Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Equipping (part 3)

More Pondering from the Ponderosa. We are discussing the equipping ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is hard to leave this subject without thinking of the Holy Spirit’s use of miracles and especially His use of the gift of tongues (languages).

Many have been given the false impression that the Bible is a book filled with one miracle after another. This is simply not true. Miracles in the Bible are the exception not the rule. They occurred in small clusters as the living God broke into history and unfolded His plan for man. Miracles were used to gain favorable attention to something important that God was doing. He wanted His work to stick in the minds of those observing because it was to be a game-changer. There are three major outbreaks of miracles recorded in Scripture. They are found surrounding the lives of Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

God used miracles to deliver Moses and the people of Israel from Egypt (Exodus 7–12). The rod became a snake; the river became blood; and there were the plagues of frogs, lice, flies, disease, hail, locusts, darkness, and finally the death angel. Through these miracles, God convinced an unbelieving Egyptian pharaoh that Moses was His messenger and that the Israelites must be released.

During the life of the prophets Elijah and Elisha miracles were used regularly. I will mention one. Baal worship threatened Israel’s relationship with the true God. Baal’s false prophets were convincing the Jews that they were the true prophets of God.  On Mount Carmel this changed. The living God and the false god Baal were pitted against one another in an epic battle. Elijah was used to graphically illustrate to the Jews that their God is God. Elijah built an altar and asked the prophets of Baal to cry out to their god to light the fire of the altar. Baal was thought to be the god of fire, and if there was anything that a god of fire could do it was to start a fire.

Baal’s prophets cried to him to strike the match until they were exhausted. Nothing! Nada! They even cut themselves with knives to show their sincerity, but no fire came. Elijah had the servants pour water on the altar three different times to make it more of a powerful illustration. He then asked God to once again perform a miracle. Light the fire! Fire immediately came down and consumed the wood, the water, and even licked up the dirt. God used this miracle to reassure the Jews that He is the living God and Elijah was His prophet. It turned the people back to the living God (2 Kings 18:18–38).

Miracles surround another pivotal time in God’s plan for the world. God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ and presented Himself to Israel as their King. The Christ made His identity extremely clear by performing many incredible miracles. He demonstrated power over nature (Matthew 8:26-27), disease (Matthew 9:22), demons (Matthew 8:29), and death itself (John 11:43).   

One supernatural gift that Satan – master deceiver – has completely distorted to keep blind sheep from coming to the Shepherd is the miracle of tongues. When Satan confuses, he always confuses in the areas that are critical, never in the trivial things. Understanding the miracle of tongues is absolutely critical if we are to ever understand that the church is one body in Christ – no longer Jews nor Gentiles, not slaves nor free, not male or female, but one body in Christ. 

The Holy Spirit’s gift of tongues has been distorted and confused by the old master of illusion himself, Satan. The reason? This gift was crucial in understanding the bond of unity held by the church of Jesus Christ. After Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, His Holy Spirit was to be given, and He was to unite both Jews and Gentiles into one body. Catch the word unite. This was remarkable because for centuries God had worked exclusively through the Jews. There had been a few individual Gentiles included, but not many. Gentiles as a group had been on the outside looking in. In fact, there was a wall that excluded them from worship in God’s Jewish temple. It shut them out! Talk about segregation!

That was about to change abruptly. The promise that Gentiles would someday be extended God’s grace was mentioned all through the Scripture (Isaiah 11:10, 42:1, 6). Jesus plainly said, “Other sheep have I (Gentiles) which are not a part of this fold (Jews).” He said that He was going to add these and at that point there would be one flock and one shepherd (John 10:16).  The Jews hated the Gentiles and discriminated against them at every level.  It would take strong persuasion – a miracle of seismic proportion – to convince both the Jews and the Gentiles that God was breaking down the wall and bringing them together into one body. A part of this miracle was that God, for the first time in history, was going to live in the bodies of believers—both Jews and Gentiles—and that both were going to be immersed into His body, making from two, one new man – the church. This is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said: “At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20). That day I believe to be Pentecost. The miracle predicted is absolutely astounding. “You in Me and I in you.” Wow!  Paul calls this miracle a mystery (Ephesians 3:9).

This event needed a sign that was so convincing that it would shake the Jews and Gentiles to the core of their very beings. A miracle that would absolutely shout that God was fulfilling His promise to the Gentiles. That miracle is known as the sign of tongues (languages).  The miracle was that heretofore unknown Gentile languages (languages that actually hurt the ears of the Jews)  were being supernaturally spoken and understood by Jews – Jews! Wow!

This miracle was being witnessed by Gentiles. The miracle clearly marked the very moment in history when two groups of people came together as one (Acts 2, 8, 10, 19).  The miracle continued to be used to convince both groups that this had happened until the Jews were dispersed by the Romans in 70 AD.  The miracle died away because its purpose had been accomplished (1 Corinthians 13:8). Both groups, Jews and Gentiles, got it!

The irony of ironies is the very miracle (tongues) that was intended by God to reveal that He was uniting Jew and Gentile into one body in Christ is now the very thing that is causing division. The reason? The “tongues” being spoken today is not the true sign gift. As mentioned, the original miracle had accomplished its purpose.  The tongues spoken now are not real languages, they are a gibberish used by Satan to deceive. These static utterances do not unite, they divide. The tongues used today are not even close to God’s original miracle and His original plan. Only Satan – the wisest creature that God created – could pull this off, and that he has done.  

Does God continue to work miracles today? Yes. He is God! He reserves that right to break into history at any time and do that which is beyond human ability to control. I personally think that this deadly virus reminds us of this very point. But to answer the question of miracles, yes, He can and does work miracles, but He works miracles at His discretion, not ours. Stay safe and stay tuned.