- Open: I used to believe that Jose Rizal, our national hero, was my godfather. Ninong ko si Rizal.
- Establish: When I was young, my family will pass by Luneta and my dad will point to Rizal Shrine and say: “Look, there is your godfather”
- Negative: My sibling would always tease me about it further making fun of my ignorance.
- Positive: But eventually, I learned how age works and studied the life of Rizal then figured out the impossibility of Rizal being my godfather not because we are simply not close his clan but he lived a century before us!
- Effect: I was so emotional went I finally figured the truth and felt deceived and yet I know it was not about my emotions. It is about the lie that has become exposed by truth. I lived differently. I have known the truth and I was never the same.
- Lesson: I should always question the truth we receive even when authority figures give actually specially when come from our authority figures.
- Pivot: One of the issue pervading churches today is the continuation of the miraculous sign gifts.
- Questions: What is the gift of tongues? Does it parallel any event from other places in Scripture. What is the purpose of speaking languages in relation to the gospel? How does understanding these things help me in my Christian life now?
- Sermon Points: 1) The Reversal of Babel by Bringing the Gospel to the Nations; 2) The Ordinary Preaching of God’s Word
- Opening Prayer: Holy Spirit, pour out upon us wisdom and understanding, that, being taught by you in Holy Scripture, our hearts and minds may be opened to receive all that leads to life and holiness. Through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen
The Reversal of Babel by Bringing the Gospel to the Nations
Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine
- The miraculous sign-gift accompanies the sending out gospel of the nations.
- It parallels in reverse the confusion of the language in Genesis 11
- The language while often obscured are actual dialects.
- The miracle was simply the reversal of Babel. Instead of confusion, they had illumination!
- The hearers are devout Jews or proselyte Gentiles or God-fearing (not circumcised). They knew Scripture! The apostles proclaimed to them in languages they can understand the inspired Scripture and the Spirit illuminated their minds to understand. It was not the bypass of knowledge or even the mind.
- Lastly, not everyone who was there received the message with faith. Some mocked them and this is in spite of clearly hearing the message. They dismissed the miracle as an ordinary natural phenomenon.
- The focus is the preaching of God’s Word accompanied by both extraordinary and ordinary work of the Spirit: miraculous language and its resulting illumination
The Ordinary Preaching of God’s Word
*Lifted from Sinclair Ferguson’s response to the Pentecostal view of Sanctification
Space permits only the briefest indication of the salient points of the Reformed argument that certain gifts decreased in exercise as the apostolic age drew to a close and the canon of Scripture was increasingly recognized.
First, the gift of working miraculous signs was not “commonplace” in the New Testament church. They had a specific confirmatory function in connection with the apostolic proclamation of the New Covenant (Acts 2:2; 14:3; 2 Car 3:6), just as the ministries of Moses, Elijah, Elisha and Daniel were confirmed by signs and wonders in times of critical importance for God’s Old-Covenant people. In fact, there is a great economy of signs and wonders in Scripture. The biblical pattern as a whole is that such works and gifts are neither normal nor normative for the people of God. Consequently, certain gifts were defined in the New Testament as “the thing that mark an apostle—signs, wonders and miracles” (2 Cor 12:12; compare to Acts 15:12; I-kb 2:1-4). In fact, there is no record that these gifts were distributed to the church in the widespread fashion sometimes alleged. (Stephen and Philip, who clearly operated under apostolic authority and guidelines, arc the only persons named as workers of miracles outside the apostolic group.) It is highly significant that there is no indication in the apostolic vision for the future church (in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) that these gifts would continue to play a role. Instead we find a self-conscious stress on the complete adequacy of Scripture (2 Tim 3:15-17).
Second, the gifts of prophecy and interpreted tongues used as vehicles of revelation had a built-in impermanence. They were the Urim and Thummin of the infant church. But their permanence was no more guaranteed than that of those guiding stones used in the Old Testament to discern God’s will. Now the church turns to Scripture alone to answer the question: -What is God’s revealed will?”
This does not deny the vital role of spiritual discernment. Feelings, senses, hunches and convictions may well be the fruit of God’s Word working in our hearts, even at a subconscious level. But they should never be prefaced by “this is what the Sovereign Lord says.”
Third, Reformed theology has no quarrel with an emphasis on experience. Rather. its concern is the fascination of many Pentecostal-charismatics with the immediate (God speaking directly, today, through a medium other than Scripture). Furthermore, Reformed Christians are troubled to see their brothers and sisters intrigued by the abnormal (tongues, prophecies, holy laughter, slaying in the Sprit, exorcism of the demons of the flu, depression, lying and so on).
The question raised here is: Does not the claim to have immediate access to the will of God revealed elsewhere than in his mediated revelation in Scripture downplay the authoritative role of Scripture and its sufficiency, no matter what doctrine of Scripture is publicly espoused! At stake here is the Reformation principle of sole Scripture — Scripture as our sole authority. On this issue particularly it is inevitable that Reformed theology should act as the church’s conscience and be concerned to safeguard God’s Word.
When I left my previous church, it also come with a lot of emotions. I was personally hurt by the mistreatment my father, who was a pastor of our church, received from its leaders and yet I knew that the primary reason for my leaving was the gospel is not longer believed there. I have just learned an important truth back then. The preaching of the Gospel is the primary means of grace and without it a visible church ceases to be one.
For some who grew up outside the charismatic movement, the ceasing of the sign gifts like tongues is a secondary issue but for those who become Christians within denominations dominated by these teachings, the experience is similar to the lie we all grew up with when we were young then we eventually figured out the truth about it. The problem often I think is the emotional reasons for leaving has become the primary reason for disbelieving their teachings. Some lived through the emotional trauma of cultist leaders while others tried speaking in tongues and found them wanting.
However, the primary issue is doctrinal and the reasons for leaving a visible church must always be Scriptural. Focusing of the sign-gifts like tongues when it already ceased detract us from the gospel message and as a consequence pulls us away from Christ himself because it undermines the authority of Scripture over our lives. Christ establishes his authority over us through his Word and by the Spirit. He gave the keys of the kingdom for the ordinary exercise of this authority of his church by the apostolic teaching that comes from the all inspired Scripture. Our overseers publicly govern the church by these ordinary means of Word and Sacraments.
So the main issue is the sufficiency of these means. Are these enough? We cannot replace emotion with another emotion or past experience with new experiences. For an unbeliever of course their answer is no but for a believer in Christ who continues to mature in God’s Word eventually learns to affirm this truth. The Holy Spirit inspired Scripture and eventually illuminates the mind of God’s people by the ordinary preaching of his Word. It is enough.
ZCRC(Imus), God’s Word and Spirit remains for us until now the sure and efficient means of converting his people to faith and repentance. Let us continue to stand by it and live for it. Amen.