Sunday, January 14, 2007



In case you're wondering why this one's been a long time coming,, it's because I figured everyone was at the party over at Wade Burleson's house, so no use my ranting and raving before an empty house, here. Let's say my mind has been somewhat "Klouda'd".

Some argue that the Acts 2 episode was Spirit-filled believers speaking other, known, languages. There are a couple reasons why that does not make sense.

First is that we have a bunch of people ... either all the disciples, or the dozen Apostles ... speaking a language they did not understand. That's what the Bible says, but it does not say what language. Well, if it had been all the distinct dialects listed right there in that chapter, nobody outside listening would have understood anything. There's also the possibility that it really was only the Apostles, since the nearest antecedent to "they" referred to the Apostles. So we would then have a dozen guys speaking 15 or 16 languages?

I doubt that.

There's also the fact that the people outside said each (singular) heard them (plural) speaking his own (singular) dialect. Nobody seems to want to even talk about that fact!

Since it makes sense if it was some sort of unknown language, interpreted by the hearers, but doesn't make sense as different then-current languages, I wonder why people seem set against the idea of a "heavenly language", the interpretation of which would similarly, and necessarily, be a God-given gift.

More about that, later.

The third of the couple of reasons is that the Bible does not describe what they spoke in any detail, but only describes what the listeners heard. And does anyone notice that not all listeners heard them declaring the wonders of God? Some heard gibberish, apparently, as they thought the believers were drunk!

I think my take about their speaking a truly unknown tongue simply makes the most sense.

There's another interesting aspect to that, and the reasons why it's not an "evangelical" tool. I don't see any evidences of unknown tongues leading to salvation. Folks manifested that gift after the gospel was presented to them in a manner they could understand. THEN came the unknown tongues.

"While Apollos was at Corinth, 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 have not even heard that 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. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all." (NIV)

Goodness. What was THAT all about? They were apparently saved, already; the Bible calls them "disciples". Paul laid hands on them and baptized them into the name of Jesus. And they spoke in unknown tongues.

A) Who told them to do that? They probably were unaware of Spiritual gifts; they'd never even heard of the Holy Spirit!

B) If the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is God's sovereign act, then what happened there? Why didn't they ALREADY have Him?

In the chapter immediately preceding Paul's principal admonitions about tongues in the church setting, he said:

1 Corinthian 13:1: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (NIV)

I'm no Greek scholar, but it looks like he's describing two different events here .. speaking in the tongues of men, and speaking in the tongues of angels. And if there is a "tongue of angels", where would it be spoken? Heaven? And how could we interpret it, other than a heavenly gift? Hmmm....

I had the privilige of eating dinner next to Dr. Sam Storms, at Rev. McKissic's home prior to the Roundtable in Arlington. When I postulated that all the occurrences of "unknown tongues" might be what Paul said .. namely, speaking to God ... he mentioned that the Bible says there are "Different varieties of tongues" (but only One Spirit...). I was aware of Dr. Storm's credentials and was immediately intimidated and retreated into my shell.

A little later, on the way to the hotel, it was as if God said to me "Are there different varieties of talking to Me?" Whoa. Of course there are, I thought. There's intercession, there's supplication, there's praise, there's worship. Hmmm.... so maybe I wasn't messing up when I said that. Now, I respect Dr. Storms immensely. His credentials and presence are both impressive. But I'm getting the feeling God may not want me to agree with anyone based solely on that. So OK, then.

WELL NOW ... how about Paul's admonitions in 1 Corinthians 14? Well ... consider the context. First, those folks didn't have the NIV or the NASB or even the KJV. They had to rely either on the OT writings, or on prophecy. And of course they needed to hear from God in that New Testament context, as they were living out the events on which much of the NT was based. So when they gathered, they needed to hear from God.

I can see the Corinthians sitting around in one of their meetings. As I read Paul's writings (and those of smart guys who've commented on them), I believe Paul was taking them to task for abuses in the church. One of them was pride in their "Spirituality", and one of them was excesses in the gift of tongues. When they were sitting around, apparently many of the folks were exercising the gift of tongues, to the monopolizing of the meetings. They didn't need that! They needed prophecy ... they needed to hear a message from God!

So Paul said something on the order of "Hey guys ... cut it out! ... one or two, fine, let someone interpret .. and then get on to the message from God". If speaking in tongues had been prophesying in an unknown tongue, why would Paul tell them to stop? Why would he say stop that, and let others prophesy, when tongues was merely prophecy in an unknown language?

Ah, but IF speaking in an unknown tongue is exactly what Paul said it was .. speakikng only to God ... then it's entirely understandable that Paul would have said limit it, and get on to the prophecy.

Paul also said if someone prayed in an unknown tongue, how could we "amen" his prayer? I don't think that would be a consideration now: I've never been in a church that forbid silent prayers, and Baptists seem universally (in my universe, anyway) to accept, and pray for, unspoken requests. How can someone "amen" them if he cannot "amen" a prayer in an unknown language?

The other night in church, our pastor had a visiting African pastor pronounce the benediction in Swahili. That was unknown to us, it wasn't interpreted, we said "amen" to it, and it was fine with everyone. And we didn't understand it, either.

I'll probably think of a lot of other stuff later, but I'd like to get this one up so I'll stop now. But I'll reiterate: the thought that every episode of unknown tongues was the believer speaking, in line with the gifting of the indwelling Holy Spirit, solely to God in a language that can only be understood by God, or by a believer under the gifting of the Holy Spirit, is the only one that makes sense to me as applicable to every occurrence in the New Testament. Every other explanation seems to require going beyond scripture in an attempt to set forth what God doesn't do any more.

I really don't know whether it's fear or jealousy that makes people look askance at the gift (like I used to do), but I wish everyone would adopt my pastor's view. Like Brother Mike says:

"It's in the Bible, folks!"


At 1:04 PM, February 04, 2007, Anonymous Miss Wisabus said...


Bob, I just moseyed on over from the link you left on my blog and was pleasantly surprised to find this post. Very interesting stuff and, in my opinion, spot on. Keep up the good work.

At 1:37 PM, February 04, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks for stopping in and for the kind words. Come back any time.

I occasionally bloviate about something new. Interesting, even, sometimes.

At 11:42 PM, February 04, 2007, Anonymous Jenn said...

That was an amazing interpretation of a difficult subject. I feel smarter for having read it.

At 7:13 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger Sarah said...


I'm so glad you visited my blog because it led me to yours! I love it!

Like you, I am a reformed Southern Baptist who has been given the gift of tongues. With all that has been happening with the IMB policies on the PPL I will confess anxiety (even though I claim to be a sovereigntist to the core! You'd think I would just TRUST God that He'll work it all out!) because my husband and I are feeling called to full-time ministry. At this point we both feel that staying within the SBC is what the Lord is leading us to do. But if He should call us into missions, which we haven't totally closed the door on, I'm not sure what the next step would be if the policy stays like it is now. So, I'm really praying for a change in those policies. We must stay true to Scripture.

Thank you for your insight and for being so open. It's great to know someone else knows what it's like! :)


At 7:26 PM, February 05, 2007, Blogger Bob Cleveland said...

Thanks for stopping in and for the kind words.

I love being a Charismatic Calvinist in the SBC. I always tell folks all it really means is I can pick a fight with ANYbody.

There's a parallel between the gift of tongues, and the abortion issue. With abortions, those who are in favor of them have ALL been born ALREADY.

With tongues, ALL the folks I know who are anti, do NOT have the gift.

I don't know any folks who wish their mother had had an abortion when they were pregnant, and I don't know anyone who has the gift of tongues who wishes it wasn't a gift.

And by all means, hang in there with the SBC. I think the rules may be changing. If they don't, it's going to be a sign for a lot of people.

God bless.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home