Holy Spirit Manifestation – Part 3

We continue today looking at what the Bible says about the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Our focus will be on speaking in tongues since this is a prominent teaching in the New Testament and, therefore, should not be ignored if we are to take the scriptures as God’s literal reference for the church in any age.

There are, however, those who sincerely hold to a doctrine called Cessationism. Cessationists believe that the spiritual gifts such as speaking in tongues, prophecy and healing ceased with the apostolic age. Thus, they contend that after the original 12 apostles died, these manifestations of the Holy Spirit ceased.

Another doctrine, called Continuationism, teaches that the Holy Spirit may bestow the spiritual gifts on persons other than the original 12 apostles at any time and in any age.

There are variations within each doctrine which embrace nuanced interpretations and make assorted allowances for that which cannot otherwise be explained.

My position leans heavily upon the Continuationist doctrine because I see no concrete scriptural prohibition regarding the operation of Spiritual gifts after the time of the apostles. I find it incomprehensible that God would make the gifts of the Holy Spirit the centerpiece of the New Testament after the ascension of Christ and then essentially retrieve the gift He had given after the apostolic age.

With that explanation we will proceed with our study of the gifts of the Spirit from the perspective that they are still operational and relevant for the church today.

Today we begin in 1 Corinthians 14 with Paul’s teaching which seems to establish that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were operating in the church beyond the 12 apostles.

1 Corinthians 14:1-25
1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.
2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.
3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.
4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.
5 I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be edified.
6 Now, brothers and sisters, if I come to you and speak in tongues, what good will I be to you, unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or word of instruction?
7 Even in the case of lifeless things that make sounds, such as the pipe or harp, how will anyone know what tune is being played unless there is a distinction in the notes?
8 Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?
9 So it is with you. Unless you speak intelligible words with your tongue, how will anyone know what you are saying? You will just be speaking into the air.
10 Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning.
11 If then I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and the speaker is a foreigner to me.
***12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.
13 For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say.
14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.
***15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.
16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying?
17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.
18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you.
19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
20 Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.
21 In the Law it is written: “With other tongues and through the lips of foreigners I will speak to this people, but even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”
22 Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers.
23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?
24 But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all,
25 as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!”

Paul’s opening instruction suggests that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for everyone. His use of terms like “anyone” and “someone” and “everyone” reiterates this. He acknowledges that these believers in Corinth are “eager” for the gifts of the Spirit. He says, “I speak with tongues more than all of you.”

So I conclude that speaking with tongues is both scriptural and operational in the church in every age and every generation. The fact that there have been highly regarded Biblical scholars who witnessed no manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s gifts does not negate them.

Keep in mind that the availability of the scriptures to the common person is a fairly modern development. Before that, only those most educated were able to read the scriptures and their teaching influenced the masses. If they held a preconceived bias against the operation of the gifts of the Spirit then that would have been the basis of the teaching for all who had no access to or literacy in the scriptures.

Paul speaks of tongues as a matter-of-fact occurrence in the church. His instruction here is to help the churches understand the purpose of tongues for the individual and the church. Primarily, he points out, tongues are for personal edification (enrichment) unless there is an interpretation of that which is spoken. This harkens back to Paul’s previous teaching that spiritual gifts are manifest (or public) for the common good. They are a supernatural manifestation of God’s presence among us and are beneficial in building up the body of Christ.

But Paul also expresses his preference for prophecy as a means for communicating truth to the church. Prophecy in the scripture is not always foretelling something in the future, it is also used in the Bible referring to the proclaiming of the truth of God’s word; what we would call preaching.

Paul, rightly, points out that a whole lot of speaking in tongues in the absence of prophecy is likely to be off-putting to those unaccustomed to such practices.

“…will they not say that you are out of your mind?” (v. 23)

But the proclamation of God’s truth from His word is powerful and convicting to all who hear it because it insightfully exposes the sinful condition of mankind. Such truth is what brings unbelievers to repentance and restores those who have strayed to a right relationship with God.

Paul is not discrediting the manifestation of tongues by preferring prophecy, but as we will see next week, he is counseling with regard to the proper operation of the gifts of the Spirit in the church.

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