One of the controversial issues among Christian communities is the Charismatic principle, namely, the gift of speaking in tongues. Pentecostal churches teach that “tongues” should be included in the church even today. In fact, these churches hold that anyone who cannot speak in tongues does not have the Holy Spirit within him or her. In the same time, another controversial subject is God’s election of believers unto salvation. Others, particularly Aminians, hold that man has a part in salvation, while others say that the entirety of salvation is God’s work. According to the Scripture, “tongues” refer to distinguishable languages, and not something spontaneous and unknown to men. Also, the Word of God affirms that salvation is initiated and ordained solely by God, without any credit for human works.
II. Part One: Speaking in Tongues
a. Theological Definition – The gift of tongues is a special gift granted by God during the day of the Pentecost and on other occasions where individuals were brought into salvation by faith in Christ. This is a fulfillment of God’s promise that the Gospel, the message of salvation, was to be extended to other nations of different languages. Moreover, this is an outward manifestation of the coming of the Holy Spirit during the times of the early-church. This gift has ceased to be acknowledged after the time of the Apostles.
b. Biblical Foundation – Acts 2:4 records the first incident for speaking in tongues. This is at the time the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and the other disciples with them. The next incident is recorded in Acts 10:46, where Cornelius and his household (Gentiles) came to faith in Christ through the preaching of Peter. Another incident is at the time the apostle Paul came to Ephesus, and the people came to faith (Acts 19:6). Lastly, the gift of tongues was extensively explained by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 to 14. After these incidents, speaking in tongues was no longer mentioned in the Scripture. Regarding the controversy, today’s practice of “speaking in tongues” in Charismatic churches is unbiblical. First, the “tongues” during the day of the Pentecost was referred to as different languages, and different people around the disciples understood them (Acts 2:6-11). This is also what Paul argued in 1 Corinthians 14:7-11, with the illustration that each instrument has different yet distinguishable sounds. Likewise, “tongues” has to be distinguishable, for every language is distinguishable and understandable by men (1 Cor. 14:10-11). Second, the Bible is clear that this gift ended in the Apostles. When Phillip preached in Samaria, Peter and John (apostles) still needed to come in order to have the Samaritan believers receive the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19:6, the apostle Paul did the same. There is no occasion where someone, who is not an apostle, extended spiritual gifts – like prophecy and tongues – to others.
c. Practical Application – Thus, this means that today’s practice of spontaneous utterance is not according to the Word of God. Moreover, the gift of tongues ceased to be after the Apostles, and should no longer be practiced or acknowledged today as one’s confirmation of genuine faith.
a. Theological Definition – Election refers to God’s choosing of some individuals unto salvation before the foundation of the world. This is used interchangeably with predestination. However, predestination refers to God’s general sovereign ordaining of all things, while election specifically refers to the predestination of believers. The election of the believers means that God chose only some people to be saved, and not all. It also teaches that God chose the believers without any reference to man’s state or response to the Gospel. It is not that God chose the believer because he or she is good in him or herself. Further, it is not that God chose the believer upon knowing beforehand that the individual will accept Him.
b. Biblical Foundation – That God chose only some of the people from every generation is clearly taught in the Scriptures. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:13-14 that many will go to destruction while only a few will find eternal life. Continuing in verses 21 to 23, He then says that not everyone who intellectually acknowledges or knows Him as Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven. In fact, God chooses to have mercy on someone and choose not to have mercy on another (cf. Rom. 9:15), and He has already determine those who are prepared for destruction (cf. Rom. 9:21-23). In the same time, God elected the believers without reference to human merits or works. Believers’ salvation was ordained by God even before any human work (cf. Eph. 1:4). Besides, man’s righteous works are not able to satisfy God’s justice for salvation (cf. Isa. 64:6). Further, the Bible clearly says that believers are saved not because they chose God, but that God chose them (cf. John 15:16) – so that they will repent, believe, and bear fruit.
c. Practical Application – The truth of God’s gracious election bids the believer to live by that grace, not by self-righteousness. Instead of relying on his own works to make amends for his daily sins, he should rely on God’s grace and mercy. Also, instead of judging others because of their sins, the believer should take them to the grace of God through the Gospel.
In conclusion, I would say that my progression in my Christian thought was based on a right understanding of the Scripture. The truths discussed above are simply a few of many controversial issues that led me to endeavor, by the grace of God, to accurately study and interpret the Scriptures. I have realized that the way to answer the controversial matters within Christian belief is to go to the Word of God, and believe and accept whatever is revealed in it as true – instead of swiftly clinging to human traditions. God’s word is all-sufficient for all matters of life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3).
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