Summary: Do tongues exist today and if they don’t, why not?
OPEN: The scene was in Denmark and 2 old men are sitting on a park bench. Up drives a car stops, and the driver rolls down the window and politely asks, in German, for assistance. The men shrug and shake their heads. The driver asks again, this time in French. No answer. He asks a third time in English. Still no answer. Frustrated, the man drives away.
After a while, one old-timer says to the other. “I wish I could speak a second language.”
“What for?” asks his friend, “That guy spoke three languages, and it didn’t help him.”
APPLY: The early church had those who could speak in many languages – languages they had never learned, and yet they used these languages (tongues) to communicate the love of God to others who otherwise would never have heard the Gospel. The Bible talks about the “gift of tongues” that was a powerful and effective tool in the early church, but our question today is: do tongues exist today and should we ourselves speak in tongues?
I. The Bible tells us that God gave the early Christians “gifts.”
Actually there were two kinds of gifts God gave His people.
The first was “ the gift of the Holy Spirit” spoken of in Acts 2:38. Peter preached, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.” The Greek word for “gift” here was “dorea,” and was used to describe the mark of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14), the mark of God’s ownership of us.
The other kind of gift spoken of in the New Testament was “gifts from the Holy Spirit.” The Greek word used for this kind of gift was “charismata.” Charismata is actually a compound Greek word: “Charis” (meaning “grace”) and “mata” (meaning “result of…” What Charismata meant was that this gift was a “result of the grace – or Holy Spirit - within us.” That’s what Paul wrote when he sent his letter to Corinth:
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now TO EACH ONE THE MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT is given for the common good.
To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.” I Corinthians 12:4-11
The best way to visualize the difference between these two kinds of gifts is to understand:
1. that God gave us the gift (dorea) of the Spirit which was our salvation, the mark of His ownership of us, and...
2. then the Spirit gave special gifts (charismata) to the early Church to help the church be stronger and more effective.
These “charismata” or gifts from the Holy Spirit were powerful tools. BUT God didn’t intend for them to last forever. Many of the more miraculous gifts were intended to be “seed” investment in the church. This initial investment was much like the investment corporations investment companies make in new plants and stores.
ILLUS: For example, on the edge of town, Home Depot is building a new store. It’s a massive structure that involves a heavy investment for the building, the parking lot, the laying of wires and pipes and then the first inventory for the shelves. It’s an enormous financial outlay. For the first couple of years, that store will not pay for itself. The main company will have to underwrite the salaries and other expenses for that initial period. That’s the time of “seed money.”
But eventually, the store will run on its own and the massive outlays of cash & materials from the main company will not be necessary.
God has done much the same thing throughout Scripture.
* When God created the world, He invested heavily with miracles. Day after day – for 7 days – God performed miracle after miracle. But after those initial days of creation, the miracles tapered off. Over the next 2000 years of Bible history God may have performed periodic miracles, but not in the massive investment of power that we see around the days of creation.
* Again, when Noah was selected by God and the flood was prepared for, God performed manifold miracles in preparation for and during the days of the Flood. BUT, after the flood, the miracles tapered off. There were periodic occurrences of miracles, but not in the abundance seen before and during the Flood.