Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

by Rayola Kelley

Q: Due to some uncomfortable experiences my friend had when visiting a Pentecostal church where she saw some of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation, she has been confused by whether they are real or not. I have been trying to answer her questions, but she is suspicious about the Holy Spirit’s work in this area, especially the gift of tongues. Could you help bring a resolution to this matter? 

A: As you are probably aware, this is a controversial subject. Sadly, it is greatly abused or misunderstood by many in the Church. To bring a Scriptural balance to this matter is of the utmost importance. However, this issue will ultimately be resolved at a personal level as far as what perspective a person will develop about it.

There are two ways we must approach this subject. First, we must scripturally understand what is really being said about this issue. To do this we must put aside man’s interpretation and preconceived notions about it. Secondly, we must come to terms with the character, power and work of the Spirit to properly test such manifestations.

The one Scripture that caused me to rise above my initial understanding or belief about this subject was 1 Corinthians 14:39: “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy, and forbid notto speak with tongues.” (Emphasis added.) Although, I had been taught that gifts of the Spirit had ceased, I could not ignore the Scripture that said not to forbid tongues. Was I to believe man’s interpretation of the Scripture about when that which is perfect comes, gifts will cease (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)? Keep in mind such gifts include knowledge and wisdom from above ((1 Corinthians 12:8-10). Needless to say, I had to identify what would constitute perfection, or the end of the Church needing God’s constant guidance. Some state that once the Word of God was completed, the Church had no need for such gifts. Can the Word possibly contain all the wisdom, knowledge, and faith from above, as well as bring forth the power of healing, and miracles from God? I reasoned that completion had to do with the Christian coming to the fullness of their life in Christ. The Word brings about maturity, but does not constitute completion to the Christian’s journey through this world. A Christian’s life will only be completed when he or she stands before the One who is the essence of wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Meanwhile, what do we, as believers, need to stand strong in this world? Do we need more scriptural knowledge or instruction, or do we need greater revelations of our Lord and Savior? After all, Paul talked about such revelations in Ephesians 3:1-9. Revelations uncover the deep mysteries of God. Can we assume that all deep and profound mysteries surrounding our infinite God have been revealed in Scripture? No doubt, the mysteries that are necessary for our salvation have been revealed, but can we assume that we can actually possess the depth of these mysteries that are not only life-changing, but are able to bring a deeper meaning to our personal life in God?

            My perception is that the depth of these mysteries is in the Bible, but they remain hidden from the naked eye, and it will take the Holy Spirit to uncover them to our spirit. I also do not believe that Christians will possess the fullness of these mysteries in this present life, and that we will be exploring them for ages to come in eternity (Ephesians 2:7). Therefore, I chose to approach this subject from the point of reasoning in light of Scripture, rather than man’s interpretation.

            The first thing I learned about this subject is that there are different types of tongues. For example, there is the prayer language that Paul made reference to, as praying in different tongues, and the gift of tongues which must have interpretation (1 Corinthians 14:13-15, 27-28). The prayer language edifies the person in his or her spirit, while the gift of tongues edifies the whole Body.

            People would debate as to why God would use such a means to reveal spiritual insight. After all, we are told that the gift of tongues reveals the mysteries of heaven (1 Corinthians 14:2). These mysteries could include such things as the gifts of wisdom, knowledge or prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:6). How would God choose to reveal greater mysteries of heaven, unless it was by means of the supernatural? 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 tells us that the natural man cannot discern spiritual matters, let alone receive them. Obviously, God wants to reach the spiritual man and not the natural man.

            Sadly, most in the Church operate from the natural man. The natural man tests things according to his intellect or feelings. If it does not fit in his intellectual understanding, he will deem it as foolish. If it does not work within the comfort zones of his emotions, he will discard it as offensive. However, that which is unseen and heavenly draws the spiritual man. He has the spiritual ears to not only hear the message of God, but to properly discern it.

            The Church has been debating the operation of gifts for centuries, especially the gift of tongues because it is so foreign to the natural ears or acceptable religious way of doing. Therefore, it makes people uncomfortable, fearful and angry. Instead of realizing that such matters must not be judged from a natural perspective, but from a scriptural and spiritual perspective, many have simply discarded the gifts altogether as being obsolete.

            This brings us to the second aspect of the gifts, that of the work and power of the Holy Spirit. John 16:13c states that the Holy Spirit: “…will show you things to come.” We know the gifts of the Spirit are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7). Manifestation in this text means expression or exhibition of the Person of the Spirit. Clearly, the Holy Spirit would not cease to express Himself or exhibit His work and power among the Body of believers by using whatever manifestation He so wills (1 Corinthians 12:11). It is His choice as to how He will manifest Himself. To deny, reject or ignore these gifts is to close down the very means by which the Holy Spirit will express the mysteries of God’s heart to His people.

            Granted, due to misunderstandings and terrible abuse of the gifts, people in the American Church have perceived that they are doing quite nicely without the intrusion of the Spirit into their midst. But, if we examine the present condition of the Church in America, will its fruits confirm such a reality? All I can say is that the Holy Spirit is manifesting Himself in other parts of the world, and people are being saved, delivered, healed, and set afire with His powerful flame.

            I believe that the challenge for Christians is to have a balanced perception of the Holy Spirit. By knowing the Person of the Holy Spirit, we can properly discern the spirit as well as test the message behind any manifestations. Such an attitude will encourage the presence, work and power of the Holy Spirit within the Body of Christ.

            My advice to believers who are struggling with this issue is, do not accept man’s perspective. Rather seek God’s perspective. His perspective will not only bring a proper understanding and balance to this subject, but it will bring necessary instruction as to how to discern, test and recognize the real move, work, power, and manifestation of His Spirit.