Testimony of Robert J Borer
Robert J Borer: Devoted Charismatic to the Third Way
1958 was the year. The year I was born, that is. Born into this world to a lower middle class Catholic family, in small-town Nebraska, USA.
About twelve years later, I was born into another world. No, I did not die and get reincarnated somewhere. I’m talking “in a figure” this time. This time I was born into the world of Charismaticism and fanaticism (under the leadership and influence of my parents).
As part of my indoctrination into this new world, I was taught that getting filled with or baptised in the Holy Spirit was the next step in walking with God, after getting ‘saved’. And the evidence that you had arrived and were baptised was ‘speaking in tongues.’ Speaking in tongues was supposed to be a supernatural ability that was imparted by the Spirit that gave you, essentially, a hotline to heaven.
If we move on down the road another twelve years, we find that I am born yet again! This time into the world of high profile Charismatic ‘ministry.’ I’ve moved my family to Tulsa, Oklahoma (USA) to begin working for “Dave Roberson Ministries.” Dave Roberson was a highly anointed/gifted (or so it seemed) and charismatic (in both senses) healing and teaching evangelist that I highly esteemed, whose teaching centred around ‘tongues’ as the pivotal and all important spiritual gift.
Dave attributed both his anointed healing and teaching ministry to tongues. According to him, ‘tongues’ was a well from which you could draw nearly all other things spiritual. It was the key to spiritual edification. It was the key to understanding the mysteries of God. It was the key to building yourself up on your most holy faith. It was the key to health and prosperity. It was the doorway to the other ‘gifts.’ It was the key to power in ministry. It was the key to the miraculous, both in your personal life and ministry. It was, as I said, virtually everything, literally. It was perfect, Spirit-inspired prayer. When you prayed in tongues, you were praying God’s perfect will for your life. By turning yourself over to the Holy Spirit through praying in tongues, you could rest assured that you were not praying in unbelief or in any way contrary to God’s will. You could rest assured that all of your prayers would be answered, because the Holy Spirit knew perfectly the mind of the Father, and He would inspire you to pray in perfect accordance with it. Of course, all of this led to perfect peace. What more could a person ask for than for God’s perfect will for your life?
Besides all of these personal benefits that could be derived from praying in tongues, tongues was also the most effective way to pray for and make intercession for others. Again, the Holy Spirit knew best what the needs of others were, and you could trust Him not to pray amiss.
Well, being the devout and hungry (and incredibly naive and insecure) disciple that I was – that is, hungry for health, wealth, power, and all the rest of God’s material blessings – I prayed in tongues all the time. I prayed in tongues when I walked, when I sat, when I worked, and when I played. I prayed in tongues so much that my wife would sometimes tell me in the morning that she heard me praying in tongues while I slept. Like the Apostle Paul, I prayed/spoke in tongues “more than ye all.”
When I could, I would combine it with fasting, because, according to Dave, the combination of the two (praying in tongues and fasting) was the ultimate in releasing your faith and mortifying your flesh. It was the ultimate combination for drawing close to God.
Again, I was very naïve and gullible, as you can well tell by now. So naïve that I never questioned any of this, and never in a million years dreamed that any of it would prove to be anything but true. I was sold on it, lock, stock, and barrel.
Let’s move down the road another five years. By now I’ve become very close with Dave. I’ve travelled extensively with him. I’ve served as his personal travelling companion. I’ve been his personal confidant. I’m involved in managing the affairs of the ministry.
But in spite of my closeness with Dave, a crisis develops. I become fed up with certain things going on around the ministry – namely the way certain people behaved – and I call it quits. That was a bold move, because I had nowhere else to turn. I had no degree, no skill, and no savings. I had nothing. And I had a family to support. But I figured (again, naively so) that I could go home and just begin praying in tongues and fasting and God would take care of it all. I thought to myself, “Why put up with all this nonsense, when I can go home and pray (in tongues) and fast until God shows up and gives me my own ministry?!”
So that’s what I did. I literally went home and began ‘praying’ and fasting. I threw myself totally into it, and hung the entire welfare of myself and my family on it. Again, we had no savings to speak of, nor any other source of livelihood. I expected God to show up and do something miraculous in our lives.
Three weeks later (that’s right, I said “weeks”), the only thing that I could see that was being accomplished was that I was starving myself to death. I went from ~150 lbs. down to 125 lbs. I was skin and bone! I looked like something out of Auschwitz. God hadn’t showed up like I had expected him to (apparently He wasn’t too impressed) and I started to get desperate.
In my desperation, I somewhat left off ‘praying in tongues’ and cried out to the Lord. I started turning to my Bible more, and praying *intelligently* (Is there really any other way??) I read much from the book of Psalms, and cried like David: “I loooong for Your courts, O Lord! HELP ME!”
Somehow the Lord began to get through to me. He began to open my eyes (with my cooperation) and reveal to me my wicked (selfish) heart and intent. I began to see how selfish and proud I was. I began to see my motives. I wanted the anointing, sure, but because of ALL THE FAME AND FORTUNE THAT WENT WITH IT! I was basically (trying) to use God as a means to serve my own selfish ends (rather than serving Him as an end.) Wow! How I had deceived myself into thinking I was something spiritual! (But I had plenty of help. Most everything I had ever been taught *assisted* me in my self-deception. My doctrinal diet up to that point only bred selfishness and greed, rather than mortifying it as good doctrine is supposed to do.)
At this point, I would like to introduce an excerpt from Robert Ringer that George Otis quotes in his book “The God They Never Knew”:
“Simple reasoning tells you that you must regard the interests of others in order to obtain your objectives. Fellow human beings represent potential values to you in business or personal relationships, and the rational individual understands that to harvest those values he must be willing to fill certain needs of others. In this way, the most rationally selfish individual is also the most ‘giving’ person.” (Robert J. Ringer, Looking Out For #1, quoted by George Otis, Jr., in “The God They Never Knew.”)
If anything describes me up to this point in my life, this is it. Oh yeah, outwardly I was a nice, hardworking person. But inwardly, I was as selfish as the day is long. And when the Lord revealed this to me, I began to writhe in mental anguish and pain – in remorse, regret, and sorrow.
And it wasn’t something I wanted to pass quickly. It wasn’t a thing where I just wanted to nonchalantly say “Lord, I’ve sinned, forgive me,” and move on. No, this was serious business, for a change. I saw how I had grieved and offended God, and how I had sought to use Him, and I wanted Him to know how deeply sorry I was. I wanted the ugliness of my sin to weigh upon my mind, until I was absolutely sick of myself, and of the way I had been living. I wanted to see sin, and particularly *my* sin, the way God saw *my* sin. I wanted His thoughts to fasten hard upon my mind, so that sin would become the stench to me that it was to Him, to the end that I would cease to indulge in it. I also wanted to contemplate my just desert for my sin.
It is hard for me to recall how long I was in this state of mind, I want to say it was a couple of days, but I’m not sure. At any rate, it all culminated with me finding myself at the foot of the cross, repenting of my sins, and giving my life to God, through Jesus Christ. It is sad to say, but I cannot recall [because I don’t think it ever happened] anyone ever bringing me face to face with my sins like this before – in all my years of Charismania. On the contrary, I was made to believe that I was a child of God simply because I “spoke in tongues.” What a horrible doctrine. It could well have landed me in hell, though I would not have had anyone to blame but myself. I had deceived *myself.* Anyway, back to the story…
At this point (that is, at the point where I have genuinely repented and placed my faith in Christ) something wonderful happened. I felt like the Holy Spirit descended upon me like a mother hen. “He shall cover thee with His feathers.” Ps. 91. So much of what I had been reading about in Psalms, so many of the expressions David used to describe his relationship with God, just came to life, and meant something to me. “A day in His courts is better than a thousand without!” “I’d rather be a doorkeeper in his courts than dwell in the tents of wickedness at ease!” “The name of the Lord is a strong tower.” He is a “refuge” and a “fortress,” “my rock,” “my God, in whom I place my trust.”
For the first time in my life I knew what the “peace that passes all understanding” was. The most perfect peace, the most settling and comforting peace, just enveloped me like a cloud, and went everywhere I went.
And for the first time in my life I felt like a child.
Up until this point, my life had been constantly filled with either worries about the future or regrets about the past. I never had the peace of mind to enjoy the moment at present. I never knew what it meant to “stop and smell the roses.” I was always striving, always competing, and always wishing. Now, for the first time in my life, I was a child (HIS child), a contented child, with a Father that I knew loved me, and would take absolute care of me. All my insecurities, all my fears, all my wishful thinking about what might have been, evaporated. I was at peace, and content, because I was completely surrendered to Him. There was nothing else I needed. My Father was it. He was all I needed and longed for. Nothing in this world would ever satisfy again.
The love of God was shed abroad in my heart and filled my soul. I was in love with everyone. Love just oozed out of me for others. I even found that I couldn’t look at a pretty woman with lustful thoughts! The thought of doing such was just simply abhorrent to me. I could only look with love and goodwill.
I could go on about all the changes that took place in me, but as this is already going to be long, I will move on. Let me just add this: as a result of, and in the midst of, this spiritual awakening, I found myself in a most wonderful place of fellowship with God. I could now go to prayer and experience the most wonderful time of *intelligent* communion with Him. I could close my eyes anywhere at anytime, direct my attention toward Him, and enter into this wonderful fellowship. If I got too busy, and found myself weak at heart, I would simply get alone, and begin to wait upon Him. I would allow my thought processes to slow down/unwind and gradually focus upon Him, and then as I began to express my heart and mind to Him He would respond. He would quicken my heart afresh with His love, and I would become strengthened and refreshed. (Like David says, “His mercies are new every morning.”) He would also quicken my thoughts with wisdom and understanding when I had questions and problems to deal with.
After this spiritual awakening and transformation took place, I was given the opportunity to go back to work for Dave’s ministry. I took it, and I was very grateful for it, because as I said previously, I didn’t have any other means of providing for my family. I made peace with the person I had problems with, and everything was hunky dory. Though I knew the ministry had its problems, I felt that with God’s help, we could more than deal with them. (Little did I know what the next two years would bring.)
At this point, let me just stop and say that I still believed wholeheartedly in Dave’s teaching and doctrine. I still believed that “praying in tongues” was this unique, God-ordained means to spiritual edification. But, my recent experiences with God so deeply and profoundly affected me, that slowly and almost subconsciously, I started re-evaluating everything. It seemed to me as if my mind had literally woken up as a result of the transforming presence and peace of God.
So here’s what happened over the course of the next two years: My coming back to work coincided with Dave deciding to rent a local facility so he could start having regular local services (as opposed to being on the road constantly), as well as regular “intercessory prayer meetings.” He called the place “The Prayer Center.” Dave designated certain nights of the week as prayer nights, and then began preaching on a couple of the other nights, in order to exhort whoever came to also come and pray. He wanted to build a group of intercessory prayer warriors. Prayer night consisted of simply coming and “pray in tongues” for a couple hours.
Well, as I attempted to participate in these prayer meetings, and “pray in tongues,” I found myself feeling like I was “getting no where.” So I began to resort to simply expressing (albeit silently and to myself) my thoughts to God intelligently (again, is there any other way?!), and whenever I did, I would once again find myself in this place of sweet fellowship that I had recently grown accustomed to, and so enjoyed. When I “prayed in tongues” it was like speaking to a wall, but when I prayed normally, I experienced real wonderful fellowship.
To make a long story short, this “conflict” (that was now existed between my doctrine and my experience) caused me to want to go back to the Bible and see for myself what it had to say about “tongues,” and about this doctrine of “praying in tongues for personal edification.” For two years I read and reread (a thousand times) those passages (IN CONTEXT), asking God to illuminate me, and give me understanding on what they meant. Again, never in a million years did I imagine that such a thing would happen, but at the end of those two years, my thoughts culminated in the conclusion that Dave’s pet doctrine wasn’t taught anywhere in the Bible!
That conclusion had serious potential consequences for my life. How could I continue to work for and support the ministry, given I was now at such odds doctrinally? How would I support my family if I quit? I had a choice. I could choose to compromise, or I could choose to be a man of principle and truth. Which one was it going to be?
Hey! I had a highly esteemed position. I was Dave’s direct/personal assistant and confidant. I was his associate pastor. I was one of the administrators. I was responsible for the counselling duties of the pastoral ministry (Dave’s “prayer center” evolved into a church by this point). I set my own hours. I was paid well. I had a new Caravan and house. I had prestige. In short, I had it ALL (from a worldly standpoint), in my view. And I could have kept it all, if only I had maintained my previous position on tongues.
Frankly, compromise wasn’t even an option in my mind. I didn’t think twice about it. I wanted right standing with God more than anything. I didn’t care if I had to eat off the street. I didn’t care if I ate at all! I wanted peace with God, and I wanted to keep that peace. I knew that I had to leave, and that I was never coming back, because this time, I was leaving for doctrinal reasons, and matters of conscience, and not for emotional reasons. (Of course, in Dave’s eyes, and everyone else’s, I was committing the unpardonable sin. “What?! Deny tongues?? That’s tantamount to denying the Holy Spirit! What’s the matter with you?! Are you NUTS?!”)
Here I was then, with a wife and 4 children (we now have 6), and no means of supporting them. What was I to do? I had no other training, I knew no trade, I had no degree!
Well, how we survived is not the story I want to tell right now. (To make a long story short, God took care of us. We went through some lean and humble times, but God still took care of us. The heart transformation I had gone through had put a foundation under my life and prepared me to go through hard times.) What I want to do now is back up and retrace the progression of my thinking that took place over the previous two years, and that led to my renunciation of Charismatic ‘tongues’ doctrine, and to confessing that I had been deceived for the last twenty years!
Here we go.
One of the first things that grabbed my newly revived thinking mind was, if everything I’m being told about ‘tongues’ is true, and if praying in the Spirit is indeed synonymous with ‘praying in tongues,’ why would anyone ever want to pray in any other way?? Why take the risk of praying carnally? (Okay, perhaps in obedience to other portions of Scripture we will pray “with our understanding” on occasion, but we will certainly minimize this. After all, we don’t want our minds to get in the way of the Holy Spirit!) That seemed like the logical outworking of ‘tongues’ doctrine to me at the time. But that didn’t jive with my recent experiences, and it meant doing away with the means of this wonderful spiritual fellowship I had obtained with God. Something just wasn’t right.
The next thing that stood out to me was that, as I read through these chapters afresh (chapters 12 through 14 of 1st Corinthians), was that Paul says “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1Co 13:1 KJV) In other words, I am just making noise, if I speak in tongues without love.
This did away (in my mind at that time) with the idea I had been taught that you could pray in tongues at anytime, even when you had fallen back into sin and your love for God had grown cold, and the Holy Ghost would “edify” you and help you “mortify the flesh.” (One of Dave’s favourite verses was Romans 8:13: “but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Of course, the way that the Holy Spirit did this was through praying in tongues!)
This verse, verse 1 of chapter 13, started me to thinking that the ‘tongues’ people were practicing weren’t always inspired by the Spirit, because I knew, first-hand, people who were speaking in tongues and living in serious sin at the same time. How could the Spirit inspire tongues that amounted to nothing more than sounding brass, or tinkling cymbals? Well, you can imagine my answer – He couldn’t. I reasoned that the Holy Ghost wasn’t one to waste words. I mean, if He expects us to give account for “every idle word,” surely He wasn’t going to engage in idle words Himself. “What is good for the goose is good for the gander.” If there was no benefit to the words, if it was only idle speech, the Holy Ghost wasn’t involved in it. So the first (reluctant) step I took was to conclude that all ‘tongues’ were not genuine tongues. (The reasoning that got me to that point may not have been entirely coherent, but that was my conclusion nonetheless, and it was a good one.) IOW, “all that glittered was not gold.” That was a big step. That was a huge step. But I didn’t care. At this point, I was more hungry for truth than I was interested in being right. (That is an attribute that will characterize every true Christian.)
The logical progression from here was to ask, “Okay, if all tongues are not genuine tongues, then how does a person distinguish between the two? What is the distinguishing characteristic of genuine tongues? What makes Charismatic or Pentecostal tongues different from say, Mormon tongues?”
You know what? No one could answer me. The best answer anyone could give was to say that they relied upon a feeling they had when they first spoke in tongues. They knew it was God because they weren’t thinking about it (tongues) at the time, and this feeling just came over them. (So it had to be God.) Others said they were thinking about it, even seeking it, and they just knew it was God because they felt impressed to speak. “Wow”, I said to myself! “It’s now all about feelings! How is this any different than the world’s system of philosophy?” Well, I kept reading, hoping I would find the answer in the Scriptures.
The next thing that stood out to me was the whole context of chapter 14th. The context was one in which Paul was bringing CORRECTION. He was not giving positive instructions to the church here regarding a doctrine of prayer in an unknown-to-self-and-others language. He was not constructing an overt doctrine of private prayer in unintelligible-to-self-and-others ‘tongues.’ Private prayer was not the subject. He was correcting disorder in the public assembly of the church.
This reinforced my earlier conclusion that all tongues were not inspired. If the tongues that were spoken in the church at Corinth were out of order, they could not have been directly inspired of the Spirit. Can the Spirit inspire something that is out of order?
I then had to ask myself, what was the nature of these Corinthian tongues? Were they pagan tongues (some pagan groups speak in gibberish just like modern tongues-speakers do), as some are wont to say? This couldn’t be, because I had to believe that if they were, Paul would have flatly condemned them. Paul would not have allowed a pagan ritual to go on in the Christian church. And since he approved of them as long as an interpreter was present they could not have been pagan or demonic tongues. What could they have been then?
The next thing I noticed was that I couldn’t find where Paul made the common distinction that Pentecostals/Charismatics make today that some tongues are for private prayer only, while others are for public use (to be interpreted).
I backed up (to chapter 12) and began reading more of the context. I got wide-eyed over Paul’s analogy with the human body. The whole body is not an eye or a hand or an ear. If it were – if it were all one member (that is, if everyone had the same gift), where would the body be?! I saw that the body of Christ was a body composed of different members, just like the human body is, and that every member has as different gift or purpose or function!
“For as the body is one, and hath many (different) members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.”
“For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one (the same) member, where were the body? But now are they many (different) members, yet but one body.”
“Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular (that is, differing).”
“For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts DIFFERING according to the grace that is given to us…”
And all these differing gifts and functions work together for the building up of the whole body. The individual gifts are put in the body for the sake of the common good (that is, the good of all), not for themselves.
“But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”
(“Hmmm”, I said. “This doesn’t seem to be leaving room for the doctrine of a so-called gift of tongues for personal/private use.” I know, I know, some could make the argument that if you are personally edified, then you are more capable of being a blessing to the body at large. But the text suggests that the gift itself is directly beneficial to the body.)
As I continued reading (over many months) I found Paul asking the rhetorical question in verse 30 of chapter 12: “Do all speak with tongues?” The obvious answer was NO!! (“What?! This contradicts everything I’d been taught! What does he mean by implying that not everyone speaks in tongues?! How dare he!”)
Modern Pentecostals and Charismatics are wont to say that Paul was only speaking of those who are called to speak in tongues in public here. Yes, I agree, that is obviously what Paul is talking about here – public ministry. But I could not find where Paul made the distinction between tongues for public use (or ministry), and tongues for private use. I could not find anywhere where Paul qualifies/modifies his statement and says, “however all DO speak in tongues in private prayer” (or, “all do – or should – have the gift of tongues for private prayer.”) It just isn’t there. NOWHERE does Paul (or any other NT writer) establish a doctrine of praying privately in a new, unknown, and unintelligible-to-self-and-others ‘tongue’ – for anyone.
I continued reading – and praying (intelligently), desperately wanting to grasp (understand) the nature of these tongues that Paul was talking about, and the meaning of certain statements made by Paul in chapter 14 that have been historically used to teach the modern doctrine.
Somewhere in my transition (I’m not sure where exactly), I was confronted with the Pentecostal/Charismatic (hereafter known as PC’s) definition of “spirit”. PC’s define “spirit” as some kind of irrational ethereal essence, or aspect of our being, apart from our minds, that the Holy Ghost communicates ‘tongues’ to, and that the Holy Ghost ‘edifies.’ Where they get this from I don’t know. Why I accepted it I don’t know. Probably because so much of what I thought about God at that time didn’t make any sense, and I just thought it was the nature of religion to not make any sense. (How wrong I was. Christianity is the most reasonable thing on earth. Anyway, back to the concept of ‘spirit’;)
The spirit refers to the inner, immaterial, ultimate, rational, moral, conscious self. The spirit is inherently all of these things. It is the very thing that makes man the creature created in God’s image that he is. The spirit is the seat of his intelligence and personality. It is that which gives his mind its existence. There is no such thing as a communication channel apart from the mind.
Spirit is often used synonymously/interchangeably with ‘soul’ or ‘heart.’ To ‘pray’ or ‘speak’, with the spirit, or in the Spirit, is not to pray mindlessly or unintelligently. It is the exact opposite! Look at God. He is a spirit – He is THE Spirit – and He is the most rational and intelligent Being in the universe. He is pure reason and intelligence. And He never acts unintelligible to Himself.
Consider 1 Corinthians 2:11:
For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.
My spirit knows my thoughts. When my spirit prays, it is me (consciously and intelligently) praying. I know what my spirit is praying because my spirit is me (with all my rational faculties.)
Likewise, the Spirit of God knows God’s thoughts. Again, God is a spirit, He is pure spirit, and He is not mindless. There is no separating His mind from the rest of His being.
Prayer is never represented in the Bible as being mindless. (That defies the definition of prayer. Prayer is communion with God. How do we have communion apart from our minds?) It always proceeds from the spirit (or heart), which is inherently part of the intelligent and rational/moral nature of man. Simply uttering words does not constitute prayer (let alone uttering unintelligible sounds). If it did, I could tape myself praying, and then I would replay it over and over, so that I could pray more.
To be in the Spirit – to walk after the Spirit – is not to bypass or set aside the mind. It is to *use* the mind properly. It is to walk with our minds under the influence of, and in subjection to, the Spirit of God. (God commands us to *use* the mind – and to love Him *with* all our mind, not to set it aside.) So it is with prayer in the Spirit. Prayer in the Spirit is prayer conducted under the influence to, and in subjection to, the Holy Spirit.
To pray or walk in the Spirit is to think upon those things that are of the Spirit. Modern charismatic “tongues” (wrongly so-called) do not give the mind anything to think upon. It is gibberish.
Here is some commentary from other sources on the soul vs. spirit issue:
From the book _Why We Believe_, by James H. Jauncey:
“What is the soul?”:
“Immortality depends on the existence of the soul. Fortunately, there is no problem about this. The soul is simply the name we give to the nonmaterial part of ourselves and in this sense is synonymous with ‘spirit.’
“Since both these terms are used with different meanings in different contexts in the Bible, we have to be careful. ‘Soul’ can refer to life or the emotions as well as to the nonmaterial element of being. ‘Spirit’ can refer to attitude of mind or force of will, and it often is used like our word ‘ghost.’
“Because Jesus referred to the twofold division of man (body and soul), and Paul spoke of a threefold division (body, soul, and spirit), some have suggested that a contradiction exists. But there is no contradiction. Such classifications are for convenience of teaching only and were not intended to be absolute divisions in being.
“There is no doubt that there is a nonmaterial part of me, my personality, loves, hopes, fears, culture, my mind. There is an essential ‘me’ that has persisted through a lifetime of bodily change. We cannot define how this is related to my body, or my body to it, but it is there. When we give this a name, it is ‘soul,’ or ‘spirit.’
“The question of whether I have a soul or am a soul is academic. Both can be true, depending on how we view it. Since there is a nonmaterial element in me I can say I have it, but since this is the only permanent part of me, I am it. The immortality of the soul actually means the immortality of me.”
- Is there a deliberate and significant difference between soul and spirit here [Heb. 4:12]?
- There is a distinction; “The New Testament use of pneuma for the human spirit focuses on the spiritual aspect of man, i.e. his life in relation to God, whereas psyche refers to man’s life irrespective of his spiritual experience, i.e. his life in relation to himself, his emotions and thought. There is a strong antithesis between the two in the theology of Paul.” (Guthrie)
- However, in this passage, “Attempts to explain [these terms] on any psychological basis are futile. The form of expression is poetical, and signifies that the word penetrates to the inmost recesses of our spiritual being as a sword cuts through the joints and marrow of the body.” (Vincent)
Here are some more of my own thoughts:
The words spirit, soul, heart, and mind all have a semantic range. Some have a wider one, others have a narrower one. On occasion, they may be used synonymously. At other times, one may be used over another to place an emphasis on a particular aspect/facet of man.
Based upon a study of the Bible, the words may mean:
mind: thoughts, intellect, rational capacity of man
soul: whole PERSONality of man complete with thoughts, feelings, will, intelligent/rational capacity, etc
spirit: either synonymous with “soul,’, or used as a reference to disposition, or disembodied being
heart: center of man’s moral structure, complete with will, intellect and affections
Dealing with this erroneous Charismatic definition of ‘spirit’ was a major factor in dispelling the fog surrounding many of Paul’s statements in chapter 14.
Another problem that became apparent and that I had to deal with was the way PC’s defined the operation of the body (the church) and the individual ‘gifts of the Spirit.’ According to them, all of the “gifts of the Spirit” were supernatural gifts.
It was suggested to me by a friend that perhaps this wasn’t the case. Perhaps all of the ‘gifts’ weren’t supernatural, at least in the same sense. I looked into this, and lo and behold, the testimony of Scripture seemed to bear this out. (The fact that working of miracles was listed as a distinct gift in chapter 12 seemed to imply that some of the things that go on in the body towards the edification and growth of itself (the ‘whole’) are not miraculous, again, at least in the same sense.
Peter references “gifts” of “speaking” and “ministering,” in chapter 4 of his epistle. Paul references “gifts” of “teaching,” “exhorting,” “giving,” “ruling,” and “showing mercy” in Romans chapter 12. Are “exhorting,” “teaching,” and “giving” all miraculous gifts? (Other examples could be given from the Old Testament, of gifts/talents God specifically says that He places within people – gifts/talents that are not normally considered ‘miraculous.’)
Why, we could just look at the company that Paul puts “diversities of tongues” in at the end of chapter 12: “helps” and “governments.” Do we normally consider these ‘supernatural gifts of the Spirit’? It’s the company that Paul puts “diversities of tongues” in though, as important gifts and functions in the body of Christ!
Even the 14th chapter lends itself to the idea that the tongues Paul is speaking of are naturally learned human languages. Look at verses 20 through 22 where Paul refers to the tongues of the enemies of the Israelites. (Actually, the chapter doesn’t just ‘lend itself,’ the meaning here is obvious. And with such an obvious definition of tongues right within the very chapter in question, what right do we have to equivocate on the term?)
These enemies came, with their ‘foreign’ tongues, against the Israelites as God’s means of judgment for their sins. And their tongues were obviously not supernatural. They were their own normal, natural, homegrown, native tongues.
You also find Paul telling the members of the church who spoke in tongues that they needed to find an interpreter or keep quiet. Now tell me, if the Holy Spirit was the direct initiator of these tongues, would he (Paul) have to tell the church to find an interpreter for the Holy Spirit? Wouldn’t the Holy Spirit know it? Wouldn’t the Holy Spirit know if an interpreter was present? Wouldn’t the Holy Spirit know if He was going to give the interpretation to someone? (Better yet, if the Holy Spirit wanted to communicate with the whole congregation, and He was in the business of doling out new languages, why did He go the long route? Why didn’t He just inspire the message in a known tongue to begin with? I know, I know, some would argue that the Holy Spirit may have reasons for doing it that way that we can’t see, like wanting people to exercise their faith, but still, it doesn’t make any sense to me.)
No, a careful look at the entire chapter – with a view towards giving Paul (not to mention the Holy Spirit that inspired him) enough respect that what he said was consistent, logical, and intelligent – and the only conclusion that makes sense out of the chapter, as a whole, is that Paul was addressing people who were speaking out in their native tongues, tongues that no one else understood.
I will demonstrate that in a moment, by taking a look at the chapter, verse by verse. But let me say a few more things first.
Consider the multilingual nature of the Gentile nations as a whole. Wouldn’t just the natural ability to speak more than one language be of considerable value and go along way towards building up the body of Christ – because it would mean the gospel could be preached to more people? Wasn’t one of the reasons (if not the main reason) that Paul was chosen as an apostle (THEE apostle – to the humongous population of Gentiles) because he was so naturally well educated and knew the Scriptures? (Why didn’t God use some miraculous means, instead of natural means?) Who did God use to write most of the letters of the New Testament? Wasn’t it the naturally educated Paul, who naturally spoke Aramaic, Greek, Hebrew, and who knows how many other languages, or was it one of the uneducated fishermen?
If tongues is the supernatural gift that everyone claims that it is, how come you never hear or read of anyone ever actually having been endowed with supernatural abilities in this regard, for the purpose of serious evangelism? From the early church fathers on down to the present, we hear of nothing of the kind. It seems to me, given God’s desire to evangelise the world, that if this was really the gift that it is claimed to be, that someone (at least one person) would have stood out down through the ages, as an example and testimony to such a gift. However, we find no such testimony.
On the contrary, we find testimony of early Pentecostals who thought they could supernaturally speak in the languages of other nations coming back disappointed.
Frankly, I think the church has missed the boat to a very large extent when it comes to understanding Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 12-14 on spiritual things.
First of all, I think we tend to hold a simplistic definition of ‘church’. We tend to think of the ‘church’ as a local congregation within four walls, when actually, the one true church is composed of all true Christians who are both presently living, and have ever lived (and ever will live.)
“Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is name.”
Every true Christian presently in heaven or on earth is part of the church.
So when Paul says: “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues,” he is talking about the church AT LARGE. He is not saying that God puts all of these different “gifts,” “ministries,” and “operations” in every local church. They may not even all exist on earth at one time. Take the apostles for instance. I don’t think we have apostles in every generation. The apostles were the foundation for the church (see verse below). When you build a house, do you (re)lay the foundation at every stage of it’s development?
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;”
Why did the Corinthian church look to distant Paul as an apostle if they had their own resident apostles?
Even though we may not have “workers of miracles” or “apostles” with us today (speaking hypothetically), we, as a church, still benefit from the effects of ministries of this nature in the past, just as we still benefit from the signs and wonders that God wrought among the Egyptians through Moses. We still benefit from the ministry of the Apostle Paul, in a BIG way.
Since the time of Christ, the church has benefited wonderfully from those with the ability to speak and translate/interpret other languages. Where would we be today without these natural gifts? Jesus certainly didn’t speak in English. (I’ll say more on this point about all the ‘gifts’ being supernatural down below.)
Another misconception commonly held about this portion of Scripture is that Paul provided a conclusive list of all the “gifts of the Spirit.” That wasn’t Paul’s point. What about all the “gifts” I mentioned above that we find in Romans 12 and 1 Peter 4? What about Ephesians 4 and the gifts/offices/ministries of “evangelist” and “pastor”?
Paul’s point was simply to show that diversity exists in the body, and to impress upon those he was writing that all gifts, and ministries, and operations, were important to the church, and needed to be used in a way that edified the church.
Another thing that is overlooked is the fact that Paul does not just list ‘gifts’ in chapter 12. Paul does not say, “now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren…” The word ‘gifts’ is not in the original. It was inserted by the translators. Twice elsewhere, the word that is translated ‘spiritual’ here, is translated “spiritual THINGS.” I think that would have been a better rendering here (though I confess that I am no Greek scholar. Nonetheless…) Paul is talking about spiritual THINGS. He is talking about the spiritual operation of the church.
Paul says, “I would not have you ignorant. Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb (unspeaking) idols, even as ye were led.” The implication is that the Spirit of God has something to SAY, something meaningful to say (not gibberish, gibberish is as bad as the dumb unspeaking idols). The Spirit also “works,” unlike the dumb, dead, inanimate idols of their past. The Holy Spirit uses different means, methods and ministries to get the Word of God out, but it is ultimately the Word of God that we live by, and are edified by.
Paul goes on to explicitly say that there are “diversities of gifts,” “differences of administrations,” and “diversities of operations.” Why have we overlooked “administrations” and “operations”?
“Administrations” comes from the word from which we get our word ‘deacon.’ It refers to service or ministry. It is the same word used over in Acts 6 in reference to the ministry of the seven spiritual men “of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.” Are you going to tell me that that ministry wasn’t a manifestation of the Spirit??
“Operations” refers to a “working.”
So what do we have? We have Paul saying, in paraphrase, that there are different kinds (varieties) of gifts, different kinds of service or ministry, and different ways of working (or different ways that God works). So who’s to say that “diversities of tongues” is necessarily a “gift.” Does the Bible explicitly say that anywhere?
It could simply be a kind of ministry or service. Are not “helps” and “governments” types of service or ministry (that is, ‘administrations’, as opposed to ‘gifts’)? Aren’t the offices of “apostle” and “prophet” also ministries, or ‘administrations,’ as opposed to gifts? Again, these ‘ministries’ are the company that Paul lists ‘diversities of tongues’ with near the end of chapter 12. How about “teachers”? Do we normally think of teachers as a supernatural gift?
Can the body of Christ (the church) survive on only the miraculous/supernatural? Isn’t it comprised of a combination of miraculous and natural operations and/or ministries? The apostles sure thought so, in Acts 6 when they commanded the people to “look ye out among you seven men” to attend to the “daily ministration.” “Differences of administration” – again, the same Greek word from 1 Cor. 12! They considered this ‘administration’ an important, and yes, even a ‘spiritual thing,’ seeing as how they stipulated that the men had to be full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.
I contend that the living, breathing, functioning body of Christ IS composed of many different members (and gifts) – both natural and supernatural. I also contend that “varieties/diversities of tongues” simply refers to the exercise of diversities of tongues by certain people that God sets in the church – for the church’s good (not anyone’s personal benefit). It is a ministry (or an ‘operation’ or service) that builds the body of Christ by helping to bridge the gap between people of different languages. So also with the interpretation of tongues.
The undisputed facts are:
“The international ancient trading city of Corinth had a very unusual location — on the slender isthmus in Central Greece, between the two much larger land-masses of Northern Greece and Southern Greece, and also between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas to the west and the Aegean Sea to the east. Corinth’s location there was thus similar to that of Panama City in the new world –on the thin waist of Central America, between the two great continents of North America and South America, and also between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
“In the international trading centre of Panama City today, at least twenty different languages are regularly spoken. So too in ancient Corinth. There, none of those various foreign languages was to be spoken during worship in the Corinthian Church –unless translated. If so used, those foreign languages were always to be translated into the Corinthian dialect — so that all present could understand the message concerned.
“According to the earliest extant comments — those of the 185 A.D. Irenaeus and the 190f A.D. Clement of Alexandria — the Corinthians tongues were clearly linguistic (and therefore not ecstatic). So too Origen, Eusebius, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianze, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil, Hilary, Jerome, Chrysostom, Epiphanius, Augustine, Theodoret, Vincent, Leo, and Gregory the Great. Likewise Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. So too Matthew Henry, Lange, Plumptre, Meyer, Alford, Buswell, E.J. Young, Morton H. Smith, Robert Reymond, Richard Gaffin, Leonard Coppes, and Francis Nigel Lee. Indeed, even some (Neo-)Pentecostalists themselves — such as Harald Bredesen, Carl Brumback, Howard Carter, David J. DuPlessis, Donald Gee, Harold Horton and Oral Roberts — also concede this point.”
By Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee,
Queensland Presbyterian Theological Hall,
Brisbane, Australia, May 1990.
So my brethren, where does this leave us? (I have no comment on the rest of the chapter.) Where is this modern doctrine of gibberish-speaking (‘speaking’ in public OR ‘praying’ in private) with ‘words” (so-called) that we don’t understand?! Where I ask?! It’s just not in the Bible.
The truth is, the PC doctrine of modern ‘tongues’ (gibberish) is a hoax, a deception of the devil, designed to make us think we have something spiritual when we do not, designed to give us false comfort, and make us spin our wheels in fruitlessness, while true inspiration from the Spirit awaits us.
The doctrine is a feel-good doctrine. It makes us feel good about our (supposed) relationship with God. It gives us a sense of security that we are somehow in contact with Him – especially when we sin (!!!!! – How terrible that we should find someway to feel good when we sin!).