TITLE: FIRE ANTS AND WILD FIRE
Resources to aid your Understanding
Subtitle: "......Reprove, Rebuke, And Exhort With All Long-Suffering And Doctrine....." (2 Timothy 4:2)
All across much of the Southeastern part of the U.S. today are found small mounds of dirt, often reddish in color due to the red clay found in the area, which are instantly recognized by the locals as being "fire ant hills." These "fire ants"-- insects alien to this country-- supposedly entered throught the port of Mobile years ago and are now either avoided or attacked with chemicals as a potentially deadly menace. They have continued their relentless march northward and how far they will advance is anyone's guess! Numerous instances have been cited in which both wild and domestic animals--particularly the young-- have actually been killed by these small creatures. Cattle farmers have to be particularly alert and try to prevent calves from falling into their nests as they are being born out in the pastures. Many humans have also been attacked and a few have died as a result of fiery bites literally inflicted by the hundreds as the ants swarm all over their unfortunate victim. In fact, their reputation has become so bad that for one to invite trouble is said to be "stirring up a nest of fire ants!"
Well, no one ever claimed that being a preacher was easy--so let's stir the hill and see if we can avoid being bitten!
In ever increasing numbers, many who profess Christ are embracing what has come to be known as "the charismatic movement." Speaking and praying in tongues is emphasized, along with prophesying and the other spiritual gifts which are clearly set forth and dealt with by the apostle Paul in the Book of 1 Corinthians. That these gifts existed and were used by the early Church is beyond question and we want to make this very clear at the outset. But the point we want to explore is: are they still valid today? What sayeth the Scriptures?
The general subject of spiritual gifts is first mentioned by the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 12, but is discussed in greater detail in 1 Corinthians chapter 14. And what is being overlooked by far too many of the brethren today is the specific reason(s) for Paul writing the Corinthian Church. They were, without doubt, the most carnal Church mentioned in the Word of God and required at least two (and some scholars say three) epistles from Paul to correct their errors! But in spite of their carnality and abuses, the Holy Spirit had blessed these brethren to the extent that Paul said, "ye come behind in no gift" (1 Cor.1:7, KJV). In other words, they were as proportionately gifted as any other Church of that day. And as we carefully study what Paul has to say to them, it becomes readily apparent that many of them were guilty of mis-using their particular gift(s)--especially the gift of tongues.The fact of their carnality is firmly established in chapter three as we read:
"However, brethren, I could not talk to you as to spiritual [men], but as to nonspiritual (men of the flesh, in whom the carnal nature predominates), as to mere infants [in the new life] in Christ--unable to talk yet! (2) I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not yet strong enough [to be ready for it]; but even yet you are not strong enough [to be ready for it], (3) For you are still (unspiritual, having the nature) of the flesh--under the control of ordinary impulses. For as long as [there are] envying and jealousy and wrangling and factions among you, are you not unspiritual and of the flesh, behaving yourselves after a human standard and like mere (unchanged) men?" (1 Corinthians 3:1-3, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary).
So we find that this whole epistle was necessitated by carnal excesses of the part of the Corinthian Church and is spiritual "milk" rather than "meat," or solid food. Please bear this fact in mind as we sift through the Infamil, Similac, and Prosobee formula, along with the strained and creamed carrots, peas, and spinach of Paul's teaching in this Book!
In chapter 12, Paul begins to expound on the subject of spiritual gifts and in this exposition he emphasizes over and over (because children need repetition to learn properly) that the greatest of all the gifts is the Holy Spirit-given ability to preach the Word (Chapter 14 and verse 5--to be discussed in detail later). Then beginning in verse 7 of chapter 12, Paul lists the gifts in general terms and each time he does so, it is always in the descending order of their relative importance. So let us begin with verse 6 to get everything in proper context:
"And there are distinctive varieties of operation--of working to accomplish things--but it is the same God Who inspires and energizes them all in all. (7) But to each one is given the manifestation of the (Holy) Spirit--that is, the evidence, the spiritual illumination of the Spirit--for good and profit. (8) To one is given in and through the (Holy) Spirit [the power to speak] a message of wisdom, and to another [the power to express] a word of knowledge and understanding according to the same (Holy) Spirit; (9) To another (wonder-working) faith by the same (Holy) Spirit, to another the extraordinary powers of healing by the one Spirit; (10) To another the working of miracles, to another prophetic insight--that is, the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose; to another the ability to discern and distinguish between [the utterances of true] spirits [and false ones], to another various kinds of [unknown] tongues, to another the ability to interpret [such] tongues. (11) All these [achievements and abilities] are inspired and brought to pass by one and the same (Holy) Spirit, Who apportions to each person individually [exactly] as He chooses" (1 Corinthians 12:6-11, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary).
Next, Paul reiterates this same theme beginning in verse 28:
"So God has appointed some in the church (for His own use): first apostles (special messengers); second prophets (inspired preachers and expounders); third teachers, then wonder-workers, then those with ability to heal the sick, helpers, administrators, [speakers in] different [unknown] tongues. (29) Are all apostles, (special messengers)? Are all prophets--inspired interpreters of the will and purposes of God? Are all teachers? Do all have the power of performing miracles? (30) Do all posess extraordinary powers of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (31) But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best--the higher [gifts] and the choicest [graces]....." (1 Corinthians 12:28-31a, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary).
Notice that once again Paul lists these gifts in descending order of importance, with verse 31 clearly stating that some are greater or better than others--with tongues and interpretation of tongues always listed last. And in verse 30 he asks questions concerning whether or not all believers in the assembly possessed these gifts--with the Greek construction calling for an answer of "no" in each case. So those who continue to insist that all believers must exhibit the gift of tongues as a proof of their salvation, are dead wrong!
Then beginning in verse 1 of Chapter 14, Paul begins to contrast the importance of the gifts and we must consider all he has to say (particularly about tongues) without lifting anything out of context:
"Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love [speaking of the subject of love covered in chapter 13]--make it your aim, your great quest; and earnestly desire and cultivate the spiritual endowments, especially that you may prophesy--that is, interpret the divine will and purpose in inspired preaching and teaching. (2) For one who speaks in an [unknown] tongue speaks not to men but to God, for no one understands or catches his meaning, because in the (Holy) Spirit he utters secret truths and hidden things [not obvious to the understanding]. (3) But [on the other hand], the one who prophesies--who interprets the divine will and purpose in inspired preaching and teaching--speaks to men for their upbuilding and constructive spiritual progress and encouragement and consolation. (4) He who speaks in a [strange] tongue edifies and improves himself, but he who prophesies--interpreting the divine will and purpose and teaching with inspiration--edifies and improves the church and promotes growth [in Christian wisdom, piety, holiness and happiness]. (5) Now I wish that you might all speak in [unknown] tongues, but more especially [I want you] to prophesy--to be inspired to preach and interpret the divine will and purpose. He who prophesies--who is inspired to preach and teach--is greater (more useful and more important) than he who speaks in [unknown] tongues, unless he should interpret [what he says], so that the church may be edified and get good out of it. (7) If even inanimate musical instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone [listening] know or understand what is played? And if the war bugle gives an uncertain (indistinct) call, who will prepare for battle? (9) Just so it is with you; if you in the [unknown] tongue speak words that are not intelligible, how will anyone understand what you are saying? for you will be talking into empty space! (10) There are, I suppose, all these many [to us unknown] tongues in the world [somewhere], and none is destitute of [its own power of] expression and meaning. (11) But if I do not know the force and significance of the speech (language), I shall seem to be a foreigner to the one who speaks [to me] and the speaker who addresses [me] will seem a foreigner to me. (12) So it is with yourselves; since you are so eager and ambitious to possess spiritual endowments and manifestations of the (Holy) Spirit, [concentrate on] striving to excel and to abound [in them] in ways that will build up the church. (13) Therefore, the person who speaks in an [unknown] tongue should pray [for the power] to interpret and explain what he says. (14) For if I pray in an [unknown] tongue, my spirit [by the Holy Spirit within me] prays, but my mind is unproductive--bears no fruit and helps nobody. (15) Then what am I to do? I will pray with my spirit--by the Holy Spirit that is within me; but I will also pray intelligently--with my mind and understanding; I will sing with my spirit--by the Holy Spirit that is within me; but I will sing (intelligently) with my mind and understanding also. (16) Otherwise, if you bless and render thanks with [your] spirit [thoroughly aroused by the Holy Spirit], how can anyone in the position of an outsider, or he who is not gifted with [interpreting of unknown] tongues, say the Amen to your thanksgiving, since he does not know what you are saying? (17) To be sure, you may give thanks well (nobly), but the bystander is not edified--it does him no good. (18) I thank God that I speak in [strange] languages more than any of you or all of you put together; (19) Nevertheless, in public worship, I would rather say five words with my understanding and intelligently in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a [strange] language. (20 Brethren, do not be children (immature) in your thinking; continue to be babies in [matters of] evil, but in yours minds be mature [men]. (21) It is written in the Law, By men of strange languages and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and not even then will they listen to Me, says the Lord. (22) Thus [unknown] tongues are meant for a (supernatural) sign, not for believers but for unbelievers [on the point of believing], while prophecy (inspired preaching and teaching, interpreting the divine will and purpose) is not for unbelievers [on the point of believing] but for believers. (23) Therefore, if the whole church assembles and all of you speak in [unknown] tongues, and the ungifted and uninitiated or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are demented? (24) But if all prophesy--giving inspired testimony and interpreting the divine will and purpose--and an unbeliever or untaught outsider comes in, he is told of his sin and reproved and convicted and convinced by all, and his defects and needs are examined (estimated, determined), and he is called to account by all" (1 Corinthians 14:1-24, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary, emphasis and inserts mine).
The first comment we want to make concerns the Amplified Bible's definition of the gift of prophecy (with which we heartily concur!). Please note that it says: "inspired preaching and teaching, interpreting the divine will and purpose."
--------------------------Please do not miss this because it is very important!!!!-----------------------------
At the time Paul penned these words, the New Testament did not exist as a finished written entity. When preachers, filled with the Holy Spirit, gave their messages--it was the very Word of God, preached by the Holy Spirit Himself. This is verified by 2 Peter 1:21, where we read:
"For no prophecy ever originated because some man willed it [to be so]--it never came by human impulse--but as men spoke from God who were borne along (moved and impelled by the Holy Spirit" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary)
2 Timothy 3:16 adds:
"Every Scripture is God-breathed--given by His inspiration--and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, and for training in righteousness [that is, in holy living, in conformity to God's will in thought, purpose and action]" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary).
So what we need to understand is that the gift of prophecy entailed giving out God's Word to people who did not have benefit of a personal Bible, through men who had few, if any, Old Testament Scriptures at their disposal! The Holy Spirit was speaking directly to men. And the gift of tongues was an extension of this in that those so gifted were enabled to preach in a language or languages not previously learned. And the interesting thing about the gift of tongues was that more often than not the one exercising the gift did not understand what he was saying! That is why Paul told them to seek the gift of interpretation (14:13, quoted above). The word "tongue" or "tongues" is the Greek word glossa (exact meaning uncertain, but probably referring to the physical tongue) and indirectly refers to language(s) as it is sometimes used today (e.g. "English is our mother tongue."). This is strongly inferred by what we find in Acts chapter two, where speaking in tongues began on the day of Pentecost. Jews from many different nations were in Jerusalem for the feast and when Peter and the others, under the control of the Holy Spirit, began to preach to them in their own native languages, we read the following:
"And they were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galilaeans?  And how hear we every man in our own tongue ("dialektos" or dialect), wherein we were born?" (Acts 2:7-8, KJV, emphasis and insert mine).
So from this it is quite clear that the gift of tongues involved supernatural preaching in foreign languages.
But much confusion has arisen over the comments in 1 Corinthians 14:2 and 14:4 about the one speaking in tongues not speaking to men, but to God--and that the gift edifies the one exercising it (vs.4)--as if this gift was limited to some kind of heavenly ecstatic prayer language between the individual and God. A limitation, or duality of meaning, simply cannot be the case because the same Greek word glossa is used in both Acts chapter two and the chapters in 1 Corinthians. And because the narrative in Acts tells us beyond question that the foreign Jews understood what was being said, we must seek some other explanation for this particular passage. So taken in the context in which it is given--that is, Paul speaking to the Corinthian believers about their Church--anyone speaking in a language foreign to them all would not be understood and only the speaker himself would be edified. The personal edification was meant as sarcasm and aimed at those who were abusing the gift. Verse 9 reiterates the futility of speaking without the understanding of the Church and verse 10 underscores the fact that what is said constitutes foreign languages.
And in summation, this lengthy teaching by Paul was obviously due to the carnal excesses of those who possessed the gift and were using it in an unwise manner. Apparently being under the influence of the Holy Spirit was an wonderful experience and could be controlled by the individual. In other words, he could "feel good" as often as he chose and for as long as he chose. And the control of the individual is firmly established by verse 32, which says,
"For the spirits of the prophets [the speakers in tongues] are under the speaker's control [and subject to being silenced as may be necessary]" (1 Corinthians 14:32, Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary)
So with carnal human nature being as it is, excesses and abuses were bound to happen. The Corinthians were more carnal than most and Paul had to correct them.
But what about today? What reason could we possibly have for saying these gifts are no longer valid? Well, if we back up a chapter, Paul answers that question for us in chapter 13, verses 8 to 10:
"Love never fails--never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end. As for prophecy [that is, the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose], it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away [that is, it will lose its value and be superceded by truth]. (9) For our knowledge is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect), and our prophecy (our teaching) is fragmentary (incomplete and imperfect). (10) But when the complete and perfect [total] comes, the incomplete and imperfect will vanish away--become antiquated, void and superseded" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary).
W. E. Vine in his book Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, has this pertinent comment about the gift of tongues:
"There is no evidence of the continuance of this gift after Apostolic times nor indeed in the later times of the Apostles themselves; this provides confirmation of the fulfillment in this way of 1 Cor.13:8, that this gift would cease in the churches, just as would "prophecies" and "knowledge" in the sense of knowledge received by immediate supernatural power. The completion of the Holy Scriptures has provided the churches with all that is necessary for individual and collective guidance, instruction, and edification." (emphasis mine).
Once the canon of New Testament Scripture was completed, God's instructions to His people were in written form and the truly inspired preaching and teaching and the interpreting of the divine will and purpose ceased. Remember that the word "inspired" in spiritual terms means "God breathed" (theopneustos) and refers only to that which God Himself caused to be spoken in the early Churches and put in the Old and New Testament Scriptures. The Book of Revelation put the cap on it all and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself tells us in 22:18-19 that we must not add to nor take away from it and Deuteronomy 4:2 makes the same solemn warning in the Old Testament. So for any preacher today to insist that his preaching is divinely inspired and he can give out prophetic information not contained in the Bible, his own words condemn him because he is trying to add to that which is already complete and perfect.
Are the ants swarming yet?
But just for the sake of argument, let us suppose that I am wrong about the interpretation of this subject. Let us suppose that tongues are still extant and perfectly legitimate. What will be the ramifications in such a case? First and foremost would be the fact that tongues was only one of several "sign" gifts given to authenticate the Gospel message before a largely ignorant and illiterate world. Others would include the working of miracles--not the least of which included healing the sick and raising the dead.Casting out demons was another good one. And when one carefully examines the evidence given in the Scriptures, he will find that not one of the various miracles recorded were disputed by even the most belligerent detractor! The Pharisees made a grave error in attributing the miracles of Christ to Beelzebub (Matt.12:24), but they could not and did not deny the miracles themselves. In Acts 4:16, the Sanhedrin admitted that they could not deny the fact that the "impotent man" had been healed! And as the disciples of Christ spread throughout the nations in those early days, their miracles were despised, but never successfully disputed. Are miracles of this same type and magnitude being worked today? Worked in such a way that no one can dispute them? When is the last time you personally saw a brother in Christ merely touch a blind man and restore his sight beyond dispute, or better yet raise a corpse to renewed life? I have been one of God's children practically all my life and lived around and fellowshipped with thousands of others in my 62 plus years, but I have yet to see this, let alone hear of it done in such a manner as to cause an uproar among the unsaved! The "sign gifts" were for the express purpose of shaking unregenerate men to the very core of their being in ways they could not deny. Let me ask you this. Can you think of one instance in the Word of God where this magnitude of miracle was ever done in the midst of the brethren--during one of their meetings? The raising of Eutychus in Acts 20:9 is the only case that I can think of that comes close. No, the miracles were usually performed before large crowds of lost people, so as to maximize the effect--as common sense would dictate that they should be. Has anyone, anywhere today--in a manner that can be proven beyond any reasonable doubt--preached to unregenerate foreigners in their own language, so that they were astounded at the ability of the individual to do so? If Pentecostal power is still alive and kicking, why not? Should not these miracles be fairly commonplace and causing quite a stir among the heathen? Furthermore, if the gift of tongues is still active, one possessing the gift can preach in the presence of linguistic experts and convince them of the authenticity of the languages. Remember that the spirit of the prophet is subject to the prophet! Oh, we occasionally get email from some who insist that even the dead are being raised today, but where is the indisputable evidence of such? I am afraid that such "faith" is completely bogus and doing far more harm than good.
And finally we come to the most disturbing aspect of this whole subject area--a "bucket full of fire ants," that I am honestly reluctant to open, but feel that it is something which must be done. And since there is no delicate way to ease into it, I will just have to lay it on the table. If you speak in tongues and/or receive various types of messages from God, how can you be absolutely sure they are genuine? To the best of my knowledge, there is only one Scriptural method provided and that is found in 1 John 4:1-3, where we are told very plainly:
"Beloved, do not put faith in every spirit, but prove (test) the spirits to discover whether they proceed from God; for many false prophets have gone forth into the world. (2) By this you may know (perceive and recognize) the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges and confesses [the fact] that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, [actually] has become man and has come in the flesh is of God--has God for its source. (3) And every spirit which does not acknowledge and confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [but would annul, destroy, sever, disunite Him] is not of God--does not proceed from Him. This [non-confession] is the [spirit] of antichrist, [of] which you heard that it was coming and now it is already in the world" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible commentary).
Notice that verse one is actually a command to test and should be recognized by God's people as a legitimate warning that demonic spirits can deceive us. And deception is not just possible, but certain because it is Satan's greatest weapon against mankind. That is why we are warned throughout the New Testament to be on guard against it. In Matthew 24:24, the Lord tells us that during the Tribulation Period, the deception will be so great that the very elect will be tempted by it. So as we approach the end of the age, we must understand that spiritual deception is a daily fact of life for all of God's children and take every precaution to avoid being a casualty.
Have you ever had your spirit(s) tested by the Scriptural method? While under the power of the spirit--in the presence of a company of godly brethren--has someone addressed the "spirit of tongues", or the "spirit of prophecy", etc., and requested that it confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and has come in the flesh? Beloved, if the Holy Spirit is the One behind the particular gift in question, we may rest assured that the confession will be made because God would not instruct us to test if this were not the case. If no confession is made, the spirit is false and must be dealt with. And complete honesty on the part of the one manifesting the gift is obviously of paramount importance--the confession must be made by the spirit, not you!
We at Cutting Edge are painfully aware of the demonic deception taking place among the brethren in many different areas of life and we are not "picking on" charismatics to the exclusion of others. Every denomination and sect of Christianity is filled to overflowing with tares. Apostasy is rampant among our numbers and our intent is not to engage in a contest of who is right and who is wrong with respect to doctrine. We are trying our best to "rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15) and act as watchmen on the wall. May God bless you as you try to serve Him.
If you have been born again and received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
If you have never placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, but have come to sense His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to receive His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you truly believe in Him as Lord and Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.
We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World OrderKingdom of Antichristin their daily news.
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God bless you.