- · “Verily, verily, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life.” (John 6:47)
- · “Yes, and if I be offered on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all.” (Php.2:17).
Continued from #047a – EN
Part 3: Erroneous Teachings and Traditions
We examined in the five previous chapters of the series FAITH IN CHRIST and ITS FUNCTIONING, the meaning and importance of faith, its essential component, which is repentance and finally the obstacles in the functioning of faith. We will, therefore, examine henceforth the undesirable repercussions of erroneous teachings and traditions both in the life of the Christian and of the Church due to erroneous faith, such as: “The so-called “FULL GOSPEL…”; “We can but sin”; “Can Satan upset the plans of God?”; “The thorn in the flesh” ; “The acquisition of Christian virtues”; “The defeatist position: ‘I have no faith’”; “About great faith”; “Sin too big to be forgiven”; “Faith is not a means of blackmailing God”; “Trust versus worries”; and certain other points… WHEN OUR FAITH IS ERRONEOUS WE CANNOT FUNCTION WELL; WE WILL COMMIT ERRORS AND SINS…
The so-called “FULL GOSPEL…”
The so-called “Full Gospel” is a Gospel that does not correspond to the true Gospel of God because it proclaims the love of God but does not give the necessary warnings; it overemphasizes the gifts of the Holy Spirit and especially the “speaking with other tongues” (glossolalia) and divine healing; it divides Christians and Churches on account of the “speaking in tongues” by distorting the Bible, teaching and inventing unscriptural excuses. At the end of this Bible study we will examine what the Bible teaches.
1. The true Gospel, and its warnings
For the last few decades we have witnessed a tendency to put the accent either on just faith or on the love of God or on the grace of God or on the gifts of the Holy Spirit; and also, of a tendency to neglect or rather to avoid speaking systematically of God’s justice and the consequences of incredulity and disobedience! A tendency to comfort anxious sinners without telling them God’s conditions! To preach on the love of God is a marvelous thing. To proclaim the free salvation of God is a valuable subject! Nevertheless not to explain or not to give a description of what man is saved from is very dangerous: About eternal judgment or perdition, the wrath of God or not to mention what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb.10:31). The church must be protected from such truncated or false doctrines and from such false consolations!
Men do not want to remember how severe God has always been with disobedient people or with apostates. When they preach on John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” or simply refer to this verse or to other similar verses (John 3:18; 3:36; 5:24; 6:54), they put the emphasis on the love of God and on man’s faith but they systematically avoid describing what the word “perdition” means… and to say that whoever does not believe will perish and what “salvation” actually means and implies! They avoid mentioning, for example, John 3:36, “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God stays on him” and other similar verses. They avoid speaking of the wrath of God. This Gospel is not “the Full Gospel”! It is a lame Gospel, a crippled Gospel! The words or expressions like “shame and everlasting contempt”, “everlasting fire”, “the wrath of God”, “everlasting punishment”, “hell fire”, “perdition of ungodly men”, “second death”, “the lake of fire”, etc., are not even mentioned… And the fear of God disappears… These are, however, words that were uttered from the mouth of our Lord, His prophets and apostles… who did not try to please people but to save those who were listening to them!
If we do not know from what we have been saved, how can we appreciate our salvation? If we break the law of our country, we are imprisoned or we pay a fine. What is going to happen if we break the law of God who is a God of principles? Will there be no consequences? God has his own moral laws. If we want to do our own thing, ignore His will and to disobey His spiritual laws, surely and certainly God will resist us, we will have a deplorable life on earth and we will eternally reap the consequences of our disobedience. He who does not know from what he has been saved can never appreciate the salvation that God has given him!
In every local church, there is always a mixed crowd: true believers, weak believers, carnal believers, sympathizers, baby-believers and unbelievers! Some need salvation, others edification and others spiritual revival. I firmly believe that in each and every sermon addressed to a church, a note of evangelization must be included, unless the speaker gives his message to a group, which consists exclusively of true believers.
He who loves warns!
Those who avoid even mentioning how terrible the end will be for the wicked and disobedient people, argue that they preach all the truths which are included in the Gospel but in a positive way. No, this is not true! This is not the full Gospel but a Gospel emptied of its basic “components”! It is just a euphemism! Positive sermons and positive thinking are marvelous things but if they are not combined with the necessary warnings, they cannot save. Our Lord Jesus-Christ, let me repeat it, did not limit Himself to positive sermons but He severely warned His listeners about the “everlasting fire”, “the wrath of God”, the “everlasting punishment”, etc. Jesus was not simply a positive preacher… The same thing is also valid for the prophets of the Old Testament, for John the Baptist and for the apostles.
They say that they preach the whole Gospel, but they do not, because they give exhortations, consolations but almost never warnings. It is a false consolation! He who loves warns! They try to be pleasant to their listeners because they know that people do not endure “sound doctrine” but they have ears itching (2Tim.4:3) to hear pleasant things, good news. There is a tacit alliance between them. Parents who are not sorry or do not get angry at the sins of their children and do not warn them about the consequences of their sins do not love them! In the same way, God’s workers who do not warn unbelievers and even believers concerning the consequences of their indifference, disobedience or even of their lukewarmness, do not love them! He who loves warns!
2. Emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit and on worshipping habits
The so-called “Full Gospel” teaches persistently and emphatically the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as the speaking in tongues, the divine healing, prophecies, etc.; in addition, it insists in deafening decibels of music, in dance and ballets in the church services etc. All these activities do not mean that it proclaims “all the counsel of God” (Acts.20:27; Mat.3:2; Marc 1:15; Luc 24:47), whose basic components are “…repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21; Mat.3:2; Mark 1:15; Luke 24:47). This is the reason why we see great crowds when such pastors, healers and especially miracle makers “‘scream’ their sermons”, go to and fro on the platform and transform Christian meetings into theatrical representations.
The Bible speaks clearly about the spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit distributes to believers. Consequently, we, too, must speak about them with the necessary wisdom and understanding and within the context of a spiritual equilibrium and without exaggeration. Unfortunately, in our days, we see that the necessary spiritual equilibrium is not respected and particularly as far as the speaking “with other tongues” and divine healing. Some arrive at the point of asserting that ONLY those who have spoken in tongues have been baptized in the Holy Spirit! Then, a practical question arises: The giants or heroes of faith and holy life of the past (before the appearance of this teaching/doctrine) that have been used by God for the salvation in Christ of millions of souls, were they never baptized with the Holy Spirit because they never spoke in tongues? I consider, therefore, necessary to treat this point relatively in detail!
a) Alteration of the true Gospel: Theories and practice
A man of God that I deeply love and appreciate, a missionary, doctor in theology, wrote to me that only those who have spoken in tongues according to Acts 2:4: “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” are baptized in the Holy Spirit and that all the other believers from all the other Christian denominations who have not spoken in tongues have just the experience of the disciples according to John 20:22: “And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive you the Holy Ghost”! I was shocked … My soul began aching! IF this is so, then ALL TRUE Spirit filled CHRISTIANS who have not spoken in tongues have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit! They belong to the period prior the crucifixion, resurrection, ascension of the Lord Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit, which gave birth to the Church of the period of grace!
I put the question: Everything that happened before Christ’s crucifixion, after His crucifixion, His resurrection and the Day of Pentecost are they applied or repeated on the believers of our days, in the same absolute way as on that day, with a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and cloven tongues like as of fire sitting on each one? (Acts 2:2-3).
b) Invention of excuses
Those who support this erroneous interpretation – being unable to face up to strong relevant Biblical arguments – have invented a way out from this deadlock: They argue that, “The Initial Physical Evidence…” should not be confused with the gift of speaking in tongues. I put the question: Where, IN THE BIBLE, have they found such distinction? What kind of hermeneutics is this? This is a man-made conclusion and requirement! Speaking in tongues was intended to be a SIGN, a means of reaching out to unbelievers in their own languages. That was translated later into pomp, vain glory and false imitations, even to worse acts… (1Cor.12:3). This is the reason why the apostle Paul sharply reproved, among other sins, this fault and abuse in the Church of Corinth! Neither Paul and nor any of the other apostles EVER required such a thing from Christians or from Christian leaders! The apostles John and Peter speak a lot (in their epistles), about the Cross of Christ, the Blood of Christ, Redemption, Repentance, Holiness, etc. If Speaking in Tongues is so crucial for Christians and Christian leaders, why is there no mention whatever of that so-called prerequisite? The Word of God says: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:” (Heb.12:14). It does not say “follow the “The Initial Physical Evidence, which is the ‘Speaking in Tongues’”… without which no man shall see the Lord……. If there are believers who rely on “speaking in tongues” in order to have the certainty that they are saved, they are FATALY deceived and do not differ from the Galatian believers for whom Christ was not sufficient for their salvation but they wanted ALSO to be circumcised. If there are such believers, then, Christ is for them, dead in vain (Gal.2:21). Christ is become of no effect to them that believe that in order to be saved they need to speak in tongues; they are fallen from grace! (Gal.5:4).
c) Some important declarations of the Bible
1. The Bible clearly and repeatedly states that the Holy Spirit is given us by hearing of faith (Gal.3:2 – Gal.3:5);
2. It also says that it is accounted for righteousness: As it happened to Abraham so it happens also to us in the same way (Gal.3:6-9) and we receive, through Jesus Christ, the promise of the Spirit through faith (Gal.3:13-14);
3. We also receive eternal life (Joh.6:47);
4. God has sent forth the Spirit in our hearts, because we are His sons, crying, Abba, Father (Gal.4:6) and by whom we have become heirs of God through Christ (Gal.4:7);
5. «…If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)
6. The fact that the Holy Spirit did not give to all believers the sign to speak in unknown tongues when they received the promise of the Spirit (but he who reads carefully the Word of God and especially the whole of the book of Acts will find it out), does it mean that those who have not spoken in tongues have not received the promise of the Spirit? And something else: Let us not forget that the speaking in tongues of the Corinthians did not help them get rid of their disorderly walk or, put a better way, of their sinful life. What greater profit for them if they had made the Lord Jesus Christ LORD of all the moments of their life and in everything.
d) Some wonderful promises of God
All true Christians from all existing denominations have, among others, the following divine privileges:
- · “In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory” (Eph.1:13-14);
- · “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1Pet.1:3);
- · “And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby you are sealed to the day of redemption.” (Eph.4:30);
- · “Whoever is born of God does not commit sin; for his seed remains in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” (1Joh.3:9);
I put the question: All those who are born of God and sealed with the Holy Spirit are they not baptized in the Holy Spirit because they have not spoken in tongues?
e) Practical questions:
- Ø ALL THOSE WHO ARE BORN AGAIN BELIEVERS that have given their heart to God and their eyes observe His ways (Pr.23:26);
- Ø All those who bear their cross faithfully, and come after Him (Luke14:27);
- Ø All those in whose heart God has put His laws into their mind, and has written them in their hearts (Heb.8:10);
- Ø All those who have presented their bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, and do not conform to this world but are transformed by the renewing of their mind and prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Rom.12:1-2);
- Ø All those who have been made free from sin and become servants to God, having their fruit to holiness and everlasting life (Rom.6:22) and to whom God has been giving the Holy Spirit because they obey Him (Ac.5:32);
- Ø All those who have accepted to live for Jesus and be persecuted to death in order not to dishonor Christ’s precious name Who saved them and has given them divers gifts such as of teacher, prophet, etc.
I put the question: ALL THE ABOVE MENTIONED BELIEVERS are they not baptized in the Holy Spirit because they have not spoken in tongues? What kind of Holy Spirit have they received to live such a holy and powerful life?
f) God’s Spirit dwells in us
Paul has written: “Know you not that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1Cor.3:16; 2Cor.6:16). God, according to His good pleasure of His will He builds us together for a habitation of God through the Spirit! (Eph.2:22; 3:17). He has also written: «But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. » (Rom.8:9, 11). Do these words hold good only for those who have spoken in tongues, who had the “Initial Physical Evidence, ‘which is the speaking in tongues’”? This is the reason why some, (fortunately very few), arrived at the point of saying that whosoever has not had the Initial Physical Evidence to speak in tongues has not received the Spirit of God and consequently does not have any relation with Christ. I pray with all my heart to forgive them and let them see the light!
g) Will the believer be rewarded for the gift of the Holy Spirit or for his fruit?
The believer will not be rewarded for the gift that the Holy Spirit has bestowed on him, in His sovereign will, but only if that “sign” or “gift” was used by him for the salvation of unbelievers or for the edification of believers. The Bible says in many ways that we will be rewarded if we believe Christ’s words, if we assimilate them, if we apply them, if we share them with others, if we accept to take up our cross, if, after having put our hand to the plough, we do not let our hearts look back and if, in two words, we bring forth fruit and fruit that remains! Yes, if all the sectors of our life were sanctified and were changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD (2Cor.3:18). If we lived with the “unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1Cor.5:8). If we were always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh (2Cor.4:11) and if the love of God was shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us (Rom.5:5). Will those who have not spoken in tongues but who have sincerely trusted their life in Christ be ashamed when they stand before the throne of God?
I put the question: Has not God given all true believers the earnestness of the Spirit (2Cor.5:5) and has not Christ Jesus been made to those who have not spoken in tongues: wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption? (1Cor.1:30).
Peter, in his second epistle, addressing himself to brothers – and consequently to us –he tells them that they have obtained “like precious faith” (2Pet.1:1) with the apostles through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. He also reassures us, that “…his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue” (2Pet.1:3). What does it mean “all things that pertain to life and godliness”? What does the word “all” contains? Forgiveness, justification, salvation, adoption, eternal life, power to overcome sin, sanctification and a continuous change into the same image of the Lord Jesus Christ from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the LORD (2Cor.3:18) etc. How is it ever possible to have received all these prerogatives of the grace and of the Holy Spirit and not have been baptized by the Spirit? With what Spirit do we abide in Christ and with what Spirit do we bring forth spiritual fruit? ARE ALL THESE not baptized in the Holy Spirit because they have not spoken in tongues?
h) The Consequences
THIS DOCTRINAL ERROR CREATES DIVISIONS, FRICTIONS AND SCANDALS among believers and among churches! Speaking in tongues of the Spirit is taught in the Bible but this erroneous interpretation, which excludes all other true Christians from never having been baptized in the Holy Spirit is a twisted and a false interpretation, which leads to spiritual blindness and spiritual apartheid! Beyond that, it divides into first and second class Christians! And by extension: as a result of this error in “the book of life” (Luke 10:20; Rev.3:5; 22:19) there will be two lists of names of Christians: One list will contain Christians baptized with the Holy Spirit, because they have spoken in tongues and a second that will contain names of Christians not having been baptized with Holy Spirit, because they have not spoken in tongues! According to these erroneous hermeneutics, the millions of true born again Christians of other denominations have never been baptized in the Holy Spirit! Billy Graham who has not experienced the “Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, which is Speaking in tongues”, as well as those who have slept in the Lord: Finney, Moody, Spurgeon and many others have never been baptized in the Holy Spirit! It is another kind of Spirit that has blessed them?
Since we are exhorted to follow after charity and desire spiritual gifts and especially prophesy (1Cor.14:1); since he that prophesies speaks to men to edification and exhortation and comfort (1Cor.14:3); since greater is he that prophesies than he that speaks in tongues, except he interprets that the church may be edified (1Cor.14:5); and since charity never fails (1Cor.13:8), why do they put the priority and the emphasis on speaking in tongues? (1Cor.14:1-8). Tongues, prophecies and knowledge shall cease (1Cor.13:8) but charity and holy life, which are the product of true love for God and for man, will never fail but will be rewarded. Bad attitudes, quarrels and divisions will be condemned… The fact that Paul wanted or, in fact better still wished to see all believers speak in tongues, does not mean that this is a commandment of God (just as You shall not kill; Neither shall you commit adultery etc.) because it is the Holy Spirit Who, in His sovereignty and for the edification of the Church, divides this gift or sign AS HE WILL.
WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES
Our theology should not be based on experiences but on the teaching, spirit and principles of the Bible. Otherwise, we will go astray. In general terms, 1Cor. chapters 12, 13 and 14 as well as Ephesians, chapters 1 and 4 tell us the following things concerning the point under discussion:
1Cor.12:1-30: “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I would not have you ignorant. You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, even as you were led. Why I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit……… the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit with. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But all these works hat are one and the self same Spirit, dividing to every man severally AS HE WILL……… For by one Spirit ARE WE ALL BAPTIZED INTO ONE BODY…….. AND HAVE BEEN ALL MADE TO DRINK INTO ONE SPIRIT. For the body is not one member, but many….That there should be NO SCHISM in the body; … And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers……… Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?”
1Cor.13:1: “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.”
1Cor.14:1-39: “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that you may prophesy……… But he that prophesies speaks to men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaks in an unknown tongue edifies himself; but he that prophesies edifies the church. I would that you all spoke with tongues BUT RATHER THAT YOU PROPHESIED: for GREATER is he that prophesies than he that speaks with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying……… Brothers, be not CHILDREN IN UNDERSTANDING……… Why tongues are for A SIGN, not to them that believe, BUT TO THEM THAT BELIEVE NOT: but prophesying serves not for them that believe not, but for them which believe………Why, brothers, covet to prophesy, and forbid not to speak with tongues.”
Eph.1:13-14: “In whom you also trusted, after that you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that you believed, you were SEALED WITH THAT HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of his glory.”? The sealing with the Holy Spirit does it refer only to those who have spoken in tongues?
Eph.4.11-13: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”
Notice, please that in 1Cor. chapters 13 and 14, Paul speaks about the restricted utility of speaking in tongues and the restrictions that should follow those speaking in tongues in the assemblies.
There are two categories of people: a) Worldly people who are spiritually dead sinners and b) Born again believers. In other words: the lost and the found! In addition, born again believers are either baby-Christians and/or carnal believers and/or spiritually mature believers. All believers have been baptized in one Spirit… What makes a carnal Christian pass from the carnal state to the spiritual one? Baby and/or carnal believers become spiritual and mature on one condition: If they make the good choice to follow Christ wholeheartedly, take up their cross and follow Him and obey the Holy Spirit. Only to those who obey God (by sincere repentance and faith and love without dissimulation), God gives the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32). This is true spirituality!
Does the act of speaking in tongues, this manifestation of the Spirit, constitute the guarantee of spirituality and maturity of the believer? Does the speaking in tongues make the believer wiser to take care of his family and of his local Church and his neighbor? Absolutely not! Consequently, according to the erroneous interpretation in question, the believer without that “Initial Sign or Evidence” may only come to church, occupy a bench, support it financially and listen but he will never be treated on an equal footing! This position, as a “sine qua non” prerequisite, either for membership and/or in the Church leadership, is fatally misleading or constitutes a very bad pattern of “spirituality”!
When we stay before the throne of God, the question that will be put to us will it be WHETHER WE HAVE SPOKEN IN TONGUES OR RATHER IF WE HAVE LIVED A HOLY AND FRUITFUL LIFE? “Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.” (John 15:8).
May God help us to understand and apply these great truths!