirit, there's not going to be a rare word from the Lord. There's going to be an effusion of the word of the Lord, “Your sons and daughters plural will prophesy. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams.” Remember how surprising it was, for example, when Saul, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he began to prophesy, remember? And so there came a saying, “is Saul also among the prophets?” It was rare. Prophecy was rare. But here in the effusion, the pouring out of the Spirit on Pentecost, it's not rare. It's widespread. “Your sons and daughters will prophesy.”
Even on my servants, [verse 18] both men and women, I'll pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above, and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord, and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
So we have this promise of prophecy, and it just starts to happen. We see prophecy acting then and moving in the book of Acts. For example, look with me at Acts 11:27-30. Here in Acts 11:27-30 we are introduced to a man named Agabus. Now, Agabus is not one of the more well-known people in the New Testament, but he's a very interesting individual, and he pops up twice in the book of Acts, and both times he speaks a word from the Lord. He prophesies. He's able to say, “Thus says the Lord,” and then something happens. Now in this case, it's prophecy the way you understand it. It's a prediction. He's going to speak a prophecy, a prediction. He's going to make a prediction. And this is what it says, “In those days [11:27] during this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.” 11:28 says,
One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudias.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
So here's a prediction. It's very similar to Joseph. You remember how Joseph predicted that a famine was coming, and so therefore Pharaoh was able to store up grain ahead of time? I think that God was doing the same thing for his church at this point. He's giving some future information about a famine that's coming, and so they can begin to make provision and help out the churches living in Judea, because they were poor. The churches in Judea were always poor, and Paul was always working on the Gentiles to give money to help the Jews. I think it probably was a result of persecution. In other words, when a Jew would become a Christian, they would be de-synagogued, and they wouldn't be able to get any work, and they would be in trouble financially. And so he would be constantly wanting to send money from Macedonia and from these Greek areas down to Judea. Well, how much worse would it be if there were famine there, you see? So the famine is going to go over the entire Roman world, but there's a special concern here for Judea. And Agabus warns them, this is prophecy. It's provable or disprovable, isn't it? I mean, it's the kind of thing that, wow, Agabus has stuck his neck out here a little bit. What if there isn't a famine? Well, we didn't need to worry about that, because Agabus was indeed a prophet, and he was speaking accurately. And so they did not foolishly prepare, and it was a gift or a blessing from God that that warning came. They were able to get ready.
You see the same thing in Acts 13:1-3. Acts 13, we see it at work in a local church, prophecy at work in a local church. In Acts 13:1 it says, “In the church in Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While there were worshiping the Lord in fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” Now, how do you think the Holy Spirit said that? How did he communicate the phrase, “Set apart for me… the work to which I have called them”? Through prophets, they spoke by the power of the Spirit. And so somebody with the gift of prophecy spoke these words, similar to Agabus. And what a blessing it was. This was the beginning of the great missionary endeavor that led to our salvation. Trace it back as the movement goes westward into Greece, and then onto Rome eventually. And so the Holy Spirit moves the church out here, but he does it, I think, through a prophet, because they're mentioned. In the church at Antioch, there were prophets and teachers. And so it says in verse 3, “after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” And then in verse 4, “The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia, and sailed from there to Cyprus.” so they're sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, but I don't think it's a stretch to think that it was by the work of the prophets.
Now, interesting, if you look at 13:1, in the church in Antioch, there were prophets and teachers. I believe these are separate gifts. These are different things. I really believe that they're different things. Prophecy is the ability to speak the word of the Lord as a direct movement of the Holy Spirit so that the Holy Spirit says, “Tell the people this, thus says the Lord,” as I've been making the case. Teaching is different. Teaching is working over the existing prophecies of scripture, the things that we have had spoken to us from the prophets and the apostles, I think would be a good summary of the Bible, prophets and apostles, and taking that and working it through, using your logic, using your teaching gift to explain. And therefore, it has a lower level of certainty. It's every bit is useful in building the church. Very needful, very necessary. I'm doing it right now, okay? But it is not prophecy. I'm not able to say, “Thus says the Lord.” I can read Scripture to you, but we can all read Scripture. Not everyone who can read Scripture is a prophet. I'm trying to categorize these things. So I think that prophecy and teaching are different.
And another indicator of that is back in 2 Peter, where you stuck that pencil or whatever it is you did. Being good people, you did that. And I'm so encouraged, so we can go quickly to 2 Peter 2:1. Now, look what it says, “there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be...” Look. What? “False teachers among you.” Now, it's a very interesting verse to me. Why is it interesting? Well, it's interesting because he's ascribing to the old era, the old covenant, the old time prophets and their enemies, false prophets, and then a parallel to your time, what might be working in your church, teachers and their enemies, false teachers. You see? Now, that's not a hard and fast statement that there is not prophecy today. All I'm saying is that there is a distinction between prophecy and teaching. And so the normative, it seems, in 2 Peter 2:1, is that the local church would have teachers working among them, and the church, it says in Ephesians 2, is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ, Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. What does that mean? I believe the Scripture. The church is built on the foundation of the Scripture. I think that's what Jesus meant when he said to Peter, “On this rock, I will build my church,” on this rock. And I think I've made the case in my very first sermon to you. In Matthew 16... You remember that, of course. Matthew 16, Jesus, the confession was made. “‘You're the Christ, the Son of living God.’ ‘I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.’” And I connected that to Ephesians 2 and said that the church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. That is the Scripture, and it doesn't move. Praise God. It's solid. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” And so we have the New Testament and the Old Testament complete, we have the word of God, and then from that we have teachers who take the word and explain it, and they are gifted, and that's one of the gifts given. But during the apostolic era, they had prophets as well.
Now, do we have prophecy today? I don't know. I don't know. That's my answer. Now, you come here and you're hoping that I'm going to answer about miracles, I'm going to maybe even do a miracle, and speaking in tongues, that I'm going to speak in tongues. I do not have that gift. So Paul says, do all speak in tongues? Answer, no. I'm one that does not. I am neither a prophet. And in this way, I part company with my beloved puritans who believe that prophecy or prophesying was preaching. Preaching, that's what they thought it was. And they said... And it's a great book, but they use the word prophesying, the Art of Prophesying, it says, “There are two parts to prophecy, preaching the word, and public prayer.” That's what they say. I would disagree. I think the book is useful, but I think they're using the word improperly. I think that preachers are teachers, and they are not able to say, “Thus says the Lord.” They're able faithfully to work out and to rightly divide the word of truth and should, but it's different than prophecy. Now, would it be beneficial for us to have somebody able to say, “Thus says the Lord,” or warn of a famine coming? Of course it would. Are there any clear indicators that prophecy will cease? Absolutely. Of course there are. In first Corinthians 13 it says, “Where there are prophecies, they will cease.” The question is, when does that happen? At the end of the worlds in heaven, or sometime before that? That's why I say, I don't know. But I'm trying to help you at least understand what prophecy really is. It's the ability to speak directly under the leadership of the Holy Spirit a message that has authority equal to Scripture, really. “Thus says the Lord,” and you speak it.
Now, what of tongues? Well, we've already talked about it some since we were already at Acts 2. I told you what they were. The word literally means languages. It's referring to languages. And let's get to the core issue. We know in Acts 2 that they were intelligible languages, right? They were able to be understood by the people who were there. We hear them speaking the wonders of God in our own tongues. And so this was a miraculous moving so that the people could hear the message of God. So we would not have an unintelligible, needing to be interpreted tongue at that particular time. Then we have throughout the Book of Acts, the gift of tongues coming on people as the Holy Spirit comes. For example, Cornelius in Acts 10:44, “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came, and all who heard the message, the circumcised believers who had come were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.” So it was the gift of tongues that told the people who were there, the Jews, the Jewish believers, “Hey, they received the gift of the Holy Spirit.” And so the speaking in tongues in Acts 10 told the Jewish believers, the Jewish Christians, the Gentiles are acceptable to God. And so when they come back and report this in Acts 11, it really is at that moment when they say, “Look, they spoke in tongues, and they exemplified the gifts of the Holy Spirit,” that the people said, “Well, what can we say? God is moving among the Gentiles the way he's moving among us. Praise God.” They could say nothing more. God had done it. What could they say? And it was the gift of tongues more than anything that indicated that the Spirit had come to them.
We see the same thing in Acts 19:1-7,
While Apollos was at Corinth, [it says] Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we've not even heard there is a Holy Spirit.” So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?” “John's baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. [Verse six] When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied.
So they had both of those gifts working. Not only did they speak in tongues, but they also said, “Thus says the Lord,” and they were able to say prophecies. And in this way, again, there was a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit coming on these folks.
Now, in first Corinthians 12-14, we have the most intensive handling of these two gifts, tongues, and prophecy. And why? Because I believe in the Corinthians church, there were excesses in these matters. The people speaking in tongues, it seems, were somewhat lording it over those that were not speaking in tongues. They were also doing it in a way that did not build the body, did not edify the body. And so Paul lays down some restrictions. We're not going to go through all this, but basically there are some clear indicators. First of all, the gift of tongues was active, even publicly active in the Corinthian church. No question about it, people spoke in tongues. Second of all, the gift of tongues was such that some people, if not most of the people could not understand what was being said, so that Paul would say, “If there's no interpreter there, shut it down.” So that, it was different than what happened at Acts 2 in one sense in which everybody could understand in their own native tongue what was going on there. God can do whatever he chooses, but there it was, the gift of tongues was operative, but nobody could understand what was being said. And so Paul sets up the rules saying, “If there's no interpreter, then tongues must not be used publicly.” And then he gives a hierarchy in which he says, “I would rather have you prophesy than speaking tongues, because I'd rather have that intelligible word working on the mind. I want my mind fruitful. I want to understand what's being said. I don't just want unfruitful thoughts.” He also says, “If anyone comes in among you and sees all of you speaking tongues, but nobody's interpreting, he'll think you're out of your mind. But if you're prophesying, he'll be convicted and fall down and say, ‘Surely God is among you.’” And so he sets up these priorities.
Now, the controversy about tongues today is a variety of sorts. One is that the certain Pentecostal denominations teach, that if you have not received the gift of tongues, you do not have the Holy Spirit. Now, they then break apart on that and some of them say, and therefore you're not a Christian, based on Romans 8, because if you don't have the Holy Spirit, you're not a Christian, or they'll say it's possible to be a Christian and not have the Holy Spirit. And they make an ultra fine distinction between the spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit, you see. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ, but you haven't been baptized by the Holy Spirit yet. So they start to get a little funny about the Trinity after a while. I'm not sure how many persons there are in the Pentecostal or the UPC Trinity or some of these other Pentecostal groups. And so they make a distinction there, but there's, I think, a wrong teaching there about tongues, namely the implication is that all Christians, healthy, right Christians should be using and experiencing the gift of tongues. Now, where does this come from? Probably from Mark 16. Now Mark 16, there's an indication there. I'm not going to go there, but you read it that, “These signs will accompany those who have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, have come to faith in my name,” and speaking in tongues is included there in Mark 16. So Paul has to deal with these problems. He has to work it through. And so I think as we follow these restrictions, what we're going to find is that tongues should never be operative in a corporate body publicly unless somebody interprets. That is clear. And we should never have more than one person speaking in tongues at the same time, but there needs to be order. God does everything decently in a good order he says in these chapters. So there's an order to this.
So that is one aspect of the modern controversy, namely that if you're not speaking in tongues, something is wrong with you spiritually. Paul asking the question rhetorically, “Do all speak in tongues?” implies the answer is no. Really, it could be translated, should be translated, all don't speak in tongues, do they? And so the implication is no. We have different gifts according to the grace given us. And so not everyone has this gift. So that dispenses with that falsehood. The second aspect comes with the idea of a personal prayer language. Is it possible that tongues could be a personal communication between an individual Christian and God? Some call it a personal prayer language. They get some strength from that in 1 Corinthians 13:1-2,3, it says there, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels...” You see that? “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I'm only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.” Reading on, “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.” And so they get from this verse an idea that we can speak in the languages of the tongues both of men and of angels, you see. And so there's the tongues of angels, and that would be your private prayer language. The problem with that is that Paul is clearly in this section speaking hyperbolically. He's saying, “Even if I had the most extreme degree of all these things, but had not love...” The question about that that comes back is, yes, but are all these things possible? Is it possible to surrender your body to the flames? Is it possible to give all that you possess for the poor? Are these things that are at least available to us in the world? Yes, all but verse 2. Is it possible for us to fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, or do we just know in part and prophesy in part? And so I think Paul is using extreme language here to teach the priority of love.
One other verse that teaches this is Romans 8:26-27, or that people feel teaches it, and they turn to that. So take a look with me, if you would, at Romans 8:26-27. I'm going to be preaching on this in a couple of weeks, God willing, but I think we should look at it tonight in closing. It says in 8:26, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes with the saints in accordance with God's will.” What a deep and rich passage on prayer. And I'm looking forward… I've been working on it all week, and I'm looking forward to speaking about it. The Spirit helps us in our prayer lives. Absolutely. We couldn't pray without him. And so I'll look forward to that. But what they point to is, in the second half of verse 26, if you look at that, it speaks of these groans, “the Spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” And so they say that this relates to that private prayer language. The problem with that is that the person, the individual is not the one praying with those groans here. Who's doing the praying? It's the Spirit that's doing it. And furthermore, the words cannot express part, that word is every other place translated mute. Somebody's mute. There are no words at all. None. And so I think that the parallel passage in 1 Corinthians 2 is teaching that there are spiritual truths given, but no words needed. Do you understand that words are tools that we have to submit to, that there are truths that you don't need to put in words when you're communicating between the Spirit and the Father? And so the point is that, I mean, what are words? They're like freight cars filled with meaning, right? And you're talking about a long 300 car train, and you've got nouns and verbs and adjectives, nouns and verbs and adjectives, and syntax and grammar. And you've been through it. You know school. You all loved English, didn't you? And so you're submitting to grammar, you're submitting to words. God doesn't need that. It's a tool for us, but he doesn't need it. He can intercede for you totally instantaneously just like that, and it's done. And good thing, because there's lots of us, aren't there? And so he's always interceding for you, just whatever you need, totally covered in prayer instantaneously, because there's just a communication between the Spirit and the Father. I think that's what this is teaching here. Now, I didn't say there isn't a secret prayer language. I didn't say that all. I'm just saying that these verses don't teach that. That's what I'm saying. And so I would urge that we look at this verse in context, look a little more carefully and realize that it is the Spirit that's doing the interceding with these groans that words cannot express, and that they are not just words you cannot express, but they are literally mute. They have no words at all. It's just direct spiritual communication.
So in summary, what are we saying? First of all, we've understood prophecy to be direct communication from God to his people through a man or a woman so that that man or woman, the prophet or prophetess can say, should say, “Thus says the Lord,” and then out comes the dinner that God cooked, unmolested by the messenger. That is different than teaching in which the teacher is working over the Scripture, I believe. The apostles and prophets, the foundation of the church. There's a distinction between the two. Prophecy can involve future predictions, and did involve future predictions in the book of Acts. That may still be going on today, but we just need to understand what prophecy is when we're talking about it biblically.
All right, speaking in tongues, in Acts 2, it was intelligible languages given for the purpose of evangelism at that particular moment. Wouldn't that be beautiful? I mean; you talk about missionary learning center and all the years that friends of ours that we know personally have labored over languages. They've worked hard to learn very difficult languages, and they're still barely able to communicate. Wouldn't they love the gift of tongues to be able instantaneously to know that language that they're trying to communicate? But God doesn't usually do that. Usually he wants the servants of God to submit to the process of learning the language, but he could do that. That's the Acts 2 tongues. Then there's the identifying tongues that happened in Acts 10 at Cornelius's house, and Acts 19 at Ephesus, that identifier so that we could see immediately whether the Holy Spirit had come or not. And then there's the speaking tongues that went on in first Corinthians 12, 13, and 14 in which it was possible to communicate in such a way that no one in the building understood what you were saying. Still languages, not just gibberish, it's languages, but nobody there could understand, and so that was shut down by Paul. You needed to have an interpreter, somebody who could hear the words you're saying and tell us what the meaning was, because behind the sounds there needed to be meaning. There was meaning. We just needed to hear what it was. That's all.
Those are the gifts, and that's how they work. Now, I have not resolved for you whether those gifts are still operative today. I have to tell you, I don't know. I don't know, because there's no clear Scripture. I try to do everything by Scripture that these things have shut down. I know they were operative in the New Covenant era, but especially in terms of prophecy, I think the 2 Peter 2:1 is interesting to me. There were false prophets among them, just as there will be false teachers among you who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, okay? We have gone over. I thank you for your patience. I talked as fast as I could to get through these things, but next week, I very, very much want to go through a list of all the gifts that are listed in there, describe each one of them briefly, and then close our time, considering spiritual gifts.